It might seem a bit premature to be talking about favourite games of the year, but do me a favour and just check your calendar please. You’ll see that we’re in July, officially the second half of 2021. That means six months has passed of 2021, and we are closer to the start of 2022 than the end of 2020.
Didn’t mean to scare you like.
But with that in mind then, here are some of TheXboxHub’s favourite Xbox One and Xbox Series X|S games of 2021 so far. They come in no particular order but you can be sure all need to be played sooner rather than later:
Resident Evil Village
I was always too scared to play the original Resident Evil games when I was a kid. I did rent Resident Evil 2 once but cried myself to sleep, and I even enjoyed Resident Evil Survivor for the first two minutes until a zombie appeared and I, once more, cried myself to sleep again. So, it is only recently that I have properly gotten into the series, and Resident Evil Village has definitely been one of the best in the series.
So much pre-release info for Village focused on hyping up Lady Dimitrescu; front and centre of everyone’s attentions and affections, and rightly so. This pre-release hype helped and hindered Resident Evil Village. In one way, most of everything after Castle Dimitrescu was a pleasant surprise to players – and didn’t feel tacked on like the final third of Resident Evil VII. But then on the other hand, would players have preferred more of Lady D hunting them down in some weird sadomasochistic way?
Yes, yes they would.
Village focused on a more action-oriented game compared to previous entries which proved controversial, but the scares and surprises were still bountiful. Giant baby foetus anyone?
After the return to the series roots in Resident Evil VII, Village continued that trend and set the series up on a course for greatness that will see it last for a good few years yet.
Xbox Series X|S owners are still patiently/impatiently awaiting some next-gen specific games, with just a handful releasing to show off the power of the new hardware. Judgment – albeit a remaster – is one of those titles, and it makes an appearance on our list.
With a sequel on the way, what was once a Yakuza spin-off has now spawned its own series of detective noir action set in the red-light district of Kamurocho. For fans of the Yakuza series, Judgment is a familiar yet completely original tale with plenty of twists and turns. For everyone else, Judgment showcases some of the best storytelling in gaming.
As Private Detective Yagami, players run around the iconic Kamurocho investigating a series of grisly murders in which victims have their eyes gouged out. With the help of his former lawyer colleagues, Yagami travels deep into the city’s underbelly to find out the killer and their motives.
But this is just a small slice of Judgment on Xbox, as any Yakuza fan will tell you. There are a ton of side activities that provide distractions aplenty. Yagami can go on dates, fly a drone around, visit the SEGA arcade and shop until he drops. Crucially though, he cannot visit the karaoke bar for a sing-a-long. Let’s hope Lost Judgment fixes this omission.
This remaster brings with it improved visuals at 60FPS, along with all previously released DLC. For the time being, it is perhaps the best game with which to show off your Xbox Series X|S in terms of visuals and lightning quick load times, but it is also an incredible game that anyone fortunate enough to have a new console should try.
Yes, Hitman 3 did just about launch in 2021, at the very beginning of the year when it was still acceptable to wish people ‘Happy New Year’. But only just.
The completion of the World of Assassination Trilogy, following on from Hitman and Hitman 2, Hitman 3 treated players to some virtual tourism to places such as Dubai, Berlin, Chongqing and… Dartmoor. Hot on the trail of Providence, Agent 47 is closing the net on the secret organisation.
Hitman 3 isn’t the longest game on this list, but to play through the levels just once is missing the point and doing the game a huge disservice. The beauty in the Hitman games comes from the replayability and the imaginative ways to kill your targets. The levels are huge playgrounds where each playthrough will reveal something new.
Hitman 3 also acts as a hub for those that own the previous two games, and as a complete trilogy is the most fun you can have without tattooing a barcode on your own forehead.
Mass Effect Legendary Edition
Speaking of trilogies, here is one of the best of all-time.
One of the most requested remasters ever – at least on my Twitter account – the remastering of the original Mass Effect trilogy was announced late in 2020, on Mass Effect day. That’s the 7th November to the Gregorians out there.
Mass Effect Legendary Edition brings together the first three Mass Effect games into the one package, arguably how they were intended to be played, with most of the DLC and graphical updates.
As Commander Shepherd you must travel across the galaxy saving humanity and the other alien races from a seemingly extinct species that have suddenly reappeared. It’s a story that started in 2007 and spawned two hugely successful sequels; Mass Effect 2 in particular remains one of the greatest games of all-time. And this Legendary Edition is the best way to enjoy this trilogy now thanks to the host of upgrades and quality of life updates it has received.
Such is how well-received the Legendary Edition is, Mass Effect fans have suddenly found new love for Mass Effect: Andromeda, the awkward fourth game that never managed to hit the heights of the initial trilogy. Not many games on this list can boast that they boost the enjoyment of other titles!
Enough with the AA/AAA games for a moment: let’s look at some quality games developed with smaller teams. And you can’t get fewer than a one-man team!
Mundaun is a folk horror tale set in the Swiss Alps. In terms of unique experiences, I can guarantee that it will offer something new to 99% of gamers that try it. Firstly, it is voiced in the Romansch language, one of the four official languages of Switzerland. Secondly, it is entirely hand-drawn in pencil. The result is an incredibly eerie and atmospheric horror game that will appeal to fans of The Vanishing of Ethan Carter, What Remains of Edith Finch and other games of a similar ilk.
After receiving a letter informing of his grandfather’s death, Curdin returns to his childhood village of Mundaun to attend the funeral. He quickly discovers that there is some ambiguity surrounding his grandfather’s death and decides to investigate the truth. His journey up and down the mountain will see him cross paths with mute girls, headless goats, demonic beekeepers and even The Devil himself.
For fans of The Lighthouse, The Witch and Midsommar, you owe it to yourself to take a trip to Mundaun on Xbox.
Our initial review of Olija states that it is one game that will definitely appear on end-of-year lists. We can’t confirm that yet, but a mid-year list is a good sign.
That same review also forewarns of how looks can be deceiving. Olija on Xbox is another game with the retro art style that litters indie games and is quickly becoming overused. However, don’t let that put you off.
In Olija, you play as a mysterious character known as Faraday. After waking up and finding your ship has gone, you learn you are on a land called Terraphage that is full of nightmarish creatures. Olija is actually the name of a woman held in high regard on Terraphage, and Faraday soon finds out their destinies are woven together.
It is a 2D adventure where every new screen has some sort of secret. The sense of intrigue and discovery will never leave you as you play Olija, and it proves that not every game needs to be an open-world adventure for you to feel like you are the first person to explore somewhere.
It Takes Two
Our final game on our list of Best Xbox Games of 2021 So Far is the latest co-operative adventure from the mind of Josef Fares, who was previously responsible for Brothers: A Tale of Two Sons and A Way Out.
It Takes Two is on a whole different wavelength to his previous titles however. Yes, it is playable only in co-op, but instead of trying to break out of prison or find a cure for your father’s illness, you are this time trying to reconcile the marriage of your parents by play-acting out various trials and tribulations in this romantic comedy videogame.
It Takes Two can’t be nailed down to one genre, as it pretty much takes on all of them at one point or another. It can be played both locally or online as a duo and takes players on an emotional journey they will never forget. There will be laughs, tears, hope, despair and everything in between. But most of all, it is a hell of a lot of fun.
This is just a small snapshot of some of our favourite games in 2021 so far, and ultimately we could not include them all. Hopefully there is one on the list you agree with, but more importantly hopefully there is one on this list you hadn’t considered before and are willing to give a try. Let us know which one that is, and which is your favourite Xbox game of 2021 so far. The comments are below.