12 Sleeper Hits of 2023 That Were Worth Your Time

The 12 games on this rundown you might have heard of, or maybe you haven’t; point is, these games deserve to be played far and wide. Hopefully there’ll be something new here that’ll pique your interest.

Posted By | On 29th, Dec. 2023

12 Sleeper Hits of 2023 That Were Worth Your Time

This year has been a fantastic year for video games. So many releases will go into the pantheon of all-timers, but as ever there are a host of video games which the limelight has largely shunned. Perhaps they released too close to something more well known? Or they captured lightning in a bottle on release, only to fade away mere days later.

Dredge

Described as a single-player fishing adventure with a sinister undercurrent, Dredge is one of the most unexpectedly exciting indie games to release this year. Players act as trawlerman, furrowing nautical depths and selling their catch. Cash leads to better fishing equipment, and soon enough players are trawling the depths of deep sea, but the deeper the water the bigger the threat. Fog pervades the mysterious open ocean, with a dark history lurking beneath the water surface. If you’ve played Dredge, you’ll know how enveloping it is. For everyone else, there’s mysteries to unravel in them there seas.

Viewfinder

A mind-bending first-person puzzler in the vein of Manifold Garden or Superliminal, Viewfinder challenges perception, reshapes reality, and redefines the world, all through the lens of an instant camera. The premise is simple enough: place captured photographs and camera roll images into your immediate vicinity to alter the environment and overcome obstacles. The image-warping escapism also evokes Gorogoa but play through Viewfinder and you’ll quickly realise it’s very much its own thing, a towering achievement for its one-man studio. Hopefully Viewfinder’s nominations for best indie and best debut indie at The Game Awards bring it to a wider audience.

Football Manager 2024

football manager 2024

Yes, you’ve probably heard of Football Manager, and yes, you’re likely to have let this iteration pass you by. But do so at your peril, because if you have hundreds of hours to spare Football Manager 2024 is the most engrossing entry in years thanks to new features such as the set piece creation wizard, improved player animations, and more visible feedback on whether your team’s formation and tactics are working as anticipated on match day. Football Manager’s uncanny ability to attach emotion to a barrage of stats and spreadsheets is still it’s forte, but its 24’s new additions which promote this entry to a must play for anyone even remotely interested in the ruthless world of football management.

Rusted Moss

Rusted Moss is a metroidvania with compelling twin-stick shooting and traversal mechanics; grapple hooks give players ability to swing through the game’s deftly designed zones whilst thumb-sticks turn levels into precise, 360° shooting galleries. It’s a skill that’s tricky to learn initially but becomes masterfully intuitive the longer you play. Rusted Moss was hyped on release last April, but chatter has since petered out. It’d be great to see this niche indie project on more platforms as its twin-stick mechanic is made for consoles.           

Gravity Circuit

gravity circuit

A slick 2D platformer evoking classics, in Gravity Circuit players assume command of the Mega Man alike Kai, a lone wolf war hero who must channel mysterious powers into devastating punches, kicks, and combos in a rip-roaring soar through a sentient robot inhabited retro future. Like any other year, 2023 has seen its fair share of fantastic platformers – offerings from Mario and Sonic notwithstanding – but as one of the year’s best Gravity Circuit doesn’t deserve to be overshadowed.

Space Wreck 

This bite sized post-apocalyptic space explorer packs an awful lot of RPG into a tiny package. Developer Pahris Entertainment SIA have crafted something they say is ‘intentionally short yet surprisingly deep’, opting to focus on replayability. In Space Wreck, with numerous traits to plough into your character, every decision harbouring consequence, and up to eight possible solutions for each of the game’s quests there’s plenty of variation and playstyle on offer. Fans of games at the cerebral end of the RPG spectrum like Disco Elysium shouldn’t sleep on this one.   

Season: A Letter to the Future

season a letter to the future

A meditative bike ride through verdant valleys and quaint townships, Season: A Letter to the Future encourages players to capture the essence of life – the smell of a flower, the sound of a meadow breeze, the late-afternoon light cascading down the face of a statue – to distil the significance of our relationships and to find meaning in minutiae, all before an inevitable apocalypse wipes the slate clean. Season: A Letter to the Future reminds us that the value is in the voyage, not the destination.

Ugly

A reflective platformer in more ways than one, Ugly utilises a creative mirror mechanic to solve challenging puzzle rooms, creating a shadowy replica of yourself to swap and change the world around you. The mirror isn’t just for platforming though, its activation can reveal hidden secrets and past trauma – the game takes place in the recesses of a tormented nobleman’s mind. A hidden gem in every sense, Ugly hasn’t received much fanfare which is a shame because away from the innovative platforming there’s a stirring narrative to unravel.

Hi-Fi Rush

hi-fi rush

Surprise released to immediate fanfare by The Evil Within developer Tango Dreamworks, Hi-Fi Rush continued rhythm-action games’ renaissance with its stylish gameplay synced to a pumping soundtrack. The month following its release concurrent Steam players dropped off a cliff with 65% moving onto something else, and despite a resurgence in the early Autumn following its Arcade Challenge update it seems Hi-Fi Rush has been largely forgotten. However, it’s hybridisation of genres, killer mixtapes, memorable characters, and pulsating action is worth a go for anyone even slightly interested.

El Paso, Elsewhere

Exuding all the style and power of Max Payne, El Paso, Elsewhere is a third-person neo-noir shooter taking place inside the shapeshifting confines of a strange hotel. Hunt werewolves, evil puppets, and a host of damned creatures in vivid slow motion, all whilst on a meaningful mission to destroy the villain you once loved. There’s more to El Paso, Elsewhere than cinematic gunfire, but of course any fan of shooting games should take note.

Jusant

jusant

Jusant is a meditative action-puzzle climbing adventure in which players scale an impossibly tall tower in command of an androgenous climber. As the altitude increases, so does the repertoire of climbing tools and techniques; players must use their wits to best scale the tower’s diverse biomes, uncovering a deep history with every foot of elevation. Don’t Nod’s latest effort is contemplative, challenging, but ultimately, a beautiful experience that’s not to be missed.

OXENFREE II: Lost Signals

You’d be forgiven for not realising the sequel to one of indie games’ most confounding entries released this year, but OXENFREE II: Lost Signals did indeed step into the light this past July. Set five years after its predecessor, Lost Signals follows Riley as she investigates mysterious electromagnetic waves disturbing TV signals and aviation radar that’re emanating from her hometown. A mind-bending, supernatural thriller, with meaningful conversation choices shaping the story as Riley uncovers more than she bargained for.


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