4. Bowser’s Fury (Nintendo Switch)

  Based purely on the title, you might assume that the second game in the Super Mario 3D World + Bowser’s Fury package is an afterthought. But while there’s no shortage of fun to be had with Super Mario 3D World, which originally released on the Wii U in 2013, it’s the brand-new game in this collection that really shines. The surprisingly meaty Bowser’s Fury plays like a cross between Super Mario Sunshine and The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild. After a quick intro, Mario can freely explore a chain of islands, solving little quests and occasionally transforming into a giant cat who spars against a Godzilla-sized Bowser. Leave it to Nintendo to do something this bizarre with its flagship franchise, and to pull it off with so much panache and polish.

  The Best Video Games Released So Far in 2021Courtesy of PlayStation

  3. Ratchet & Clank: Rift Apart (PlayStation 5)

  At a time when most developers are using the PlayStation 5 to push the limits of photorealism, Ratchet & Clank: Rift Apart veers in the opposite direction, delivering a rollicking sci-fi adventure that looks like it could have been animated by Pixar. This new installment in the popular franchise centered on a furry animal and his robot pal offers the same stuff longtime fans have always loved — sharp writing, tight platforming, and a seemingly endless array of wacky guns to shoot at the robots and skeletons in your way — and adds a flashy new mechanic that lets you jump between different dimensions. From beginning to end, Rift Apart is as joy-inducing as a Saturday morning cartoon (though you’ll have to provide your own sugary cereal).

  2. Resident Evil Village (PlayStation 5 and 4, Xbox Series X/S and One, PC)

  25 years (and several dozen games) after the first Resident Evil terrified a generation of gamers, Capcom is still finding new ways to shake up the formula of its beloved survival-horror franchise. With a story that picks up shortly after 2017’s terrifying Resident Evil 7: Biohazard, Village takes an unexpected, everything-but-the-kitchen-sink approach to modern horror, packing in werewolves, creepy dolls, and a very tall, blood-drinking countess who has inspired a staggering number of thirsty tweets. There’s nothing like Resident Evil, and Village proves the franchise still has a bright and bonkers future ahead of it.

  The Best Video Games Released So Far in 2021Courtesy of IO Interactive

  1. Hitman 3 (PlayStation 5 and 4, Xbox Series X/S and One, Nintendo Switch, PC)

  The final installment in IO Interactive’s triumphant “World of Assassination” trilogy is, like its predecessors, impossible to describe without sounding like a sociopath. Yes, it’s a murder simulator — but it’s a hilarious murder simulator. By dropping you into a big map and giving you endless ways to hunt and kill a target, the Hitman franchise nudges the player toward Rube Goldberg-style black comedy with assassination opportunities like exploding golf balls or falling moose statues. Though it hits the same highs as the previous two games, HItman 3 also adds some new wrinkles to the formula, including a fiendishly clever level that lets you cosplay as the detective in an Agatha Christie-style murder mystery at a British country manor.