If you're following the main story quests in Disney Dreamlight Valley's A Rift in Time expansion, you'll eventually come across the Cave of Wonders. When entering, you'll find that there are multiple mirror puzzles inside that need to be solved to open the doors leading to the Jewel of Time. Here's how to make it to the end of the Cave of Wonder.
Inside the first room of the Cave of Wonders, take a left and clear the Splinters of Fate in your way, then pick up the Power Coil and place it in the slot nearby. Return to the main section of the room and pull the switch there to open the first door.
In the second room, go up the stairs on the right and down into a room with an unpowered Power Coil in the center. In this room, you need to create a path of power from the Power Coil in the back of the room to the unpowered one in the center. To do so, interact with the circular stones surrounding the unpowered Power Coil.Continue Reading at GameSpot
Overwatch 2 Season 8: Call of the Hunt has arrived, bringing the new tank hero Mauga to the roster alongside a brand-new battle pass. This season is themed around beast hunters, bringing multiple legendary skins to both the battle pass and the shop. The battle pass contains 80 tiers of cosmetics, as well as an additional 120 tiers with eight titles. It contains five legendary skins and one mythic skin, which is the Grand Beast Orisa skin. The premium version costs 1,000 Overwatch Coins (about $10 USD). There is also an ultimate battle pass bundle for $40 USD, which contains the premium version, 20 tiers, 2,000 Overwatch Coins, the legendary Magma Mauga skin, legendary Wild Tracker Widowmaker skin, and the epic Magma Moira skin.
The battle pass contains a legendary skin for Ana, Junker Queen, Reaper, Lucio, and Mauga, along with epic skins for Wrecking Ball, Junkrat, and Zenyatta. The final reward in the battle pass is for the mythic Orisa skin, which can be customized with two different guns and four different color schemes. Other rewards include emotes, player cards, victory poses, sprays, and voice lines.
Mauga can also only be unlocked via the battle pass for the duration of Season 8. Mauga is unlocked instantly for premium battle pass owners and at tier 45 in the free version, although he isn't playable in competitive modes for the first two weeks of the season. After Season 8, there will be in-game challenges you must complete to unlock Mauga. Here's every reward you can earn in the Overwatch 2 Season 8: Call of the Hunt.
It's finally here. The GTA VI trailer dropped yesterday, and Jake's here to break it all down for you. Rockstar's next game in the GTA series looks like it will be the biggest yet.
Codemasters, the company behind games like F1 23 and EA Sports WRC, has laid developers off. Parent company Electronic Arts confirmed the layoffs but didn't specify how many employees were impacted.
"Our business is constantly changing as we strive to deliver amazing games and services that keep our players engaged, connected, and inspired," an EA spokesperson told IGN. "At times, this requires the company to make small-scale organizational changes that align our teams and resources to meet evolving business needs and priorities. We continue to work closely with those affected by these changes, providing appropriate support throughout this process."
Electronic Arts acquired Codemasters back in 2021 for $1.2 billion. The company has a tenured history with games in the racing genre, making franchises like F1, Grid, and Dirt. Codemasters recently released F1 23 and EA Sports WRC earlier this year, with the latter being an apparent successor to the Dirt series. Last year, Codemasters Cheshire and Criterion merged together so that they could develop the Need for Speed franchise under a single studio.Continue Reading at GameSpot
Actress Margot Robbie has once again commented on the possibility of making another Barbie movie, saying she can't rule it out. Speaking to Variety, Robbie said she and the team "put everything" in the first Barbie, which is 2023's highest-grossing movie worldwide with more than $1.4 billion. She said she's proud of the fact that Barbie had so much success as an original movie in a landscape dominated by sequels, prequels, and remakes. Going back and making a sequel might be challenging for a number of reasons, Robbie said, but she didn't close the door entirely.
"Part of me is like, 'Oh no, if we do a Barbie 2 then...' I don't know. But then at the same time, I would do anything to be back on that set. I'd do anything to be back on that set with [director Greta Gerwig] again; with [Ken actor Ryan Gosling] again. Playing Barbie is just so joyful. So it's not no but also it would take a lot for it to live up to it," Robbie said.
Before this, Robbie said she "can't imagine" a Barbie sequel. Her latest quote on the subject seems to leave the door a little more open in terms of the possibility of making a follow-up, but nothing is confirmed at this stage.Continue Reading at GameSpot
The first season for Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3 and Warzone launches on December 6, and Activision has released a blog to showcase the new weapons and cosmetics players can expect in the battle pass. Season 1 includes a new BlackCell premium bundle, three new weapons, and plenty of cosmetics to unlock.
The standard battle pass returns for 1,100 CoD Points, and players can splurge for the $30 BlackCell pass to have access to even more cosmetics and 20 battle pass skips (25 skips on PlayStation.)
Just like past seasons, the three weapons are unlocked in the free tiers of the pass. The XRK Stalker sniper rifle is unlocked in Sector A4, and this is described as a .50 cal rifle with the ability to eliminate opponents in one hit. The RAM-7 assault rifle is available in Sector A7, and this gun is a lightweight assault rifle that offers quick reloading and fast handling. Lastly, the Stormender Launcher is unlocked in Sector A12, and this is a weapon meant to shoot down specific killstreaks and take out drones with its lock-on capabilities.Continue Reading at GameSpot
Call of Duty's big new Season 1 update, the first new season since Modern Warfare III launched in December, debuts on December 6, bringing with it a bunch of new content. This includes the latest of Call of Duty's popular BlackCell DLC bundles, and now we know more about it.
The new $30 BlackCell bundle comes with a new Operator named Abolisher, and the skin looks pretty slick. You can see Abolisher in action in the video below.
Everyone who buys the BlackCell DLC gets the Season 1 Battle Pass as well, including immediate access to the Pass' BlackCell sector. The BlackCell DLC also comes with the "Man o' War" weapon blueprint and tracers, the "Flexed Upon" finishing move, the "War Horse" vehicle skin, and 1,100 COD points.Continue Reading at GameSpot
Disney Dreamlight Valley is home to a wide variety of beloved characters, including the beloved Rapunzel. If you've got the A Rift in Time expansion, you can invite this long-haired villager to be a part of your valley. Here's how to make it happen.
To unlock Rapunzel, you'll need to have access to the A Rift in Time expansion. Once you've made your way through its opening hours, you'll eventually gain access to The Grasslands, where you can find Rapunzel hanging out on the far left of the biome behind a waterfall.
Speak to Rapunzel, then use your hourglass tool to clear the nearby gray floating rocks. Talk to Rapunzel right after, at which point she'll ask you to seek out two more gray floating rocks containing Sun Core pieces--one at The Docks and the other in The Plains. These are in random spots in the biomes, so just keep removing the gray floating rocks until you get the other two Sun Core pieces, then create the Sun Core at a crafting bench.Continue Reading at GameSpot
Several new home video editions of James Cameron's Avatar and Avatar: The Way of Water will launch later this month. The biggest of the new releases are the new Avatar and Avatar: The Way of Water 4K Collector's editions, which feature multiple versions of the films plus tons of all-new special features. There are also new steelbook versions and 3D Blu-ray releases as well--and all of them launch on December 19, just in time for a last-minute holiday gift.
Let's unpack all the upcoming Avatar and Avatar: Way of Water releases and where you can preorder them.
These new Avatar Blu-ray sets aren't the only big Avatar releases dropping this month. Ubisoft's new open-world action-adventure game Avatar: Frontiers of Pandora launches for PS5, Xbox Series X|S, and PC on December 7, and promises to take players to never-before-seen regions of Pandora. Check out GameSpot's latest Avatar: Frontiers of Pandora coverage for more information on the game, or check our preorder guide for where you can purchase it ahead of launch.Continue Reading at GameSpot
Last month, Sega shocked its fans by announcing an all-new 3D Sonic the Hedgehog adventure in the vein of games like Sonic Adventure and Sonic Heroes. That game, Sonic Dream Team, launches today exclusively on iOS devices at no cost for those with an active Apple Arcade subscription.
Sonic Dream Team lets players control one of six characters--Sonic, Tails, Knuckles, Amy Rose, Cream, and Rouge--as they once again do battle with Dr. Eggman and his robotic hordes. This time, Eggman has stumbled upon an ancient device called The Reverie, which can "make dreams a reality"--and it's up to Sonic and company to stop him.
The game will see Sonic speed through 12 new levels, all of which are set within dream worlds created by Eggman with the Reverie. Each world contains open 3D environments that can be explored, and each character will have unique abilities that allow them to make progress in unique ways: Tails, for example, can use his two tails to fly around the levels, while Knuckles can climb walls with his fists.Continue Reading at GameSpot
Grand Theft Auto VI will take players to the sunny shores of Vice City once again. It shouldn't be too much of a surprise then that the game's debut trailer is filled with shots of beaches, boats, and scantily clad women. What is surprising, at least to GTA V voice actor Ned Luke, is just how many, and how big, the women's butts seen in the trailer are.
Luke is best known for his role as Michael in GTA V, and as such held a livestream on his personal YouTube channel to react to GTA VI's first trailer, after a leak led to developer Rockstar Games officially debuting the trailer earlier than previously planned. When asked by chat what he found surprising about the trailer, Luke didn't hesitate.
"How big the asses are," Luke said. "That's surprising. There's some big asses in that trailer. I mean a lot of 'em. Almost every ass in that trailer, other than the male asses, was big. Big! That surprised me because, you know, Miami's got some not-big asses too. We'll see."Continue Reading at GameSpot
2023 has been a very tough year for the video game business, with regular layoffs across the industry despite the record profits. It's difficult to celebrate how incredible games are without acknowledging the way many corporations have treated the individuals responsible for those very games. By some estimates, more than 7,000 jobs have been lost in the gaming industry just this year so, at GameSpot, while we want to highlight great new games, it's important not to disregard the human cost of this year.
We love games (in case the name "GameSpot" wasn't a good indication), so with the acknowledgment that, while the industry is in dire need of addressing significant issues pertaining to the treatment of game developers, we can still talk about how incredible the games have been and what our favorites are. That's what this gallery is about--as a publication, we got together to talk about all the games we each played during the year and narrow down what we collectively agree to be the best games of 2023. You can get our takes on the best games of the year below, but we'd also encourage you to think about the human element of gaming and read up on the biggest gaming news of 2023--which includes details on layoffs, increased use of AI, and even more acquisitions--to have a more comprehensive grasp of how large swaths of the gaming industry may be becoming increasingly unsustainable.
Below, listed in alphabetical order, are GameSpot's picks for the 10 best games of 2023, which includes consideration for games released in previous years that were substantially updated or changed this year. We'll be announcing our pick for Game of the Year on Wednesday, December 6, at 10 AM PT.
Available on PS5, Xbox Series X|S, and PC
Given the many years that had passed since the release of the original Alan Wake, which had seemingly not been a major commercial success, an industry trend of moving toward live-service games, and numerous other factors, the notion that we'd get a proper Alan Wake II--a full-blown, triple-A sequel, rather than a more bite-sized, budget-friendly spin-off like 2012's American Nightmare--seemed like a pipe dream. That it merely exists is all that fans of Remedy's games, and specifically Alan Wake, could have hoped for. But the reality of what Alan Wake II is far surpasses even the wildest expectations for what it could be.
With Alan Wake II, Remedy makes a number of bold choices: shifting to the survival-horror genre; introducing a second playable character, Saga Anderson, whose story can be freely played at any point alongside Alan's; embracing Remedy's love for live-action and integrating it in a way that feels natural and elevates everything around it; and perhaps most importantly, leaning into that signature Remedy weirdness.
This all works in service of the narrative, which is first-class in every regard, from the writing to the performances to the multiple layers on which the story works. There's the surface-level story as the eponymous author continues to try writing his way out of a decade-plus-long stay in the Dark Place and Saga investigates ritualistic killings and finds herself unexpectedly wrapped up in the happenings. But beyond that, there is the examination of imposter syndrome, the continued evolution of the Remedy Connected Universe, and the meta-story it tells about Remedy's years-long struggle to make the very game you're playing. And it nails all of this, leaving you with countless threads to untangle and a narrative we expect to stick with us for months or even years to come.
Alan Wake II builds a haunting atmosphere throughout, whether you're wandering through the woods, hoping for a glimmer of sunlight to break through the vast, looming set of tree branches overhead and provide you with a brief reprieve from the oppressive darkness; visiting a unsettling, coffee-themed amusement park; or exploring the New York City-like Dark Place, complete with its aggressive graffiti and signage that assails Alan's psyche at every turn. But it also has a wonderful sense of humor and ample levity, which Remedy manages to balance as exceptionally as anything this side of a David Lynch joint--and even then, Alan Wake II feels more confident and self-assured as its own distinct thing than the obviously Twin Peaks-inspired original game.
Further elevating Alan Wake II is a 20-minute sequence that melds survival horror, music, and live action in a way that is jaw-droppingly good and may even outdo Control's Ashtray Maze, making for one of the most memorable moments ever.
It has been a long, arduous wait for Alan Wake fans to see what's next for the character and the series, but it was well worth it. Alan Wake II is a triumph. -- Chris Pereira
Available on PS5, PC
Though Dungeons & Dragons might be known for its hefty tomes and long lists of rules, any dungeon master worth their salt will tell you there is one core tenet of the game that is more important than any of the rest: Try to say "no" as little as possible. It's a tall task for a dungeon master, as it requires them to think on their feet, go with the flow, and abandon even their most well-thought-out plans if their players stray too far from their anticipated path. But it's an even more unimaginable feat for a video game that doesn't have the luxury of there being another person on the other side of the screen, scrambling together new storylines and NPCs as quickly as the throw of a die--and this is precisely what makes Baldur's Gate III absolutely astonishing.
Despite being a concrete, finished game, Baldur's Gate III has this way of feeling infinite. Seemingly everything you do, say, and are is being constantly factored into the game, causing it to unfurl around players in dozens of different directions, none of which necessarily feel more "correct" than others. Want to kill off or enrage every teammate you can possibly attain and complete the entire campaign alone? Unadvisable, but doable. Want to possess so much charisma you can talk your way out of nearly every encounter? Go right ahead. By poking, prodding, and testing every last one of the game's seemingly nonexistent limits, you can fight the literal devil, unleash a hoard of vampires, ascend to godhood, level cities, have cosmic sex, and even eat one of your companions. In the bad way. But also in the other way, too.
Player choice (and those pesky dice) control every aspect of Baldur's Gate III, creating a perfect and unfathomable permutation, the likes of which we've never before seen. And while just that factor alone solidifies the game as a new benchmark for RPGs, there are several other things Baldur's Gate III has going for it: great music, beautiful environments, a robust world, exhilarating combat that rewards outside-the-box thinking, and an incredible cast of characters. There are extremely few games that can compete with Baldur's Gate III's voice acting and accompanying animations, and the dialogue is so natural, heartfelt, and wickedly funny that every party member is easy to fall in love with--even those with ice-cold exteriors. Baldur's Gate III is an achievement in gaming and a must-play RPG that will open your eyes to what games can be. -- Jessica Howard
Available on PS5, Xbox Series X|S, and PC
Is it finally time to play Cyberpunk 2077? The answer is a resounding yes. 2023 was a big year for CD Projekt Red's sci-fi RPG. The 2.0 update brought with it revamped skill trees, reworked cyberware, and introduced vehicular combat. The result is a fast, fluid, and crunchy combat system that supports multiple builds and playstyles. Want to dash around with a katana? No problem. Want to pulverize your foes with a shiny set of gorilla arms? Easy. When you throw in the years of support and bug fixes, Cyberpunk 2077 sits comfortably with some of the best action RPGs out there.
But Patch 2.0 only tells half of CD Projekt Red's success story. 2023 also saw the release of Phantom Liberty, a sharply written spy thriller expansion set in a seedy new district called Dogtown. Dogtown, although located within Night City, feels unique thanks to its rich history and rampant lawlessness. Each location V visits and gig they complete feeds into this world and its disorder. Everything feels cohesive and interconnected in a way that the original game didn't.
However, Phantom Liberty's greatest achievements are its story and characters. V is trapped in the middle of an ongoing struggle between a vicious warlord and the New United States while building tenuous relationships with a sleeper agent named Solomon Reed and a crack netrunner who goes by Songbird. The characters are the heart and soul of Phantom Liberty. In true spy thriller fashion, the game regularly poses the question: How well can you actually know someone? Even during the final stretch of Phantom Liberty, plot revelations and twists will continue to upend your understanding of certain characters in a way that feels earned, but will still leave you conflicted.
The meticulously paced story culminates with one of the toughest decisions I've ever had to make in a video game. There is no right or wrong, and V will burn bridges no matter the choice. What follows are two vastly different endings that are both ambitious, risky, and satisfying. Phantom Liberty, from start to finish, is an expertly crafted expansion that showcases a CD Projekt Red that's still at the top of its game. -- Jake Dekker
Available on Xbox Series X|S, PC, Xbox Cloud Gaming
Hi-Fi Rush was one of the biggest surprises of 2023, not only because of how damn good it is, but also because no one had any idea it existed before Tango Gameworks and Bethesda released it in January. A studio founded by the godfather of survival-horror and known exclusively for scary games had released the exact opposite of that--an incredibly fun, lighthearted, and joyous action game that manages to somehow succeed both as a Devil May Cry peer and as an unexpected revival of the rhythm genre. That this is the first game of its kind from a studio known for the dark and macabre is truly astounding.
Rather than simply use its soundtrack to set the mood for its chaotic fights against murderous robots (they're much cuter than they sound), Hi-Fi Rush makes music a central gameplay mechanic. Nearly everything in the world--from characters to the environment--moves to the beat, giving the entire game a driving pace that you'll want to match. It's not required, as you can still make it through the game while mostly ignoring your timing, but getting a higher score and pulling off the most impressive moves is accomplished by getting down to those beats.
And what good beats they are. A mix of brilliantly curated licensed music and original tracks, Hi-Fi Rush's soundtrack is like the musical equivalent of a perfect summer day, but it's mixed with just enough drama and tension to give the boss fights some weight without ever losing that walking-on-sunshine high. Unfortunately, Katrina and the Waves is not included on the soundtrack, which features some killer original tracks full of soaring guitar leads and dynamic crescendos.
Perhaps Hi-Fi Rush's greatest achievement, however, is kicking off the Year of the Himbo. Sure, Travis Kelce is getting all the attention these days with resurfaced old tweets about feeding a "squirle," but rockstar-wannabe Chai started the year off strong. Incredibly inept at just about everything--including playing guitar--he's the kind of video game hero you would never bet on in a fight but would always want to hang out with. We can only hope that this isn't the last time we see Chai and his friends because just like the perfect album, we were ready to start the whole thing over again when we reached the end. But, really, please make another one. -- Gabe Gurwin
Available on PS5, PS4, Xbox Series X|S, Xbox One, and PC
Between 2016 and 2021, IO Interactive worked to support and improve its long-running Hitman series with what is today known as the World of Assassination trilogy. According to many of the series' biggest fans, including this author, the team had just about perfected it by the time Hitman 3 launched in 2021, and it resulted in that game making GameSpot's Best Of list that year.
Now, two years after that award, Agent 47 graces our year-end list once again, this time thanks to its major (and free) update, Freelancer, which transforms the game into a roguelite mode that reimagines--but never betrays--what made the game so special in the first place. Whereas Hitman has always been a game about careful planning that may ultimately give way to chaos, Hitman Freelancer drops you into the chaos right away. Gone are the comforts of carefully selecting your starting weapons and items, your entry location, and your disguise.
Instead, the goal is to execute an endless supply of campaigns that amount to 18 successful missions per run, each with its own targets, bonus objectives, and obstacles. No two missions ever play the same, which gives what was already one of the best-supported single-player games new life. Hitman Freelancer combines touchpoints of the game's past supplementary modes into one incredible experience. Like Elusive Targets, just one mess-up may send you back to the start of the campaign, while the way some enemy awareness and difficulty builds up throughout a run is akin to the game's Escalation Contracts. The removal of some reliably predictable elements, such as who your target will be, where they may roam, and what tools you'll begin with turn a game of expert planning into one of masterful improvisation--it's like Agent 47 now plays in a jam band instead of a math rock group.
But it's the game mode's most unexpected detail that takes it beyond being an already brilliant reinvention of Hitman's core gameplay loop. Between missions, Agent 47 hangs out at a customizable safehouse that you'll unlock room by room, decoration by decoration. I never knew I wanted my Hitman to have a little Sims in it, but it really works. With a lengthy 100-level system full of new home decor and rooms to unlock, many of which also grant new items to take into missions, Hitman Freelancer is the victory lap for a game that stands as a shining example of single-player post-launch support, and an endlessly enjoyable standalone mode for one of the best games I've ever played. -- Mark Delaney
Available on Nintendo Switch
The Legend of Zelda: Tears of the Kingdom faced virtually insurmountable expectations. A direct sequel to what many fans regard as one of the best games of all time had to be impossibly ambitious, familiar yet fresh, and full of new secrets and surprises. That high bar makes it all the more impressive that Nintendo not only met but exceeded expectations with Tears of the Kingdom, a new high-water mark for Zelda games going forward.
While Breath of the Wild subverted the narrowly focused Zelda format with a wide-open world to explore in any order you choose, Tears of the Kingdom reinvented itself yet again by giving you a completely new set of tools for an unprecedented level of freedom within the open world. No longer restricted to exploring on horseback or foot, you could build horse-drawn carriages, automobiles, bridges and walkways, whirlygig flying contraptions, and even automated attack bots.
With these added exploration tools came an even larger world to explore. The familiar land of Hyrule was shown to be growing and changing in a new nascent industrial age, letting you continue chapters and reconnect with characters from Breath of the Wild to see how their circumstances had changed. The Sky Islands provide a whole new mass of puzzle and platforming opportunities with their own mysteries to uncover. And the game's best-kept secret before launch, the Depths, turned out to be a sprawling open world of its own that mirrors the overworld, effectively doubling the space to explore.
Breath of the Wild's Divine Beasts were replaced with proper temples, puzzle-laden dungeons that reward creative problem-solving. Boss fights were unique, gripping spectacles that made use of your various regional companions, acting as a true skill-test for each power.
Perhaps most significantly, Tears of the Kingdom told an original story that stayed true to the mythos of the series while recontextualizing many of its most well-worn pieces. With the Master Sword broken and corrupted and Zelda lost after a confrontation with Ganondorf, Link sets out to find her and unlock the mystery of strange Zelda sightings around Hyrule. The ultimate conclusion of the tale is cathartic and poignant, giving Zelda a central role in her own series' namesake. Tears of the Kingdom is an unforgettable adventure and among the very best this year had to offer. -- Steve Watts
Available on PS5, PS4, Switch, and PC
In recent years, there's been a wave of neo-retro RPGs that evoke nostalgia while incorporating modern sensibilities, but very few push the genre to new heights. Octopath Traveler II is one of those rare games. While the original pioneered the striking HD-2D art style, it's the sequel that made good on the ambitions of bringing eight characters together for meaningful stories full of hype moments and spectacular boss fights that stretch the possibilities of turn-based combat.
To say it's more of the same is a disservice to the way Octopath Traveler II addresses nearly every shortcoming of the first entry. There's a greater sense of togetherness within the crew, and each of their individual stories offers inspiring reasons to fight for what they believe in. From their designs, voice acting, and personalities, they're a charming bunch from all walks of life who you're sad to say goodbye to when the credits roll. Taking a step back, this game demonstrates an understanding of how the oppressive forces of the wealthy or powerful exploit working-class people, and that poverty isn't just something to overcome but a systemic issue to take action against. It's a smart commentary in a turn-of-the-century industrial age where technology swiftly sweeps the world woven into a fantastical tale of loyalty, religion, and how desperation can easily turn people evil.
It's not enough to say Octopath Traveler II took care of the original's weaknesses; it also improved the already-stellar combat to create what's arguably the best turn-based system ever. From the elaborate Job system and unique abilities tied to each character to the Boost gauge and limit break-esque Latent powers, you get so many tools to break and exploit enemies as you tee up chunky hits for massive damage. It's wildly satisfying because of the puzzle-like nature of juicing each turn effectively and manipulating turn order to make the most of every ability available. Especially in the most challenging boss battles, the layers of the party dynamic and intricacies of your skill set show their full potential with just enough complexity without ever getting overwhelming or incomprehensible.
But perhaps Octopath Traveler II's greatest achievement is in its jaw-dropping soundtrack. Many RPGs wield music as a storytelling device, and composer Yasunori Nishiki and team absolutely took this idea and smashed it. Every character's theme song tells you so much about who they are, every battle theme's momentum invigorates you in each fight--and when the soundtrack cleverly blends the two for critical moments in individual chapters, it's a harmony between music and narrative done in a way we so rarely experience. It further emphasizes the effectiveness of a beautiful, commanding soundtrack and the power it has to elevate a game's story beyond its script.
Octopath Traveler II is an investment as an RPG that can easily total 80-something hours. But every hour of that journey is worth it. While it catches your eye with its modernized nostalgia, everything else around it rivals the best of contemporary RPGs. And in our own terrifying world, rife with hardship, injustice, and class struggle, Octopath Traveler II is an inspiring game that shows a better life is possible when we uplift each other and fight together. -- Michael Higham
Available on PS5, Xbox Series X|S, PC
It's a tall order to remake one of the greatest games of all time. After all, the original Resident Evil 4 revolutionized the way games were designed--it's like asking someone to reinvent the wheel. Resident Evil 4's remake, however, doesn't feel like it's aiming to revolutionize games the way the original did 17 years ago. Instead, Capcom doubled down on what has made Resident Evil 4 timeless all these years later: its design, its tension, and, of course, Leon S. Kennedy (just to name a few). The result is something iconic in its own right, serving as a monument to its past, while acting as a beacon for action-survival-horror going forward.
2023's RE4 took its characters, its over-the-top action movie sensibilities, and its masterful horror design, and injected it with super powers, creating a version of RE4 that feels more cohesive and tightly interwoven, giving it narrative continuity that ties all of Capcom's Resident Evil remakes together, making this new era of the franchise feel stronger and more unified than the originals. Leon Kennedy is still an absolute cornball, but a cornball with an emotional resonance that has more at stake in the story, instead of merely being a cool dude trying to rescue the president's daughter (which he still absolutely is, too).
RE4 remake also featured some of the best combat this year. Each encounter felt like a waltz of gunfire, knife parries, and melee violence, interspersed with incredible one-liners and nail-biting resource management while being surrounded on all sides. It invoked the same feeling as the original did, but with a fluidity that rivals most modern gaming experiences. This is also a game where you can parry a chainsaw with a knife. Just saying.
It's hard to not talk about Resident Evil 4 remake as if in tandem with its original. It's only natural, considering the influence it had on the medium as a whole. But in doing so, it equally feels like a disservice to what this year's RE4 has managed to accomplish. The Resident Evil 4 remake deviates from the original in many ways but never compromises anything that made it revolutionary. Instead, it preserves that, recontextualizes it, and rejuvenates it in a game that is designed to keep veteran players constantly on edge, toying with what they remember, and in turn, using that familiarity as subversion. Capcom has masterfully created a new version of a beloved game and continues to blaze a trail with its Resident Evil remakes. Like the Resident Evil 2 remake before it, Capcom demonstrates its ability to capture the spirit of the original, respectfully evoking the same sense of atmosphere and tone that the original developers aspired to. At the same time, it empowers players with new mechanics and places challenges in their way to test their mastery of them. In that respect, the remake stands as a brilliant re-envisioning of its past rather than a mere replication of it. -- Kurt Indovina
Available on PS5, PS4, Xbox Series X|S, and PC
Making a new fighting game is kind of like reinventing chess--yes, it's another fighting-games-are-chess take; stick with it. That's true of how designers and developers approach establishing the rules of the games and how players interact, but even more so, it's true of what fighting game players expect from a new entry in the genre. If Street Fighter 2 Turbo is considered to be the chess of Capcom's long-running fighting game franchise, each new entry since its release has tasked the company with improving upon perfection. And while whether any of the follow-ups is actually better than Street Fighter 2 Turbo is open to debate, there have definitely been successful new entries in the Street Fighter franchise.
The Street Fighter Zero/Alpha series brought a youthful exuberance to the world warriors, while also layering on a number of interesting mechanics that evolved what Street Fighter could be. Street Fighter 3, specifically Third Strike, made the systems feel open and pushed the skill ceiling so high that it sustained a community for years, even as the series went dormant. But there are also Street Fighter titles that haven't been as well received, and Street Fighter V is one of them. It was a good game in many ways, but it also felt uncharacteristically plain and rigid--lacking the spirit of what Street Fighter is in aesthetic, tone, and gameplay offerings.
Street Fighter 6, however, has been a return to form for Capcom's premiere fighting game franchise. From the very first trailer, it was clear that having a vibrant and energized personality was key to the game, and that is represented in everything from its music and character design to its game modes and user interface. Most important, however, is the new gameplay system that powers all the combat engagements. The Drive system takes some of the ideas from older titles and breathes new life into them, while introducing new elements that make them feel fresh and exciting.
The Drive Gauge is key to it all, as it is used to execute Drive Impact, Drive Parry, Drive Rush, Drive Reversal, and Overdrive. Together, they function as essential tools to providing some room for expression and allowing for players to develop styles, whether that is methodical and oriented around controlling space while exploiting mistakes, or aggressive and built on rushing the opponent down and overwhelming them to create an opening, then exploiting it with flamboyant combo strings and tricky setups. Everything from Street Fighter IV's FADCs to Street Fighter III's parries is here in some form, and it all makes for a wonderfully rewarding fighting game to pick up and learn.
In a rather unexpected move, Capcom has also leaned heavily into giving players more ways to engage with the game. After a few threadbare story modes, Street Fighter 6 delivers a robust World Tour mode. Sure, it's not exactly a riveting tale of rising through the ranks to become a renowned fighter, but it is certainly a goofy and fun one. This is, in large part, thanks to the ability to pick a fight with pretty much any NPC in the world so that, at a moment's notice, you can be duking it out with a salaryman or hot-dog stand owner, with unexpected battle conditions amping up how weird the whole situation is.
Street Fighter V is remembered as being quite a staid game--described by some as "turn-based"--but its follow-up goes in the opposite direction by prioritizing depth, player skill and high-level execution, and it does so while making sure it has a distinct vibe and personality. These are all the essential ingredients of a good fighting game, and in 2023, Street Fighter 6 stands out as one of the best. -- Tamoor Hussain
Available on Nintendo Switch
A character and series that has been the subject of constant change, Mario came along this year and reinvented itself again. Super Mario Bros. Wonder is the latest mainline 2D Mario game, and the first in several years to drop the "New SMB" moniker that its 2D entries have been saddled with. That name feels like a conscious choice when you actually play Mario Wonder because, wahoo, this one really is different.
It starts with the presentation. The art style has been overhauled to give Mario and company more expressive faces and animated gestures as they navigate through vibrant stages. The head-bopping acapela-infused music tracks keep everything feeling light and breezy. The new setting of the Flower Kingdom introduces tons of new power-ups and enemy types, infusing the whole affair with life and creativity.
And that's all before we even introduce the main new gimmick, the Wonder effects. These inventive, world-changing effects are tailored to each stage, barely ever repeating. They're the backbone of the progression while also being a source of constant, delightful surprise. You never know just what you're going to get when you start a new stage in Super Mario Bros. Wonder, but it's bound to put a smile on your face.
Meanwhile, Mario Wonder packs a ton of thoughtful quality-of-life changes to the Mario formula, modernizing it in subtle ways. Character selection has been widely expanded, and more stage types have been added for a variety of length and play styles. Online and local multiplayer lets you turn any stage into a speedrun competition, or just go off on your own while still staying in your friends' lobby. Even more surprising is the new asynchronous multiplayer features, which let you see ghosts of other players who can revive your ghost or leave standees to drop hints. Who would have guessed Mario would take inspiration from Dark Souls, much less that it would work so well?
Mario is a character and a franchise nearly as old as video games themselves. After this long, we may have thought that the plucky plumber could no longer surprise us. How glad we are to discover that isn't the case. -- Steve Watts
If you've ever wanted to start a bit of drama, you may want to invite Gaston to your valley in Disney Dreamlight Valley--we're sure Belle and Beast won't be particularly happy about it. When you're ready to get Gaston, read on for how to make it happen.
To unlock Gaston, you first need to own the A Rift in Time expansion, then proceed through the opening quests until you reach The Glittering Dunes. Once you've made your way to this area, Gaston can be found standing by the sand waterfall on the far west edge of the map.
Speak to Gaston, who will inform you he's in need of sustenance and send you to track some things down for him in The Glittering Dunes.Continue Reading at GameSpot
When it was announced last month that Sony and Nintendo would be teaming up to finally make a live-action Legend of Zelda film, the fan frenzy hit the fan with dream casts and what game the movie should be like. While director Wes Ball hasn't specified what game the movie will be adapted from--if any one game in particular--he knows what he wants it to look like.
Talking to Entertainment Weekly, Ball said he wants to channel legendary animation director Hayao Miyazaki's works into the film as much as possible and hopes he can make that happen.
"[Legend of Zelda is ] this awesome fantasy-adventure movie that isn't like Lord of the Rings, it's its own thing," he explained. "I've always said, I would love to see a live-action Miyazaki. That wonder and whimsy that he brings to things, I would love to see something like that."Continue Reading at GameSpot
I am one of those people who was a little confused as to why The Last of Us Part II Remastered was launching with a roguelike mode. You could argue that the nature of Part II's story and its analysis of the cyclical nature of revenge and grief lends itself to the structure of a roguelike, but the remaster's new No Return mode is devoid of the storytelling of the main game. Instead, it offers an avenue for players to reacquaint themselves with and master Part II's excellent combat mechanics. That's not nothing, but it certainly feels like an odd addition to a franchise that primarily leans on its storytelling. And so my first question for The Last of Us Part II Remastered game director Matthew Gallant--who served as lead systems designer for the original game--was fairly straightforward: "Why do this?"
"When we were looking at making The Last of Us Part II Remastered, we were looking at what were some of the cool things we could do with the game and combat AI--those kinds of systems--are really in my blood and my background," Gallant answered. "And in The Last of Us, yes, the combat connects to the larger themes of the story and the narrative of the game but it's also just a really great, really robust system that is really fun and it's designed in a way where there is a lot more to it than we thought we could do with it."
Having now played about three hours of No Return, the biggest transformation that the roguelike structure has on Part II's gameplay is the way it raises the stakes. Unless you're playing Part II with the permadeath modifier enabled, death in combat is only a minor setback where a few minutes of progress is lost. My biggest issue with the permadeath modifier in Part II is that it makes death a huge setback where potentially dozens of hours can be lost. No Return is a nice in-between option, encouraging you to approach each fight with the wariness that a mistake can ruin a run but the comfort that each run lasts only about an hour at most. A loss hurts, but it's not going to make me put the game down in frustration and never touch it again.Continue Reading at GameSpot