When history looks back at gaming in 2023, it will say. ‘Wow, that was a big year”. The stars aligned to bring us a huge feast of big titles. We had ones that had always been planned for release, plus a few that slipped into the year after delays from COVID and the like.
We had plenty of, “We have taken the decision to push the release back so we can polish the final game”, announcements from studios as well, but the upshot was, that a lot of huge games came out within a short period of time, and if you attempted to play them all, you would undoubtedly have missed a few lesser-known titles that slipped under the radar.
So here is a run-down of the best games you may have missed while grinding away in Diablo IV, becoming obsessed with Game of the Year, Baldur’s Gate, or trying to decide if you actually liked Starfield or not.
2023’s best games you may have missed
For ease here, these games are not in a particular order. We suggest you check them all out if they are the kind of thing that appeals to you. There are hours to be lost in each though, be warned. Don’t make any plans.
Dave the Diver
DtD is, at its heart an indie game, albeit one that was released by a ‘big’ publisher. Forgetting all the semantics of trying to pigeonhole it into an area and looking at one was a crazy idea that was executed to perfection, and also happened to be lots of fun to play.
Dave the Diver sees you, as the diver in question, hired by a world-renowned sushi chef to help him stock his new restaurant full of increasingly weird and wonderful fish for his dishes.
This is where the diving comes in and you you need to constantly bring new and more exotic seafood up to the table, which you then need to serve as the orders come in. For a game that if you looked at a screenshot you might think was nice and relaxing, it’s not, it’s stress-induced panic at times and it’s brilliant.
Those three paragraphs above do not do Dave the Diver its true justice. You need to play it to understand.
Against the Storm
Against the Storm had been out for a good while in Early Access before dropping its V1 on Game Pass just a short while ago, but we had had an eye on it long before that. The village-building survival game hybrid turns out to be one of the most stressful games of the year at times as you struggle to keep your townsfolk of humans, beavers, and lizards alive against the constant storm looking to wipe you out.
At the heart of the game, you have a holy fire – the hearth – which you must keep burning at all times, all the while sending your ever-increasing number of villagers (hopefully increasing at ant rate) fed, watered, and sheltered.
Against the Storm is a resource gatherer at heart but also the roguelike elements bring a new challenge. It can be super difficult to keep everything running smoothly and all the time your fuel for the fire is dwindling. It is a 2023 must play.
Maybe the arrival of Oppenheimer has reinvigorated games containing nukes. Nuclear Option is a tactical flight sim that can be played with a controller should you so choose that is very early in development, but at this stage already has a ton of content, aircraft, and weaponry to play with, including nuclear warheads.
The UI is a bit clunky right now, but stick with it and you will soon be dogfighting across the skies, wondering if you will get close enough, or even need to drop that tactical nuke on the heart of the enemy.
It’s a game that may always lack the final polish but it is a lot of fun at this stage and the air-to-air combat handles well. If you like flying games, check it out on Steam.
2023 was the year Dwarf Fortress came to Steam. Potentially the most complex game of all time got a new user interface, tons of new content, and a price tag, having previously been free, but if you can get into the mind of Dwarf Fortress and shy away from the intimidating amount of work you will have to do with your dwarves, then it could take over your life.
One of the comments you will see about Vampire Survivors is that it is a ‘dopamine simulator’ – the reward response is certainly high in this one. Effectively a roguelike shoot ‘em-up of sorts with more than a flavor of classic Gauntlet, you will fight your way, with increasingly powerful weapons through masses, and we mean masses, of enemies as they swarm towards you from every direction.
Then you will die, then you will play again, and then you will wonder where the last four hours have gone. Oh, and it’s on Game Pass too.
Bang on Balls Chronicles
You have probably not heard of this. Almost certainly not played it, yet Bang on Balls Chronicles is one of the best games of the year. It has Overwhelmingly Positive reviews on Steam and the words of the devs describe it as: “A quirky, absolutely content-packed, destructible open-world sandbox adventure with combat, platforming, character customization, and collect-a-thon scavenger hunt experience. Play solo, 2-player split screen, or online co-op for up to 4 players. No paid cosmetic DLC nonsense.”
It’s so difficult to explain, so we will leave it in the hands of one capable Steam reviewer who says, “One of the most unique games I have ever played. In terms of presentation and how the mechanics collide with the setting, I have no reference to even compare this game. A lot of fun, a great amount of charm.”
Play Bang on Balls Chronicles immediately, please.
One Piece Odyssey
When playing through so many games this year, a game based on one of the longest-running Mangas ever, One Piece would probably not figure highly on a lot of lists, but One Piece Odyssey was fun, if weird if you don’t know the premise, well put together with an engaging storyline and feel to it.
There was tons to explore, lots of different tasks and puzzles and we find ourselves looking back fondly on a game that very few may have actually heard of, never mind played. Check it out.
These were just a few of Readwrite’s favorites that you might have missed. There are many more great games too. It’s just a shame 2023 might be remembered for the mass layoffs in the industry, rather than the exceptional innovation we got to see.
Featured image: Pavel Danilyuk / Pexels