Video Games – The Best Video Games to Play in 2023

Video Games – The Best Video Games to Play in 2023

Video Games
Video Games

Today’s most popular video games are mature, not only in terms of graphic violence but also in their attempts to address serious issues. Whether or not they succeed is debatable, but they are attempting. These games demonstrate over and again that there is a genuine adult gaming audience.

1. Elden Ring

elden-ring-button
elden-ring-button

Elden Ring is one of those rare games that feels ideally suited to its time. When it arrived in February 2022, it had been five years since the release of Breath of the Wild, six years after the last Dark Souls game looked to put the series one step away from mainstream success, and we were in the midst of the worst mainstream fantasy drought we’d ever seen. And in that ideal cultural moment, with a mountain of excitement behind it, From Software managed to release a game that was deserving of every ounce of it.

The gameplay of Elden Ring feels like the outcome of a strange game development alchemy. From Software honed other games’ basic metals (the free-form exploration of Breath of the Wild, the fighting of Bloodborne and Dark Souls, and the dense world of Skyrim) before melting them down, mixing them with a pinch of magic, and turning the whole thing into gold.

Limiting Elden Ring to only parallels, though, would be a disservice to the game and its unique qualities. Its combat is terrific, accurate, and demanding, and it retains this quality across all of its half-dozen weapon variations and play styles. Its finely crafted open environment provides practically no instruction yet succeeds because of how appealing it is to explore.
Whether it’s gorgeous and well-crafted views to stumble across organically, unique rewards (and the bosses who protect them) buried away in hidden cellars, or a far-too-tough monster that serves as a glimpse of your future power, every moment in the Lands Between feels carefully crafted. And each new lesson or present feels like the ideal justification for another dozen hours of exploration and fighting.

2. Xenoblade Chronicles III

Xenoblade Chronicles III
Xenoblade Chronicles III

Consider how many ways Xenoblade Chronicles III is a magnificent achievement. First and foremost, it’s a fantastic end to an unexpected trilogy of RPGs renowned largely for their ambition and heart, one that finally makes the gameplay as gratifying as the rest of the game. For those concerned about time commitments, it’s also a wonderful stand-alone adventure about finding purpose in the worst of circumstances. And, perhaps most tragically, it marks the end of game designer Tetsuya Takahashi’s decades-long effort to create a big, philosophical science fiction story, long after his first try in 1998’s Xenogears. How fortunate we are to be able to participate.

3. Nobody Saves the World

nobody-saves-the-world
nobody-saves-the-world

Nobody Saves the World is an odd little video game, but it has left an indelible impression on my mind. It’s a game about shapeshifting – gaining new abilities to transform oneself into the ideal weapon for the job, or a very specialized tool required to complete a single puzzle. It’s all about discovery and experimentation. It’s humorous, intriguing, and, above all, incredibly brilliant. Nobody Saves the World’s magnitude and grind appear little in a year packed with so many massive games. But great things frequently come in small packages, and Drinkbox Studios’ latest is one I won’t soon forget.

4. Cult of the Lamb

Cult of the Lamb
Cult of the Lamb

Cult of the Lamb stands out among management simulators this year, with a mix of rogue-lite dungeon crawling, religious ambiguity, and a puerile graphic style that gives way to terrible acts. It’s one of those games that shouldn’t work on paper. In practice, however, it is entrancingly propulsive.
As a lamb raised from the dead by an imprisoned demon-spirit-thing, you’re entrusted with establishing, improving, and leading a cult in the woods in order to wreak vengeance on the four gods that ordered your execution. You sow fields of crops, prepare meals for your followers, bless them to attract their complete attention, and, in some circumstances, sacrifice them in shows of beautiful violence.

Between all of this, you go on combat runs into the wilderness, where you gain new members, powers, and boons to add to your cult. As a result, there is an ouroboros-like flow of rogue-lite thrill and zenlike village administration, all with the goal of showing you what kind of leader you might ostensibly become if given absolute authority.

5. Pentiment

pentiment
pentiment

Pentiment is friendlier, funnier, and more satisfying than its scary elevator pitch implies. I’m warning you ahead of time because I’m afraid I’ll lose you. You see, you take on the role of wandering artist Andreas Maler in the 16th century. You set up shop in a Bavarian monastery and spend the next 10-15 hours (spread across 25 years in the game) creating friends and enemies, as well as making decisions that will affect everyone in your path. There is no voice acting, no battle, and no means to actually “win.” You simply speak.

Pentiment can sound like homework, and the first few hours are complex – one of the game’s few mechanics is the ability to read footnotes.
However, whatever you give this game, it will return you tenfold. The characters in its lovely town, depicted in a period manner, are conflicting, much like actual people. They can be kind and helpful while also being self-interested and malevolent in the same discourse. Their allegiances and needs fluctuate, and their actions have an effect on people around them, most notably their loved ones. Because the game spans generations, we observe how the peasants’ experiences become history, and how history is frequently skewed or forgotten.

A debate about faith is layered on top of these characters, which I’ve never seen in a game, and even less so in popular art. Religion is lovely and corrupt, governmental service and its most powerful cudgel.

Simply said, faith is what we make of it. Pentiment is also appropriate.

6. Citizen Sleeper

citizen-sleeper
citizen-sleeper

You wake up as a Sleeper, your consciousness transplanted into a robotic body owned by the Essen-Arp business. You’re low on the “medicine” you need to survive, having been designed for “planned obsolescence.” This is how the corporate drives you to live a life of slavery – you can never completely run away from a body that is falling apart on you.

You start a new life on Erlin’s Eye in Citizen Sleeper, meeting people, accepting odd jobs, and figuring out how to live. Each morning begins with the roll of a handful of dice, which determines the likelihood of success for the acts you take. Make good use of your dice.

Citizen Sleeper’s plot, like so much brilliant science fiction, is an eloquent allegory for modern life. Playing Citizen Sleeper reminded me of the outrageous insulin pricing. It made me consider working through the epidemic as a matter of course, even while individuals around me grew ill while clocking in and out day after day. After years of living paycheck to paycheck, it made logical.
Scarcity influences choice in Citizen Sleeper, as it does in real life. Can you really be selective about the offers you turn down when you need to survive? It’s also about finding a way to live a decent life despite adversity.

7. Mario + Rabbids Sparks of Hope

mario-and-rabbids-sparks-of-hope-
mario-and-rabbids-sparks-of-hope

The Mario + Rabbids series could easily have been a cash grab. Instead, they’re tactical masterpieces that stand shoulder-to-shoulder alongside XCOM, Fire Emblem, and other genre titans. Sparks of Hope, the sequel to 2017’s Kingdom Battle, demonstrates this. The essential premise of Sparks of Hope (“What if Mario but firearms”) remains the same, but it has been improved. The introduction of sentient items known as Sparks, which add an incredible amount of intricacy to the game’s arsenal, is crucial here. The fluid mobility options make it feel like you’re playing genuine Mario characters rather than XCOM soldiers decked out in Mushroom Kingdom garb. The script is also very funny. There is only one disadvantage: The Rabbids converse. And, no, it never stops being strange.

8. Strange Horticulture

strange-horticulture
strange-horticulture

You sell plants in Strange Horticulture. Though the plants appear to be commonplace, they are anything but: some plants inspire bravery, while others entice people to their deaths. Some are designed to sharpen your focus or poison your adversaries. It’s a straightforward game that’s handled with meticulous care. Running this plant business reveals a bizarre, spooky story through customer talk and flora discovered via an in-game map. Strange Horticulture is a short game (it took me slightly more than five hours to complete), but it was one of the more impactful games I played this year.

9. Return to Monkey Island

return-to-monkey-island
return-to-monkey-island

Many video games aim to be funny, but only a handful succeeds.
It’s a shame, though, because humor is the perfect solution to a difficult conundrum. This combo was pioneered by the original Monkey Island series of point-and-click adventure games, which bolstered their puzzles with funny puns, slapstick, and just plain stupid situations. Return to Monkey Island starts off where the series left off years ago, returning the same characters — would-be pirate Guybrush Threepwood, his fiery paramour Elaine Marley, his ghost pirate adversary LeChuck, and so on — only you don’t have to have played any previous games to enjoy this one.

Return is jam-packed with family-friendly comedy, and while copying any of them here would diminish the effect of the voice actors’ superb performances, I’ll leave you with a hint anyway: Don’t try to borrow a mop if you need one. Make one from the ground up, beginning with a trip to the mop handle tree. After all, its branches are perfectly adapted to making mop handles.

10. God of War Ragnarök

God of War Ragnarök
God of War Ragnarök

The God of War Ragnarök had big shoes to fill. God of War (2018) recreated one of the video game’s most famous meatheads, transforming him into an emotionally fascinating character who helped catapult the game to Polygon’s Game of the Year four years ago. It shattered the bar of greatness, becoming one of the best games of the decade, if not all time.

Ragnarök is, in many respects, even better. It’s even better in certain regions. Ragnarök, though, is only able to scramble over the bar that its predecessor so effortlessly blew past because it tries to achieve so much, or perhaps because 2018’s quality was such a shock.

If 2018 was the path of Kratos becoming a real, emotional human and father, Ragnarök is about a cast of humans striving to keep each other together as the world comes to an end. This time around, the emphasis is no longer on Kratos, but his increased emotional growth is critical to the story’s fabric. Four years ago, watching him learn to express himself in modest ways felt like an accomplishment, but in Ragnarök, he’s a bona fide “good parent” — or, at the very least, he’s doing his best. And, as the world crumbles around him, we watch Kratos, not only counsel all of his supporters but also mentally prepare himself to sacrifice everything for his son’s future.

The writing in the game occasionally fumbles, especially with the humor, but it never ruins the genuine moments between parent and child. It’s a dynamic that AAA games have been attempting to mimic for years, with God of War (2018) serving as the shining example. It still is in many respects.
Ragnarök, on the other hand, takes on so much — including stories from the original game as well as brand-new adventures — that a weaker studio would quickly succumb to its ambition. Nonetheless, Santa Monica Studio crafted a respectable successor to one of the best games ever made, which is a feat in and of itself.

11. Kirby and the Forgotten Land

Kirby and the Forgotten Land
Kirby and the Forgotten Land

According to my Switch, I’ve spent almost 60 hours playing the current Kirby game. I spent around ten of those hours playing. The remaining 50 hours have been spaced out over the last eight months by my four-year-old, who discovered his first favorite game in this lovely apocalypse. I enjoyed Kirby enough on my own but watching my son gradually grasp its world revealed that I had skipped over a lot of what the game has to offer. The plethora of cute, collectible trinkets. Kirby’s own retreat, complete with an interactive cafe, boutiques, and a movie theater. The painstakingly constructed intricacy in each level is critical when creating a game for children who will play the same stage over and over.

It’s all too easy for an adult to miss the beauty and craftsmanship that goes into creating games for children and families. Kirby and the Forgotten Land serves as a reminder that, despite Animal Crossing and Zelda having taken over adult popular culture, Nintendo is still the greatest at developing things for its original intended audience: children.

12. Neon White

neon-white
neon-white

Exploring one of Neon White’s stages. In the bottom left corner of the screen, there is an illustration of a devil. The level is rendered in 3D graphics. The floor appears to be water, and the building in the foreground appears to be intricate, with numerous pillars.

If you’re upset with a friend, coworker, or significant other, it could be because of this game. Neon White has reignited the race for top leaderboard rankings while also emphasizing the importance of milliseconds because sometimes a millisecond is all it takes to leapfrog your mate.

Angel Matrix developer Ben Esposito describes Neon White as a “smoothie” of inspirations, drawing as much from friction-defying Counter-Strike surf maps as gravity-defying Half-Life and Quake jump levels. In a tiny but significant sense, Neon White is also a deck-building card game. If this is a smoothie, it is equal parts sweet, tangy, delightful, and dripping down your face, because your friend has just surpassed your score yet again in the time it took you to read this line. It’s quite an accomplishment for a game about leaping from one platform to another that Neon White can be so sleek and simple while still instilling such strong grudges and terribly pained wrists.

13. Signalis

Signalis

In a dark medical office, a third-person overhead shot of an anime figure aiming a laser-sighted pistol at two zombie-like androids carrying cleavers.

Spiritual successors to games like Silent Hill and Resident Evil are plentiful. It’s unusual to find someone who can not only zero in on the key ideas of those revered survival horror classics, but also transcend those comparisons entirely to produce a story of their own. Signalis is that all-too-rare outlier: a third-person cyberpunk survival horror game full of hard puzzles, terrible opponents, and even more terrifying truths hidden deep beneath its snow-covered surface.

According to Polygon’s review, the game is inspired by classic survival games, acclaimed anime such as Ghost in the Shell and Neon Genesis Evangelion, H.P. Lovecraft’s writings, and even the paintings of Arnold Böcklin and Eugen Bracht, synthesizing these references into an exquisite corpse of shambling horror and yawning existential dread. Elster’s descent into the depths of an abandoned interplanetary mining complex in search of a lost companion is dangerous, putting the player against a macabre otherworld teeming with terrifying monsters that refuse to die and mysteries that defy explanations at every turn. Signalis repeatedly demonstrates that it is more than the sum of its influences and that it is a survival horror masterpiece in its own right.

14. Norco

Norco
Norco

Norco is notable for several reasons: it is a beautiful, honest depiction of southern Louisiana, an imaginative and dystopian science fiction narrative, and a harsh critique of the oil industry’s blight. Norco is an interpretation of Norco, Louisiana – the real town whose name stands for the New Orleans Refining Company, which is home to Shell’s production complex. Norco unfolds slowly as the main heroine, Kay, returns to her childhood home following the loss of her mother. It’s a magical realism novel with mystery aspects, but it’s also firmly founded in reality – not an easy genre blend to reconcile.

The narrative and basic environmental puzzles, combined with a unique mind-map mechanism that functions as a character list and mental journal, contribute to a fast-paced adventure with room to pause and soak in all of the tragic oddity.

15. Powerwash Simulator

PowerWash-Simulator
PowerWash-Simulator

For years, I avidly watched gratifying video clips of people power-washing vehicles, sidewalks, and outdoor furniture, confident that as a power-wash-less apartment dweller, I would never know such peace. When PowerWash Simulator appeared on the scene, it transformed my life forever. I instantly compelled some of my buddies to join me in scouring virtual landscapes with fiercely propellant water jets. My life has improved since then.

Have you ever sought refuge from the dreadful monotony of everyday life? Have you ever longed to get rid of those pesky wrinkles in your brain? This game is for you and everyone else you know. (Up to six individuals can play multiplayer, and who has that many friends?) Clean dirty automobiles, backyards with sheds and swingsets, wild houses, a helicopter, a monster truck, and much more. Allow your shoulders to relax. Allow the pain to wash away with a nice power-wash.

16. Pokémon Legends: Arceus

Pokémon Legends: Arceus
Pokémon Legends: Arceus

With a franchise history as great and famous as Pokémon, making a major statement can be difficult. Video games have been available for around 25 years, and the mainline RPGs have mostly stuck to the usual model of a turn-based game in which we explore and catch a colorful cast of creatures. Game Freak takes the Pokémon franchise on a bold and innovative path with Pokémon Legends: Arceus, changing the way we battle and catch. It also raises the topic of what it means to be a Pokémon trainer.

We always get to learn about the world of Pokémon at the start of any Pokémon game, or even in the movies. We’re taught that these formidable creatures live alongside humans as partners and that they compete against one other in battles that strengthen the bonds between Pokémon and trainers.
Legends: Arceus deviates from this premise entirely by taking place in an in-universe historical period during which Pokémon have not yet mingled with the general populace and the ordinary person is terrified of Pokémon. We, the player, have time traveled from the future, and it is our responsibility to be one of the first bridges between the fearful townspeople and the creatures who lie beyond their borders.

Pokémon Legends: Arceus isn’t just entertaining; it’s also a great model for an open-world game. It allows you to explore various regions by selecting them. It combines exploration with rigorous monster catching by allowing us to sneak up on Pokémon and catch them with a single Poké Ball toss.

17. Marvel Snap

Marvel Snap
Marvel Snap

When you find out how the game works, perhaps on your fifth round of Marvel Snap, you can look into time and space and imagine yourself playing this game for a very long time. Perhaps, at this point, you’ll curse yourself and remove the app, fearing yet another digital obsession. Or you’ll grin at the beautiful ingenuity of Second Dinner’s mobile card battler and plunge right in. Marvel Snap has solved the collectible card game code, creating an accessible, rapid, and bite-sized game that solves the length and complexity of typical card games, delivering something that fits in between TikTok swipes.

It’s particularly noteworthy because it does so while commemorating its card game ancestors: Despite its simplified rules and short playing, it nonetheless provides players with the best feeling that a good collectible card game can provide: showing them a new card that unlocks something in their brain, making them smile and declare, “I have an idea for a deck.”

18. The Case of the Golden Idol

The Case of the Golden Idol
The Case of the Golden Idol

It’s simple to draw parallels between The Case of the Golden Idol and Return of the Obra Dinn. Each mystery game is set in a frightening alternate history dominated by mysterious phenomena. Their visual styles are both influenced by retro games from the dawn of computing, and each uses a fill-in-the-blank approach to unravel a complex chain of strange fatalities.

However, while the analogies are flattering, they do not allow Golden Idol to shine on its own. Its riddles appear to be significantly less related than Obra Dinn’s at first, unfolding over 11 chapters with no shortage of horrible fatalities. But there was a lightbulb moment when I saw how all the pieces went together that made me want to reread every name and clue, just like in the best whodunit literature. While the game doesn’t hide the presence of a powerful ancient item, the discoveries of how its various owners chose to use it are incredibly unsettling when it all comes together.

And every aspect of the game contributes to the persistent sense of discomfort. The pixelated GIFs of each scenario leave just enough to the imagination, and each accompanying score made me nervous. And, while simple, they all brilliantly complement your own guesswork, and no chapter — not even the sophisticated final act — feels out of reach for my own investigative skills. Golden Idol skilfully guides you through the trial and error of detective work, even when I believed I’d come up with a ridiculous notion that couldn’t possibly succeed. While the best puzzles make the viewer feel smart for solving it alone, Golden Idol’s payoff culminates in its excellent epilogue, which allows me to finally lay out the whole thing, Poirot-style, even if the audience is only me.

19. Vampire Survivors

Vampire Survivors
Vampire Survivors

Vampire Survivors received fresh content virtually every week in the early half of the year until it approached its ultimate release date. Every Saturday or Sunday, I’d boot up my PC, expecting a few more achievements, a new secret to discover, or a new weapon to evolve. Vampire Survivors became a routine to help record the weeks in a year where normalcy appears to be returning — but isn’t quite there yet.

However, I did not log 100 hours in the PC edition of Vampire Survivors by playing solely for accomplishments. Vampire Survivors is one of the only games on this list that I would switch on simply for fun, to see what absurd builds I could come up with long after I’d exhausted all the content. All of my playtime in games like God of War, Elden Ring, and even Tinykin was goal-oriented. The delight of Vampire Survivors, on the other hand, is pure and contagious.
Over the course of a year, I observed with delight the game spread through word of mouth among friends and coworkers. Each week, a new acquaintance appeared on my Steam friends list, indicating that they’d finally gotten into Vampire Survivors. I’d see their hour count soar over the next few weeks.

Vampire Survivors is like eating comfort food. It takes just the right amount of focus to keep you interested while still allowing you to listen to a podcast or view a movie. And the transformation from a modest $3 indie game with minimal content in January to a $5 game with hours of content available on both Xbox and PC is astonishing. It’s one of the best early-access stories ever, rivaling classics like Slay the Spire and Hades.
It’s incredible that this modest little project has proven to be my most memorable of all in one of the best gaming years we’ve had in a long time, packed with games people will remember for decades.

20. Fortnite

fortnite
fortnite

Did you know that Goku appears in this game? And he’s armed? Fortnite, the reigning champion of pop cultural non-sequiturs, is what occurs when everything is content and the only form of self-expression that matters is a fandom. But in 2022, it became a better video game than it had ever been, or at least one I can now win on a daily basis, thanks to the release of the Zero Build mode, which lowered Fortnite’s skill ceiling by removing the battle royale game’s frenzied creation of obstacles.

Fortnite has also solidified its status as one of the most compelling free-to-play games out there, thanks to a genuinely crazy number of advancement meters that constantly shower players with incentives.

Why play a game that plays more like a Skinner box than a shooter? The answer stays the same: it’s still one of the greatest digital locations to connect with friends and hang out.