The Professor’s Most Underrated Games of 2023

A lot of games that came out in 2023 were expected to be really good and ended up being really bad. Such is the nature of this volatile industry, which seems to grow more and more volatile by the day as news breaks of more title cancellations and more and more rounds of mass layoffs at major development studios. The pressure on these studios to deliver quality products is becoming more and more earnest, and the response of cutting back on staff and IPs is certainly more than a little concerning. 

But for every batch of unfortunate flops and buzzkills that grace our screens, there are always those surprising little games that burst onto the scene with the force and gusto of a AAA studio. 2023 had no shortage of those, and there were certainly more than a few games that were a surprising breath of fresh air, and for a number of reasons. A game doesn’t need a big budget to be great. It doesn’t need a fully staffed studio, crunch time, and a panel of out of touch executives calling the shots. In fact, most of the games on this list are incredibly simple in their design choice, narrative, and development. Maybe that’s the kind of game that players need to remind us of what’s important, and to keep the faith that good games and passionate creators are still out there. 

Slay the Princess

slay the princess
A really powerful story, but player discretion strongly advised.

Black Tabby’s visual novel was released towards the tail end of 2023 to massive critical acclaim. The surface level story appears simplistic, with a narrator instructing the player character, an unnamed hero, to slay a princess imprisoned in the basement of a cabin in the woods. The player has the ability to make several choices, all of which can lead to various outcomes. In the end, the surface level story ends up barely scratching the surface of a much more complex narrative that forces a lot of soul searching on the part of the player. 

The stylistic choice of a visual novel blends well with the story, serving almost like a sort of symbol to the player as they navigate the breaking of the fourth wall. Though the title may not suggest much, Slay the Princess is a psychological horror story through and through, with depictions deeply disturbing and honestly, forced me to step away more than a few times. Though this isn’t particularly my style of game, I felt compelled to continue it, as a player and as a rabid consumer of powerful narratives. Slay the Princess, for all its gore and body horror, is telling a story that shouldn’t be missed, and to be uncomfortable is the entire point. 

Lethal Company 

lethal company
I feel like we should probably be reporting the Company to the BBB but that’s just me.

Speaking of horror stories, one of the more surprising releases of 2023 has to be the survival horror satire multiplayer gem Lethal Company, developed by a solo developer known as Zeekerss. With horror elements and gameplay that harken back to other co-op horror games like Phasmophobia, Lethal Company has the added bonus of not taking itself seriously, at all. 

Players find themselves aboard an unnamed scrapper ship as a new employee of a business known only as “The Company.” Your task is simple; travel with your team to distant, deserted moons and salvage the valuable scrap within the abandoned bases and factories. Players have 3 days to meet the company “profit quota” and salvage as much scrap as possible. Success leads to a paycheck and the ability to purchase additional tools to make your job easier, like flashlights, walkie talkies, shovels, etc. Failure means you are “fired” and jettisoned through the airlock, forcing you and your team to start from scratch. The game is a clear satirical prodding at unchecked consumerism and morally bankrupt corporate greed, but it’s also addicting and full of laughs. Scavenging a dark and seemingly empty factory building only to be chewed up by a man eating alien monster and then fined by The Company for dying is so hilariously absurd and, alarmingly, relatable if you’ve ever worked a corporate job.

The game exploded in popularity following a viral presence on social media, and continues to thrive as a co-op game of choice for friends looking for a few casual jump scares and hilarious antics with friends. It’s one I go back to often, because I am bred for corporate misery it seems. 

Refind Self: The Personality Test Game

refind self
Even the smallest choices that you might not notice can have the greatest impact in this little game.

I should clarify before continuing, that if you have any interest in playing this game yourself, stop reading here. The game itself is entirely guided by your decisions, and anything mentioned here could provide unwanted or unintended influence. It’s best to go into the game as blind as possible. 

Refind Self is exactly what it says in the title; a personality test game. You take on control of an android mourning the recent death of your creator, known only as the Doctor. As you play, you make decisions that gradually fill a small heart icon in the top right corner of the game. Each decision, no matter how seemingly small or unimportant, matters as your personality profile is developed. As soon as the heart is filled, regardless of where you are in the narrative, the game ends, and you are presented with your personality profile and top traits. A full playthrough lasts around an hour, but if you want to get a full sense of the story (and a very thorough understanding of your personality type), multiple playthroughs are recommended. 

The blend of understanding your own personality type as you construct the identity of the protagonist is clever and compelling. I wanted to understand the story as much as I could, and successive playthroughs also helped me understand my own nature as a gamer. This one is definitely worth a playthrough regardless of which branch you’re interested in, and is a great way to pause and reflect on your gaming style. 


It’s like a 90s Disney movie without the trauma!

Another wholesome co-op game to add to the list, Casus Ludi’s Blanc is an aesthetically gorgeous and narratively adorable little game. You and a friend take on the roles of a nameless fawn and wolf pup, natural enemies forced to work together after you have been separated from your families. Throughout the 2-3 hour playthrough, you encounter goats, birds, and other natural elements to overcome in the search for your families. The story isn’t groundbreaking by any means, but it felt like getting to play a black and white Disney movie with a friend, and by the game’s end we were both smiling while choking back tears. 

The game received mixed reviews at launch, calling the game’s story unimaginative, and the gameplay itself hobbled by a few frustrating bugs. However Blanc never tries to be anything other than it is; a simple story about working together to achieve a common goal. If you’re looking to spend some quality time with a friend you care about and gush over some adorable little animals, Blanc is a lovely little game to play. 


A fun, challenging puzzler with a few surprising twists that make it one of my favorites in the genre.

Another co-op for the list, and one that packs a lot of heart and more than a few punches in the gut. Bokura is a co-op puzzle game in a nostalgic 8-bit style that tells the story of childhood best friends on a mission to blow up the town statue. On the way, they encounter an array of characters that are funny, heartwarming, disturbing, and downright heartbreaking. 

I don’t want to spoil the experience because the 8-10 hours of gameplay are so worth it, but the ways in which my friend and I had to work together to complete puzzles and progress the story was so unique, and the way the puzzles and even the setting itself aligned with the narrative was refreshing, something I’d never seen in a game before. The game feels heavily influenced by other coming of age stories, specifically Stephen King’s Stand by Me, but separates itself enough with its narrative to feel like a fresh retelling. By the game’s end, my friend and I both felt a sense of heaviness, mourning our childhoods and the simplicity and honesty of those friendships. So if you and a friend have 6 bucks to spare, definitely pick this one up. It definitely stands out as one of the stronger narrative games I played in 2023.  

Was there a title from last year on your console or computer which you think didn’t get the love it deserved?  Let us know in the comments!

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