Welcome to 2021. We made it through 2020, an uncommonly good year for games (especially single player games), if not for anything else. As generally terrible as the world can be, however, this new year bodes even better for fans of video games.
For 2021, solo players can expect big returning franchises like with the odd and scary Resident Evil Village or the gorgeous and deadly Horizon Forbidden West. There are also huge tentpole exclusives, from PlayStation’s Ratchet & Clank: Rift Apart, to Xbox’s Halo Infinite, to Nintendo’s Breath of the Wild sequel.
We can also look forward to plenty of smaller and independent titles in 2021, including The Artful Escape, Kena: Bridge of Spirits, and Square’s weirdly risky platformer Balan Wonderworld. Some of the most exciting are sequels to phantasmagorical darlings of yesteryear, such as Psychonauts 2, Little Nightmares 2, and Australian game development’s crown jewel, Hollow Knight: Silksong.
Even the middle tier looks stacked for this year, with Xbox Game Pass supporting horror adventures like The Medium and Scorn, Sega releasing its take on the Civilization formula with Humankind, and Japanese developers turning out sure-to-be-hits such as Bravely Default II, Disgaea 6, and Shin Megami Tensei V.
However, perhaps the most beloved games of 2021 are those we will not know about until weeks before they even release, and that brings us to the single player games of January. This month we are taking a look at Hitman III, Cyber Shadow, and Atelier Ryza 2.
Release Date: Jan. 20, 2021
Platform: PC, PlayStation 4, PlayStation 5, Xbox One, Xbox Series X | S, Nintendo Switch (via cloud)
Hitman III brings IO Interactive’s immersive stealth trilogy to a close by doing what IO Interactive does best. Unlike most big video game franchises that are supposed to grow their audience endlessly no matter the subject (and get canceled or put on ice if they fail to grow enough), the Hitman games belong to a European concept of enthusiast games, a sort of “game for players” that is neither mid-tier nor AAA. As a result, the recent Hitman “World of Assassination” trilogy is the last of its size to really approach stealth in the crunchy manner of Metal Gear, Thief, or Splinter Cell.
Not unlike the “0451” immersive sims of the 90s and early 2000s, each globetrotting assassination mission is its own clockwork simulation with multiple routes and sidequests taking place inside a pseudo-open world. In the tradition of the Hitman series, players can use a variety of tools and spy gadgets, as well as dress up in various disguises once they have been unlocked through play. With mechanics like these, there should be no surprise that IO Interactive was tipped to develop a new James Bond game. Even better, players who own Hitman 2016 and Hitman 2 will be able to play all of those games’ levels with the improvements made in Hitman III, including an added VR mode on supported platforms.
The third game might sound like more of the same to outsiders looking in — the core mechanics and themes being broadly the same — but that is precisely the point of Hitman III. The first two games provided increasingly varied and interesting locales in which to assassinate high-profile targets in increasingly complex and over-the-top ways. With another half-dozen intricately designed levels and improved graphics and interactivity, Hitman III is poised to be IO Interactive’s best stealth simulator yet.
Release Date: Jan. 26, 2021
Platform: PlayStation 4, Xbox One, Nintendo Switch, PC
Famed developer Yacht Club Games is still hard at work on whatever follows its excellent Shovel Knight series, but the company is taking the time to publish another intensely exciting 2D sidescrolling action game.
From single-person developer Mechanical Head Studios, Cyber Shadow does not need an overly long and flowery introduction. The single player game is a gorgeous ode to the ninja craze of the ‘80s and early ‘90s, with “8-bit and a bit more” music and graphics that will be familiar to fans of Shovel Knight — although the game takes place in a dark robot future rather than a land of medieval magic. Players of the also-ninja-loving sidescroller The Messenger will be pleased to know that Cyber Shadow includes non-linear levels and secrets to discover as well.
Atelier Ryza 2: Lost Legends & the Secret Fairy
Release Date: Jan. 26, 2021 (Jan. 29 in some regions)
Platform: PC, PlayStation 4, Nintendo Switch
In 2019, the first Atelier Ryza rejuvenated the series with slightly streamlined play but a significant bump in presentation and visuals, resulting in the franchise’s best sales yet. As with the other Atelier games, the title combined the aesthetics of an anime JRPG, a turn-based combat system, and in-depth item crafting.
Atelier Ryza 2 directly continues on from the first game, but it is adding a small helping of Breath of the Wild into the mix. Specifically, while Atelier games often make use of exploration, the item-crafting alchemy now ties in with it directly. Along with the basic ability to jump over small ledges, players can craft a grappling hook to cross gaps and a whistle to summon rideable monsters, finally making world exploration feel a tad less like in a PlayStation 2 game.
The alchemy is still deep but less daunting, the characters are ready for adventure, and the game is to be overall more varied and fleshed out than the first Atelier Ryza, making it a worthwhile start to 2021 for JRPGs.
Notable Dates for Single Player-Friendly Games
Jan. 8 — Iris Fall (PS4, NS, XBO)
Jan. 12 — King Arthur: Knight’s Tale (PC early access)
Jan. 14 — Scott Pilgrim vs. The World: The Game – Complete Edition (PC, PS4, XBO, NS)
Jan. 20 — Teratopia (PC, PS4, XBO, NS)
Jan. 22 — Redout: Space Assault (PC, PS4, XBO, NS)
Jan. 26 — Encodya (PC)
Jan. 27 — Ryte: The Eye of Atlantis (PC VR)
Jan. 29 — Gods Will Fall (PC, PS4, NS, XBO, Stadia)
As a result of release date shifts and the general state of the world, there are other games set to release soon that lack firm release dates. Enjoy playing single player games in 2021!