The gaming industry has fully emerged from the delays and development woes of the pandemic and post-pandemic years, leading to a year absolutely bursting with great games.

We didn’t get any new Pokémon games this year (other than the major DLC expansion for last year’s Scarlet and Violet), but Nintendo blessed us with huge releases in The Legend of Zelda: Tears of the Kingdom and Super Mario Bros. Wonder. It’s the first time both series saw new releases since the Switch debuted in 2017.

It was also a great year for fighting games, with the biggest franchises getting new entries in Mortal Kombat 1 and Street Fighter 6. Tactical-strategy fans feasted on Fire Emblem Engage, Age of Wonders 4, and Shadow Gambit: The Cursed Crew.

This year also saw major expansions that breathed new life into slightly older games, including Horizon Forbidden West: Burning Shores and Cyberpunk 2077: Phantom Liberty, and the aforementioned Pokémon Scarlet and Violet two-part DLC, The Hidden Treasure of Area Zero.

And we are firmly in the era of remasters and remakes. Games such as Tales of Symphonia Remastered, Advance Wars: 1+2 Re-Boot Camp, and Super Mario RPG are a great way to introduce the younger generation to updated versions of some of their parents’ favorite games (or enjoy the nostalgia trip!).

As always, make sure to double check ESRB ratings and platforms, and consider our age categories a general guide for most gamers. Unless specifically noted as current-gen only, games are also available for last-gen consoles.

Younger Kids (Under 10)

Disney Dreamlight Valley

Platforms: PC, PlayStation, Switch, Xbox
For fans of: Animal Crossing, life sims, Disney characters

Disney-themed life sim Disney Dreamlight Valley made our Gift Guide last year when it arrived on Early Access. A year later, it’s now officially launching in Early December, with several major updates and additions, alongside a new paid expansion that doubles the size of the world.

Disney Speedstorm

Platforms: PC, Mobile, PlayStation, Switch, Xbox
For fans of: Mario Kart, Disney, racing

Disney’s answer to the Mario Kart series is free-to-play, live service racing game Speedstorm, which officially left Early Access earlier this year. Players earn new Disney character racers and custom parts for their kart while racing in competitive online and solo modes through regular seasonal updates and passes.

Pikmin 4

Platforms: Switch
For fans of: Real-time strategy, 3D puzzles, good doggos

The Pikmin series has been a quirky but beloved series of real-time strategy games, as players direct the tiny flower people to solve puzzles and defeat enemies. Pikmin 4 introduces new Pikmin types, a friendly dog companion, and a new night-time cycle that amps up aggressive enemies. For the first time players can also customize their avatar as they work to rescue series protagonist Captain Olimar.

Sonic Superstars

Platforms: PC, PlayStation, Switch, Xbox
For fans of: Going fast, Super Mario Bros. Wonder, Couch co-op

Sonic is enjoying a bit of a renaissance in recent years, both in 3D and 2D. Superstars is a classic side-scrolling platformer created after the success of 2017’s Sonic Mania. Superstars features co-op multiplayer with up to four players, featuring Sonic, Tails, Knuckles, and Amy Rose as playable characters.

Super Mario Bros. Wonder

Platforms: Switch
For fans of: Mario platformers, Super Mario Bros. U, Couch co-op

Although Mario is famous for the entire platforming genre, most of his entries over recent years have been in 3D. Super Mario Bros. Wonder is a return to the classic 2D platforming genre, last seen in 2014’s New Super Mario Bros. U. As in that game, up to four local players can explore the new Flower Kingdom together, activating the new Flower power-ups for trippy effects.

Super Mario RPG

Platforms: Switch
For fans of: 90s console RPGs, entry-level RPGs

One of my favorite childhood games received a most worthy remake in the simply titled Super Mario RPG. The remake proves that the then-novel infusion of the endearing Mario world with the increasingly popular RPG genre of turn-based battles and sweeping stories is a timeless triumphant of great game design. With a simple story and linear world, Super Mario RPG also makes a great starter RPG for kids.

Disney Lorcana Trading Card Game

Platforms: Tabletop card game
For fans of: Disney animation, Magic: The Gathering, Pokémon Trading Card Game

From renowned family gaming publisher Ravensburger comes a perfect storm: a collectible trading card game with the juggernaut Disney license. It helps that Lorcana is also a great game to play, a perfect middle ground between Pokémon Trading Card Game and Magic: The Gathering. Its incredible popularity (and collectability) has lead to severe shortages in stock, but the second wave of cards and a reprint of the first wave is expected to hit this December.

Older Kids & Teens (10-16)

Dave the Diver

Platforms: PC, Switch
For fans of: Diving, cooking, pixel art

Dave the Diver emerged completely out of left field as one of the most endearing and interesting indie games of the year. By day the titular Dave dons his wetsuit to explore an ever-changing underwater environment, finding new items and battling creatures. At night he manages a sushi restaurant, doing everything from hiring employees to making the food. The blend of multiple genres and minigames is a triumph, anchored by a fun story.

Fire Emblem Engage

Platforms: Switch
For fans of: Turn-based tactical combat, Fire Emblem fan service

Fire Emblem fans have been eating well lately, and Fire Emblem Engage may as well be Fire Emblem: Fan Service. Using magic rings, characters can summon Fire Emblem heroes from past games to fight alongside them, unlocking powerful new abilities, as well as the series’ trademark bond levels and relationships. The game otherwise doesn’t stray too far from the successful tactical turn-based battlefields and social hub formula from Fire Emblem: Three Houses.

Hogwarts Legacy

Platforms: PC, PlayStation, Switch, Xbox
For fans of: Harry Potter, spellcasting, prequels

Harry Potter fans eagerly ate up the best game ever set in the Wizarding World with Hogwarts Legacy. Hogwarts Legacy’s big budget, open world adventure lets players create their own student witch or wizard at Hogwarts, 100 years before the events of the books or movies, as they learn to craft potions, cast spells, defeat monsters, and uncover a sinister plot.

The Legend of Zelda: Tears of the Kingdom

Platforms: Switch
For fans of: Zelda, Breath of the Wild, Massively open-world games

The sequel to 2017’s blockbuster open world adventure Breath of the Wild, Tears of the Kingdom is an equally humongous open world adventure starring everyone’s favorite Hylian hero. Tears of the Kingdom expands the world with sky islands and a large underworld, and Link can employ his new Ultrahand ability to make platforms and construct complex vehicles.

Marvel’s Midnight Suns

Platforms: PC, PlayStation, Xbox
For fans of: Card battlers, Marvel superheroes, turn-based tactical combat

Midnight Suns technically released late last year in December, just missing our Holiday Guide. The amazingly fun, big budget card battler flew under everyone’s radar, despite its stellar voice casting, nifty story, and tight tactical gameplay. From the developers of XCOM, Midnight Suns is a unique blend of 3D, character-based card battling as you bring allies such as Blade, Captain Marvel, and Iron Man into missions by customizing decks and deploying ability cards.

Marvel’s Spider-Man 2

Platforms: PlayStation 5
For fans of: Superheroes, Spider-Man, Batman: Arkham series

Spider-Man 2 is the fun follow-up to both 2018 Spider-Man and 2020’s Spider-Man: Miles Morales. By starring both plucky protagonists, the game’s story richly expands into multiple plot threads, tasks, and quests around an expanded New York City. Web-swinging through the streets and rooftops of NYC has never been more fun, and the sequel showcases another great collection of familiar Spider-Man villains such as Mysterio, Kraven, and Venom.

Octopath Traveler 2

Platforms: PC, PlayStation, Switch, Xbox
For fans of: JRPGs, Pixel Art, Things that come in eight

“More of the same,” isn’t a bad trait when applied to great games, such as Octopath Traveler, a retro-inspired JRPG. The sequel stars another eight protagonists, including a warrior prince, an amnesiac alchemist, and an ambitious dancer, within an all new (and more modern) world of Solistia. The sequel adds a day/night cycle that changes how each character can approach each situation.

Sea of Stars

Platforms: PC, PlayStation, Switch, Xbox
For fans of: 90s RPGs, pixel art, Chrono Trigger

From the studio that made another great retro-inspired game in The Messenger, Sea of Stars is a beautiful callback to 16-bit RPGs of the 90s, specifically Chrono Trigger. The Solstice Warriors set off an adventure to battle against an evil alchemist using their unique abilities and timing-based attacks. The music, gameplay, and art style is wonderfully nostalgic, but it’s also a solid RPG in its own right.

Star Wars Jedi: Survivor

Platforms: PC, PlayStation, Switch, Xbox
For fans of: Star Wars, lightsabers, 3D metroidvania

Cameron Monaghan returns as Cel Kestis, a Jedi on the run from the Empire following the purging events of Episode 3 — Revenge of the Sith. Jedi: Survivor takes place five years after Fallen Order, with Cal still searching for a home while battling the Galactic Empire. The sequel improves upon the action-adventure gameplay in every way, with larger levels, rewarding challenges, and more lightsaber stances and techniques.

Street Fighter 6

Platforms: PC, PlayStation, Xbox Series X/S
For fans of: Highly technical fighting games, character creation, non-bloody fighting

The Street Fighter series is known for its colorful art style, eccentric characters, and highly technical controls that reward precise button presses and timing. Street Fighter 6 mixes all that with a robust character creation system and the new World Tour single player mode. In World Tour, players take their custom-crafted fighter and challenge other avatars as they level up and unlock new moves. Oh, and newcomers (or those of us with less-than-godly reflexes) can turn on the new casual controls for a much easier experience.

Disney Villainous: Introduction to Evil

Platforms: Tabletop
For fans of: Disney animation villains, asymmetrical games, card games

Introduction to Evil is a new, rebalanced, and slightly easier version of Disney Villainous, the asymmetrical action-card game. Players play as iconic Disney villains such as Ursula and Captain Hook, each with their own player board of actions, and decks of cards. Villainous cards help you achieve your unique victory condition, wihle heroic fate cards (drawn by your opponent) thwart your dastardly plans. Introduction to Evil is also fully compatible with the many expansions released over the years, making it the best way to get people hooked on this great tabletop series.

Older Teens & Adults (17+)

Assassin’s Creed Mirage

Platforms: PC, PlayStation, Xbox
For fans of: Stealth, parkour, medieval history

The Assassin’s Creed series has had a fair share of ups and downs over the years. Ubisoft listened to complaints of bloat, and purposefully scaled down Mirage as a more back-to-its roots action game about stealth, assassinations, and a historically accurate time period. Mirage serves as the backstory for Basim, a character introduced in Valhalla, as he joins the Ancient Ones in 9th-century Baghdad. And kills a lot of dudes.

Baldur’s Gate 3

Platforms: PC, PlayStation 5, Xbox Series X/S
For fans of: Dungeons & Dragons, tactical RPGs, romancing party members

It wasn’t the biggest year for RPGs, yet 2023 saw one of the biggest RPGs ever released with Baldur’s Gate 3. Set in the Dungeons & Dragons universe of the Forgotten Realms, you don’t have to have played the first two games from 20 years ago to appreciate this sprawling, party-based RPG from beloved RPG maker Larian Studios (Divinity: Original Sin). Bonus: the entire game can be played in co-op multiplayer with up to four players!

Diablo 4

Platforms: PC, PlayStation, Xbox
For fans of: Hack and slash, Live service games, Fantasy-horror

The loot-crazed, demon-slaying action-RPG series returns with a fourth installment. Taking a page from Blizzard’s World of Warcraft series, Diablo 4 is fully open world, and stuffed full of dungeons, monsters, and quests. Despite the large world, it also features one of Diablo’s best stories since Diablo 2, bolstered by fantastic voice acting and a richly dark art style.

Final Fantasy XVI

Platforms: PC, PlayStation 5
For fans of: Final Fantasy 14’s art and combat, Game of Thrones

Square Enix chose a much darker tone and story for Final Fantasy 16, resulting in a darkly serious, M-rated RPG that delivers a captivating story, specifically from its lead protagonist Clive (played by Ben Starr). As Clive cleaves his way through vengeance, he unlocks new Eikon abilities that he chain together. FF16 is a far more action-focused game, with awesome, large-scale boss fights that fit right at home with God of War.

Mortal Kombat 1

Platforms: PC, Switch, PlayStation 5, Xbox Series X/S
For fans of: Fighting games, Gory M-rated violence, MK11’s story

Mortal Kombat 1 serves as the sequel to 2019’s very excellent Mortal Kombat 11, and also serves as a reboot to the world. MK1 features over 20 fighters, as well as over a dozen special assist fighters called Kameos. Kameo Fighters can deploy their moves alongside the main fighter, creating even more kombos. In addition to the classic online and story modes, the new seasonal Invasion mode mixes in RPG progression elements as players defend their timeline from enemy forces.

Starfield

Platforms: PC, Xbox
For fans of: Fallout, The Outer Worlds, NASA-punk

Starfield may not have shaken the gaming world like Skyrim or Fallout, but the massive Bethesda RPG is sure to scratch that itch of immersive first-person RPG. In Starfield humanity has spread throughout the stars, and players are free to purchase and customize their own spaceships, join factions, hunt pirates (or become one), and uncover the mystery of strange alien artifacts.


This article was written by

Eric has been writing for over eight years with bylines in Dicebreaker, Pixelkin, Polygon, PC Gamer and Tabletop Gaming magazine, covering movies, TV shows, video games, tabletop games and tech. He reviews and live streams D&D adventures every week on YouTube. He also makes a mean tuna quesadilla.