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The best PS5 games for 2021

The PlayStation 4’s success was largely due to its stellar game library, which featured some of the best titles of the past generation. Seven years later, the PlayStation 5 is looking to repeat that success, though it’s going to have to overcome some initial bumps in the road.

Sony’s new console had a library advantage right off the bat, thanks to the PS Plus Collection, which immediately gave owners access to some of the PlayStation 4’s biggest hits on their next-gen consoles. As for new games, the console launched with some excellent first-party support, thanks to games like Marvel’s Spider-Man: Miles Morales. Standouts like Returnal quickly followed, but now Sony is bumping up against some major delays. Big games like the unnamed God of War and Gran Turismo 7 were bumped to 2022, thinning out the console’s first-year lineup. With Horizon Forbidden West reportedly on the verge of a similar delay, PS5 owners may only get a handful of major exclusives by the end of 2021.

That said, Sony is batting a thousand so far, so there’s no shortage of games to play on the PS5 while we wait. We’ve put together a handy running list of the best games currently available on PlayStation 5 so you’ll always know what to play next.

Ratchet & Clank: Rift Apart

Early on in a console’s lifespan, each exclusive is heavily dissected. We’re always looking for how games push new hardware in ways that truly make “next-gen” come to life. Ratchet & Clank: Rift Apart will be remembered as the first game that showed us the true potential of the PS5. While games like Returnal showed off what the DualSense controller is capable of, Drift Apart is more of a graphical powerhouse that uses the console’s solid-state drive to nearly eliminate load times altogether and fuel a gorgeous superhero spectacle.

While we could wax poetic all day about how beautiful the game is, that doesn’t overshadow the fact that the game is just plain fun. Like other entries in the series, it’s an action-packed platformer filled with creative weapons. Notable new additions in Ratchet’s arsenal include a Topiary Sprinkler that turns enemies to shrubs and the new and improved RYNO-8, which pulls references from other Sony games into Ratchet’s dimension. It’s a colorful, exciting game that contains all the thrills of a summer blockbuster.

Read our Ratchet & Clank: Rift Apart review


When the PS5 launched in November, it seemed like Sony was firing on all cylinders. While Microsoft had no real exclusives to pair with the Xbox Series X, Sony came out the gate with Demon’s Souls, Astro’s Playroom, Spider-Man: Miles Morales, and more. That momentum ground to a halt over the next few months … that is until Returnal. The third-person shooter is a haunting action game that feels like the first real next-gen game.

Part of what makes it feel so far beyond what we’ve seen so far is its Dualsense support. It takes full advantage of Sony’s unique controller to deliver a more immersive experience. The haptic feedback simulates everything from rain to the icky sensation of an alien parasite attaching to the main character’s body. The adaptive triggers are used to control different firing modes depending on how far they’re pressed down, doubling the functions of a single button. The build-in speaker drops helpful sound cues that let players know when their alt-fire has recharged, cutting through an otherwise busy sound mix. For those who really want to see what this generation is capable of, Returnal is the starting point.

Read our Returnal review


Colt sneaks up on a group of enemies in Deathloop.

Enjoy your time with Deathloop on PS5 while you can; this is one of the last times you’ll ever play a Bethesda game on a Sony console. The publisher’s games will be Xbox console exclusives from now on since Microsoft owns Bethesda. Due to a deal that existed pre-acquisition, Sony was able to lock down Arkane Studios’ latest game as a timed console exclusive for PS5, which is a bit of good foresight in retrospect. It’s a last hurrah for a long history between Bethesda and Sony.

And what a send-off it is. Deathloop is one of the PS5’s most critically acclaimed titles. The first-person shooter is a clever stealth action game that combines the assassinations of Hitman with the supernatural powers of Dishonored. That’s all tied up in a roguelite gameplay hook where players relive the same day over and over. Each run is about collecting intel as Colt tries to figure out how to take down eight “visionaries” in one day and break the time loop. The game also features a creative (though polarizing) multiplayer mode where players can invade one another’s games and cause chaos. That’s all topped off with tight shooting and Arkane’s signature level-design strengths, making this a must-own PS5 game.

Read our Deathloop review

It Takes Two

Cody and May run with magnets in It Takes Two.

It Takes Two might be the best multiplayer game of its kind. The two-player adventure game is a labor of love by Hazelight Studios and director Josef Fares. Rather than pitting players against each other, it’s a pure co-op game in which players solve puzzles and platform together. Each level features entirely new mechanics that keep things fresh throughout the 12-hour adventure. It’s a game that was designed from the ground up with multiplayer in mind and that shows.

Good co-op games are hard to come by. While there are tons of multiplayer games out there, few ask players to work together to progress through an authored story. It Takes Two is a rare example of a game that cares about multiplayer mechanics as much as it cares about narrative. The story is a romantic comedy about a couple on the verge of divorce who are turned into tiny dolls. They must work together to both get back to normal and repair their relationship. It’s a clever narrative framework that pairs perfectly with a genre that’s built on good communication and cooperation between players. It’s a multiplayer game that’ll save your friendships, not destroy them.

Read our It Takes Two review

Tales of Arise

The tales of Arise party ready to fight.

The RPG genre is changing. Traditional, turn-based combat is slowly swapping over to more real-time action. We saw it in games like Final Fantasy VII Remake, but it was especially noticeable in Tales of Arise. The latest game in the classic Tales series was a significant change of pace for longtime fans with its retooled combat. Sometimes, a big change like that can be a cause for concern. Luckily, no worries were needed here: Tales of Arise is one of the best JRPGs in recent years.

Developed by Bandai Namco, Tales of Arise tells a weighty story about government tyranny in a divided world. A party of heroes come together to save the day, but more importantly, they just get to hang out and become friends. The game features delightful party chats that reveal each character’s specific quirks. Most notable of all is the game’s gorgeous art style, which takes inspiration from watercolor paintings. For fans of the genre, Tales of Arise is an instant classic that pushes RPGs further into the future.

Read our Tales of Arise review

Kena: Bridge of Spirits

Kena holding a rock in Kena: Bridge of Spirits.

Kena: Bridge of Spirits isn’t a big-budget, Sony-published game, but it sure feels like one. The PlayStation console exclusive is actually an indie game developed by Ember Lab, an animation studio-turned-developer. You probably wouldn’t know that at first glance, because it’s one of the best-looking games we saw in the PS5’s first year. A vibrant color palette, detailed character design, and cinematic cutscenes that rival the best CG animated films all come together to make this the kind of statement debut that can’t be ignored.

On a gameplay level, Kena is just as polished. It’s a tightly designed adventure game that draws inspiration from franchises like Zelda, Dark Souls, Uncharted, and Pikmin. Every little system, from its satisfying mobility tools to its deceptively tough combat, is elegantly built, making every single tool feel purposeful. But the real star of the show is the Rot, a gaggle of tiny creatures that follow Kena around. They can be commanded like Pikmin and used to find secrets and help out in battle. It’s a game that feels timeless, drawing on classic adventure tropes, while still inventing its own original ideas that make it stand apart.

Read our Kena: Bridge of Spirits review

Hitman 3

Agent 47 walks around a golden Dubai plaza in Hitman 3.

Over the past few years, IO Interactive has been knocking it out of the park with its Hitman series. The stealth action game got a huge boost of adrenaline in 2016 with the first game in a sort of rebooted trilogy called World of Assassination. Hitman introduced an ingenious puzzle element to the long-running series, allowing players to find creative and outrageous ways to take out targets. The series has only stayed consistent since, and now Hitman 3 offers a perfect capper to the trilogy.

Hitman 3 doesn’t shake the formula up in many ways, instead opting to double down on what’s made the previous games so enjoyable. The levels are better than ever, offering sprawling sandboxes filled with challenges and surprises. The game’s murder mystery Dartmoor level is especially noteworthy, bringing a classic whodunnit movie setup to the game. Hitman 3 essentially acts as a house for all three games as players can import progress and levels from Hitman and Hitman 2, making it a must-own “complete edition” of the series.

Read our Hitman 3 review

Control: Ultimate Edition

A telekinetic explosion rocks a filing cabinet in Control.

Control was a massive fan favorite when it originally launched in 2019. Remedy Entertainment’s off-kilter action game offered some mind-bending telekinesis and a bizarre story straight out of Twin Peaks. The game even landed a coveted Game of the Year nomination at the 2019 Game Awards. Now, next-gen console owners can get an Ultimate Edition of the game, which contains all of its DLC in one package.

Control: Ultimate Edition frankly makes the game even better. While the original Control suffered from some tech hiccups and an unstable frame rate, the next-gen version runs much more smoothly. New tech means that the game looks better than ever too thanks to ray-tracing. For players who missed out the first time around, the next-gen version is a perfect excuse to jump back into one of the more inventive AAA games to launch in the past few years.

Spider-Man: Miles Morales

Miles Morales electrocutes an enemy in Spider-Man: Miles Morales.

Marvel’s Spider-Man was a game-changer for superhero games in 2018. Developed by Insomniac Games, the action-adventure title delivered fluid combat, à la the Batman Arkham series, and delightful web-slinging. Considering its success, it’s no surprise that Sony decided to headline its next-generation launch day with a sequel, Marvel’s Spider-Man: Miles Morales.

As the name implies, players control Miles Morales instead of Peter Parker this time around. While the core gameplay is unchanged, the sequel is loaded with style, new abilities, and haptic feedback thanks to the DualSense controller. Spider-Man: Miles Morales is a comparatively shorter adventure that can be completed in 8 to 10 hours, but that doesn’t take away from the experience. Anyone who loved swinging around New York City in 2018 will likely enjoy revisiting it here.

Assassin’s Creed Valhalla

Eivor stands over a dead enemy in Assassin's Creed Valhalla.

Anytime a new console comes out, players are looking for the biggest games they can find that will push their new box to its limits. Assassin’s Creed Valhalla is exactly that kind of game. The Viking epic is Ubisoft’s biggest, most ambitious open-world game yet, and it’s sure to wow players on sheer scope alone.

There’s no shortage of things to do in the game’s massive re-creation of England. Between raids, settlement building, drinking contests, Viking rap battles, and more, it’s a game that will keep players occupied for a very long time. The campaign itself gets up to the 60-hour mark and completionists will spend well over 100 hours exploring everything the game has to offer. It’s a perfect game for anyone who’s hoping to buy fewer games with more content now that new releases cost $70.

Read our Assassin’s Creed Valhalla review

Astro’s Playroom

Astro sits inside a PS5 controller in Astro's Playroom.

Console pack-in games can be a mixed bag, but Astro’s Playroom is one worth checking out. The free title is a pseudo-sequel to Astro Bot Rescue Mission, one of the best games virtual reality (VR) has to offer. While Astro’s Playroom doesn’t utilize the PSVR at all, it acts as an introduction to the new DualSense controller, showing off how its haptic feedback can work in games.

Cheekily set in the inside of a PlayStation 5, players platform their way through areas based on the console’s design like a cooling fan-themed beach. In addition to running and jumping, the game introduces a slew of mechanics built around feedback. Jump into a spring and players can feel it coil as they press the adaptive triggers down. It’s a very short adventure, and one that’s more or less meant as a tech demo, but it’s not one to miss, especially considering that all PlayStation 5 owners will have it from the get-go.

Demon’s Souls

A scene at an altar in Demon's Souls.

The “souls-like” phenomenon has spawned countless games over the years, from Bloodborne to last year’s standout Sekiro: Shadows Die Twice. Dark Souls is often credited with creating the genre of frustrating action games, but that’s not exactly true. The trend started with Demon’s Souls, FromSoftware’s 2009 action RPG. For those who are worried that the game hasn’t aged well in the past decade, the new Demon’s Souls remake for PlayStation 5 restores the game to its former glory.

The new version is still the hyper-difficult game fans of the original grew to love (and hate), but it brings a few new tweaks to the table. A new Fractured mode reverses the game’s map, creating a new mirror mode for the game. New items, weapons, and armor are added to the mix to freshen up fights. There’s even a photo mode, which allows players to better take in the remake’s huge graphical boost. It’s a great starting point for anyone looking for a history lesson into one of gaming’s most polarizing genres.

Scarlet Nexus

A battle in Scarlet Nexus.

Scarlet Nexus looked like it would be one of the PS5’s first big games. The action RPG got a massive spotlight in Sony’s PS5 reveal stream. Despite an eye-catching trailer, it got a little lost in the mix next to games like Marvel’s Spider-Man: Miles Morales and Horizon Forbidden West. It seemed like it could be destined for hidden gem status and that’s exactly what happened. Scarlet Nexus was a surprise hit of summer 2021, bringing a unique blend of complex action and brain-twisting sci-fi storytelling to new consoles.

The selling point of Scarlet Nexus is its combat. Players can use telekinesis to hurl objects at enemies, which goes hand in hand with fast-paced slashing. Players can bring along allies, each of which has a different elemental power that augments the standard move set. One ally may add electric powers to your move set, while another can temporarily slow down time. It’s the kind of game that lets players rack up some astonishing combos, which makes it perfect for players who love games like Astral Chain and Bayonetta.

Read our full Scarlet Nexus review

Immortals Fenyx Rising

A winger hero flies through a vault in Immortals Fenyx Rising.

Ubisoft has become synonymous with “open-world games” over the past decade. Franchises like Assassin’s Creed continually set the bar higher and higher for the genre with gigantic worlds chock-full of content. While there is no shortage of options to choose from when it comes to Ubisoft’s vast catalog, Immortals Fenyx Rising shouldn’t be overlooked. While its name isn’t as well-known as some of the studio’s more established games, the new IP could be the company’s most exciting new franchise in years.

Immortals Fenyx Rising is Assassin’s Creed meets The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild. Building on Zelda’s free-roaming mobility, the game is all about offering players more fluid and rewarding exploration. That means that the game is less about following a checklist of map activities and more about seeking out and discovering the world’s secrets. It’s a vibrant, funny game that playfully uses Greek mythology to create an entertaining open-world experience that gives Breath of the Wild fans something new to try.

Sackboy: A Big Adventure

Sackboy runs from a snowman in Sackboy: A Big Adventure.

Sackboy: A Big Adventure got a little lost in the 2020 shuffle. The game launched the same week as the PS5 and Xbox Series X, which meant it had to fight for attention. Sackboy was simply too small of a name to compete with franchises like Spider-Man and Assassin’s Creed. It even had to contend with Astro’s Playroom, a similar flavor of platformer that was free for PS5 owners right out the gate. The more time goes on, however, the more it becomes clear that Sackboy: A Big Adventure is already the console’s most criminally underappreciated game.

The LittleBigPlanet spinoff is a traditional 3D platformer not unlike Super Mario 3D World. Players run, jump, grab power-ups, and everything you’d expect from the genre at this point. Sackboy excels in both charm and creativity, offering a simply delightful adventure. Had it been released at any other point in the year, it would have turned heads for its Nintendo-esque polish. Now that we’re past the PS5’s opening honeymoon period, it’s as good a time as any to revisit it and see what it has to offer.

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