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The best games of 2023 so far
Words and picks by
Alex Choros, Brodie Fogg, Fergus Halliday, Georgia Dixon, Hannah Geremia and Nathan Lawrence
There’s no such thing as the “best” video game, so instead, we’re looking at our favourites. These are the games the Reviews.org AU team has spent far too much time playing this year, and we think you’ll like them too.
I’m about as much a fan of fishing sims as I am of the real-life thing: that is to say, not at all. So when I tell you that while Dredge is very much an arcadey fishing simulator, but it’s still one of the best games you’ll play all year, you’ll know it’s meant for landlubbers as much as those with sea salt in their veins. Things start out simply enough in Dredge. You’re a fisher whose boat is yet another victim of foul waters. Work catching fish to pay off your new-tub debt, upgrading it as you go. But things get creepy early on. Fishing at night is ill-advised, at least initially. And then there’s the lure of a cosmic horror setting that’ll pull you into the depths of rewarding archipelago exploration.
Not unlike The Last of Us Part I’s launch on Steam, Returnal hit the ground limping with a somewhat shoddy port. Fast-forward a few months, though, and Returnal has been patched into a very playable, very addictive place. Jump into the space boots of Selene who crash lands on what might be the most hostile planet in sci-fi history (and that’s saying something). It’s a roguelike, so dying is a critical part of your progression. But despite some runs unrewarded by RNGesus, it’s tricky to not restart “just one more run” after you die. Get lost in the addictive loop of exploring new worlds, scoring new unlocks (temporary and permanent), and blasting apart a range of Housemarque-branded colourful foes.
The Legend of Zelda: Tears of the Kingdom
It’s not often that Nintendo does direct continuations of the Zelda series. But I’m sure glad they did with The Legend of Zelda: Tears of the Kingdom. In fairness, I’m far less interested in the somewhat clunky, overly cutesy story that’s more start-stop than it should be. What I’m infinitely more addicted to is the new tools for player expression. Tears of the Kingdom is kind of like Minecraft meets Breath of the Wild. And it’s certainly at its best when it lets you solve its many, many puzzles in very left-field ways. The new powers build on Breath of the Wild’s already addictive gameplay and address some of the traversal shortcomings. If you’re like me, you’ll find the most fun of re-exploring Hyrule in trailblazing off the main path.
Star Wars Jedi: Survivor
In many respects, Star Wars Jedi: Survivor is a refinement of what was started in Star Wars Jedi: Fallen Order. The story is better in that it doesn’t have that doomed-to-fail feeling. The characters are more fully rounded, with enough time between Fallen Order and Survivor for there to be well-earned tension between returning protagonist Cal Kestis and the crew of the Mantis. Plus, there are some great new cast additions. And, of course, the gameplay has been appropriately escalated without the all-too-common lazy trick of a character reset (I’m looking at you Tears of the Kingdom). Star Wars Jedi: Survivor is at its best when you’re engrossed in exploring the larger hub planets, tackling foes old and new with fun Force powers and varying lightsaber stances that truly make you feel like a Jedi Knight.
The Force is strong with this one. Wait. Wrong IP that kicked off with a hero’s journey about a gifted orphan with magical powers. Hogwarts Legacy ditches the Harry Potter era, rewinding the clock to a point in the timeline where developers Avalanche Software are free to get creative with their wands. And get creative they do. Even as someone who thinks Harry Potter is just fine, there’s no denying the magical experience of playing through Hogwarts Legacy. Build your own wizard, then set out on a mystery-driven story with a honed gameplay loop. The expansive game world is stuffed with fun things to do and, if my play-through is any indication, there are around 30 hours of (mostly) main-path content before you hit the credits.
Resident Evil 4
Apparently never having played the original Resident Evil 4 is some kind of gamer sin. So I was relieved to hear that Capcom was giving RE4 the remake treatment. While not perfect, there’s a lot to like about the basics. The graphics are incredible, particularly on a high-end PC. The larger-than-life story is an acquired taste, but absolutely at its best when it's more camp than serious. Plus, there’s so much to do outside of the main path that it’s a checkbox-loving completionist dream. And that’s without taking the prospect of a New Game Plus run into account. If you prefer your survival-horror games closer to Aliens than Alien, the shoot-happy Resident Evil 4 is absolutely worth checking out.
Lego 2K Drive
Even if you’re not big on driving games, it’s hard to zip past the appeal of Lego 2K Drive in a game name that says it all. It’s got Lego. It’s got racing. And it’s published by 2K. Unfortunately, that latter part means there is some ickiness when it comes to charging full price and recouping extra costs via microtransactions. Ickiness aside, Lego 2K Drive is an absolute blast even if you don’t love racing games. The tutorial eases you into the proceedings of an open-world racer where your Lego ride automatically transforms between on-road, off-road and water-taming forms. There’s lots to see, stacks to unlock, and you’ve gotta love that destroying Lego props is so actively encouraged that it fills your boost meter.
Let’s do the disclaimer dance first. There are a lot of problems with Everspace 2, most notably in how much it wastes your time. It’s scary to think how many hours I lost travelling between points rather than having a viable fast-travel system (which is never truly offered). Then again, I’ve put in 70 hours, and I really enjoyed the vast majority of that time. Everspace 2 is at its best when you’re caught in the barrel-roll of exploration and space combat. Some of the environments are truly breathtaking. And in appropriately levelled fights—yes, it’s got some RPG systems that aren’t always perfectly implemented—it’s the most fun I’ve had engaging in space dogfights since the Wing Commander days. Sure, it’s more arcadey than sim, but the ‘Diablo in space’ pitch goes a long way to setting expectations for just how addictive Everspace 2 is when it’s firing on all cylinders.
Early Access games to watch in 2023
It’s common these days for games to be in varying degrees of playable preview state ahead of launch. You’ll most frequently find these Early Access games on Steam or as part of the Xbox Game Preview program. Either way, they’re not fully cooked, but that doesn’t mean you can’t have fun if you’re playing them ahead of launch.
Sons of the Forest
The Forest consumed many hours of my life during multiple periods of its pre-release and post-release life. Sons of the Forest is poised to do the same thing. The biggest disappointment is that a full-fledged release date turned into early access, and it was very clear Sons of the Forest wasn’t ready for launch when it hit Steam in February 2023. But that didn’t stop me from blitzing through all of its main content in the first 24 hours of launch. Basically, the later you read this recommendation, the more rewarding your Sons of the Forest experience will be. Survive on an island brimming with secrets and teeming with hostile threats. This is absolutely a survival experience best shared with friends.
Starship Troopers: Extermination
Apparently I’m such a sucker for the original Starship Troopers movie that I’ll play any game linked to its ultra-satirical, ultra-gory tone. There were Starship Troopers games of old but, more recently, I mostly enjoyed my time with RTS Starship Troopers: Terran Command. And now there’s Starship Troopers: Extermination. In its early access launch state, there’s not a lot outside of a proof of concept for Extermination. You and up to 16 other players choose from one of three roles and battle your way through waves of Arachnid bugs. There was seemingly only one map and mode when I played, not to mention no Australian servers. Still, if Offworld Industries can build on the promise of incentivising randoms to work together while endlessly quoting the 1997 flick, this may end up being worth the price of admission.
Backbone One iPhone controller
Corsair Sabre RGB Pro Wireless
*Pricing and deals only accurate as of last page update.
God of War Ragnarök
God of War Ragnarök is a beautiful ending to Kratos’ foray into Norse mythology. The returning characters soar. Some of the new ones evolve to be as endearing as the familiar faces. But, ultimately, it’s the heart of the story—the Kratos and Atreus tale—that carries the most weight and packs a suitably satisfying punch. The combat has been expanded in some areas, albeit without addressing some of the flaws of the old game. It’s held back, too, by what feels like PS4 concessions in some areas. But when God of War Ragnarök is firing on all cylinders, it’s a glorious romp with a wealth of content that’s difficult to put down.
Marvel's Midnight Suns
For those with a strategic streak, Firaxis Game is something of a known quantity. The studio have been bouncing between X-COM and Civilization for about a decade now. Each new major release has been solid, but rarely surprising.
In that context, Marvel's Midnight Suns makes a compelling argument for letting Firaxis off the leash. Tear away the temptation to stick to its comfort zone, and the results speak for themselves.
Midnight Suns could have been another X-COM. Instead, it might be the next X-COM. It's a fresh and unique blend of genres that steals from the best and shows off what Firaxis can do when freed from the shackles of its most iconic franchises.
The Last of Us Part I
The Last of Us Part I is a beautifully recreated remake and the best version of the game, but it sure is pricey. Of course, there’s extra fidelity, but there’s also extra detail added to the game world to make it feel more lived-in. Naturally, the incredible story and well-rounded characters remain untouched.
It’s a shame The Last of Us Part I wasn’t gunning for 4K, 60fps in Fidelity mode, and some of the gameplay hasn’t aged particularly well. Still, none of that can hold back The Last of Us Part I from being a triumph worth revisiting.
I typically can't stand open world games. They often feel pointless, like busy work designed to pad out your play time. Elden Ring is one of the rare exceptions.
The expansive world is meticulously crafted, and it's truly a joy to explore. And despite being the latest in a lineage of brutally difficult games, Elden Ring manages to be a whole lot more accessible thanks to some smart mechanical changes and a more fluid structure. A must play.
Neon White is a first-person parkour game where you play as a deceased amnesiac forced to prove yourself worthy of getting into heaven by running, jumping and shooting your way to the top of the leaderboard. The freakish combination of card-based gunplay, first-person platforming, vaporwave-ish visuals and quirky writing makes for a fast, furious and fun time regardless of your previous experience with speed-centric shooters. Neon White isn’t perfect, but it’s a delightful, if brisk, change of pace to pretty much everything that mainstream video gaming has to offer in 2022.
Dune: Spice Wars
It’s only just entered Early Access, but Shiro Games’ take on Frank Herbert’s Dune is already dripping with flavor, texture and potential that feels wholly unique to it.
Spice Wars blurs the lines between the 4X and real-time strategy genres, while leaning into every delicious opportunity afforded to it by the subject material.
Each of the four playable factions currently in the game provides a different way to dominate Arrakis, with diplomatic advantages and economic smarts proving to be just as valuable and interesting as military might.
PowerWash Simulator is exactly what it says on the tin, but it's also so, so much more. I've never been a huge fan of the [insert mundane activity here] simulator game genre, but this bad boy had me hooked immediately. I can't even put my finger on what it is exactly that's so good, but it is just SO GOOD. Like, blink-and-five-hours-have-passed good. There's a bit of a story in there, which is weird and wacky and fun, plus some quirky easter eggs to find, but the true joy comes from simply disassociating with the chaos that is the real world and letting the white noise of the power washer lull you into a state of pure bliss. And the before-and-afters at the end of each level? They did more for my mental health than any therapist ever could.
If you loved Until Dawn, you’re going to love The Quarry. While The Quarry does have some neat new tricks up its sleeves, the reasons to return to this spiritual successor are much the same.
You’ll learn to love or loathe characters based on clever writing and great performances, plus there are some compelling mysteries to drive everything forward.
Still, exploration is a chore because of clunky movement controls, which disincentivises you from uncovering all the mysteries The Quarry has to offer.
NORCO is all about atmosphere. The less you know about it, the better, but in short, expect a Southern Gothic Sci-Fi point-and-click adventure drenched in magical realism.
It's a pretty short title, and it’s a little too easy to get caught up in its weird yet wonderful story and finish it in a sitting or two.
Cats! Cyberpunk aesthetics! Robot friends! What more could you want in a game? Stray is a third-person adventure developed by BlueTwelve Studio in which you control our adorable, nameless feline hero through obstacles and puzzles in a beautifully realised open world inspired by Kowloon Walled City. You can nuzzle up against NPCs, snooze in comfy spots, meow, knock over glasses and cans, and generally just be a total menace. The story, art design and music are all phenomenal, but it's the unique gameplay and platforming that comes with playing a cat that truly won me over.
God of War (PC)
For those who didn’t get to play God of War on its original PlayStation 4 release or upgraded PlayStation 5 version, there’s now a non-PlayStation way to play one of the best games of last-gen.
Even though I don’t tend to replay games in their entirety a few short years after release, I was immediately re-immersed and fully compelled to play through the entirety of God of War again on PC. Minor port woes and the odd performance hiccup aside, the core God of War experience is as good as it was on PlayStation. Hell, if you have a powerful enough PC, it’s an even better experience, with the option for uncapped frame rates and beyond-PlayStation gorgeousness.
Pokémon Legends: Arceus
I have loved Pokémon games since Pokémon Blue on the Game Boy, but even as a lifelong fan, I can admit that the games are pretty damn formulaic. That's why Arceus appealed to me so much when it was announced. A (semi) open-world Pokémon game? At this time of year, at this time of day, in this part of the country, located entirely within my Nintendo Switch? Yes, I was hooked within the first five minutes. Though the story is much of the same (not that anyone plays Pokémon for the story, anyway) and the graphics aren't the best, the fresh gameplay additions and revamped Pokédex system were more than enough to land it a place in my top five games of the year.
Dying Light 2
Dying Light 2 builds on and improves the original game in all the right ways: from boosted parkour to meatier combat and better mission variety (not just fetch quests). You feel the impact you have on the game world with some meaningful choices.
It can feel overwritten at times and the main story drags on in a Return of the King kind of way, which holds it back from truly soaring. Fans of the first game will feel right at home, though, and newcomers are more than welcome. Ultimately, Dying Light 2 has an addictive gameplay loop, best-in-class parkour and plenty of reasons to keep coming back.
13 Sentinels: Aegis Rim
13 Sentinels: Aegis Rim launched to rave reviews when it launched on PlayStation 4 in 2019, but I didn't get around to playing it until it released on Nintendo Switch this year.
Part visual novel, part real-time strategy mech combat extravaganza, 13 Sentinels is a gripping sci-fi that deftly weaves together 13 intertwining stories. While that could easily become overwhelming in a lesser game, 13 Sentinels manages to stick the landing.
The bite-sized structure of both its combat and narrative arcs makes 13 Sentinels a perfect fit for the Switch.
Two Point Campus
Ever used to complain about how your uni was run? Two Point Campus lets you put your money (or, more accurately, Kudosh) where your mouth is. The successor to the ridiculous and addicting Two Point Hospital, Two Point Campus allows you to build and manage your own university campus, which offers such courses as Virtual Normality, Wizardry, Knight School and Money Wangling. As a big fan of Two Point Hospital, I had high hopes for its scholarly sequel. Thankfully, it's even better than expected, offering a fresh, new take on a fun formula.
Developed by Jump Over The Age, Citizen Sleeper is a narratively-charged role playing game where you play as a virtual person in a mechanical body. After fleeing your corporate overlords and finding sanctuary on a space station called Erlin’s Eye, you’ll have to find a way to make ends meet and build connections with the community around you.
With dice-based mechanics inspired by tabletop roleplaying and a setting brought to life through fantastic writing, stylish art and fresh twists on familiar tropes, Citizen Sleeper is the rare RPG that guides you into the same addictive mentality that’s often found with strategy games like Civilization. Come for the cyberpunk vibes. Stay for…just one more turn.
Kirby's Dream Buffet
A multiplayer-centric title that plays like a hybrid of Fall Guys, Katamari Damacy and Mario Party, Kirby Dream Buffet is the video game equivalent of picking up your favorite snack at the checkout counter. It’s not particularly fulfilling or complicated, but it is delightful to relish in the moment.
Played over a set of four rounds with varying objectives, Dream Buffet is a competitive 3D platformer that tasks you with completing various objectives and emerging with the most points overall. The more points you earn, the bigger your Kirby grows in size. You unlock new outfits, colors and icons as you play, but there’s not a microtransaction in sight and no in-game unlock can rival the pure sense of playful glee that comes with using the right power-up to steal victory at the last possible moment.
My colleague, one Fergus John Halliday, is trying to kill me. Or at least systematically eliminating the little free time I have. He’s screwed me twice this year: first when he introduced me to Dune: Spice Wars, and second with the App Store’s latest flavour of crack, Marvel Snap.
The App Store is littered with so many low-quality Marvel games that I didn’t give Marvel Snap a second thought at first. But upon hearing an old dealer of mine (ex-Hearthstone) was behind it, I decided to risk it.
I’m thankful that I did and disgusted at myself for the hours I’ve sunk in since launch. Snap is a free-to-play (F2P) game where you unlock new cards and variants through raw gameplay or purchasable currency. Like most F2P games, the high of unlocking these bonuses becomes harder to reach the longer you play. Credit where it’s due though, Second Dinner has created a reasonable balance between microtransactions and free play. The stream of rewards might slow, but my motivation to grind never faded.
Full disclosure: I did end up chucking $15 at it as a token of gratitude. I think I got a chibi Hawkeye or something dumb like that.
A digital adaptation of the bestselling board game, Gloomhaven plays like a cross between X-COM, Slay the Spire and Dungeons & Dragons.
You and up to three friends take control of a motley crew of unique adventurers with varying strengths, weaknesses and skills. Together, you’ll complete encounters, collect loot and customize a deck of cards that determines your character's actions from turn-to-turn.
Gloomhaven is both a deck builder and a dungeon crawler rolled into one, with hundreds of hours of gameplay and none of the physical hassle that comes with its tabletop equivalent.
How we pick the best games
While we rigorously test consumer technology products, like smartphones, wireless earbuds and headphones, there's no right answer when it comes to picking the best games available. Our list is simply made up of the games that have brought our writers joy over 2022; the games that have challenged us, wowed us, and commanded far too much of our free time. Games we think more people should know about. Games we think you'll enjoy too.