July 2023 wasn’t the most exciting month of the year in terms of new AAA game releases, but that isn’t a bad thing. It gave games of all shapes and sizes more time to shine.
This month did have one somewhat standard AAA release in Pikmin 4which did make this list, but outside of that, the games featured here were either from smaller studios or more experimental. Amazing indies, new AA games with ambitious takes on storied genres, and a weird AAA multiplayer shooter about dinosaurs all got the attention they deserved this July when they might not have gotten it if they came out in one of 2023’s busier months.
In fact, some of those games are shaping up to be some of the best of the year, and we’re currently in a AAA lull where you can play and catch up of all of these games. If you’re looking for new games to try that came out this month, we recommend picking out any of the following seven titles.
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Pikmin 4 is the one game on this list that wasn’t much of a surprise. It looked great and ended up being a fantastic, approachable real-time strategy experience. It evolves the Pikmin formula that the GameCube original established while making gameplay changes to further reflect the theme of Dandori that permeates throughout it. Even if you’ve never played a Pikmin game before, it’s worth picking Pikmin 4 up.
“The adventure grabs various ideas from the series’ past and puts them all in order, like someone shuffling a handful of loose-leaf papers into one neat stack,” Giovanni Colantonio writes in a four-star review. “At its heart, this is the same series I’ve enjoyed for two decades, but I feel like I’m seeing it in a whole new light thanks to a thorough reorganization. I don’t know that I can name any other game that made me excited to do my household chores every time I powered it down.”
The Legend of Zelda: Tears of the Kingdom is already one of the best games of the year, but Pikmin 4 certainly gives it a run for its money. With games like Super Mario Bros. Wonder still on the horizon, 2023 is shaping up to be one of the best years ever for Nintendo Switch. Pikmin 4 is available now exclusively for Nintendo Switch.
Viewfinder is the most innovative aagmes on this list because of its main mechanic that lets players take pictures, place them in the game’s world, and then walk through them. The indie gets the most that it can out of that concept in its short runtime, making it one of the best first-person puzzle games since Portal. It even has a timely message about global warming that ensures the game is both mechanically and socially relevant.
“Viewfinder is at its best when it’s speaking in broader terms about the human experience. It’s a celebration of our malleability, testing our ability to persevere when we’re willing to view a problem from every perspective,” Colantonio wrote in a four-star review of the game. “For every well-designed video game puzzle, there’s at least one solution to be found. And though that design philosophy may not translate to the overwhelming, existential threats we face in the real world, Viewfinder at least leaves me hopeful that human ingenuity can always find a way to win.”
There are few things more satisfying than finishing a puzzle in a well-designed puzzle game, and Viewfinder is full of those memorable moments. It’s one of the most innovative games of the year, so this is an indie you don’t want to miss out on. Viewfinder is available now for PC, PS4, and PS5.
Disney Illusion Island
Disney continued its reentrance into the gaming space this month with a solid new platformer starring Mickey Mouse and his pals. Disney Illusion Island is a full Metroidvania, although it’s designed to be very approachable and doesn’t even feature combat. Experienced players can enjoy a breezy platformer full of video game references, while newer players can get the hang of what Metroidvania games are like.
“The new Disney game from Battletoads developer Dlala Studios is a Metroidvania that removes combat and any other roadblocks that might get in the way of a young kid or inexperienced gamer,” Tomas Franzese in a three-and-a-half-star review of Disney Illusion Island. “In fact, it actively includes some gameplay mechanics and accessibility options to help players in need. It’s a welcoming adventure that fits the Disney ethos.”
This game also sports some beautiful artwork and a great soundtrack, which makes sense as it’s pulling those elements from the solid Mickey Mouse shorts that Disney released over the last decade. It definitely looks like we’re entering a new golden age for Disney video games. Disney Illusion Island is available now exclusively on Nintendo Switch.
In a busier month, I probably wouldn’t have paid that much attention to Exoprimala multiplayer-only PvEvP game that isn’t connected to Dino Crisis like it initially seemed. I did end up giving it a shot because I had the time, though, and fell in love. It’s a ridiculous game, and I mean that as a term of endearment. It’s not afraid to throw hundreds of dinosaurs at the player, and taking them out in mechanical Exosuits is simple, Musou-like fun. On top of that, Exoprimal is surprisingly innovative in how it delivers its narrative to players as a multiplayer game.
“So long as you’re willing to give in to its extreme silliness, Exoprimal is a deliriously fun team-based dinosaur shooter that delivers popcorn spectacle better than most modern action games,” Colantonio wrote in a four-star Exoprimal review. “It’s a creative multiplayer premise that prioritizes moment-to-moment thrills above all else, and that’s refreshing in 2023.”
While Exoprimal might seem a little too weird from an outsider’s perspective, you won’t regret it if you give the game a shot. There aren’t any other games you can play where you fight dinosaurs as badass mechs, right? Exoprimal is available now for PC, PS4, PS5, Xbox One, and Xbox Series X/S, where it’s part of the Xbox Game Pass subscription service.
You can tell Venba is a very personal story for its developers, but that doesn’t make itany less engrossing. This short narrative cooking title is one of Digital Trends’ favorite games of the year. It follows a Tamil couple as they immigrate from South India to Canada, try to maintain a healthy relationship with their son, and attempt to pass on cultural knowledge via Indian recipes. It’s an engrossing, well-written visual novel interspersed with some mouthwatering cooking segments.
In his four-and-a-half-star review of the game, Colantonio wrote that “grounded conflict is the key ingredient in Venba’s powerful — but not overpowering — story, which unfolds both through sharply written visual novel segments and delectable cooking interludes that’ll leave your mouth watering. Not a single moment goes wasted in this perfectly seasoned indie about one mother’s attempt to preserve her family’s cultural identity and a son struggling to fit that into his own.”
Venba proudly celebrates Tamil culture while telling one of the most emotionally gripping stories of the year. Expect it to be a sleeper hit indie come game of the year time, like Norco and Immortality were. Venba is available now for PC, PS4, PS5, Xbox One, Xbox Series X/S, and Nintendo Switch. It’s also available as part of the Xbox Game Pass subscription.
At first glance, Remnant II seems like a fairly generic third-person looter shooter, but some tantalizing systems are at play underneath. The shooter plays like a Souls game with guns and features a roguelite structure with randomized runs that can be different for every player. On top of that, it features some of the best boss fights I’ve ever experienced in a shooter.
“Gunfire Games’ Soulslike shooter sequel to 2019 sleeper hit Remnant: From the Ashes builds upon the formula that its predecessor established, so fans of the first game will find a lot to enjoy here,” Franzese wrote of the game earlier this month. “At first, I had trouble getting into what felt like a mediocre third-person shooter with some stark, colorful levels. But after a couple of astonishing boss fights, I’m starting to come around on Remnant II.”
If you’ve beaten Diablo IV and are looking for a similar game to scratch that looting itch, I’d recommend Remnant II. You’ll be pleasantly surprised by its setup, bosses, and visual designs that get the most out of its multiverse-hopping concept. Remnant II is available now for PC, PS5, and Xbox Series X/S.
Viewfinder wasn’t the only great puzzle game to drop this month. Let’s! Revolution! is a tile-based puzzle game inspired by Minesweeper and Picrosswhere players must hop from tile to tile while trying to make it to the end of the board while avoiding taking damage from enemies. Some solid theming and visuals make the game pleasant to look at, while its puzzle game hooks kept us coming back for more.
“Let’s! Revolution! is a clever little genre mash-up that I’m already losing hours to,” Colantonio wrote about the game. “It takes the basic rules of Minesweeper and combines them with a fantasy roguelite where the goal is to slay enemies and hunt down a dastardly king across a handful of tile-based maps. It’s a simple premise, but one that’s perfect for anyone looking for a great on-the-go experience delivered in bite-sized morsels.”
Some puzzle games are enthralling, narrative-driven adventures, like Viewfinder. Others are meant to be enjoyed in short spurts and, in turn, they become hard to put down because you want to do just one more run. Let’s! Revolution! falls in that latter category, making it yet another one of July’s pleasant gaming surprises. Let’s! Revolution! is available now for Windows and Mac PCs; it’s also compatible with the Steam Deck for those who’d prefer to play it there.