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Don’t Miss April 2021’s Biggest, Must-Play Games You Can Pre-Order Now

Illustration for article titled Don’t Miss April 2021’s Biggest, Must-Play Games You Can Pre-Order Now
Image: Nintendo

Featured Game: New Pokémon Snap | $60

April looks like another solid month for new games, with a diverse mix of stuff releasing across platforms. Square Enix’s Outriders kicks off the month on April 1, and they’re not foolin’ around about it being free for Xbox Game Pass subscribers. Later in the month, big releases like MLB The Show 21 and New Pokémon Snap arrive, along with the Nier remake/remaster and the anticipated PS5 exclusive Returnal.


Here’s a look at April’s biggest new games, along with links to toss in a pre-order so you’re ready to play on day one.

Outriders (PS5, Xbox, PS4, PC)

Release Date: April 1

Outriders is the latest game from People Can Fly, the studio behind Bulletstorm and Gears of War Judgment, and it’s purportedly the team’s attempt to make a more serious shooter. That’s all well and good, but publisher Square Enix’s recent surprise announcement that the game will be free to Xbox Game Pass subscribers—but only on Xbox, not PC—on day one seemed like a vote of low confidence in the game.

That probably would be the case if not for the playable demo, which has built up some palpable excitement around the game that Kotaku’s Ethan Gach described as “Destiny mixed with Heart of Darkness.” In any case, it’s great news for Xbox Game Pass subscribers, while non-subscribers and players on other platforms can still secure a copy today. And if you don’t have an Xbox Game Pass subscription, now is an excellent time to check it out.


MLB The Show 21 

(PS5, Xbox, PS4)

Release Date: April 20

Another year, another exclusive MLB The Show game for PlayStation consoles … wait, what’s this? Xbox? WHAT?! In a truly startling twist, the Sony-developed MLB The Show 21 is also coming to Xbox consoles for the very first time. Xbox hasn’t had a robust MLB sim in years since the third-party competition faded away, so Sony is crossing the console war battle lines and bringing its long-running series to rival hardware.


MLB The Show 21 shouldn’t be dramatically different from the games that preceded it, but it is the first entry to launch on the new-gen hardware, so you’re sure to see a nice graphical upgrade on PlayStation 5 and Xbox Series X/S. That said, it’s also available on PS4 and Xbox One. The new consoles have a stadium creator, which should be fun, and the casual mode (in all versions) should be a handy intro for anyone who isn’t a series veteran.

Sony’s baseball series has been reliably good for ages now, so let’s hope it keeps up the momentum for its first Xbox and PS5 go-round. Amazon doesn’t have it listed as of this writing, but Best Buy is taking pre-orders on all versions.


Nier: Replicant ver.1.22474487139... (PS4, Xbox, PC)

Release Date: April 23

Originally released in 2010, Nier saw decidedly mixed reviews, with the role-playing quest criticized for its lifeless graphics and monotonous quests. But when the 2017 sequel Nier: Automata proved to be one of the most celebrated RPGs of the generation, some wondered if there was something they missed the first time around with the original game.


Luckily, now you don’t have to go back to a clunky PS3 and Xbox 360 versions to find out, as the game is being given fresh life as Nier: Replicant ver.1.22474487139… (yes, that’s the title). It’s not a remaster or a remake, but seemingly something in-between, with overhauled graphics and the fluid combat brought over from Automata. Kotaku’s Ash Parrish—noted Automata fan—has played a chunk of it so far, but isn’t sure yet whether it has the same kind of spark as the sequel:

Nier: Automata beat my ass every day for a week, and I loved it. After nine hours, two bosses, and dozens of sidequests, I’m still waiting for Nier: Replicant to become a predecessor worthy of Automata’s brilliance, but it’s because of that brilliance I’m willing to continue waiting.”


New Pokémon Snap (Switch)

Release Date: April 30

Pokémon Snap was one of the first Nintendo 64 spinoffs from the portable main series, and while it wasn’t the same kind of role-playing quest, it earned a cult following for its oddly soothing photography-driven jaunts. More than two decades later, it’s coming back in a totally new entry for Switch that is appropriately titled New Pokémon Snap.


As Kotaku’s Mike Fahey wrote last week after watching a streaming press demo, “New Pokémon Snap is like old Pokémon Snap, only much prettier.” The core experience hasn’t changed that much, as you’re still riding on rails through a creature-filled island and grabbing the best-possible snapshots. But there are a lot more Pokémon these days, and the Switch can pump out dramatically better graphics. There are additional large-scale Pokémon games coming to Switch later this year and into next year, but this looks like a swell diversion for now.


Returnal (PS5)

Release Date: April 30

Finnish studio Housemarque is best known for arcade-style games like Resogun and Super Stardust HD that are small in scope but feel amazing to play—but Returnal is a much more robust, larger-scale experience. It’s a third-person shooter in which you play as an astronaut who crash-lands on a planet, repeatedly reliving her arrival, attack, and subsequent death.


However, each time you begin anew, the planet has changed: the terrain is different and the enemies aren’t always in the same places or quantities. It’s your task to survive and adapt to this roguelike premise, utilizing varying weapons and a dazzlingly quick dash ability to persevere in combat. The trailer above makes it look sensational, and it could be the PS5 exclusive to beat for the foreseeable future.