It’s been a monumental year across the board when it comes to console exclusives. Across the five nominees below, IGN reviews gave two of them 10s and the other three 9s, with representatives from Nintendo, Microsoft, and Sony standing shoulder to shoulder.
As for the actual category, while some of these games are available on PC, all five are considered 2021 console exclusives for their respective platforms – that means you can’t play them on another living room system. These are our picks for the best console exclusive games of 2021.
The Best Console Exclusive Game of 2021
A first-person, systems-driven game that’s lighter on story is perhaps not the first thing you’d expect of a PlayStation exclusive, but that’s what we got with Deathloop, Arkane’s first and last collaboration with Sony. Deathloop’s emphasis on chaotic, superpowered shootouts is a perfect match for the PS5, though, with the DualSense’s features getting a healthy workout with each pull of the adaptive trigger. These fights, combined with a clever approach to how a time loop can be used to power a gameplay cycle, make Deathloop the fascinating next step in the lineage of games like Deus Ex and Dishonored. It’s a genuinely unique experience, not just among the PS5 library, but among games across all platforms. – Matt Purslow
For more, check out IGN’s Deathloop review.
Forza Horizon 5
There was a time at the tail end of the Xbox One’s life cycle where the Forza Horizon series served as the system’s lone champion. The open-world racing game was greeted like rain during a drought. But with a new stable of Xbox Studios hard at work on games for the Xbox Series X, Forza Horizon 5 roared out of the gates to remind everyone that it very much deserves the crown among Xbox’s core game franchises.
From the moment Forza Horizon 5 kicks off, you can immediately feel the thrill of speeding through Playground Games’ take on a breathtaking Mexico. It’s stunning, fast, and acessible; Forza Horizon pulled Xbox through the One era and is leading the charge for the Series X. – Matt Kim
For more, check out IGN’s Forza Horizon 5 review.
Halo is a franchise player for Microsoft, and as such there’s always big expectations that come with every new game in the series. Fortunately, Halo Infinite soars over those expectations like Master Chief with a grappling hook and a Banshee. Halo Infinite would be a must-play exclusive for the free-to-play multiplayer alone, which even with its battle pass and progression issues is still one of the best multiplayer experiences of the year, but there’s also the top notch campaign that features some of the best open-ended firefights the Halo series has ever seen thanks to the versatility offered by Master Chief’s new arsenal of gear and weapons. Taken together, Halo Infinite is the total package, and one of the best reasons to own an Xbox console in 2021. – Mitchell Saltzman
In Dread, Nintendo has an exclusive that defies its Next-Gen console competitors: It draws you in with its style and speed, but lacks 4K resolution — and from there it gets even more old-,school. It has mostly 2D gameplay, incredibly difficult bosses, and when you are stuck, you’ll just have to pause and spend lots of time deciphering the map (or seek out a strategy guide). This is a mix of elements few games share now, let alone exclusives from AAA publishers, but Dread makes its many throwbacks work with minimal modernization or streamlining. It’s brave to take players back to 1990s-style gameplay, but here we are in 2021 and Metroid Dread is a smart, flashy, and wonderfully difficult game that outshines many Next-Gen peers. Dread doesn’t even really highlight the best the Switch has to offer, it’s fine on the handheld, but much better with a Pro Controller on a big screen, especially for the hard parts. – Samuel Claiborn
For more, check out IGN’s Metroid Dread review.
Ratchet & Clank: Rift Apart
What makes Ratchet & Clank: Rift Apart an incredible exclusive for the PS5 is how approachable it is. While this is the sixteenth installment of Insomniac’s long-running platformer series, Rift Apart has a self-contained story that makes it an easy recommendation for both newcomers and veterans of the franchise. Aside from looking like an interactive Pixar movie, Rift Apart is a technical achievement that is one of a handful of examples of what the PlayStation 5 is capable of. The gameplay is fast-paced and tight and the new Rift Tether mechanic breaths new life into the series’ combat and exploration. – Taylor Lyles
For more, check out IGN’s Ratchet & Clank: Rift Apart review.
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All IGN Best Of 2021 Gaming Categories
IGN’s Best of 2021 Awards were designed by:
Lead Design + Art Direction: Julia Rago
Motion Graphics: Will Batchelor