2023 has been full of the unexpected. The first half of the year was led by a charge of remasters and remakes, like Metroid Prime Remastered and Dead Space, that actually understood the assignment and invited players to reflect on the marks left behind by the originals. Amid the too-intoxicating warmth of nostalgia, there were some personality-forward surprises, from Hi-Fi Rush to Season: A Letter to the Future, which kept things fresh and varied. System Shock, Dredge, Dave the Diver, and Venba all later latched on to the trend.
Yet 2023 is also a year of sequels and second opportunities. It feels like forever since the releases of Octopath Traveler 2, Star Wars Jedi: Survivor, and Diablo 4. It’s also possible that you skipped all of the former to plunge into The Legend of Zelda: Tears of the Kingdom instead.
As we get closer to yet another busy season, the likes of Baldur’s Gate 3 and Armored Core 6 have brought new life and captivated mainstream audiences to storied, niche franchises. The rest of 2023 seems to be following suit.
Some of the games on this list are set on honoring their influences. Others aim to capitalize on the ideas that built them up, or turn the page to start a new chapter altogether. It’ll take a few months and a couple hundred hours to see if they all meet their goals and players’ expectations. At the very least, no one can deny the breadth of inspiring experiences that 2023 continues to offer.
Mortal Kombat 1
The over-the-top fighting game features a new storyline, presenting a murderers’ row of fan-favorite characters building new relationships with one another. The combat (or kombat, if you will) continues to showcase the staple X-ray sequences, but things get shaken up with the Kameo system, which allows players to call on characters to perform certain actions, getting them out of trouble in a blink or being the bloody cherry on top of a long combo. It’s safe to say it won’t take long for the community to find ways to use Kameos in a devastating and not at all unbalanced fashion.
Mortal Kombat 1 will be released on Sept. 19 on Nintendo Switch, PlayStation 5, Windows PC, and Xbox Series X.
Lies of P
Pinocchio’s very bad day in Europe is drawing near. Mechanical puppets and extravagant creatures have taken control of humanity, and it’s your duty to uncover the truth behind a puppet virus. Lies of P seems to have been influenced by Soulsborne games, namely Bloodborne’s gritty environments and compulsive combat that encourages fast reactions as opposed to standing back from the fray.
Along with the imaginative setting, weapons seem to take a starring role in the experience. Fable Arts, for example, are magical abilities unique to each weapon you find, such as opening an umbrella to parry an attack or doing a flurry with a two-handed sword. Pinocchio also makes use of the Legion Arm, which, similar to Devil May Cry 5’s Nero, can take different shapes and forms, from a flamethrower to a grappling hook to get closer to enemies. Nothing has been said about Pinocchio’s nose yet, so we’ll have to wait to find out if there’s a hidden mechanic involved.
Lies of P will be released on Sept. 19 on PlayStation 4, PlayStation 5, Windows PC, Xbox One, and Xbox Series X.
Very few heists carry as much personality as the ones in the Payday universe. Payday 3 leaves Washington D.C. for New York City with an array of new locations to steal from. The signature elements of the previous games are still present, such as the careful planning of a stealth approach or choosing to the biggest weapon available to start blasting instead. But Payday 3 promises to expand the skills and progression systems in a major way.
Now, the money you, uh, borrow can be exchanged for C-Stacks, a crypto-like currency that allows you to purchase weapons, cosmetics, and special upgrades in-game. There’s a weekly reset, too, with the devs varying the pool of items available (and no, there are no microtransactions involved). Skill trees have been replaced by more specific perk groups, focused on close-quarters combat, hacking and tactician skills, and others. If you’re keen on perfecting your robbery abilities by learning the ins and outs of each heist, it seems there’ll be no shortage of rewards for your efforts.
Payday 3 will be released on Sept. 21 on PlayStation 5, Windows PC, and Xbox Series X.
Cyberpunk 2077: Phantom Liberty
If you still can’t listen to “I Really Want to Stay at Your House” without crying a bit about Cyberpunk: Edgerunners, well, Cyberpunk 2077: Phantom Liberty might alleviate the pain with a new chapter in this universe. In this spy-thriller adventure, protagonist V is taken to Dogtown, a district where you’ll have to rescue a highly sought target.
Perhaps the most interesting additions in this expansion are the overhauls of many existing Cyberpunk 2077 elements. Cyberware has been redesigned to amplify your augmentation options. Vehicle combat now allows you to jump off bikes for a surprise attack or to shoot while driving. New skill trees allow for mixing and matching new dynamic perks. Phantom Liberty is as much a new chapter as a second chance to revisit original foundations. And hey, even if you don’t purchase the DLC, you’ll still get most of the overhauls in the base game.
Cyberpunk 2077: Phantom Liberty will be released on Sept. 26 on PlayStation 5, Windows PC, and Xbox Series X.
Mineko’s Night Market
Over the past few years, Mineko’s Night Market has been a consistent appearance in indie game showcases. After a long wait, we’ll finally be paying Mount Fugu a visit.
In this social simulation adventure game, you’re entrusted with running a booth in the night market, while also taking part in all sorts of activities, like cat racing, cat petting, and cat mystery solving. You’ll also get to harvest materials to craft different items, sneak around suspicious agents, and befriend the townsfolk across four in-game seasons. Did I mention there are tons of cats?
Mineko’s Night Market will be released on Sept. 26 on Nintendo Switch and Windows PC. The PlayStation 4, PlayStation 5, and Xbox One versions will be released on Oct. 26.
Cocoon poses the question: Can beetles travel between worlds? It seems that, at least for the protagonist, that is the case. This adventure game tasks you with solving puzzles in different worlds that are contained inside orbs. Taking one with you allows you not just to visit the location therein, but also open paths to other places — a previously hidden bridge to an unexplored corner, platforms that trigger switches, and so on.
The shift between worlds is an instantaneous endeavor, adding an interesting layer to exploration. Each region poses its own threats, however, including encounters against guardians with their own mechanics to learn and make use of in order to survive and continue the path forward.
Cocoon will be released on Sept. 29 on Nintendo Switch, PlayStation 4, PlayStation 5, Windows PC, Xbox One, and Xbox Series X.
Hellboy Web of Wyrd
Mike Mignola’s signature comic book art style is brought to the 3D realm in Hellboy Web of Wyrd. The roguelite brawler is hellbent on flaunting the half-demon bluntness and slow movement as opposed to dexterity. Think Zeno Clash’s methodic fistfighting as opposed to the lightning-fast prowess of Zagreus in Hades.
Taking you through procedurally generated levels imbued in the comic books’ lore, you’re tasked to punch and grunt your way through undead knights and all sorts of creatures. Upon your inevitable demise, you’ll reconvene in the Butterfly House, the base of operations for the Bureau for Paranormal Research and Defense, where you’ll chat with other characters. Considering the setting, it’s only fitting for Hellboy to be voiced by the late Lance Reddick.
Hellboy Web of Wyrd will be released on Oct. 4 on Nintendo Switch, PlayStation 4, PlayStation 5, Windows PC, Xbox One, and Xbox Series X.
Assassin’s Creed Mirage
If you can’t afford to spend hundreds of hours on another Assassin’s Creed game, good news: Assassin’s Creed Mirage promises a shorter experience influenced by the original roots of the series.
Taking cues from Altair’s story in the first game, Mirage seems to focus on the stealth elements that were methodically toned down with each subsequent entry, while presenting a much more self-contained affair. Through the eyes of Basim, you’ll explore the streets of ninth-century Baghdad, getting tangled in an ancient organization to slowly become a staple assassin. If you’ve missed moving through crowds for eavesdropping while using different gadgets to infiltrate enemy strongholds unnoticed, Mirage seems like a much-needed change of pace.
Assassin’s Creed Mirage will be released on Oct. 5 on PlayStation 4, PlayStation 5, Windows PC, Xbox One, and Xbox Series X.
Detective Pikachu Returns
Detective Pikachu Returns has you once again playing as the hard-boiled detective of the Pokémon universe in order to locate a missing citizen of Ryme City while drinking massive amounts of coffee.
Expanding on the mechanics of the first game, Detective Pikachu Returns once again has you investigate crime scenes, talk to witnesses, and slowly build a case to solve the latest mystery in town. Some Pokémon will provide aid, too, allowing access to blocked paths and sniffing out clues. If you ever wondered about Detective Pikachu’s deductive skills, here’s a great opportunity to put them to the test.
Detective Pikachu Returns will be released on Oct. 6 on Nintendo Switch.
Marvel’s Spider-Man 2
Insomniac’s take on Peter Parker and Miles Morales is raising the stakes, making good on the last five years of hinting at a crossover experience. In Marvel’s Spider-Man 2, the main story switches back and forth between the two, allowing you to switch protagonists on command while out in the open world.
As for the story, Peter will undergo the fan-favorite symbiote arc, gooey tentacles and raspy voice included. Miles, on the other hand, will focus on a stealth-oriented approach, making use of gadgets and his electric powers. Along with their own personal stories, Venom and Kraven the Hunter will be the star villains of the sequel.
Marvel’s Spider-Man 2 will be released on Oct. 20 on PlayStation 5.
Super Mario Bros. Wonder
If you miss the 2.5D days of Mario, good news: Super Mario Bros. Wonder is returning to the format with plenty of interesting ideas. Playing either alone or with up to three friends in local co-op, you’ll go through multiple courses picking up some very peculiar power-ups — including a transformation to Elephant Mario.
Bowsette ideations aside, Wonder’s twist to the side-scrolling formula takes the shape of Wonder Flowers. Upon interacting with them, pipes will sometimes twist and shapeshift in real time, and you’ll get to command a running spike ball, and also enlarge Mario and company in shadow worlds. From the looks of it, there’ll be plenty more strange occurrences to discover.
Super Mario Bros. Wonder will be released on Oct. 20 on Nintendo Switch.
Cities: Skylines 2
You built these cities, and now you’ll do it again. In Cities: Skylines 2, starting from the ground up, you’ll be in charge of terraforming, roads, infrastructure, and a living economy as you watch your virtual society grow over time.
Whether you want to build skyline upon skyline, take on the challenge of fighting pollution and sudden hazardous weather conditions, or follow the life paths of your citizens from routines to their overall moods, the possibilities are frankly overwhelming. For those accustomed to the genre, though, it’s an open door to a canvas for experimentation. Just be aware that citizens will voice their concerns on an in-game social media app.
Cities: Skylines 2 will be released on Oct. 24 on PlayStation 5, Windows PC, and Xbox Series X.
If you want a cool game to be even cooler, just add a motorbike. Ghostrunner 2 seems to be taking this idea to heart, expanding on the first-person slice-and-dice nature with all sorts of refinements and new ways to navigate its cyberpunk setting.
In terms of combat, you’re now able to block enemy attacks and projectiles. Blocking at the last possible second can sometimes leave enemies exposed to an execution. The visceral Hotline Miami-style snappiness is still present, but the tools available at your disposal are expanded, including new abilities to use alongside the signature sword. The motorbike, on the other hand, is set to explore movement variety in equally fast-paced sections where you dodge obstacles and use the environment to get to your next destination. If you’re into games where hitting retry dozens of times is part of the learning curve, Ghostrunner 2 is one to look forward to.
Ghostrunner 2 will be released on Oct. 26 on PlayStation 5, Windows PC, and Xbox Series X.
Alan Wake 2
It’s time to worry about deadlines again. Alan Wake 2 will finally answer where the fictional author has been for the past 13 years, while inevitably bringing more questions in the process. Thankfully, FBI agent co-protagonist Saga Anderson will help you to keep all facts in check as she investigates a series of murders in the Pacific Northwest à la True Detective, slowly building a detective board to piece her story and Wake’s together.
While the action may take cues from Resident Evil 4, developer Remedy Entertainment continues to build up its own expanded world of references too, with Alan Wake and Control both providing a foundation for the game (the Alan Wake Easter egg in Control wasn’t just for fun, it would seem). Expect to see a lot of live-action cutscenes and dramatic shadows as you explore the Dark Place and beyond. We can only hope Garth Marenghi finally gets a cameo.
Alan Wake 2 will be released on Oct. 27 on PlayStation 5, Windows PC, and Xbox Series X.
Outerloop Games, the studio behind Falcon Age, presents a stylish RPG that seems to include all the right elements to become a social media sensation. Thirsty Suitors mixes turn-based combat where you flirt and smooch as much as you punch and kick, and makes skateboarding and cooking core mechanics.
In the game, Jala, the playable character, confronts her exes Scott Pilgrim-style, mending past relationships before her sister’s wedding comes along and the awkward family questions begin. Everything about Thirsty Suitors brims with a sense of personality that we don’t get to see often, set on celebrating South Asian culture deliberately and playfully from the start.
Thirsty Suitors will be released on Nov. 2 on Nintendo Switch, PlayStation 4, PlayStation 5, Windows PC, Xbox One, and Xbox Series X.
Like a Dragon Gaiden: The Man Who Erased His Name
Just when he thought he was out, they pulled him back in. Kazuma Kiryu is once again tangled in Yakuza business after a simple protection gig blows out of proportion.
The Man Who Erased His Name promises to be a heartfelt story that serves as a bridge between Yakuza: Like a Dragon and the upcoming Like a Dragon: Infinite Wealth, and from early looks, Kiryu also has a few new tricks up his sleeve. Featuring brawler-type combat again, he will now face a larger number of enemies simultaneously, making use of the Agent fighting style. This includes high-tech gadgets as well as Spider-Man-like webs to tangle enemies together.
It seems you can never escape your past, especially when you’re the face of a franchise. But hey, if it all becomes too much, you can always hit up the local karaoke place for a quick break.
Like a Dragon Gaiden: The Man Who Erased His Name will be released on Nov. 9 on PlayStation 4, PlayStation 5, Windows PC, Xbox One, and Xbox Series X.
Persona 5 Tactica
The Persona 5 multiverse continues to expand itself across video game genres. Persona 5: Dancing All Night, Persona Q2, and Persona 5 Strikers saw the Phantom Thieves dancing, dungeon-crawling, and battling against enemy waves in frantic set-pieces. Persona 5 Tactica capitalizes on the XCOM blueprint instead for a tactical spin on turn-based combat.
This time, the gang ends up inside a chibi-style realm helping revolutionary Erina to fight against a tyrannical regime. Prepare to flank enemies in grid-based tactical fights, summon personas, and face corrupt adults one last time. Or at least until the next spinoff.
Persona 5 Tactica will be released on Nov. 17 on Nintendo Switch, PlayStation 4, PlayStation 5, Windows PC, Xbox One, and Xbox Series X.
Warhammer 40K: Rogue Trader
Warhammer 40K: Rogue Trader bets on this year’s CRPG obsession, presenting intense turn-based combat with a focus on exploring the vast pool of factions of this rich sci-fi universe.
Both inside and outside fight encounters, companions seem bound to take on a fundamental role in the experience. Despite a robust pool of skills and stats to further develop their capabilities, making the right decisions — both when speaking to key characters in the story as much as fighting Necrons — will make all the difference in how you approach this grim setting. Oh, and there’ll also be romance involved, in case you’re looking for a different CRPG love interest.
Warhammer 40K: Rogue Trader will be released this fall on Windows PC.