Unbelievably, 2023 is already more than halfway over! It seems like just yesterday we were wishing one another a Happy New Year and making New Year’s Resolutions to play more games from our backlog, which, for this reviewer, remain unplayed due to the unexpected enormity of quality game releases this year! Already, with only 7 months under its belt, 2023 is one of the strongest years in recent gaming memory.
With multiple GOTY contenders already on the shelves, and many releases that are long-awaited and anticipated dropping in the coming months, this year has seen a fabulous return to form for many AAA studios and has continued the trend of quality indies that has been steady over the past 5 years.
This list will not be in any particular order - my goal is to alternate between some of the best games and must-plays of the year so far and some of the exciting releases coming in the next few months!
NOTE: All reviews/comments are spoiler free, both for games in question and their predecessors.
Upcoming: Marvel’s Spider-Man 2 (October 20th)
If you’ve had your ear to the pulse of the gaming community recently, there are a few games you know will be on this list. This is one of them. Marvel’s Spider-Man released in 2018 and was a reminder that not all quality superhero games needed to contain Batman in order to be successful.
The phenomenal team at Insomniac created a compelling story alongside smooth and well-crafted gameplay to create one of the greatest superhero gaming hits of the decade, standing toe-to-toe with the other leaders of the genre.
They followed this with a successful sequel starring Miles Morales, and now are returning for what promises to be their biggest and best game yet. With Venom and Kraven as their main villains, and a free-switch mechanic between playing as Miles and playing as Peter, this easily has the potential to be a Game of the Year contender.
Released: Jedi – Survivor
If you have not yet played Jedi: Fallen Order, go and play that game. And then play Jedi: Survivor. Both of them are excellent action RPGs that build on the currently established Star Wars lore and take you into epic confrontations with familiar and unfamiliar characters. If you’ve been craving some Star Wars action-adventure, this duo will fulfill that craving in spades.
Upcoming: Cities - Skylines II (October 24th)
Cities: Skylines is the city sim. It has been for quite some time, taking the mantle previously owned by SimCity. It isn’t perfect, but it was leaps and bounds ahead of its time, and it is still incredibly relevant today. The game sports tons of DLC, and a deep and intricate gameplay loop that can engage its player for hours.
Well, we’re getting a sequel, and it promises to be bigger and better than the first. Many eyes are on this release, hoping that it continues the trend of redefining what a City Simulator should be.
Released: Age of Wonders 4
Age of Wonders has a reputation for delivering quality strategy games, and Age of Wonders 4 is no exception. I’ve always loved 4X strategy games, but I personally had not yet taken the dive into Age of Wonders, despite hearing great things about the franchise.
I was immediately blown away by Age of Wonders 4’s creativity, versatility, and the quality of the mechanics and worldbuilding. This is a worthwhile investment for anyone who enjoys turn-based strategy games.
Upcoming: Super Mario Bros RPG (November 17th)
Super Mario Bros RPG is coming to Switch! In a leftfield announcement during the most recent Nintendo Direct, we heard the exciting news that this game is getting a graphical overhaul and is going to be released on Nintendo’s beloved hybrid console.
While we await news of the next steps in Nintendo gaming hardware, we will be able to sink out controllers into classic JRPG content featuring the beloved cast of Mario in a game that is already known for its fun take on the genre. This reviewer is highly anticipating experiencing this game for the first time!
Released: Final Fantasy Pixel Remasters
Final Fantasy fell out of the limelight a few years ago, with quite a few games in a row that received mixed reviews at best. But the tremendous release of Final Fantasy XIV’s Endwalker, paid DLC for the controversial MMO (that has taken a massive turn for the better since its release), suddenly Square Enix’s old money maker attracted the eyes of critics and gamers alike, wondering if they would keep up their momentum.
And they certainly have, this year delivering beautiful remasters of their first six games that have allowed gamers to revisit iconic moments from their childhoods on next-gen consoles. Though they have been criticized for their high price point, this collection is certainly worth revisiting for anyone who enjoys classic Final Fantasy adventures!
Upcoming: Mortal Kombat 1 (September 19th)
Mortal Kombat 1 promises to be exactly what you would expect – a next-gen visceral and brutal combat experience. This franchise has been given praise, acclaim, and criticism throughout its many years of existence, and this next entry will likely bring a similar response from critics and naysayers alike. But if you like Mortal Kombat’s brutality and fast-paced combat, this entry promises to deliver… in spades.
Released: Street Fighter 6
Street Fighter is a title that nearly every gamer has heard of, even if it doesn’t fit your niche. And with last year’s surprise announcement that we would get a new game from this franchise after 7 years, many wondered if it would live up to the weight its title bears.
But this game delivers, with fast-paced invigorating combat that feels snappy and light on all of its release platforms. If you love Street Fighter, or fighting games in general, this one is likely to push all the right buttons for you!
Upcoming: Sea of Stars (August 29th)
There are a few items on this list that I want to specifically draw attention to because of a personal attachment to them, or a desire to represent games that haven’t been talked about as much as they should have been. Sea of Stars is one of these games.
A release by Sabotage Studios of The Messenger fame, this game snags elements from classic RPGs to create a beautiful-looking pixel-art story that looks like it will boast captivating characters and classic turn-based strategy battles. This is one to keep an eye out for!
Released: PowerWash Simulator
If you haven’t yet heard someone say to you “No, wait, trust me – this power washing simulator is actually good!”, you have heard it now. At first glance, it seems ludicrous. Why would anyone want to do work in a game? Ignoring the massive swath of farming games that has taken over the gaming market these past few years as evidence and just looking at what PowerWash Simulator is, it begins to make sense. You open a level to be faced with a location (or an object) covered in dirt.
And, using the tools you buy along the way, you clean it. There is a satisfying ding of a job well done when you finish a section, and you can move on to the next. It nails the reason so many people subscribe to YouTube channels and subreddits with oddly satisfying content and turns it into a game.
It fills an unexpected niche, and it doesn’t hurt that the game doesn’t just include normal things like houses and cars, but a Martian rover, and paid DLC that takes you to Midgar of Final Fantasy fame, Lara Croft’s mansion from Tomb Raider, and most recently, iconic locations from SpongeBob. This is definitely worth checking out for anyone who is looking for some satisfying and engaging gaming.
Upcoming: Assassin’s Creed Mirage (October 12th)
Another Assassin’s Creed game is hitting the market, taking us this time to Baghdad. Assassin’s Creed Valhalla was a fascinating game in the series, but it continued a trend that many fans have been criticizing – the games since Origins have become more action-adventure than assassination.
This one promises a return to form, bringing the series back to the style that made it so successful during the era of Assassin’s Creed 2. It is certainly a game to keep your eye on if you are looking for some new and invigorating Assassin’s Creed gameplay.
Released: Mega Man Battle Network Legacy Collection
A sleeper hit for the Gameboy Advance, the Mega Man Battle Network series was a fascinating, tactical combat-based puzzle-like game that takes place in an original world using Mega Man characters. And it was loads of fun. These are direct ports, not remasters as some would have hoped, which has garnered this collection a fair amount of criticism due to the high asking price.
But it is a great way to go and revisit some classic Mega Man action if you haven’t tried them out before! The full pack consists of 10 games, and they are purchasable as one unit or split into Volume 1 and Volume 2. It is important to note, however, that there are really 6 games, as the Battle Network games were split Pokemon-style into two separate versions with slight differences. This pack comes with all of the games, including both split versions.
Upcoming: Lies of P (September 19th)
Many months have passed since this game’s announcement, and I still find myself surprised that it is being released. The concept is bizarre, and yet oddly captivating – you play as Pinocchio in a soulslike adventure that takes you through a gothic world. Putting a classic character like Pinocchio into a brutal combat action game is so bizarre that it might just give us one of the best games of the year.
No matter what happens, it certainly looks fascinating, and I cannot wait to see what the people at NEOWIZ have in store for us.
Released: Pikmin 1+2
Pikmin 1 & 2 have been released for Nintendo Switch! They are not full remasters – they are still ports, but they boast HD graphics and quality-of-life updates that have made them more fun than ever to dive into! If you haven’t had a chance to explore these games before, there’s no time like the present to take them for a spin before the release of…
Upcoming: Pikmin 4 (July 22nd)
We have heard a lot of information about Pikmin 4 at this point, and its release date is rapidly approaching. From all accounts, this is one of those sequels that takes the good parts of its predecessor and improves upon them. If it is everything it claims to be, this should be a cute and fun journey on Switch which remains engaging and challenging to all ages.
Released: Ghost Trick
Ghost Trick was a DS game launched in 2011 to critical acclaim by the director of the Ace Attorney series, though it was not as well know of an IP for Capcom as its contemporaries. Luckily for the players, Capcom has refused to give up on this strange and wonderful game, giving it the new coat of paint it deserves in a remaster for current-gen systems.
This out-of-the-box puzzler boasts a unique and captivating art style, a fun and wacky plot, and a premise that is engaging and that sets it apart from other games of its ilk.
If you’ve never played Ghost Trick before (or if you have, and want to experience this fun adventure again) and want to join Sissel, a ghost that wants to solve his own murder, on a bizarre search for the truth with some surprise along the way, now is the time to grab this game and give it a whirl!
Upcoming: Persona 5 Tactica (November 17th)
A tactical RPG featuring the beloved characters from the Persona 5 series? Say no more. We have only seen glimmers of this game’s potential, but it has so much potential based on what we’ve seen. It has the snappy visuals Persona fans are accustomed to, and it seems to have a deep combat system using board movement and attack combos. I for one will be picking this game up shortly after (or perhaps before) release!
Released: Resident Evil 4 Remake
In 2015, Resident Evil rereleased its first game, rebuilt and remastered, to massive critical acclaim. Though they have continued to release well-received originals, they also have started to give this treatment to their other games. Now, we are on Resident Evil 4, one of the most beloved of the original RE games.
And this one does not disappoint. Boasting a whopping 93 Metascore, this game takes everything fans loved about the original Resident Evil 4 and brings it into next-gen graphics and gameplay with incredibly good results. If you are a fan of the Resident Evil franchise, or of horror games in general, this one is definitely worth your time.
Upcoming: Forza Motorsport (October 10th)
Mortal Kombat is not the only franchise doing a clean reset on its long-running number counter. Forza Motorsport has boasted 7 games, many of them incredibly successful entries into the racing genre, as well as 5 Forza Horizon games – open-world driving and racing simulators that engage the latent car collector in all of us.
But now, Forza is taking the numbers off its Motorsport franchise and dropping what looks to be the best Forza racing sim to date in Forza Motorsport. Here’s hoping the new game can live up to the hype it has garnered!!
Released: Ib (Nintendo Switch)
This is the only game on this list that I would consider “cheating”. Because Ib isn’t new. However, it was remastered and released on PC last year, and ported to Switch this year (really stretching the definition of games released in 2023 for this list), and if I can snag a window to put this incredible work of art on your radar, you best believe I will.
Ib is one of those games that haunts you after you play it. Not because it is explicitly horrific, but because what you experience alongside the characters in this game is so incredibly potent.
Ib is a short game released in 2012 that takes you on an adventure alongside a young girl who is on a trip to an art museum with her parents. And it is a game you’ll likely want to play more than once. That is all I will say, for fear of letting anything else about this entrancing gameplay experience out of the bag – it is something that should be enjoyed for the first time with as little information as possible.
Upcoming: Detective Pikachu Returns (October 6th)
Ever since the widely successful Detective Pikachu movie in 2019, rumours of a follow-up to the original Detective Pikachu game from the 3DS ran rampant. Then, they quieted down for a bit… just in time for Nintendo to drop their announcement in the last direct.
The trailer for this game makes it look like a riot – Pikachu is back at it again, here to solve crimes and figure out whodunit in the latest entry to the franchise! Not much information has been released yet, but this should be a game that floats on the radar of any Pokémon fan looking for something a little different. In the meantime, it might be a good idea to go back and take a crack at the original Detective Pikachu, which still boasts tons of charm and engaging gameplay!
Released: PlayStation VR2
There are tons of games that dropped at once in February, because the PlayStation VR2 system dropped. A system that improves in every way on its predecessor, this tech is truly at the top of the VR game, especially due to its selection of fantastic exclusives. If VR gaming interests you, you are sure to enjoy the experience of putting on the PSVR2 headset and diving into the strange worlds that game devs have cooked up for us players!
Upcoming: Baldur’s Gate 3 (August 3rd)
Baldur’s Gate 3 is finally on its way to PC and consoles. After a successful pre-release that was bogged down by the sheer amount of time between beta and release (and the fact that there was not much new content released for beta gamers in that window), this Dungeons and Dragons adventure promises to be one of the most epic gameplay experiences of the past few years.
Giving players massive amounts of control over their choices, this game allows you to dive virtually into a D&D campaign run by a ruthless Dungeon Master – the game itself. If it delivers on all its promises, your choices will matter, and you are in for engaging tactical combat that keeps you on your toes. Definitely keep an eye on this one!
Released: Octopath Traveler II
Octopath Traveler released in 2018 to a flurry of praise and acclaim for its beautiful pixel art style and smooth and snappy traditional JRPG turn-based combat. Now, Octopath Traveler II has released, and somehow has received perhaps even more accolades than the first one! If you enjoy turn-based combat in the vein of the original Final Fantasy games, Octopath Traveler I and II are games you will not want to miss.
Upcoming: Disgaea 7 (October 3rd)
Did someone say turn-based JRPG? Disgaea has been one of the leaders in the tactical RPG market for quite some time, with some incredible games under its belt that hedge their bets on massive, deep combat and customization systems alongside very, very large numbers. Disgaea 5 in particular took this engine and created a near-perfect TRPG grinding simulator that this review got QUITE a few hours out of.
The sixth installment was met with mixed reviews, and Disgaea fans expected that we wouldn’t hear much from the franchise for a while. But here we are, with 7 releasing on consoles this October!
The game was already released in Japan last year, and the reviews have claimed it to be a return to form for the franchise – perhaps the best one yet. For this reviewer’s quickly lightening wallet, this is going to be a Day 1 purchase, and I look forward to sinking another unhealthy large number of hours into the weird and wacky world of Disgaea.
Released: Diablo IV
Diablo IV has massive shoes to fill. The franchise has had its share of massive successes and failures in its lifespan, and the announcement of IV was met with wary optimism. Well, it has finally been released, and it lives up to the name of the franchise that put top-down dungeon crawling on the map. Diablo IV improves on its predecessor to create a tight experience that is satisfying and constantly engaging.
It’s not perfect – the developers are continuing balance changes and there is a paid-only cosmetic store/season pass element that has caused quite a bit of controversy, though the paid content will not affect gameplay. Diablo fans are watching the horizon for the upcoming first season to see how the game will shake out in the next couple months, but what we have has been loads of demon-slaying fun.
Upcoming: Super Mario Bros. Wonder (October 20th)
The recent Nintendo Direct’s highlighted announcement is another exciting piece of news – a new side-scrolling Super Mario game. From one of the most prolific platformer series in the world comes their first dive into 2D platforming since Super Mario Bros U in 2012, which marks 11 years since the studio has tackled this concept. We have seen precious little of this game so far, but this reviewer hopes that it will live up to the high standards set by Nintendo in the past!
Released: Final Fantasy XVI
Final Fantasy XVI was a surprise. Its prerelease information didn’t put it on many radars as being something exceptional, but then the demo dropped. Two hours of excellent storytelling and well-paced combat that set this game apart as something special. The game’s release proved that the demo was indeed characteristic of the entire game.
Final Fantasy XVI’s story is brutal, poignant, gut-wrenching, and beautiful. Its message is potent, and the characters are incredible (helped significantly by the amazing voice actors who bring them to life). It is one of the gems to come out of this year, and I look forward to continuing to explore the visually entrancing world it has created for us.
Upcoming: Avatar - Frontiers of Pandora (December 7th)
Avatar: The Frontiers of Pandora is slated for release in December, and it looks incredible. For a series of movies heralded for their stunning visuals, Frontiers of Pandora has large shoes to fill, but it does seem to be filling them nicely. As we get more information about this game, we will see how they take the concepts presented in the two Avatar films and translate them into a next-gen game, but what we have seen so far looks remarkable.
Released: Legend of Zelda - Tears of the Kingdom
The game to beat for Game of the Year released early this year, with Tears of the Kingdom dropping in May. Tears of the Kingdom takes everything from Breath of the Wild and improves/expands on it, including a brand-new construction element that gamers have been using to do truly insane things within the game engine.
The naysayers of this game have one major criticism – it is too much like Breath of the Wild. Which, to all of us who loved the first game, is not at all an issue in the slightest. If you haven’t had a chance to play Breath of the Wild, it is worth playing, and then diving into one of the best game sequels released in recent years.
Upcoming: Starfield (September 6th)
I couldn’t end this list with anything else. Amongst all of these games, nothing has a higher risk factor than Starfield. This game will either be one of the best games released of all time, or it will be a drop in the bucket that will fade into obscurity and disappointment in a few years. There is an in-between, but it is unlikely that it will fall there, because it is being heralded as the first full action RPG released by Bethesda since Fallout 4.
Bethesda RPGS are known for being massive, and having tons of choices and storylines to pursue. Starfield promises to be huge in scope, but we have seen this before (looking at you, release day No Man’s Sky), and many are attempting to manage expectations.
However, Bethesda is making it difficult to do so, because everything we have seen about this game looks jaw-droppingly incredible. Don’t disappoint us again, Bethesda, and we will be playing Starfield for years to come.
There are plenty of other games that I did not get to mention on this list that came out (or are coming out) this year, but the fact that there are 31 games in the stacked list above shows how heavy-hitting this year is going to be for gamers.
No matter what system you favor, there are brand new incredible gameplay experiences for you available this year! I for one cannot wait to explore all of the worlds and take all of the adventures that are in store for us for the rest of this year, and look forward to keeping eyes on the horizon as new games are announced.
And remember – if you’re looking for some partners to join you on these escapades, the Playsum app has now been released! It is an excellent tool to chat with other gamers who share your interests, and to set up multiplayer sessions with people from all across the globe, as well as to let others know what games you are looking forward to throughout the rest of this year!!
Here’s to a great year of slaying enemies, planting farms, exploring new worlds, and making friends along the way. Until next time!