Housemarque delivered one of the first must-have games of the PlayStation 5 when it dropped Returnal earlier this year. Following the story of Selene, an astronaut that crash-landed on the dangerous alien planet of Atropos, players will have to fight through some of the deadliest creatures in existence as they look to break out of a time loop and find a way back home.

Returnal is a roguelike to its core, throwing everything and the kitchen sink at players, begging them to fail at every turn. Dashing through different areas, you’ll often find yourself in a bullet hell, with countless enemies firing projectiles and descending on you at once. Combat is incredibly satisfying, thanks to the handful of weapons that Selene has at her disposal. As a third-person shooter, Returnal requires you to always be on the move and ready to leap into action.

The combat in Returnal is bolstered by some excellent work done with the DualSense controller. An example of this is pulling the trigger down halfway for standard ADS, and pulling it all the way down in order to activate a weapon’s special ability. There’s a resistance in the triggers that works to indicate just how powerful of an ability you’re about to let loose. Haptic feedback is integrated to let players feel incoming attacks from enemies, as well as the rain gently hitting Selene’s suit in the quieter moments. Housemarque even makes use of the controller’s speaker, giving sound cues when a weapon’s ability is fully charged.

Not to mention, Returnal is visually stunning. It’s without a doubt one of the best-looking games on PS5, and it’s only enhanced by the game’s unique art style. It’s like Alien meets H.R. Giger, with absurdly unique creature and world design amplifying the creepiness and intrigue of Atropos.

Returnal is one of the first PS5 games to truly feel “next-gen.” With that, it’s without question the best PlayStation 5 game of 2021.

Watch the Shacknews Awards 2021 YouTube playlist or read our Year of the Games: 2021 article  for all of the awards in one place. We wil be announcing our Shacknews GOTY 2021 on December 31.