We’ve been quite busy putting hundreds of hours into Tears of the Kingdom and being working adults so it’s been quite hard to find time for new games, and yet the little gems and the coolest of AAAs always find us. Thankfully it’s not just films that have shown the bounds of creativity being pushed in the age of AI takeover, as games not only have been topping out the potential of decades-old genres but also breathing new life into longtime franchises so that a new generation can pick up these beloved characters, weapons, and tunes to make it something of their own. Here are the best video games of 2023 so far.
Aliens Dark Descent
Aliens: Dark Descent is the dream game for any diehard Aliens fan, combining the tension and terror of the original Ridley Scott’s Alien with the action and excitement of James Cameron’s Aliens, tying everything together in a tactical top down bow. Dark Descent tasks the player with sending a customizable squad of Colonial Marines on search and destroy missions across a Xenomorph infested planet, gathering resources and blasting bugs to escape the ever growing hive and get off the planet.
The team at Tindalos Interactive has absolutely nailed the Aliens experience, from the dread of exploring abandoned mining tunnels and shanty towns with bugs around every corner to the quiet reprieves after a firefight you only just narrowly survived, patching your team back together as best you can. Aliens: Dark Descent is very quickly shaping up to be my favorite Tactics game of 2023, and I am very excited to see where the game evolves to from here. [Miles Stanton]
Dead Space (Remake)
The legacy of the original 2008 Dead Space is hard to oversell, a game from a studio at its apex, with every aspect of the project coming together and meshing so well, it was an instant classic as soon as it hit the shelves. Unfortunately, while Dead Space‘s core mechanics and art style have aged gracefully over the last 15 years, the technical and graphical fidelity have definitely been showing its age. After nearly 10 years of radio silence from EA about the franchise, it was revealed that Motive Studios (Developers of the fantastic Star Wars: Squadrons) would be undertaking not just a remaster for modern consoles, but a full fledged remake.
Having played through the original enough to have it become near muscle memory, I am very happy to announce that the remake is not only very faithful to the original, but some of the tweaks and remixes to the original gameplay make it feel like a much smoother experience in 2023. Changing the game to be less of a linear haunted house ride and more of an exploratory Metroidvania was a bold choice, but one that ultimately pays off in its favor, remixing enemy placement and types even in places already traversed.
Another big change to the original is giving a voice to the previously mute protagonist, ship engineer Issac Clarke, with his voice actor Gunner Wright returning from Dead Space 2 and 3 to reprise the role. Motive Studio even reworked some of the original’s clunkier setpieces to flow together better, like the railgun section and a fair amount of boss fights. The smash success of the remake and some newly added story hints point at a potential redux of 2 as well, meaning there is no better time to get back into the world of Dead Space. [Miles Stanton]
Hi Fi Rush
Who would have thought that one of the biggest games this past winter was from a subdivision of Bethesda making a radical departure from their usual design style that would be one of the shining examples of what Xbox Game Pass has to offer? That’s exactly what Tango Gameworks of The Evil Within fame did when they shadow dropped HiFi Rush in January of 2023. While rhythm games are becoming increasingly popular in the indie scene, we’ve seen a slow emergence of combat based games with that focus.
Not unlike another Game Pass highlight from last year in Metal: Helsinger, HiFi Rush shines in its own way by reminiscing the best of Capcom and Sega arcade character action games of yesteryear with a bit of a hipster splash that will have players recalling the love they had for Scott Pilgrim of all things. HiFi Rush is not only visually charming and tight in controls, it is a shining beacon in accessibility, as the game gives players every conceivable method to keep on beat, even going so far as to design the rhythmic beat of each level into the environment design. [Evan Griffin]
Honkai Star Rail
Honkai: Star Rail is the latest game from Genishin Impact developer miHoYo. The elevator pitch is simple: Persona-style turn-based set in space in a free-to-play game with gacha mechanics. Honkai: Star Rail’s turn-based combat is easy to understand but contains enough depth for those that want to tinker with different team builds and bust out the spreadsheets to maximize their character’s stats. The endgame activities in particular provide great challenges and force you to make use of all your characters. The production values and level of polish are exceptional.
Whether you’re playing on mobile or PC, the game is full of characters with unique designs and beautiful animations. After the most recent content drop, there is a wealth of content to play through and the gacha mechanics are easily avoidable. The greatest compliment we can give this game is that grinding never feels like a chore thanks to the variety of activities available and the engaging combat. [Jose Cordova]
The Legend of Zelda: Tears of the Kingdom
Nintendo’s follow up to the medium-warping Breath of the Wild was always going to be good. What no one could have expected was that follow up would be significantly more dense and layered than BotW could ever dream of being. Tears of the Kingdom doesn’t reinvent the wheel as much as it triples down on it; using that foundation to refine and polish more than simply do “more.” Shrines and side quests are significantly more worthwhile to detour for the experience alone. Much was kept to Nintendo’s chest leading into the release, but a whole third map is so wild to fathom, it still barely feels real. Possibly most incredible is that it all works so well without delivering the same crippling performance issues as other flagship Switch games, much less AAA titles. All games are a miracle, but TotK is more of a revelation. [Travis Hymas]
The Mageseeker: A League of Legends Story
A gorgeous hand drawn action game should always get a good look in even without borrowing League of Legends’s clout. That said, Digital Sun’s The Mageseeker leverages that clout to make a surprisingly interesting story of rebellion out of only one of League’s massive roster. Sylas of Dregbourne is not exactly a likable character and is pretty aggressive in his war for vengeance. However, where many mainstream stories of rebellion against injustice are often held back by a desire to not blame the status quo for issues, The Mageseeker chooses to avoid villainizing Sylas or the rebellion he joins, even as they wreak havoc over the land and are perceived by others as terrorists. It’s a surprising turn that pairs well with the challenging action in Mageseeker’s gameplay. – [Travis Hymas]
Metroid Prime: Remastered
There isn’t much that hasn’t been said or unearthed about this 2002 GameCube classic by 2023, especially not by yours truly, but we’ll go over it one more time: Metroid Prime is one of the greatest Metroidvania (or search-action if you prefer) games of all time, and there is a reason that people still talk about it. Not only does the original level design, music and atmosphere hold up, Retro Studios’ modern team returned to the storied shooter with ambition as this remaster is one truly in every sense of the word as the entire world map has been repainted from top to very very deep beneath the planet core.
With added controls that finally allow players who’ve no patience for motion or tank controls to play the game as though it were a Halo entry, and at a great price, there’s no reason to not pick up this title in preparation for Metroid Prime 4, whenever that comes. The only gripe is that we wish Nintendo would include the original staff credits even as an extras unlock, but that says more about modern games publishing as a whole than anything else. [Evan Griffin]
Resident Evil 4 Remake
Over the past few years, we have gotten gorgeous remakes of Resident Evil 2 and 3 in Capcom’s incredible looking RE Engine. These remakes were a nostalgia trip for the longtime fans and an exciting entry point for the new fans to the series. In 2023, the remake of Resident Evil 4 came out and fans new and old agreed: it’s fantastic. With gorgeously updated graphics, the same gripping (and weird) story, and the power of the next gen consoles, this feels like a completely new game.
While the remakes of the previous two games looked gorgeous, this game noticeably plays beautifully, and the updated weapon handling is very much appreciated. This game really is perfect for players who may have just wandered into this universe with the last two remakes and for those who played the original game way back in 2005. Capcom continues to do these classic games justice and hopefully will continue to remake and update their catalog in the future. – [Tyler Carlsen]
A Space for the Unbound
This title may have flown under the radar due to a surprisingly strong start for games in 2023, but A Space for the Unbound is absolutely worth pulling out of your backlog. An adventure game that pulls strongly from anime that ties the end of the world and one’s emotional state at the same time, A Space for the Unbound tells the story of Atma and Raya, two high schoolers trying to figure out their future while Raya’s reality warping powers threaten to end reality.
Leveraging its unassuming status to go to places that are very hard for big AAA titles to engage with, A Space for the Unbound is a heavy play once you realize what’s actually going on, but the story is one worth having that realization about. As an added bonus, this is a great example of the burgeoning development scenes in locations like Indonesia (where A Space for the Unbound is also set) that give a look into a different part of the world from the US and see how different – and alike – we really are. [Travis/ Hymas]
Star Wars Jedi: Survivor
Back in 2019, Respawn Entertainment gave gamers what we’ve been dying for: a good Star Wars game. When Star Wars Jedi: Fallen Order came out, it amazed fans as it gave them the power of a Jedi and sent them on a wild adventure. In 2023, the sequel to this game Star Wars Jedi: Survivor came out and took what fans loved about the first game and improved upon it. With bigger maps, more customization options, the addition of new lightsaber stances including one with a blaster, and a truly impressive story, this game was worth the wait. This series excels at making the player feel like a true Jedi more than any other game before it. The launch of the game wasn’t without flaws of course, but that didn’t stop most players from digging in and experiencing every amazing detail. – [Tyler Carlsen]