2021: Blink and you’ve missed it. Surely this can’t be right? I’m here writing up our best games of 2021 because *checks calendar* the year is almost over? Apparently, it’s true. In that case, let’s not waste any more time and start the countdown for the coveted TheXboxHub’s best Xbox games of 2021! There are some real crackers here too…

Joint 10. Biomutant and Ghosts ‘N Goblins Resurrection

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Our Top 10 may include 11 games but only because these two could not be separated and both are deserving of a place on the list.

At times, it felt like Biomutant was announced when the original Ghosts ‘N Goblins was released. Revealed back in 2017, it immediately went onto gamer’s radars thanks to the cute mammals you could play as.

The wait for Biomutant to release on Xbox was almost replicated in game as it did take a few hours to fully open up. Once it did though, it was a delightful open-world action RPG. Revolving around the Tree of Life, its roots are dying, in turn killing the tree and the world itself. You and your newly created mammalian creature embark on an epic adventure to change the destiny of this world you inhabit.

You’re not alone though, the narrator is on hand to offer some companionship. It is this comedic storytelling that helped make Biomutant stand out in 2021, along with some spectacular vistas. With an Xbox Series X|S version due out some time in 2022, it may be a long while before we are ready to put Biomutant down.

Then we have Ghosts ‘N Goblins Resurrection. I hope I don’t offend anyone by saying this, but it’s definitely one for the older gamers in this list. Announced for the franchise’s 35th anniversary, Resurrection is the eighth game in the series and was created by the original series creator. In the capable hands of Tokuro Fujiwara, this instalment helped bridge the gap between generations with its 2D side-scrolling gameplay mixed with new ideas. A new art style that stayed true to the original and difficulty levels helped ease newer gamers into a series that has been going strong for 35 years.

Returning fans will also be pleased to know that Arthur’s armour does come off as you take hits. This method of showing damage was almost revolutionary at the time but still holds major appeal to younger gamers seeing a grown man running around in just his underwear. For this reason alone, Ghosts ‘N Goblins Resurrection is deserving of a place on our list.

9. MechWarrior 5: Mercenaries

MechWarrior 5 Mercenaries 1

This is perhaps the least well-known game on our 2021 list, but don’t let that put you off. Instead, check it out on Xbox Game Pass, you may be surprised by MechWarrior 5: Mercenaries. We were, and that’s why it sits here in 9th place.

MechWarrior 5 may not be the easiest jumping in point if you have never come across the series before. It has largely been PC exclusive. But, at the same time, who doesn’t want to smash bits of metal with larger bits of metal in a mech suit? Story or no story, mech suits almost always guarantee a fun time.

The campaign offers deep simulation too as you carefully tread the line between smashing things and repairing your mech. Repairing costs money and time, both a commodity you need to manage effectively. But if you feel you are being short changed by a contract, you can negotiate a higher price, providing you have the skills to back that up.

If you are more concerned with action on the battlefield, there are quick-start missions from the main menu and even cooperative missions. Two mechs are better than one I’m sure you will agree.

8. Hitman 3

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Whilst you could say the first three games on our list are a bit of a surprise, I genuinely think the remaining games shouldn’t come as any surprise to anyone that has played them. First up is Hitman 3, the finale to the World of Assassination Trilogy that started back in 2016 with the episodic Hitman reboot.

Since this reboot, the Hitman series has found a new lease of life with expansive levels, tons of replayability and dozens of ways to eliminate your targets. Hitman 3 was no exception. This time around, players travelled to the likes of Dubai, Berlin, Chongqing and… Dartmoor.

Players must once again take on missions to eliminate specific targets. These initial targets are just the tip of the iceberg though, the main joy in Hitman 3 comes from exploring these levels and finding more creative ways to do your murdering. It’s a dank concept on paper, but Hitman 3 is one of those games that emphasises fun.

These varied locations and a much darker tone than previous games helped elevate Hitman 3 as perhaps the best game in the entire World of Assassination trilogy, and a fitting conclusion for now. What the future for Agent 47 is could be a long way off; IO Interactive will instead turn to James Bond as the central character for their next title.

7. Resident Evil Village

Resident Evil Village

Next up is the game that hates hands, Resident Evil Village!

Poor Ethan Winters cannot catch a break. Having saved his wife from her mould infected family, they relocate to Europe to start a family with newborn daughter Rose. Things quickly turn sour when once series good guy Chris Redfield kidnaps Ethan’s daughter and kills his wife, Mia. To save them, Ethan follows the trail to a remote village that is overseen by four mutated humans.

Resident Evil Village is a direct sequel to Resident Evil 7: Biohazard, once again keeping the first-person perspective and Ethan Winters as main protagonist. Village improves significantly over Resi 7 with much more variety in almost every aspect. The various governors each brought their own brand of terror; much had been shown beforehand of Lady Dimitrescu but in reality, she was just one aspect of the overall game. Players will likely have their favourite of the four, but I think we can all agree on ‘that’ bit during the House Beneviento was the scariest.

Village was a much more action-oriented Resident Evil game in comparison with Resi 7, in a similar vein to the recent Resident Evil 3 remake. But it certainly didn’t skimp on anything as a result of this change in focus. All the Resident Evil hallmarks are still present – including the return of Mercenaries – and the series is in the strongest shape it has been for a very long time.

6. Hades

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Hades may have initially released back in 2020 but us Xbox gamers had to wait a little bit longer. We were rewarded with it dropping straight in Xbox Game Pass however, so I’d argue that wait was worth it!

Hades is a roguelike, and not everyone gets excited when they hear that word. But Hades is just that; the roguelike for those that don’t like roguelikes.

Taking plenty of inspiration from Greek mythology, you play as Zagreus, son of Hades and someone who is thoroughly fed up with his father. So, he decides to leave the Underworld by way of the back door. But not before running into thousands of enemies. Plus, it doesn’t matter if Zagreus dies, he’s already in the right place.

Daddy Hades is sat behind a desk welcoming all those coming into the Underworld, and you can find many of the other Gods and Goddesses on your journey. As well as solid gameplay, Hades tells a fantastic story as you interact with these heroes of Greek mythology. If you thought your family was dysfunctional, wait until you hear about what goes on up on Mount Olympus.

You can grab Hades on Xbox Game Pass from the Xbox Store. It just so happens to be our Indie GOTY too.

5. Psychonauts 2

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Into the top 5 now and we have our first of three first-party Microsoft games in our end of year list. No prizes for guessing the other two, but first up is Psychonauts 2.

The mind-traversing platformer may have arrived 16 years after the original, but fans have been eagerly awaiting a sequel for almost as long. Once again controlling Raz, you delve into the psyche of various characters to stop them from mentally plotting all manner of evil deeds.

Raz will need to use his psychic abilities in the minds of others to help him complete his quest. Enemies come in the form of mental feelings so Raz will face-off against the likes of Judge, Bad Mood and Regret. These all behave differently from each other meaning there is lots of variation in almost everything Psychonauts 2 has to offer.

Despite the IP changing numerous hands and delays aplenty, Psychonauts 2 launched to critical acclaim. It managed to retain the wit and humour of the original, as well as its ability to tackle plenty of mental health issues. Even in our 4.5/5 review we praised the storytelling, visuals and almost every other aspect of Psychonauts 2 meaning 5th place in our end of year list is fully deserved.

4. Disco Elysium: The Final Cut

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Another game that took its sweet old time arriving on Xbox consoles is Disco Elysium. It is another one that was well worth the wait.

Initially released in 2019, the version that arrived on Xbox in 2021 is The Final Cut featuring voice acting and additional content. Just as well, Disco Elysium is an RPG without the traditional combat, instead focussing on a lot of dialogue between characters.

Disco Elysium eschews traditional RPG gameplay and instead boils everything down into 24 skills across four abilities: Intellect, Psyche, Physique and Motorics. These skills can be approved upon through levelling up. Nothing is black and white though; every skill has a negative side-effect if you level it up too much. 

Skill checks are commonplace in Disco Elysium; if you’ve ever played a tabletop RPG you will almost already know exactly how to play and if not, Disco Elysium is a fine example to start with. It may not be the most cheerful game to appear on this list, but at fourth place it is definitely one of the best.

3. Halo Infinite

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The second of three first-party Microsoft games is the latest story in the Master Chief saga. And it marked a true return to form.

Halo Infinite came at players in two instalments: the shadow-dropped multiplayer component released as part of Xbox’s 20th anniversary and the campaign three weeks later. The free-to-play multiplayer reminded us of how good a Halo shooter can be, and that campaign elevated it to new levels.

Halo Infinite marked a paradigm shift for the franchise, introducing an open-world for Master Chief to explore. Landing on a new Halo ring felt old-school and revolutionary at the same time. Halo hasn’t been on a Halo ring for far too long, and these mysterious installations are absolutely perfect to set an open-world upon.

The multiplayer also made a return to form with the vast majority of the guns feeling the best they ever have. The classic assault rifle packs a real punch, battle rifle and pistols still feel immense and even the new weapons offer something up. The first time you hit a warthog with a skewer is a special moment, and the multiplayer is full of these memorable moments.

2. It Takes Two

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It may have been Geoff Keighley’s Game of the Year, but it doesn’t quite make the top spot on our list. Still, It Takes Two is in second place and very deserving of that position.

Following on from the foundations laid out in Brothers: A Tale of Two Sons and A Way Out, It Takes Two is the latest cooperative game from Josef Fares and his Hazelight Studios team. Initially an unhappy tale, you control a married couple on the verge of divorce. Their daughter Rose takes their doll lookalikes into the shed and cries. As tears drop on the dolls, her mum and dad are transported into the spirits of the dolls and they must work together to free themselves.

Players must learn to work together to progress through these levels. No two levels are the same as It Takes Two takes inspiration from all forms of videogame genres. There are levels that tap into everything from beat ‘em ups to dungeon crawlers. It keeps things fresh and fun but also exciting and at times emotional. There may not be a dry eye left in the house when the credits roll, but you will appreciate the journey all the more so.

1. Forza Horizon 5

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If there’s one thing we can all agree on here at TheXboxHub it’s the Forza Horizon series. It is our usual go-to gaming series when playing a gaming session where the majority of us will regularly bail out one of us who invariably finishes last when racing online. If you want to see the name of who that is, check the name at the top of our Forza Horizon 5 review. Not sure why we entrusted the worst driver on the team to review the game…

Anyways, back on topic: Forza Horizon 5 is our game of the year! It came as a bit of a surprise to many having only been announced during E3 2021 and releasing just a few months afterwards.

This time around, the Horizon Festival moves on to Mexico with the most diverse map the series has ever seen. And in terms of x-axis and y-axis, it is also the biggest and highest map in the Horizon series.

The beauty of Forza Horizon 5 is that at launch it came with almost all of the features that had been implemented in the previous games. And then dumps a whole load more on top. In Forza Horizon 5, almost every action you perform feeds into the new Accolades system, which is the main way to unlock new races in Forza Horizon 5. You can build up the festival how you would like; if you prefer one certain type of event you can access all these first by levelling up that part of the festival.

But all the favourites return as well: a huge roster of cars, ample radio stations and just tons and tons of fun. Shoutout as well to playing on Xbox Series X where the graphics on this game just look truly stunning. All in all, a fully deserving winner of our Game of the Year awards.

And that is our list of the very finest Xbox games to have released in 2021. Narrowly missing out this year were the looter shooter Outriders, another excellent racer F1 2021, the creepy Little Nightmares II and JRPG, Tales of Arise. I’d genuinely forgotten Outriders launched this year, but it was still a very good game in its own right. 

But what were your faves for the year just gone? Let us know what you think we missed in the comments below!

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