Expansive’s Best Games of the Half Year (2023)

Let’s just get this out of the way now: 2023 has been ridiculous.

And not just in the AAA world, but equally indie as well. How do you go through 7 full months without stopping and get one banger after another.

Oh, and let’s not forget, we’ve still got the likes of Armored Core VI, Starfield, Baldur’s Gate 3, Blasphemous 2, Assassin’s Creed Mirage, Spider-Man 2, Alan Wake 2, Sea of Stars, Super Mario RPG etc, etc, etc, to come….

It’s unrelenting folks, but also the best time to be a gamer quite honestly. As such, we figured this was a good time to stop, take stock of what riches we’ve already been blessed with and give our thoughts on which games we’ve loved the most so far in 2023.

Keep in mind, some games we’ve yet to play. So if they’re missing from this list, that doesn’t mean they’ll be absent from our year-end roundup. Likewise, if they’re here now, doesn’t mean they’ll make our end of year roundup either. Let’s go….

#20 Horizon: Forbidden West Burning Shores DLC

Let’s do this right and kick it off with a DLC. A great one, at that. Burning Shores continues the adventures of Aloy as she prepares for what comes next, explores a side of her personality we’ve never seen before while introducing us to a brilliant new character, drops us in a stunning new environment, offers some of the most breathtaking visuals and action we’ve seen this generation and even provides something of a send-off for the wonderful Lance Reddick. One of the best pieces of content we’ve played in years. [Laurie]

#19 Park Beyond

We loved Theme Park growing up and while Planet Coaster has done a great job of modernizing the game, Park Beyond has iterated and taken things a step further by drilling down on some of its more niche concepts in clever ways, while finding an enjoyable loop to keep you invested. There seems to be a good setup for the future, too, with options for people to share their creations, new content being added in, and regular updates to keep balancing tight. It’s not always a perfect fit on consoles, but rest assured, you won’t find too many better park-based experiences on PC right now. [Tom]

#18 Oxenfree 2: Lost Signals

If you’re Netflix and you want to announce your intentions as a game publisher, we have to say acquiring Night School Studios was a smart play. And it’s been backed up by the brilliant sequel to indie darling Oxenfree. Lost Signals is more of the same, but with the addition of climbing, a new cast of characters, a smart plot with some clever twists, more puzzles, and tweaks to keep everything feeling familiar but different. It’s such a wonderful blend of what worked already, added in with some new things that also work very well and it’s a game we couldn’t put down till the credits rolled. Chuck in some replayability with various endings and this is one you definitely want to set some time aside to play. [Sally]

#17 Octopath Traveller 2

We do love a good RPG with a strong story (or stories) which is why we really enjoyed the original Octopath Traveller. And unsurprisingly, its sequel gives us more of the same but with better stories and even more fun twists, like a night and day theme. There’s such a great variety of characters here, all with original stories and playstyles, plus the settings manage to keep the experience all very different, while letting you play your own way. It’s a format which worked great before but has been refined wonderfully here. A well-told, developed and refined RPG that will keep its hooks in you until the end. [Laurie]

#16 Fire Emblem Engage

While Three Houses remains the gold standard Fire Emblem game on Switch, this is a fantastic strategy title with some great ideas, heart, and style. It manages to bridge every Fire Emblem game to date, bringing back series favourites, while also telling its own story of betrayal, loyalty, intrigue, and unfaltering action. A great Fire Emblem game whether it’s your first or you’ve been a fan since the start. [Sam]

#15 Remnant 2

With no new Elden Ring content in sight this year, we’ve been itching for a good Souls-like to sink our teeth into and this one has been getting all of our attention so far. Arguably our biggest surprise this year, Remnant 2 is a super enjoyable adventure that mashes up Bloodborne with The Division, adding in super deep customisation possibilities, with solid co-op and gives some truly epic battles to boot. Don’t let this one slip under your radar. [Sam]

#14 Humanity

When Enhance tell you they’re working on a new game, you sit up and pay attention. Even if it isn’t Rez or Tetris. Fortunately, Humanity is also a brilliant little puzzler that manages to modernise the classic Lemmings for a new generation. A bold undertaking, but one that’s been achieved through some smart design choices, some mind-bending mazes, and the game’s expert use of sound and music. Oh, and a dog. Throw in the vast array of user-designed puzzles and the fact it’s in PS+ so has the longest of tails, and it’s fairly easy to see why this one gets a spot among this years’ greats. So far… [Sam]

#13 Viewfinder

Just as Humanity has taken a creative approach to puzzlers, so to has Viewfinder, which lets you do a Mary Poppins, travel through pictures and experience strange variations on the world you’re in as you try to find a route to your goal. Never has it been so important to find the right angle, orient yourself accordingly and watch your step. While the story isn’t much to write home about, this has one of the smartest concepts I’ve seen implemented in a game and it’s been done to perfection, in a way that doesn’t get too stale but keeps you invested and manages to stay relevant. [Sally]

#12 System Shock

 System Shock’s themes and messages have never been more relevant with an off-the-rails AI looking to sabotage and kill you. There she is, throwing bots and drones wherever you go while you shoot them with laser guns and explore virtual reality in order to shut everything down. But the way each corridor has been rebuilt, the AI reconstructed, the Virtual Reality scenes recreated and resurfacing the idea of clearing a floor before progressing to the next. All combined makes this re-release feel refreshing in 2023. Wonderfully done. [Jay]

#11 Ghost Trick

While other remakes got most of the headlines this year, it’s Ghost Trick that we’ve been most excited about. A game many thought had been lost to time, yet Capcom have given it a new lease on life and reminded us all just how brilliant and clever it is. As a ghost, you move from object to object, trying to prevent other people’s deaths and solve your own murder. It still holds up wonderfully in 2023, looks fantastic outside of the small screen and provides a layer of creativity and story-telling prowess most games could only dream about. [Jay]

#10 Planet of Lana

Sometimes, hype ends up meeting expectations and with all the buzz about PoL over the last year or so, we were so relieved to see it actually came out great. This stunning adventure has a wonderful score that sweeps along and helps tell a story, but it is complimented by this beautiful art style, all filled with mystery and suspense. It gradually introduces new ways to play across its short length, gives you just enough to think about with its puzzles and doesn’t outstay its welcome. It’s a perfect balance of all things and we love it. [Sam]

#9 Diablo 4

This one was always going to be good, wasn’t it? Diablo 4 is everything we loved about Diablo 3, but also set up for a much longer term future with a huge amount of quests, a massive area to explore, some truly epic cinematics, and broad range of classes that ensure each time you play will be very different indeed. We know Season 1 hasn’t had the best of starts, but this one is still fantastic and with the support of Activision, Blizzard and now almost certainly Microsoft, we know it’ll continue to be fantastic for years to come. [Brad]

#8 Metroid Prime Remastered

Everything about this release still gives us chills. There’d been rumblings Nintendo were looking to work on the original Metroid Prime games, which makes sense with MP4 still very much in active development. But the way the release was dropped on the eShop, coupled with the quality of the remaster it just created this beautiful moment for those who had the nostalgia and players who’d never experienced the games before. Metroid Prime Remastered is a stunning remaster of one of the greatest games ever made, it’s been brilliantly redesigned so it fits modern formats like a glove and outside of a few minor inconveniences, it’s barely aged a day. [Laurie]

#7 Resident Evil 4

Capcom certainly know how to pay great respect to their franchises and again Resident Evil is the one to benefit. RE4 is chilling, suspenseful, unnerving but equally comical in measure, with Leon still throwing out his witty lines while getting chainsawed in half by cultist maniacs. For a game that has already been made available on every format imaginable, somehow Capcom have made it essential all over again, still making it a must-own game this year. [Laurie]

#6 Dead Space

Deciding positioning between these last two games was hard. Both are very important to their respective franchises and both are equally good. Dead Space edges it in terms of the significance of the remake, for a franchise many thought was dead only to have been brought back in such a dramatic way and how it’s been iterated upon.  This has been lovingly restored, wonderfully expanded and meticulously recreated to create the best version of Isaac Clarke yet and hopefully get us one step closer to a fourth, limb-severing adventure. Excellent stuff. [Laurie]

#5 Theatrhythm Final Bar Line

Never would I ever have thought we’d put a rhythm game in a Best of list in 2023, especially considering the year we’re having, but this one is an absolute delight. Final Fantasy (and Square Enix games in general) are always regarded for their music and Final Bar Line puts it all at the forefront so everyone can hear and play through. This enjoyable, RPG esque experience gives you the perfect platform to listen to Aerith’s theme over and over, all while trying to beat a high score or experiment with different party types. Really, what could be better than that? Coupled with an astonishing collection of music (including some super niche and never before heard additions) and you’ve truly got one of the best experiences this year. [Laurie]

#4 Final Fantasy XVI

When you’re choosing between a new Diablo, Street Fighter and Final Fantasy game, all in the same month, you have to ask yourself what kind of golden gaming age are we living in? FF16 is one of the most stunning-looking games this generation to date, taking things in a more mainstream direction with its focus on more mature content and approachable combat systems and RPG mechanics. From start to finish, it takes you on a breakneck ride that is, undoubtedly, one you won’t soon forget, so it rightfully belongs alongside the best games this year. [Laurie]

#3 Star Wars: Jedi Survivor

A great example of a sequel doing everything bigger and better. While we loved Jedi Fallen Order, Jedi Survivor has just been another level of brilliance and might just be the best Star Wars game in years. Full of rich environments, a well told story, and some absolutely jaw-dropping cinematic set-pieces which have really helped kick this generation into high gear. It had a rough start with a launch EA and Respawn would love to forget, but the comeback story is as good as any we’ve seen for a game and several patches later, this one deserves its place in our Top 5. [Sam]

#2 Street Fighter 6

Street Fighter is back and better than ever. SF6 might just be one of the most approachable fighting games ever made with its various modes, tutorials and ways you can learn from defeat. It’s wonderfully designed from top to bottom, has so much content available for you to check out and is already gearing itself for the long term. Capcom are just on such a roll at the moment and this one deserves its high place in an incredibly contested, competitive year. Frankly, it might just be the best beat-em-up ever made, though maybe Mortal Kombat and Tekken will have something to say about that later in the year. [Laurie]

#1  The Legend of Zelda: Tears of the Kingdom

Is this year really going any other way? There’s still some big releases to come and all have that potential, but for now it seems like Zelda is on track to win all the awards for Nintendo again and rightfully so. Along with the most complete story to date, the creative possibilities offered here somehow surpass what we got in Breath of the Wild, allowing you to genuinely create solutions in a way that makes sense to you, and in a way no other game truly allows. Coupled with an enormous world to explore, the stunning visuals that stand shoulder to shoulder with most games this year and that iconic soundtrack, it’s hard to look past TOTK for anything but greatness. Game Of The Year? Quite possibly one of the Greatest Games of All Time. [Expansive]

Honourable Mentions

It was hard enough deciding between the games mentioned above, such is the quality of 2023 already. And as we mentioned above, the year is just getting started. It’s a ridiculous lineup, quite frankly, and as such, there’s going to be some big ommissions. And probably massive changes to that Top 20 list before the year is out.

Here’s some other games we’ve loved playing this year (so far) that didn’t quite make our Top 20.

Basically, if you launched a game this year, you’re absolutely killing it and we love everything you do.

What’s your Game of the Year so far? Something we missed? Disagree with our choices? Have at it below…

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