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Engadget Morning Edition

Readers already know and love Engadget's daily newsletter, The Morning After. Now, we're bringing the news to your ears. Join UK Bureau Chief Mat Smith for a rundown of the day's top headlines — because who doesn't love hearing a silky English accent first thing in the morning? Since we're producing this audio in the future, in a distant place called London, we promise we'll always have our recordings ready by the time our American listeners start their days.

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The Engadget Podcast

The Engadget Podcast is back and ready to explore how tech is helping (and hurting) our lives. Senior Editor Devindra Hardawar and Reviews Editor Cherlynn Low dive into a big question every week: Is Microsoft making better PCs than Apple? What's the state of Android versus iOS? Expect to hear the rest of the Engadget crew, along with the occasional expert guest, as we analyze the tech landscape and chat about timely topics.

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Engadget News

Here at Engadget, we cover consumer tech from every angle. Sometimes that means we publish more than 40 posts in a single day. It's a lot, and sometimes you're just too busy showering, commuting and filling out TPS reports to read a news story. To keep up with your hectic schedule, we're posting audio versions of select news stories, so that you can still get the gist even when you're too busy to look up from what you're doing.

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The best of CES 2023

And we're back. After canceling our CES plans in 2022 (and not even having the option of attending in person in 2021), the Engadget team sent a dozen staffers to CES 2023 this week, including reporters, editors and videographers. It's too soon to say how many stories and videos we've published — in fact, we have more good stuff coming — but suffice to say, it was a lot. Though our team swears the show still wasn't as busy as pre-pandemic years, they were kept busy enough that it felt like a true return to form, not just for us, but for the tech industry at large.

One thing that never stopped was Engadget's annual Best of CES Awards program, although this year marks the first time in three years we've been able to base our judgments off of a full slate of in-person hands-on experiences. All told, we're handing out a dozen awards this year, including the most prestigious: Best of the Best. As always, our awards attempt to capture what we think people will still be talking about weeks, or even months, after the show concludes, from wireless TVs to an electric Ram concept truck to a $1,000 stand mixer that should make dough blending almost foolproof.

As ever, too, we endeavored to weed out the vaporware, not to mention the things that got attention solely for being dumb. (Hello, multiplesmart pee gadgets and a $3,800 "self-driving" stroller that only works when the baby isn't on board!) If you're curious about all the frivolity anyway — and who can blame you? — you'll find all of our coverage, serious and irreverent, right here. But for just the good stuff, you're in the right place. – Dana Wollman, Editor-in-Chief

Best Accessibility Tech: L’Oréal Hapta

A woman uses the L'oreal Hapta to help appy lipstick.
L'oreal

Rather than showing up to CES with a viral beauty gadget, L’Oréal debuted an assistive lipstick applicator that will be useful to millions. The cosmetics company worked with utensil maker Verily, which produces stabilizing and leveling cutlery for people with limited hand and arm mobility, to create Hapta. The result is a sturdy grip-and-gimbal system that lets those with limited finger dexterity or strength more independently apply lipstick. Though there are some quirks the company needs to iron out before releasing the Hapta in December, it’s impressive that this is both a finished product and has a relatively affordable suggested retail price of $150 to $200. It’s also a device that caters to an often overlooked segment of consumers, and can be expanded to work with more makeup applications. Of all the accessibility-related products we saw this CES, the Hapta is the most unique, while being actually helpful. — Cherlynn Low, Deputy Editor, Reviews

Best Gaming Product: Sony Project Leonardo

The round accessibility game controller Project Leonardo for PS5 against a white background.
Sony

Project Leonardo is Sony’s first piece of gaming hardware designed specifically for people with limited motor control, and it happens to look pretty neat at the same time. Project Leonardo is a controller kit that’ll work out of the box with the PlayStation 5, offering two circular gamepads lined with swappable buttons, third-party accessory ports and other customizable inputs. The controllers lie flat on a table or they can be mounted on a standard tripod, and they can be paired with a DualSense to turn all three devices into a single gamepad, offering plenty of flexibility for players.

To build its new PS5 accessory, Sony partnered with advocacy organizations including AbleGamers and SpecialEffect, just like Microsoft did with the (wildly successful) Xbox Adaptive Controller. Project Leonardo represents another positive step for accessibility tech in video games, a market that’s filled with surprises and primed for growth in 2023. — Jessica Conditt, Senior Reporter

Best Health & Fitness Product: Valencell blood pressure monitoring prototype 

A closeup of someone's finger in the Valencell Prototype Blood Pressure Finger Clip.
Valencell

Valencell has been making optical heart-rate sensors for years, but at CES 2023 it unveiled a new fingertip monitor that offers “cuffless” blood pressure monitoring. Instead of an unwieldy inflating sleeve, this fingertip clip uses photoplethysmography (PPG) sensors to measure blood flow patterns. This information is combined with algorithms and the user’s age, weight, gender and height to create a blood pressure measurement, without the need for calibration. We might have seen similar technology in earlier stages of development, but Valencell’s technique of combining data makes for the most compelling device yet. Valencell plans to eventually offer the blood pressure monitor to clinics and hospitals, alongside an over-the-counter version for personal use, pending FDA approval. — Mat Smith, UK Bureau Chief

Best Home Theater Tech: LG Signature OLED M3

An angled view of the 97-inch LG M3 OLED with wireless tech sitting in a hotel room in front of a translucent window curtain.
Engadget

LG unveiled several new OLED TVs at CES this year, but the standout was the Signature OLED M3, a 97-inch 4K giant. What’s most interesting about the M3, however, isn’t its screen – it’s the tech inside of it. More specifically, the M3 is designed to receive video and audio wirelessly, through a separate box that LG says you can place up to 30 feet away from the TV. Outside of a power cord, the M3 itself is cable-free; instead you plug your media streamers, cable box or game consoles into the breakout box, and all of it is beamed over a wireless link.

The company dubs this wireless transmission tech “Zero Connect” and claims this proprietary standard can provide three times the speed of WiFi 6. Among other connections, the Zero Connect box includes three HDMI ports that can play in 4K at 120Hz, including one eARC port. While it does require line-of-sight to work – there’s a rotatable antenna built into the box – in our brief experience with the set, we found the signal quality remained steady even in a crowded room. If Zero Connect can eventually make its way down to LG’s more reasonably priced TVs, it could provide an exciting new level of versatility. — Jeff Dunn, Senior Commerce Writer

Best Laptop: Lenovo Yoga Book 9i

Two of the Lenovo YogaBook 9i dual-screen laptop/tablet hydrid sit open in a light grey void, one with the screens stacked vertically and the other with them side-by-side.
Lenovo

By axing the traditional, physical keyboard and putting two 13.3-inch OLED screens on the Yoga Book 9i, Lenovo could potentially shake up modern laptop design in a way we haven’t seen since the original Surface Pro a decade ago. And while there are some issues that will need to be ironed out, the potential this new design offers is undeniable. When you prop up the Yoga Book on its kickstand, it becomes much more than a standard clamshell. You can have two screens stacked on top of each other or side-by-side depending on your needs. Meanwhile in standard laptop mode, you have the freedom to choose between a virtual or detachable Bluetooth keyboard – both with customizable widgets, not to mention built-in stylus support. It’s a level of flexibility and adaptability that traditional laptops simply can’t match. And unlike overly ambitious concepts in the past, this dual-screen notebook is actually coming out (sometime this spring for around $2,000) so we can see how it will truly fare in the real world. — Sam Rutherford, Senior Writer

Best Mobile or Tablet Tech: WPC Qi2 charging standard

A Belkin wireless charger with a phone, AirPods case and Apple Watch charging on it sits on a wooden side table.
Engadget

When Apple added MagSafe charging to the iPhone back in 2020, it created an incredibly simple and convenient way of juicing up its phones. And now, at CES 2023, the WPC (Wireless Power Consortium) has released details on the Qi2 charging standard that will finally bring similar functionality to the rest of the handset market. Not only does the new spec include support for Magnetic Power Profiles which will pave the way for handy charging disks that can snap onto the back of your phone, it will also allow for important features such as foreign object detection and up to 15-watt charging with the potential to raise power output even further in the future. And perhaps most importantly, because Apple is a member of the WPC, Qi2 shouldn’t be a weak MagSafe knock-off when it arrives on retail devices later this year in Q4 2023. — Sam Rutherford, Senior Writer

Best Robot or Drone: KEYi Loona

A happy dog sits on the floor with his paw resting on the head of the PetBot Loona robot.
Loona

Historically, robot pets tend to be lacking in the cutesy department. Loona, the futuristic companion from KEYi, with its big puppy dog eyes and wiggling ears has the adorable thing locked down. Loona is smart enough to scurry around your living space without running into walls or off of countertops, but the real magic is in its expressiveness. It’s impressive what you can do with a small display, four wheels and two “ears.”

Beyond her charms, Loona also comes loaded with sensors for responding to your voice, gestures and touch and a collection of games that turn the virtual pet into quite the clever companion. These same sensors also make her a capable home security bot and something of a STEM tool for kids via a graphical programming option to teach Loona new “interactions.”

Put all this together and you have a capable home robot that just happens to love having its ears tickled. What’s not to love about that? — James Trew, Editor-at-Large

Best Smart Home Product: GE Profile Smart Mixer

A cropped photo showing someone's hand holding a smartphone in front of a white GE Profile Smart Mixer on a white kitchen counter with grey tiled backsplash.
GE

Baking requires precision and, depending on the recipe, can often feel like a juggling act. So it impressed us to see GE Profile's Smart Mixer, which has a built-in scale to accurately weigh ingredients, plus voice control so you don’t have to push buttons when your hands are otherwise occupied. The Smart Mixer is a high-end stand mixer in its own right, with a motor that’s speedy enough to whip up emulsions. But it gets its smart home edge from that integrated scale, app connectivity and voice control.

Indeed, the app component will probably be particularly useful for novice bakers, offering over a dozen step-by-step recipes. App guidance for cooking is nothing new, but here, the mixer knows what you’re making and will adjust mixing speeds as needed to ensure nothing is over- or under-worked.

For experienced bakers, the scale, timer and voice control are likely to have greater appeal. Scale and timer readouts appear on the front-facing digital display, which also shows you the mixer’s current speed setting. Changing that setting is as easy as asking Alexa or the Google Assistant to do it for you, provided you have a smart speaker linked. With a starting price of $999, it’s by no means a cheap appliance, but the suite of innovative smart features made this one of the more memorable smart home gadgets we saw at the show this year. — Amy Skorheim, Commerce Writer

Best Transportation Tech: Ram 1500 BEV Concept

A rendering of a grey Stellantis Ram 1500 BEV Concept is seen parked on a roadway.
Stellantis

The Ram 1500, one of America’s most iconic trucks, is charging into the 21st century with a “revolutionary” battery electric pickup concept. The eponymously named Ram 1500 Revolution BEV Concept shown off at Stellantis’ CES 2023 keynote packs high tech everything into a sleek and aggressive body design. The BEV concept features dual-motor AWD, four-wheel steering, animated grille emblems, taillights and badging. Additionally, it has an integrated movie projector, AI assistants that respond to voice commands from both inside and outside the vehicle, as well as a Shadow Mode that trains the truck to follow along behind its dismounted driver from a safe distance.

Ram envisions this feature being used on job sites where workers would otherwise have to repeatedly get in and out of the truck between short drives. The BEV Concept itself won’t be entering production — ditto for most concept vehicles — but it will directly inform the design decisions going into the 2024 Ram 1500 EV, which will launch next year alongside Stellantis’ fully electric Jeep. — Andrew Tarantola, Senior Reporter

Best TV Tech: Samsung Micro LED

A hyper-modern living room with a round couch and blue lounge chair is in the foreground with a Samsung MicroLED on a white wall in the background.
Samsung

CES has long been a show where tier-one manufacturers show off the latest and greatest in TV technology, giving us a preview of how normal people will be able to deck out their home theater setups once the tech goes mainstream. This year was no exception, even though Sony surprisingly didn't show off any new televisions. What felt most significant in 2023 was Samsung's continued advancements in its MicroLED TVs. The technology first debuted in 2018 with the company's gigantic 146-inch TV dubbed "The Wall" that cost as much as a house, but now we're seeing Samsung bring it to 50- and 63-inch TVs that will actually fit in people's living rooms. Sure, the cost will likely still be prohibitive for all but the wealthy, but hopefully in a few years we'll see these stunning screens available at a price more households can afford. — Nathan Ingraham, Deputy Editor, News

Best Wearable: German Bionic Apogee

A woman in black wears a German Bionic Apogee exosuit as she lifts a box out of a storage cart.
German Bionic

Our favorite wearable this year takes technology beyond the wrist-bound devices we’re used to seeing and puts it on your hips and over your shoulders. German Bionic’s new Apogee exosuit builds upon the company’s Cray X exoskeleton that it showed off at CES last year, resulting in a lighter, smarter wearable. Designed for commercial use, the Apogee exosuit helps workers complete physical tasks without inflicting as much strain on their bodies. The suit can offset up to 66 pounds of load to the lower back per lifting motion, plus it helps reduce fatigue overall with walking assistance.

The Apogee is German Bionic’s lightest exosuit to date and it’s designed to be worn for long periods of time, assisting workers without getting in the way. Plus, the company’s IO architecture constantly collects and analyzes data about workers’ activity while they’re wearing the suit, so it can then provide feedback via the onboard display or audio alerts when unsafe movements are detected. We’re almost disappointed that the Apogee will only be available in warehouses and other commercial settings – various Engadget staffers suffering from chronic back pain are eager to give it a go. — Valentina Palladino, Senior Commerce Editor

Best in Show: Sony Project Leonardo

The round accessibility game controller Project Leonardo for PS5 against a white background.
Sony

Project Leonardo is Sony’s first piece of gaming hardware designed specifically for people with disabilities, and it represents another positive step in the world of accessibility tech. Project Leonardo is a controller kit that will be plug-and-play with the PlayStation 5, working in conjunction with existing Sony hardware and popular third-party accessibility accessories. The controller kit includes two circular gamepads lined with swappable buttons, four 3.5mm AUX accessory ports and other customizable inputs. 

The controllers were designed so that they don't need to be held – instead, they lie flat on a table, or they can be mounted on a tripod or stand. Both controllers can be paired with a DualSense to turn all three devices into a single gamepad, offering plenty of flexibility for players. 

To build its new PS5 accessory, Sony partnered with advocacy organizations including AbleGamers, SpecialEffect and Stack Up, much like Microsoft did with the revolutionary Xbox Adaptive Controller. Though there's no release date or price for Project Leonardo quite yet, Sony is seizing on an opportunity to expand the PS5 playerbase while making its hardware more inclusive, and we're likely to hear much more about the controller kit in the coming months. 

The market for accessibility tech in video games is filled with surprises and primed for growth in 2023, and Project Leonardo is at the forefront this year. — Jessica Conditt, Senior Reporter

The best of CES 2023

And we're back. After canceling our CES plans in 2022 (and not even having the option of attending in person in 2021), the Engadget team sent a dozen staffers to CES 2023 this week, including reporters, editors and videographers. It's too soon to say how many stories and videos we've published — in fact, we have more good stuff coming — but suffice to say, it was a lot. Though our team swears the show still wasn't as busy as pre-pandemic years, they were kept busy enough that it felt like a true return to form, not just for us, but for the tech industry at large.

One thing that never stopped was Engadget's annual Best of CES Awards program, although this year marks the first time in three years we've been able to base our judgments off of a full slate of in-person hands-on experiences. All told, we're handing out a dozen awards this year, including the most prestigious: Best of the Best. As always, our awards attempt to capture what we think people will still be talking about weeks, or even months, after the show concludes, from wireless TVs to an electric Ram concept truck to a $1,000 stand mixer that should make dough blending almost foolproof.

As ever, too, we endeavored to weed out the vaporware, not to mention the things that got attention solely for being dumb. (Hello, multiplesmart pee gadgets and a $3,800 "self-driving" stroller that only works when the baby isn't on board!) If you're curious about all the frivolity anyway — and who can blame you? — you'll find all of our coverage, serious and irreverent, right here. But for just the good stuff, you're in the right place. – Dana Wollman, Editor-in-Chief

Best Accessibility Tech: L’Oréal Hapta

A woman uses the L'oreal Hapta to help appy lipstick.
L'oreal

Rather than showing up to CES with a viral beauty gadget, L’Oréal debuted an assistive lipstick applicator that will be useful to millions. The cosmetics company worked with utensil maker Verily, which produces stabilizing and leveling cutlery for people with limited hand and arm mobility, to create Hapta. The result is a sturdy grip-and-gimbal system that lets those with limited finger dexterity or strength more independently apply lipstick. Though there are some quirks the company needs to iron out before releasing the Hapta in December, it’s impressive that this is both a finished product and has a relatively affordable suggested retail price of $150 to $200. It’s also a device that caters to an often overlooked segment of consumers, and can be expanded to work with more makeup applications. Of all the accessibility-related products we saw this CES, the Hapta is the most unique, while being actually helpful. — Cherlynn Low, Deputy Editor, Reviews

Best Gaming Product: Sony Project Leonardo

The round accessibility game controller Project Leonardo for PS5 against a white background.
Sony

Project Leonardo is Sony’s first piece of gaming hardware designed specifically for people with limited motor control, and it happens to look pretty neat at the same time. Project Leonardo is a controller kit that’ll work out of the box with the PlayStation 5, offering two circular gamepads lined with swappable buttons, third-party accessory ports and other customizable inputs. The controllers lie flat on a table or they can be mounted on a standard tripod, and they can be paired with a DualSense to turn all three devices into a single gamepad, offering plenty of flexibility for players.

To build its new PS5 accessory, Sony partnered with advocacy organizations including AbleGamers and SpecialEffect, just like Microsoft did with the (wildly successful) Xbox Adaptive Controller. Project Leonardo represents another positive step for accessibility tech in video games, a market that’s filled with surprises and primed for growth in 2023. — Jessica Conditt, Senior Reporter

Best Health & Fitness Product: Valencell blood pressure monitoring prototype 

A closeup of someone's finger in the Valencell Prototype Blood Pressure Finger Clip.
Valencell

Valencell has been making optical heart-rate sensors for years, but at CES 2023 it unveiled a new fingertip monitor that offers “cuffless” blood pressure monitoring. Instead of an unwieldy inflating sleeve, this fingertip clip uses photoplethysmography (PPG) sensors to measure blood flow patterns. This information is combined with algorithms and the user’s age, weight, gender and height to create a blood pressure measurement, without the need for calibration. We might have seen similar technology in earlier stages of development, but Valencell’s technique of combining data makes for the most compelling device yet. Valencell plans to eventually offer the blood pressure monitor to clinics and hospitals, alongside an over-the-counter version for personal use, pending FDA approval. — Mat Smith, UK Bureau Chief

Best Home Theater Tech: LG Signature OLED M3

An angled view of the 97-inch LG M3 OLED with wireless tech sitting in a hotel room in front of a translucent window curtain.
Engadget

LG unveiled several new OLED TVs at CES this year, but the standout was the Signature OLED M3, a 97-inch 4K giant. What’s most interesting about the M3, however, isn’t its screen – it’s the tech inside of it. More specifically, the M3 is designed to receive video and audio wirelessly, through a separate box that LG says you can place up to 30 feet away from the TV. Outside of a power cord, the M3 itself is cable-free; instead you plug your media streamers, cable box or game consoles into the breakout box, and all of it is beamed over a wireless link.

The company dubs this wireless transmission tech “Zero Connect” and claims this proprietary standard can provide three times the speed of WiFi 6. Among other connections, the Zero Connect box includes three HDMI ports that can play in 4K at 120Hz, including one eARC port. While it does require line-of-sight to work – there’s a rotatable antenna built into the box – in our brief experience with the set, we found the signal quality remained steady even in a crowded room. If Zero Connect can eventually make its way down to LG’s more reasonably priced TVs, it could provide an exciting new level of versatility. — Jeff Dunn, Senior Commerce Writer

Best Laptop: Lenovo Yoga Book 9i

Two of the Lenovo YogaBook 9i dual-screen laptop/tablet hydrid sit open in a light grey void, one with the screens stacked vertically and the other with them side-by-side.
Lenovo

By axing the traditional, physical keyboard and putting two 13.3-inch OLED screens on the Yoga Book 9i, Lenovo could potentially shake up modern laptop design in a way we haven’t seen since the original Surface Pro a decade ago. And while there are some issues that will need to be ironed out, the potential this new design offers is undeniable. When you prop up the Yoga Book on its kickstand, it becomes much more than a standard clamshell. You can have two screens stacked on top of each other or side-by-side depending on your needs. Meanwhile in standard laptop mode, you have the freedom to choose between a virtual or detachable Bluetooth keyboard – both with customizable widgets, not to mention built-in stylus support. It’s a level of flexibility and adaptability that traditional laptops simply can’t match. And unlike overly ambitious concepts in the past, this dual-screen notebook is actually coming out (sometime this spring for around $2,000) so we can see how it will truly fare in the real world. — Sam Rutherford, Senior Writer

Best Mobile or Tablet Tech: WPC Qi2 charging standard

A Belkin wireless charger with a phone, AirPods case and Apple Watch charging on it sits on a wooden side table.
Engadget

When Apple added MagSafe charging to the iPhone back in 2020, it created an incredibly simple and convenient way of juicing up its phones. And now, at CES 2023, the WPC (Wireless Power Consortium) has released details on the Qi2 charging standard that will finally bring similar functionality to the rest of the handset market. Not only does the new spec include support for Magnetic Power Profiles which will pave the way for handy charging disks that can snap onto the back of your phone, it will also allow for important features such as foreign object detection and up to 15-watt charging with the potential to raise power output even further in the future. And perhaps most importantly, because Apple is a member of the WPC, Qi2 shouldn’t be a weak MagSafe knock-off when it arrives on retail devices later this year in Q4 2023. — Sam Rutherford, Senior Writer

Best Robot or Drone: KEYi Loona

A happy dog sits on the floor with his paw resting on the head of the PetBot Loona robot.
Loona

Historically, robot pets tend to be lacking in the cutesy department. Loona, the futuristic companion from KEYi, with its big puppy dog eyes and wiggling ears has the adorable thing locked down. Loona is smart enough to scurry around your living space without running into walls or off of countertops, but the real magic is in its expressiveness. It’s impressive what you can do with a small display, four wheels and two “ears.”

Beyond her charms, Loona also comes loaded with sensors for responding to your voice, gestures and touch and a collection of games that turn the virtual pet into quite the clever companion. These same sensors also make her a capable home security bot and something of a STEM tool for kids via a graphical programming option to teach Loona new “interactions.”

Put all this together and you have a capable home robot that just happens to love having its ears tickled. What’s not to love about that? — James Trew, Editor-at-Large

Best Smart Home Product: GE Profile Smart Mixer

A cropped photo showing someone's hand holding a smartphone in front of a white GE Profile Smart Mixer on a white kitchen counter with grey tiled backsplash.
GE

Baking requires precision and, depending on the recipe, can often feel like a juggling act. So it impressed us to see GE Profile's Smart Mixer, which has a built-in scale to accurately weigh ingredients, plus voice control so you don’t have to push buttons when your hands are otherwise occupied. The Smart Mixer is a high-end stand mixer in its own right, with a motor that’s speedy enough to whip up emulsions. But it gets its smart home edge from that integrated scale, app connectivity and voice control.

Indeed, the app component will probably be particularly useful for novice bakers, offering over a dozen step-by-step recipes. App guidance for cooking is nothing new, but here, the mixer knows what you’re making and will adjust mixing speeds as needed to ensure nothing is over- or under-worked.

For experienced bakers, the scale, timer and voice control are likely to have greater appeal. Scale and timer readouts appear on the front-facing digital display, which also shows you the mixer’s current speed setting. Changing that setting is as easy as asking Alexa or the Google Assistant to do it for you, provided you have a smart speaker linked. With a starting price of $999, it’s by no means a cheap appliance, but the suite of innovative smart features made this one of the more memorable smart home gadgets we saw at the show this year. — Amy Skorheim, Commerce Writer

Best Transportation Tech: Ram 1500 BEV Concept

A rendering of a grey Stellantis Ram 1500 BEV Concept is seen parked on a roadway.
Stellantis

The Ram 1500, one of America’s most iconic trucks, is charging into the 21st century with a “revolutionary” battery electric pickup concept. The eponymously named Ram 1500 Revolution BEV Concept shown off at Stellantis’ CES 2023 keynote packs high tech everything into a sleek and aggressive body design. The BEV concept features dual-motor AWD, four-wheel steering, animated grille emblems, taillights and badging. Additionally, it has an integrated movie projector, AI assistants that respond to voice commands from both inside and outside the vehicle, as well as a Shadow Mode that trains the truck to follow along behind its dismounted driver from a safe distance.

Ram envisions this feature being used on job sites where workers would otherwise have to repeatedly get in and out of the truck between short drives. The BEV Concept itself won’t be entering production — ditto for most concept vehicles — but it will directly inform the design decisions going into the 2024 Ram 1500 EV, which will launch next year alongside Stellantis’ fully electric Jeep. — Andrew Tarantola, Senior Reporter

Best TV Tech: Samsung Micro LED

A hyper-modern living room with a round couch and blue lounge chair is in the foreground with a Samsung MicroLED on a white wall in the background.
Samsung

CES has long been a show where tier-one manufacturers show off the latest and greatest in TV technology, giving us a preview of how normal people will be able to deck out their home theater setups once the tech goes mainstream. This year was no exception, even though Sony surprisingly didn't show off any new televisions. What felt most significant in 2023 was Samsung's continued advancements in its MicroLED TVs. The technology first debuted in 2018 with the company's gigantic 146-inch TV dubbed "The Wall" that cost as much as a house, but now we're seeing Samsung bring it to 50- and 63-inch TVs that will actually fit in people's living rooms. Sure, the cost will likely still be prohibitive for all but the wealthy, but hopefully in a few years we'll see these stunning screens available at a price more households can afford. — Nathan Ingraham, Deputy Editor, News

Best Wearable: German Bionic Apogee

A woman in black wears a German Bionic Apogee exosuit as she lifts a box out of a storage cart.
German Bionic

Our favorite wearable this year takes technology beyond the wrist-bound devices we’re used to seeing and puts it on your hips and over your shoulders. German Bionic’s new Apogee exosuit builds upon the company’s Cray X exoskeleton that it showed off at CES last year, resulting in a lighter, smarter wearable. Designed for commercial use, the Apogee exosuit helps workers complete physical tasks without inflicting as much strain on their bodies. The suit can offset up to 66 pounds of load to the lower back per lifting motion, plus it helps reduce fatigue overall with walking assistance.

The Apogee is German Bionic’s lightest exosuit to date and it’s designed to be worn for long periods of time, assisting workers without getting in the way. Plus, the company’s IO architecture constantly collects and analyzes data about workers’ activity while they’re wearing the suit, so it can then provide feedback via the onboard display or audio alerts when unsafe movements are detected. We’re almost disappointed that the Apogee will only be available in warehouses and other commercial settings – various Engadget staffers suffering from chronic back pain are eager to give it a go. — Valentina Palladino, Senior Commerce Editor

Best in Show: Sony Project Leonardo

The round accessibility game controller Project Leonardo for PS5 against a white background.
Sony

Project Leonardo is Sony’s first piece of gaming hardware designed specifically for people with disabilities, and it represents another positive step in the world of accessibility tech. Project Leonardo is a controller kit that will be plug-and-play with the PlayStation 5, working in conjunction with existing Sony hardware and popular third-party accessibility accessories. The controller kit includes two circular gamepads lined with swappable buttons, four 3.5mm AUX accessory ports and other customizable inputs. 

The controllers were designed so that they don't need to be held – instead, they lie flat on a table, or they can be mounted on a tripod or stand. Both controllers can be paired with a DualSense to turn all three devices into a single gamepad, offering plenty of flexibility for players. 

To build its new PS5 accessory, Sony partnered with advocacy organizations including AbleGamers, SpecialEffect and Stack Up, much like Microsoft did with the revolutionary Xbox Adaptive Controller. Though there's no release date or price for Project Leonardo quite yet, Sony is seizing on an opportunity to expand the PS5 playerbase while making its hardware more inclusive, and we're likely to hear much more about the controller kit in the coming months. 

The market for accessibility tech in video games is filled with surprises and primed for growth in 2023, and Project Leonardo is at the forefront this year. — Jessica Conditt, Senior Reporter

Engadget’s favorite games of 2022

What a year for gaming. While 2022 may not have enjoyed as many AAA releases as in past years, the ones that weren’t delayed into 2023 were stellar and the indie development scene more than made up for the lack of big-budget titles. Some of our favorite releases this year came from small, ambitious teams that delivered fresh ideas. As is tradition, the Engadget team came together to extol the virtues of our favorite releases from the past 12 months.

Bayonetta 3

Bayonetta 3 is a delicious amplification of the series’ most ridiculous themes. It indulges in absurdity without disrupting the rapid-fire combat or Bayonetta’s unrivaled sense of fashion and wit. Bayonetta 3 is joyful, mechanically rich and full of action, plus it allows players to transform into a literal hell train in order to take down massive beasts bent on destroying the multiverse. Bayonetta elegantly dances her way through battles, dropping one-liners and shooting enemies with her gun shoes in one moment, and turning into a giant spider creature the next.

The Bayonetta series just keeps getting weirder, but that doesn’t mean it’s losing its sense of satisfying gameplay along the way. In the franchise’s third installment, Bayonetta is powerful, confident and funny; she’s a drag queen in a universe loosely held together by witchcraft, and the chaos of this combination is truly magical. – Jessica Conditt, Senior Reporter

Cult of the Lamb

Sure, you’ve played Animal Crossing, Stardew Valley, Hades and The Binding of Isaac – but what if you could play all of them at once, in a single adorable demonic package? That’s Cult of the Lamb, baby.

Cult of the Lamb is part social and farming simulator, part dungeon-crawling roguelike and all-around fantastic. After being sacrificed and resurrected, you’re instructed by a grand, dark deity to start your own cult, managing worship services, agriculture, cooking, marriages, deaths and much more. You must also venture into the wilderness to battle demons and recruit more followers. Keep in mind that you’re a lamb, which makes all of this exceptionally cute.

Cult of the Lamb is a brilliant balance of satanic dungeon crawling and cult simulation, offering more action than Animal Crossing and more casual farming mechanics than Hades. Cult of the Lamb is incredibly satisfying, and it’s rich in gameplay, story and environments. Most of all, it’s cute as hell. – J.C.

Elden Ring

There was never going to be a version of this post that did not include Elden Ring, FromSoftware's big push into open-world Berserk-inspired sword and sorcery.

Yes, there's something to be said about the earlier, more linear Souls games forcing players down a path of increasing gloom and difficulty (cue the hallmark rasping laugh of an NPC who seems to know precisely how screwed you are), how the inevitability of that experience allowed the devs to craft a bespoke gameplay loop of apprehension, frustration, discovery and the eventual reward of mastery. I love that stuff! But Elden Ring tried something new, effectively playing a shell game with those four player states, and making discovery the new initial draw.

My big "aha!" moments in Dark Souls 3 or Bloodborne arrived when I'd finally spotted a shortcut or sussed out a boss's hidden weakness. Elden Ring retained that. But what really made the good brain chemicals flow was just… roaming around. Reaching the top of some lava-ridden mesa. Or finding a way onto some seemingly inaccessible islet. The grandeur of the settings and knowledge FromSoft wouldn't make me work for a slice of geography devoid of treasures to loot and dudes to hack apart made the effort worthwhile.

Some fans adore the limited palate of Sekiro which essentially tells players, "git gud or quit." Call me a bad gamer (accurate) but I prefer the maximalism and flexibility that Elden Ring brought to the table. Want to grind until every boss is trivial? How about a hitless all-remembrances run? Either, and anything in between, is valid. Allowing for challenge and accessibility makes Elden Ring a beautifully executed twist on the formula FromSoft has been honing for nearly 30 years. – Avery Menegus, Senior News Editor

Ghostwire: Tokyo

Sometimes, games you were once really looking forward to playing just sneak past you at launch. That’s totally true of Ghostwire: Tokyo, a game from Tango Gameworks, which also created the underrated horror game The Evil Within and its sequel.

Ghostwire: Tokyo is different to those, though. It’s often… funny. Sure, there are grotesque Japanese folklore monsters and creepy faceless men-in-suits to hurl magic at, but there are also ghosts trapped in toilet cubicles that need a few extra rolls of toilet paper, or park trees that need to be magically cleansed for nearby spirits to feel at ease. You play through a first-person perspective, using elemental attacks, charms and a spiritual bow and arrow set to take down an array of spirits that have invaded a substantial patch of central Tokyo. If you’ve heard the game described as Yakuza, but with ghosts, well, it’s a completely different kind of game. But the beautifully rendered buildings, interiors and streets definitely hit similar notes. Due to a supernatural attack on the city, you won’t bump into any other humans, pretty much through the entire campaign, which adds an eerie air to the entire game. It’s either ghouls trying to kill you, or spirits that need your help to move on.

The main game is short but punchy enough. It feels like a game that was banking on DLC to round out a lot of the more ambiguous plot questions players might have, but it’s uncertain whether that will ever happen. It’s still a fun supernatural game that takes a different approach to horror, with some mind-bending set pieces that bring some of the more imaginative parts of games like Control into the neon-lit streets of Tokyo. And who doesn’t want to be stalked by hundreds of paper eyeballs? – Mat Smith, UK Bureau Chief

God of War: Ragnarok

When I was first introduced to Kratos, the God of War, he was on my PS2, taking a stroll along a Cretan wharf, casually tearing a few Minotaurs in half. Things only went downhill from there. For a full three mythos-crushing game installments, things only went downhill from there. I mean, by the end of GoW III you had to dig pretty far down the Pantheon talent list to find a surviving deity.

But when we were reintroduced to Kratos on the PS4, we were not given back the pale ball of vengeful fury and barely-contained ultraviolence that we had grown to know and love. This new one was, well, not softer but at least not quite so hard-edged as before. This was a Kratos with bad knees who old-man grunted when he stood; a Kratos with a son he struggled to connect with but still reared in a dangerous and unforgiving world, demi-god or not. This was a more relatable Kratos, one that had aged alongside the gamers that inhabit his form in the intervening console years, with concerns and motivation beyond most efficiently chain slashing his way through enemy hordes.

I think a big part of what made God of War the Game of the Year in 2018 was that progression away from thinly-veiled plot points serving as excuses for more blood, boobs and button smashing; and towards a more mature, measured examination, not just of Kratos’ relationship with Atreus, but the larger theme of how to process familial loss, its accompanying grief, and to move forward from the pain.

Ragnarok is both an affirmation of Kratos’ reformation and a lodestar for the future of the God of War franchise. I’m not going to spoil the rich and nuanced multi-arc-with-just-a-hint-of-time-travel storyline for those who have not yet played but it, in my opinion at least, is the best written of the series. This is a game with cutscenes you’ll want to sit through. Combine that with well-paced skill-adjustable action, huge maps packed with treasures and secrets, an expansive supporting cast and star-studded voice acting – not to mention a menagerie-worth of mystical wildlife just begging to be torn limb from limb – and you’ve got yourself one of the best games of 2022. — Andrew Tarantola, Senior Reporter

Horizon Forbidden West

Sony’s first-party studios have generally done sequelsright, and Horizon Forbidden Westis no exception. The first game had one of my favorite narratives, as protagonist Aloy learned what happened a thousand years prior to bring about the mysterious world she (and the player) inhabit – one where mankind lives in relatively primitive tribes trying to stay safe from giant animal-like machines run amok.

Forbidden West delivers even more of what worked in Horizon Zero Dawn. Aloy remains a steadfast, righteous and occasionally stubborn protagonist who continues to grow as she uncovers more secrets about the world around her while fighting a totally unexpected force bent on destroying Earth as she knows it. The twists of Forbidden West don’t quite match the first game’s reveal of how the world we know evolved into the world Aloy inhabits. But the narrative is still rich and complex, and the new parts of what was once the American southwest that you get to explore are rendered in stunning detail. It’s one of the most beautiful games I’ve ever played.

As with any good sequel, combat and traversal around the world have been refined – there are more weapons than ever, and you can customize them to match your play style or the particular enemies you’re facing. Melee combat against humans and machines alike has also been significantly upgraded, and new items like a grappling hook and hang glider make getting around quicker and more fun. And nearly all the machines from the first game return, along with some colossal new enemies that present a massive challenge, but also a massive bit of satisfaction as you figure out their weak spots and systematically take them down.

I think my favorite new thing of Forbidden West, though, is the relationships you build with your friends. In the first game, Aloy is mostly a lone wolf, occasionally partnering with people here and there but mostly doing things on her own. In Forbidden West, though, you establish a posse of capable and likable companions, some old and some new, all of whom bring something different to the table in your massive quest. Trying to fend off the end of the world feels just a little bit easier when you have friends by your side. – Nathan Ingraham, Deputy Editor

Immortality

With Immortality, indie game director Sam Barlow has delivered a tribute to the surreal films of David Lynch, with a dose of Hitchcock for good measure. Similar to Her Story, it's also entirely about scrubbing through video clips, except this time it involves footage from three unreleased genre films spanning several decades. Your job? To figure out what happened to the actress Marissa Marcel.

Geared more towards cinephiles than mainstream gamers, Immortality can be frustrating if you're not operating on Barlow's wavelength. But if you're a fan of surreal cinema, and you enjoy diving into behind-the-scenes footage, it's a game with endless rewards. The mystery will get you started, but the spooky atmosphere and excellent performances will keep you hooked. – Devindra Hardawar, Senior Editor

Marvel Snap

After getting burnt out on Hearthstone a few years ago, and superhero movies more recently, the last thing I expected to hook me in 2022 was a comic book-themed collectible card game. But then the fine folks at Second Dinner released Marvel Snap and it quickly became my favorite time waster. Because a match lasts less than five minutes, you can easily play a round during commercials, while waiting for the train, or in the bathroom (I’m not judging). And while decks cap out at just 12 cards, there’s a surprising amount of depth with a huge variety of effects and counters. Meanwhile, thanks to appearances from lesser-known characters like Hell Cow, Devil Dinosaur and the Infinaut, the game has prompted me to learn more about Marvel lore than any of the movies ever did. So even though the game is a little barebones at the moment (the only mode is a basic ranked ladder but more features are on the way), Marvel Snap is sure to be a game I continue playing long after I’ve forgotten about whatever happened in the latest Spider-man movie. – Sam Rutherford, Senior Reporter

Neon White

What do you do when you love speed running and score chasing, but you're generally not very good at it? You play Neon White

Like all good games, Neon White is simple to learn, and difficult to master. The basic ask is that you vanquish every demon from a level and head to a finish marker. It plays like a fast-paced first-person shooter, with the complexity coming from your weapons, which are cards that can either fire or be spent for a special movement or attack ability. The real challenge comes from the scoring system, which grades you based on the time you took to complete a level.

There are just shy of 100 levels, all begging to be learned, repeated and perfected. Despite its first-person shooter visuals, it plays out more like a cross between Trackmania and a platformer. You'll quickly turn that bronze medal into a gold, and then an "ace" that is supposedly your ultimate target. Then you'll see the online leaderboards and realize you've left some seconds on the table. Then you'll randomly achieve the secret red medal on a level, say "oh jesus" and realize that there's a whole hidden tier of perfection for you to attain.

The trick is that everything feels smooth, and fast. From my first gold medal time up to the top-ten-in-the-world run I showed my pretending-to-be-interested friends, every time I turned on the game I felt like a master, inches away from perfection. There are multiple paths through each level, ridiculous shortcuts to discover, and near-infinite degrees of satisfaction waiting after every good run.

The main negative point, for me, is the story, which plays out like a visual novel. I love the genre, and had heard good things about the game's characters, but found the narrative overly slow and just generally dull. There is mercifully a "fast forward" button, and once you've played through everything, a level select screen that lets you jump right into the action.

Despite its storytelling, and a couple of overly long levels that had me gnashing my teeth, Neon White was easily the most fun I had with a game this year. I played on Switch and PC, but a couple of weeks ago it landed on PlayStation as well, and I imagine I'll be starting up a new campaign and playing it all over again soon.– Aaron Souppouris, Executive Editor

OlliOlli World

Most of the time, single-player narrative-driven games are where I spend most of my gaming time. But once a year, I come across a game like OlliOlli World that I can play for minutes or hours at a time because the gameplay is just so satisfying. The goal in OlliOlli World is simple: become a skateboarding god. You do that by progressing through five worlds, each of which has a dozen or more individual stages, each with a wildly unique course to traverse.

Unlike the earlier games in the OlliOlli series, World is a bit more forgiving at first. It’s much easier to pick up and start pulling off wild moves and combos than ever before. But it’s still fiendishly challenging – if you want to beat every challenge, you’ll need lightning-fast reflexes and the mental stamina to change up your tricks and moves constantly. But once you get fluent in the game’s mechanics, you can enter a flow state where you’re just making moves purely on instinct.

The level and character design in OlliOlli World only enhances this effect. Like the earlier games, each of the five biomes has its own unique characteristics, but in all cases the levels are extremely colorful and interactive, with tons of eye candy and bizarre creatures hanging out in the background. And you can customize your character with clothing and items you pick up for completing challenges, letting you express your personal style in a huge variety of ways. There are also competitive aspects, like the daily challenge where you compete against nine other skaters to post the top score in your group. And every time you visit a level, you’ll see a “rival” score to try and beat. There’s always something pushing you to skate even better in OlliOlli World. – N.I.

Overwatch 2

Overwatch is my second favorite game of all time. Despite sharper, faster-paced gameplay, some much-needed quality-of-life improvements and the free-to-play shift I've wanted for years, Overwatch 2 isn't quite at that level yet. It's too rough around the edges.

The monetization changes felt like a gut punch. In fairness, many of the high-end skins cost around the same as what you'd pay for outfits in other major free-to-play titles. But newcomers now need to pay up if they want cosmetics that have been in the game for six years – items that veteran players were able to earn for free only a few months ago. Players also need to pay for the premium battle pass, grind through the free tier or wait until it's easier to unlock new heroes in later seasons before getting access to the latest characters.

And yet, Overwatch 2 has a hold over me like no other game. It's still the best multiplayer title around, with a rich lore, a wonderful cast of characters and a colorful aesthetic that helps it stand out from many other games on the market. The ping system is an excellent addition for accessibility, and the four new heroes that have joined the lineup since launch are all a blast. Some of the major hero reworks, especially the Orisa one, have been a resounding success.

As much as I enjoy the game as it is now, Blizzard has laid the foundations for an even more exciting future. Next year will bring long-awaited, story-driven co-op missions to the franchise – until now, we've only had a taste of those during seasonal events. After getting a sneak peek at some of the stuff that's on the way to the PvP side in the next few seasons, including a new core game mode and the season four hero, I can't see myself putting this game down anytime soon. – Kris Holt, Contributing Reporter

Rollerdrome

Rollerdrome
Roll7

Rollerdrome is lush. It’s incredibly stylish, taking cues from 1970s Hollywood sci-fi but with an attractive cel-shaded filter over every scene. Even better than its stunning visuals, Rollerdrome has smooth, precise mechanics that allow players to fall into a flow in every level. The game is all about gliding through the environments on rollerblades, picking up speed and doing tricks while dodging and shooting enemies, managing weapons and controlling time – and it all comes together in a thrilling dystopian bloodsport.

It’s a joy to dodge, dodge, dodge and then leap into the air, slow down time and take out the people shooting at you, refilling ammo and collecting health in the process. Meanwhile, an unsettling story of corporate greed unfolds naturally beneath the rollerblading bloodshed, keeping the stakes high. Rollerdrome was a sleeper hit of 2022, so if you’ve been napping on this one, now’s the time to wake up and play. – J.C.

Stray

When I fall in love with a game, it’s the setting that gets me, which maybe explains why I wandered around Fallout 76’s Appalachian wasteland long after most people had left – I wanted to live there. I want to live in the futuristic city where Stray takes place too, but since I’m neither cat nor robot, I wouldn’t be allowed. In the game, you play a standard orange tabby with no special abilities, apart from those given to most felines like agility and jumping prowess. Through a mishap, you find yourself trapped in a domed city populated exclusively by amiable humanoid robots, and you eventually team up with a small drone that lets you “talk” with those androids.

To find your way back to your cat family outside the city, you solve puzzles, fight mutant bacterial blobs and generally follow your curiosity. The cityscape is a gorgeous, multi-level cyberpunk playground that feels a little less hardcore than Cyberpunk 2077’s Night City, with plenty of woven rugs to scratch and pillows to nap on. In fact, scratching, napping and otherwise doing cat stuff not only unlocks achievements (I was particularly proud to earn the one for getting a paper bag stuck on my head) they’re also integral to the game.

As my colleague Jessica Conditt said in her review, Stray is “downright joyful.” By leaning into the cat premise, it creates a whole new gaming perspective – you can’t do stuff humans can do, but you can do stuff cats do, like shimmying through small holes and jumping on pipes and bookcases. Living 12 inches off the ground for the cumulative eight hours or so it took me to play the game, I finally understood why cats want to jump on top of everything. The view is just better up there. – Amy Skorheim, Commerce Writer

The Last of Us Part I

The Last of Us Part I review screenshots

A ton has been said about how The Last of Us Part I is a remake of a game that was originally released for the PS3 and then remastered a year later for the PS4. (Oh, and it’s coming to PC in early 2023, too.) So, it’s not exactly an essential release if you’ve played it before. But for people who may have heard about the upcoming HBO show and want to know what all the fuss is about – or anyone who loved Joel and Ellie’s journey the first time – this PS5 version is the definitive way to experience this story.

The game has been entirely rebuilt from scratch, and it shows in everything from the ruined post-pandemic cities and surprisingly tranquil forests and mountains to the detail found in collectibles around the world. Most crucially, though, the facial animations are simply stunning. Everyone you encounter, whether a lead character or an NPC you only see once, looks amazingly detailed and realistic. Of course, that means the hordes of infected humans hunting you are even more disturbingly detailed than ever, as well.

The updates aren’t just skin deep, either. Enemies are smarter and more cunning than ever, thanks to developer Naughty Dog using the upgraded AI system they implemented in 2020’s The Last of Us Part II. Humans are more aggressive about flanking you and a lot easier to lose once they find you, while the Infected are even better at hearing you trying to sneak by. There are a host of other updates, big and small, perhaps the most important of which is a massive suite of accessibility features so that almost anyone can give this game a shot.

What hasn’t changed is the story and script – but that isn’t a problem, given that The Last of Us was already well-known for its outstanding performances and plotting. The debate on whether or not The Last of Us Part I was really “necessary” will likely continue, but don’t spend too much time thinking about it. If you’ve never played the game before, this is the way to do it. And if you’re like me and play it every year or two, this is the best way to do so. – N.I.

Tunic

How do you write about a game that’s best experienced without expectations? That’s the challenge of saying something meaningful about Tunic. You can speak to its influences – primarily The Legend of Zelda: Link’s Awakening, with a dash of Soulslike combat – but that doesn’t do the game justice. Worse yet, it fails to capture its appeal. I could also mention its haunting soundtrack by Lifeformed and Janice Kwan or the austere beauty of its art style. But again that’s not quite what makes Tunic so special.

I’m being purposefully vague because to say more would be to rob the game of its magic. So I’ll leave you with this: It’s fitting Tunic casts you as a cutesy fox because the game has a knack of making you feel so clever anytime you work through one of its many mysteries. Do yourself a favor and try to play this one without turning to the internet if you run into a roadblock. On the other end is one of the most rewarding gaming experiences in recent memory. – Igor Bonifacic, Weekend Editor

Triangle Strategy

As a longtime fan of the SRPG genre, no game in the last decade has managed to evoke classics like Final Fantasy Tactics and Tactics Ogre more than Triangle Strategy. I admit it’s a bit of a slow burn and it gets a bit text-heavy, but with multiple endings (including a New Game+ mode), a deep roster of characters and rewarding turn-based combat, this game has it all. And thanks to its art style, which masterfully blends old-school sprites with a modern 2.5D approach, this game looks and feels like a love letter to those all-time greats of the late 90s. If you’re a fan of tactics games, Triangle Strategy is a must-play. – S.R.

Vampire Survivors

I had such good intentions for my Steam Deck. I swore I'd use it to get through my Steam backlog and stream a bunch of games from Xbox Cloud Gaming and Stadia (RIP). Sure, I do those things, but only on the rare occasion I can rip my attention away from Vampire Survivors.

It is a rudimentary-looking game with very basic controls. You'll face hordes of monsters, but because your weapons autofire, the only real control you have is using the thumbstick or touch controls to move your character. You'll need to carefully juke away from some enemies while getting close enough to kill others and pick up the experience gems they drop. After you collect enough gems and level up, you’re able to select another weapon or powerup.

This is where many of the game's intricacies come in. You'll get a random selection of weapons and power-ups to choose from at every level, as well as the ability to make your items more powerful. If you find the right pairings, you can evolve weapons into ultra-powerful forms. Vampire Survivors is the perfect distillation of the power fantasy. Flesh out the right build and you'll carve through bosses that once seemed unbeatable like a lightsaber through ice cream.

This game begs you to keep coming back. Since it debuted in early access last December, developer Poncle has frequently updated the game with more characters, weapons, items and levels. Part of the joy is in building different loadouts that can demolish enemies with ease. Vampire Survivors also shares some DNA with casinos. There's an explosion of color and some upbeat, tension-filled music whenever you open a treasure chest, along with a delightful chime whenever you grab a gem – you will hear that a lot. These aspects don't exactly make it easy to put the game down.

I love my Steam Deck. I love Vampire Survivors. Together, they have a toxic hold over my desire to play other games. I could simply uninstall Vampire Survivors from my Deck, but, really, what's the point when I can just play it on my phone now?– K.H.

Wordle

Woman plays Wordle on her smartphone from the living room of her home on 21st April 2022 in Birmingham, United Kingdom. Wordle is a web-based word game played by millions of users / players worldwide often on their mobile devices. The game was created and developed by software engineer Josh Wardle, and owned by The New York Times Company since 2022. (photo by Mike Kemp/In Pictures via Getty Images)
Mike Kemp via Getty Images

For a while in 2022, a word game brought the world together. Because it’s the same puzzle for every single player each day, Wordle was a giant inside joke amongst solvers across international boundaries. At Engadget, for example, London-based Mat Smith could give me hints or laugh at my inability to guess a word he got.

I also loved sharing and seeing the little blocks that showed how many tries it took us to solve the word. It was a chance to both bond and brag – the perfect gaming experience. Plus, whenever a word was controversial, whether it was spelled in US or UK English, for example, I loved the inevitable debate that would result. In 2022, Wordle gave us an elevated form of watercooler conversation fodder, but for the entire world.

Although technically launched in 2021, Wordle found widespread popularity in 2022. It was born from software engineer Josh Wardle’s desire to make a word game for him and his partner Palak Shah to play together. But it was when the user base expanded beyond his family to encompass the entire globe that Wordle took on a life of its own.

Countless iterations were spawned, building on the format and name… which itself was based on Wardle’s last name. You may have seen examples like Heardle, Worldle, Squirdle, Absurdle and more, using the puzzle’s format for us to guess songs, countries and other subjects. As always happens with anything popular, hundreds of websites published guides to beating the game, while scores of clones popped up in the Android and iOS app stores, hoping to cash in on the fever. Wardle later sold the game to the New York Times for an undisclosed sum that was reported to be in the low seven digits, and soon, just as quickly as the fever started, the game’s popularity subsided. Thanks to Wordle, we all may be leaving 2022 just a little bit savvier about the most common letters and words in the English language. – Cherlynn Low, Deputy Editor

Xenoblade Chronicles 3

Getting into a new role-playing game series can be hard sometimes. This is especially true when you’ve allied yourself with a certain studio or series – and we are into double digits in the Trails series, not to mention the juggernaut that is Final Fantasy. It’s trickier to reorient yourself to completely new gameplay dynamics, series in-jokes that fly over your head and just, well, things being different.

That means I’m late to playing critically acclaimed RPGs – I have to be in the right mindset. So how did Xenoblade Chronicles 3 weasel its way into my heart? I think it’s because I was told by several people, both gaming critics and friends, that it was a perfect entry into the series, regardless of whether you’d played its predecessors. They weren’t wrong.

It’s a nice game to approach with a blank slate because it goes through around three different tonal gear shifts before you entirely know exactly what the heck is going on. While I don’t want to ruin the anime-nodding plot twists, several of which you will see coming from a mile away, the game starts with a sci-fi, steam-punk high-concept scenario. Teen warriors on two factions are pitted against each other, waging wars with mechs, but also close-range weapons. It turns out direct kills are the only way to leech their enemy’s life force, building up a store in their base’s “flame clock” and ensuring a squad’s survival. They have to fight, to live.

Noah and two of his allies clash against Mio and her retinue, and after the battle ends in a draw – and I get to enjoy a slick, anime-styled battle movie between all six – the fates conspire to ensure this is your group of warriors, and only they can save the world.

With a wide range of classes to wield and master, as well as the ability to add a guest warrior to your squad pretty much any time throughout the game, battles initially seem chaotic, but I soon got attuned to the rhythm. Defenders will coax enemies into targeting them, allowing your heavy-hitting attackers to wail on them from the side or back – positioning is crucial. Meanwhile, your healers will ensure your defender doesn’t fall and amp up damage either with area-specific skills or targeted attacks on enemies. Also, your epic, charge-them-up-in-battle Interlink attacks are accompanied by such a high-energy soundtrack, it’s hard not to feel like a hero.

There are some big pacing problems in places, and when you get the ability to combine with your allies and form powerful Evangelion-esque avatars, you wonder exactly what can stop them at times. But it’s a vast adventure with several compelling side quests to fill out your time in Aionios. Annoyingly, it’s won me over – and I have since downloaded the original Xenoblade Chronicles (and its sequel) to play in 2023. – M.S.

Engadget’s favorite games of 2022

What a year for gaming. While 2022 may not have enjoyed as many AAA releases as in past years, the ones that weren’t delayed into 2023 were stellar and the indie development scene more than made up for the lack of big-budget titles. Some of our favorite releases this year came from small, ambitious teams that delivered fresh ideas. As is tradition, the Engadget team came together to extol the virtues of our favorite releases from the past 12 months.

Bayonetta 3

Bayonetta 3 is a delicious amplification of the series’ most ridiculous themes. It indulges in absurdity without disrupting the rapid-fire combat or Bayonetta’s unrivaled sense of fashion and wit. Bayonetta 3 is joyful, mechanically rich and full of action, plus it allows players to transform into a literal hell train in order to take down massive beasts bent on destroying the multiverse. Bayonetta elegantly dances her way through battles, dropping one-liners and shooting enemies with her gun shoes in one moment, and turning into a giant spider creature the next.

The Bayonetta series just keeps getting weirder, but that doesn’t mean it’s losing its sense of satisfying gameplay along the way. In the franchise’s third installment, Bayonetta is powerful, confident and funny; she’s a drag queen in a universe loosely held together by witchcraft, and the chaos of this combination is truly magical. – Jessica Conditt, Senior Reporter

Cult of the Lamb

Sure, you’ve played Animal Crossing, Stardew Valley, Hades and The Binding of Isaac – but what if you could play all of them at once, in a single adorable demonic package? That’s Cult of the Lamb, baby.

Cult of the Lamb is part social and farming simulator, part dungeon-crawling roguelike and all-around fantastic. After being sacrificed and resurrected, you’re instructed by a grand, dark deity to start your own cult, managing worship services, agriculture, cooking, marriages, deaths and much more. You must also venture into the wilderness to battle demons and recruit more followers. Keep in mind that you’re a lamb, which makes all of this exceptionally cute.

Cult of the Lamb is a brilliant balance of satanic dungeon crawling and cult simulation, offering more action than Animal Crossing and more casual farming mechanics than Hades. Cult of the Lamb is incredibly satisfying, and it’s rich in gameplay, story and environments. Most of all, it’s cute as hell. – J.C.

Elden Ring

There was never going to be a version of this post that did not include Elden Ring, FromSoftware's big push into open-world Berserk-inspired sword and sorcery.

Yes, there's something to be said about the earlier, more linear Souls games forcing players down a path of increasing gloom and difficulty (cue the hallmark rasping laugh of an NPC who seems to know precisely how screwed you are), how the inevitability of that experience allowed the devs to craft a bespoke gameplay loop of apprehension, frustration, discovery and the eventual reward of mastery. I love that stuff! But Elden Ring tried something new, effectively playing a shell game with those four player states, and making discovery the new initial draw.

My big "aha!" moments in Dark Souls 3 or Bloodborne arrived when I'd finally spotted a shortcut or sussed out a boss's hidden weakness. Elden Ring retained that. But what really made the good brain chemicals flow was just… roaming around. Reaching the top of some lava-ridden mesa. Or finding a way onto some seemingly inaccessible islet. The grandeur of the settings and knowledge FromSoft wouldn't make me work for a slice of geography devoid of treasures to loot and dudes to hack apart made the effort worthwhile.

Some fans adore the limited palate of Sekiro which essentially tells players, "git gud or quit." Call me a bad gamer (accurate) but I prefer the maximalism and flexibility that Elden Ring brought to the table. Want to grind until every boss is trivial? How about a hitless all-remembrances run? Either, and anything in between, is valid. Allowing for challenge and accessibility makes Elden Ring a beautifully executed twist on the formula FromSoft has been honing for nearly 30 years. – Avery Menegus, Senior News Editor

Ghostwire: Tokyo

Sometimes, games you were once really looking forward to playing just sneak past you at launch. That’s totally true of Ghostwire: Tokyo, a game from Tango Gameworks, which also created the underrated horror game The Evil Within and its sequel.

Ghostwire: Tokyo is different to those, though. It’s often… funny. Sure, there are grotesque Japanese folklore monsters and creepy faceless men-in-suits to hurl magic at, but there are also ghosts trapped in toilet cubicles that need a few extra rolls of toilet paper, or park trees that need to be magically cleansed for nearby spirits to feel at ease. You play through a first-person perspective, using elemental attacks, charms and a spiritual bow and arrow set to take down an array of spirits that have invaded a substantial patch of central Tokyo. If you’ve heard the game described as Yakuza, but with ghosts, well, it’s a completely different kind of game. But the beautifully rendered buildings, interiors and streets definitely hit similar notes. Due to a supernatural attack on the city, you won’t bump into any other humans, pretty much through the entire campaign, which adds an eerie air to the entire game. It’s either ghouls trying to kill you, or spirits that need your help to move on.

The main game is short but punchy enough. It feels like a game that was banking on DLC to round out a lot of the more ambiguous plot questions players might have, but it’s uncertain whether that will ever happen. It’s still a fun supernatural game that takes a different approach to horror, with some mind-bending set pieces that bring some of the more imaginative parts of games like Control into the neon-lit streets of Tokyo. And who doesn’t want to be stalked by hundreds of paper eyeballs? – Mat Smith, UK Bureau Chief

God of War: Ragnarok

When I was first introduced to Kratos, the God of War, he was on my PS2, taking a stroll along a Cretan wharf, casually tearing a few Minotaurs in half. Things only went downhill from there. For a full three mythos-crushing game installments, things only went downhill from there. I mean, by the end of GoW III you had to dig pretty far down the Pantheon talent list to find a surviving deity.

But when we were reintroduced to Kratos on the PS4, we were not given back the pale ball of vengeful fury and barely-contained ultraviolence that we had grown to know and love. This new one was, well, not softer but at least not quite so hard-edged as before. This was a Kratos with bad knees who old-man grunted when he stood; a Kratos with a son he struggled to connect with but still reared in a dangerous and unforgiving world, demi-god or not. This was a more relatable Kratos, one that had aged alongside the gamers that inhabit his form in the intervening console years, with concerns and motivation beyond most efficiently chain slashing his way through enemy hordes.

I think a big part of what made God of War the Game of the Year in 2018 was that progression away from thinly-veiled plot points serving as excuses for more blood, boobs and button smashing; and towards a more mature, measured examination, not just of Kratos’ relationship with Atreus, but the larger theme of how to process familial loss, its accompanying grief, and to move forward from the pain.

Ragnarok is both an affirmation of Kratos’ reformation and a lodestar for the future of the God of War franchise. I’m not going to spoil the rich and nuanced multi-arc-with-just-a-hint-of-time-travel storyline for those who have not yet played but it, in my opinion at least, is the best written of the series. This is a game with cutscenes you’ll want to sit through. Combine that with well-paced skill-adjustable action, huge maps packed with treasures and secrets, an expansive supporting cast and star-studded voice acting – not to mention a menagerie-worth of mystical wildlife just begging to be torn limb from limb – and you’ve got yourself one of the best games of 2022. — Andrew Tarantola, Senior Reporter

Horizon Forbidden West

Sony’s first-party studios have generally done sequelsright, and Horizon Forbidden Westis no exception. The first game had one of my favorite narratives, as protagonist Aloy learned what happened a thousand years prior to bring about the mysterious world she (and the player) inhabit – one where mankind lives in relatively primitive tribes trying to stay safe from giant animal-like machines run amok.

Forbidden West delivers even more of what worked in Horizon Zero Dawn. Aloy remains a steadfast, righteous and occasionally stubborn protagonist who continues to grow as she uncovers more secrets about the world around her while fighting a totally unexpected force bent on destroying Earth as she knows it. The twists of Forbidden West don’t quite match the first game’s reveal of how the world we know evolved into the world Aloy inhabits. But the narrative is still rich and complex, and the new parts of what was once the American southwest that you get to explore are rendered in stunning detail. It’s one of the most beautiful games I’ve ever played.

As with any good sequel, combat and traversal around the world have been refined – there are more weapons than ever, and you can customize them to match your play style or the particular enemies you’re facing. Melee combat against humans and machines alike has also been significantly upgraded, and new items like a grappling hook and hang glider make getting around quicker and more fun. And nearly all the machines from the first game return, along with some colossal new enemies that present a massive challenge, but also a massive bit of satisfaction as you figure out their weak spots and systematically take them down.

I think my favorite new thing of Forbidden West, though, is the relationships you build with your friends. In the first game, Aloy is mostly a lone wolf, occasionally partnering with people here and there but mostly doing things on her own. In Forbidden West, though, you establish a posse of capable and likable companions, some old and some new, all of whom bring something different to the table in your massive quest. Trying to fend off the end of the world feels just a little bit easier when you have friends by your side. – Nathan Ingraham, Deputy Editor

Immortality

With Immortality, indie game director Sam Barlow has delivered a tribute to the surreal films of David Lynch, with a dose of Hitchcock for good measure. Similar to Her Story, it's also entirely about scrubbing through video clips, except this time it involves footage from three unreleased genre films spanning several decades. Your job? To figure out what happened to the actress Marissa Marcel.

Geared more towards cinephiles than mainstream gamers, Immortality can be frustrating if you're not operating on Barlow's wavelength. But if you're a fan of surreal cinema, and you enjoy diving into behind-the-scenes footage, it's a game with endless rewards. The mystery will get you started, but the spooky atmosphere and excellent performances will keep you hooked. – Devindra Hardawar, Senior Editor

Marvel Snap

After getting burnt out on Hearthstone a few years ago, and superhero movies more recently, the last thing I expected to hook me in 2022 was a comic book-themed collectible card game. But then the fine folks at Second Dinner released Marvel Snap and it quickly became my favorite time waster. Because a match lasts less than five minutes, you can easily play a round during commercials, while waiting for the train, or in the bathroom (I’m not judging). And while decks cap out at just 12 cards, there’s a surprising amount of depth with a huge variety of effects and counters. Meanwhile, thanks to appearances from lesser-known characters like Hell Cow, Devil Dinosaur and the Infinaut, the game has prompted me to learn more about Marvel lore than any of the movies ever did. So even though the game is a little barebones at the moment (the only mode is a basic ranked ladder but more features are on the way), Marvel Snap is sure to be a game I continue playing long after I’ve forgotten about whatever happened in the latest Spider-man movie. – Sam Rutherford, Senior Reporter

Neon White

What do you do when you love speed running and score chasing, but you're generally not very good at it? You play Neon White

Like all good games, Neon White is simple to learn, and difficult to master. The basic ask is that you vanquish every demon from a level and head to a finish marker. It plays like a fast-paced first-person shooter, with the complexity coming from your weapons, which are cards that can either fire or be spent for a special movement or attack ability. The real challenge comes from the scoring system, which grades you based on the time you took to complete a level.

There are just shy of 100 levels, all begging to be learned, repeated and perfected. Despite its first-person shooter visuals, it plays out more like a cross between Trackmania and a platformer. You'll quickly turn that bronze medal into a gold, and then an "ace" that is supposedly your ultimate target. Then you'll see the online leaderboards and realize you've left some seconds on the table. Then you'll randomly achieve the secret red medal on a level, say "oh jesus" and realize that there's a whole hidden tier of perfection for you to attain.

The trick is that everything feels smooth, and fast. From my first gold medal time up to the top-ten-in-the-world run I showed my pretending-to-be-interested friends, every time I turned on the game I felt like a master, inches away from perfection. There are multiple paths through each level, ridiculous shortcuts to discover, and near-infinite degrees of satisfaction waiting after every good run.

The main negative point, for me, is the story, which plays out like a visual novel. I love the genre, and had heard good things about the game's characters, but found the narrative overly slow and just generally dull. There is mercifully a "fast forward" button, and once you've played through everything, a level select screen that lets you jump right into the action.

Despite its storytelling, and a couple of overly long levels that had me gnashing my teeth, Neon White was easily the most fun I had with a game this year. I played on Switch and PC, but a couple of weeks ago it landed on PlayStation as well, and I imagine I'll be starting up a new campaign and playing it all over again soon.– Aaron Souppouris, Executive Editor

OlliOlli World

Most of the time, single-player narrative-driven games are where I spend most of my gaming time. But once a year, I come across a game like OlliOlli World that I can play for minutes or hours at a time because the gameplay is just so satisfying. The goal in OlliOlli World is simple: become a skateboarding god. You do that by progressing through five worlds, each of which has a dozen or more individual stages, each with a wildly unique course to traverse.

Unlike the earlier games in the OlliOlli series, World is a bit more forgiving at first. It’s much easier to pick up and start pulling off wild moves and combos than ever before. But it’s still fiendishly challenging – if you want to beat every challenge, you’ll need lightning-fast reflexes and the mental stamina to change up your tricks and moves constantly. But once you get fluent in the game’s mechanics, you can enter a flow state where you’re just making moves purely on instinct.

The level and character design in OlliOlli World only enhances this effect. Like the earlier games, each of the five biomes has its own unique characteristics, but in all cases the levels are extremely colorful and interactive, with tons of eye candy and bizarre creatures hanging out in the background. And you can customize your character with clothing and items you pick up for completing challenges, letting you express your personal style in a huge variety of ways. There are also competitive aspects, like the daily challenge where you compete against nine other skaters to post the top score in your group. And every time you visit a level, you’ll see a “rival” score to try and beat. There’s always something pushing you to skate even better in OlliOlli World. – N.I.

Overwatch 2

Overwatch is my second favorite game of all time. Despite sharper, faster-paced gameplay, some much-needed quality-of-life improvements and the free-to-play shift I've wanted for years, Overwatch 2 isn't quite at that level yet. It's too rough around the edges.

The monetization changes felt like a gut punch. In fairness, many of the high-end skins cost around the same as what you'd pay for outfits in other major free-to-play titles. But newcomers now need to pay up if they want cosmetics that have been in the game for six years – items that veteran players were able to earn for free only a few months ago. Players also need to pay for the premium battle pass, grind through the free tier or wait until it's easier to unlock new heroes in later seasons before getting access to the latest characters.

And yet, Overwatch 2 has a hold over me like no other game. It's still the best multiplayer title around, with a rich lore, a wonderful cast of characters and a colorful aesthetic that helps it stand out from many other games on the market. The ping system is an excellent addition for accessibility, and the four new heroes that have joined the lineup since launch are all a blast. Some of the major hero reworks, especially the Orisa one, have been a resounding success.

As much as I enjoy the game as it is now, Blizzard has laid the foundations for an even more exciting future. Next year will bring long-awaited, story-driven co-op missions to the franchise – until now, we've only had a taste of those during seasonal events. After getting a sneak peek at some of the stuff that's on the way to the PvP side in the next few seasons, including a new core game mode and the season four hero, I can't see myself putting this game down anytime soon. – Kris Holt, Contributing Reporter

Rollerdrome

Rollerdrome
Roll7

Rollerdrome is lush. It’s incredibly stylish, taking cues from 1970s Hollywood sci-fi but with an attractive cel-shaded filter over every scene. Even better than its stunning visuals, Rollerdrome has smooth, precise mechanics that allow players to fall into a flow in every level. The game is all about gliding through the environments on rollerblades, picking up speed and doing tricks while dodging and shooting enemies, managing weapons and controlling time – and it all comes together in a thrilling dystopian bloodsport.

It’s a joy to dodge, dodge, dodge and then leap into the air, slow down time and take out the people shooting at you, refilling ammo and collecting health in the process. Meanwhile, an unsettling story of corporate greed unfolds naturally beneath the rollerblading bloodshed, keeping the stakes high. Rollerdrome was a sleeper hit of 2022, so if you’ve been napping on this one, now’s the time to wake up and play. – J.C.

Stray

When I fall in love with a game, it’s the setting that gets me, which maybe explains why I wandered around Fallout 76’s Appalachian wasteland long after most people had left – I wanted to live there. I want to live in the futuristic city where Stray takes place too, but since I’m neither cat nor robot, I wouldn’t be allowed. In the game, you play a standard orange tabby with no special abilities, apart from those given to most felines like agility and jumping prowess. Through a mishap, you find yourself trapped in a domed city populated exclusively by amiable humanoid robots, and you eventually team up with a small drone that lets you “talk” with those androids.

To find your way back to your cat family outside the city, you solve puzzles, fight mutant bacterial blobs and generally follow your curiosity. The cityscape is a gorgeous, multi-level cyberpunk playground that feels a little less hardcore than Cyberpunk 2077’s Night City, with plenty of woven rugs to scratch and pillows to nap on. In fact, scratching, napping and otherwise doing cat stuff not only unlocks achievements (I was particularly proud to earn the one for getting a paper bag stuck on my head) they’re also integral to the game.

As my colleague Jessica Conditt said in her review, Stray is “downright joyful.” By leaning into the cat premise, it creates a whole new gaming perspective – you can’t do stuff humans can do, but you can do stuff cats do, like shimmying through small holes and jumping on pipes and bookcases. Living 12 inches off the ground for the cumulative eight hours or so it took me to play the game, I finally understood why cats want to jump on top of everything. The view is just better up there. – Amy Skorheim, Commerce Writer

The Last of Us Part I

The Last of Us Part I review screenshots

A ton has been said about how The Last of Us Part I is a remake of a game that was originally released for the PS3 and then remastered a year later for the PS4. (Oh, and it’s coming to PC in early 2023, too.) So, it’s not exactly an essential release if you’ve played it before. But for people who may have heard about the upcoming HBO show and want to know what all the fuss is about – or anyone who loved Joel and Ellie’s journey the first time – this PS5 version is the definitive way to experience this story.

The game has been entirely rebuilt from scratch, and it shows in everything from the ruined post-pandemic cities and surprisingly tranquil forests and mountains to the detail found in collectibles around the world. Most crucially, though, the facial animations are simply stunning. Everyone you encounter, whether a lead character or an NPC you only see once, looks amazingly detailed and realistic. Of course, that means the hordes of infected humans hunting you are even more disturbingly detailed than ever, as well.

The updates aren’t just skin deep, either. Enemies are smarter and more cunning than ever, thanks to developer Naughty Dog using the upgraded AI system they implemented in 2020’s The Last of Us Part II. Humans are more aggressive about flanking you and a lot easier to lose once they find you, while the Infected are even better at hearing you trying to sneak by. There are a host of other updates, big and small, perhaps the most important of which is a massive suite of accessibility features so that almost anyone can give this game a shot.

What hasn’t changed is the story and script – but that isn’t a problem, given that The Last of Us was already well-known for its outstanding performances and plotting. The debate on whether or not The Last of Us Part I was really “necessary” will likely continue, but don’t spend too much time thinking about it. If you’ve never played the game before, this is the way to do it. And if you’re like me and play it every year or two, this is the best way to do so. – N.I.

Tunic

How do you write about a game that’s best experienced without expectations? That’s the challenge of saying something meaningful about Tunic. You can speak to its influences – primarily The Legend of Zelda: Link’s Awakening, with a dash of Soulslike combat – but that doesn’t do the game justice. Worse yet, it fails to capture its appeal. I could also mention its haunting soundtrack by Lifeformed and Janice Kwan or the austere beauty of its art style. But again that’s not quite what makes Tunic so special.

I’m being purposefully vague because to say more would be to rob the game of its magic. So I’ll leave you with this: It’s fitting Tunic casts you as a cutesy fox because the game has a knack of making you feel so clever anytime you work through one of its many mysteries. Do yourself a favor and try to play this one without turning to the internet if you run into a roadblock. On the other end is one of the most rewarding gaming experiences in recent memory. – Igor Bonifacic, Weekend Editor

Triangle Strategy

As a longtime fan of the SRPG genre, no game in the last decade has managed to evoke classics like Final Fantasy Tactics and Tactics Ogre more than Triangle Strategy. I admit it’s a bit of a slow burn and it gets a bit text-heavy, but with multiple endings (including a New Game+ mode), a deep roster of characters and rewarding turn-based combat, this game has it all. And thanks to its art style, which masterfully blends old-school sprites with a modern 2.5D approach, this game looks and feels like a love letter to those all-time greats of the late 90s. If you’re a fan of tactics games, Triangle Strategy is a must-play. – S.R.

Vampire Survivors

I had such good intentions for my Steam Deck. I swore I'd use it to get through my Steam backlog and stream a bunch of games from Xbox Cloud Gaming and Stadia (RIP). Sure, I do those things, but only on the rare occasion I can rip my attention away from Vampire Survivors.

It is a rudimentary-looking game with very basic controls. You'll face hordes of monsters, but because your weapons autofire, the only real control you have is using the thumbstick or touch controls to move your character. You'll need to carefully juke away from some enemies while getting close enough to kill others and pick up the experience gems they drop. After you collect enough gems and level up, you’re able to select another weapon or powerup.

This is where many of the game's intricacies come in. You'll get a random selection of weapons and power-ups to choose from at every level, as well as the ability to make your items more powerful. If you find the right pairings, you can evolve weapons into ultra-powerful forms. Vampire Survivors is the perfect distillation of the power fantasy. Flesh out the right build and you'll carve through bosses that once seemed unbeatable like a lightsaber through ice cream.

This game begs you to keep coming back. Since it debuted in early access last December, developer Poncle has frequently updated the game with more characters, weapons, items and levels. Part of the joy is in building different loadouts that can demolish enemies with ease. Vampire Survivors also shares some DNA with casinos. There's an explosion of color and some upbeat, tension-filled music whenever you open a treasure chest, along with a delightful chime whenever you grab a gem – you will hear that a lot. These aspects don't exactly make it easy to put the game down.

I love my Steam Deck. I love Vampire Survivors. Together, they have a toxic hold over my desire to play other games. I could simply uninstall Vampire Survivors from my Deck, but, really, what's the point when I can just play it on my phone now?– K.H.

Wordle

Woman plays Wordle on her smartphone from the living room of her home on 21st April 2022 in Birmingham, United Kingdom. Wordle is a web-based word game played by millions of users / players worldwide often on their mobile devices. The game was created and developed by software engineer Josh Wardle, and owned by The New York Times Company since 2022. (photo by Mike Kemp/In Pictures via Getty Images)
Mike Kemp via Getty Images

For a while in 2022, a word game brought the world together. Because it’s the same puzzle for every single player each day, Wordle was a giant inside joke amongst solvers across international boundaries. At Engadget, for example, London-based Mat Smith could give me hints or laugh at my inability to guess a word he got.

I also loved sharing and seeing the little blocks that showed how many tries it took us to solve the word. It was a chance to both bond and brag – the perfect gaming experience. Plus, whenever a word was controversial, whether it was spelled in US or UK English, for example, I loved the inevitable debate that would result. In 2022, Wordle gave us an elevated form of watercooler conversation fodder, but for the entire world.

Although technically launched in 2021, Wordle found widespread popularity in 2022. It was born from software engineer Josh Wardle’s desire to make a word game for him and his partner Palak Shah to play together. But it was when the user base expanded beyond his family to encompass the entire globe that Wordle took on a life of its own.

Countless iterations were spawned, building on the format and name… which itself was based on Wardle’s last name. You may have seen examples like Heardle, Worldle, Squirdle, Absurdle and more, using the puzzle’s format for us to guess songs, countries and other subjects. As always happens with anything popular, hundreds of websites published guides to beating the game, while scores of clones popped up in the Android and iOS app stores, hoping to cash in on the fever. Wardle later sold the game to the New York Times for an undisclosed sum that was reported to be in the low seven digits, and soon, just as quickly as the fever started, the game’s popularity subsided. Thanks to Wordle, we all may be leaving 2022 just a little bit savvier about the most common letters and words in the English language. – Cherlynn Low, Deputy Editor

Xenoblade Chronicles 3

Getting into a new role-playing game series can be hard sometimes. This is especially true when you’ve allied yourself with a certain studio or series – and we are into double digits in the Trails series, not to mention the juggernaut that is Final Fantasy. It’s trickier to reorient yourself to completely new gameplay dynamics, series in-jokes that fly over your head and just, well, things being different.

That means I’m late to playing critically acclaimed RPGs – I have to be in the right mindset. So how did Xenoblade Chronicles 3 weasel its way into my heart? I think it’s because I was told by several people, both gaming critics and friends, that it was a perfect entry into the series, regardless of whether you’d played its predecessors. They weren’t wrong.

It’s a nice game to approach with a blank slate because it goes through around three different tonal gear shifts before you entirely know exactly what the heck is going on. While I don’t want to ruin the anime-nodding plot twists, several of which you will see coming from a mile away, the game starts with a sci-fi, steam-punk high-concept scenario. Teen warriors on two factions are pitted against each other, waging wars with mechs, but also close-range weapons. It turns out direct kills are the only way to leech their enemy’s life force, building up a store in their base’s “flame clock” and ensuring a squad’s survival. They have to fight, to live.

Noah and two of his allies clash against Mio and her retinue, and after the battle ends in a draw – and I get to enjoy a slick, anime-styled battle movie between all six – the fates conspire to ensure this is your group of warriors, and only they can save the world.

With a wide range of classes to wield and master, as well as the ability to add a guest warrior to your squad pretty much any time throughout the game, battles initially seem chaotic, but I soon got attuned to the rhythm. Defenders will coax enemies into targeting them, allowing your heavy-hitting attackers to wail on them from the side or back – positioning is crucial. Meanwhile, your healers will ensure your defender doesn’t fall and amp up damage either with area-specific skills or targeted attacks on enemies. Also, your epic, charge-them-up-in-battle Interlink attacks are accompanied by such a high-energy soundtrack, it’s hard not to feel like a hero.

There are some big pacing problems in places, and when you get the ability to combine with your allies and form powerful Evangelion-esque avatars, you wonder exactly what can stop them at times. But it’s a vast adventure with several compelling side quests to fill out your time in Aionios. Annoyingly, it’s won me over – and I have since downloaded the original Xenoblade Chronicles (and its sequel) to play in 2023. – M.S.

The best PC games for 2023

So how do you categorize a beast like gaming on the PC? With decades of titles to pluck from (and the first port of call for most indie titles, too), there's so much to choose from. Gaming on your PC adds the benefits of (nearly always flawless) backward compatibility and console-beating graphical performance — if you've got the coin for it. The whole idea of what a PC is and where you can play it is shifting, too, with the rise of handheld “consolized” PCs like the Steam Deck. We've tried to be broad with our recommendations here on purpose – there are so many great games out there for your PC, consider these some starting points.

Rollerdrome

Rollerdrome is lush. It’s incredibly stylish, taking cues from 1970s Hollywood sci-fi but with an attractive cel-shaded filter over every scene. Even better than its stunning visuals, Rollerdrome has smooth, precise mechanics that allow players to fall into a flow in every level. The game is all about gliding through the environments on rollerblades, picking up speed and doing tricks while dodging and shooting enemies, managing weapons and controlling time – and it all comes together in a thrilling dystopian bloodsport.

It’s a joy to dodge, dodge, dodge and then leap into the air, slow down time and take out the people shooting at you, refilling ammo and collecting health in the process. Meanwhile, an unsettling story of corporate greed unfolds naturally beneath the rollerblading bloodshed, keeping the stakes high. Rollerdrome was a sleeper hit of 2022, so if you’ve been napping on this one, now’s the time to wake up and play.

Stray

Stray a perfectly contained adventure game that has you embodying a cat in a post-apocalyptic world humans have left behind. It has plenty of fresh ideas, each one pared down to its purest form. Plenty of actions in Stray exist simply because they make sense for a cat protagonist (and probably because they’re cute as hell). There’s a discrete button to meow, and the robots the cat shares its world with react with shock and frustration when you cut across their board game, throwing pieces to the floor. It’s possible to curl up and sleep basically any time, anywhere – even directly on top of a robot stranger. When the cat gets pets and cuddles from the robots, it purrs and the DualSense’s haptics fire up in response. The environmental puzzles take advantage of this cat-level perspective, inviting players to look at the world with different, light-reflective eyes.

As well as puzzle-solving, ledge-leaping and blob-dodging, Stray introduces a world of lighthearted dystopia, where robots don’t hate the humans that came before them. Instead, they attempt to cultivate plants that can survive in the dark, just because people would have liked that. Compared with most dystopian cyberpunk games, Stray is downright joyful.

Overwatch 2

Even though Blizzard has improved the onramp for new players this time around, Overwatch 2 still has a steep learning curve. Stick with it, though, and you’ll get to indulge in perhaps the best team shooter around. Overwatch 2 has a deceptively simple goal — stand on or near an objective and keep the other team away long enough to win. It’s much more complex in practice. To the untrained eye, matches may seem like colorful chaos, but Overwatch 2 has a deceptively simple goal — stand on or near an objective and keep the other team away long enough to win.

It’s much more complex in practice. Blizzard reduced the number of players on each team from six to five. That, along with across-the-board character tweaks, has made gameplay faster-paced and more enjoyable compared with the original Overwatch. There's a greater emphasis on individual impact, but you'll still need to work well with your teammates to secure a victory.

Now featuring a cast of more than 30 heroes, each with distinct abilities and playstyles, you’ll surely find a few Overwatch 2 characters that you can connect with. The first batch of new heroes are all a blast to play. There are many great (though often fairly expensive) new skins to kit them out with too. The game looks and sounds terrific too, thanks to Blizzard’s trademark level of polish. At least until you figure out how to play Overwatch 2, you can marvel at how good it looks.

Beat Saber

Beat Saber is a euphoric gaming sensation that makes the most of virtual reality. You'll swing your unofficial lightsabers at incoming boxes, slicing and slamming them to the beat of the soundtrack. Similar to iconic rhythm-rail-shooter, Rez, which has its own VR iteration, Beat Saber often makes you feel like you're creating the music as you hit your cues. We might have had initial reservations on the soundtrack at launch but new tracks and customizations continue to add to the challenge. There's even a level creator for PC players, making this the definitive version.

Control

Take the weird Twin Peaks narrative of Alan Wake, smash it together with Quantum Break's frenetic powers and gunplay, and you've got Control. Playing as a woman searching for her missing brother, you quickly learn there's a thin line between reality and the fantastical. It's catnip for anyone who grew up loving The X-Files and the supernatural. It's also a prime example of a studio working at their creative heights, both refining and evolving the open-world formula that's dominated games for the past decade.

Disco Elysium Final Cut

Disco Elysium is a special game. The first release from Estonian studio ZA/UM, it's a sprawling science-fiction RPG that takes more inspiration from D&D and Baldur's Gate than modern combat-focused games. In fact, there is no combat to speak of, instead, you'll be creating your character, choosing what their strengths and weaknesses are, and then passing D&D-style skill checks to make your way through the story. You'll, of course, be leveling up your abilities and boosting stats with items, but really the game's systems fall away in place of a truly engaging story, featuring some of the finest writing to ever grace a video game.

With the Final Cut, released 18 months after the original, this extremely dialogue-heavy game now has full voice acting, which brings the unique world more to life than ever before. After debuting on PC, PS5 and Stadia, Final Cut is now available for all extant home consoles – including Nintendo’s Switch.

Halo Infinite

Master Chief's latest adventure may not make much sense narratively, but it sure is fun to play. After the middle efforts from 343 Industries over the last decade, Halo Infinite manages to breathe new life into Microsoft's flagship franchise, while also staying true to elements fans love. The main campaign is more open than ever, while also giving you a new freedom of movement with the trusty grappling hook. And the multiplayer mode is wonderfully addictive (though 343 still needs to speed up experience progression), with a bevy of maps and game modes to keep things from getting too stale. The only thing keeping it from greatness is its baffling and disjointed story.

FTL: Faster Than Light

Who hasn't wanted to captain their own spaceship? Well, after a few hours of FTL: Faster Than Light, you might be rethinking your life goals. FTL is a roguelike, which means every game starts from the same spot. All you have to do is travel through a number of star systems, recruiting crew members and collecting scrap as you make your way towards a final showdown against a stupidly overpowered ship. Gameplay is roughly divided between a map view, where you can take as much time as you like to chart the most efficient route to your goal, and combat events which play out in real-time (although you can and will be using a pause button to slow things down).

Where the real fun comes in is in the narrative, which plays out in two ways. There's the structured side, where every so often you'll be asked to make decisions that may improve or hinder your chances of survival. And then there's the natural story you create for yourselves, as you're forced to decide, for example, whether it's worth sacrificing a crew member for the greater good.

Hades

Hades was the first early access title to ever make our best PC game list. It's an action-RPG developed by the team behind Bastion, Transistor and Pyre. You play Zagreus, son of Hades, who's having a little spat with his dad, and wants to escape from the underworld. To do so, Zagreus has to fight his way through the various levels of the underworld and up to the surface. Along the way, you’ll pick up “boons” from a wide range of ancient deities like Zeus, Ares and Aphrodite, which stack additional effects on your various attacks. Each level is divided into rooms full of demons, items and the occasional miniboss.

As Hades is a “roguelike” game, you start at the same place every time. With that said the items you collect can be used to access and upgrade new weapons and abilities that stick between sessions. Hades is on this list not for any reason other than it’s super accessible and very, very fun. You can jump in for 30 minutes and have a blast, or find yourself playing for hours.

Half-Life: Alyx

Half-Life: Alyx feels like a miracle. After 13 years away from the franchise, Valve delivered a genuinely thrilling prequel to Half-Life 2 while also charting new territory for VR gameplay. The gravity gloves, its key new feature, is the closest I’ve ever felt to having telekinetic powers. It gives you multiple movement options so you don’t get sick trotting around the expansive environments. Oh yeah, and it’s also absolutely terrifying, banking on the claustrophobic nature of VR. There’s no looking away when a facehugger leaps at you from the dark, or when a horrifically deformed zombie gets in your face. It might sound a bit hyperbolic, but Alyx might end up being one of the most important titles of this generation. Building a big-budget game for a niche VR market doesn’t make much sense for most companies, but for Valve, it’s Tuesday.

Nier Automata

Nier Automata takes the razor-sharp combat of a Platinum Games title and puts it in a world crafted by everyone's favorite weirdo, Yoko Taro. Don't worry, you can mostly just run, gun and slash your way through the game, but as you finish, and finish and finish this one, you'll find yourself pulled into a truly special narrative, that's never been done before and will probably never be done again. It's fair to say that the PC release, as is unfortunately often the case, wasn't exactly the best and is still remarkably lacking in options, but it's at least stable now, and trust us when we say this one is unmissable.

Microsoft Flight Simulator

Microsoft Flight Simulator came out at the perfect time, when the world was on lockdown and airline travel was an impossibility for most people. Not only does Flight Sim let players pilot a vast array of aircrafts, but it presents the world on a platter in stunning, ridiculous detail. It’s an escape, it’s educational and it’s entertaining – is that what they mean by E3? – and there’s really nothing else on its level when it comes to realistic physics simulations. Pandemic or no, Microsoft Flight Simulator is an incredible achievement with a long tail both inside and outside of the video game industry.

Resident Evil 7: Biohazard

Many were ready to write off the Resident Evil series after the disaster that was Resident Evil 6. What started as the horror game on the original PlayStation had become a bloated mess of an action game. Instead of throwing the whole franchise in the trash and forgetting about it, Capcom took a hard look at what wasn't working, which — surprise! — was basically everything, and thoroughly rebooted the formula. Borrowing from Kojima's PT and, in some ways, Creative Assembly's Alien: Isolation, Resident Evil 7: Biohazard is horror through powerlessness. For the majority of the game, you're basically unable to do anything but run from or delay your foes. And that's what makes it so good.

Return of the Obra Dinn

This is an unforgettable ghost-story-slash-murder-mystery with a distinctive old-school graphical style. It's unlike any game we've played in a while, with a low-key musical score and a style of puzzle solving that's like one satisfying, grisly riddle. In Return of the Obra Dinn, you're put aboard a ship, alone. There is, however, a corpse near the captain's cabin. As you track the deceased's final footsteps, leading to yet more grisly ends, you need to figure out what happened. Who killed who? And who is still alive? Special mention to the sound effect that kicks in every time you solve the fates of three of the crew. Goosebumps.

The Witcher 3

It might be the best open-world RPG out there. Despite now being several years old, The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt is a dense action game that acknowledges the maturity of the player with multiple — occasionally harrowing — storylines, choices that have consequences and almost too much game to wrestle with. It's not perfect; the combat system is rough, frustrating death comes in the form of falling from just a few feet and there's a lot of quest filler alongside many incredibly well thought out distractions. The scope and ambition on display will have you hooked, and once you're done, there are some excellent expansions to check out.

Forza Horizon 5

Forza Horizon 5 deftly walks a fine line by being an extremely deep and complex racing game that almost anyone can just pick up and play. The game has hundreds of cars that you can tweak endlessly to fit your driving style, and dozens of courses spread all over a gorgeous fictional corner of Mexico. If you crank up the difficulty, one mistake will sink your entire race, and the competition online can be just as fierce.

But if you’re new to racing games, Forza Horizon 5 does an excellent job at getting you up and running. The introduction to the game quickly gives you a taste at the four main race types you’ll come across (street racing, cross-country, etc.), and features like the rewind button mean that you can quickly erase mistakes if you try and take a turn too fast without having to restart your run. Quite simply, Forza Horizon 5 is a beautiful and fun game that works for just about any skill level. It’s easy to pick up and play a few races and move on with your day, or you can sink hours into it trying to become the best driver you can possibly be.

The best free games for 2023

Gone are the days when free games equated to ropey puzzle games and knock-off clones of games that had a price tag. These days, courtesy of in-app payments and the ease of offering both a sample of a title alongside its full-fat version, there are actually plenty of great games to play without spending a dime. Following the continued success of titles like Fortnite, the level of quality across mobile, PC and consoles has never been higher. Put your card away, and consider this your starting point.

Genshin Impact

Genshin Impact Summer Fantasia update
Hoyoverse

At launch, many of us assumed Genshin Impact was a tenuous Zelda: Breath of the Wild copy with impressive anime graphics and not much else. But this turned out to be a very different game Nintendo’s action RPG, with over 50 characters, at this point, to play as. The world is rich and varied. It’s also a huge accomplishment for a free game that’s found a huge chunk of its audience on smartphones.

While battles with foes form a major part of the game, a lot of the joy and satisfaction comes from customizing that army of characters, building up a collection of loot and strengthening them further. While there is an entire microtransaction system baked into the game, much of the game is playable (and enjoyable) without having to spend a dime. Did we mention it’s totally gorgeous?

Play Genshin Impact

Overwatch 2

Ramattra in 'Overwatch 2'
Blizzard Entertainment

Even though Blizzard has improved the onramp for new players this time around, Overwatch 2 still has a steep learning curve. Stick with it, though, and you’ll get to indulge in perhaps the best team shooter around. Overwatch 2 has a deceptively simple goal — stand on or near an objective and keep the other team away long enough to win. It’s much more complex in practice. To the untrained eye, matches may seem like colorful chaos, but Overwatch 2 has a deceptively simple goal — stand on or near an objective and keep the other team away long enough to win.

It’s much more complex in practice. Blizzard reduced the number of players on each team from six to five. That, along with across-the-board character tweaks, has made gameplay faster-paced and more enjoyable than the original Overwatch. There's a greater emphasis on individual impact, but you'll still need to work well with your teammates to secure a victory.

Now featuring a cast of more than 30 heroes, each with distinct abilities and playstyles, you’ll surely find a few Overwatch 2 characters that you can connect with. The first batch of new heroes are all a blast to play. There are many great (though often fairly expensive) new skins to kit them out with too. The game looks and sounds terrific too, thanks to Blizzard’s trademark level of polish. At least until you figure out how to play Overwatch 2, you can marvel at how good it looks.

Play Overwatch 2

Fortnite Battle Royale

A character runs into battle in Fortnite as an explosion is set off to the side.
Epic Games

Fortnite is a social space as much as it is a game. Where else can you see Spider-Man doing John Cena's "You Can't See Me" taunt next to Indiana Jones dancing to a Dua Lipa song, or Ariana Grande hanging out with Goku while you catch up with friends in voice chat? It also happens to be a great video game with a clear path to victory. Drop onto the island, grab some weapons and gear and try to be the last player or team standing as a storm pushes survivors closer to each other.

Epic made Fortnite far more approachable earlier this year when it introduced a Zero Build mode, which prevents players from building structures for cover. If you have the skills to box an opponent into a skyscraper in mere seconds, by all means, go for it in the other modes, but Zero Build levels the playing field for new players.

Play Fortnite Battle Royale

Fall Guys

Fall Guys: Ultimate Knockout
Mediatonic/Epic Games

Fall Guys is a different flavor of battle royale. Sure, there can still only be one player or squad standing tall at the end, but there are no guns in sight here. It's essentially a platformer in the vein of MXC or Takeshi’s Castle, in which only a certain number of players will qualify from each obstacle-laden round.

It’s also maybe the goofiest and purely enjoyable multiplayer game around. You don’t necessarily need to win to have a good time. It’s hard to feel aggrieved, even when another player shoves you off a ledge to knock you out. It rarely feels mean-spirited even when another player messes with you.

With developer Mediatonic adding more levels and cute cosmetics fairly frequently, the game rarely feels stale. Whenever you return to Fall Guys after a break, you’ll probably run into a new type of bedlam.

Buy Fall Guys

Apex Legends

Apex Legends
Apex Legends

From the studio that brought you Titanfall, Apex is a 60-player deathmatch with teams consisting of three people each. The goal is for your team to be the last one standing in Kings Canyon, where you’ll have to loot and fight your way to survival using characters like Octane, an adrenaline junkie whose ultimate move is deploying a jump pad that catapults you into the air for sneak attacks.

You can download it and use the majority of Apex’s characters without having to spend any money. That said, you will have to shell out some cash to access to certain content, including weapon skins and new characters such as Wattson. If you don’t like the cartoonish aspect of Fortnite, and if you’re a fan of the action-packed Titanfall gameplay, it doesn’t get much better than Apex.

Play Apex Legends

Dota 2

Dota 2
Dota 2

Dota 2 has one of the steepest learning curves of any game. Only after sinking hundreds upon hundreds of hours into the five-on-five MOBA can you even begin to understand the deep game mechanics, 100+ unique characters and team strategies. But the fact Dota 2 is so challenging makes those big plays and hard-fought victories all the more satisfying. The sky-high skill ceiling means there's always something to learn, and if you eventually make it into the pro ranks, one tournament win can turn you into an overnight millionaire.

Play Dota 2

Pokémon Go

Pokemon Go
Niantic

When Pokémon Go launched in 2016, there were some obvious omissions, such as trading and player-versus-player trainer battles. Now, almost every problem and missing feature has been addressed. The game isn't perfect, but the fundamentals — walking around outside, spinning Pokéstop signs and catching critters — make this a truly unique and health-beneficial experience for Pokemon fans. The daily "research" quests and timed events, which boost the appearance of certain monsters, are a great excuse to log in every day. Niantic continues to expand the Pokédex, too, so that your collection is never quite finished.

Play Pokemon Go

Call of Duty: Warzone

Call of Duty: Warzone Mobile
Activision

For years, Fortnite was the battle royale of choice for younger players, until Call of Duty: Warzone came along. Boosting by interest during the pandemic, the free-to-play battle royale has persisted through numerous iterations of the Call of Duty franchise, with new maps, game modes and weapons helping to push the player base above the 100 million mark. The core game requires you to either drop in solo or as part of a team and duke it out with up to 149 other players, running between different points of interest to forage for weapons, tactical items and vehicles. If that wasn’t enough, a wall of gas will force you into increasingly tight areas.

Warzone offers some fresh takes on the traditional battle royale formula. For example, if you die, you will be sent to the ‘Gulag’ to fight with other downed players for a one-time chance to redeploy back into the game. Should you lose, teammates can still ‘buy’ your return, but requires them to first earn enough in-game money to afford it. Following the release of Modern Warfare 2, Warzone was overhauled. It got a new map, Al Mazrah, which is the largest playzone in the game’s history. Loadouts – a system that allowed players to customize a Primary and Secondary Weapon, Tacticals, Lethals and three Perks before the game – have been changed too. 

Play Call of Duty: Warzone

The best free games for 2023

Gone are the days when free games equated to ropey puzzle games and knock-off clones of games that had a price tag. These days, courtesy of in-app payments and the ease of offering both a sample of a title alongside its full-fat version, there are actually plenty of great games to play without spending a dime. Following the continued success of titles like Fortnite, the level of quality across mobile, PC and consoles has never been higher. Put your card away, and consider this your starting point.

Genshin Impact

Genshin Impact Summer Fantasia update
Hoyoverse

At launch, many of us assumed Genshin Impact was a tenuous Zelda: Breath of the Wild copy with impressive anime graphics and not much else. But this turned out to be a very different game Nintendo’s action RPG, with over 50 characters, at this point, to play as. The world is rich and varied. It’s also a huge accomplishment for a free game that’s found a huge chunk of its audience on smartphones.

While battles with foes form a major part of the game, a lot of the joy and satisfaction comes from customizing that army of characters, building up a collection of loot and strengthening them further. While there is an entire microtransaction system baked into the game, much of the game is playable (and enjoyable) without having to spend a dime. Did we mention it’s totally gorgeous?

Play Genshin Impact

Overwatch 2

Ramattra in 'Overwatch 2'
Blizzard Entertainment

Even though Blizzard has improved the onramp for new players this time around, Overwatch 2 still has a steep learning curve. Stick with it, though, and you’ll get to indulge in perhaps the best team shooter around. Overwatch 2 has a deceptively simple goal — stand on or near an objective and keep the other team away long enough to win. It’s much more complex in practice. To the untrained eye, matches may seem like colorful chaos, but Overwatch 2 has a deceptively simple goal — stand on or near an objective and keep the other team away long enough to win.

It’s much more complex in practice. Blizzard reduced the number of players on each team from six to five. That, along with across-the-board character tweaks, has made gameplay faster-paced and more enjoyable than the original Overwatch. There's a greater emphasis on individual impact, but you'll still need to work well with your teammates to secure a victory.

Now featuring a cast of more than 30 heroes, each with distinct abilities and playstyles, you’ll surely find a few Overwatch 2 characters that you can connect with. The first batch of new heroes are all a blast to play. There are many great (though often fairly expensive) new skins to kit them out with too. The game looks and sounds terrific too, thanks to Blizzard’s trademark level of polish. At least until you figure out how to play Overwatch 2, you can marvel at how good it looks.

Play Overwatch 2

Fortnite Battle Royale

A character runs into battle in Fortnite as an explosion is set off to the side.
Epic Games

Fortnite is a social space as much as it is a game. Where else can you see Spider-Man doing John Cena's "You Can't See Me" taunt next to Indiana Jones dancing to a Dua Lipa song, or Ariana Grande hanging out with Goku while you catch up with friends in voice chat? It also happens to be a great video game with a clear path to victory. Drop onto the island, grab some weapons and gear and try to be the last player or team standing as a storm pushes survivors closer to each other.

Epic made Fortnite far more approachable earlier this year when it introduced a Zero Build mode, which prevents players from building structures for cover. If you have the skills to box an opponent into a skyscraper in mere seconds, by all means, go for it in the other modes, but Zero Build levels the playing field for new players.

Play Fortnite Battle Royale

Fall Guys

Fall Guys: Ultimate Knockout
Mediatonic/Epic Games

Fall Guys is a different flavor of battle royale. Sure, there can still only be one player or squad standing tall at the end, but there are no guns in sight here. It's essentially a platformer in the vein of MXC or Takeshi’s Castle, in which only a certain number of players will qualify from each obstacle-laden round.

It’s also maybe the goofiest and purely enjoyable multiplayer game around. You don’t necessarily need to win to have a good time. It’s hard to feel aggrieved, even when another player shoves you off a ledge to knock you out. It rarely feels mean-spirited even when another player messes with you.

With developer Mediatonic adding more levels and cute cosmetics fairly frequently, the game rarely feels stale. Whenever you return to Fall Guys after a break, you’ll probably run into a new type of bedlam.

Buy Fall Guys

Apex Legends

Apex Legends
Apex Legends

From the studio that brought you Titanfall, Apex is a 60-player deathmatch with teams consisting of three people each. The goal is for your team to be the last one standing in Kings Canyon, where you’ll have to loot and fight your way to survival using characters like Octane, an adrenaline junkie whose ultimate move is deploying a jump pad that catapults you into the air for sneak attacks.

You can download it and use the majority of Apex’s characters without having to spend any money. That said, you will have to shell out some cash to access to certain content, including weapon skins and new characters such as Wattson. If you don’t like the cartoonish aspect of Fortnite, and if you’re a fan of the action-packed Titanfall gameplay, it doesn’t get much better than Apex.

Play Apex Legends

Dota 2

Dota 2
Dota 2

Dota 2 has one of the steepest learning curves of any game. Only after sinking hundreds upon hundreds of hours into the five-on-five MOBA can you even begin to understand the deep game mechanics, 100+ unique characters and team strategies. But the fact Dota 2 is so challenging makes those big plays and hard-fought victories all the more satisfying. The sky-high skill ceiling means there's always something to learn, and if you eventually make it into the pro ranks, one tournament win can turn you into an overnight millionaire.

Play Dota 2

Pokémon Go

Pokemon Go
Niantic

When Pokémon Go launched in 2016, there were some obvious omissions, such as trading and player-versus-player trainer battles. Now, almost every problem and missing feature has been addressed. The game isn't perfect, but the fundamentals — walking around outside, spinning Pokéstop signs and catching critters — make this a truly unique and health-beneficial experience for Pokemon fans. The daily "research" quests and timed events, which boost the appearance of certain monsters, are a great excuse to log in every day. Niantic continues to expand the Pokédex, too, so that your collection is never quite finished.

Play Pokemon Go

Call of Duty: Warzone

Call of Duty: Warzone Mobile
Activision

For years, Fortnite was the battle royale of choice for younger players, until Call of Duty: Warzone came along. Boosting by interest during the pandemic, the free-to-play battle royale has persisted through numerous iterations of the Call of Duty franchise, with new maps, game modes and weapons helping to push the player base above the 100 million mark. The core game requires you to either drop in solo or as part of a team and duke it out with up to 149 other players, running between different points of interest to forage for weapons, tactical items and vehicles. If that wasn’t enough, a wall of gas will force you into increasingly tight areas.

Warzone offers some fresh takes on the traditional battle royale formula. For example, if you die, you will be sent to the ‘Gulag’ to fight with other downed players for a one-time chance to redeploy back into the game. Should you lose, teammates can still ‘buy’ your return, but requires them to first earn enough in-game money to afford it. Following the release of Modern Warfare 2, Warzone was overhauled. It got a new map, Al Mazrah, which is the largest playzone in the game’s history. Loadouts – a system that allowed players to customize a Primary and Secondary Weapon, Tacticals, Lethals and three Perks before the game – have been changed too. 

Play Call of Duty: Warzone

The best Xbox games for 2023

A series of missteps put Microsoft in second place before the Xbox One even came out. With the launch of the Xbox Series X and S, though, Microsoft is in a great position to compete. Both are well-priced, well-specced consoles with a huge library of games spanning two decades.

Microsoft’s console strategy is unique. Someone with a 7-year old Xbox One has access to an almost-identical library of games as the owner of a brand-new Xbox Series X. That makes it difficult to maintain meaningfully different lists for its various consoles — at least for now. But while “next-gen” exclusives may be few and far between, with PS4 outselling Xbox One by a reported two-to-one, there are a lot of gamers who simply haven’t experienced much of what Microsoft has had to offer since the mid ‘10s.

It’s with that frame of mind that we approach this list: What games would we recommend to someone picking up an Xbox today — whether it’s a Series X, a Series S, One X or One S — after an extended break from Microsoft’s consoles?

This list then, is a mixture of games exclusive to Microsoft’s consoles and cross-platform showstoppers that play best on Xbox. We’ve done our best to explain the benefits Microsoft’s systems bring to the table where appropriate. Oh, and while we understand some may have an aversion to subscription services, it’s definitely worth considering Game Pass Ultimate, which will allow you to play many of the games on this list for a monthly fee.

Deathloop

Deathloop, from the studio that brought you the Dishonored series, is easy enough to explain: You’re trapped in a day that repeats itself. If you die, then you go back to the morning, to repeat the day again. If you last until the end of the day, you still repeat it again. Colt must “break the loop” by efficiently murdering seven main characters, who are inconveniently are never in the same place at the same time. It’s also stylish, accessible and fun.

While you try to figure out your escape from this time anomaly, you’ll also be hunted down by Julianna, another island resident who, like you, is able to remember everything that happens in each loop. She’ll also lock you out of escaping an area, and generally interfere with your plans to escape the time loop. (The online multiplayer is also addictive, flipping the roles around. You play as Julianna, hunting down Colt and foiling his plans for murder. )

As you play through the areas again (and again) you’ll equip yourself with slabs that add supernatural powers, as well as more potent weapons and trinkets to embed into both guns and yourself. It’s through this that you’re able to customize your playstyle or equip yourself in the best way to survive Julianna and nail that assassination. Each time period and area rewards repeat exploration, with secret guns, hidden conversations with NPCs and lots of world-building lore to discover for yourself.

Originally a timed PlayStation exclusive, Deathloop landed on Xbox in September 2022.

Overwatch 2

Even though Blizzard has improved the onramp for new players this time around, Overwatch 2 still has a steep learning curve. Stick with it, though, and you’ll get to indulge in perhaps the best team shooter around. Overwatch 2 has a deceptively simple goal — stand on or near an objective and keep the other team away long enough to win. It’s much more complex in practice. To the untrained eye, matches may seem like colorful chaos, but Overwatch 2 has a deceptively simple goal — stand on or near an objective and keep the other team away long enough to win.

It’s much more complex in practice. Blizzard reduced the number of players on each team from six to five. That, along with across-the-board character tweaks, has made gameplay faster-paced and more enjoyable compared with the original Overwatch. There's a greater emphasis on individual impact, but you'll still need to work well with your teammates to secure a victory.

Now featuring a cast of more than 30 heroes, each with distinct abilities and playstyles, you’ll surely find a few Overwatch 2 characters that you can connect with. The first batch of new heroes are all a blast to play. There are many great (though often fairly expensive) new skins to kit them out with too. The game looks and sounds terrific too, thanks to Blizzard’s trademark level of polish. At least until you figure out how to play Overwatch 2, you can marvel at how good it looks.

Control

Take the weird Twin Peaks narrative of Alan Wake, smash it together with Quantum Break's frenetic powers and gunplay, and you've got Control. Playing as a woman searching for her missing brother, you quickly learn there's a thin line between reality and the fantastical. It's catnip for anyone who grew up loving The X-Files and the supernatural. It's also a prime example of a studio working at their creative heights, both refining and evolving the open-world formula that's dominated games for the past decade.

Control on the last-gen Xbox is a mixed affair, with the One S struggling a little, but the One X being head-and-shoulders above the PS4 Pro when it comes to fidelity and smoothness. With the launch of the next-gen consoles, an ‘Ultimate Edition’ emerged which brought the ray-tracing and higher frame rates that PC gamers enjoyed to console players. Although you’ll only get those benefits as a next-gen owner, it also includes all the released DLC and is the edition we recommend buying, even if you’re not planning to immediately upgrade.

Halo Infinite

Master Chief's latest adventure may not make much sense narratively, but it sure is fun to play. After the middle efforts from 343 Industries over the last decade, Halo Infinite manages to breathe new life into Microsoft's flagship franchise, while also staying true to elements fans love. The main campaign is more open than ever, while also giving you a new freedom of movement with the trusty grappling hook. And the multiplayer mode is wonderfully addictive (though 343 still needs to speed up experience progression), with a bevy of maps and game modes to keep things from getting too stale. The only thing keeping it from greatness is its baffling and disjointed story, but it's not like Xbox fans have many options when it comes to huge exclusives right now.

Forza Horizon 5

Forza Horizon 5 deftly walks a fine line by being an extremely deep and complex racing game that almost anyone can just pick up and play. The game has hundreds of cars that you can tweak endlessly to fit your driving style, and dozens of courses spread all over a gorgeous fictional corner of Mexico. If you crank up the difficulty, one mistake will sink your entire race, and the competition online can be just as fierce.

But if you’re new to racing games, Forza Horizon 5 does an excellent job at getting you up and running. The introduction to the game quickly gives you a taste at the four main race types you’ll come across (street racing, cross-country, etc.), and features like the rewind button mean that you can quickly erase mistakes if you try and take a turn too fast without having to restart your run. Quite simply, Forza Horizon 5 is a beautiful and fun game that works for just about any skill level. It’s easy to pick up and play a few races and move on with your day, or you can sink hours into it trying to become the best driver you can possibly be.

Gears 5

Gears 5 tries to be a lot of things, and doesn't succeed at them all. If you're a Gears of War fan, though, there's a lot to love here. The cover-shooter gameplay the series helped pioneer feels great, and the campaign, while not narratively ambitious, is well-paced and full of bombastic set pieces to keep you interested. As they stand, the various multiplayer modes are not great, but Gears 5 is worth it for the campaign alone.

It’s also a true graphical showcase, among the best-looking console games around. Microsoft did a great job optimizing for all platforms and use-cases, with high-resolution and ultra-high (up to 120fps on series consoles) frame rates.

Nier: Automata

It took more than a while to get here, but Nier: Automata finally arrived on Xbox One in the summer of 2018. And boy, was it worth the almost-18-month wait. Nier takes the razor-sharp combat of a Platinum Games title and puts it in a world crafted by everyone's favorite weirdo, Yoko Taro. Don't worry, you can mostly just run, gun and slash your way through the game, but as you finish, and finish and finish this one, you'll find yourself pulled into a truly special narrative, one that's never been done before and will probably never be done again. It’s an unmissable experience, and one that feels all the more unique on Xbox, which has never had the best levels of support from Japanese developers.

On Xbox One X and Series X, you effectively have the best version of Nier: Automata available, short of a fan-patched PC game. On Series S and One S... not so much, but you do at least get consistent framerates on the Series S and a passable experience on the One S. 

Ori and the Blind Forest

Arriving at a time when "Gears Halo Forza" seemed to be the beginning, middle and end of Microsoft's publishing plans, Ori and the Blind Forest was a triumph. It's a confident mash of the pixel-perfect platforming popularized by Super Meat Boy, and the rich, unfolding worlds of Metroidvania games. You'll die hundreds of times exploring the titular forest, unlocking skills that allow you to reach new areas. It looks and sounds great — like, Disney great — and its story, while fairly secondary to the experience, is interesting. Ori might not do much to push the boundaries of its genres, but everything it does, it does so right. Its sequel, Ori and the Will of the Wisps, is very much “more of everything,” so if you like Blind Forest, it’s well worth checking out too.

Red Dead Redemption 2

Red Dead Redemption 2 is the kind of game no one but Rockstar, the team behind the GTA series, could make. Only when a studio is this successful can it pour millions of dollars and development hours into a game. Rockstar's simulation of a crumbling frontier world is enthralling and serves as a perfect backdrop to an uncharacteristically measured story. While the studio's gameplay may not have moved massively forward, the writing and characters of RDR2 will stay with you.

While Rockstar hasn’t deemed fit to properly upgrade Red Dead Redemption 2 for the next-gen yet, Series X owners will at least benefit from the best last-gen (Xbox One X) experience with the addition of improved loading times. The Series S, on the other hand, gets the One S version, but with an improved 30 fps lock and swifter loading.

Resident Evil Village

Resident Evil Village is delightful. It’s a gothic fairy tale masquerading as a survival-horror game, and while this represents a fresh vibe for the franchise, it’s not an unwelcome evolution. The characters and enemies in Village are full of life — even when they’re decidedly undead — and Capcom has put a delicious twist on the idea of vampires, werewolves, sea creatures, giants and creepy dolls. The game retains its horror, puzzle and action roots, and it has Umbrella Corporation’s fingerprints all over it. It simply feels like developers had fun with this one, and so will you.

A word of caution before you run to buy it, though: This game doesn’t play great on every Xbox. On Series X, things are great: There's the option to turn on ray-tracing with the occasional frame rate issue, or to keep it off and have perfect 4K/60 presentation. With the Series S, while there is a ray-tracing mode, it’s almost unplayable. With ray-tracing off, the Series S does a decent job, though. The One X’s 1080p/60 mode is also fantastic, although its quality mode feels very juddery. If you own a base Xbox One or One S, though, there’s really no mode that actually feels enjoyable to play.

Sekiro: Shadows Die Twice

Sekiro: Shadows Die Twice isn't just another Dark Souls game. FromSoftware's samurai adventure is a departure from that well-established formula, replacing slow, weighty combat and gothic despair for stealth, grappling hooks and swift swordplay. Oh, and while it's still a difficult game, it's a lot more accessible than Souls games — you can even pause it! The result of all these changes is something that's still instantly recognizable as a FromSoftware title, but it's its own thing, and it's very good.

This is one game that’s really not had a lot of love from its developer or publisher, as, despite the fact next-gen consoles should be easily able to run this game at 60 fps, the Series S is locked to an inconsistently paced 30 fps, while the Series X doesn’t quite hold to 60 either. With that said, it’s more than playable.

Lost Judgement

This is private eye Takayuki Yagami’s second adventure; a spin-off of Sega’s popular, pulpy and convoluted Yakuza saga. He lives in the same Kamurocho area, the same yakuza gangs roam the streets, and there’s the very occasional crossover of side-story characters and, well, weirdos. But instead of punching punks in the face in the name of justice or honor, which was the style of Yakuza protagonist Kazuya Kiryu, Yagami fights with the power of his lawyer badge, drone evidence and… sometimes (read: often) he kicks the bad guys in the face.

The sequel skates even closer to some sort of serialized TV drama, punctuated by fights, chases and melodrama. For anyone that’s played the series before, it treads familiar ground, but with a more serious (realistic) story that centers on bullying and suicide problems in Japanese high schools, which is tied into myriad plots encompassing the legal system, politics and organized crime.

Yagami has multiple fighting styles to master, while there are love interests, batting cages, mahjong, skate parks and more activities to sink even more hours into. On the PS5, Lost Judgment looks great. Fights are fluid and the recreated areas in Tokyo and Yokohama are usually full of pedestrians, stores and points of interest. While Yakuza Like a Dragon takes the franchise in a new (turn-based, more ridiculous) direction, Lost Judgment retains the brawling playstyle of the Yakuza series, with a new hero who has, eventually, charmed us.

Xbox Game Pass Ultimate

We already mentioned this one but it's difficult to overemphasize how good a deal Game Pass is for Xbox owners. For $15 a month you get access to a shifting and growing library of games. The company does a good job explaining what games are coming and going in advance, so you won't get caught out by a game disappearing from the subscription service just as you're reaching a final boss. There are 11 games mentioned in this guide, and seven of them are currently available with Game Pass. The full library is broad, and, while still Microsoft's cloud service is still just in beta, you'll have access to many of the games on your tablet, phone or browser through xCloud at no extra fee.

What we bought: Our favorite books of 2022

We may not have had quite as much unfettered reading time as we did in the lockdown days of the COVID pandemic, but Engadget’s editors have still managed to pick out, peruse and ponder a broad variety of this year’s most intriguing books. Whether we learned how to wield a wok, listened to life lessons from Hideo Kojima, or dove into the seedy underbelly of an alt-universe 1940’s San Francisco, here are a few of our favorites from 2022.

Razzmatazz by Christopher Moore

Razmatazz cover
Harper Collins

Classic noir cinema was a staple in my house growing up — I mean, my first celebrity crush was on The Thin Man series co-star, Myrna Loy — so any story from the days when mugs were mooks and gals were dames holds sway over my heart. But The Thin Man, like the rest of the media made at that time, only showed a very narrow, very male, very white view of life. Christopher Moore’s latest novel, Razzmatazz, adds some much needed color to the otherwise black-and-white world of noir.

Razzmatazz is the second title for Moore’s satirical murder mystery series, following 2019’s Noir. In this latest installment, we’re returned to Post-WWII San Francisco as bartender Sammy “Two Toes” Tiffin and his cadre of misfit friends hustle to survive in Fog City. Now, helping disappear your best friend’s girlfriend’s abusive husband is one thing but, as the team soon learns, stealing back a possibly magical, definitely priceless, heirloom from the local Tong is another entirely — and that’s before some madman starts murdering the city’s drag kings.

Razzmatazz is a smart and just a bit snarky adventure mystery featuring a diverse and developed cast of characters, fast-paced action that seamlessly transitions between the varying viewpoints of said ensemble and doesn’t get bogged down in world building. At around 350 pages apiece, Noir and Razzmatazz will each provide a solid weekend’s entertainment and, if you’re still looking for more Moore after that, check out 2020’s Shakespeare for Squirrels. – Andrew Tarantola, Senior Editor

Upgrade by Blake Crouch

stylized double helix on blue background
Penguin Randomhouse

I always look forward to new Blake Crouch releases because his writing is vivid and fast-paced, so much so that I can see the movie version playing out in my head as I devour his latest title in just a couple of days. This year’s Upgrade was no exception – we’re in a world in which gene editing is real yet highly regulated, and we follow Logan Ramsay, a member of the Gene Protection Agency as he tries to apprehend those who may be involved in nefarious gene-editing activities.

But after a violent encounter on a mission, Logan starts to feel less and less like himself and more like a better version of himself. He can read faster, he’s physically stronger and he needs less sleep. He soon finds out his genome has been hacked, and he also discovers he’s part of a much larger plan that could change humanity as he knows it. As he works to stop this plan from being executed, he’s forced to confront some of the darkest parts of his past and the tarnished family legacy he’s been working so hard to escape.

Crouch excels at putting readers into his protagonist’s shoes, forcing them to feel the same anxiety, dread and confusion inflicting his main characters. But to think that produces an overall unpleasant reading experience would be incorrect: Upgrade is an intriguing thrill ride that moves at break-neck speed, while posing a lot of questions about humanity as a whole. – Valentina Palladino, Senior Commerce Editor

Notes on an Execution by Danya Kukafka

a broken locket on a purple background with black lettering
Harper Collins

On its face, Notes on an Execution may seem like a typical examination of a serial killer. The novel begins with Ansel Packer counting down his last 12 hours before he’s to be executed for killing many women. But Danya Kukafka is much less interested in this murderer as she is in telling the stories of three women who were all affected by Ansel in some way. We follow Lavender, Ansel’s mother, as a lost teenager pushed to the brink as she struggles to protect her children and herself; Hazel, Ansel’s sister-in-law who watches her twin lose herself in this toxic relationship; and Saffy, the lead investigator on Ansel’s case with more hidden trauma than you might expect buried just under the surface. But these women aren’t victims with a capital V. Instead, they work to flip the serial-killer narrative on its head by focusing our attention on the fact that, despite everything, they survived. Notes on an Execution is a dark, engaging story with lovely prose and a surprisingly, underlying element of hope at the end of it all. – V.P.

Our Missing Hearts by Celeste Ng

a feather disintegrating into birds on a blue ombre background. ugh reese witherspoon is vouching for this book for some reason

Our Missing Hearts, in the grand tradition of near-future dystopian fiction like The Handmaid’s Tale or 1984, presents a vision of our country that feels far too close for comfort. In Ng’s third novel, she writes of a 12-year-old boy named Bird and his father, who live in a United States where laws enshrining America-first culture have been put in place following years of economic and social turmoil.

In this world, Asians have been made the scapegoat for all of America’s ills; while Asian Americans are still technically free and full citizens, many of them are under the thumb of police and subject to various degrees of violence from so-called “real” Americans. And any parents deemed to be un-America could have their children immediately confiscated – no questions asked. As in any good dystopia, books deemed unpatriotic have also been seized and destroyed, including a book of poetry by Bird’s mother, a woman who disappeared years earlier.

This story is simultaneously small and universal. The meat of the narrative focuses on Bird pushing to learn more about his mother and the circumstances of the world he’s living in, and there are only a handful of major characters. At the same time, Ng skillfully paints a plausible picture of an America that’s given in to its worst instincts. Ng has pointed out multiple times that all the atrocities being committed in Our Missing Hearts are things that have taken place in the US or other parts of the world already – not a comforting thought.

But as bleak as this world is, the book is filled with moments of unexpected beauty and small triumphs. Perhaps most crucially, there’s a sense that while an extremist minority currently may rule over a more sensible populace, there’s a way out of the darkness. Our Missing Hearts isn’t a light story, but it’s an important one, artfully told by a writer who can deftly weave together a compelling narrative with poignant social commentary. Ng may have made a big impact in popular culture with Little Fires Everywhere (and its accompanying Hulu miniseries), but Our Missing Hearts feels like her definitive work thus far. – Nathan Ingraham, Deputy Editor

The Creative Gene by Hideo Kojima

The Creative Gene by Hideo Kojima
Simon and Schuster

Hideo Kojima is a video game designer best known for the Metal Gear series, which popularized the stealth genre and had a plot that could charitably be described as ridiculous. Perhaps shamefully, I am a Kojima fan. His studios’ games are often in dire need of an editor and almost constantly tow the line between insight and navel-gazing. Sometimes, they’ve also seemed incapable of treating their female characters with respect. But they are always bursting with ideas, trying things with an unmistakable voice and a ceaseless, pulverizing earnestness. His post-apocalyptic delivery sim Death Stranding is at once laughably on-the-nose (one hard-to-kill character is called “Die-Hardman” AKA: John McClane, of course), and one the most enchanting games I’ve played in the past decade.

I give you this background to help explain how I ended up reading Kojima’s book, The Creative Gene, earlier this year. (It was technically published in late 2021.) Instead of telling some weirdo techno-thriller or a behind-the-scenes look at game development, though, this is a collection of previously published essays about the books, movies and other cultural objects that Kojima finds essential to his being. Like his games, it can border on hokey and self-mythologizing, but it is disarmingly honest, personal and anti-cynical.

In many ways, the Metal Gear games are about identity – who we are and how we got there. That’s more or less what Kojima gets at here; for about 250 pages, he raves about things he likes with a tangible verve, not to recommend them to consumers, but to explore how they’ve shaped his experience. More than a memoir, though, The Creative Gene is an appreciation of how art of all stripes can spark inspiration in a recyclable process.

The prose is nothing extraordinary, and there are certainly more essential subjects out there. While you don’t need to be a gamer to get something out of this, having a familiarity with Kojima’s work doesn’t hurt. Still, The Creative Gene’s sincerity and enthusiasm are easy to appreciate in a time of widespread detachment. – Jeff Dunn, Senior Commerce Writer

Sea of Tranquility by Emily St. John Mandel

fields with a moon rising over distant hills
Penguin Randomhouse

Emily St. John Mandel delivered one of the essential reads of the pandemic when she published The Glass Hotel in March 2020. It was no small feat given she previously wrote the award-winning Station Eleven, a novel that’s set partly after a world-ending flu. Given that there was a five-year gap between Station Eleven and Glass Hotel, I didn’t dare hope one of my favorite authors would release a new novel so soon, and that it would be as good as her previous works. Thankfully, Sea of Tranquility does not disappoint.

It shares many of the same strengths as Mandel’s past novels, including a brilliant sense of atmosphere and prose that rewards close reading. Sea of Tranquility is also in conversation with Station Eleven and The Glass Hotel in a way that will delight fans. That’s not to say you need to have read those books to enjoy her latest, but it may make you look at them (and Mandel’s career) in a new light. Add to that themes that will resonate with anyone who has lived through the past two years and you have one of the best books of 2022. – Igor Bonifacic, Weekend Editor