2021 has been a bit of a ghost town for video games—and not just because one of the most prominent titles of the year took place in an escalating series of themed haunted houses. Although the steady rain of remakes, reissues, re-releases, and other all-purpose retreads continues to fall on the industry’s head, the slowdowns imposed by the COVID-19 lockdowns have led to a certain lightness on the medium’s release schedules in the first half of this year. Not even the ramping up of the Xbox Series X and the PlayStation 5 (now sporting five whole console-exclusive games!) has managed to spawn much of a gold rush—especially since studios are as likely to divert energy toward next-gen updates of existing games than to develop expensive new projects of their own.
Still, though: The (relatively) low volume of releases hasn’t stopped 2021 from having some fantastic titles hidden in among the weeds. Indie horror games, big-budget murder simulators, and even—yes—a few remakes have all found inspiration in the quiet, while some of gaming’s most beloved franchises managed to top themselves with new innovations. As such, we’re celebrating our favorite games of 2021 so far, letting you know what were The Games We Liked—and why we liked them—in the first half of the year.