In the gaming world, there’s one thing that every secular video game reviewer and player can agree on: This was a great year for new games. In fact, there’s quite a bit of tug and pull among the gaming elite about what could possibly be the best game of the year, since there were so many strong ones.
But the definition of a “good game” depends a lot on what you’re looking for. And if you’re looking for a good game for your 11-year-old, these “great” games might not look all that great. A lot of social media votes have been logged for games such as Bethesda’s Starfieldand Larian Studios Baldur’s Gate 3. And while those two RPGs are definitely well-crafted entries, they’re also M-rated. In Baldur’s Gate 3’s case, very much so. And we all know what that tends to mean. (Read our reviews if you’re not so sure.)
So, we here at Plugged In want to cheer a few other great games that could easily wear a golden Best Of crown. The toughest challenge was limiting the list to only five.
Here is our list of the best family friendly games of 2023.
(Action/Adventure, Puzzle. Nintendo Switch. Rated: E10+)
This well-balanced game explores the vast lands and skies of the kingdom of Hyrule. It ventures into a creative story which twists its way through time and several Hyrulian eras. If you think the Zelda games are just kids’ play, you’re in for a challenging (and emotional) rebuttal. Tears of the Kingdom is tough and rewarding.Parents of very young adventures should keep that—and the game’s 50-hour-long questing, fantasy spirituality and perilous battles—in mind. That said, there won’t be any Zelda fans, young or old, shedding tears if they get this game.
(Action/Adventure. PlayStation 5. Rated: T)
Spider-buds Peter Parker and Miles Morales take on super-powered threats to their beloved city, and the spectacular gaming action is arguably better than the movies. Aesthetically, this game is impressive to look at and play through. The character graphics aren’t, frankly, all consistently equal, but some are amazingly realistic. This game’s T-rating, however, lets some content slip through, including razor-toothed peril; sexual references; and some language issues. If you were never able to get your hands on a PS5, sorry. This game is a PlayStation exclusive.
(Platformer. Nintendo Switch. Rated: E)
It’s been 42 years since a little mustachioed Italian plumber first jumped into an arcade game, and the newest Switch entry is one of the best in that historical heap. It’s a creative and joyously bouncing blast. In Wonder, the ever-troublesome Bowser transforms into a castle and threatens a neighboring flower kingdom. Players step into the shoes of any of Mario’s crew (including the likes of Mario, Luigi, Peach and Yoshi) to set things aright. The biggest yellow flag here is that very young players may need some parental button-crunching help to best that bang-bamming Bowser by the game’s end.
(Puzzle. Nintendo Switch, PC, PlayStation 4, Xbox One)
While many of the most popular games tend to be all about fistfights, blaster action and all manner of mayhem, Skye Tales is what is known as a cozy game. It’s fun, but in a relaxing, put-your-feet-up sort of way. This puzzler introduces players to the island of Brinn, whose residents need help with all sorts of problems. And naturally, they turn to a cute little puzzle-solving dragon named Skye. The puzzles can get a little repetitive for adults, but kids will enjoy them. It’s practically free of content issues. And for both kids and adults, the game itself feels a little like a “soft blanket on a rainy day.”
(Action/Adventure, Virtual Reality. PlayStation 4 and PlayStation 5 VR. Rated: T)
I held the last spot on our list open for those who want some solid virtual reality fun. No, you don’t play as the franchise’s über-popular protagonist, Aloy, but you do meet her. And you climb vast mountains; ride river rapids; navigate mountain lairs; craft items; shoot your bow; and hunt machines with your own two virtual hands. This may not be the longest or most intricate VR game ever created, but it is impressive. I should note that if you suffer from vertigo by looking down from great heights, this might not be for you. And there’s a bit of rough language in the T-rated dialogue as well.
There you have our list of solid, cheer-worthy games for 2023. Of course, not a one of them is perfect and pure as the driven snow. So please check out our Plugged In reviews. In fact, check out all of our 2023 reviews. There are other gems in there that you may have missed.