2023 has been packed with some of the biggest games in recent memory, and I’m totally fine with that. For the past little while, it feels like the gaming industry has been more interested in time-sucking live service behemoths, games that never end, rather than satisfying single-player titles. But this year, I’m instead feasting on a delicious platter of great games I can play on my own with a bunch of great courses I haven’t even touched yet.
I’ve poured more than 20 hours into Starfield, Bethesda’s next big RPG, and I can already tell that I might put in at least double that. I’ve finished the main campaign but barely experienced any of the game’s many other stories or vast number of planets.Before Starfield, I was nearly 20 hours into Baldur’s Gate 3. But since I rolled a few different characters, including a co-op campaign with my wife, I’m still in the game’s initial areas and clearly have a vast amount to see and do.I’ve poured the most time this year into The Legend of Zelda: Tears of the Kingdom, spending 85 hours with Nintendo’s incredible sequel. I’ve beaten the main quest, completed all of the shrines, and lit up every lightroot, but I still have a huge list of unfinished side adventures and side quests I really want to complete.Those are the just games I’ve actually spent meaningful time with. I still want to play things like Star Wars Jedi: Survivor (19-plus-hour campaign), Diablo IV (25-plus-hour campaign), and Final Fantasy XVI (35-plus-hour campaign), but I don’t know how I’ll fit those in between what I still want to do with Starfield, Baldur’s Gate 3, and Zelda. I’ve accepted that I’ll leave some titles unfinished, like Pikmin 4’s extra mode and getting all of the achievements in the Switch version of Vampire Survivors.
Then there are all the big games coming out in the weeks ahead, including the Cyberpunk 2077 expansion (September 26th), Marvel’s Spider-Man 2 (October 20th), and the Super Mario RPG remake (November 17th). There are shorter (hopefully) titles I’m interested in, too, like Sonic Superstars (October 17th) and Super Mario Bros. Wonder (also October 20th, lol). I may just never get to a few games that I have my eye on, like Assassin’s Creed: Mirage and Persona 5 Tactica.
I still haven’t explored all of Tears of the Kingdom. Image: Nintendo
But believe me when I say I’m not complaining.
Every one of those games has a self-contained story mode that I can finish on my own time, and we should be celebrating that. If I don’t finish some of the faction quests I’m working on in Starfield, they’ll be there next month. If I don’t get to those side quests in Zelda, maybe I will when I get the itch to explore Hyrule again. If I pick Super Mario Bros. Wonder over Spider-Man 2, I’ll be able to swing through New York as Peter Parker and Miles Morales when I get around to it.
Of the games I listed, only Diablo IV has a live service element to worry about (and that can be completely ignored if I just want to play the base campaign), so I won’t have to deal with FOMO over new updates or seasonal content that I miss because I’m still meandering my way through any of 2023’s huge titles. I even skipped finishing Fortnite’s battle pass last season; I almost always get to 100 on those passes, but even I started to tire of completing yet another collection of seemingly endless challenges. (The new season looks great, but now that I’ve cut back a bit on Fortnite, I’m not as interested as I used to be.)
Massive single-player games present a different kind of all-consuming problem
Yes, 2023’s massive single-player games present a different kind of all-consuming problem. When I can usually only play games for an hour or two a day if I’m lucky, how will I ever finish these sprawling epics? If I add any new games to the plate, that pushes anything else further down the list. And against my better instincts, I wouldn’t be surprised if I get sucked into mastering Mario Kart 8 Deluxe’s DLC courses; any time driving around Waluigi Stadium would probably be better spent exploring Faerûn in Baldur’s Gate 3.
Even if I do end up with a lot of time in Mario Kart when 2023 draws to a close, I’m just fine with that. All the other games I’ve dabbled in this year will still be there, waiting for me to jump back in. The games I want to play but haven’t will be around, too.
Besides, the best part of video games usually isn’t beating them. The journey is what matters more than the final destination. That’s what I took from Starfield, anyway.