November is flying by. Just yesterday it was Halloween, and now we’re already less than a week away from Thanksgiving. What are you feeling thankful for these days? I’m feeling pretty thankful that 2023 still has so many good games left for me to check out. The only downside is they’re all distracting me from Alan Wake II. Here’s to one more weekend of procrastination on Remedy’s spooky mindfuck.
Everything we’re about to recommend below is grade A gamer rocket fuel. If you’re out at the store and see any of them hanging out on the shelves you have my permission to do a smash-and-grab and run back home screaming to your PC or video game console of choice. Just don’t use your one phone call to blame me when you end up in jail. (Another thing I’m thankful for: sound legal advice.)
Anyway, read on for eight (more than eight, actually) games we’ll have humming in the background while we prep that turkey.
Play it on: Switch
Current goal: Get out of the sewers
My dad bought me Super Mario RPG for my birthday the year it came out. He took me to Toys “R” Us (RIP) and let me pick out anything I wanted. As a kid I thought this was great. As an adult I now know they forgot to buy me presents (which as an adult I also get: My birthday is right after Christmas).
I ended up picking the Gold City Junction Lego set and Super Mario RPG. It was $US20 over the allotted budget ($US100) but I think he felt bad. The game has lived with me ever since, making replaying the remake on Switch a strange emotional journey, like coming back to your childhood home after someone else has been living in it. The kitchen’s been remodeled. The walls have all been repainted. It’s comforting but alien, a reminder of where you came from and how you can never go back. Super Mario RPG on Switch has already pulled me back under the original’s spell, and I’m excited to see whether I eventually wake up enchanted or disillusioned. For now I’m just excited to get Mallow back to Tadpole Pond once again. — Ethan Gach
Play it on: Xbox Series X/S, Xbox One, Windows (Steam Deck YMMV)
Current goal: Be 17 again
Modern Warfare III may have brought back all of the maps from 2009’s Modern Warfare 2, but Halo Infinite wasn’t going to let Activision have all the late-aughts fun. Thanks to a collaboration with Mountain Dew, a special Halo 3 playlist is available in Infinite, and it’s a blast. The maps have gotten a facelift, but they’re otherwise exactly how you remember them—just with all the fun toys offered in Infinite’s weapon sandbox. I played a few hours of it last night and immediately realized this is going to be my entire weekend. Though I will say, it’s a bummer when you get an objective-based mode, as most teammates seem to be distracted by the return of the old maps and continuously forget to pick up the damn Oddball.
If you’re looking for another sweet, sweet hit of nostalgia, I’d drop into 343 Industries’ game this weekend and pretend you’re in college again. Here’s a playlist for you, too. — Alyssa Mercante
Play it on: PS5
Current goal: Make progress
It’s the time of year when writers across video game outlets, myself included, begin cramming in as many games as they can before Game of the Year debates start. I’ve knocked out a few stragglers from my 2023 list and now I’m ready to sit down and try to find time to play through more of Final Fantasy XVI. Will I finish it this weekend? No. Not a chance. But progress is progress and I’m hopeful.
While I know Square Enix’s latest installment in its popular RPG series isn’t universally loved by fans, I’m curious to see how it clicks with me, a person who isn’t a fan of Final Fantasy really and has only played three games in the series. Stay tuned (and follow me on Bluesky) to find out how it goes. — Zack Zwiezen
Play them on…
Coral Island: PS 5, Xbox Series X/S, Windows (Steam Deck YMMV)
Venba: PS 5, Xbox Series X/S, Switch, Windows (Steam Deck OK)
Thirsty Suitors: PS5, PS 4, Xbox Series X/S, Xbox One, Switch, Windows (Steam Deck OK)
Current goal: Catch up on smaller games I missed
It’s the nature of my job here at Kotaku to be consumed by one game for a long stretch of time. Games like Tears of the Kingdom and Baldur’s Gate 3 occupied much of my time this year as I wrote guides diving into all the nitty-gritty of those very dense games. Because of that, I didn’t get to play a lot of the smaller games that I used to devour before I got here.
So I’m playing catch-up before we head into GotY discussions. I’m playing Venba on my Switch, which is making me realize just how little I know about cooking, and how Doordash was probably a crutch during the pandemic when I should’ve been learning more about how to make my own food. Coral Island has already sparked an internal crisis as I try to decide which of the fine-ass men on its island I’m gonna marry. And I’m hoping to marathon Thirsty Suitors this weekend.
There are too many games out right now, and 2023 was such an overwhelming feast that a lot of smaller games fell through the cracks. I’m basically done playing big stuff for a while, and all I really care about is checking in on things I can wrap up in a weekend while checking in on all my possible husbands on Coral Island in between. — Kenneth Shepard
Play it on: Switch
Current goal: Inch ever closer to 100 percent completion
I’m not as enamored with Super Mario Bros. Wonder as a lot of people. I wanted it to be a radical revitalization of 2D Mario in the way I felt Galaxy was for 3D Mario, but instead it mostly feels to me like a shallow grab bag of ideas that’s frequently cloying in its desire to leave you pleased and wowed. In other words, I agree with much of this critique by writer Jed Pressgrove.
Like him, however, I also think the game gets better later on, as it ramps up the difficulty and introduces some occasionally pulse-pounding level design. I “beat” Wonder some time ago, meaning I defeated Bowser and rolled credits, but there are still hidden exits to be found, new stages to be conquered, more Wonder Seeds to be claimed.
Right now, my nightly routine involves scouring stages I’ve already played in which I think one of these new pathways may be concealed, using the sensor badge to clue me in when I might be close to hitting paydirt. I know I could just look up the info in a guide, but exploring and scouring and then finally discovering something is all part of the fun. It turns out that even a Mario game I find to be a bit of a letdown can still be challenging, inventive, and exciting enough that I can’t put it down until my victory over it is absolute. — Carolyn Petit
Play it on: PS5
Current goal: Figure out wtf is wrong with Venom
In November 10’s weekend guide, I said I was hunting for “The Flame,” a disheveled cult leader who looks like a rejected member of Far Cry 5’s villainous Seed Family (or a discount grunge guitarist). I still haven’t found him, primarily because the narrative has taken a dark turn. Venom’s arrived, and he’s absolutely fucked shit up. I mean, there’s blood and guts everywhere on the streets of Manhattan and the homes of Queens, and I won’t allow it.
The person under the Venom mask is quite a shocker. My mouth was fell ajar upon learning just who the symbiote had chosen to bond with, but that won’t stop me from figuring out what the hell was wrong, and how I could put an end to the wanton carnage. Venom is a tank, though, so facing him won’t be easy. In fact, after controlling the roided-up Spider-Guy, I know he’ll kick my latex-wearing ass. Still, New York needs saving, and somebody’s gotta do it. So, I’ll swallow the fear and swing through the city to stop the symbiote and, ultimately, Venom. — Levi Winslow
Play it on: Windows (Steam Deck YMMV)
Current goal: Stop playing Hexcells every day
Back in September I waxed on about the virtues of the Hexcells trilogy, riveting logic puzzlers of the highest quality. Then I ended up replaying all three, doubling my Steam playtimes. Upon resurfacing last week, I knew those cells, lovely as they were, were nearly spent. I needed another source of brain ticklers par excellence, but whence? There exist literally thousands of unknown puzzle games to discover, and few would slake my specific thirst. Where to even start?
This was weird. I’m…not used to having no idea what to play.
Maybe Steam’s discovery features could help. Hexcells Infinite was tagged “Casual” and “Logic” so I filtered with those, and then sorted by average rating. Aha. There was Infinite ranked at number seven, with several Zachtronics games above. Just below? 14 Minesweeper Variants. Yes, that’s the game’s title. Incredible reviews, $US6.99. Bought it. One reviewer wrote, “The next logical step if Hexcells and Tametsi are among your favorite puzzlers.” Tametwhat? Looked it up. “Overwhelmingly Positive,” $US2.99. Bought that too, and returned to my newly expanded hoard to assess the spoils.
I’m only about two and a half hours into Tametsi so it’s still busy unfurling its intricacies, but I can already confirm, it sure has ‘em. And some wonderful puzzle designs as well. Its deduction-driven, hazard-marking gameplay is actually a little more Minesweeper-y than was Hexcells’, but it retains my beloved’s commitment to logic above all: Zero guessing is required. If you don’t know which cells to clear next, it’s because you gotta look harder, applying an ever-expanding range of logical lenses to the impassive grid that confronts you.
Tametsi, thankfully, is exactly what I was seeking. (No pun intended.)
Just one criticism so far: The game basically has programmer art, and maybe three sound effects. I never realized how much Hexcells’ attractive minimalist visuals and droning, ambient musicality helped it go down nicely, but I sorely miss those here. Bad graphics can be fine, but sometimes the amateur appearances of Tametsi’s busy, color-clashing puzzles actually impair easy comprehension. It would be fascinating to see what a graphic designer could do to clean that up so the game’s presentation lived up to its design.
A bigger issue, perhaps, is that frequent Kotaku guest editor John “Botherer” Walker has seemingly known about Tametsi for years and never “bothered” to tell me. You think you know a person… — Alexandra Hall
Play it on: PlayStation, or just about anything these days
Current goal: Lose myself once more in the vibes
I was never the same after playing 1998’s Metal Gear Solid on the PSX. Easily one of my favorite games of all time, I was spellbound by the intensity of the stealth action and the immersive Hollywood-style cinematic flair. But recently I realized it’s been far, far too long since I’ve played this essential ‘90s classic.
That changes this weekend as, during some much needed time off, I wish to revisit Solid Snake’s third wetwork mission into enemy territory. Whether I’ll go back to the original disc (I still have my old copy) via PS3 backward compatibility, go down the emulation rabbit hole, or just fire up the recently released (and very imperfect) Metal Gear Solid: Master Collection Vol. 1, I’m not yet sure. I do have a general desire to immerse myself in the shaky textures of OG PlayStation games, as I’ve been growing more and more fond of that look, so I might try to go for something more authentic on this revisit.
Regardless of how I end up replaying MGS, the story, the music, the foxy gameplay, it’s all something I look forward to revisiting as a lovely, nourishing experience that takes me back to my earliest memories of falling in love with video games. — Claire Jackson
And there we go. Too many games. Not enough days in the weekend. Probably best to get started now while your boss isn’t looking. I won’t tell them if you don’t. What games are you planning on digging into this weekend?