2023: Games you might have missed

Every month of this year, including the typically quiet months of January and December, has seen a handful of must-play releases. An assault not just on gamer’s wallets, but their spare time as well.

Browsing through 2023’s release lists, it soon becomes apparent that dozens of positively reviewed games failed to generate much of a buzz, either being ignored over whatever else was setting Metacritic ablaze that week, or failing to gain the press attention they deserved.

In typical annual feature fashion, we’ve rounded up six games that you may have missed at launch. These aren’t amongst the greatest games 2023 had to offer, except for perhaps one or two, but all are more deserving of a second look and the chance to reach a larger audience.

Honourable mentions go to the precision platformer Garlic, the 16-bit style supernatural story-driven adventure A Space For The Unbound, the belated Xbox version of the polished Metroidvania F.I.S.T.: Forged In Shadow Torch, and EA’s first-person spell caster Immortals of Aveum – a victim of the publisher’s own busy release schedule.

Clash: Artifacts of Chaos

Clash: Artifacts of Chaos

Chilean developers ACE Team are known for their weird yet wonderful games, with past works including Zeno Clash, Rock of Ages, and The Eternal Cylinder. Clash: Artifacts of Chaos is arguably their weirdest adventure yet, as well as their most ambitious.

The story is told in an intriguing way, with the gaunt but mighty martial arts master Pseudo bounding his way to a fortress owned by Gemini – a sizeable multiheaded vixen who’s protected by a gang of dim-witted brutes. A fight ensues, taking place barely an hour after the tutorial phase, in which Pseudo is forced to admit defeat. To end her reign for good, and prevent a small magical creature known as The Boy from falling into her mitts, Pseudo must travel to the far corners of this peculiar world and retrieve four artifacts.

To prevent Pseudo’s world from falling into chaos and bloodshed, it’s governed by one unbreakable rule – before any fight, players must partake in a dice game. This can be played manually, with new die and pieces acquired throughout, or The Boy can play on your behalf. Win, and you’ll get to activate a combat modifier, such as a swarm of bees or a chain to tether the opposition. Brutal melee battles then play out in arenas, with Pesudo doling out heavy hitting attacks as if they were in a UFC octagon. Amusingly, enemies can harm one another – something that can be entertainingly exploited.

Combat feels crunchy and satisfying, and new stances and moves can be unlocked. In addition to kicks and punches, there’s also a projectile attack. Invaluable for dealing with enemies from afar.

At its core, Clash: Artifacts of Chaos is a Soulslike – you explore, open shortcuts, and set up bonfires where potions can be brewed using resources gained from foraging. Sleeping commences a shift to nighttime, where Pseudo takes the form of a wooden puppet – now able to enter new areas previously blocked by bramble bushes. Here, you’ll eventually find a candle-headed foe, and once defeated a new path becomes available.

This is a surprisingly long (20+ hour) and deep experience that takes you from cloud-coated mountains to sandy beaches, and even a town where only few inhabitants remain. It does start to overstay its welcome towards the end, but when the credits finally rolled, I definitely felt like I had been on a colossal adventure – one that was surprisingly emotional for something with a heavy focus on repeatedly punching and kicking enemies to death.

ACE Team’s Clash: Artifacts of Chaos is available on PC, and all Xbox and PlayStation formats.

Ed-0: Zombie Uprising

Ed-0: Zombie Uprising

Old meets new in D3 Publisher’s Ed-0: Zombie Uprising – a (rather obvious) play on words of Japan’s Edo Period. It’s presented in a similar manner to D3’s cult, low budget, games such as Earth Defense Force and Onechanbara – two franchises that date back to the PS2 era, arguably not having evolved much since then. Only, Ed-0: Zombie Uprising isn’t a mindless zombie hack and slasher. It’s a modern, randomised, roguelike with RPG elements.

During a mission, everything is randomised – right down to your attack moves, with two doled out as you start a new run. From thereon, new moves can be added to your fighting repertoire, mapped to certain buttons – everything from a sword slash to a ground pound. Eventually, you’ll accumulate all manner of devices and gizmos too. Even a couple of hours in, I was still discovering new playthings.

Experimenting with these is where part of Ed-0’s appeal lies. Zombies grow in number in as you explore the maze-like environments, but can be dealt with easy by gaining higher ground and unleashing a couple of spinning tops with mounted blades, or using a decoy and an explosive device. These are just two examples from a pool of many.

With three playable characters – including a sumo wrestler – a long quest list, and a village hub to explore, there’s quite a bit to master and see here. It does run its course a little towards the end, requiring a degree of commitment – and the PS2 era style presentation may not appeal to everyone – but I still feel that Ed-0: Zombie Uprising deserved more attention when it launched in July. Sadly, it seems to be destined for cult status just like D3’s past works. Some things never change.  

Lancarse’s Ed-0: Zombie Uprising is available on PS5, Xbox Series, and PC.

Scars Above

Scars Above

While one of the weaker games in this feature, Scars Above is still worth investigating – especially considering it can now be purchased for around £10-£15, even at retail. It’s also one of the publisher’s better attempts at establishing a new IP, besting The Chant, Dolmen, and The Last Oricru.

In this third-person sci-fi shooter, we’re cast not into the role of a grizzled grunt or mercenary for hire, but rather a female scientist who crash lands on a strange planet, once home to a lost race.

Science is the theme here. Our heroine Kate is armed not with pistols and rifles, but with an electrical bolt gun and a heat ray intended for engineering purposes. After modifications, they’re repurposed for combat – with certain enemies susceptible to heat, electrical charges, and so forth.

Once defeated, larger enemies can be closely examined, learning of their weak spots, or perhaps retrieving something useful from their carcass. The plant life and remnants of the lost alien race are put to good use too, with a hologram device re-engineered into a decoy. Gradually, you’ll discover what happened to those who once called this planet their home. In fact, Kate becomes infatuated.

Being a modern third-person shooter, a few Soulslike elements have crept in. Kate only carries a handful of health injectors, restored at respawn monoliths, and environments eventually loop back around by opening shortcuts. Enemies respawn upon returning to a monolith too, which doesn’t fit in with the narrative too well. Another downside – in addition to the amount of backtracking towards the end – is that Scars Above becomes easier over time, being tough in the beginning but gung-ho within its final hours.

If you’re lamenting the lack of single player third-person shooters, Scars Above is a decent option with a handful of innovative ideas – although it comes with the caveat that some better implemented than others.

Mad Head Games’ Scars Above is available on PC, and all Xbox and PlayStation formats.



It’s 1982 and the summer holidays are here. But rather than spending the long hot days with her school friends, Mimi is forced to spend the summer in Southern France with her doting grandmother Nora. Mimi drags her heels and mumbles under her breath while carrying her suitcase upstairs into Nora’s quaint countryside cottage. Slowly but surely, she comes to appreciate a change of scenery, learning about nature and discovering the joys of the great outdoors.

Now 32 years old, Mimi returns to her recently deceased grandmother’s cottage. The sights and sounds come flooding back, but some memories are hazy. In fact, she doesn’t remember much about her four week vacation here at all. Over the course of this 5-6 hour adventure, you’ll discover why, with key objects discovered in Nora’s cottage sparking flashback sequences.

Presented in a lavish watercolour art style, you’ll get to play through certain memorable days, usually starting with breakfast before heading out either to the town or Dordogne River and then eventually settling for the night. The events that unfold progress the storyline in a meaningful way, reviving old memories. Then, in the present day, more locations unlock – including a room young Mimi was told to stay out of.

There are a few playful touches – Mimi inherits Nora’s camera, giving chance to capture the sights, and the young scamp is fond of recording new sounds too. Puzzles and mini-games also feature, including one where the “correct” amount of cereal must be poured into a bowl. Note the quotation marks, there.

Dordogne is visually striking and weaves a compelling story. A bittersweet experience, it’s almost guaranteed to make even the stoniest of gamers smile.  

Un Je Ne Sais Quoi and Umanimation’s Dordogne is available on PC, Switch, Xbox, and PlayStation.

Bramble: The Mountain King

Bramble: The Mountain King

I’ve played a few of Merge’s titles, and while most seem to be created with good intentions and showcase creative ideas, they’ve all suffered from feeling like they needed more development. This seems to be because Merge publishes retail releases for most of their works, and these launch dates are set in stone – meaning no extra development time. Time on Frog Island, Alex Kidd DX, Foreclosed, and Slaycation Paradise all fell foul of this. It’s just a theory, mind.

Bramble: The Mountain King is the exception, and the crowning jewel in their portfolio – a game that any publisher would be proud to call their own.

It’s a grim fairytale adventure inspired by Nordic folklore that isn’t afraid to be unsettling. It even has a few nasty surprises in store, intended to shock.

You play as Olle, who’s out to save his sister from a troll after the duo sneaks out of their cozy homestead in the dead of night. What then ensues is an emotional journey across mountains, plague-infested towns, picturesque countryside, and dank swamps – all the while sinister creatures linger in the shadows, able to be cast back into the darkness by brandishing a glowing stone.

It plays similar to Little Nightmares, Brothers, Unravel, and other adventures with a focus on environmental traversal, physics-based puzzle solving, and either outsmarting enemies or avoiding them altogether. Creative moments are bountiful, and the whole shebang is a visual treat– it’s remarkably close to being photorealistic, hence the Unravel comparison. There are plenty of chances to take in the sights too, with a handful of slower sections used to express sorrow or develop a sense of scale to the world around you.

To find flaws in Bramble: The Mountain King would be to resort to nitpicking. It’s a little short, perhaps, but better that than a game that runs out of ideas too soon. Highly recommended.

Dimfrost Studio’s Bramble: The Mountain King is available on PC, Switch, Xbox, and PlayStation.

Aliens: Dark Descent

Aliens: Dark Descent

While it may seem peculiar to include a licensed game here, keep in mind that Dark Descent vanished from the UK chart entirely during its second week on sale, never returning. This presumably means only diehard Aliens and console RTS fans took the plunge on day one, with few other gamers believing it to be worth their time.

That’s a shame, as Aliens: Dark Descent is a forward-thinking example of the genre with lots of fresh ideas. It uses the license well too, rather than shoehorning it into an RTS mold.

You’re tasked with completing four missions spread across just as many maps. That may not sound like a lot, but these missions are lengthy affairs intended to last a couple of hours each, with the main objective split into dozens of sub-quests. The idea is to head to a weathered installation and start chipping away at your prime objective, scouting rooms, and completing sub-missions. Over time, the xenomorphs become riled, learning of and tracking your location before increasing in ferocity. You can fend them off for a while, but eventually, your squad will become scared, and battle-scarred – meaning it’s time to return to the orbital base and regroup.

During this downtime squads can be rearmed, levelled up, or sent to the infirmary. Your absence on the planet also sees the Xenos settle and return to their hive so that when you return, they’ll no longer be pacing the halls. If you’re skilled, it’s possible to go undetected for quite some time.

In addition to expanding the lore with a new alien type, the license is implemented well – the motion tracker is used to induce tension, doors can be welded shut to close off routes or create safe rooms, and the auto-driven APC carries your squad around the large maps in safety. It’ll even auto-fire on any Xenos – park up outside a bases’ entrance, and it’ll quickly quell an ambush. There are neat touches elsewhere too, such as using a flare to significantly boost aiming proficiency, and the focus on deploying auto-turrets to dwindle Xeno numbers.

If you’re overly cautious about the genre, rest assured that Dark Descent is one of the best options available for consoles, offering a very modern take.

Tindalos Interactive’s Aliens: Dark Descent is available on PC, and all Xbox and PlayStation formats.