Returnal Articles RSS Feed | Returnal RSS Feed on en Launch Media Network GameSkinny's Best Games of 2021 Thu, 30 Dec 2021 12:42:04 -0500 Jonathan Moore

Another year passed means another great list of video games worth playing on PC, PlayStation, Xbox, Switch, Stadia, and more. To look back on the year that was in video games, we've collected our highest-reviewed games of 2021 into a "best of" list. 

Since we're a small staff at GameSkinny, going the traditional "staff voting route" doesn't really make a whole lot of sense. Though it means there are more games here than on other lists, the best way we've found to highlight the best games of the year in 2021 is to include any game with a score of "8" or higher. So that's what we've done here. 

A few games on this list didn't technically release in 2021 or perhaps have other editions that released in years prior, but we reviewed certain versions and ports that released in 2021, so we've decided to also include them here. 

The Best Games of 2021

12 Minutes

Publisher: Annapurna Interactive
Developer: Luis Antonio (Nomada Studio)
Platforms: Xbox Series X (reviewed), Xbox One, PC, PS4, PS5, Switch
Rating: 9/10

What we said: 12 Minutes is a game about escaping a time loop, which is ironic given that it's so good that I wish I could see it all again for the first time myself.

Read our full 12 Minutes review.

Aerial_Knight's Never Yield

Publisher: Headup Games
Developer: Aerial_Knight
Platforms: PC (reviewed), PS4, PS5, Xbox One, Series X|S, Switch
Rating: 8/10

What we said: Aeiral_Knight's Never Yield is a short, yet stylish endless runner with one of the year's best soundtracks.

Read our full Aerial_Knight's Never Yield review.

Alan Wake Remastered

Publisher: Epic Games Publishing
Developer: Remedy Entertainment
Platforms: Xbox Series X (reviewed), Xbox One, PC, PS4, PS5
Rating: 8/10

What we said: Alan Wake still shines in a modern landscape thanks to its unique story and intoxicating atmosphere, and the remastered visuals modernize it just in time for Remedy's inevitable sequel.

Read our full Alan Wake Remastered review.

Alba: A Wildlife Adventure

Publisher: Plug In Digital
Developer: UsTwo Games
Platforms: Xbox Series X (reviewed), Xbox One, PC, PS4, PS5, Switch 
Rating: 9/10

What we said: Alba: A Wildlife Adventure wonderfully recontextualizes the video game sandbox as a wholesome call to action.

Read our full Alba: A Wildlife Adventure review.


Publisher: Dear Villagers
Developer: Nameless XIII
Platforms: PC (reviewed), Switch
Rating: 8/10

What we said: Ashwalkers tells an open-ended story the right way, mixing equal parts agency and powerlessness, hope and despair.

Read our full Ashwalkers review.

Atelier Lydie & Suelle DX

Publisher: Koei Tecmo
Developer: Gust Co. Ltd
Platforms: Switch (reviewed), PC, PS4, Vita
Rating: 8/10

What we said: Atelier Lydie & Suelle DX is a hard sell if you've already played it, but remains a stand-out Atelier game with strong heroines, excellent crafting, and good combat.

Read our full Atelier Lydie & Suelle DX review.

Atelier Ryza 2: Lost Legends & the Secret Fairy

Publisher: Koei Tecmo
Developer: Gust Co. Ltd
Platforms: PC (reviewed), PS4, PS5, Switch
Rating: 9/10

What we said: Atelier Ryza 2 improves on the original in almost every way and, despite a few stumbling points, proves Gust is still one of the best at making something magical out of ordinary things.

Read our full Atelier Ryza 2 review.

Axiom Verge 2

Publisher: Thomas Happ Games LLC
Developer: Thomas Happ Games LLC
Platforms: Switch (reviewed), PC, PS4, PS5
Rating: 8/10

What we said: Axiom Verge 2 marks a fine return to form for the indie darling, providing fans with a compelling adventure worthy of its Metroid-influences roots.

Read our full Axiom Verge 2 review.

Base One

Publisher: Blowfish Studios
Developer: PixFroze
Platforms: PC (reviewed), PS4, PS5, Xbox One, Series X|S, Switch
Rating: 8/10

What we said: Overall, Base One is an enjoyable experience that you can play casually for a few in-game cycles or a few IRL hours. It doesn’t really bring anything new or innovative to the table but executes well the familiar game mechanics that make up its loop. 

Read our full Base One review.

Before I Forget

Publisher: 3-Fold Games
Developer: 3-Fold Games
Platforms: Xbox Series X (reviewed), Xbox One, PC, Switch
Rating: 10/10

What we said: Before I Forget is a highly emotive tale about one woman’s struggle with dementia, and a story that everyone should experience.

Read our full Before I Forget review.

Before Your Eyes

Publisher: Skybound Games
Developer: GoobyeWorld Games
Platforms: PC (reviewed)
Rating: 10/10

What we said: Telling a gut-punch of a story with novel gameplay mechanics is no small feat, and Before Your Eyes marvelously delivers on both fronts.

Read our full Before Your Eyes review.

Black Book

Publisher: HypeTrain Digital
Developer: Morteshka
Platforms: PC (reviewed), PS4, Xbox One, Switch
Rating: 8/10

What we said: Black Book is an RPG/CCG/detective simulator/visual novel where you're either the villain or weakly trying not to be.

Read our full Black Book review.

Blue Reflection: Second Light

Publisher: Koei Tecmo
Developer: Gust Co. Ltd
Platforms: PS4 (reviewed), PC
Rating: 8/10

What we said: Blue Reflection: Second Light is an improvement upon the first game, following a group of schoolgirls looking for a way back home while fighting evil monsters.

Read our full Blue Reflection: Second Light review.

Bravely Default 2

Publisher: Nintendo/Square Enix
Developer: Square Enix
Platforms: Switch (reviewed), PC
Rating: 8/10

What we said: Bravely Default 2 is the best JRPG that never came out of 1998 Japan. It has a deep combat system, a sunny disposition, and a weirdly positive outlook.

Read our full Bravely Default 2 review.


Publisher: HypeTrain Digital
Developer: RedRuins Softworks
Platforms: PC (reviewed), PS4, Xbox One, Series X|S, Switch
Rating: 8/10

What we said: Breathedge isn't a perfect space survival game and is sometimes aggravating, but there's plenty to enjoy, and few recent games can be so relaxing.

Read our full Breathedge review.

Capcom Arcade Stadium

Publisher: Capcom
Developer: Capcom
Platforms: Switch (reviewed), PC, PS4, Xbox One, Series X|S 
Rating: 8/10

What we said: Capcom Arcade Stadium isn’t flawless. It could definitely be more complete, but the 32 games on display here still offer a pretty great slice of gaming history. As examples of their genres, it’s amazing how well most of these games still hold up while serving to vividly illustrate just how much gaming has changed since.

Read our full Capcom Arcade Stadium review.

Castlevania: Advance Collection

Publisher: Konami
Developer: Konami
Platforms: Switch (reviewed), PC, PS4, Xbox One
Rating: 8/10

What we said: Collecting three superb Castlevania entries from the Game Boy Advance era and one more obscure SNES offering, this is a must-have for any fan of the genre that Castlevania carved out.

Read our full Castlevania: Advance Collection review.

Chivalry 2

Publisher: Tripwire Interactive
Developer: Torn Banner Studios
Platforms: PC (reviewed), PS4, PS5, Xbox One, Series X|S
Rating: 9/10

What we said: Chivalry 2's ability to convert chaos into exuberance gifts players with an experience that brilliantly hones in on one of the greatest aspects of gaming: fun.

Read our full Chivalry 2 review.


Publisher: Deep Silver
Developer: Fishlabs
Platforms: Xbox Series X (reviewed), Xbox One, PC, PS4, PS5, Stadia, Amazon Luna
Rating: 8/10

What we said: With a solid gameplay loop, a variety of side missions, and an engaging, original story that doesn't overstay its welcome, Chorus delivers one of the best sci-fi experiences of the year.

Read our full Chorus review.

Control: Ultimate Edition

Publisher: 505 Games
Developer: Remedy Entertainment
Platforms: Xbox Series X (reviewed), Xbox One, Series S, PC, PS4, PS5, Switch
Rating: 9/10

What we said: Control was one of 2019's best games, with the only pervasive issue being that consoles couldn't always run the ambitious game so well. That's all changed.

Read our full Control: Ultimate Edition review.

Cozy Grove

Publisher: Spry Fox
Developer: Spry Fox
Platforms: Switch (reviewed), PC, PS4, Xbox One
Rating: 9/10

What we said: Cozy Grove presents island life sans crass Capitalistic Raccoon Overlords, and it is a lovely experience through and through.

Read our full Cozy Grove review.

Curse of the Dead Gods

Publisher: Focus Entertainment
Developer: Passtech Games
Platforms: PC (reviewed), PS4, Xbox One, Switch 
Rating: 9/10

What we said: Curse of the Dead Gods is an action-roguelike with slick combat and a risk-reward loop that will keep you coming back.

Read our full Curse of the Dead Gods review.

Cyber Shadow

Publisher: Yacht Club Games
Developer: Mechanical Head Studios (Aarne "MekaSkull" Hunziker)
Platforms: PC (reviewed), PS4, PS5, Xbox One, Series X|S, Switch
Rating: 8/10

What we said: Cyber Shadow is a beautiful, lovingly-crafted gut-punch of an experience. Get ready to throw some controllers.

Read our full Cyber Shadow review.

Days Gone (PC)

Publisher: PlayStation PC LLC
Developer: Bend Studio
Platforms: PC (reviewed)
Rating: 9/10

What we said: Days Gone received a lukewarm reception when it released for PS4, but the brilliant PC port will give new life to a game about a dying world.

Read our full Days Gone PC review.

Death's Door

Publisher: Devolver Digital
Developer: Acid Nerve
Platforms: Xbox Series X (reviewed), Xbox One, PC, PS4, PS5, Switch
Rating: 9/10

What we said: Taking somewhere around 8-10 hours to finish, Death’s Door is a macabre journey well worth taking. The combat is generally simple but excellent, the world is fascinating, and the characters are memorable. 

Read our full Death's Door review.


Publisher: Bethesda Softworks
Developer: Arkane Studios
Platforms: PS5 (reviewed), PC
Rating: 10/10

What we said: Deathloop takes elements from games like Bioshock and Dishonored, combining them with a Groundhogs Day like timeloop to create the coolest, most stylish, and best game of the year.

Read our full Deathloop review.

Disco Elysium: The Final Cut

Publisher: ZA/UM
Developer: ZA/UM
Platforms: PS5 (reviewed), PS4, PC, Xbox One, Series X|S, Switch, Stadia
Rating: 9/10

What we said: Disco Elysium’s expanded edition successfully builds upon an already excellent RPG, making it just as relevant today as it was in 2019.

Read our full Disco Elysium: The Final Cut review.

Disgaea 6

Publisher: Nippon Ichi Software
Developer: Nippon Ichi Software
Platforms: Switch (reviewed), PS4
Rating: 9/10

What we said: Disgaea 6 isn't a massive change for the long-running series, but the substantial improvements it brings means it doesn't have to be either.

Read our full Disgaea 6 review.

Dying Light

Publisher: Warner Bros. Interactive Entertainment
Developer: Techland
Platforms: Switch (reviewed), PC, PS4, Xbox One
Rating: 8/10

What we said: Dying Light on Switch is the same old Dying Light, which means it's one of the best survival horror games — just portable.

Read our full Dying Light Switch review.

Eldest Souls

Publisher: United Label
Developer: Fallen Flag Studio
Platforms: PC (reviewed), PS4, PS5, Xbox One, Series X|S, Switch
Rating: 8/10

What we said: A demanding pixel art Souls-like beautifully rendered and artfully crafted, Eldest Souls is not without issues, but it's worth your time for its bosses, art, and world.

Read our full Eldest Souls review.

Farming Simulator 22

Publisher: GIANTS Software
Developer: GIANTS Software
Platforms: PC (reviewed), PS4, PS5, Xbox One, Series X|S, Stadia
Rating: 9/10

What we said: With its many improvements and some important additions, Farming Simulator 22 is the best in the franchise thus far.

Read our full Farming Simulator 22 review.

Fatal Frame: Maiden of Blackwater

Publisher: Koei Tecmo/Nintendo
Developer: Koei Tecmo
Platforms: PS5 (reviewed), PS4, PC, Xbox One, Series X|S, Switch
Rating: 8/10

What we said: This port of the clever and under-appreciated Wii U J-Horror game might feel a little old but is a terrific example of a familiar genre given a unique spin.

Read our full Fatal Frame: Maiden of Blackwater review.


Publisher: Big Blue Bubble
Developer: Big Blue Bubble
Platforms: Xbox One (reviewed), PC, PS4, Switch
Rating: 9/10

What we said: An open platformer heavy on combat, upgrading, and exploration, Foregone is an involving and entertaining adventure well worth downloading ... This gorgeous retro platform adventure deftly mixes traditional linear and roguelike elements into one entertaining package.

Read our full Foregone review.

Forza Horizon 5

Publisher: Xbox Game Studios
Developer: Playground Games
Platforms: Xbox Series X (reviewed), Xbox One, PC
Rating: 10/10

What we said: Forza Horizon 5 is ultimately more of the same, but that's hardly a bad thing when it does the same thing so darn well.

Read our full Forza Horizon 5 review.

Green Hell (Console)

Publisher: Creepy Jar
Developer: Creepy Jar
Platforms: PS4 (reviewed), PC, Xbox One, Series X|S, Switch
Rating: 8/10

What we said: Green Hell is the latest PC survival sim to arrive on consoles, and it brings a solid and challenging survival experience that requires whits and perseverance.

Read our full Green Hell console review.


Publisher: Akupara Games
Developer: Clover Bite
Platforms: PC (reviewed), Stadia
Rating: 9/10

What we said: GRIME takes influence from more genres than most games and succeeds at combining them into a cohesive whole. It's well worth your time.

Read our full GRIME review.


Publisher: Playism
Developer: Petit Depotto
Platforms: Switch (reviewed), PC
Rating: 9/10

What we said: Gnosia draws similarities to games like Among Us and Zero Escape, but ultimately crafts a unique story with a crew of memorable characters.

Read our full Gnosia review.

Guilty Gear Strive

Publisher: Arc System Works
Developer: Arc System Works
Platforms: PS5 (reviewed), PS4, PC
Rating: 9/10

What we said: Guilty Gear Strive continues the long-running series’ love of amazingly bizarre character designs, fantastic fighting action, and gorgeous visuals with superb results.

Read our full Guilty Gear Strive review.

Habroxia 2

Publisher: Lillymo Games
Developer: Lillymo Games
Platforms: PS4 (reviewed), PC, Xbox One, Series X|S, Switch, Vita
Rating: 8/10

What we said: Lillymo Games have made a great attempt with Habroxia 2. Capturing the spirit of old-school SHMUPS, it isn’t especially long, but these kinds of shooters rarely are. Focusing more on replayability with branching mission paths, a customizable ship, and New Game+, it fills a niche sorely missing on modern platforms.

Read our full Habroxia 2 review.

Halo Infinite

Publisher: Xbox Game Studios
Developer: 343 Industries
Platforms: Xbox Series X (reviewed), PC
Rating: 9/10

What we said: While there are some improvements that can be made, Halo: Infinite is a return to form for the storied FPS franchise.

Read our full Halo: Infinite review.

Hitman 3

Publisher: IO Interactive
Developer: IO Interactive
Platforms: Xbox Series X (reviewed), Series S, PC, PS4, PS5, Switch, Stadia
Rating: 9/10

What we said: Hitman 3 brings to a close one of gaming's great trilogies with one last display of immaculate level design and intoxicating mood from IO Interactive.

Read our full Hitman 3 review.


Publisher: SEGA
Developer: Amplitude Studios
Platforms: PC (reviewed), Stadia
Rating: 9/10

What we said: Move over Civilization, there's a new strategy sheriff in town, and it's called Humankind. Amplitude Studios knocked this out of the park.

Read our full Humankind review.

It Takes Two

Publisher: EA
Developer: Hazelight Studios
Platforms: Xbox Series X (reviewed), Series S, PC, PS4, PS5
Rating: 8/10

What we said: It Takes Two is the culmination of a decade of novel co op gaming ideas, and that makes it one of 2021's best games no matter what else comes out.

Read our full It Takes Two review.

Judgment Remastered

Publisher: SEGA
Developer: Ryo Ga Gotoku Studio
Platforms: PS5 (reviewed), Xbox Series X|S, Stadia
Rating: 9/10

What we said: Judgment remastered is a fine return for 2019’s Yakuza spin-off. Though all of its changes are purely technical, it's the best version of this detective thriller.

Read our full Judgment Remastered review.

Jurassic World Evolution 2

Publisher: Frontier Developments
Developer: Frontier Developments
Platforms: PC (reviewed), PS4, PS4, Xbox One, Series X|S
Rating: 8/10

What we said: Jurassic World Evolution 2 builds on the foundation of its predecessor to create a memorable and addictive park management sim.

Read our full Jurassic World Evolution 2 review.

Kena: Bridge of Spirits

Publisher: Ember Lab
Developer: Ember Lab
Platforms: PS5 (reviewed), PS4, PC
Rating: 9/10

What we said: Kena Bridge of Spirits is a charming adventure that packs a ton of heart, as well as a wealth of engaging systems.

Read our full Kena: Bridge of Spirits review.

King of Fighters 14: Ultimate Edition

Publisher: SEGA
Developer: SNK
Platforms: PS4 (reviewed)
Rating: 8/10

What we said: King of Fighters 14 Ultimate Edition really is just the original game with all the DLC automatically added. There’s no other change to the base game. If you missed it the first time around, this is still a fine way to get into the series.

Read our full King of Fighters 14: Ultimate Edition review.

Last Stop

Publisher: Annapurna Interactive
Developer: Variable State
Platforms: PC (reviewed), PS4, PS5, Xbox One, Series X|S, Switch
Rating: 8/10

What we said: Variable State rejects one-hit-wonder status with its long-awaited follow-up, Last Stop, a game that feels equal parts arthouse and blockbuster.

Read our full Last Stop review.

Little Nightmares 2

Publisher: Bandai Namco
Developer: Tarsier Studios
Platforms: PC (reviewed), PS4, PS5, Xbox One, Series X|S, Switch, Stadia
Rating: 9/10

What we said: Little Nightmares 2 is bigger and better than the original, offering up a larger world to explore and all new enemies waiting to devour you.

Read our full Little Nightmares 2 review.


Publisher: SmashGames
Developer: Sean Young
Platforms: Switch (reviewed), PC
Rating: 8/10

What we said: Littlewood's warm setting, deep customization, and endearing characters make it one of the better farm-sims on Nintendo Switch.

Read our full Littlewood review.

Loop Hero

Publisher: Devolver Digital
Developer: Four Quarters
Platforms: PC (reviewed), Switch
Rating: 8/10

What we said: Loop Hero blends a number of influences and ideas for a time-bending adventure that's familiar but refreshing.

Read our full Loop Hero review.

Mario Golf: Super Rush

Publisher: Nintendo
Developer: Camelot Software Planning
Platforms: Switch (reviewed)
Rating: 8/10

What we said: Between all of the positives on offer in Mario Golf: Super Rush, it's hard to find a complaint for anyone looking to play this in a way that you'd expect from other titles in Nintendo's Switch catalog. Even if things could be a little deeper or more difficult, this game is just too much good, old-fashioned fun to let those things get in the way. 

Read our full Mario Golf: Super Rush review.

Mario Party Superstars

Publisher: Nintendo
Developer: NDcube
Platforms: Switch (reviewed)
Rating: 9/10

What we said: Mario Party Superstars is the best of classic Mario Party in one package, and it's just as glorious as it's ever been.

Read our full Mario Party Superstars review.

Marvel's Guardians of the Galaxy

Publisher: Square Enix
Developer: Eidos Montreal
Platforms: PS5 (reviewed), PS4, PC, Xbox One, Series X|S, Switch
Rating: 8/10

What we said: Marvel's Guardians of the Galaxy is a surprisingly compelling single-player adventure that packs in some real emotion, despite a few shortcomings.

Read our full Marvel's Guardians of the Galaxy review.

Mass Effect Legendary Edition

Publisher: EA
Developer: Bioware
Platforms: Xbox One (reviewed), PC, PS4
Rating: 9/10

What we said: Though it shows its age in spots, Mass Effect is still as mesmerizing today as it ever was. The Legendary Edition is a fully-featured revival of one of gaming's greatest stories.

Read our full Mass Effect Legendary Edition review.

Metro Exodus Enhanced Edition

Publisher: Deep Silver
Developer: 4A Games
Platforms: PC (reviewed), PS5, Xbox Series X|S
Rating: 8/10

What we said: Metro Exodus is back in a high-octane enhanced edition to push your new gaming hardware to the limit. For newcomers eager to put their new hardware through its paces, this is both a visual wonder and a generally great game.

Read our full Metro Exodus Enhanced Edition review.

Metroid Dread

Publisher: Nintendo
Developer: Mercury Steam
Platforms: Switch (reviewed)
Rating: 9/10

What we said: Metroid finally returns with a new sequel, and it’s exactly what we expect from the series. It’s a fine return to form for Samus with a huge world to explore but definitely doesn’t reinvent the wheel.

Read our full Metroid Dread review.

MLB The Show 21

Publisher: Sony Interactive Entertainment 
Developer: Sony San Diego Studio
Platforms: PS5 (reviewed), PS4, Xbox One, Series X|S
Rating: 8/10

What we said: MLB The Show 21 isn't as flashy as its cover star. Lacking many overhauls to its modes, this year's game focuses on a decent laissez-faire story mode, a cool new Stadium Creator, and more of the superb baseball sim gameplay that has earned the series its reputation as one of the best Sony exclusives. 

Read our full MLB The Show 21 review.

Monster Hunter Rise

Publisher: Capcom
Developer: Capcom
Platforms: Switch (reviewed)
Rating: 10/10

What we said: Monster Hunter Rise as it stands might be one of the easiest games in the series, but it's also one of the most flexible and ultimately satisfying in each and every regard, and for that, it deserves full marks.

Read our full Monster Hunter Rise review.

My Friend Peppa Pig

Publisher: Outright Games
Developer: Petoons Studio
Platforms: Xbox One (reviewed), PC, PS4, Switch, Stadia
Rating: 8/10

What we said: My Friend Peppa has the unenviable task of convincing parents their young kids deserve video games. For the families that don't shy from the medium, this is a delightful new way to play together.

Read our full My Friend Peppa Pig review.

NieR Replicant Ver. 1.22474487139 ... 

Publisher: Square Enix
Developer: Square Enix
Platforms: PS4 (reviewed), PC, Xbox One
Rating: 8/10

What we said: NieR Replicant Ver. 1.22474487139 is an upgraded version of the original NieR, and it improves on almost all aspects to offer something for both newcomers and veterans alike.

Read our full NieR Replicant review.


Publisher: Noiseminded
Developer: Noiseminded
Platforms: PC (reviewed)
Rating: 8/10

What we said: Sometimes we wake from a dream and wish we could recall its details. Sometimes we're trapped in a nightmare and wish we could wake at all. Nightslink feels like a bit of both.

Read our full Nightslink review.

New Pokemon Snap

Publisher: Nintendo
Developer: Bandai Namco
Platforms: Switch (reviewed)
Rating: 8/10

What we said: New Pokemon Snap delights at every turn, offsetting a grindy mid-game with a parade of charming Pokemon in this cozy on-rails photo adventure.

Read our full New Pokemon Snap review.

NEO: The World Ends With You

Publisher: Square Enix
Developer: Square Enix
Platforms: Switch (reviewed), PC, PS4
Rating: 10/10

What we said: NEO: The World Ends with You is everything a fan of the series could ever ask for in a sequel. This isn’t just only the best JRPG released in 2021 so far, but perhaps one of the best games this year, period. It’s simply incredible.

Read our full NEO: The World Ends With You review.

Nioh Collection

Publisher: Sony Interactive Entertainment
Developer: Team Ninja
Platforms: PS5 (reviewed), PS4
Rating: 8/10

What we said: The Nioh Collection brings two of the most satisfying last-gen games to next-gen, offering improvements both new and returning players are sure to love.

Read our full Nioh Collection review.

Pac-Man 99

Publisher: Bandai Namco
Developer: Arika
Platforms: Switch (reviewed)
Rating: 8/10

What we said: Pac-Man 99 follows deftly in the footsteps of Nintendo’s Tetris 99 to provide a near-perfect multiplayer Pac experience.

Read our Pac-Man 99 review.

Persona 5 Strikers

Publisher: SEGA
Developer: Atlus
Platforms: PS4 (reviewed), PC, Switch
Rating: 9/10

What we said: Persona 5 Strikers is a fantastic sequel to the original game. It's fun, stylish, and sleek, a road trip to remember.

Read our full Persona 5 Strikers review.

Pokemon Brilliant Diamond and Shining Pearl

Publisher: Nintendo
Developer: ILCA
Platforms: Switch (reviewed)
Rating: 8/10

What we said: Despite some rough edges, Pokemon Brilliant Diamond and Shining Pearl are the best of modern and classic Pokemon.

Read our full review of Pokemon Brilliant Diamond and Shining Pearl.

Psychonauts 2

Publisher: Xbox Game Studios
Developer: Double Fine
Platforms: Xbox Series X (reviewed), Xbox One, PC, PS4
Rating: 9/10

What we said: Psychonauts 2 is a brilliant, thoughtful sequel and one of the most creative experiences of the last generation.

Read our full Psychonauts 2 review.

Ratchet & Clank: Rift Apart

Publisher: Sony Interactive Entertainment
Developer: Insomniac Games
Platforms: PS5 (reviewed)
Rating: 10/10

What we said: Ratchet & Clank: Rift Apart is an exemplary PS5 game, showing full well what the system is capable of — all while masterfully reviving a beloved series for the new generation.

Read our full Ratchet & Clank: Rift Apart review.

Resident Evil Village

Publisher: Capcom
Developer: Capcom
Platforms: PC (reviewed), PS4, PS5, Xbox One, Series X|S, Stadia
Rating: 8/10

What we said: Resident Evil Village has some of the biggest scares in the series to date, but it also has a peculiar feel to it, like a lot of story and gameplay was chopped out before launch.

Read our full Resident Evil Village review.

Resident Evil 4 VR

Publisher: Oculus Studios
Developer: Armature Studio
Platforms: Oculus Quest (reviewed)
Rating: 8/10

What we said: Resident Evil 4 VR is a brilliant port of an already fantastic game and the ideal way to experience Capcom's classic.

Read our full Resident Evil 4 VR review.


Publisher: Sony Interactive Entertainment
Developer: Housemarque
Platforms: PS5 (reviewed)
Rating: 8/10

What we said: Returnal is a tightly designed roguelike with some of the best gameplay the genre can provide, and it's the first game since Demon's Souls to provide a reason to own a PS5.

Read our full Returnal review.

Riders Republic

Publisher: Ubisoft
Developer: Ubisoft
Platforms: Xbox Series X (reviewed), Xbox One, PC, PS4, PS5, Stadia, Amazon Luna
Rating: 8/10

What we said: Riders Republic boasts an open world full of exciting challenges, scenic views, and the freedom to tackle anything as you wish, making it a surprise hit for 2021.

Read our full Riders Republic review.

SaGa Frontier Remastered

Publisher: Square Enix
Developer: Square Enix
Platforms: Switch (reviewed), PC, PS4
Rating: 8/10

What we said: You'll be hard-pressed to find many RPGs that are so enthralling from a combat and mechanical perspective, that suck you in with a myriad of questions about more than just story and ultimately compel you to do it again and again. 

Read our full SaGa Frontier Remastered review.

Scarlet Nexus

Publisher: Bandai Namco
Developer: Bandai Namco
Platforms: PS5 (reviewed), PS4, PC, Xbox One, Series X|S
Rating: 9/10

What we said: Scarlet Nexus is slick, stylish, smartly executed, and just all-around cool.

Read our full Scarlet Nexus review.


Publisher: Dear Villagers
Developer: Flying Oak Games
Platforms: PS Vita (reviewed), PC, Xbox One, Switch
Rating: 10/10

What we said: Like so many indies before it, roguelike Scourgebringer has found its true home on the PlayStation Vita. 

Read our full Scourgebringer review.

Shin Megami Tensei 3: Nocturne Remastered

Publisher: SEGA
Developer: Atlus
Platforms: Switch (reviewed), PC, PS4
Rating: 8/10

What we said: Shin Megami Tensei 3 remastered might show its age in some places, but its narrative excellence remains unaltered.

Read our full Shin Megami 3: Nocturne Remastered review.

Shin Megami Tensei V

Publisher: SEGA
Developer: Atlus
Platforms: Switch (reviewed)
Rating: 10/10

What we said: Shin Megami Tensei V is a triumph, boasting a stellar narrative and combat system with unique style all its own.

Read our full Shin Megami Tensei V review.

Shovel Knight Pocket Dungeon

Publisher: Yacht Club Games
Developer: Vine
Platforms: PC (reviewed), PS4, Switch
Rating: 8/10

What we said: Shovel Knight Pocket Dungeon brings one of the best puzzle games of the year while staying true to its roots.

Read our full Shovel Knight Pocket Dungeon review.

Skul: The Hero Slayer

Publisher: Neowiz Games
Developer: SouthPAW Games
Platforms: PC (reviewed), Switch
Rating: 9/10

What we said: As endearing as it is challenging, Skul: The Hero Slayer takes the rogue-lite mechanics you know and adds some flair of its own and a unique take on the fantasy narrative.

Read our full Skul: The Hero Slayer review.

Sniper Ghost Warrior Contracts 2

Publisher: CI Games
Developer: CI Games
Platforms: Xbox Series X (reviewed), Xbox One, PC, PS4, PS5
Rating: 8/10

What we said: Sniper Ghost Warrior Contracts 2 delivers one of the best shooters of the year, with intense sniping, skillfully crafted progression, and engaging levels.

Read our full Sniper Ghost Warrior Contracts 2 review.

Solar Ash

Publisher: Annapurna Interactive
Developer: Heart Machine
Platforms: PC (reviewed), PS4, PS5
Rating: 9/10

What we said: Solar Ash is a complete package, with stellar gameplay, a well-told story, and a realized world ripe for exploring.

Read our full Solar Ash review.

Song of Horror (Console Edition)

Publisher: Raiser Games
Developer: Protocol Games
Platforms: Xbox One (reviewed), PS4
Rating: 8/10

What we said: Whereas so many modern indie horror games can feel like on-rails haunted hayrides, Song of Horror keeps players on their toes.

Read our full Song of Horror review.

Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic

Publisher: Aspyr
Developer: Aspyr
Platforms: Switch (reviewed)
Rating: 9/10

What we said: Overall, KOTOR on Nintendo Switch is well worth picking up. Not only is it relatively cheap at $15, it's still one of the very best RPGs you can play. And it's high on the list of the best Star Wars games available. There's a reason people want more KOTOR.

Read our full KOTOR Switch review.

Subnautica: Below Zero

Publisher: Unknown Worlds Entertainment
Developer: Unknown Worlds Entertainment
Platforms: Xbox Series X (reviewed), Xbox One, PC, PS4, PS5
Rating: 8/10

What we said: The follow-up to Subnautica offers more of the same intriguing mix of gorgeous underwater exploration, survival and crafting, and fascinating alien intrigue. 

Read our full Subnautica: Below Zero review.

Super Mario 3D World + Bowser's Fury

Publisher: Nintendo
Developer: Nintendo
Platforms: Switch (reviewed)
Rating: 10/10

What we said: With some of the cleverest level designs and a boundless sense of joy, Super Mario 3D World + Bowser's Fury is essential playing for any Mario fan.

Read our full Super Mario 3D World + Bowser's Fury review.

Super Monkey Ball Banana Mania

Publisher: SEGA
Developer: Ryu Ga Gotoku Studio
Platforms: Switch (reviewed), PC, PS4, PS5, Xbox One, Series X|S
Rating: 8/10

What we said: Super Monkey Ball Banana Mania is the best of classic Monkey Ball with some fantastic new touches to keep things interesting, though accessibility takes a back seat in these remakes.

Read our full Super Monkey Ball Banana Mania review.

Tails of Iron

Publisher: United Label
Developer: Odd Bug Studio
Platforms: PC (reviewed), PS4, PS5, Xbox One, Series X|S, Switch
Rating: 9/10

What we said: Out of humble materials, Odd Bug Studios have created a rich, beautiful, and thrilling fantasy world in Tails of Iron.

Read our full Tails of Iron review.

Tales of Arise

Publisher: Bandai Namco
Developer: Bandai Namco
Platforms: PS5 (reviewed), PS4, PC, Xbox One, Xbox Series X|S
Rating: 9/10

What we said: Tales of Arise heralds a brilliant new dawn for the series and is one of the best RPGs of the last generation.

Read our full Tales of Arise review.

The Artful Escape

Publisher: Annapurna Interactive
Developer: Beethoven & Dinosaur
Platforms: Xbox Series X (reviewed), Xbox One, PC
Rating: 8/10

What we said: The Artful Escape is a kaleidoscopic coming-of-age story that is a joy to move through, even if the actual gameplay is sometimes hardly there.

Read our full review for The Artful Escape.

The Great Ace Attorney Chronicles

Publisher: Capcom
Developer: Capcom
Platforms: Switch (reviewed), PC, PS4
Rating: 10/10

What we said: Despite a few pacing issues, The Great Ace Attorney Chronicles takes the series to new heights with its splendid characters, storytelling, and setting.

Read our full Great Ace Attorney Chronicles review.

The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword HD

Publisher: Nintendo
Developer: Tantalus Media
Platforms: Switch (reviewed)
Rating: 8/10

What we said: Skyward Sword HD on Switch still suffers from backtracking and gimmicks, but its clever dungeons and engaging narrative make it one of the best games in the series.

Read our full Skyward Sword HD review.


Publisher: Thorium
Developer: Thorium
Platforms: Switch (reviewed), PC, PS4, Xbox One
Rating: 8/10

What we said: UnderMine on Switch is a strong, quirky roguelike full of personality that strikes a healthy balance between challenge and accessibility.

Read our full UnderMine review.


Publisher: Humble Bundle
Developer: Witch Beam
Platforms: PC (reviewed), Xbox One, Series X|S, Switch
Rating: 8/10

What we said: Unpacking is simple in concept but complex, interesting, and ultimately meditative in execution. Simply put, it's delightful.

Read our full Unpacking review.

Voice of Cards: The Isle Dragon Roars

Publisher: Square Enix
Developer: Square Enix
Platforms: PS4 (reviewed), PC, Switch
Rating: 8/10

What we said: Voice of Cards: The Isle Dragon Roars is a quaint game that doesn't bring anything exceptionally new to the genre, but it is undeniably charming.

Read our full Voice of Cards: The Isle Dragon Roars review.

WarioWare: Get It Together

Publisher: Nintendo
Developer: Intelligent Systems
Platforms: Switch (reviewed)
Rating: 9/10

What we said: WarioWare: Get It Together is probably one of the best and most frantic multiplayer games on the Nintendo Switch.

Read our full WarioWare: Get It Together review.

Werewolf: The Apocalypse — Heart of the Forest

Publisher: Walkabout
Developer: Different Tales
Platforms: Switch (reviewed), PC, PS4, Xbox One
Rating: 8/10

What we said: A well-done and intelligent choose your own text adventure set in the venerable World of Darkness Werewolf RPG universe makes for a satisfying bit of interactive fiction.

Read our full Heart of the Forest review

Wraith: The Oblivion — Afterlife

Publisher: Fast Travel Games
Developer: Fast Travel Games
Platforms: Oculus Quest (reviewed), PC, PS4
Rating: 9/10

What we said: Wraith: The Oblivion — Afterlife is a thrilling VR horror game that engrosses on a level not seen since last year's Half-Life: Alyx Jeff sequence.

Read our full Wraith: The Oblivion — Afterlife review.


Publisher: THQ Nordic
Developer: Bugbear Entertainment
Platforms: PS5 (reviewed), PS4, PC, Xbox One, Series X|S, Switch, Stadia
Rating: 8/10

What we said: Wreckfest is back with a fine next-gen port, going that extra mile with some wonderfully chaotic gameplay.

Read our full Wreckfest review.

Ys IX: Monstrum Nox

Publisher: NIS America
Developer: Nihon Falcom
Platforms: PS4 (reviewed), PC, Switch, Stadia
Rating: 9/10

What we said: Ys IX: Monstrum Nox is an outstanding RPG and a big step forward for Ys, with superb story, combat, and characters — plus one of the best settings in the series.

Read our full Ys IX: Monstrum Nox review.

That's it for our list of the best, highest-scored games of 2021. What were your favorite games? Let us know in the comments below! 

Returnal 1.4.0 Update Patch Eases Difficulty, Fixes Trophies Mon, 14 Jun 2021 15:39:51 -0400 Jonathan Moore

The latest Returnal patch is live now, and it makes the roguelike shooter just a bit easier while fixing some of the issues players have had with the game's trophies. On top of these fixes, Housemarque has also added additional locations for certain scout logs, tweaked some of the DualSense haptics, and provided performance enhancements. 

Notoriously, certain scout logs needed for the Returnal platinum had been previously hard to come by. The game's RNG elements mean that certain logs (and Xenoglyph ciphers, as well) don't appear in every run. However, some players, including myself, were forced to grind for hours to find them. According to Housemarque, that grind will now be a little less intensive with patch 1.4.0. 

Changes to how trophies are counted have also been implemented, allowing for some trophies to retroactively pop for certain areas and activities that "cannot be replayed." There's also now support for replaying certain sections of Act 1 and Act 2 to acquire trophies that were previously locked after completing specific sections. 

Additionally, one of the biggest criticisms about Returnal (aside from its ungracious save system) is its difficulty. Returnal is an unforgiving game; both its boss fights and the enemies haunting its biomes up to those boss fights can be maddeningly tough. Housemarque said that it has made "difficulty adjustments in all biomes for a more balanced gameplay experience." 

The full Returnal 1.4.0 patch notes can be seen below, courtesy of Housemarque

  • Platinum: Added support for replaying certain Act 1 & Act 2 Trophies

  • Platinum: Added support to retroactively award Trophies which cannot be replayed

  • Platinum: Added additional locations for Scout Logs 9, 34, 35 & 46 to appear more often

  • Platinum: Fixed an issue where 1 Cipher was sometimes unobtainable for Biome Survey Trophies

  • Platinum: Fixed an issue where some Activity Cards displayed an incorrect count

  • UI: HUD labels for items are now hidden when Selene is firing a weapon

  • UI: Fixed an issue where 2 actions could be mapped to a single button after switching controller presets

  • Cinematics: Fixed a rare audio sync issue in the secret ending

  • Audio: General mix improvements across the experience

  • Audio: Improved surround sound setup support across the experience

  • Audio: Added more DualSense haptics across cinematic moments for deeper immersion

  • Audio: Added DualSense haptics when using the Icarian Grapnel

  • Audio: Improved the dynamic range recommendations system

  • Audio: Allow users to override the dynamic range recommendations

  • Audio: Allow users to change audio output from the game menu

  • Balance: Various bug fixes to certain artifacts, parasites, consumables, and when certain malfunctions can occur in the early parts of the game

  • Balance: Players no longer receive parasites as rewards when players avenge their corpses

  • Balance: Enemies, Weapons, and Bosses - difficulty adjustments in all Biomes for a more balanced gameplay experience

  • Fixed an issue where Hyperion may drop the Key out of reach

  • Fixed an issue where Ophion may become invisible if the player uses a Reconstructor during the fight 

  • Fixed weapons not being found in Biomes after scanning but not collecting them

  • Fixed an issue where Selene could jump impossibly long distances 

  • Fixed multiple issues where Selene may become trapped in a room

  • Fixed a rare freezing issue when teleporting in Crimson Wastes

  • Fixed occasional frame rate drops when using the Electropylon Driver

  • Performance improvements, crash fixes, and multiple minor bug fixes

If you've yet to pick up Returnal and are wondering what it's all about, consider checking out our review, where we called Housemarque's roguelike shooter a tightly designed roguelike with some of the best gameplay the genre can provide, and it's the first game since Demon's Souls to provide a reason to own a PS5." If you're playing Returnal and looking for a little help, consider heading over to our Returnal guides hub

Returnal Update 1.3.7 Patch Notes Detail Latest Fixes Wed, 19 May 2021 16:40:57 -0400 Jonathan Moore

Housemarque's roguelike bullet-hell shooter Returnal released on PlayStation 5 on April 30, and the developer has been hard at work issuing updates and patches for various fixes since. Update 1.3.7 is poised to push Returnal into a new cycle on May 20 with a few small tweaks. 

The Returnal 1.3.7 update will be an automatic one that goes live at 10 a.m. EST. Be sure to finish up any runs before that time, as Returnal will close to download and install the update. Because of Returnal's save system, that means most progress on current runs will be lost. 

So what does the Returnal 1.3.7 update fix? Here are the patch notes per Housemarque: 

• Fixed an issue with Deceased Scouts not appearing as often as intended.

• After having one of their Deceased Scout corpses scavenged, players will no longer receive a negative-effect parasite on startup.

• Fixed an issue where the Ophion boss might disappear after a player uses the Reconstructor during the fight.

• Fixed a rare audio bug causing loud noises during combat.

• Fixed a small number of issues where players might become stuck in various rooms.

• Fixed several issues where the player might encounter a black screen during the credits or whilst playing.

• Multiple fixes for rare crashes during gameplay.

Update 1.3.6 released back on May 8 and fixed pre order suits from locking players out of certain areas, as well as a few stability issues and healing problems. 

This latest patch likely isn't the last one for Returnal; that's just the nature of development. Returnal is, for the most part, a very stable game. Will future updates add a more forgiving save system or nerf those damnable drones in the Derelict Citadel? Only time will tell. Stay tuned. 

[Source: Housemarque]

Returnal Guide Beginner's Tips and Tricks Guide Tue, 11 May 2021 11:59:05 -0400 John Schutt

Returnal will chew you up and spit you out if you aren’t careful. One mistake can and will cost you dearly whether you’re a beginner or seasoned in the cycles. New players especially can use all the help the game will give them, and that isn’t much. Though there are some tutorials to aid you in your journey across Atropos, much of what you'll learn comes from experience. 

To help you along, that’s why this guide exists. Here you’ll find six essential tips for newcomers to Returnal and the horrors of planet Atropos.

Returnal Beginner's Tips and Tricks Guide

Tip #1: Stay Mobile

Some roguelikes give you opportunities to assess the situation and strategize between fighting enemies. Returnal does not. You’ll be constantly bombarded by the game's bullet-hell mechanics, and in later levels, enemies are liable to get in your face more often than not. Bosses likewise take up almost the entire arena with lasers, firebolts, and a hundred other objects meant to kill you.

Your best defense is to stay on the move. Until you’ve cleared a room completely, you should never stop running, jumping, dashing, and generally being mobile. Returnal will give you more tools to get around as the game goes on, such as the Icarian Grapnel, and every arena offers opportunities to use them. So use them.

The real trick, however, is moving intelligently. Just jumping and dashing without purpose is liable to get you killed. You have to move with intention, always aware of where you land and what threats await you once you’re back on the ground — or if anything is coming at you in the air. Water and bottomless pits are their own problems, and carelessness around them could also send you back to the Helios.

In summary, always be moving in Returnal and always be mindful of the dangers of where you’re moving.

Tip #2: Clear Rooms Cautiously

Every encounter room in Returnal spawns a set number of enemies when you walk inside. You might not, however, spawn all of them at the start. More could appear as you make your way around the space.

There are specific points that, once crossed, cause more enemies to appear in more linear rooms and level layouts. In other words, you might have five flying enemies when the gate opens. If you run all the way to the other end of the room without clearing it methodically, you might need to deal with 20 or more foes.

Your answer to this problem is to clear enemies as soon as you see them and be careful not to progress too far to avoid spawning additional threats you aren’t yet prepared to face. You'll have to manage this with also getting the Obolites enemies drop, so it's a good strategy to kite enemies toward you when possible. 

Tip #3: Sleep to Recover Health

Whenever you’re in the forested Overgrown Ruins, where the Helios rests, you can return to the ship and sleep in the bed inside it. Doing so will restore about half of your starting health bar and give you a valuable lifeline if you’re having trouble with the early areas or ran afoul of a nasty encounter room.

Tip #4: Collect Health Items Sparingly

Scattered throughout most encounter rooms are Silphium health-restoring items. Picking one up when you’re at full health will grant you a point towards a small health upgrade. Small and regular-sized Silphium grant a single point. Large grants two.

If you’ve taken any damage, you’ll have your health restored based on the size of the Silphium. Small Silphium doesn’t restore much. The largest offer a full heal.

It can be tempting to pick up every heal you come across, whether to increase your health pool or to give yourself a boost for the next fight. Don’t be tempted. If an encounter leaves you very low, pick up a couple to ensure your survival later on. Otherwise, leave them and return to them later. 

You’ll want to save around five or so healing items per level for one of two reasons: either you’re fighting the boss or progressing to a new area. Even if you have Silphium Vials from Fabricators or random drops, you’ll want to save those for emergencies. If you've cleared everything, the healing pickups around the level are a more consistent safety net.

Once no enemies remain in a biome, or you’re going to otherwise progress, then and only then should you pick up all the Silphium. You’re liable to give yourself a solid boost to your health pool or get yourself topped off for the challenges to come.

Tip #5: Collect all the Obolites, and Fear Not the Malignancy

Every enemy you kill drops little yellow orbs called Obolites. You’ll see clusters of the things around the map as well, including larger stones you can only destroy with an upgrade called the Atropian Blade. Make sure you collect every single one of these little buggers.

You’ll also find Obolites in breakable statues across Atropos. You’ll know which ones to break based on their glowing yellow eyes. Also keep an eye out for Xenophagus, which are sarcophagi that sometimes hold Obolites. 

There are even large purple stones afflicted with Malignancy, which come with a chance of a Malfunction that grants some detriment to your play until cured. There’s no reason to fear Malfunctions, especially in regards to the purple Obolite stones. Unless you’ve attached a parasite that increases Malfunction severity or removal difficulty, a malfunction is more likely a minor inconvenience than anything else.

No matter where you are in the game, the additional Obolites from the purple stones are too worthwhile to pass up. Just don’t push it. Critical Malfunctions are nasty.

Tip #6: A Higher Weapon Level is Not Always Better

You’re Proficiency is bound to increase as you play through Returnal, increasing the weapon level of any new armament you find. It is a mistake to think a weapon with a higher level is always an upgrade, though. You have to consider your playstyle, the weapon's abilities, and the Alt-Fire when thinking about making the switch.

Be aware that if you don’t ever use a weapon, you’ll never unlock abilities for it, so there’s value in doing runs while knowing you’ll fail to unlock new specs for your guns. You might also come across your new favorite weapon or something that carries you farther than you ever thought you’d go.

Regardless of the reason, you don’t need to and shouldn’t pick up every new gun you find just because its number is a little higher. Take some time to think about how you’re playing, what the gun can do, and what you like most.


Those are our beginner's tips and tricks for Returnal. For more help, consider checking out our other Returnal guides, where we have articles for the best starting weapons, what reconstructions are for, and more. 

Returnal Review: Discover What Lies in the Deepest Reaches Fri, 07 May 2021 10:58:03 -0400 John Schutt

Returnal, like any good roguelike, pits you against seemingly insurmountable odds. Then, atop a mountain of your own corpses, you’ll triumph, only to be faced with more and more trying challenges as the game goes on. Add in a Lovecraft-inspired aesthetic, tightly designed roguelike mechanics, satisfying combat, and a mostly gripping narrative, and Returnal is a game worth your time.

Returnal is also the first game in all of the PlayStation 5’s software library, outside of, say, Astro's Playroom, to make real use of a lot the system has to offer. You’ll experience consistent haptic feedback and have different firing modes depending on how far you depress a trigger. The 3D audio is beautifully paired with top-notch sound design. Load times are the shortest they’ve ever been, and the game generates its random environments without a single hitch.

There are a few foibles here and there, from the occasional bit of over-written exposition or frame stutters during long play sessions. The lack of a save and quit function is unforgivable when Demon’s Souls solved the mid-game save problem in 2009. There’s also the occasional pacing issue and mechanical disconnect between going through levels and fighting bosses.

Don’t be dissuaded, though. If you’re a fan of the roguelike genre, or even just weird, cosmic horror science fiction, Returnal provides in spades.

Returnal Review: Discover What Lies in the Deepest Reaches

Returnal takes place on the alien planet of Atropos, where Selene, a scout of aeronautics company ASTRA, seeks out a mysterious White Shadow transmission. It soon becomes clear there is more going on here than just a signal transition, however, as Selene soon finds herself trapped by the planet, unable to stay dead when killed.

The reason for these roguelike elements is either cryptic or left intentionally vague. What you do know is the levels shift each time you begin a new run, called a “cycle” here. The randomization is more akin to something like Bloodborne’s chalice dungeons than the more granular procedural generation in a game like Dead Cells.

Rooms pull from a table of prefabricated pieces, with some more bespoke spaces for scripted encounters or loot and other upgrades. You’ll grow familiar with the basic layout of the rooms as you play, with your biggest guessing game being how they’re arranged, not what’s in them. Even then, you can make good educated guesses about where the merchant room (called a fabricator) will be or where you’ll probably find the boss, the latter of which are denoted by red doors on the map.

Never Defenseless

You’ll start every cycle with a simple sidearm. It’s useful but unremarkable. As you move through each biome, loot chests and boss-type enemies drop upgraded weapons. Each weapon you come across has a Proficiency level that determines its effectiveness the more you use it.

Higher Proficiency weapons can also have additional upgrades. You’ll reach Proficiency 25 or so by the end of the game, with up to four upgrade abilities modifying how the weapon functions. You’ll unlock new upgrades from new weapons you find during a cycle by killing enemies and filling the upgrade bar.

You’ll also improve your character by using Artifacts — per run items that grant a powerful bonus under specific circumstances — and Parasites, which confer both a random benefit and detriment. Lastly, you’ll have a growing selection of consumables and the ability to upgrade your health by picking up healing items scattered about levels.

The gameplay loop of finding new weapons, unlocking additional Artifacts, and improving and altering that cycle’s character is surprisingly satisfying. The system lacks the sheer depth you’ll find in Hades or Dead Cells, but it is quite a bit more detailed than a purer roguelike experience. There are very few permanent unlocks between cycles, making every resource precious.

The unlocks you do find take two forms. The first is Ether, a consumable currency for purifying Malignant items and containers, as well as powering Reconstructors. There are also various types of Xeno-Technology that open up new areas of the map either to additional materials or previously walled-off levels.

You’ll find a flow as the game progresses, collecting weapons, upgrades, and Obolites, the standard currency dropped by enemies and scattered about the maps. Then, once you’ve cleared a level once, you’ll have access to the next level without needing to fight the current level’s boss again.

Take Your Fight to the Cycle

It doesn’t take long to find a good rhythm in Returnal. Fighting your way through the first levels, making it to the boss, failing a few times, then overcoming them, only to start the whole process again in the next biome, the next cycle.

Each cycle also reveals more of Returnal’s story through visitations from the past and various Xenoglyph writings. The narrative is purposefully opaque, leaving much to the imagination for most of the game’s runtime. Even at the end, answers can be hard to come by, though there are some things the game makes fairly clear I won’t go into here.

Thankfully, every cycle is unique enough, and the moment-to-moment gameplay enjoyable enough, that you won’t mind the occasional disruption for story.

The tale itself takes on some heavy stuff, and it does so with care and a lot of attention given to the weight of the decisions that lead each character to this point in their lives. It’s not perfectly told, as the writers can sometimes be a little too proud of themselves, making the writing feel overwrought and needlessly grandiose.

While the exposition can get in its own way, the worldbuilding does not. Everything is on point: from the way the levels are built to the alien environments of Atropos to the godlike beasts that lurk in the shadows. Throughout the story, events only grow stranger as reality seems to bend further and further toward a breaking point.

Don’t Fear the Cycle

Returnal will test your sanity as much as it does Selene’s thanks to a high level of difficulty that only ramps up deeper into the game. Each new biome introduces enemy types with new attacks, new patterns, and new effects. The amount of visual effects on screen, most of which can kill you, also increases exponentially as you play.

It’s a testament to the PS5 that the game doesn’t chug or hitch during these intense moments, as even some PCs would have trouble pulling off so many particle effects at once without stutter or frame drops.

However, some of the arenas you fight in don’t always feel appropriate for either the enemies you fight or the density of the enemies inside. When you run across the rocket launching drones in groups of 10 or more, in a space too small to accommodate all those missiles, you’ll know what I mean.

Your deaths are usually your fault despite the level of randomization. Returnal has a fair few tutorials, but these mostly involve mechanics your character does, not that the world does. You’re as liable to die because of a pit or enemy attack you’ve never seen before as a miss-timed dodge or because you messed up this mechanic or that one.

It can be frustrating too to find yourself at the mercy of an offscreen enemy or needing just one more second to kill the trash mob throwing missiles at you. It’s rarely a lack of preparation that will get you killed because once you know what a fight will take or how to handle a certain kind of enemy, they aren’t themselves the threat. It’s the possibility of being overwhelmed that’s the real problem.

Big Boy Fights

Boss fights are in a tough position in Returnal because they have to be both unique one-on-one encounters and also provide that threat of being swarmed. Boss attacks, therefore, take up a metric ton of screen space. The visual noise in the fights can be terrible, and you’ll spend half your time trying to make out what’s going on as you will damaging the boss.

Bosses are also comparatively easier than going through levels, as after a few fights, you know what each attack pattern is and how to deal with it. This is true of other roguelikes, of course, but because of the lack of build variety in Returnal, you end up going through the motions more often than you do experimenting with new ways of dealing with the boss.

Each fight is, like the worlds they capstone, unique and asks something new of you, usually building on the mechanics you’ve learned to that point. The fights all have three phases, and this tends to alter the fight in some way, either through new attacks or mechanical changes. It would have been nice if some of the bosses turned gameplay on its head rather than simply increasing the challenge a bit.

A Human Touch to an Alien World

Despite the bosses falling somewhat short in the gameplay department and the story feeling precious from time to time, Returnal’s core conceit is remarkably human for the world where it takes place. This fact is both its greatest triumph and largest problem.

The game has to toe the line between alien, Lovecraft-inspired action roguelike, and subdued, darkly emotional narrative adventure. The pacing is all over the place as a result. One moment you’ll be adrenaline-fueled. The next, you’re taking part in a slow-paced walking section with weird narrative devices.

Returnal all but requires this shift of the player, too, if they want to understand fully what’s going on and why. Then, even if you do everything the game asks of you, some answers simply don’t exist. That’s all well and good for a game paying homage to Lovecraft’s mythos, but there are actually too many answers to questions here.

While there is plenty of room for interpretation, because the game’s story is ultimately one about Selene and not the strange world she’s been dropped into, Returnal loses some of the mystery as it chases the familiar.

Returnal Review — The Bottom Line


  • Amazing roguelike gameplay with a satisfying loop
  • Great world-building in a Lovecraft-inspired narrative
  • The first full PS5 game to truly put the system through its paces
  • Pacing issues of both the gameplay and story variety
  • Occasional frame hitching and a lack of expected gameplay features like saves
  • Lots of visual noise and randomization sometimes breaks the balance

Returnal offers a tightly designed roguelike with responsive controls, a well-realized world, and a solid roguelike gameplay loop with minimal but significant upgrade paths and plenty of challenge. It also makes generous use of the PS5 hardware, perhaps the first full game on the console to do so (Astro's Playroom somewhat counts, but it's also more a large tech demo).

The gunplay is also exquisite, even for someone more used to shooting on a mouse and keyboard than a pair of control sticks. There is a fair bit of visual noise, and some of the random arenas aren’t ideal for the more annoying enemy types or enemy density.

While compelling at times, the story suffers from pacing and clarity issues and doesn’t know exactly which side of the cosmic horror fence to land on. The focus is clearly on the roguelike elements and excellent moment-to-moment gameplay, with good reason, as these are the game's strongest suits. The sound design is also top-notch, and the music is appropriate if not memorable.

If you’re looking for an experience that really takes advantage of the latest console hardware, Returnal offers it and a lot more. Does it justify its $70 price tag or the purchase of a PS5? That’s debatable, as I don’t consider Returnal a killer app the same way I would a Bloodborne or a Breath of the Wild. That doesn’t take away from the sheer quality on display here and the fact this is a game made with the future in mind, in-game or in the real world. Whatever that is.

[Note: The writer purchased the copy of Returnal used for this review and was reimbursed for their purchase.]

Returnal Update 1.3.4 Patch Notes: "Save Games are Safe to be Played Now" Thu, 06 May 2021 16:31:36 -0400 Jonathan Moore

Returnal update 1.3.4 (1.003.004) is live now, and it comes on the heels of patch 1.3.3, which caused players as much headache as the game's third biome, Derelict Citadel. The patch notes for update 1.3.4 say that most save games aren't at risk of corruption now, though some won't be salvageable. Changes also include fixes for a trophy bug and "keyboard exploit." 

Where update 1.3.3 essentially destabilized Returnal, causing various crashes to occur and error messages to pop up, including the dreaded CE-100028-1 error, Housemarque said update 1.3.4 "reverts to a previous stable build (1.3.1)," while making a few tweaks along the way. 

The biggest bit of news here is that players don't have to worry about losing progress or running into save errors any longer. Housemarque pointed out in their patch notes release that "all save games are safe to be played now." 

The caveat here is that Housemarque has acknowledged that some save files can't be recovered; they're permanently lost for some players that downloaded update 1.3.3. They outline three different methods for those affected by patch 1.3.3. The studio advised: 

For those who suffered issues with their save game after installing Patch 1.3.3, please see the scenarios below for the latest info after our investigations:

  • Some game saves will have become corrupted with Patch 1.3.3, but maintained their file size. Players with those save games are able to safely continue their progress after installing Patch 1.3.4, without the need for using a backed up save game.

  • Unfortunately other save games will have been effectively "deleted" by Patch 1.3.3, with their file size reducing to 0KB. These save games are not directly salvageable by Patch 1.3.4, without a backup save game available.

  • In those cases, please try using a backed up save from PS+ if available, after installing Patch 1.3.4. With an intact save game from PS+, players can safely restore and continue playing with Patch 1.3.4 installed.

  • Depending on the console settings, the cloud save may have been overwritten by the "deleted" save game noted above. If this is the case, progress will remain unsalvageable, even with Patch 1.3.4.

Alongside squashing the save game bug, the update also fixes issues with trophies and external keyboards. Dexerto points out that some players have had issues since launch with Returnal's trophies popping. And NME previously reported that other players have found ways to activate the game's cheats using a keyboard. 

Returnal is already a brutal game, even more so than some of Housemarque's other titles, such as Nex Machina and Dead Nation. We're currently making our way across Atropos and will have our final review very soon. Until then, if you've already crash-landed on the "ever-changing alien planet," consider checking our growing set of helpful tips and tricks

[Sources: Housemarque, Dexerto, NME]

Returnal Datacube Processor Explained: How to Use Data Cubes Wed, 05 May 2021 10:16:41 -0400 David Carcasole

Besides the never-ending loop and lack of a true save feature, there are plenty of mysteries to keep you eternally returning to Housemarque's latest title, Returnal. Artifacts are one such mystery. You can readily collect and use many of them throughout each run. However, there are others, called Returnal data cubes, that can only be used with a specific device, the Returnal datacube processor.

All artifacts are positive buffs that give you some type of edge. They're items you should pick up regardless of what they do, since none of them have negative debuff effects. Returnal data cubes can't be used immediately, though. They must instead first be synthesized by way of the Returnal datacube processor.

Unlocking these mods is key to your Returnal build, whether you're just starting out with your early-game build or you've mastered several biomes and are working toward a powerful late-game loadout.

If you've happened upon a Returnal data cube and are unaware of what to do with it, then worry not! This guide will tell you everything you need to know. 

Returnal Data Cube & Processor Guide

What are Returnal Data Cubes?

Returnal data cubes are artifacts you can find throughout your trek across Atropos, and they can potentially unlock a new item if you can get the cube to a processor. 

Data cubes are unlike other artifacts since they don't provide any kind of buff upon collection, but when used correctly, they provide you with a new item that will be permanently available for future runs. 

Finding and using data cubes is a key element in grinding for better gear moving forward. You'll find essential cubes on Returnal's main path, though it is wise to venture through the blue, triangular side doors in each biome to potentially uncover more. It's also worth looking for hidden paths along the way, such as the broken stone walls covered in red pockets in the Overgrown Ruins, for example. 

Data cubes must be processed to provide any actual value. If you die while holding a cube, you lose that data cube and have to find it again in a future run. It is not a permanent item that carries over. Also, since they are a means of unlocking potentially powerful items, you can only carry one at a time

Once you've used a data cube by putting it into a processor, you'll never have to process that specific cube again. You'll just be able to find the item you unlocked in any of the Returnal biomes.

What are Datacube Processors?

Unfortunately, datacube processors aren't as easy to find as other devices and stations, such as fabricators and, to an extent, reconstructors. The catch with datacube processors is that you won't find them in many places across Atropos, save for few choice rooms that can be conveniently found after a boss fight.

Getting to a processor involves a very difficult fight in your earliest hours, whether that is with the first or second biome's final boss, Prhike and Ixion respectively. After completing the second biomeyou unlock an ability that makes the datacube processor for the second biome accessible without having to go through the boss fight

This is when you should scrounge and process as many data cubes as you can find. This is also where data cubes start to become extremely resourceful because until after the second biome, it's more worth your time grinding for better weapon alt-fires and abilities. 


So that's at least one of Returnal's mysteries solved! Many others still remain, though for more solved mysteries, you can check out our guides on how to respawn in the same run after death, and what weapons you should focus on at the start of the game. 

Returnal Best Starter Build Guide: Weapons and Equipment to Look For Tue, 04 May 2021 10:56:57 -0400 David Carcasole

Considering Housemarque's track record, it should be no surprise that their latest title, the third-person shoot-em-up roguelike Returnalis tough. Its random nature can be frustrating when you're getting sent back to the Helios crash site after investing hours into a single run. To help you get further and further into each biome, especially the Crimson Wastes onward, you'll need to know what the best Returnal best starter build is. 

There's little to no room for error, and your need to make quick decisions and constantly maneuver around the hostile fauna of Atropos means you can't carry everything and the kitchen sink with you.

So which weapons, consumables, artifacts, and parasites should you leave behind, and which ones should you hold onto for dear life? It can be difficult to say. You lose almost everything when you start a new run, save some permanent upgrades and unlocked alt-fire abilities for your weapons.

Everything about your build for Selene could potentially be different each time. So rather than just give you a "concrete" list of which items and weapons to use, this guide will teach you what to look for in your build if you want to make it deep into Returnal. 

Since this guide deals with what kinds of builds new Returnal players should focus on, the weapons, parasites, and modifications mentioned here will all be from the first two biomes of the game. As you unlock more biomes, other weapons and abilities become available, giving you even more options based on your playstyle and the specific biome you're trying to complete. 

Best Returnal Starter Build


Returnal features a range of alien-inspired weaponry that can be highly effective against your enemies, whether they're kerberon or severed. Depending on your playstyle, it's possible that any of these weapons are perfectly suited for you, though there are some definite pros/cons to each. 

When creating the best starter build in Returnal, it's imperative that you pick a weapon that will compliment how you generally play shooters, and also how the game is pushing you to play. Returnal's combat is very fast-paced and intense, and standing still is the fastest way to find yourself crashing back down to start the loop again. 

You must be able to do a lot of damage in as short of a time frame as possible, and the two weapons to do that with at the beginning of the game are the Spitmaw Blaster and the Hollowseeker.

They are two weapons on either end of the spectrum in terms of rate of fire. The Spitmaw Blaster is a semi-automatic shotgun, and the Hollowseeker is a fully automatic rail gun. However, they both pack a huge punch. 

Both of these weapons have powerful alt-fires and proficiency upgrades that will stay with you once you have unlocked them -- even after you die -- and they both serve beginning players well because either one can get you out of a jam quicker than the PS5's SSD could reload the game after you die. 

You'll find the Spitmaw Blaster in the first biome, the Overgrown Ruins, and the Hollowseeker in the second, the Crimson Wastes. Though once you've found a new weapon once anywhere in the game, you have the potential to pick up that weapon in the first biome on all subsequent runs.

If you want even more information on what weapons to start with in Returnal, you can check out our full breakdown of them here.


Parasites are an interesting and key mechanic within Returnal. They provide both a buff and a de-buff to Selene at the same time, and you'll have to weigh the options every time you come across one.

While you're still figuring out all the different mechanics within Returnal, it can be difficult to know whether a parasite is worth the de-buff or not. Thankfully, there are a few key things to keep in mind when considering whether or not you'd like this small alien to latch onto your arm and not let go until you die or remove it.

Don't take any integrity or protection de-buffs. When you're just learning Returnal's mechanics, it is difficult enough to focus on not getting hit and losing adrenaline levels, let alone worry about how much worse those hits could affect you.

For example, there are parasites like the Corrosive Wireseeker that fix or prevent one or two future malfunctions when picking up malignant loot or opening a malignant container, but your protection is reduced by 10%. You're better off just not taking the chance on malignant loot, and if you do pick it up, most malfunctions can be solved quickly, so there's more risk in reducing your protection level.

Other parasites like the Silphic Goldspinner are great trade-offs -- the Obolites you collect will also repair your integrity, but your repair items are less effective. You're almost definitely bound to find more Obolites than anything else on each run, so while the regular health items might not do as much for you, it balances out. 

The Caustic Wiretail reduces malfunction probability, but enemies leave behind a pool of acid when they die. This is another great trade because while you'll need to be a little more cautious when taking out enemies at close range with your Atropian Blade, the acid left behind disappears after a few seconds. 

None of these parasites mentioned are guaranteed to show up in your runs, but the key thing to remember is this: pick up parasites that have an effective buff, and a de-buff that can either be avoided or affects items in the game more than it affects you. They'll help you make your best starter build. 

Items & Artifacts

Returnal items fall under the same category as parasites. They are key elements to each run, but what you'll like to keep on you at all times depends on your playstyle. When you start the game, you'll only have one slot for an item, so it's important to know what will benefit you. 

Because items are consumable, however, you'll most likely find yourself using multiple different items in a single run. When starting out, though they are rare, it is good to try and keep a silphium health vial on hand if you end up taking a surprising amount of damage from a fight.

They can be administered while sprinting, so there's no need to worry about finding a moment to stop and heal. Due to the mostly-inconsistent nature of health vial pick-ups outside of the start of a new biome, it's better to focus on just picking up the health all around you.

This is where items like the repair efficiency rate module come in handy -- it's an item that boosts the power of any health item you find, so a piece of resin, which might have only healed you partially, could now potentially heal you almost fully. 

You'll also want to keep an eye out for the ground surge item, which sends a large spike from the ground shooting up directly below your closest enemy. It does an incredible amount of damage and can be your saving grace in a tough fight. 

Aside from the consumable items, there are also artifacts that you can either find in the wild or make at fabricators. They all have positive effects, boosting one or more of your stats, lowering alt-fire cooldown time, or even healing you automatically once you reach critical health.

You discover and come across a wide variety of artifacts through side paths and other means even within the first two biomes, and each one you come across is worth picking up. Always pick up artifacts. There is a particular artifact you discover after your first visit to the house in the middle of Overgrown Ruins that you'll want to have with you each time you can.


So there you have it! With the procedurally generated nature of Returnal, there's no concrete list of items and equipment for a true best build guide. What you should have on you every time you start a run is more about creating a build that works for you. And since everything is left RNG, there's no telling what you'll be able to pick up when and where. For more on Returnal, check out what the heck those orange doors are, and how to open them. 

Returnal Permanent Equipment: What do You Keep When You Die? Sun, 02 May 2021 20:39:25 -0400 Jonathan Moore

By its very nature and genre, Returnal is a game about constant change. Every time Selene dies, she returns to the Helios crash site at the beginning of the game. Until a certain port, she must traverse through the first area of Atropos again and again, the Overgrown Ruins. She doesn't keep all of her gear and items when she dies, but there is some permanent equipment in Returnal

Losing some items is expected in any roguelike, but knowing which ones disappear when Selene dies and which ones don't is important to survival early on. It's no surprise that the list of permanent Returnal items is much shorter than the list of items that don't carry over between cycles. 

Returnal Permanent Equipment List

You can't miss any of these items since they're all story-related and required to move forward through certain biomes. Here's what carries over between runs in Returnal

  • Anything story related
    • This includes keys to gates, portals, and other important places; it does not include Atropian Keys. These items, such as the Crimson Key, are essential for story events. 
  • Any collected Xeno technology
    • This includes suit augments, such as the Icarian Grapnel and Weapon Charger. These items are essential for navigating certain areas of every biome.  
  • Ether
    • This is a rare resource gathered during a playthrough that can be used at various stations and devices, such as the reconstructor.
  • Xenoglyph Ciphers
    • This isn't an item in the same sense that the above are items. Xenoglyph ciphers are found on walls and floors within specific biomes, and they are used to decipher Xenoglyphs. When you find one, pop-up text will tell you how many you've collected in a particular level. 

What Items Aren't Permanent in Returnal?

Basically everything else in Returnal. The long list includes everything from Obolites and artifacts to parasites and translocation spheres. Astronaut figurines disappear when you die, resurrecting you, and none of the suit integrity upgrades you've on a run made carry over to the next. 

Unless you a resurrected by either an astronaut figurine or a reconstructor, none of your weapons, weapon upgrades, or weapon proficiencies* will carry over. 

*Once you unlock more biomes, every biome, except the first, has a calibrator at the beginning of the level. This grants you a certain level of proficiency for all weapons for that biome, giving you a head start on your proficiencies and bringing your guns "up to level," so to speak.  

How to See Your Permanent Items

To see which items in your inventory are permanent, click the touchpad on the DualSense and press "R1" to scroll over to "Status." Underneath "Stats," on the right-hand side of the screen, you'll see "Permanent Equipment." This box is broken up into suite augments and items. There are a total of 6 suit augments and 10 permanent items.

How to See Your Ether

You can see how much ether you have at any given time in two places. The first is the column of boxes to the left of your mini map in-game; the top box represents your ether stash. You can also look at the row of boxes to the left of "Permanent Equipment" in the "Status" menu. The right-most box shows how much ether you have. 

The ether cap is 30. 


That's the rundown of items on the Returnal permanent equipment list. It's short but full of important gear that makes the game much more manageable. You can't miss any of the permanent items since they're all story-related, and finding out which ones you already have is as easy as popping into your menu. For more on Returnal, consider checking out our other tips articles

Returnal Reconstructor: What is It and What Does It Do? Sun, 02 May 2021 17:16:35 -0400 Jonathan Moore

There are a lot of interesting, and sometimes confusing, mechanics in Returnal, the latest roguelike shooter from developer Housemarque. One of those is the reconstructor, a device that randomly appears on each of Selen's cycles across Atropos. But what exactly does a reconstructor do in Returnal, and why should you seek one out? 

A reconstructor is equivalent to a checkpoint in Returnal. These are large circular statues with a horned Xeno form imprinted in the middle. Walk up to them and press "triangle" to activate them.

Returnal Reconstructor Explained

Once activated, you'll see a cutscene and be able to continue on your run. You'll then return to the reconstructor when you die, saving some of your progress through a biome, whether that's the Overgrown Ruins or the Fractured Wastes. 

Reconstructor locations are completely random, though they're most often found behind the blue, triangular side-path doors on the map. Some of these devices will be deep within a biome; some will be relatively close to the beginning of a level. It all depends on Returnal's RNG and how each biome is procedurally generated in a particular cycle. 

How to Use a Reconstructor

To use a Reconstructor, you'll need ether. Each reconstructor "charge" costs 6 ether. You find ether randomly in each of Returnal's biomes; it appears as a purple drop in the environment, and it is often already on the ground once you enter an area. You do not lose ether when you die and return to the Helios crash site.  

When you die after charging a reconstructor, you won't lose your weapons or upgrades as you normally would, letting you continue your cycle without much penalty, sans the loss of ether. On top of that, any enemies killed between the reconstructor location and where you died will remain eliminated if you've already killed them. 

It's also worth noting that reconstructors can only be used once per run. Once you've died and resurrected, you won't be able to charge that particular reconstruction for the rest of the cycle. You can find other reconstructors in other biomes, and use them as checkpoints, should you live to reach them. 

That's the skinny on the Returnal reconstructor. It's a handy, if expensive, device that can save a run -- and hours of playtime. For more tips on Housemarque's latest shooter, such as how to get the Icarian Grapnel and how to get past orange energy barriers, consider heading over to our Returnal guides hub for more. 

Returnal Red Doors Explained: What are Red Doors? Sun, 02 May 2021 16:37:43 -0400 Jonathan Moore

Returnal has a lot of doors. Some are tangible and lead to new areas in each of the roguelike's biomes, giving you access to fabricators, reclaimers, and translocation spheres. Others are more metaphorical and tie into Selen's story. The game's red doors are of the former variety and can be found in certain locations on the Returnal map. But what do they signify? 

In short, red doors denote the location of a biome's boss. Once you go through these, you're on your way to fighting one of Returnal's five big bads. The first one you come across is for the Anathema Vault in the Overgrown Ruins, Returnal's first biome. 

What are Returnal Red Doors?

Once you go through a red door in Returnal, you'll likely come across a handful of enemies leading up to the boss. Sometimes these can be low-level mobs, but they can also be tougher enemies, such as Automatons in the Derelict Citadel, giving a good run for your money. 

It's always important to be ready for a fight when going through red doors, though can always go back to other areas in a biome before taking on a boss. All Returnal bosses have an arena, and fights only start once you've entered their arena.

Luckily, the threshold for most arenas is pretty clear, and most of them have a weapon to pick up just before them. So don't go past the weapon if you don't want to start the boss fight! 

Can You Bypass Red Doors in Returnal?

Sometimes, red doors can be circumvented by finding a teleporter that takes you straight to the boss fight. These are, like everything else in Returnal, often located in random places in each cycle. But be on the lookout for them, because they let you bypass a large portion of a biome, which can be particularly useful if you already have a good build and don't want to risk dying to disadvantageous RNG. 

These portals look like mid-sized stone pillars (one taller pillar in the middle and two smaller ones on each side) with a blue, glowing sphere in the middle. They will expand into a quadrilateral shape and a mirage of the next area in the middle when you approach them.  


That's about all there is to know about Returnal red doors. For more on Returnal, including guides on how the game's save function works, how to get the grappling hook, and how to get past orange/yellow doors, consider heading over to our Returnal tips hub!

Returnal Orange Door Explained: How to Get Past Orange Barriers Sun, 02 May 2021 16:07:41 -0400 Jonathan Moore

The procedurally generated biomes of Returnal house many secrets. As you go down the primary path toward your current objective, you'll come across various side paths. These side paths are always marked as blue triangles on the map. Some of these routes are blocked by an orange door. So how do you open the orange doors and energy barriers in Returnal, and what's behind them? 

An orange door or an energy barrier can't be opened by just any means. There is a specific item you must get before you can pass through them. Unfortunately, the drop rate for this item is completely random, and sometimes, it won't even show up in a cycle. 

What is the Orange Door in Returnal? 

The orange door in Returnal is simply an energy barrier keeping you away from (hopefully) an important item, such as an artifact or a parasite, and sometimes a fabricator or other device, for example. What's behind the barrier is left up to Returnal's RNG and procedural generation. The item or station is always different. 

Most often, these doors are found in the first biome, the Overgrown Ruins, as well as the fourth biome, Echoing Ruins. Additionally, they're often located across a gap or on a high platform that requires the grappling hook to get to. 

It's worth noting that orange barriers aren't just relegated to orange doors. In other Returnal biomes, such as the Crimson Wastes, you will come across orange spheres, which operate the same way. Like the orange doors, these may also show up in other biomes, though I've not made it that far quite yet. 

How Do You Open an Orange Door or Barrier? 

You open a Returnal orange door or orange barrier with a blade balancer, an upgrade for your Atropian Blade melee weapon. A blade balancer can be purchased from a fabricator for 250 Obolites, and it is automatically applied to your Atropian Blade once purchased. Now, simply return to the orange door, and hit it with your melee attack. It will disappear, and you can claim what's behind it. 

Like most other upgrades in Returnal, the game doesn't save your blade balancer if you die (here's how saving works, by the way). You start back at the Helios crash site without it, and you'll have to find it all over again.

However, just because there is an orange door or orange barrier in a biome doesn't mean there will be a blade balancer at a fabricator. Though blade balancers may possibly be found in other locations besides a fabricator, I have not yet found one in 14 hours of play. 


Returnal orange doors and orange energy barriers aren't always worth breaking, considering the efforts you may have to go through to acquire a blade balancer. On top of that, your Obolites may be better spent on a silphium vial, integrity upgrade, or the extremely useful astronaut figurine. At the end of the day, breaking open orange doors and orange barriers is a risk/reward decision. 

Returnal: Best Starter Weapons Mon, 03 May 2021 14:48:26 -0400 David Carcasole

Developer Housemarque's latest title, Returnal, is sending players for a loop as more of the game's secrets and strategies are uncovered in its opening weekend. While your own skill with Returnal's combat is the key factor to victory, as with any roguelike, the best weapons you take with you into that fight are just as imperative.

It can be difficult to know which Returnal weapons you want to use in your early hours, especially since there's always the possibility that a new weapon you've just found could fit your own personal playstyle more, you just don't know it yet.

This guide will outline some of the key weapons found within the first two biomes of the game, where you'll be spending most of these early hours. They're listed in no particular order since there can be certain exceptions where a seemingly less capable weapon with a powerful modification/alt-fire can create more of a balance based on your playstyle.

However, due to the procedurally generated nature of Returnal, there's no promise you'll come across any weapon mods mentioned here, so it's best to just stick to what's the better overall weapon.

Best Returnal Starter Weapons 

Spitmaw Blaster

The Spitmaw Blaster is your best life-saving weapon in Returnal when you first start. You'll find it in the first biome, and it's one that you'll want to pick up almost every time you see it.  

It's a short- to medium-range weapon that has a clip size of six shots and primarily functions as a shotgun, though well-placed shots over a longer range can still deal a fair amount of damage.

Thanks to the haptic feedback from the DualSense controller, it's easy to know that the Spitmaw Blaster is a weapon to keep your hands on. You feel how hard each shot hits, and when you're clearing multiple enemies with no more than two shots each, you see how quickly it can turn things around for you. 

The only thing you need to watch out for is that with Returnal's active reloading, you'll need to be careful to time your next overload on R2 after running through the Spitmaw Blaster's clip. At the very least, though, it's good practice for every other weapon in Returnal, since a timely active reload can be the difference between life and rebirth. 

Tachyomatic Carbine


The Tachyomatic Carbine is Returnal's standard-issue xeno-type assault rifle. It's a do-all-type weapon and a good pick-up whenever you come across it. You'll also find it in the first biome. 

There are specific upgrades you'll get with each weapon the more you use them. These are some of the permanent upgrades in the game, so they won't disappear after you've achieved them -- you just have to find a weapon with them active to make progress with them. Enough practice with the Techyomatic Carbine can unlock very powerful armor-piercing rounds that can really pack a punch when it comes to damage. 

Unlike the Spitmaw Blaster, the Tachyomatic Carbine has no issue with the active reloading in Returnal. In fact, there's a serious argument to be made that the Carbine works with the reloading system better than other weapons.

The Carbine's transition from reloading to firing is lightning quick, and the large clip size means you can keep a consistent stream of bullets to clear every enemy in your path.


These weapons are in no particular order, but it's important to be particular about the Hollowseeker. You'll want to pick this up and keep this weapon over every other weapon mentioned in this guide because this rail gun has a rate of fire and clip size that just cannot be matched. 

You find the Hollowseeker in the second biome, Crimson Wastes, though as with all weapons in the game after finding it there, it can potentially be found in the beginning area of the game, the Overgrown Ruins. 

The thing that puts the Hollowseeker a cut above is how quickly you can tear through an enemy's health bar. With the fastest rate of fire in the game, it can feel entirely effortless taking out an entire room full of enemies.

It also has some rather choice upgrades that can deal even more damage on top of your regular bullets, like a horizontal energy blade that fires simultaneously with your normal shots. Not as an alt fire, but just as an addition to your regular firing output.

The Hollowseeker is a true powerhouse perfect for getting a strong footing and moving past those first two levels. 

Modified Sidearm

Last and certainly least, Selene's Modified Sidearm is a bit like your ol' reliable, except it can't always be that for you. The automatic rate of fire is too slow for the fast-paced combat and firing faster manually causes more problems with active reloading, making it easier to mistime your button press causing you to wait for the cooldown. 

So why is it on the list if it could potentially cause you more trouble? Well, for a few reasons. One, because you start every run with this pistol, and you have to be able to use it for at least a few fights -- maybe more. 

Two, because you could potentially grow perfectly accustomed to the pistol's specific timing for the active reloading. And three, because there's more to this pistol than meets the eye, you just need to work for it. 

Having the killsight alt-fire for the Modified Sidearm can entirely change the way you use this weapon. This alt-fire mode lets you zoom in more than you otherwise would, what was once just a pistol is now a mini rifle as you can practically snipe Atropos' dangerous fauna from across the entire battlefield. 

There's no promise you'll consistently come across a Modified Sidearm with this alt-fire active but if you do, and the power level makes sense to upgrade, then I can't recommend it enough. 


So there you have it! A full run-down of which weapons to focus on when you first load up Returnal. For more on Returnal, check out our other guides helping players understand Sony's latest exclusive, like what actually stays with you after you die, and how you can respawn in the middle of a run without getting sent back all the way to the beginning. 

How to Get the Returnal Grappling Hook, the Icarian Grapnel Sun, 02 May 2021 12:13:51 -0400 Jonathan Moore

Traversal is a big part of Returnal. Staying on the move and performing well-timed jumps and dashes are the key to survival. But one tool will add an entirely new layer to the mix once you pick it up. We're talking about the Returnal grappling hook, the Icarian Grapnel. Just like the astronaut figurine, it's a literal game-changer.  

Like many of the other permanent items, tools, and keys you pick up in Returnal's biomes -- the ones that stay with you even after you die -- the grappling hook isn't immediately available when you start the game. Instead, you have to make your way through a few boss fights to get it. 

How Do You Get the Returnal Grappling Hook?

You get the Returnal grappling hook after beating Ixion, the second boss in the game. This boss is found at the end of the Crimson Wastes biome. To get to the Crimson Wastes, you first have to beat Phrike, the first Returnal boss found at the end of the Overgrown Ruins. 

The Icarian Grapnel is a piece of Xeno technology that's found on a body in the middle of the arena once Ixion is defeated. Pick it up, and Selene attaches it to her suit.

Since Returnal's save function logs all permanent story-related items and those necessary for progression, you don't have to worry about losing the Grapnel when you die. You'll always have it once you pick it up. 

How to Use the Icarian Grapnel

The grappling hook will let you get to out-of-the-reach places in each of Returnal's procedurally generated biomes.

As you've made your way across Atropos, you've likely seen platforms and ledges with a circular yellow light. As well, you've also likely seen floating spheres with yellow light. These are all grappling points. When you get close enough to these yellow orbs of light, the "triangle" button prompt will appear. Press "triangle" to use the grappling hook. 

Many of these points lead to side areas that hide important upgrade items, such as resin, silphium resin, parasites, ether, and artifacts that can greatly affect your run. If they don't hide items, tools, or fabricators, for example, grappling points allow you to gain the high ground, which is extremely beneficial when facing a flood of ground-based enemies, such as Kerberon, Titanops, and Automotons. 


The Returnal grappling hook is a piece of permanent equipment that completely changes how the game is played. Luckily, all you have to do to get the Icarian Grapnel is beat one boss in the Crimson Wastes, though Ixion can certainly be vexing, depending on your weapon and item loadout. But once you have it, you'll gain access to a bevy of upgrade items, artifacts, and workstations like fabricators. 

Returnal Astronaut Figurine Explained: How to Get a Second Chance Sat, 01 May 2021 18:09:29 -0400 Jonathan Moore

Returnal is full of useful artifacts that give Selene buffs and upgrades to make fighting through the game's various biomes much easier. One such artifact is the Returnal astronaut figurine. Acquiring it in Housemarque's roguelike is mostly left up to RNG, but there are places where it's a guaranteed drop. So how do you get the astronaut figurine, and what does it do? 

The astronaut figurine is a small totem that represents the larger astronaut that haunts Selene in the game's story sections, appearing in various cutscenes and tied somehow (no spoilers) to the house that Selene encounters. The larger version is certainly a creepy satellite orbiting Selene's journey across Atropos, but the smaller version is a very welcome manifestation. 

What Does the Returnal Astronaut Figurine Do? 

The astronaut artifact gives you a second chance when you die. It revives you from a killing blow, once your suit integrity reaches zero. When it activates, you resurrect with all of your weapons, weapon proficiency, modifications, parasites, artifacts, keys, datacubes, consumables, etc. Your suit integrity also fills to roughly three quarters. 

Obviously, you must have this artifact in your inventory when you're killed for it to work. And once you die with it on hand, it disappears until you pick it up again. 

The main thing to remember is to keep astronaut figurines handy for boss fights at the end of each biome, such as when battling Phrike at the end of the Overgrown Ruins biome or the pesky Ixion at the end of the Crimson Wastes.

Pick them up every time you find them since dying anywhere resets Returnal and regenerates the world, resetting items and locations. But once you grab one, beeline it to the boss if you can, and use it as a way to get a second chance in the game's hardest encounters. 

How do You Get an Astronaut Figurine? 

Returnal astronaut figurines can be found in several places, but only one of them is a sure thing. These artifacts can be found randomly in containers (chests) or purchased with 250 Obolets from fabricators.

They can also be found, by sheer luck, from damaged fabricators, some of which are found in out-of-the-way places you can get to by using the Icarian Grapnel. Though purchasing them from these fabricators costs fewer Obolites, getting one is completely arbitrary. 

Astronaut figurines can also be found after completing each house encounter. They are always found on the ground outside the house once you complete the story sequence. Look for a purple aura around them. 

Get a Trophy for Dying: Second Chance

The first time you use an astronaut figurine artifact, you'll resurrect and pop the "Second Chance" bronze trophy for being "returned by an artifact." 


That's all there is to know about the Returnal astronaut figurine. It's a powerful artifact that is a must-get anytime you come across it on Atropos. Not only will Selene be grateful to not relive yet another cycle, but you'll also be happy to not grind through another biome from the beginning. 

Returnal: How the Save Function Works Sat, 01 May 2021 16:02:40 -0400 Jonathan Moore

Returnal may only have a handful of biomes, but getting through each of them can take a long time, depending on skill and RNG. Some players have reported upwards of two-hour-long playthroughs for a single Returnal biome. So, how does the Returnal save function work, and can you save your progress manually? Are there save points? 

Like many other roguelikes, Returnal doesn't save your progress mid-run. That means if you die anywhere in a run, you start over, go back to the Helios crash site, and lose all of your progress, all of your weapons and life-saving artifacts, all of your consumables, and most of your other items. 

How Saving Your Game Works in Returnal

Returnal only saves when you complete an entire biome or die and start over. And then, it only logs that you beat the boss of a particular biome, and it only carries over permanent items, such as the grappling hook. There's is no way to manually save progress during a cycle, and there are no save points.

Since enemies do not respawn in rooms you've already cleared, you can stay in a cleared room and leave Returnal running until you can play again, but that's not a great option. As reported by Eurogamer, some players have also been putting their PS5s in rest mode, which "suspends" Returnal, letting you pick it back up later. But just like leaving your system running, this isn't ideal. 

Housemarque has commented, however cryptically, on the subject, hinting at the possibility of a future patch that includes a more traditional Returnal save function. However, nothing is set in stone. 

Are There Checkpoints in Returnal?

Yes, there are checkpoints in Returnal. These come in the form of Reconstructors. These stations feature large stone circles and the impression of a standing, horned Xeno on them. They appear randomly in each procedurally-generated biome, and because of Returnal's RNG, there is no way to know which room or area they will spawn in.

There seems to be a small chance that Reconstructors may not spawn at all in biomes, as well. I have had several runs where I did not find a Reconstructor, though it is possible I missed them in those specific runs. 

It's important to note that Reconstructors only work once in a single run, and because of their random placement, you may be required to play through a significant portion of a biome all over again. On top of that, Reconstructors require 6 ether to use, a valuable and hard-to-come-by resource.

In a nutshell, that's how the Returnal save function works, at least for now. Housemarque may tweak the system in the future and add save points, meaning that the question for how to save is a bit more flexible, so we'll update this Returnal guide if that's the case. 

Returnal Could Receive Updates to How it Saves Progress Sat, 01 May 2021 13:10:00 -0400 Jonathan Moore

Housemarque's new roguelike, Returnal, is out now on PS5 and includes several mechanics found in the developer's previous games. In many ways, it's the culmination of everything Housemarque's been working toward over the past decade with Resogun, Nex Machina, and Matterfall. Alongside precision dodging, bullet-hell combat, and unique, upgradeable weapons, Returnal brings over another staple of those games: the lack of a manual save function. 

Like many other roguelikes, Returnal sets you back at the beginning when you die. While it does keep some of your progress, such as key story items, dying means you lose the weapons and mods you've acquired, your artifacts, and your consumables. This is the nature of the genre, but runs in Returnal can be very long -- upwards of several hours for some players.

It took me 45 minutes to get through the first biome, for example, and I had to quit my first run in the second area, Crimson Wastes, ultimately giving up on my progress because of a few other, more pressing priorities. Again, the nature of the genre beast, but nonetheless demoralizing. 

Because of those run lengths, some players have begun asking Housemarque to patch in a proper save function for Returnal. And the developer has said they are listening. First spotted by Eurogamer, Housemarque replied to a Reddit post about players' inability to save Returnal and come back to a run later. 

"We hear the community and we love you all. Nothing to announce now, but keep playing and enjoying the challenge as you can!"

As pointed out by Eurogamer, Returnal does feature a pseudo-save system via checkpoints. These are made possible by a device called the Reconstructor, which can be found randomly in Returnal's procedurally-generated levels. There's no guarantee one will appear in a player's specific world -- or that they have the patience to uncover it across multiple winding paths. On top of that, players need to have farmed enough Ether to use the Reconstructor, which only allows for one checkpoint per run. 

Whether Housemarque ultimately includes a normative save function in Returnal remains to be seen. The developer didn't yet officially commit to including one in future updates and patches, though they are certainly contemplating the idea, it seems. 

Returnal has received mostly positive reviews from critics, garnering an 86 on Metacritic across 89 reviews and a "Mighty" on OpenCritic across 92 reviews. We'll have our full thoughts on Housemarques roguelike next week, so stay tuned. 

[Source: Eurogamer]

Returnal Trophy List Reveals 31 Trophies, Including the Platinum Mon, 19 Apr 2021 18:27:19 -0400 Jonathan Moore

Returnal is here. The latest rogeulike shoot-em-up from Housemarque released on April 30 exclusively for PS5. Ahead of its launch, it appears the Returnal trophy list has appeared online.

There are 31 trophies to grab in total on the Returnal trophy list, including the platinum, seven golds, five silvers, and 18 bronzes. Several trophy-tracking sites, including PowerPyx, have listed the trophies in full and have full guides already. The trophy list has feats that run the gamut from beating certain bosses and progressing through the story to nabbing collectibles and hitting max level for some abilities.

There aren’t any trophies for completing Returnal on various difficulty levels, as there are for previous Housemarque games like Nex Machina, nor are there any for completing areas without taking damage, as there are in Matterfall. That's because there are no difficulty settings in Returnal

The full Returnal trophies list can be seen below. The descriptions are fairly innocuous, and they don’t provide too many hints to the importance of certain bosses or story beats, so there’s no need to worry about spoilers.

But if you’d rather not risk it at all, turn back now knowing that the Returnal platinum doesn’t appear to be too difficult (though it’s possible some of the “easier” sounding trophies could be harder than we anticipate).

Here's the full trophy list: 

Name Type Description
Helios Platinum Collect all trophies
Atropian Survival Bronze Learn the basics of survival on Atropos
A Shadow in the Fog Bronze Defeat Phrike
Ascension Bronze Defeat Ixion
Trial by Judgement Bronze Defeat Nemesis
Silence the Song Bronze Defeat Hyperion
Inner Darkness Bronze Defeat Ophion
Second Chance Bronze Returned by an artifact
Cryptic Messages Bronze Scan the Xenoglyph
Cryptic Translations Bronze Unlock all translation tiers of a Xenoglyph
Surgical Precision Bronze Perform 5 successful Overloads in a row
In-Field Training Bronze Complete a daily challenge in Simulation mode
Hardened Shell Bronze Achieve 200% max integrity
Risk Assessment Bronze Finish Calculated Risk
Adrenaline Spike Bronze Achieve maximum Adrenaline level
Irreversibly Contaminated Bronze Have 5 parasites simultaneously
Eternal Return Bronze Die for the first time
Alternate Fates Bronze Retrieve 10 Scout Logs
Welcome Home Bronze Complete the first Home sequence
Failed Escape Silver Complete Act 1
Last Drive Silver Complete Act 2
Adapting to Circumstance Silver Achieve weapon proficiency level 30
Sins of the Mother Silver Complete all house sequences
Visions of the Past Silver Complete a Xeno-archive set
Past the Ruins Gold Finish Overgrown Ruins survey
Ascending the Mountain Gold Finish Crimson Wastes survey
Through the Forgotten City Gold Finish Derelict Citadel survey
Echoes of the Past Gold Finish Echoing Ruins survey
Frozen in Time Gold Finish Fractured Wastes survey
Submerged in Memories Gold Finish Abyssal Scar survey
White Shadow Gold Finish Act 3


The Returnal trophy list gives fans an idea of about how long the game is, with each survey likely being its own level across the game's three acts. There will also be five bosses to defeat, logs to collect, and deaths to die.  

[Source: PowerPyx]

Returnal Hostiles Trailer Introduces Atropos' Many Threats Wed, 14 Apr 2021 14:23:41 -0400 Josh Broadwell

Housemarque amps up the horror in the latest Returnal trailer, this time focusing on the enemies hell bent on sending Selene back to the start of her rebirth cycle. While Atropos is home to a range of creatures, one thing unites them: malice.

First up is what seems like a standard foe, the Mycomorph. It's a fragile-looking being composed of interwoven plant matter that attacks with overgrown tentacles. The Titanops is deadlier, an enemy faster than its bulk would suggest and one that ends its prey with a giant, bladed arm and yet more tentacles.

Selene will also encounter the Automaton, which is what the name suggests. The Automaton appears lifeless but possesses a maleficent sentience that drives it to attack with both guns and claws.

The Gorgolith appears as a combination of stonework and scorpion, using its tail to fire high-powered lasers. Another enemy Housemarque showcased is the Ixion. It's a boss-type monster, though little else was mentioned about it.

Perhaps the most frightening enemy Selene will encounter, however, is herself. The Scout enemy is a distorted, vicious version of Selene she'll encounter on more than one occasion. 

All these creatures are vicious and determined to destroy Selene, so expect to restart her journey plenty of times. Of course, that, making good use of Selene's upgrades, and experiencing Atropos' shifting nature are all part of the experience.

New Returnal Trailer Reveals Atropos' Mysterious Environments Wed, 24 Feb 2021 12:12:38 -0500 Josh Broadwell

Returnal on PS5 follows Selene on her journey to escape a cycle of rebirth on the planet Atropos, and a new trailer highlights some of the environments she'll be forced to revisit again and again. 

While Atropos seems like an exotic planet straight out of a sci-fi film, not all is as it appears. In the Overgrown Ruins, the first location the Returnal trailer shows off, Selene encounters plenty of what one would expect with a name like "Overgrown Ruins" — until she exits the forest. At the edge of the overgrowth is an old-fashioned house perched on a hill. The lights are on, somebody's home, but it's not supposed to be there.

The Derelict Citadel hints at Atropos' mysterious past. All the ruins point to a strange civilization built around what Selene calls the hive mind, but whether this civilization is truly a thing of the past is less certain.

The last part of Atropos the new Returnal trailer reveals is the Crimson Wastes, which doesn't always live up to its name. It's partly a desert wracked by violent windstorms. Yet Selene keeps getting flashes of a snowy wasteland at the same coordinates, and the two keep flickering back and forth.

Returnal releases April 30 for PlayStation 5 following a short delay earlier in the year. Be sure to check out our overview of Returnal's weapons and loot system if you're still catching up.