The Most Popular Games of 2021

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Table of Contents

Videogaming is a multi-billion dollar industry that grows with every passing quarter. This means that several thousand videogames come out every year and, because of the nature of gaming, both AAA and indie titles make it to the top of everybody’s list of favorites. As we move into the second half of 2021, let’s take a look at the most popular videogames that are being played by gamers around the world.

We’ve mainly covered games that are out right now but you’ll also find information about upcoming releases at the end of this guide. We’ve organized this list for readability and gamer interest, so you can skip ahead to the part that applies to you and your gaming platform.

 

 

Between those five sections, you’ll learn everything you need to know about the gaming landscape in 2021. With each game, we have included information about how they play and the developers behind the projects, along with other pertinent facts.

With the established games-as-a-service model, it should be noted that some games on this page came out long before 2021 but are still very popular and receiving content updates, so there are still new things to do on them that have been added this year.

With those details covered, let’s start with PC gaming in 2021.

 

Most Popular PC Games 2021

PC gaming isn’t just one of the largest subsections of the videogames industry, it’s also tied to the manufacture and supply of computer parts. Every computer is made with different components that produce a different experience.

And yes, sometimes getting those parts is difficult, which partly explains why older games remain popular. However, while the GPU shortage of 2020 and 2021 slowed things down in terms of hardware, there were still many standout titles that continued to flourish this year.

Here are 15 of the most popular PC games of 2021, featuring many industry mainstays and a few new faces.

 

Top Lane Tier List

League of Legends

League of Legends was released in 2009 by Riot Games but has consistently topped every list of popular videogames since. It’s easy to see why, it’s totally free and one of the earlier MOBAs. MOBAs are Multiplayer Online Battle Arenas where players control a single character, often with distinct abilities from the others, to execute strategies to beat the other team.

Those qualities made it ideal for esports, which keeps the game fresh and interesting for millions of people. The game has reinvented itself multiple times, changing its balance and adding champions to play over the years. As of 2021, there are 155 champions the players can choose to play with.

 

CS:GO

Another classic PC game is Counter-Strike: Global Offensive, better known as CS:GO, which was released in 2012 after its development by Valve and Hidden Path Entertainment. The Counter-Strike franchise was propelled into orbit by its fourth installment where teams of terrorists and counter-terrorists face off in eight game modes, from deathmatches to bomb defusal to battle royale. They also support dedicated servers and, like League, it’s fostered a large esports scene.

The game was transitioned to free-to-play in 2018, instead of focusing their revenue system onto the cosmetic items that players can acquire, buy, and sell on a digital marketplace. So why is it here? Because it remains massively popular. Plus, in 2021, they released the CS:GO 360 Stats service for a $0.99 subscription per month that grants access to official Competitive, Premier, and Wingman games.

 

PUBG

Having mentioned battle royale, that brings us to our next popular PC game – PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds, often abbreviated to PUBG. It was the first official release of Brendan “PlayerUnknown” Greene, who is credited with inventing the battle royale genre through his modding of videogames like Arma 3, DayZ, and his work with H1Z1.

Inspired by the Japanese movie of the same name, battle royale games throw you into a 100-player free-for-all where you’re all unarmed and must scavenge equipment from the map to win. PUBG has frequently been patched and has released new maps for players to drop onto.

 

Dota 2 Update for new players

DOTA 2

DOTA, which stands for Defense Of The Ancients (first released as a mod for Warcraft 3), is often considered the first MOBA game. The sequel was released in 2013 in the form of DOTA 2, where it now had to compete with League of Legends as the new MOBA on the block. Like CS:GO, it was developed by Valve, the software developer and publisher that also owns Steam. In DOTA 2, two teams of five fight to destroy the enemy’s ‘Ancient’ at the enemy base while defending their own.

The game’s continued popularity is also thanks to the esports scene that has formed around it, like every other game we’ve covered above. Its influence is also extended by comic books and anime offshoots.

 

most popular games 2021

Roblox

Originally released in 2006, Roblox is the oldest game on this by far. So why is it here? Its content makes it so that players can create their own games using Roblox Studio, so players can share new and exciting ideas. The game also earns a lot through microtransactions and players can earn through the game’s microtransaction system too.

The reason that Roblox has stayed relevant in 2021 is that it grew exponentially over the last two years. As the world locked down in 2020, Roblox created Party Place, a series of digital venues so that people can host social gatherings from the comfort of their own homes.

Here’s a shortlist of the things you can do in Roblox:

  • Deathmatch and other PVP
  • Battle Royale
  • Pong
  • Underwater Tycoon
  • Zombie Escape

 

Final Fantasy XIV

Final Fantasy XIV

Final Fantasy XIV is the first MMORPG on our list. While Square Enix’s massive franchise barely needs an introduction, their second attempt at an MMO game got off to a rocky start in 2010. After suspending subscription fees and redoing much of the game, Final Fantasy XIV: A Realm Reborn was relaunched in 2013 and is the popular Final Fantasy XIV that everybody knows of today.

The setting was altered from the 2010 version, the world of Eorzea having been destroyed and rebuilt over a five-year time gap. In that new world, players create their characters and meet other players’ characters online.

The game has surged in popularity in 2021 due to a variety of factors. Many streamers started taking an interest in the game this year, particularly World of Warcraft streamers who were growing dissatisfied with the old MMO and the way it was being run. The recent Activision Blizzard allegations then led to audiences boycotting the game in favor of Final Fantasy XIV.

 

Valorant

Valorant is one of the more modern games we’ve covered so far, officially releasing in June of 2020. It’s from Riot Games, the developers of League of Legends. It’s a tactical FPS, or hero shooter, where teams of five face each other, with gameplay reminiscent of CS:GO or Overwatch.

There are currently 16 agents to choose from but there are likely to be more added as Valorant looks to expand its scope and Riot turns it into a franchise just like League. This process will accelerate in 2021 with a mobile version of the game.

 

gta v crossplay

GTA 5

Made by the controversial and critically acclaimed developers at Rockstar, Grand Theft Auto V first came out in 2013 but was rejuvenated with 2014 and then 2015 releases for Xbox One/PS4 and then PC. Now it’s coming to the PS5 and the Xbox Series X/S in November of 2021.

It has the great graphics and the satirical bite that you’d expect from Rockstar, being set in a fictionalized Los Angeles. You play a trio of armed robbers who get manipulated by the big egos of criminal outfits and intelligence agencies to pull off five daring heists while trying to get their lives back under control.

The real reason that GTA 5 has stayed on top is because of its online component. GTA Online allows players to free roam, take jobs, or perform heists with real people. You can also create jobs for other people to play. GTA Online has consistently patched and updated their online game world, adding in features like homes, new vehicles, new guns, and new jobs to do so that the game never gets stale.

 

Rainbow Six Siege Tier List

Rainbow Six: Siege

Released in 2015 by Ubisoft, Siege was met with success across all platforms. While it’s available on consoles and was re-released for the current console generation in 2020, its intense tactical combat favors the mouse when aiming. Ubisoft adopted the games-as-a-service model, so they’re consistently updating the game while fostering an esports community.

As for what you do, you choose between 60 operators who have unique abilities and gadgets. Then you have to storm or defend a location, many of which have been modeled after real-life sieges and crafted with the guidance of siege and hostage situation experts.

 

most popular games 2021

Valheim

Valheim was a sleeper hit by Iron Gate Studios that was released in February of 2021 and rose to prominence. Only 5 people were developing the game, which makes its array of content even more impressive. It uses smoothed-over visuals that look charming while allowing for vast, easily generated, and randomized worlds full of biomes, which are themselves full of mobs and resources. The comparisons with Minecraft are obvious.

The plot is relatively simple, you’re a dead Viking in a fictional tenth Norse world called Valheim. You need to defeat the five main bosses of the world to find peace. You can play alone or with friends on a dedicated server.

The best part is that Valheim, despite selling close to 9 million copies, isn’t even out yet. It’s in early access, so content and new features are still being added. While early access games often get a bad rap, Valheim was a fully functional game when it was first released and is likely to only get better throughout 2021 and beyond.

 

Sims 4 System Requirements

The Sims 4

Coming from Maxis and EA in 2014, The Sims 4 is the latest and current installment of the life simulation franchise. Players create characters, called Sims, and guide them through everyday life. More DLCs and content packs have been released for The Sims 4 over the years, with each new release guaranteeing that the game stays fresh (and profitable).

 

Rust 1.05 update

Rust

Rust is a multiplayer-only survival game created by Facepunch Studios and their founder Garry Newman (of Garry’s Mod fame). Like many of our games so far, it benefits from an online community, streamer-friendly gameplay, and continued games-as-a-service support to keep it relevant and popular from its release in 2013 to now, in 2021. In January of 2021, the game rose to the top of Twitch’s gameplay charts after many streamers from OfflineTV played on their own server.

 

Dead by Daylight

Dead by Daylight

An asymmetric survival horror game developed by Behaviour Interactive, Dead by Daylight has been released in 2016, 2017, and 2019 across various platforms starting with Microsoft Windows. It’s a four-versus-one online game where one player plays a killer while others play as survivors trying to escape the map.

It receives frequent updates and often solicits existing horror IPs to keep the game relevant, having incorporated characters from Halloween, A Nightmare on Elm Street, Evil Dead, Resident Evil, Stranger Things, and, most recently, Hellraiser.

 

most popular games 2021

Cyberpunk 2077

One of the most hotly anticipated games of the decade, Cyberpunk 2077 is made by Witcher 3: The Wild Hunt developers CD Projekt Red. It was announced in 2013 and then released in 2020. Nearly a decade of hype, a troubled development cycle, and marketing that only showcased tailored gameplay on the best hardware unrepresentative of the final product led to the most anticipated game of the year getting panned by many and taken off of digital stores.

CD Projekt Red has vowed to stick with the game and continue releasing patches and free DLC. It’s still available on PC and many still play the game to see what’s on offer. The situation is a lot like No Man’s Sky, whose developers stuck with the game and won a lot of their audience back after reinventing it with free patches, and time will only tell if these developers can do the same.

 

rocket league

Rocket League

Lastly, we have Rocket League, a popular vehicular soccer game that can be played casually or as an esport. What’s ‘vehicular soccer,’ you ask? It’s when two teams of players drive rocket-fueled cars with the hopes of nudging a large ball into the enemy’s goal. It’s simple, fast-paced, and a good test of both individual skill and team coordination, making it an instant hit when it came out in 2015. It went free-to-play in September of 2020, contributing to much of its popularity this year.

 

Most Popular Console Games 2021

With PC games covered, let’s take a look at the console gaming industry and the most popular games there. Upon the release of the Xbox Series X/S and the PlayStation 5, the console industry has had its own hardware shortage problems.

Despite that, console gaming is always growing from strength to strength, and the games played on them are becoming more integrated with other platforms, like PC. Let’s take a look at some of their most popular videogames.

 

A Pirates Life Dark Brethren Journal Locations

Sea Of Thieves

Sea of Thieves is an open-world pirate game developed by Rare where players share an online world. There they can hunt treasure, hunt each other, and complete missions for various trading companies across the map.

While first released in 2018 for Windows and Xbox One, its November 2020 release for the Xbox Series X and S have propelled it to become a popular console game. Rare has recently released a free expansion called A Pirate’s Life in 2021, for which it partnered with Disney’s Pirates of the Caribbean franchise.

 

Apex Legends Fuse Season 8

Apex Legends

Apex Legends is Respawn Entertainment and EA’s take on a battle royale game, where 30 duos or 20 trios land on the map and must search for weapons to defeat everybody else. Players choose from a cast of heroes (known as Legends) that have their own abilities and gadgets alongside the weapons they loot from the map.

It launched in 2019 as a free-to-play title and was largely promoted through streamer gameplay, where the game then makes money from its large player base via microtransactions. Since then it has fostered an active community of esport and leisure players and has recently enjoyed a Nintendo Switch release in 2021, adding to its popularity this year. Like many games on the best console games list, Apex is quite popular on PC too!

 

most popular games 2021

Resident Evil Village

For many, Capcom’s Resident Evil franchise needs no introduction. This year saw the launch of the survival horror game’s eighth mainline installment, subtitled Village. Players were drawn into an Eastern European village controlled by four formidable bioweapons and their mysterious cult leader.

The game also saw the return of its popular Mercenaries mode, giving the single-player story-focused game replay value by pitting you against the meanest enemies and giving you a rank depending on your performance. Many unlockable guns and gadgets encourage players to replay the story, too.

Resident Evil Village purchases include a free multiplayer game called Resident Evil RE:Verse, but development delays have meant that players are still waiting to see what that part of the package is like.

 

most popular games 2021

Madden NFL 22

Sports games bring in millions of dedicated fans every year, so it only makes sense that the franchise tied to the largest major league in American sports shows its face on our list. Debuting in 1988 as John Madden Football, Madden NFL 22 is the latest installment of the long-running Madden franchise, releasing for PS4, PS5, Xbox One, and Xbox Series X and S. If you’re a fan of “the beautiful game” (also known as soccer), FIFA 22 is an equally established and annually updated blockbusting franchise.

 

fall guys

Fall Guys: Ultimate Knockout

Fall Guys is an indie party game from Mediatonic and published by the ever-sarcastic Devolver Digital. It has been described as a platformer battle royale, where up to 60 players control colorful avatars that look like jellybeans, racing to the finish of whatever trap-filled course they’re trying to survive. If you’ve ever watched Wipeout, Ninja Warrior, or Takeshi’s Castle, you have an idea of how chaotic the courses can be.

It’s a fun online party game that exploded in popularity in 2020 and continues as more courses and content are added. It’s also planned for release on Xbox One and the Xbox Series X and S in 2021.

 

most popular games 2021

Final Fantasy VII Intergrade

While XIV is also available to PC gamers,  the remake of Final Fantasy VII is very much the preserve of console players. While the Remake came out in 2020, Intergrade is the enhanced version that has been released for the PlayStation 5 this year.

Part one of the remake expands upon the start of the original game and the city of Midgar. Further remake installments that will cover the rest of the 1997 classic are set to arrive in the future. The end of Remake and Intergrade point to something else going on in the game’s story, so it may not be a one-to-one remake as things can and will change going forward.

 

Most Popular Mobile Games 2021

While the industry’s media focuses largely on PC and console games that show off the best graphics and gameplay design, the mobile gaming market is the largest videogame market in the world, larger than PC and console combined. That makes sense, given how everybody has a smartphone in their pocket, so people from all strokes of life play mobile games instead of gamers who buy hardware for the specific purpose of gaming.

Here are some of the most popular mobile games being played in 2021.

 

fantasian

Fantasian

Fantasian is a role-playing game for iOS developed by Mistwalker. It was produced and directed by Hironobu Sakaguchi of Chrono Trigger fame. The game was released in two parts in April 2021 and August 2021, both being very well received. As for what you do, you play a young amnesiac stranded in an alternate universe who wants to regain their memories and must confront evil along the way.

 

pubg-mobile

PUBG Mobile

This is the mobile spin-off of PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds, a free-to-play version available for Android and iOS from 2018. As of March 2021, PUBG Mobile has been downloaded a billion times. What we know as PUBG Mobile started as PUBG: Exhilarating Battlefield, one of two PUBG mobile games seeking to capitalize on China’s massive mobile gaming market.

 

Garena Free Fire

Free Fire

Free Fire, often called Garena Free Fire after the name of its publisher, is an Android and iOS game that was the most downloaded mobile game of 2019. It also set records for 80 million daily active users worldwide in 2020. Then, in 2021, it surpassed PUBG Mobile in terms of United States revenue. They have also announced esports events this year that are sure to increase the game’s popularity.

 

CoD Mobile

Call of Duty is another of those franchises that everybody knows. While it has typically offered games with both single-player and multiplayer modes, Activision has capitalized on the massive mobile market with CoD Mobile. It combines game modes, characters, maps, and zombie modes from previous games in the franchise.

 

mobile legends bang bang

Mobile Legends: Bang Bang

Also called MLBB, this is a Chinese MOBA created by Moonton, a ByteDance subsidiary. It was released in 2016 and instantly became a success in Southeast Asia. The game has been the center of plagiarism allegations due to alleged similarities with League of Legends, which were settled on as part of a lawsuit put forward by Tencent and Riot Games.

 

Pokémon Go

Pokémon Go is an augmented reality game, meaning that you play it in the real world but you can see virtual entities through your phone camera. Developed by Niantic in tandem with Nintendo and the Pokémon Company, the iOS/Android app caused a stir when it was released in 2016.

While the Pokémon Go craze has died down, the game continues to be popular and only released in Turkey this year. Since the game world is mapped to the real world, there are gyms and Pokémon available to interact with in various locations. These locations can be subject to interesting developments that keep the game fresh.

 

among us

Among Us

Among Us is a 2018 online multiplayer game that’s popular on many platforms, partly because it supports cross-platform play. It’s especially popular as a mobile game after exploding in popularity in 2020 after YouTube and Twitch streamers played it.

It’s a social deduction game, so multiple crewmates on a space-themed map need to figure out who’s an imposter among them and then vote them out to guarantee everybody’s safety.

 

Most Popular VR Games 2021

Virtual reality is the newest frontier of videogaming, delivering fun hand-motion games and entire simulated worlds that we can literally step into and experience in first-person like never before. After a slow start, continued availability and affordability in the VR market have created several hit games.

Here are four that come to mind.

 

vader immortal

Vader Immortal: A Star Wars VR Series

With the many products that exist in the Star Wars media empire, it was only a matter of time until that galaxy far, far away was brought to VR. Vader Immortal, a three-part series,  was released in 2019 for Oculus Quest and Rift goggles, followed by a PlayStation VR version in 2020.

You play as a smuggler on Mustafar who, throughout three chapters, must navigate the planet and its magma-filled ruins while activating their Force powers and learning to use a lightsaber. All that training culminates in a showdown with the man himself – Darth Vader.

 

pistol whip

Pistol Whip

Pistol Whip is a game developed by Cloudhead Games. It’s exactly what you’d expect from the title, a VR FPS game where you shoot your way through stages while avoiding the enemy bullets coming your way. What sets it apart from similar games is that it uses action rhythm, relying on a robust soundtrack that challenges your rhythm and dictates the movements of your enemies.

 

beat saber

Beat Saber

Beat Saber is another popular rhythm game in VR. While it was released in 2019, it has remained a staple of VR gaming. It plays similarly to games like Guitar Hero but instead, the harmony and beats of the songs playing are represented as cubes that fly at you, and you need to slice them in half.

Its continued popularity is partly because it’s available on all VR headsets and includes a wide selection of songs that can be expanded with downloadable song packages and custom songs uploaded by the community.

 

half life alyx

Half-Life: Alyx

While it continues to support CS:GO and DOTA 2, Valve is notorious for leaving many of its iconic IPs behind. We’ve seen this with Left 4 Dead, Portal, Team Fortress, and perhaps most famously, Half-Life. However, that changed when  Half-Life: Alyx was announced in 2019 and was subsequently met with massive acclaim from reviewers and audiences alike.

It’s an FPS developed with Steam’s own VR systems in mind, though it’s compatible with most VR headset and controller combinations. Set between Half-Life and Half-Life 2,  you play through Alyx Vance’s resistance to the alien Combine who have taken over Earth. The game was widely received as the best VR game to date and seems to have inspired Valve to start working on games again.

 

New Exciting Games Coming Out Soon

To finish off our list of popular 2021 games, let’s take a short look at some upcoming releases that we expect will disrupt this list soon.

 

battlefield 2042

Most Popular PC Games

  • Battlefield 2042 – The latest installment of the multiplayer FPS shooter franchise. While previous games were set in World War 1 and 2, 2042 brings the action to the near future with new gadgets to make war with.
  • Age Of Empires 4 – The newest RTS game developed by Relic Entertainment and follows eight civilizations as you build them up and lead them on military campaigns.
  • Back 4 Blood – Spiritual successor to Left 4 Dead made by former Valve developers, sharing many of the same gameplay features.
  • Warhammer 3: Total War – The third installment in Creative Assembly and Games Workshop’s grimdark fantasy strategy game series.
  • New World – A new MMORPG developed by Amazon Games. Players colonize a fictionalized land based on the Americas.
  • Far Cry 6 – The latest open-world FPS addition to the Far Cry franchise, now set in a fictionalized Cuba frozen in time and led by a dictator played by Giancarlo Esposito.

 

FF7 The First Soldier

Most Popular Mobile Games 

  • Final Fantasy VII: The First Soldier – A free-to-play battle royale game set in the world of Gaia. 75 players battle each other with swords and guns until one winner remains. 
  • PUBG: New State – A new PUBG mobile game that takes the action into 2051, where new gadgets are available in a new location, the city of Troi.
  • Apex Legends Mobile – The mobile offshoot of Apex Legends that is releasing later this year.
  • Diablo Immortal – A free-to-play MMORPG from the Diablo franchise that’s slated for an early 2022 release.
  • Pokémon Unite – A MOBA based on the Pokémon universe where two teams of five Pokémon face off against each other with their unique elemental abilities.
  • Warframe Mobile – The mobile release of Warframe, a sci-fi MMORPG where players play both curated and procedurally generated levels.

 

Resident Evil 4 VR

Most Popular VR Games

  • Song In The Smoke – A survival VR game where players forage, craft, and fight to survive in a mysterious prehistoric world.
  • Low-Fi – A sandbox VR experience where you play a cop in a cyberpunk world and you can investigate crimes, play in the arcade or casino, and perform other activities.
  • Resident Evil 4 VR – The VR release of Resident Evil 4, the critically acclaimed third-person entry of the franchise that, for VR, has been reimagined in first-person.
  • Lone Echo 2 – A VR adventure game where you navigate through zero-gravity and solve puzzles in a physically interactive world.
  • Warhammer Age Of Sigmar: Tempestfall – An action-adventure game set in Warhammer’s dark fantasy world, where you wield weapons and magic with your own hands to battle the undead.
  • After the Fall – Action FPS from the developers of Arizona Sunshine, an early VR game that was well-received. You battle mutated and undead monsters in a cold post-apocalyptic LA

 

With that, you should now have some perspective on what the gaming industry looks like in 2021. It should be quite obvious that games-as-a-service products are dominating because of their content updates that keep players invested long after a game has been released. Multiplayer also remains popular on all platforms, as the human race continues to adjust to a new world of limited social interaction in real life.

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