2021 was a year like no other for video games, with players eagerly waiting for a chance to actually purchase the new consoles–now over a year old and still almost impossible to find. Perhaps that’s why it’s good that Microsoft has stuck to a two-generation release model for most of its first-party games thus far, launching them on Xbox One in addition to Xbox Series X|S and PC. In most other years, Microsoft-developed Xbox games are few and far between, but 2021 ended up being one of the best years we’ve ever seen for the platform.
In fact, for the first time in recent memory, Xbox actually offered healthy competition to PlayStation in terms of console-exclusive games. The 2021 lineup included Forza Horizon 5, which is one of the best racing games ever made, along with the console version of Microsoft Flight Simulator, itself a surprise hit that impressed players with its depth and incredible recreation of the entire planet. There were also some smaller-scale games that could have slipped under the radar, helping to keep the Xbox library diverse in a time when most first-party games seem to be getting larger and larger.
Of course, one cannot discuss Xbox games in 2021 without mentioning Halo Infinite. Delayed an entire year, the latest shooter from 343 Industries used that extra time wisely, delivering one of the best Halo campaigns to date alongside fantastic competitive multiplayer. Just like the original game in 2001, Halo Infinite alone may be enough to warrant buying that Xbox you can’t find. This list was for consoles exclusives only, but you can read our list of the top 10 2021 games as well.