16 games we think could be surprise hits in 2023

Since Among Us became a global phenomenon in 2020, PC gaming has been unpredictable as hell (opens in new tab). The next big hit once seemed easy to spot from a mile away, but these days it seems like a phenomenon can manifest out of thin air—just look at how many Vampire Survivors clones popped up in 2022 (opens in new tab). We don’t know what 2023’s Among Us or Vampire Survivors will be, but we’re going to try to guess, anyway.

Last week we called out PC Gamer’s most anticipated games of 2023 (opens in new tab), the surefire hits like Diablo 4 (opens in new tab) and Starfield (opens in new tab) we can’t wait to play. Here are 16 games that are much less likely to already be on your radar: they represent our best guesses at the dark horses we’ll be talking about at the end of the year.

Capes

Steam page | Early 2023

Basically it’s: Superhero XCOM

Why we’re optimistic: I can’t remember the last sandbox superhero game. Has there ever been one? We loved Midnight Suns, of course, but otherwise this is an underserved genre. I’m mainly waiting to hear whether Capes will be moddable, or whether its character creation system will grant enough flexibility to, say, field a handful of homemade X-Men. — Evan Lahti, Global Editor-in-Chief 

Tchia

Steam page | Not soon enough in 2023

Basically it’s: A more gentle Breath of the Wild

Why we’re optimistic: I played a few hours of the beta and was instantly enchanted. It’s a big and beautiful open world with lots to do and see, and some incredibly fun ways to get around. Jumping, sliding, gliding, climbing, and especially the power to leap into animals like birds, deer, and dolphins turns the tropical island into an acrobatic playground. There are inventive minigames for everything from platform diving to rock-stacking to cooking, treasures and mysteries around every corner, scores of outfits and accessories to unlock, and lots to learn about the customs and culture of New Caledonia, the real-life island the game is based on. My short time with the beta rocketed Tchia to the top of my most-anticipated list for the year, and it’s already one of my favorite open world games ever. — Chris Livingston, Features Producer 

Abiotic Factor

Steam page | 2023

Basically it’s: Half-Life (1) co-op, but you’re the scientists, with crafting and weird gadgets

Why we’re optimistic: A co-op survival game with weird physics and crafting that looks and plays like a retro FPS is a rad concept. Abiotic Factor could be the next thing that hooks all the people hungry for new worlds to explore with friends. Your ability to explore the secret research facility and contend with all the strange experiments within makes it sound like there will be a lot of variety to how you tackle objectives and survive. If anything makes survival games stale, it’s a lack of creative new ways to pressure players to be resourceful, and Abiotic Factor seems prepared to keep things unpredictable. — Tyler Colp, Associate Editor 

Broken Roads

Steam page  | July 2023

Basically it’s: Outback Fallout, classic Fallout

Why we’re optimistic: Broken Roads is a narrative-driven RPG that brings exploration, strategic party-based combat, and meaningful philosophical choices to an Australian post-apocalyptic setting. It draws on tried and true CRPG staples like God’s own isometric camera and turn-based battles (bye bye, real time with pause!) but pushes in that more experimental direction of the new CRPG renaissance. Classless, open-ended character building and moral choices, with philosophies like Utilitarianism, Humanism, and Nihilism replacing lame-o standbys like Lawful Good and Chaotic Evil. Like Disco Elysium and Planescape: Torment before it, Broken Roads looks to appeal to both the touchy feely indie types and the CRPG grognards, and guess what: I multi-classed as both. — Ted Litchfield, Associate Editor 

Mask of the Rose

Steam page | April 2023

Basically it’s: A highbrow visual novel for people who read actual books

Why we’re optimistic: Fallen London had the option for dalliances, and even marriage if you had the patience to play for long enough. Failbetter’s follow-ups, Sunless Sea and Sunless Skies, focused more on exploration than romance. That’s not true of Mask of the Rose. A prequel set in a version of Victorian London that’s only just been dragged underground and filled with oddities, it’s a full-on matchmaking sim—and also murder mystery. You’re looking for love, whether for yourself or for others, in the streets of a gothed-up London full of devils and talking rats while also trying to solve the murder of a man who won’t stay dead. — Jody Macgregor, Weekend Editor 

Xenonauts 2

Steam page | 2023

Basically it’s: XCOM grad school

Why we’re optimistic: With Firaxis now playing with superheroes and Julian Gollop’s Phoenix Point not quite being the X-COM follow-up everyone was hoping for, there’s a nice big gap that Xenonauts 2 could comfortably fit into. The original Xenonauts was very well-received (opens in new tab), but it was sandwiched between the much flashier and more accessible XCOM and XCOM 2, and without that competition it feels like the sequel could have an even greater impact. — Fraser Brown, Online Editor 

Shadows of Doubt

Steam page | Early 2023

Basically it’s: Voxel gumshoe sandbox

Why we’re optimistic: This mystery’s been brewing for awhile: we showed off Shadows of Doubt at the 2020 PC Gaming Show, where it promised a fully simulated city with hundreds of residents each going through their own daily routines. Shadows of Doubt claims to offer a hell of a lot of freedom in how you sniff out crimes as a private detective, with open-ended investigations. The trick will be whether its procedural generation is clever enough to avoid every case feeling generic. If it succeeds, it’ll be part of an exciting new wave of indie immersive sims alongside New Blood’s Gloomwood. — Wes Fenlon, Senior Editor 

Shardpunk: Verminfall

Steam page | Q1 2023

Basically it’s: XCOM x Vermintide

Why we’re optimistic: As steampunk survivors of a ratpocalypse who are hunted by upright vermin, you scavenge for tech and supplies while trying not to rouse the swarm. If you do it becomes turn-based tactics, complete with cover, overwatch, and other familiar XCOM-esque mechanics. The strategy layer between battles draws more from survival games, as rather than having a consistent base to upgrade you’re resting in a new bunker each time—a more skin-of-your-teeth take on the strategy RPG. — Jody Macgregor, Weekend Editor 

Witchbrook

Steam page | Release date totally unknown, but we have hope

Basically its: Stardew Valley but make it magical college

Why we’re optimistic: Most of the “surprise” for Witchbrook is reserved for it actually releasing in 2023. The “hit” part feels pretty certain. We may be swamped with games like Stardew Valley these days, but Witchbrook was announced before the Stardew-like trend really took root. It’ll have all the usual life sim stuff we enjoy like romance, customization, gardening, and a bit of potion brewing. There’s also an endgame as you become the postgrad witch of the town, brewing special requests and flying around on a broom. Let’s hope school is in session this year. — Christopher Livingston, Features Producer 

The Alters

Steam page | It’s been in “steady development” for three years, but there’s no projected release date beyond “coming soon” and a not-very-useful statement that it’ll be out by 2026 at the latest.

Basically it’s: A sci-fi mindbender in the vein of Philip K Dick stories and Duncan Jones’s Moon

Why we’re optimistic: 11 Bit Studios has proven it can make stylish and entertaining games with dark and contemplative themes, most notably with Frostpunk, so there’s a chance it nails this Black Mirror-ish sounding story about a spaceman who creates a bunch of not-quite-identical copies of himself. We’re just not sure exactly what the game is right now: It’ll clearly be narrative focused, with decision-making at the center of its theme, but otherwise, 11 Bit only says it’ll include “a mix of things taken from different genres.” It’s a bit of a longshot for 2023, too, as the Polish studio has another interesting sci-fi game, The Invincible, scheduled to release sometime this year. — Tyler Wilde, The Alters 

Meet Your Maker

Steam page | April 4, 2023

Basically it’s: Mario Maker meets Doom 2016

Why we’re optimistic: Creating levels with traps and enemy patterns specifically designed to trip up your friends sounds like a lot of fun, and the simplistic block-based level builder means it won’t take hours to make something fun. I recently got to play an early build and really liked it. — Morgan Park, Staff Writer 

Uncle Chop’s Rocket Shop

Steam page | No release date

Basically it’s: A reverse-Kerbal soaked in Americana

Why we’re optimistic: Uncle Chop’s Rocket Shop has huge ‘Cartoon Network CHECK it era’ vibes and that’s the best thing I could ever ask for in a game. It’s a spaceship repair sim where you play as a fox-headed alien bloke, fixing up ships with some roguelite elements thrown in. What I love is that there’s no one correct way of repairing. You can meticulously follow each manufacturer’s manual, doing things by the book. Or you can go totally homebrew, chucking in coffee and other bizarre items within arm’s reach for even better repairs… or ones that have your client back in two days with their ship in an even worse state. I think its satirical humour and big Regular Show vibes will pull people in. — Mollie Taylor, Features Producer 

SCHiM

Steam page | No release date

Basically it’s: Jumping, but artsy

Why we’re optimistic: SCHiM is so simple, yet it’s one of those games that makes you go yes as soon as you press a button. All you do in this game is hop from one shadow to another, trying to avoid the light that will kill your ink-black critter. The charm is in how the puzzles are built around little clockwork cities, where you have to follow a chat prancing down a sidewalk or a cyclist biking through a park to make it from one shadow haven to another. I think SCHiM will join an elite tier of indies like Obra Dinn, Sable and Manifold Garden with art so striking we talk about it for years afterward. — Wes Fenlon, Senior Editor 

Dredge

Steam page | 2023

Basically it’s: A sinister fishing horror full of mystery

Why we’re optimistic: I haven’t stopped thinking about Dredge since I played an hour of it at Gamescom 2022. It’s got everything I could want in a game. Chilled-out fishing? Check. A mysterious story that pushes me to explore the dark and scary corners of its world? Yup! A Resident Evil-style inventory system for packing away your catches? Checkerooni. Throw that together with some spookier elements, like mutating fish and a panic meter that makes nighttime fishing a dangerous endeavour, and you’ve got an excellent Lovecraftian fishing RPG. I think a lot of people will pick up what Dredge is putting down, even if they just wanna Tetris some fish around for a chill time. — Mollie Taylor, Features Producer 

Gord

Steam page | 2023

Basically it’s: A town management sim, but set in a Witcher-esque dark fantasy world

Why we’re optimistic: Trying to keep a gaggle of terrified peasants alive and happy in a world that quite literally wants to eat them? It’s the kind of grim challenge a certain kind of PC gamer (myself included) relish. There are shades of Darkest Dungeon here—you even have to manage your people’s mental health in the same way. But swapping out Lovecraftian horrors for nightmares out of Slavic folklore gives it that authentic yet grim atmosphere that’s so distinctly reminiscent of The Witcher. Who can resist that? Indeed it even has ex-Witcher 3 devs at the studio, though admittedly half the games on Steam claim that. — Robin Valentine, Features Producer 

Pacific Drive

Steam page | Nothing more specific than 2023

Basically it’s: Stalker in a station wagon

Why we’re optimistic: I dunno, gut instinct? There’s not much to go on at all, just a moody trailer which typically isn’t the most trustworthy indicator about how good a game will be. But the term “driving survival game” is intriguing (cleverly, it’s also described as a “road-like”), and there’s so much appeal in the idea of fixing up an old station wagon with chunky sci-fi modules on a trip across the Pacific Northwest. Throw in the fact that the countryside is an anomaly-filled “exclusion zone” thanks to secret government experiments, with violent weather events, toxic spore clouds, and other threats, and your car is basically your mobile base and only companion in the bizarre apocalypse. Pacific Drive is the first game from Ironwood Studios, formed in 2019, and we can’t wait to get our hands on the wheel. — Chris Livingston, Features Producer 

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