Wccftech’s Most Anticipated Horror Games of 2021 – The Nightmare Continues
After being left for dead by the gaming industry, the horror genre has been on a roll the past few years, and the carnage isn’t going to stop in 2021. In fact, this may be one of the scariest years yet. 2021 will see the release of the big horror blockbusters Resident Evil Village and STALKER 2, multiplayer frightfests like Back 4 Blood and The Outlast Trials, and plenty of promising indie thrillers such as Scorn, Chernobylite, and Unholy. Here are the nightmares, both big and small, you’ll be tackling in 2021…
Note: Only games with confirmed 2021 release dates are eligible for these lists. Stuff that’s only rumored or speculated to be coming out is relegated to the honorable mentions.
The Medium (PC & Xbox Series X/S, January 28)
The Medium is unquestionably the most ambitious game to date from the horror masters at Bloober Team, who have made waves in recent years with games like Observer and Layers of Fear. The Medium features a unique dual-world mechanic in which players navigate the “real world” and a dark spirit realm at the same time, which ought to make for some good, brain-straining puzzles. Ultimately though, what’s really got horror fans excited is the game’s focus on psychological horror and heavy Silent Hill vibes. If that rumored SH revival doesn’t materialize this year, The Medium ought to be a good stand in.
Little Nightmares 2 (PC, Xbox One, Xbox Series X/S, PS4, PS5 & Switch, February 11)
Little Nightmares was one of the under-the-radar best horror games in recent years. Sure, the game has a cartoony visual style, but it tells a compelling wordless story, and it’s weird, leathery “Muppets gone wrong” enemies are more genuinely off-putting than a lot of more “realistic” horror game monsters. Little Nightmares 2 looks to deliver more of the series’ trademark creepiness, along with a more expansive world, some ghastly new baddies, and a major new feature – co-op play. This one was supposed to come out in 2020 before suffering a delay, but it’s new release date seems like it should stick, so prepare yourself for some insomnia next month.
The Outlast Trials (PC & unannounced consoles, 2021)
Outlast developer Red Barrels isn’t content to rest on their laurels. The first Outlast was a great, influential horror game, and Red Barrels could have scored another easy hit by sticking to the same formula, but instead they went for a more open, atmospheric approach with Outlast II. Response to that game was somewhat mixed, but it seems they’re innovating again with the series’ third entry. A prequel to the games that came before it, The Outlast Trials is set sometime during the Cold War and will allow you to team with up to three other survivors. Aside from that, not much is known about the game, but given Red Barrels’ history, don’t expect a safe sequel.
Back 4 Blood (PC, Xbox One, Xbox Series X/S, PS4 & PS5, June 22)
Are we finally getting a worthy Left 4 Dead successor? With Valve seemingly disinterested in continuing the beloved series, numerous other developers have attempted to step up with their own Left-4-Dead-style shooters, but none have quite measured up. Thankfully, L4D creators Turtle Rock Studios are back to show the pretenders how it’s done. Back 4 Blood looks properly polished and intense, and adds a new card mechanic to the mix that will add randomized elements into every match. Turtle Rock have had over a decade to dream up new zombie-splattering ideas, so hopefully this one lives up to the hype.
Resident Evil Village (PC, Xbox Series X/S & PS5, 2021)
Resident Evil has become almost an annual franchise at this point, but it’s been a while since we got an all-new entry in the series. The Resident Evil 2 and 3 remakes were a ton of nostalgic fun, but Resident Evil 7 was a series-redefining classic, and a lot of folks have been waiting for a proper follow up. Resident Evil Village delivers just that, as you again play as Ethan Winters, who finds himself stranded in a foreboding European village after being kidnapped by a shady Chris Redfield for reasons unknown. Resident Evil Village looks to combine the intense, first-person atmosphere of RE7 with the crazier action of RE4 and some flashbacks and imagery we’ve never seen from this series before. It’s pretty much a sure bet Capcom has scored another headshot with this one.
Scorn (PC & Xbox Series X/S, 2021)
Scorn may well be the best-looking horror game of 2021. Which is to say, it’s the most creepy, disgusting, and generally off-putting looking. Scorn developers Ebb Software are tapping into the power of the Xbox Series X to deliver a gloriously gruesome world clearly inspired by the works of Alien-designer H.R. Giger. Whether Scorn’s gameplay measures up to its visuals remains to be seen, but it looks to be a solid Metroidvania-style exploratory horror game. And hey, sometimes it’s okay for a horror game to be somewhat simple if it loads on enough slimy, slithery things.
Chernobylite (PC, Xbox One, Xbox Series X/S, PS4 & PS5, 2021)
2021 is set to be a great year for horror games set in and around Chernobyl. We’ll get to STALKER 2 in a second, but first let’s discuss Chernobylite from Painkiller: Hell & Damnation and Get Even developer The Farm 51. Chernobylite is clearly cribbing heavily from STALKER, as it’s a survival horror game set in the Chernobyl disaster zone and serves up a lot of pretty familiar imagery. That said, the game takes a somewhat more structured, linear approach to the subject matter. I’ll admit, it feels a little weird to recommend Chernobylite in the same year STALKER 2 is supposed to come out, but it ought to be a solid game in it’s own right. Perhaps you can find room in your irradiated heart for both titles.
Martha is Dead (PC, Xbox One, Xbox Series X/S, PS4 & PS5, 2021)
World War II has obviously been a popular subject for video games, but surprisingly few of them have mined that dark era for horror. Martha is Dead does just that, as it’s set in Italy in 1944, with players being tasked with solving the murder of the titular Martha as the horrors of war draw ever closer. In addition to its unique historical touches, the game dabbles in Italian folklore, superstition, and psychological horror. Martha is Dead is throwing a lot at the wall, but it looks like it should be both an interesting cultural window and a creepy good time.
Once Upon A Time In Roswell (PC, Xbox One, & PS4, Late 2021)
There really aren’t enough horror games about aliens, as they can be just as scary as zombies, ghosts, and Lovecraftian horrors from the deep if handled properly. Once Upon a Time in Roswell takes place in 1947 at the infamous UFO hotspot, but also ropes in other locations and time periods via visions and flashbacks. The Peterson Family has disappeared, and it’s up to you to sort through various memories and hallucinations to find out what exactly happened to them. This isn’t Aliens or even the X-Files – expect a more unique, psychological approach to the subject matter. Once Upon a Time in Roswell looks like it could deliver one of this year’s most original stories.
STALKER 2 (PC & Xbox Series X/S, 2021)
And here we come to our other Chernobyl-set game, and the horror main-event of 2021, provided it actually comes out. STALKER 2 was originally announced all the way back in 2010, and many feared it was vaporware, before the project was surprisingly resuming development in 2018. Series developer GSC Game World is promising STALKER 2 will feature the same tense, immersive, open-world experience the original games delivered, and the teasers they’ve released over the past few months certainly look promising, although we still haven’t seen real gameplay. So yeah, I wouldn’t plan your life around the game actually sticking to its current release window, but just the fact that we might be playing STALKER 2 in 2021 is an exciting damn thing.
Honorable Mentions and Possible Surprises
As mentioned in the intro, this is a particularly busy year for horror, with tons of other promising indie games to keep an eye on, such as Tormented Souls, Unholy, Quantum Error, Sons of the Forest, and The Dark Pictures: House of Ashes. There are also a variety of bloody multiplayer experiences to look forward to, including Evil Dead: The Game (groovy). Oh, and for those wondering, Ghostwire: Tokyo is on our Anticipated Action list, as its own director has said it’s not a horror game.
Then there are the question marks. The popular multiplayer horror game Phasmophobia will probably leave Early Access sometime in 2021, but no date has been provided, so it didn’t qualify for this list. There are also those persistent rumors that Sony is working on a remake/reboot of Silent Hill, possibly for release this year. And hey, maybe Techland will get their house in order and announce a new 2021 release date for Dying Light 2, although I have my doubts about that.
Those are the games you’re going to be creeping through in 2021! Any promising horror games I missed? Round up your own list and share it in the comments!