2020 saw streaming hit fever pitch across Twitch, YouTube, and Facebook, and 2021 has only continued that incredible trajectory, with even more stars joining the ever-growing celebrity lists. As part of Dexerto’s Best of 2021 series, we’ve ranked the top five breakthrough streamers of the year.
Let’s be honest, almost every gamer dreams of making it big on Twitch or YouTube, cracking the upper echelons and cementing their name in internet history.
This year we saw a host of stars rise to join the streaming elite across all the biggest platforms, finding their own broadcasting niches — or even simply jumping on the existing trends — and running with them, raking in hundreds of thousands of brand-new fans and followers in the process.
Streaming stardom is more than just a follower count though; we’ve taken into account every facet of each star’s rise, and where they’ve ended a rollercoaster 12 months on Twitch, YouTube, or elsewhere.
Without further ado, this year’s best breakthrough streaming stars.
5 — Ranboo
We may not know exactly what Ranboo looks like, or even his real name, but the masked Minecraft star certainly sent ripples and shockwaves through the streaming world in 2021 with his rise to the top.
The 18-year-old has been a huge and hilarious presence on the famous Dream SMP Minecraft server since he was signed up as the gang’s thirteenth member, joining huge names like the titular Dream, as well as GeorgeNotFound, TommyInnit, and more. The San Francisco star may have had a leg up via the immense Minecraft fandom, but he’s already well and truly earned a streaming career that began soaring in late 2020. In a genius move, he earned his place in Dream SMP via a presidential campaign, controversially without a place on the server.
After his bold declaration, Ph1LzA and Fundy raided his channel, and he eventually earned himself a direct invite — sans the L’Manberg presidency, we might add — from Dream. The server move immediately netted him one million YouTube subscribers, all eager Minecraft fans interested in the latest star addition.
On Twitch, Ranboo — streaming under “RanbooLive” — recently cracked four million followers, and boasts a whopping 52,000 subscribers. The 18-year-old has spun out into more variety streams in the last few months too, to great success.
While Minecraft remains key to his broadcasting arsenal, the ever rising-star dips his toes into Phasmophobia, Life is Strange, and even Just Chatting too.
4 — TinaKitten
For Christina Kenyon, a “Simon Says” game in Among Us was the ticket to the big leagues, though it was mainly due to the fact she had a hilarious meltdown over it.
The viral clip — and, of course, her ever-entertaining broadcasts — soon lead Kenyon to a spot among the legion of star 100 Thieves streamers, though she was the only one that got the whole org’s compound painted a bright pink to celebrate her signing.
Among Us may have been a springboard for the Korean streamer, but TinaKitten, who broadcasts on Twitch, has more than earned her place in the halls of the top Amazon stars. This year saw her rocket from around 1.7k average viewers in her of her streams to over 14,000 each and every time. Among Us has stayed in her repertoire, of course, but the latest 100 Thieves signing also spends much of her broadcast time talking with her chat as well as painting and creating on-stream.
Most recently, Tina joined the popular Dream SMP server in late October, and is one of 37 stars currently involved in the Minecraft world’s various hijinks.
3 — ZLaner
Zack Lane enjoyed a huge 2021 after Dr Disrespect, then all but untouchable for other streamers after his permanent Twitch suspension, “gave the kid a chance” and teamed up with breakout the young Warzone streamer.
The rest, as they say, is history. ZLaner hit a whopping 20,000 concurrent viewers on Facebook Gaming the day he streamed with the Doc, many of whom have stuck with the star to this day. The pair have become fast friends and regular tournament buddies, often diving into Warzone events as a fearsome twosome, or teaming up with TimTheTatman, CourageJD, and DrLupo.
ZLaner’s rising star hit bright green in early November this year, when he was officially unveiled as the latest OpTic Gaming signing. The move, which org owner H3CZ described as a “perfect fit,” fired Lane from simmering superstar into top Warzone name alongside the biggest hitters like Aydan and Tommey.
It wasn’t just his signing that has helped ZLaner along either though — the 23-year-old has golden thumbs when it comes to Call of Duty’s battle royale, a title he’s made more than $152,000 in prize money in since hitting the competitive circuit late last year.
The big question hanging over ZLaner’s head now is where his future may lie. The star reportedly turned down a huge Twitch offer so he could keep streaming with Dr Disrespect in a hugely loyal move, leaving his options open heading into 2022.
2 — Kkatamina
Kim ‘Kkatamina’ Mi-young has enjoyed a relatively rapid rise to Twitch fame, especially considering the 26-year-old barely streamed before October 2020.
The star now carries the title of “the Twitch’s most subbed female streamer,” but back in early 2021 she was simply a friend of AriaSaki’s brought in to play games with the OfflineTV group. Since then, however, Kkatamina has ascended to a level of streaming fame usually reserved for only the most veteran of stars. She opened January 2021 with a 2.7k average in terms of concurrent viewers (already a strong start), and ended the calendar year with more than 12,000 every stream.
Kim usually plays Valorant (318 hours on record) as well as Minecraft (152hrs) and Teamfight Tactics (82hrs), as well as hosting Just Chatting streams. Her name really hit the Twitch top lists in late November though, when she ran a record-breaking 14-day subathon that fired her into the upper echelons of all-time Twitch subscribers.
As of publication, Kkatamina is tenth on the all-time list thanks to her 73k highwater mark, and a standout first in regards to female stars’ subscriber counts.
1 — Corpse Husband
Who else but Twitch’s deep-voiced mystery?
Corpse Husband is no stranger to immense internet fame and has been ever-popular on YouTube for some years, but 2021 was the first time the faceless star really leaned into his streaming career on Twitch with OfflineTV and friends.
The Californian star, who also has a burgeoning music career, actually streams very infrequently. He originally decided against livestreaming due to his various health issues, but embraced the platform after suggestions from Valkyrae and Sykkuno. Incredibly, the deep-voiced personality has actually only streamed a handful of times on Twitch, but every time he does he hauls: Corpse boasts 1.69m total views on the streaming platform after just hours — 10.9 to be exact — broadcasting live.
Corpse is often a guest on streams with his many friends, however, meaning that while his own channel sits dormant, he’s a regular across a plethora of broadcasts. His most common combos are Valkyrae, Sykkuno, Disguised Toast, and Pokimane, as well as YouTube kings Jacksepticeye and PewDiePie.
The mysterious star streamed for four months on YouTube at the start of the year too, but more recently has stuck to Twitch for his rare live-stream broadcasts.
Be on the lookout for more of Dexerto’s Best of 2021 rankings, including the five best streamers of the year and more, dropping throughout December.