2021 was a fantastic year to be a PC gamer — and not just because it was nearly impossible to get a hold of a next generation console. A slew of games, both from indie names and major publishers, cropped up on PC this year. Some were hotly anticipated, others turned out to be surprise hits. Here are the ones that stood out to us as some of the best PC game releases of 2021.
Best PC Games Of 2021
Forza Horizon 5
The Forza series has made a name for itself by offering players an approachable, but serious driving simulator. Players are able to tune their cars for a variety of different driving environments, equipping different tires and internal parts. They can also paint them with decals any which way they like, and — of course — show off their creations to friends.
Forza Horizon 5 kept all the features that make its series so well renowned, and made them that much better. Sure, the game still has a menu that's so cluttered it's hard to even figure out how to join a friend's game, but once you're actually in a race the game truly shines. The cars feature some of the best looking textures in gaming right now, and they manage to look good whether you're parked or going 200 mph. With Forza Horizon 5 living on Game Pass as well, it's hard to imagine that this game won't have some serious lasting power.
If you’re a fan of making decisions in games that truly impact the overall story, Wildermyth is for you. The tactical RPG starts you off with a meager party of farmers and, throughout the course of the game, transforms them into a powerful party of warriors. What sets this game apart from others is the roguelite systems it employs. Heroes in your party will eventually die, but since you play as the party controller, this isn't a game over. Instead, you'll recruit new party members with their own unique backstories and traits. These characters adapt to your playstyle just as much as you adapt to the challenges thrown your way. This complex but straightforward character system is wrapped around a fun and lighthearted artstyle that makes the game come to life.
It Takes Two
It Takes Two was a surprise hit this year, even going so far as to win the Best Multiplayer Game award at the Golden Joysticks. This two player game puts one player in the shoes of Cody and the other May as they are transformed into tiny dolls by a magical book bent on fixing their crumbling marriage. The game has tightly designed levels, as well as an asymmetrical gameplay system that sets it apart from other multiplayer puzzle games. Neither character has the same ability at the same time, and neither can complete a level without the other.
While some two player puzzle games see one player just telling the other what to do, the asymmetrical style of It Takes Two means that the skillset one player learns is entirely different from the other. You'll have to learn your own side of things and trust your partner to do the same. At the same time, you can see your partner's screen at all times, allowing you to help them out without being overbearing.
Age of Empires IV
One of the original real-time strategy franchises has made a return after years of hiding. Age of Empires IV takes the RTS formula from the aughts and expands on it with HD textures and modern processing power. This is one of those games that was not only designed for PC, but really must be played on one. Its control design relies heavily on the use of a mouse and keyboard. You control various civilizations throughout history as they do their best to survive in the world, and make a name for themselves. Every now and then you'll find yourself in a fight as well. If you haven't picked up an RTS in a while, or ever, Age of Empires IV is a great way to become acquainted with the genre.
Chicory: A Colorful Tale
Chicory: A Colorful Tale is an absolute delight of a time. Chicory is a superstar artist, and you play as her number one super fan. You embark on a quest to find the star artist and return them their magical paintbrush. This brush has the power to paint the black and white world — designed to look like a drawing book — around you. Using the brush, you can also solve puzzles, decorate areas, and perform special moves. With an abundance of gameplay mechanics, Chicory: A Colorful Tale never gets old and is careful to not overstay its welcome.
For the first time since Halo: Combat Evolved, a Halo game has launched directly onto PC. This time around, Master Chief is stranded on the Zeta Halo which has been overrun by the Banished. At the same time, Chief is unsure if his rogue AI companion Cortana is still alive on the ring, or was deleted as she was supposed to. The game's story depicts a side of the Chief that we haven't seen yet in any other games — a tired one.
Outside its story, Halo Infinite's gameplay has yet to disappoint. Multiplayer matches are exciting and engaging, while the game's campaign offers a compelling narrative backdrop for all beatdowns Chief delivers.
Valheim exploded onto the indie game scene when it was released earlier this year. Every few weeks the game seemed to have sold another million copies, and it's plain to see why. Valheim turned the traditional survival game formula on its head, promoting players to work together and share resources rather than hoard them for themselves. There was no real tool degradation, no actual hunger system to constantly manage, and destroying a placed object yielded all its resources back. While these radical changes may seem odd for a survival game, they culminated into an experience that was downright addicting.The game also features a stellar lighting system that makes every low poly texture bloom with radiance. Just walking through a forest in Valheim is a worthwhile experience, and that's just the beginning of the game.