This August kicked off a packed game release lineup as we head into the latter part of 2023, including many games that I’d consider some of the year’s best. However, there was one thing all of this month’s best titles shared in common: they were all single-player focused. While there seems to be a general stigma within the game industry that single-player games don’t sell as well or aren’t as engaging for players, August 2023’s best games stood in stark contrast to that.
Baldur’s Gate 3, a turn-based Dungeons & Dragons RPG currently on PC, is one of the year’s most-played games. It does have a cooperative mode, but it’s entirely fulfilling as a single-player adventure. And those looking for more fantastic single-player adventure didn’t have a shortage of other games big and small to turn to once they beat that gigantic one.
If you’re wondering which August games to check out as this year’s biggest game releases only continue to ramp up, here are seven worth checking out.
Baldur’s Gate 3
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Baldur’s Gate 3 needs little introduction; I’d be shocked if you owned a gaming PC and aren’t already playing it. And if you aren’t, you should be. Larian Studios’ successor to a classic BioWare RPG series is a triumphant release for the genre, thanks to an immersive story that draws players into the world, gameplay mechanics that feel ripped straight from a tabletop game but are still enjoyable digitally, and a massive amount of player freedom.
“Larian Studios’ megasuccessful CRPG is so engrossing that I could not stop thinking about its endless possibilities while it was in my hands,” Andrew Zucosky wrote of Baldur’s Gate 3 in Pro Well Tech’ five-star review of the game. “All of the character builds I wanted to try, all the companions I needed to spend more time with, all the choices I did not make still gnaw at my mind like a tadpole burrowing into my cerebellum. And judging by audience reaction over the past month, I’m not alone.”
Baldur’s Gate 3 is absolutely one of the best games of 2023 and a must-play for fans of single-player games. Right now, it’s only on PC, but that will change soon. A PlayStation 5 port launches on September 6, while an Xbox Series X/S release will happen sometime later in 2023.
Sea of Stars
Sea of Stars has been on my radar as an RPG fan since it was announced in 2020, and it delivered. Those looking for a throwback RPG more similar to Chrono Trigger and Super Mario RPG than to Baldur’s Gate 3, Dragon Age: Originsand The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim will love Sea of Stars. The game looks and sounds great, with familiar, yet entertaining RPG battles that demonstrate its developer’s love for the genre’s classics.
“If you can live with some of its missing pieces, Sea of Stars is an impressive homage to classic RPGs,” Jess Reyes wrote in a four-star Sea of Stars review for Pro Well Tech. “It does that without simply leaning on retro nostalgia. Instead, it delivers a unique adventure all its own filled with humor, dramatic weight, and a creative battle system that’s entirely its own. It’s both a respectful look back at the past and a bold step forward for indie RPGs.”
While releasing between Baldur’s Gate 3 and Starfield isn’t doing the game many favors, this is still a single-player RPG you don’t want to miss out on. Sea of Stars is available now for PC, PS4, PS5, Xbox One, Xbox Series X/S, and Nintendo Switch. It’s available through both PlayStation Plus Extra and Xbox Game Pass too, so you probably have a way to try this game out for no additional cost.
The Cosmic Wheel Sisterhood
Choice also plays a big part in another of the month’s other best games, The Cosmic Wheel Sisterhood. This indie title from Deconstructeam and Devolver Digital pairs tarot reading with the familiar choice-based narrative game formula to create a unique and subversive experience. Even as someone who’s not generally into tarot or witchy things, I thoroughly enjoyed its captivating narrative about how we must be accountable for the consequences of our own actions.
“Nowadays, the most exciting narrative games are the ones that find a way to play around with the genre and explore new ways to make old mechanics interesting. The Cosmic Wheel Sisterhood does that on multiple levels,” I wrote of the game when it launched earlier this month. “While I went into this game unsure how much it would appeal to me, I found an experience that reaffirmed things I love about the genre while delivering a captivating story about identity and consequence.”
It’s best if you go into a game like this as spoiler-free as possible, experience your unique journey, and then compare that with what others saw. As such, I won’t say much more about it. The Cosmic Wheel Sisterhood is available now for PC and Nintendo Switch.
Immortals of Aveum
A former developer from Sledgehammer Games founded a new studio and made Immortals of Aveuma game advertised as the magic version of Call of Duty. It’s a bit more nuanced than that, though. Namely, Immortals of Aveum is a single-player game, and its campaign levels are more open-ended than most Call of Duty fare. While its characters can get annoying, its magical shooter approach feels fresh in a genre that can get pretty stale, and it’s one of the prettiest games of this console generation to boot.
“I went into Immortals of Aveum expecting a linear experience akin to Call of Duty, but found a game with unexpectedly vast levels, a world rich with intriguing lore, and vibrant combat that kept me on my toes,” I wrote in a three-and-a-half star review of the game. “It’s a solid choice for those looking for an inventive shooter that stands out from the crowd in that genre.”
This first effort from a new studio is getting drowned out by some of the month’s bigger AAA releases, but it’s still worth checking out for those who like off-kilter first-person shooter games. Immortals of Aveum is available now for PC, PS5, and Xbox Series X/S.
Astronaut: The Best
Astronaut: The Best is one of those bizarre games better played than described. Still, it’s an under-the-radar indie from this month that we’d wholeheartedly recommend. In it, players essentially run and do PR for the Flaustrian Royal Space Academy and have to manage the astronauts for an impending mission as they get into all sorts of occult mishaps. Its distinct art style and variety of weird situations for players to deal with are certainly memorable.
“Astronaut: The Best is so unlike anything I’ve ever played that it’s hard to describe,” DT’s Giovanni Colantonio wrote of the game. “It’s a narrative roguelite wrapped around an occult management simulator about managing PR for the world’s worst astronauts. There’s spellcasting! There’s boxing! There’s secret reptilians! Unpredictable doesn’t even begin to describe what’s essentially Calvinball: The Video Game.”
Sometimes, an indie game is just so odd that all you can do is ask others to experience it so you can all revel in its quirkiness. This is one of those games. Astronaut: The Best is now available for PC.
The Making of Karateka
Last November, Digital Eclipse impressed with Atari 50: The Anniversary Celebrationa collection of classic Atari games presented in a museum- or documentary-like format. Now, it wants to do the same thing for individual games with its new “Gold Master Series,” which it describes as a series of “independently produced projects that celebrate key designers, studios, and games that changed the world.” The first of these centers around Karatekaa 1984 Apple II game from the creator of Prince of Persia that laid some early groundwork for cinematic storytelling, fighting game mechanics, and impressive animations in video games.
The result is The Making of Karateka. It’s presented similarly to Atari 50but almost all of it is about just one game and its impact. That allows The Making of Karateka to get into the specifics of the game’s development, giving us a deep dive that typically feels reserved for a reported exposé. For video game historians like myself, it’s a treat, mainly because it’s full of insightful interviews with the people involved with and influenced by Karateka.
Digital Eclipse has struck gold with the format used for Atari 50 and The Making of Karatekaso my appetite is certainly whetted for future games in the Gold Master Series. The Making of Karateka is available now for PC, PS4, PS5, Xbox One, Xbox Series X/S, and Nintendo Switch.
While FromSoftware did drop a new game this month, Pro Well Tech isn’t as hot on Armored Core VI: Fires of Rubicon as others due to its demanding controls and legibility issues. Instead, we recommend Souls fans check out Blasphemous 2a new indie Soulslike Metroidvania from The Game Kitchen. The original Blasphemous was made by Spanish game developers who infused their country’s culture and relationship with faith into an adventure that’s equal parts chilling, difficult, and meditative. This sequel ups the ante on all of that.
“It’s a series of mountains to be climbed, with jagged handholds that’ll often send players tumbling back down to the bottom,” Giovanni Colantonio wrote of Blasphemous 2 in his three-and-a-half star review. “At times, it can be demoralizing — or worse — a little boring. There’s always something beyond that peak, though, so long as you’re devoted enough to endure the climb, bloodied palms and all, you can have faith that it’s worth the pain and you’ll always find the light on the other side, even if the deadly rewards you find earn you a first-class ticket to Hell.”
Soulslikes and Metroidvanias are common in the indie space nowadays, but don’t let that turn you off from this game. While the game does feature the frustrations of both of those game genres, it also has all of the magic that made them special in the first place. Blasphemous 2 is available now for PC, PS5, Xbox Series X/S, and Nintendo Switch.