The 2023 Games

2023 was the year of the sequel, as gamers tackled eagerly awaited new installments in some of the biggest game series around – including The Legend of Zelda, Mario, Diablo, Baldur’s Gate and Assassin’s Creed, among a few others. It’s truly a wonder how anyone finds time to attend to work, life, and general well-being amidst the onslaught of triple-A titles.

It’s become clear that the major streaming services are really expanding their offering, as Netflix and Prime Gaming have included some huge titles. Meanwhile, Google quietly excused itself from the party earlier this year when it shut down Stadia after spending millions on the cloud gaming service.

Handheld gaming also continued to grow, with Sony eating Nintendo’s lunch by launching its PlayStation Portal device – which quickly sold out, causing instant PTSD for anyone who spent months trying to get their hands on a PS5 in 2020.

On the design front, the last 12 months have produced another incredibly diverse range of formats and styles – although for some reason fishing has seemed to be a particularly hot topic (read on for more on that).

Below, we’ve picked ten of our favorite games that range from epic adventures to puzzles short enough to finish in a weekend.

The Legend of Zelda: Tears of the Realm; Developer: Nintendo; Publisher: Nintendo; Platform: Nintendo Switch

It’s hard to imagine a best-of-2023 list starting with anything other than Nintendo’s latest Zelda title. The team achieved an incredible feat with the game, reusing the map from 2017’s Breath of the Wild while creating an entirely new experience that takes players underground and into the sky.

The game’s new building system has nearly everyone worried, with Forbes summing up the wizardry in one headline: “Nobody Understands How Nintendo Made The Legend of Zelda: Tears of the Kingdom.”

Dave the Diver; Developer: Mintrocket; Publisher: Mintrocket; Platform: MacOS, Windows, Nintendo Switch

Part of the joy of video games is that they let you do things you’d never do in the real world—in this case, go deep-sea diving, fight sharks, and open a sushi bar. Dave the Diver was widely praised for its blend of gameplay, mixing time management with exploration and adventure and a few mini-games thrown in for good measure. All of this is extremely charming, thanks to its crazy text, crazy characters and pixel graphics.

Chants of Sennaar; Developer: Rundisc; Publisher: Focus Entertainment; Platform: Nintendo Switch, PlayStation, Windows, Xbox

Translation isn’t an obvious theme for a game, but Chants of Sennaar turns language into a beautiful narrative puzzle. Players explore a mysterious world – with hints of the oft-mentioned Möbius style – talking to passers-by and trying to understand what they’re saying. It’s one of those games that makes you feel extremely smart and extremely stupid at the same time, but those dopamine hits when you finally figure out what something means are second to none.

Super Mario Bros Wonder; Developer: Nintendo; Publisher: Nintendo; Platform: Nintendo Switch

After a good few years of 3D Mario, Nintendo has gone back to its roots with this side scroller. And it’s got everything the world loved (and hated) about retro Mario games – deadly jumps, rage-inducing levels, pushy Koopas and brainworm soundtracks. To change things up a bit, players can now transform into Elephant Mario, Ghost Mario, and Balloon Mario, with all the associated skills that come with each.

Storyteller; Developer: Daniel Benmergui; Publisher: Annapurna Interactive; Platform: Windows, iOS, Nintendo Switch

Fairytale tropes intertwine in this puzzle game that challenges players to construct narratives to reach the correct ending. Designed to look like the frames of a comic book, Storyteller is an incredibly simple concept that requires a surprising amount of thought – and some truly devious plot twists, especially in the later episodes. The only complaint is how short the game is, with its 13 chapters feeling awfully sparse once you get into the thick of things.

drag; Developer: Black Salt Games; Publisher: Team17; Platform: Windows, Nintendo Switch, PlayStation, Xbox

It’s fishing, but with a strong Lovecraftian influence in this adventure and exploration game. Players must visit areas of choppy water off the coast of a remote island unforgettably named Greater Marrow and stock their boat with fish. It’s a relatively gentle experience that begins to unravel over time, with the pressure to return before darkness descends and panic sets in.

Metroid Prime Remastered; Developer: Retro Studios; Publisher: Nintendo; Platform: Nintendo Switch

In a year of big sequels, an old classic has snuck back onto the Switch. Originally released on the GameCube in 2002, Metroid Prime is a much-loved puzzle and first-person shooter that puts players in the space boots of Samus Aran: an intergalactic bounty hunter battling alien pirates. It may be over 20 years old, but Metroid Prime holds up remarkably well, with the remake feeling current, enjoyable, and ever so slightly disappointing that it’s not the sequel to Metroid Prime 4, which was six years in the making and counting.

Terra Nile; Developer: Free Lives; Publisher: Devolver Digital; Platform: Android, iOS, Windows, MacOS, Linux

No list is complete without a simulation game that seems designed to steal hours of your life. Terra Nil’s plot of building a thriving ecosystem seems ironic at a time when human civilization seems so determined to strip our real ecosystem back to its bare bones. But perhaps there’s something therapeutic about the game’s challenge of turning a desolate wasteland into a haven of renewable energy and greenery.

Alan Wake 2; Developer: Remedy Entertainment; Publisher: Epic Games Publishing; Platform: PlayStation, Windows, Xbox

Another blockbuster sequel, Alan Wake 2, continues the story of the cult horror game from 2010 – which pits players against murderous creatures called The Taken. After being trapped in a nightmarish alternate dimension for 13 years, writer Alan tries to write his way back while in the real world authorities investigate a ritual murder. Players make their way through both stories by holding back The Taken, creating investigative corkboards, and generally enjoying the nightmare.

viewfinder; Developer: Sad Owl Studios; Publisher: Thunderful Publishing; Platform: PlayStation, Windows

Things are slightly psychedelic in Viewfinder, a 2D and 3D puzzle game that challenges players to take pictures, overlay images and explore angles to progress. This is another example of the ways in which the climate crisis is expressed through games set in a simulated world where all the plants have disappeared. The puzzles are sure to make your brain itch while creating a deep nostalgia for the simple joys of analog technology.

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