We were supposed to be living in the year 2022, but for some strange reason in the space-time continuum, we ended up in the early 2000s instead. Everybody is getting into the Metroid Prime craze. Internet users are completely smitten with Leon S. Kennedy. Even Isaac Clarke has returned, complete with his previous voice acting and eager to share the feelings that he has been suppressing since 2008.
These re-imaginings of classic games by Retro Studios, Capcom, and Motive Studio serve as a timely reminder that nothing, not even the world of video games, is immune to the law of cyclicality. Old concepts can make a comeback, even if they were ahead of their time in terms of the technical capabilities available to implement them. All it takes is more pixels, better hardware, and more experienced developers to flesh out these ideas. In 2023, action-oriented survival horror games play like a dream, and the Nintendo Switch has shown to be a home that is more than adequate for the exploration-based adventure starring Samus Aran.
Even games like Octopath Traveler 2, Company of Heroes 3, and Wo Long: Fallen Dynasty demonstrate how successfully a team of designers can build upon and expand upon their earlier work. We're only a third of the way through the year, but we've already seen remakes and sequels that demonstrate a profound awareness of their source material and prequels, as well as a willingness to examine what came before in the service of creating the next great game.
It is simple to refer to remakes, sequels, and spiritual heirs as evidence that we are in an era of stagnation, but the game release calendar has been anything but thus far, three months into 2023. The video games Patch Quest, Phantom Brigade, and Season: A Letter to the Future, as well as a few others, have risen from "under the radar" to establish a name for themselves in their own right. It is already shaping up to be an exciting year for video games (is there any year in recent memory that hasn't been great for video games by this point?), with bold remakes, daring sequels, and original titles. These are the best ones we've seen thus far. —Mike Mahardy
RESIDENT EVIL 4 REMAKE
It seems that Capcom is skilled in the art of remaking video games.
In 2002, the original Resident Evil remake almost single-handedly set the standard for the format. It featured more streamlined controls, more nuanced graphical features, and entirely new locations to explore within the recognisable Spencer Mansion. The Resident Evil 2 remake brought about a complete shift in perspective from the original content, but it maintained its emphasis on scary situations and the struggle to stay alive. Even though it was a lacklustre remake of Resident Evil 3, it was nevertheless successful in bringing the design ideas of the original game, along with its flaws, to a modern audience. And now we have Resident Evil 4, which is a remake in every sense of the word.
Capcom has succeeded in removing a significant number of flaws from one of the most well-liked games in the series, if not of all time, utilizing this reimagined edition of the action-survival-horror video game that was originally released in 2005. Because the remake contains many new flourishes and additional elements in each of its three enormous sections, one could argue that it is less of a remake and more of a dramatic reimagining of the original. It has also managed to add even more survival features to the action-oriented combat of the original game, without compromising the camp and cheese that have made it such an enduring presence over the years. A game of lower quality would have been unable to stand up to the terrifying nature of the original material, but the Resident Evil 4 remake was able to pull off the balancing act with flying colours. —Mike Mahardy
On March 24, Resident Evil 4 will be made available for purchase for the PlayStation 4, PlayStation 5, Windows PC, and Xbox Series X.
The open-world adventure game Tchia was developed by Awaceb and takes place in a fictitious version of the island nation of New Caledonia. The game was inspired by the developer's co-founder, who spent his infancy in New Caledonia.
Everything is seen through the eyes of the titular main character, Tchia, who possesses extraordinary powers that grant her the ability to morph into any of the living things or inanimate objects in her surroundings. Anything from birds and dolphins to pebbles and cameras... Tchia can choose any of these courses of action.
Even while it is obvious that The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild served as inspiration for this game, it is ultimately able to stand on its thanks to its unique shapeshifting features. Tchia does not have the same level of technological polish as a Nintendo game, which typically has hundreds of developers working on it; Awaceb only has about a dozen people working on it. Still, it is difficult to innovate in a genre that is so often used, but Awaceb has done exactly that with Tchia, which is why it is considered to be one of the best games released so far this year. —Nicole Carpenter
Tchia can be played on the PlayStation 4, PlayStation 5, and on a computer running Windows.
Armadillos wearing hats with lions and tigers and... Oh my.
Patch Quest captured my attention at first with its cute creatures, but what kept me coming back was the game's deft blending of a variety of gameplay styles. It is a unique monster-taming roguelike that uses aspects from Pokémon, Castlevania, The Binding of Isaac, and Enter the Gungeon to create a game in which you and your animal companions patch the world back together one piece at a time. Conquer monsters that look adorable but are dangerous, navigate the twisting maze that is Patchlantis, and use fruit-ammo smoothies to eliminate anyone who gets in your way. The developer of Patch Quest, Lychee Game Labs, is a one-person company, and the end product, a quilt, is a mesmerising experience. The developer stitched together many pieces of cloth to construct the quilt. —Johnny Yu
It is possible to play Patch Quest on a Windows PC.
THE SEVEN MYSTERIES OF HONJO, REVEALED BY PARANORMASIGHT
Square Enix can fill its time with any number of different mega-franchises. (and its coffers). This year, we have fresh entries for Octopath Traveler and Final Fantasy, and in the not-too-distant future, we will have new Dragon Quest and Kingdom Hearts games. Dayenu!
But despite this, the publisher can't stop themselves from swarming us with experiments that are unexpected, interesting, sometimes excellent, and most of the time at least passable. In the year 2022, we were given an English-language remake of the forgotten jewel Live A Live, the surprisingly delightful tactical role-playing game DioField Chronicle, a wacky Final Fantasy spinoff incorporating the musical stylings of Limp Bizkit, and a pair of bizarre card games that were covered in mythology from gaming's finest oddities. This year, we have Theatrhythm Final Bar Line, which is considered to be the "Avengers" of rhythm games. We also have Paranormasight: The Seven Mysteries of Honjo, which is a fantastic take on the visual novel genre and was written by a cherished author whose best series has never been released in the United States.
What are some things about Paranormasight that you need to know before you play? So, in an ideal world, nothing at all. Why else would I be putting forth extra effort to increase my word count?
But if you insist, it is a mystery, and more specifically, it is a horror mystery. You find yourself in Japan in the 1980s, more precisely in the neighbourhood of Honjo in Tokyo, which is not too distant from the contemporary Tokyo Skytree. It is difficult to see that contemporary landmark ever soaring along these streets, which are full of shadows and deadly curses.
If you have even a passing interest in urban tales, creepy folklore, cults, and deadly rituals, or if you've enjoyed series like Zero Escape and Danganronpa, then I would highly recommend that you check out Paranormasight. And if you simply like a good story, have access to pretty much any screen, and have $15, then you make an ideal mark as well. It operates just as smoothly on consoles and personal computers as it does on iOS and Android devices, so you shouldn't worry about the platform you play it on as long as you play it soon! Until Square Enix decides to cease investing in all of these strange projects. — Christopher Plante
You may play Paranormasight: The Seven Mysteries of Honjo on your Windows PC, Android, or iOS device, as well as on the Nintendo Switch.
The "turn-based real-time" fights that are exclusive to Phantom Brigade feel like a game-changing innovation for the mecha genre. The timeline of a video editor is perhaps the most applicable analogy; the main difference, though, is that instead of watching a movie that you've already produced, you can easily change the outcome of a fight by making a few strategic adjustments. After you've prepared your five frantic seconds of action, you'll have the opportunity to sit back, relax, and watch it all unfold in spectacular slow motion.
For those who are like gigantic robots and mecha, it will become immediately clear how much respect the developers have for these machines. Your mecha are highly modifiable, right down to their generators, which has a direct impact on aspects such as how frequently they can fire their armaments. Speaking of which, the game's weaponry consists of frighteningly lethal shotguns, graceful energy swords, and missile barrages that fire in a perfect Itano circus. It is both aesthetically pleasing and horrifyingly destructive. Even though the player controls the mechs from a bird's-eye view, the mechs have the sensation of being large and heavy as they stomp across the game environment, destroying buildings and pushing tanks aside as if they were playthings. Even looking five seconds into the future to predict the moves of your foes feels like a nod to the extrasensory perception that is typical in mecha anime.
Not to mention the fact that your campaign will feature narratives that are spare yet evocative, which you will get to take pleasure in. These tales, despite their tendency to be painted with broad strokes at times, serve as an essential reminder that no matter how cool your mechs may be, the pilots inside are the ones who count. — Clayton A. Ashley
You can play Phantom Brigade on a Windows-based personal computer.
WO LONG: FALLEN DYNASTY
Team Ninja may be the one developer who steals extensively from the work of FromSoftware with the most ingenuity out of all the other developers who do this. If Nioh and Nioh 2 were Dark Souls as seen through the prism of Japanese myth, then Wo Long: Fallen Dynasty is Sekiro: Shadows Die Twice (with a little bit of Bloodborne thrown in) set in Three Kingdoms-era China. And it rules.
Not only does Wo Long expertly navigate between awe-inspiring boss fights, spell-slinging brawls, and a myriad of detailed areas around rural China, but it also promotes exploration in a manner that even some FromSoftware games haven't done before. Wo Long is available for Microsoft Windows, PlayStation 4, and Xbox One. The morale system in Wo Long assures that no obstacle is insurmountable because it rewards you for "building up" your character's confidence by defeating hordes of smaller enemies before taking on a monster. This allows you to take on more difficult foes later in the game. It's a rare game that can both beat you up and cheer for you the whole way through. This is one of those games. One example of this kind of game is Wo Long. —Mike Mahardy
The video game Wo Long: Fallen Dynasty may be played on the Xbox One, the Xbox Series X, PlayStation 4, PlayStation 5, and Windows PC.
COMPANY OF HEROES 3, the third
Company of Heroes burst onto the scene of real-time strategy in 2006 like a bull in a china shop, kicking down doors and strutting in with bluster and swagger. Its emphasis on squad-based tactics, as opposed to the movements of hordes of individual soldiers, made it immediately distinguishable from Starcraft, Warcraft, and Command & Conquer, and the resulting spectacle was more than a little reminiscent of the choreographed World War II battles depicted in Saving Private Ryan and Band of Brothers.
However, things are different now. RTS games no longer have the preeminent position in the strategy genre as a result of the rise of 4X, grand strategy, and turn-based tactics. Even though its first release was an enormous success in 2006 and its sequel was fantastic in 2013, Relic Entertainment needed to adapt.
And adapt it did. With the addition of a "tactical pause" option, Company of Heroes 3 makes the real-time strategy more approachable than it has ever been before. This feature allows you to freeze time and give instructions to your troops during intense times. It also has a turn-based overworld map that is reminiscent of Total War. This allows you to manoeuvre troops, take key installations, and provide a wealth of support bonuses to the real-time conflicts, independent of the strong guidance provided by the team's (still great) linear campaign writers. —Mike Mahardy
Company of Heroes 3 can be played on Windows-based personal computers.
OCTOPATH TRAVELER 2 is the second
The first Octopath Traveler was one of those games that were simultaneously delightful to play and excruciating to play. It was enjoyable to play because so much of it was badass, but it was excruciating to play since so much of it dragged down the positive aspects. To put it another way, it was almost up to the level of greatness, but it fell short just short of cutting.
The second instalment of the Octopath Traveler series breaks through that barrier. In place of the repetitious level design, dull story framework, and somewhat awkward character development found in the first game, the sequel exhibits an expert ability to defy your assumptions at every step. Yes, your overarching objective is still to assemble a cast of eight playable characters (thus the name), then see each of their storylines through to their resolutions while engaging in turn-based combat and side quests along the way. The aforementioned narratives, however, differ widely from character to character, and if you so desire, you can follow just a select few individuals through multiple significant plot points before enlisting the entire group. The best role-playing games (JRPGs) have a certain comfort food-like recurrence to them, and excellent genre storytelling has a certain subversive quality to it. Octopath Traveler 2 walks that delicate line between the two. —Mike Mahardy
Octopath Traveler 2 can be played on the Nintendo Switch, the PlayStation 4, the PlayStation 5, and a computer running Windows.
METROID PRIME HAS BEEN REWORKED.
There aren't many games from 2002 that still hold up as well as Metroid Prime, and the remastered version of the game, which was unexpectedly released during February's Nintendo Direct, demonstrates that Samus Aran's first-person journey is still worth playing, whether it's for the first time or (in my case) the fourth time around.
Retro Studios' interpretation of one of sci-fi's most famous intergalactic bounty hunters caused a controversy when it took her out of the 2D puzzle-platformer realm that made her famous (although Metroid Fusion also came out in 2002, which was a gift for the 2D Metroid purists; this may also be the reason why Fusion joined Nintendo Switch Online's catalogue shortly after Prime Remastered was released). The video game Metroid Prime rethought Samus' connection to the hazardous planets that surrounded her by putting the player inside the bounty hunter's helmet.
When we put on Samus' suit and explored different planets, hostile alien lifeforms could now get right in our faces. This required us to use all three dimensions to avoid, strafe, and roll (in the shape of morph balls, of course), as we were forced to do so. We would no longer be able to relax and watch as Samus put her toe into a pool of lava; instead, we would experience the game in first-person, and as the molten heat spread over our visor, we would truly feel the strain to acquire an upgrade for our Varia Suit. And, perhaps most critically, we obtained the ability to scan both our foes and the environment around us while concealed behind Samus' visor. This allowed us to collect and decipher logs left behind by long-extinct Chozo aliens that had formerly called these now-dangerous regions home.
The world of Prime is unforgiving and cruel. (Save points will, at times, be quite far from one another.) However, to uncover the mysteries of this world, it is necessary to grit one's teeth and persevere through the difficult parts. —Maddy Myers
On the Nintendo Switch, you can play the remastered version of Metroid Prime.
It's already shaping up to be a golden year for survival horror, what with The Last of Us airing on HBO and Resident Evil 4 being brought back into the debate. The reimagining of Dead Space by Motive Studio is not an exception. The original Dead Space took the third-person action focus of Resident Evil 4's concept and applied it to the setting of a disintegrating ship in space, following in the footsteps of the aforementioned title developed by Capcom. In the same style as Event Horizon, Sunshine, and Alien, Dead Space was a paradigmatic example of a science fiction horror game set in a limited and claustrophobic environment. Its remake has brought that same vision to gorgeous new life, bringing quality-of-life changes and underappreciated updates (it has made several previously useless weapons into viable tools in protagonist Isaac Clarke's arsenal), making it difficult to imagine ever going back to Visceral Games' phenomenal original. Its remake has brought that same vision to gorgeous new life, bringing quality-of-life changes and underappreciated updates. —Mike Mahardy
PlayStation 5, Windows PC, and Xbox Series X are the platforms on which Dead Space can be played.
A NOTE TO THE NEXT SEASON: A SEASONAL LETTER
Everyone you talk to during your time in Season has already passed away. The events of the first chapter take place on a planet quite similar to our own, but a very long time in the future. A researcher into the past peruses the trip journal of a young woman who chronicled the latter years of her period.
The game tasks you with writing that travel diary, chronicling the death of a culture and the individuals who practised it with the assistance of a bike and some scrapbooking talents at the S-tier level.
What appears to be depressing is very energising. The world is not bleak or in the midst of an apocalypse. If it weren't for the prologue, you wouldn't realise that this age is on the cusp of significant change. Both the sky and the ocean are a beautiful complementing shade of blue. Animals go about their days carefree, munching on wheat and twittering in the trees as they go about their business. The few people you meet respond to the strange sea-change predicted by the prophecy in the same way as most people handle the process of moving from one flat to another.
The season is a work of fiction written for a generation that is convinced that our current kind of civilization will soon cease to exist. Perhaps during our lifetime, or perhaps a hundred years from now. Either the world's waters will rise, its governments will crumble, or multinational businesses will deplete the globe of all its resources. However, despite this terrifying prospect, it is possible to discover a sense of calm by imagining a life that lies beyond this one.
Dark! But what more would you anticipate from a game in which you play the role of a documentarian for a world that you, the player, are aware has reached its natural conclusion?
The fact that the world of Season is filled with so much natural splendour makes the responsibility of historical curation that much more difficult. You can choose to put photographs, recordings of noises, doodles, and excerpts of text in your diary. Other options include. Even though space is restricted. You won't even be able to fit the majority of your images and notes, much less everything that this world has to offer. Should people in the future be aware of the relatively insignificant personal tragedies that occurred during this era? Should you act as if the lessons you've learned from previous times are a baton that needs to be passed on from one generation to the next? Or should you leave the majority of the book unread to give this civilization a degree of cosmic privacy? — Christopher Plante
You can play Season: A Letter to the Future on PlayStation 4, PlayStation 5, and the Windows PC.
FIRE EMBLEM ENGAGE
One who is not particularly interested in the backstories of a horde of teenagers, or the politics of a bourgeoise academy, or what kind of tea a teacher prefers, but rather one who is obsessed with the endless minutiae of combat stats, weapon load-outs, and team composition. This is the kind of sicko that Fire Emblem Engage was designed for. Because I am one of these sickos, I am aware of this fact.
If you've read any of my reviews or essays on Polygon, then you already know that my favourite type of strategy game is one in which the player must help the game escape its traps. To be more specific, I adore it when the designers of strategy games can put their notebooks down, raise their arms, and acknowledge that the narratives that are playing out in the player's imagination will almost always be more compelling than anything they could ever create. One of the most prominent games that advocate for this concept is Fire Emblem Engage. It bombards you with an excessive number of characters, weapons, battle scenarios, and skills that increase your stats, providing you with the opportunity to watch character interactions on the battlefield and construct the subsequent fanfiction in your brain. Its real screenplay is a muddle of incomprehensible JRPG cliches, and each cutscene is more easily bypassable than the one that came before it. However, if you want a great turn-based strategy game that stays out of the way of the player, look no further than Fire Emblem Engage. You won't find a better option anywhere else. —Mike Mahardy
On the Nintendo Switch, you can play the strategy game Fire Emblem Engage.
MARVEL'S MIDNIGHT SUNS
[Editor's note: Marvel's Midnight Suns were released in 2022, but it just missed the cutoff for our list of the best video games of 2022, so it is eligible for our 2023 awards.] [Even though the cutoff date was in 2022, Marvel's Midnight Suns is eligible for our 2023 awards.]
I already know what you're thinking: "Not another Marvel game licenced by Electronic Arts!" Now, are you kidding me? But give it some thought. I also played Marvel's Avengers, and this is not the same thing at all. Because Midnight Suns make the terrible mistake of presenting Iron Man and Doctor Strange as its introductory characters, you might first get the impression that this is going to be the case. This is because these two characters have the potential to be the most grating in the entirety of the video game. (I have beaten the game, so I am allowed to make this call.) You have no choice but to carry on and allow Midnight Suns to win you over. Simply because it has a lot more to give than it may seem to have in its initial few hours of operation.
Imagine the romance and humour of Fire Emblem: Three Houses paired with the high-stakes tactical combat of XCOM 2; that's what Midnight Suns becomes in its mid-game and endgame, respectively. It's a strategy game centred on playing cards, and each hero has a deck that they may customise. My initial preferences were for Captain Marvel, Magik, and Blade simply because their manoeuvres and humorous speech kept me engaged. However, I quickly realised that every single character brings something thrilling or unexpected to the battlefield, and I quickly changed my preferences. After playing for over 100 hours, I have levelled up every single character, completed all of the major plot missions, and played an unknown number of optional missions, and I am not yet tired of this fighting... or the eccentric array of characters that continues to expand throughout time. (shoutout to the Deadpool DLC).
Give Midnight Suns a chance to win you over with its deftly executed combat, regardless of how sick you may be of the Marvel franchise. And once you've become hooked, you might find yourself staying around to snicker at the fact that Wolverine is attending Blade's reading club (yes, there is a storyline in this game). It is well worth your time, and you can take that recommendation from someone who has, once more, invested over one hundred hours into it. —Maddy Myers
The Nintendo Switch, PlayStation 4, PlayStation 5, Windows PC, Xbox One, and Xbox Series X are all compatible gaming systems for Marvel's Midnight Suns.
The top 50 most anticipated video games of 2023, as ranked by Polygon