What a great year 2023 has been for Xbox Game Pass subscribers: Hi-Fi Rush, Lies of P, Starfield, Cocoon and Jusant are just a few of the best games that have arrived on Microsoft’s service catalog. Since it is time for balance sheets, on Freaking News it is time for the much-loved rankings to relive with you this 2023 among video games, movies and TV series.
Before proceeding, however, I would like to specify that what you are about to read is an entirely personal ranking, so you may disagree with some positions. Finally, to make this list as complete as possible, here are the honorable mentions or, to look at it from a competitive point of view, the big games excluded: Atomic Heart, GTA V Xbox Series X/S version, Ghostwire Tokyo, Wo Long Fallen Dinasty, Remnant 2 and Planet of Lana.
10) Forza Motorsport
We open the ranking with Forza Motorsport, one of the best racing games of this 2023 developed by Turn 10 Studios: arrived at day one on Xbox Game Pass on October 10, 2023, the exclusive PC and Xbox Series X/S has been expected by fans for a full three years, but the wait, fortunately, has been well rewarded. Forza Motorsport, while a sequel to Forza Motorsport 7, represents a reboot of sorts for the Microsoft saga.
What a wonderful game Inkulinati, the two-dimensional turn-based strategy with the most bizarre name in 2023. The development studio, in creating its work, took inspiration from marginalia, the miniatures found on medieval manuscripts that here come to life through the goose feather moved gracefully by the Inkulinati Masters.
Summon your own army and challenge that of your opponents – including Dante Alighieri – in multiple clashes to the death where your goal is to kill the rival Inkulinate master. Beware, however, if you come out defeated from the battle, you will have to start over from the beginning, which is why we have also included Inkulinati in the best roguelike games available on Xbox Game Pass.
8) Wild Hearts
If you read Freaking News on a fairly regular basis by now, you will already know how much I loved Wild Hearts, the action developed by Omega Force and published by Electronic Arts that is inspired by Monster Hunter: your goal is, in fact, to go on a hunt for wonderful as well as leathery legendary creatures, the Kemono.
Wild Hearts has arrived on the Xbox Game Pass catalog among the November 2023 games: it is one of the newest titles on the charts so you will find it for several more months within the catalog. The icing on the cake of a frenetic gameplay under the banner of ruthless combat is the ability to play together with one or more people up to a maximum of 3 players.
7) Sea of Stars
The game that was a huge critical and public success, winner of the Best Indie Game award at The Game Awards 2023, arrived at day one on Xbox Game Pass: meet Sea of Stars, JRPG with a splendid art compartment developed by the independent studio Sabotage Studio, which starts slow and then explodes in the second half of the campaign.
The gameplay of Sea of Stars features the classic mechanics of turn-based combat but attempts, at the same time, to modernize them: in fact, the developers decided to abandon crafting and casual combat to try to break up the pace of the adventure as little as possible.
Bethesda’s great odyssey. Starfield, the sci-fi GDR exclusive to Xbox Series X/S and PC, was, without a shadow of a doubt, one of the most anticipated games of 2023 and a workhorse of Microsoft’s video game offerings (if you missed it, here’s the Starfield review).
Starfield is vast, immense, gigantic, a dream for those who looked forward to traversing boundless galaxies and discovering the secrets of an almost infinite number of planets to explore. Here, if you don’t know what to do during the vacation season, Starfield’s content can keep you entertained for a great many weeks.
5) Lies of P
“Hi Andrea, I finished all From Software soulslike: while I wait for Elden Ring DLC, what can I play? If it’s on Game Pass even better!” There is no easier answer to this question: Lies of P, probably the best soulslike not developed by Hidetaka Miyazaki’s studio.
The production made by Korean software house Neowiz Games won me over for several reasons: among all, I would like to emphasize the narrative, which takes up the story of Pinocchio, Carlo Collodi’s novel; the combat system that reminded me of that masterpiece Sekiro: Shadows Die Twice and, finally, the boss fights that always keep the challenge level high without ever becoming overly prohibitive, except, perhaps, for one boss, Laxasia (If you don’t know how to defeat Laxasia, here’s The Guide to the Hardest Bosses in Lies of P).
Jusant is the first gem on this list (one more to go), arriving at day one on Xbox Game Pass on Oct. 31, 2023. A mountain, the Tower, to climb and a small creature made of water, Ballast, to keep us company: once the game started, it took very little to realize that I was in front of one of those works that would strike me straight to the heart.
We do not know what we will find once we get to the top of the Tower, and perhaps it is not even that important to find out: what matters, at least from my point of view, is what we will experience during the journey and in that sense Don’t Nod proves, once again, to be unsurpassed when it comes to writing to excite.
3) Dead Space Remake
The most difficult (and then overcome) challenge of this my video game year: in 2009 Dead Space did not let me sleep at night so much that I was forced to abandon it but the arrival of the Remake – one of the best games of this 2023 – on Xbox Game Pass, allowed me to try again to tackle the delusions and madness of the action-horror developed by Motive Studio.
In the end, despite all the difficulties involved, I managed to make it safely to the credits. I have tried to recount my misadventures grappling with the Necromorphs that populate the Ishimura spaceship in this special article devoted to Dead Space Remake. For the curious and the brave, enjoy your reading and, I hope, have fun.
On a desert planet, in whose rocks are embedded pieces of alien technology, a signal arrives. A ray of light that hatches a cocoon, from which a firefly-like being emerges. The game world does not speak to you or to us players. With Cocoon, the second gem on this list, we return to the degree zero of video gaming, to gameplay that is as simple as it is enlightening, that gets under our skin like a vibration ready to recode us, willingly or unwillingly.
In contrast to the growing trend of creating vast, detail-saturated game environments, Cocoon reduces its elements to the bone. Thus, this puzzle game with platforming elements succeeds in bringing to life a world capable of triggering fundamental discourse without saying a word, of lulling us (thanks in part to Jakob Schmidt’s extraordinary ambient soundtrack) into new dimensions. The cocoon has hatched.
1) Hi-Fi Rush
It couldn’t be any other way: Hi-Fi Rush, Tango Gameworks‘ gift to PC and Xbox Series X/S owners and Game Pass subscribers (Hi-Fi Rush’s review is just a click away), ranks, with merit, at the top of this list. This colorful stylish action rhythm game kicks ass, thrilled and entertained me like few other games have managed to do this year.
The shadow drop with which Microsoft publicized the title’s immediate availability during the Xbox Showcase last February remains in history, as does the opening minutes of adventure with the Black Keys’ Gold on The Ceiling playing in the background. Thank you Hi-Fi Rush for helping to make my 2023 special.