The start of 2021 looks a little sleepy, but beyond it are dozens, literally dozens of noteworthy videogames. To think sift through them all, we sat down for our annual tradition/contrived thought experiment: selecting the games that comprise a "fantasy team" for the next 12 months. If each of our editors could put just seven games on their hard drives this year, what would they be?
By now, in our third year of doing this, we've learned just how often games can get delayed. In 2020, nearly one-third of the games we picked didn't release! 2021 will mark the third year that Dying Light 2 was drafted by an editor. Yow. And 2021 could be an even more delay-sensitive period in the wake of COVID-19 lockdowns.
With that in mind, let's see who on the PC Gamer team has the best eye for what's coming this year.
- Each editor picked seven games, one per round, in a reversing, or snake draft format.
- Must draft one (but only one) 'ongoing' game that has already been released, a representation of that game's specific progress and health throughout 2021.
- You can pick games that haven't been announced so long as you're descriptive enough that there can be no confusion (eg, "New Call of Duty main series game").
- If a game fails to release in some form in 2021, it's omitted. Part of the draft is predicting whether a game will release this year at all.
- How to win: At the end of the year, PC Gamer readers will vote on who picked the best set of games.
The 2021 draft results
1st pick: Morgan Park, Staff Writer
1 Battlefield 2021
18 Halo Infinite
19 Resident Evil Village
36 Rainbow Six: Quarantine
37 Call of Duty: Warzone (ongoing)
55 The Last of Us Part 2
2nd pick: Chris Livingston, Staff Writer
17 Hitman 3
20 Outlast Trials
38 Phasmophobia (ongoing)
56 Age of Empires 4
3rd pick: Mollie Taylor, Trainee News Writer
3 Nier Replicant
21 Persona 5 Strikers
34 Final Fantasy XIV (ongoing)
39 12 Minutes
57 Fights in Tight Spaces
4th pick: Andy Chalk, News Editor
4 Weird West
15 Mass Effect Legendary Edition
22 The Medium
33 Shadow Warrior 3
40 Destiny 2 (ongoing)
51 Indiana Jones
5th pick: Robin Valentine, Print Editor
14 Baldur’s Gate III (ongoing)
23 Warhammer 40k Darktide
32 Age of Sigmar: Storm Ground
41 Ghostwire Tokyo
50 Ruined King
59 Death Trash
6th pick: Fraser Brown, online editor
6 Darkest Dungeon 2
13 Stalker 2
24 Far Cry 6
31 Bloodlines 2
42 System Shock Remake
60 Elite Dangerous (ongoing)
7th pick: Evan Lahti, Global Editor-in-Chief
7 Gotham Knights
12 Dying Light 2
25 Chivalry 2
30 Evil Genius 2
43 Total War: Warhammer 3
48 GTA 5 (ongoing)
8th pick: Rachel Watts, Staff Writer
8 Hollow Knight: Silksong
11 Temtem (ongoing)
26 Psychonauts 2
44 Dark Pictures Anthology: House of Ashes
47 Boyfriend Dungeon
62 No Man's Sky DLC
9th pick: Tyler Wilde, Executive Editor
9 Back 4 Blood
28 New World
45 Shadows of Doubt
46 Loop Hero
63 Dead by Daylight (ongoing)
So, how'd it go?
Evan: 2021 is much more uncertain than last year in that we don't have a clear 'supergame' like Cyberpunk 2077 to blot out the sun. Three so-called indie games came off the board in the first eight picks. I think there are very few sure bets, especially after the relative disappointment of last year's biggest game.
Chris: I'm sure 2021 is gonna be just as jam-packed with games as every other year, but it didn't feel like it during the draft. Sitting down to put my prospects together, I had a list of maybe 25 games for a draft that would wind up picking over 60! It's just kinda hard to have a clear picture of the year with so few solid release dates and big contenders. But as we went through the rounds, a whole bunch of games I'd forgotten about came up, so I think it'll still be a busy year.
Rachel: After the breakout indies of 2020, I have definitely gone for the 'indie darling' route for 2021. Disco Elysium in 2019 and Hades 2020 spurred my decision making, and although it's a major risk, it's one I'm still willing to bet on. I straight away nabbed Hollow Knight: Silksong as my number one, and then followed up with Psychonauts 2 and then Sable (my self-proclaimed dark horse of 2021...if it releases). I also had my eye on Twelve Minutes, which Mollie picked, and also the gorgeous looking Lake, which Morgan chose, but I'm feeling pretty good with my bunch.
Tyler: Picking last, I was surprised you all let me have Back 4 Blood, though I guess it's possible that "Left 4 Dead, but new" won't turn out to be as big a deal as I hope. (But then what's with all the people who've spent years scrambling for any indication that Left 4 Dead 3 exists? Is it more about getting a new Valve game than actually playing a new Left 4 Dead? If that's the case, then I feel that I will have exposed a bunch of phonies with my pick, and that will give me a sick sense of satisfaction even though I'll lose!)
Andy: I'm pretty happy. There was a lot of talk about 2021 looking like a relatively light year at this point, but I ended up skipping a lot of viable mid-tier contenders that I'm genuinely interested in. I feel like that might be kind of a theme for the year: A preponderance of lower-key games that, especially in the aftermath of Cyberpunk 2077, masks just how much really interesting stuff is on the way. In terms of the draft, I don't feel like I was forced to settle for anything I'm not really interested in. (Although I may not hold that same opinion at the end of the year.)
Morgan: I almost feel bad grabbing so many huge games, but I couldn’t resist securing slam dunks like Halo Infinite and Resident Evil Village early on. I truly think both of those will be great (despite last year’s moaning over Halo graphics). I thought Warzone would be the first or second ongoing game taken, but I was able to nab it in Round 37. That might come back to haunt me if Warzone continues its struggles with cheaters and balancing. My one big called shot is The Last of Us Part 2. I know it’s crazy, but we saw some strong evidence last year that Naughty Dog is working on something PC-related. The company never bothered to refute it either, so I’m planting my flag: We’ll hear something about The Last of Us on PC in 2021.
Mollie: I have to admit I was pretty worried coming into this draft. I was drawing a complete blank when it came to 2021 releases, but I'm pretty damn happy with my final picks. I've somewhat unintentionally championed the weeb releases with Nier Replicant and Persona 5 Strikers. Nier Replicant has a damn good chance though, especially after Automata's success. I have a feeling 2021 is going to be the year that smaller, more curated experiences really shine. Picks like 12 Minutes and Stray look super interesting, and I'm looking forward to seeing how they stand against the juggernauts like Resident Evil Village and Far Cry 6.
Robin: I’ll admit my picking style was a little erratic this year, but I think I’ve got a few safe bets in there. Fortnite I shamelessly grabbed knowing nothing about it, just assuming there’ll be some new culture-shaking moment in it this year. Baldur’s Gate III I should probably feel a bit embarrassed about too - it feels like a given that that game’s going to continue making a splash this year as it works through Early Access. Darktide I reckon will be a hit, though I’m a little worried it won’t come out in 2021. Storm Ground will probably come and go, but as the only person on the team who cares about Age of Sigmar it was too on-brand not to pick. Ghostwire is a bit of a wildcard but I think it’s promising; similarly Ruined King is a bit of a gamble, as it could just end up being a pretty standard turn-based RPG despite Riot’s backing. Death Trash is my potential indie darling - it’s just got so much attitude it can’t help but stand out. Overall I’m pretty happy with my picks.
Fraser: Poorly! I mean, I picked Starfield. I honestly couldn't tell you what Starfield is, but it probably ain't gonna appear in 2021. And Stalker 2? I certainly hope it will arrive this year, but I doubt it. My strategy was just to wildly pick things based not on intuition but on a desire to not hold up everyone else waiting to make their picks. This strategy probably didn't serve me well. I'm glad I got Darkest Dungeon 2, however, and was surprised when Elite Dangerous was still on the board at the end—so I was relieved when I was still able to snatch that up, as it was slim pickings by that point, and Odyssey is just around the corner.
What's your biggest regret?
Chris: To be clear, I have zero inside information about Starfield or its release date, I just feel like it's gonna come out this year. My guess is, it'll be announced at E3 (or whatever fills in for E3 this year) and then come out in, like, November. But a hunch isn't something to stake a first round pick on, so I was quietly waiting to take it in the 6th or 7th round, figuring no one else would grab it. But Fraser, the slippery bastard, took it as his 6th round pick, leaving me to scramble. I should have taken it in the 5th! It's coming this year! I have a hunch!
Tyler: The way I see it, this is a year that games are going to get delayed out of, not surprise release in, so I don't think you have much to worry about, Chris. I very much doubt Starfield comes out this year. (Sorry Fraser!) Personally, I felt good when I picked Gloomwood and Shadows of Doubt, but now I'm feeling gloomy beneath the shadows of my doubt, wondering if either of them is actually going to release this year. I'm not sure why I took the risk of picking two games without firm dates.
Rachel: I went all in with choosing Temtem as my second choice. It was pretty bold and I now wish I left for a little later in the draft. It was received well when it first released into Early Access and I have hope that when it releases into 1.0 loads of Pokemon on PC advocates will be waiting in the wings and eat it up, although this could completely blow up in my face—fun!
Andy: Mollie sniping me on 12 Minutes. I was literally one pick away from grabbing it as a new Annapurna sleeper when she swooped in. Otherwise, I kind of wish I could take back Mass Effect: Legendary Edition. It'll probably be a hit but as a remaster of a massively popular RPG trilogy that people have been clamouring for for ages, it's a completely chickenshit pick. Sorry guys.
Morgan: Jeez, did I really blow the FIRST pick of the draft on Battlefield? Did I forget that Battlefield 5 was a letdown at launch that never quite bounced back? Whatever, if DICE is returning to modern day like rumors suggest, it could be a triumphant return to form.
Mollie: Probably throwing Persona 5 Strikers in there out of pure, blind hype for the game. I know I'll enjoy it, but I doubt a Warriors-esque game will ever be seen in the hall of fame alongside the likes of Death Stranding. Paralives was also a very risky pick, but I'm just excited to see a game trying to knock The Sims off its throne.
Robin: I probably shouldn’t have gone for Fortnite so early - in retrospect, I don’t think anyone would have tried to steal it from me. I think Rachel was clever to grab Silksong - I think that game might be the indie smash hit of the year, and if nothing else it’s definitely going to light a fire under one of the most passionate fanbases around. And I kind of hate that I didn’t get Darkest Dungeon 2. Even if it’s still a bit of an unknown at the moment, you just know it’s going to be special.
Fraser: Not looking at the list of games allegedly coming out this year before we started making our picks.
What was the best late-round pick?
Chris: Fraser made a nice pickup in the 7th round with Elite Dangerous Odyssey, which is gonna let players leave the cockpits of their ships for the first time ever. It's exciting, adding on-foot exploration and shooting to an already amazing game, and it'll be extremely cool if it works well. Just reading Andy's preview made me reinstall Elite Dangerous again, even though Odyssey is still a few months away (and was just delayed a little bit further).
Rachel: I think Mollie remembering that Stray was coming to PC was a great late game pick. Everyone loves a cute cat with a backpack, so that alone could mean it will do well. Chris choosing Phasmophobia as an on-going pick was also a great choice. It was one of 2020's breakout games, and I don't think people are done with it going into 2021.
Tyler: Robin picked Ruined King, a spinoff of League of Legends, one of the most popular games in the world, 50th. That's a good-ass pick.
Andy: I like Fraser rolling with Starfield. Bold, ballsy, and not even his final choice! That's a statement move right there. Chris grabbing up Age of Empires 4 stands out too. Assuming it actually shows up this year, I think it could be a big hit.
Morgan: It’s not a sure thing, but I think Andy nabbing Outriders at the very end was a smart move. That game has continuously looked fun, if not extremely familiar to the Destiny fans of the world. “Third-person Destiny” is an appealing pitch for a game that’s as much about armor fashion as it is shooting, so I wouldn’t discount its potential popularity. It’s also being made by People Can Fly, a studio that can certainly make a great shooter.
Mollie: I'm really digging Morgan throwing in The Last of Us Part 2 as his final pick. There are so many fantastic Playstation exclusives that deserve their moment on PC, and if The Last of Us Part 2 gets ported, it could pave the way for more exclusives making their way over here—I'm looking at you, Persona 5.
Robin: I think Fights in Tight Spaces was a great final pick by Mollie. It’s maybe not on everyone’s radar yet, but that game has serious potential—strategic, replayable, and above all just incredibly cool. I could see it being the new roguelike darling of 2021.
Fraser: Age of Empires 4 is a good one, though risky. It's meant to be coming this October, and that's absolutely close enough to the end of the year for it to slip into 2022.
Who's gonna win?
Chris: I like Evan's first-string roster, with Gotham Knights, Dying Light 2, and Chivalry 2. Those all have real potential to be great, and I'm weirdly excited about the Batman-less Batman game. If GTA Online adds another big heist this year, it could be a tough team to beat.
Rachel: Looking back at the lists, I think Morgan might win because he backed some pretty big names with Battlefield, Halo, and Resident Evil, oh and Call of Duty: Warzone, AND Rainbow Six Quarantine.
Tyler: I think Evan and Chris have the best starting positions here. It's been just long enough since medieval multiplayer combat was last popular—back when Mordhau was a big deal—that Chivalry 2 could be a brief phenomenon. I loved it the last time I previewed it and was going to pick it myself. And in Chris' lineup, I totally forgot about Icarus, which could dominate Twitch if it comes out this year, especially given the survival game renaissance underway. I'm not counting myself out, though! If all my picks actually release this year, which is a long shot, I think New World, Back 4 Blood, Gloomwood, and Shadows of Doubt could show up big.
Evan: After playing the alpha I think Back 4 Blood will be a 7/10, unless they're holding back something truly surprising. Fraser's lineup looks good to me, I think Darkest Dungeon 2 has the chance to be the best roguelike of the year and one of the better RPGs, and if Stalker 2 comes to fruition it should be that weird, atmospheric shooter we need more of on PC.
Andy: Chris or Tyler would be the sensible bets, I think, but the dark horse winner here could be Fraser. His lineup is a big bundle of ifs, but Stalker 2, Bloodlines 2, Starfield, and whatever System Shock he's talking about could make for a hell of a slate of games. If they all come out in 2021, and if they actually live up to their promise, he's going to clean house.
Morgan: I’m confident in most of my picks. I think Rachel’s indie darling strategy will pay off. She’s got Psychonauts 2, Hollow Knight: Silksong, No Man’s Sky, and Sable? Killer lineup. I’m also jealous of Chris’ early picks of Deathloop and Hitman 3. Either of those could easily end up being Game of the Year in my mind.
Mollie: I know Morgan has some beefy picks, but I think Rachel has a good shot of winning this. Hollow Knight: Silksong on its own is a strong contender, but throw the likes of Psychonauts 2 and No Man's Sky in there and you've got a first-rate lineup. All I know is it probably won't be me.
Robin: Me. What? In this industry, you’ve got to back yourself, and I always do. My picks are solid and I’m going to leave all these wimps in the dust. My crowning moment will be when Age of Sigmar: Storm Ground is named our 2021 Game of the Year.
Fraser: I've not read the rules… but I'm going to say that I will be the victor, because I have kind eyes and I think that will resonate with the judges.
Which editor is the early favorite for 2021? We'd love to hear which games we missed out on in the comments.