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

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Image: IO Interactive

Most Anticipated: Hitman 3 | $60 | Amazon

If absolutely nothing else (seriously), 2020 was at least a pretty good year for games, between enticing new console hardware and a steady flow of big games. Following the holiday rush, however, it’s little surprise to find that January 2021’s release schedule is taking a bit of a breather.

Hitman 3 is by far the biggest release of the month, although there are a few other physical releases worth scoping out, as detailed below along with links to pre-order copies for release date delivery. There are also some digital-only games to look out for, including The Medium, Cyber Shadow, and the remastered Scott Pilgrim vs. The World. And worry not: new game releases pick up considerably in February ...

Iris Fall

(PS4, Switch)

Release Date: January 8

If you’re looking for something calm and atmospheric to soak yourself in this winter, Iris Fall launches on Switch and PS4 early in January. First released on PC in late 2018, this gothic-inspired environmental puzzle game “plays beautifully with light and shadow,” Kotaku’s Mike Fahey wrote.


With a charming hand-drawn and mostly monochromatic aesthetic, Iris Fall finds you leading young Iris into an eerie theater, where you’ll interact with the surroundings to solve your way through each conundrum. Steam reviewers have given the game “Very Positive” appraisals, and soon it’ll make its way to consoles so more people can enjoy it.


Hitman 3 

(PS5, Xbox, PS4, Switch, PC)

Release Date: January 20

Agent 47’s latest romp, known awkwardly as the “World of Assassination” trilogy, will come to an end when Hitman 3 releases on January 20. Coming to PS5, Xbox Series X/S and One, PS4, and PC—as well as a cloud-powered Switch version that requires a strong internet connection—Hitman 3 serves up another series of free-roaming levels in which to devise and execute your grim assassination missions.


Even if some of the environmental elements lead to potentially silly deaths, IO Interactive has pegged Hitman 3 as a more serious entry in tone, promising a “dramatic conclusion” to the current series of games. Series fans can continue their story from Hitman 2 and import in all levels from the last two games to play them in Hitman 3, which also adds PlayStation VR support for the first time in series history.


RIDE 4 (PS5)

Release Date: January 21

Gran Turismo 7 is still a ways out, apparently, so if you’re looking for a glossy next-gen racing simulation for your new PS5, you might want to set your sights on RIDE 4. Released on last-gen consoles and PC a couple months back, this realistic motorbike sim will make the leap to PS5 in January with dynamic resolution scaling capable of reaching 4K and 60 frames per second at its peak. In rare form (so far), it also makes use of the system’s innovative DualSense controller.


Critical reviews of the PC version are solid, although Steam user reviews are definitely more mixed. They point to a game that is unrelenting in its simulation to the point of potentially alienating newcomers to the genre, but die-hard motorsport fans should appreciate it all the same.

Atelier Ryza 2: Lost Legends & The Secret Fairy (PS4/PS5, Switch, PC)

Release Date: January 26

Speaking of niche games for die-hards, the long-running Atelier role-playing game series will release its first-ever successive sequel with January’s Atelier Ryza 2: Lost Legends & The Secret Fairy. With a charming anime-inspired look and bubby tone, it’s a change of pace from some of the more serious and bummer-toned RPGs out there. That said, the likewise anime-cribbed fan service of skimpy outfits and compromising cameras angles won’t be for everyone.


While hardly at the scale or popularity of a Final Fantasy or Dragon Quest, the first Atelier Ryza game saw surprisingly great reviews on Switch especially, so it might be worth looping back on the original if this sequel catches your eye. It releases late in the month, so you’ve got time to give it a shot.


In February 2021 …

Sure, January is a bit thin on big game releases, but things start to pick up in February. Some of the bigger games releasing then include Square Enix’s original shooter Outriders, Nintendo’s Super Mario 3D World + Bowser’s Fury, and RPG sequel Bravely Default 2, Ubisoft’s new extreme sports game Riders Republic, and Sega’s Persona 5 Strikers hack-and-slash spinoff.


We’ll dig into those games next month, but we wanted to give an early heads-up and drop in links below in case January’s limited lineup leaves you wanting. There’s plenty coming in 2021!