Best video games 2023: from kids' favorites to grown-up gaming stars

Hundreds of new games launched this year – or several thousand if you count independent (“indie”) titles and mobile games for smartphones – and so there’s no shortage of titles to splurge on this holiday season.

But therein lies the challenge: With so many new games available, it could be tough to know what to buy.

We can help.

Divided into recommended ages, the following are some of the year’s best.

To help whittle down the list, we didn’t include remakes or reboots of older games – like stellar 2023 refreshes to Resident Evil 4, Dead Space, and Mortal Kombat – but no doubt you’ll find something here to gift a gamer or to treat yourself this month.

Kids

Super Mario Bros. Wonder ($59.99; for Nintendo Switch)

Side-scrolling gameplay gets a modern makeover in Super Mario Bros. Wonder, a fun, fresh and frantic take on what made Nintendo a household name to begin with.

Choose from one of your favorite characters − Mario, Princess Peach, Luigi, Daisy and others – and venture out to save the Flower Kingdom by navigating through increasingly tricky environments.

The levels come alive with special items, power-ups and magical effects, whether you play  solo, with up to three friends locally and cooperatively, or competing online.

Super Mario Bros. Wonder for Nintendo Switch. You can play solo, with people around you, or online.
Super Mario Bros. Wonder for Nintendo Switch. You can play solo, with people around you, or online.

Party Animals ($19.99; for Xbox Series S/X/One and Windows PC)

Recreate Games’ affordable Party Animals is a silly but rewarding physics-based multiplayer brawler that lets you play as or against combative animals, such as puppies, a kitten, duck, bunny, pig, shark, gorilla and even dinosaurs.

Along with melee attacks, like drop-kicking and head-butting, you can use a variety of weapons to inflict damage on your enemies the 20 or so maps, and spread out between three modes: Last Stand (every animal for themselves), Team Score (based on popular sports) and Arcade (team-based mayhem on great maps like Final Destination).

Party Animals is great for families to duke it out − virtually.

Honorable mentions: Nintendo’s Pikmin 4, Sony’s MLB The Show 23, Microsoft Game Studios’ Forza Motorsport, and EA Sports’ NHL 24.

Teens

Marvel’s Spider-Man 2 ($69.99; for PlayStation 5)

Developed by the talented developers at Insomnia Games, Peter Parker and Miles Morales return in this extraordinary game sequel as players swing, jump, fight and unlock the new Web Wings and other gadgets while progressing through the story.

PS5 gamers can swing into Marvel’s Spider-Man 2, a stellar single-player adventure from Insomniac Games.
PS5 gamers can swing into Marvel’s Spider-Man 2, a stellar single-player adventure from Insomniac Games.

Switching between both Spider-Men throughout the story, each with their own epic powers, your goal is to traverse New York City and take down the vicious Venom before he can destroy the city.

Along with the main campaign, players can complete side-missions and find collectibles peppered throughout this single player game’s open world.

The Legend of Zelda: Tears of the Kingdom ($69.99; for Nintendo Switch)

Zelda fans might not think Nintendo can top its own Breath of the Wild but six years later its sequel bests its predecessor in so many ways.

The Legend of Zelda: Tears of the Kingdom offers more freedom and choice (in the air, on the ground, and subterranean maps) and new runes with amazing powers (allowing players to fuse weapons and shields), as well as a tighter narrative, more secrets and side quests, gorgeous graphics and faster load times.

As Link, you’re tasked with searching for Princess Zelda, while fighting to prevent the Demon King and his minions from destroying the world of Hyrule.

This single-player fantasy action romp is a must-play for Nintendo Switch owners.

Honorable mentions: EA’s Hogwarts Legacy and Star Wars Jedi: Survivor, Team17’s Dredge, Capcom’s Street Fighter 6, Square Enix’s Final Fantasy 16, and Bethesda’s H-Fi Rush.

Adults

Alan Wake II ($69.99; for PlayStation 5, Xbox Series S/X, Windows PC)

Developed by Remedy Entertainment and published by Epic Games, Alan Wake II is a psychological “survival horror” action game that follows novelist Alan Wake, who writes a story about a female FBI agent, Saga, and you play as both protagonists across two tales.

Played from an over-the-shoulder third-person perspective, this atmospheric single-player game challenges you to navigate dimly lit and dangerous environments, armed with weapons and a flashlight, and attempt to piece together clues to help solve the mysteries.

Without giving too much away, this “Mature”-rated game (for players 17 and older) is well worth the price of admission for its spine-tingling premise, intense action, and exceptional visuals.

Diablo IV (from $54.99; for multiple consoles and PC)

Blizzard Entertainment’s long-awaited sequel lives up to the hype.

The next-generation action role-playing game (RPG) once again drops players into deadly dungeons – to quest through on your own or with others online – as you hack and slash and use magic to defeat demons big and small.

Collect loot, upgrade your abilities, meet memorable allies, and expand to new locations.

Easy to pick up but difficult to put down, Diablo IV is a blast – and it supports online cross-platform play between all supported consoles and PC players.

Baldur’s Gate 3 ($59.99 for Windows PC, Mac; $69.99 for PlayStation 5)

Set in the world of Dungeons & Dragons, Larian Studios’ fantasy RPG lets you choose from one of 12 classes and 11 races, or create your own character from scratch, and set out in an epic adventure, with a supporting party, and fight back against an ominous force.

Larian Studios’ Baldur’s Gate 3 is a fantasy role-playing game with well over 100 hours of gameplay and cinematics.
Larian Studios’ Baldur’s Gate 3 is a fantasy role-playing game with well over 100 hours of gameplay and cinematics.

The huge game (100+ hours!) has you fight, explore, solve puzzzles and loot across the vast Forgotten Realms universe, and beyond – including cities, forests, caves and dungeons – along with taking on side missions and companion quests, while tackling the game by oneself or as a “party” of up to four online.

Honorable mentions: Bethesda’s Starfield, Behaviour Interactive’s Meet Your Maker, and Deep Silver’s Dead Island 2.

Follow Marc on X for his “Tech Tip of the Day” posts: @marc_saltzman. Email him or subscribe to his Tech It Out podcast. The views and opinions expressed in this column are the author's and do not necessarily reflect those of USA TODAY.

This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Best video games 2023: Super Mario, Spider Man and more