2023 has already been a big year when it comes to video games. It doesn’t matter whether you own a PlayStation 5 or a Nintendo Switch, there’s been something for everybody so far. Whether it’s spectacular indie games that have become hidden gems or AAA releases from big publishers, the year has been filled with some highly acclaimed and successful games.
Xbox owners have been particularly spoiled for choice in 2023 so far, with some great first-party releases on Xbox Game Pass along with a series of high-profile remakes. Of course, there are also some impressive multiplatform games that have been released over the last six months on the Xbox family of consoles, giving players a wide variety of titles to try out.
Out of the many games that have been released for the Xbox Series X|S and Xbox One this year, these are the very best. As a quick note, these games are not presented in any particular order but rest assured all of them are worth checking out.
Dead Island 2
The “Dead Island” is a zombie-based action RPG franchise that first made its debut in 2011 with the release of the original “Dead Island.” Since that time, there have been a number of spin-offs and follow-ups, including “Dead Island: Riptide” and “Escape Dead Island.” However, a proper sequel in the form of “Dead Island 2” didn’t arrive until April 2023. Hopes for the second mainline entry in the series were not particularly high after almost a decade in development hell as several different outlets worked on the title before being replaced by publisher Deep Silver and developer Dambuster Studios.
Like its predecessors, “Dead Island 2” sees players take on the role of one of several playable characters as Los Angeles is subjected to a zombie outbreak. The various regions of the open world can be explored without any set directions, while upgrades and enhancements can be attained through cards with a deck-building system. Meanwhile, the sequel also features FLESH, a mechanic that determines the realistic injuries zombies suffer from as a result of your attacks, with truly gruesome and spectacular results. “Dead Island 2” offers plenty of chaotic fun and looks great as well, making the long wait worth it.
Wo Long: Fallen Dynasty
KOEI TECMO GAMES
Developed by Team Ninja, “Wo Long: Fallen Dynasty” is an action RPG that is set during the fall of the Han Dynasty during ancient Chinese history. Despite the historical setting, though, this game is a fictional retelling that isn’t bogged down by a requirement to stick to real-life facts. Players take on the role of a protagonist tasked with hunting down those who have been corrupted by a demonic version of the life force known as Qi.
Much of the gameplay in “Wo Long: Fallen Dynasty” is based around the fast-paced brutal combat as players confront various enemies. Successful fighting requires players to time strikes and blocks, parrying opponents to open them up to a barrage of attacks. The game also utilizes magic spells and provides a selection of divine beasts that can offer bonuses to certain skills or enable powerful special abilities.
The 2023 game is certainly a step up from the studio’s earlier “Nioh” games and fixes many of the complaints players and critics’ had with those titles. The addition of a miracle system that gives a good indication of how difficult an opponent is to fight is a good example of this.
The Mageseeker: A League of Legends Story
Created by Digital Storm and Riot, “The Mageseeker: A League of Legends Story” is a spin-off of the popular MOBA “League of Legends.” As you might expect from the studio that previously launched “Moonlighter,” this is a very different experience from what fans of “League of Legends” are used to. “The Mageseeker” is actually an action RPG with a focus on a single character.
In the game, players take on the role of Sylas, a mage who has broken free from his shackles and is determined to free his people from the tyranny of the Mageseekers. These corrupt officials hate magic users and do everything they can to contain them, from forced indoctrination to incarceration in secret dungeons. Leading a rebellion, players can choose from a wide array of different spells and abilities, taking the fight to the Mageseekers in their own unique ways.
Drawing praise for its simple gameplay, engrossing story, and beautiful visuals, “The Mageseekers” manages to appeal to both fans of the larger franchise and complete newcomers.
Despite the fact that Microsoft purchased Bethesda, Xbox users still had to wait quite a while to get their hands on “GhostWire: Tokyo.” The studio had previously signed a one-year timed exclusivity deal with Sony, ensuring the game remained on PlayStation 5 throughout 2022. When that deal came to an end in April, Xbox Series X|S owners finally got the chance to try out the action-adventure game.
Set in a futuristic version of the Japanese city, “GhostWire: Tokyo” tells a compelling story about a young boy who becomes possessed by a spirit following a road traffic accident. The two beings then work together to try and stop the villainous Hannya from enacting his plan to capture souls and start a demonic ritual. They do this by using magic-like paranormal abilities to attack the various spirits now plaguing Tokyo, using rapid hand movements to cast these psychic skills.
Played from a first-person perspective, the game received widespread praise for its striking presentation and distinctive story in addition to the quirky side quests. While some complained about the slow pace of the combat, “GhostWire: Tokyo” has enough to justify having players give it a go — especially as it is available to download via Xbox Game Pass.
Star Wars Jedi: Survivor
EA switched focus for its “Star Wars” games in 2019 with the release of “Star Wars Jedi: Fallen Order,” allowing Respawn Entertainment to craft a true single-player experience that was lauded as one of the best games based on the sci-fi franchise to ever be made. Considering the success of the game it almost seemed certain that there would be a sequel sooner rather than later, so it wasn’t a huge surprise when the studio revealed it was working on a second entry in its new series.
“Star Wars Jedi: Survivor” is set some five years after the events of the first game. Now an established Jedi, Cal Kestis continues in his struggle to fight against the threat of the Galactic Empire and its allies while also trying to find a suitable location for him and his friends to remain hidden from potential threats. The game features largely the same gameplay as its predecessor outside of some notable changes, including the addition of new stances and Force abilities alongside an emphasis on larger and more densely populated levels.
Even with some technical issues at launch, “Star Wars Jedi: Survivor” is undoubtedly a great game that looks impressive and improves upon almost everything from the first game to create a must-play “Star Wars” game.
Age of Empires II: Definitive Edition
Xbox Game Studios
In celebration of the 20th anniversary of the release of “Age of Empires 2: The Age of Kings” in 2019, Microsoft and Forgotten Empires remastered the game for modern hardware. Unfortunately, Xbox users had to wait until the beginning of this year to get access to this new version of the real-time strategy game, which is now available on PC, Xbox One, and Xbox Series X|S.
“Age of Empires II: Definitive Edition” takes the original game and applies a significant amount of upgrades to bring it up to scratch compared to more recent releases. This included completely reworked models, textures, and visuals as well as support for 4K resolutions. That makes the game far more enjoyable to play as it looks better than it ever has. Meanwhile, the developer has also included every piece of “Age of Empires II” content that has previously been released, including all DLC and expansions in addition to a brand new series of campaigns.
Receiving almost universally positive reviews, “Age of Empires II: Definitive Edition” is the best way to experience an influential game that helped define the real-time strategy genre. Particular praise was also given to the way that the controls were adapted to work well on a controller, getting rid of the need to use a keyboard and mouse.
A surprise release that was first announced in January and launched on exactly the same day, “Hi-Fi Rush” is an action game that uses rhythm-based combat. Set in a sort of dystopian future, the player takes on the role of Chai, a cybernetically enhanced individual who is being hunted by the corporation that was responsible for implanting him with the defective music player that gives him his unique abilities.
Developed by Tango Gameworks and published by Bethesda Softworks, “Hi-Fi Rush” largely follows Chai as he must navigate the world and fight enemies to progress the campaign. There are also a series of minigames that depend on pressing buttons in time with the music or in response to on-screen cues. The gameplay challenge generally comes from having to perfectly time button presses to cause the most damage or avoid an obstacle.
Hitting Xbox Game Pass on release day, “Hi-Fi Rush” shocked gamers and critics as few had any idea it was even in development before it was announced. The stylish and colorful visuals combined with the unique gameplay and licensed music ensured that it received plenty of plaudits, being heavily recommended by the vast majority of critics.
Warner Bros. Interactive Entertainment
Despite being one of the biggest entertainment franchises in the world, with a range of insanely popular books and films, the “Harry Potter” series hasn’t had a long or successful history in terms of video games. That all changed in 2023 with the release of “Hogwarts Legacy,” an action RPG from Avalanche Software and Warner Bros. Games.
Set almost 200 years before the events of the mainline “Harry Potter” series during the height of the Goblin Rebellion. You take on the role of a student who joins Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry during the fifth year. Discovering that they are able to wield an ancient type of magic that has tremendous power, they work with Professor Fig to prevent the goblin Ranrok and the dark wizard Victor Rookwood from finding the source of the power.
With a third-person perspective, the gameplay involves using various spells to battle enemies, solve puzzles, and travel around the environment — which includes the school, the village of Hogsmeade, the Forbidden Forest, and the surrounding areas. Combat works by choosing the right type of magic to cause the most damage while also protecting yourself or dodging attacks, which won praise for its fast pace and complexity.
EA revived the “Dead Space” franchise in 2023, with a remake of the 2008 game that first launched the franchise. Developed by Motive Studio, the survival horror game launched in January for PC, PlayStation, and Xbox. As was the case with the first game, players assume the role of Isaac Clarke, an engineer trapped aboard the repair ship USG Ishimura as its crew is mysteriously killed by hideous creatures known as Necromorphs. As one of the few survivors, Clarke is forced to use his engineering tools to battle the Necromorphs.
As a remake, “Dead Space” includes a wide array of improvements and enhancements compared to the original game. These include the fact that Clarke is now no longer a silent protagonist and is more involved in the story through cutscenes. Other welcome changes include the fact that weapons can be unlocked more easily as they don’t have to be purchased after finding a blueprint. Additionally, Necropmorphs can be destroyed in a more gruesome and spectacular fashion thanks to the newly added peeling system.
The stunning visuals, intelligent upgrades made to the gameplay mechanics, and narrative updates make this version of “Dead Space” the definitive way to play the game and see the story that led to one of EA’s most successful recent series.
Street Fighter 6
“Street Fighter 6” is the latest installment in the long-running fighting series, which first rose to popularity in the ’90s thanks to the release of “Street Fighter II.” Launched on June 2, Capcom chose to utilize the RE Engine for the game. It received widespread critical acclaim, hailed as one of the best fighting games to release in recent times.
The fighting game features three separate modes. These range from Fighting Ground, where players can take part in arcade matches and online versus matches, and the ranked Battle Hub where players can fight using their own created avatars. “Street Fighter 6” also comes with an excellent tutorial system that allows players to get to grips with every aspect of the game in an intuitive and easy way by playing through a single-player campaign known as the World Tour.
The new Drive Gauge mechanic allows players to customize how they play and experiment with different styles, while three different control schemes provide more accessibility options than ever before. It also includes the return of super combos and a real-time commentary system that gives blow-by-blow accounts of the action happening on the screen.
Resident Evil 4
Based on the 2005 game “Resident Evil 4,” this 2023 survival horror game is a remake by Capcom that makes a number of improvements to the original game thanks to the fact it is built using the RE Engine. Like its predecessor, the game sees the player controlling Leon S. Kennedy, a mainstay of the franchise who is forced to track down and defeat a cult known as Los Illuminados that has kidnapped Ashley Graham after the destruction of Raccoon City. At the same time, a parasitic infection known as Las Plagas is controlling local villagers, posing a threat to Kennedy and other survivors.
Compared to the original “Resident Evil 4,” the remake has become a faster-paced and more dynamic game. Players can use a variety of new mechanics, such as ducking behind cover, and a modernized combat system that more closely resembles releases such as “Resident Evil Village.” Ashley also follows Leon more closely and has a more sophisticated artificial intelligence system guiding her. Critics and fans have also praised changes made to the story and the updated character designs that make “Resident Evil 4” feel more real and more authentic.
While “Diablo Immortal” may not have been a high point for the series, Blizzard was seemingly determined to put things right with its latest game. “Diablo IV” is a proper return to the traditional “Diablo” formula as a dungeon crawler where players have to collect loot to unlock new equipment and gear. Launched in June, the game is available across PC, PlayStation, and Xbox, and includes five different playable classes.
Like earlier games in the series, “Diablo IV” has a strong focus on grinding through dungeons, character building, and skill trees. It also went back to the more mature and dark visual style that the franchise became known for during its formative years. Already hailed as the greatest game in the series so far, it was praised for the improvements made compared to “Diablo III” and the hauntingly beautiful environments and character designs. Even the story gained attention for telling a more engrossing tale that was grounded in the struggles of normal people.