Mixed or average reviews - based on 17 Critic Reviews

Critic score distribution:
  1. Positive: 10 out of 17
  2. Negative: 1 out of 17
Buy On
  1. Oct 20, 2020
    Thanks to an insane number of hours spent playing previous NHL games over the last several months, I do know what a good hockey game looks like, and NHL 21 definitely fits the bill. The on-ice product is as fast-paced and free-flowing as the real thing, and there are enough options here to keep you occupied for months on end — which, given the circumstances, is exactly what you may need right now.
  2. Oct 21, 2020
    NHL 21 provides more of the same, and with the uncertainty of the real world season, even less of what few changes fans come to expect of yearly releases.
  3. Oct 17, 2020
    NHL 21 is another strong entry into the series’ history. It delivers a new strand of flavor with Be a Pro, maintains quality on the ice, and makes franchise mode more enjoyable. However, the limitations in customization and the subtractions to HUT keep NHL 21 from being the series’ ultimate edition.
  4. Oct 16, 2020
    NHL 21 has taken the best of what has been offered this generation in the series and sprinkled goodness on top. Be A Pro is a much-needed change and is the first innovative offline mode since implementing the expansion draft. It’s deep enough and feels fresh and could rejuvenate buzz into the series. HUT remains HUT with just more ways to grind for cards. Franchise Mode’s new coaching options are a good update for the league, but it’s only a surface change. The NHL series can no doubt benefit the most from a next-gen overhaul, but there’s enough here for yearly NHL players or those that have skipped a few years. Also, it’s worth mentioning EA is adding NHL 94 for those that pre-ordered later this month.
  5. Oct 16, 2020
    A massive improvement to the Be a Pro mode and some much-needed improvements to the AI make NHL 21 the best hockey game on the market — but it’s still difficult to justify the price.
  6. 80
    The added physicality on both ends of the ice and the demand for skill-based gameplay makes NHL 21 the closest thing to real hockey in series history.
  7. Oct 15, 2020
    EA Vancouver tried to sell dekes, cosmetics, and the idea of being a superstar, but what resonated with me, an old-school hockey guy, were the core gameplay improvements.
  8. Oct 20, 2020
    The best of the series but with little improvements over its predecessors, NHL 21 is a respectable hockey send-off for modern consoles. Per prior, NHL still looks and sounds great, but remains hampered by AI and identity shortcomings.
  9. Oct 16, 2020
    For now, NHL 21 gets the job done, especially if you want to play a fancier, flashier game. I still had plenty of fun, and when you consider that it’s the only way to experience the NHL until the real league gets back on the ice in January, it’s not a bad way to get your hockey fix.
  10. Oct 16, 2020
    Those Be A Pro changes are great and all, but it isn’t too much of an incentive for those who already own NHL 20 to go out a grab NHL 21. While there are some new gameplay features, it doesn’t really feel like it differs much from last year’s installment. If you missed out last year, now may be a good time to check out EA’s take on hockey, but if you’re looking for something new and exciting, maybe wait for a next-gen entry.
  11. Oct 20, 2020
    Just like most EA sports titles, you’ll enjoy this if you’re a hockey fan. Just don’t expect too much.
  12. 70
    NHL 21 brings much-needed improvements and depth to the variety of game modes available, though does nothing to fix the same issues that make the fun arcade style gameplay feel out of place in the more sim-focused modes. There is enough content thankfully that you can just keep having fun in the arcade modes and HUT Rush will actually keep you coming back for more high intensity action.
  13. Oct 19, 2020
    Adding up all of the changes between NHL 20 and NHL 21, it's still hard to justify the full-price release in comparison to what's new this year. I appreciate the focus on the Be A Pro mode, but there is still a lot of work to be done to improve its consistency and reduce frustrating and demotivating moments and bugs across the entire experience. The gameplay feels like it did a small leap forward with some basic AI and animation improvements, making NHL 21 very fun and smooth to play, but it's not enough to hide its aging foundation. I sincerely hope the franchise can make up ground with its next entry and, hopefully, an improved engine. If you are a dedicated fan or have skipped several of the previous entries, NHL 21 is a solid purchase, but otherwise, there isn't enough here to justify the price tag.
  14. Oct 15, 2020
    The NHL series hasn’t drastically changed the formula for fifteen years, so why would I expect NHL 21 to be any different? I certainly appreciate that Be a Pro has been fleshed out, but I’d trade it in a heartbeat for a game that looked and felt like an NHL broadcast. I stand by that it plays as well as it ever has. That doesn’t necessarily mean it’s a proper representation of the sport. And most of the changes that have been implemented haven’t translated in the way I hoped they would. The defense is still sporadic, your teammate AI is still clueless, and goalies still get beat by the same exploit goals. If EA Vancouver ever hopes to stand alongside the giants of the genre - NBA 2K and MLB The Show - they’ll need to rethink what simulation hockey really means.
  15. Oct 16, 2020
    NHL 21 is at its best when I’m playing the wacky modes in World of Chel or the new HUT Rush where I can just go end-to-end while trying to pull off skill moves. The new Be A Pro additions are also significant and help to get that single-player experience more in line with other modern sports games. However, it’s aggravating that during this whole console generation EA never managed to move past legacy issues like ping-pong passing, a lack of creativity in the offensive zone, and a narrow set of player ratings make that the gameplay feel stagnant.
  16. Oct 21, 2020
    NHL 21 tries to end the current generation on a high note, but legacy issues continue to hold it back. Its revamped Be a Pro mode is particularly disappointing, proving to be a disjointed, somewhat sloppy experience. It has its usual strengths, with online team play being a definite highlight, but longtime fans of the series will likely find this year's entry eminently skippable.
  17. Oct 18, 2020
    While NHL 21 brings with it some exciting minor features, the game has not made any significant quality of life improvements with these new changes. In NHL 21, there is no soul, and the franchise needs to stop putting out features and create a new NHL game where changing the on-ice product is what sells the product. Dreams of making solid passes that are accurate, no more 55 minute games on the penalty kill, and no more glitch goals remain dreams - but that shouldn't be the case any long, and hopefully NHL 22 is a top-down restructuring of a series that sorely needs it.
User Score

Generally unfavorable reviews- based on 61 Ratings

User score distribution:
  1. Positive: 15 out of 61
  2. Negative: 44 out of 61
  1. Oct 17, 2020
    Same copy and paste as previous games, but still full priced game. The only real improvement is Be a Pro, but it gets old fast. BarelySame copy and paste as previous games, but still full priced game. The only real improvement is Be a Pro, but it gets old fast. Barely anything improved or added to CHEL. Not even worth my time writing anything more than that. If you want to play NHL 21 for dirt cheap, then buy NHL 20. Full Review »
  2. Oct 16, 2020
    What a waste of money. I've bought every NHL game since 1994 and this will be the last. Franchise mode is broken. Unless you go in andWhat a waste of money. I've bought every NHL game since 1994 and this will be the last. Franchise mode is broken. Unless you go in and manually set region and players your scouts will not evaluate players leaving you with zero information for the draft

    Be a pro, for all they added within 30 minutes it's already repetitive and boring.

    HUT is the same as always. You spend the game defending one timers and odd man rushes. No resemblance of real hockey to be found.

    Chel-seems okay, not my thing.
    Full Review »
  3. Oct 14, 2020
    They deserve a 2 Just because they revamp the be a pro and that it... Garbage game! #NHLdropEA