After a hectic October and the lackluster Call of Duty: Modern Warfare III becoming available on November 10, you might have felt like this outstanding year for games was finally wrapped up and that paying attention to new releases was less necessary. That feeling would be misguided, as plenty of outstanding games dropped this month. From new games tied to huge franchises like League of Legends and Mario to more experimental indie games and new IP, quite a few awesome games have flown under the radar this month.
In particular, the following seven games stuck out to us the most as the best video games released in November 2023. Give them a shot before the year ends; you might find one of them makes for a fine last-minute addition to your personal game of the year list.
Song of Nunu: A League of Legends Story
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Riot Forge published three indie-level games set in the League of Legends universe this year, and Song of Nunu: A League of Legends Story is the best of them. It’s a narrative-driven 3D platformer following Nunu and Willump, a young boy and his yeti friend, respectively. While this duo isn’t the most popular League of Legends Champion pick for most players, this game taps into the characters’ emotional lore and backstory, playing to RiME developer Tequila Works’ strengths.
“Tequila Works has mastered the subtle design choices that can enhance a narrative, like carefully framing the camera in specific gameplay sections for emotional impact or ensuring there is little dead air between set pieces unless it is emotionally necessary for the story,” I explained in my four-star review of the game. “This, along with how gameplay dynamically flows between Nunu on his own and Nunu riding Willump, makes Song of Nunu feel like a naturalistic adventure, which further immerses me in its world.”
Although Song of Nunu can beaten in just around six hours, almost every minute of that experience entertains by introducing a new type of gameplay challenge or a captivating narrative beat that will keep players’ attention. There’s lots of debate over what exactly constitutes an indie game nowadays, but this Riot Games-backed title at least captures the spirit indie games often possess. Song of Nunu: A League of Legends Story is available now for PC and Nintendo Switch.
Super Mario RPG
The SNES version of Super Mario RPG was already a classic, so it’s no surprise that a remake for Nintendo Switch is also very good. This game smooths over the original’s rough edges, making it more approachable and easier. This quirky-looking game is also more colorful and vibrant than ever, thanks to the visual overhaul ArtePiazza and Nintendo gave it. Although that sheen may take away from the original’s charm for some, the core of the RPG classic is still preserved in this remake.
“Super Mario RPG is a much friendlier version of the 1996 cult classic, as if to more easily introduce a younger generation to it without freaking them out too much,” Giovanni Colantonio’s three-and-a-half star review of Super Mario RPG states. “The visuals are brighter, the timing-based combat is more foolproof, and even its hardest difficulty setting is a breezy cakewalk. It’s an oddball cult classic lightly reworked into a modern kid’s game, but a bit of the original’s personality is lost in the process.”
Straightforward remakes like this are a net good for the industry, preserving old-school experiences while introducing them to a new generation in a more approachable fashion. Hopefully, next year’s Paper Mario: The Thousand-Year Door remake meets or surpasses this refreshed RPG’s level of quality. Super Mario RPG is available exclusively for Nintendo Switch.
A couple of great PC-exclusive games flew under the radar this month, with the first being American Arcadia. Developed by Call of the Sea developer Out of the Blue, this is yet another creative puzzle game that’s part Limbo-style 2D platformer and part Call of the Sea-style first-person game. This unique combination of gameplay styles keeps things fresh while its narrative takes satirical jabs at our obsession with media and the forces working behind the scenes to control it.
“American Arcadia is a sharp dystopian satire that takes jabs at capitalism, Disney, and reality TV. Imagine a playable cross between The Truman Show and The Fugitiveall dressed up in 1970s retro-future style,” Colantionio’s four-star review of American Arcadia states. “Out of the Blue delivers on that premise with clever gameplay that replicates the thrills of cinematic chase scenes and hacker flicks alike in colorful 2.5D. It’s a small rallying cry for ordinary people who just wish they could break free from the dehumanizing corporate world.”
Like many of the best indie games, American Arcadia provides a subversive and striking experience that only feels like it could be possible in video games. Even though this game failed to garner much attention upon its release, it also features one of the year’s best narratives. American Arcadia is available now for PC.
Assassin’s Creed Nexus
Would you believe me if I said Ubisoft dropped one of the best VR games ever this month? Well, that happened. While recent Assassin’s Creed games struggle to do much of interest, Assassin’s Creed Nexus‘ take on the popular series cuts down much of the bloat to create a VR action game that plays to the series’ greatest strength: immersing players in a historical assassin fantasy.
“It’s not another virtual ‘experience’ based on one of its popular IPs, but rather a full-throated Assassin’s Creed game with just about everything you’d expect in its console counterpart,” Colantonio wrote of Assassin’s Creed Nexus. “There’s sneaking, parkour, lock-picking, pickpocketing, death-defying leaps, and even a wealth of collectibles hidden in small-scale recreations of historical locations. All that’s missing is the open-world glut — and that’s arguably its best quality.”
Virtual reality titles are yet to be the game industry-changing experiences they were once expected to be, with many following the same rhythm game or shooter format. Thankfully, a game like Assassin’s Creed Nexus occasionally reminds us of what makes VR special. Assassin’s Creed Nexus is available now for the Meta Quest 2, 3, and Pro.
Yet another under-the-radar indie from this month is Loddlenaut from Moon Lagoon and Secret Mode. It’s a lo-fi game all about cleaning up trash and gunk underwater on an alien planet. It’s a surprisingly calming and meditative experience that also positively reinforces the message of how people can make a difference when it comes to being environmentally conscious.
“Loddlenaut is still a hidden gem of an indie that will appeal to those who love the simple yet satisfactory appeal of games like PowerWash Simulator,” I wrote of Loddlenaut shortly after it launched. “After such a hectic year for video games, I’ve come to appreciate games like Jusant and this that have a charming aesthetic, are fun to play, and allow me to decompress and not think about much else other than what’s on the screen in front of me. While you probably haven’t heard of Loddlenautyou should have.”
It’s a short and sweet experience, so I’m glad I spotted it in an ocean of new releases. And you’ll do some good by picking it up too, as the developers are donating a portion of every sale to the Whale and Dolphin Conservation charity. Loddlenaut is available now for PC.
Nickelodeon All-Star Brawl 2
The original Nickelodeon All-Star Brawl was a fun, but flawed Super Smash Bros. clone that was a bigger phenomenon than licensed game publisher GameMill initially expected. In following up that hit, GameMill, Ludosity, and Fair Play Labs took the time to craft a more refined sequel that retains what made the original special while improving presentation and tightening controls and mechanics.
“Much like its predecessor, Nickelodeon All-Star Brawl 2 is a 2D platform fighter that takes some of the greatest — and not so-greatest — characters from the TV channel’s history and pits them against one another,” DeAngelo Epps wrote in a four-star review of the game for Pro Well Tech. “Don’t label it another poor Smash Bros. clone, though; the sequel goes above and beyond to correct the mistakes of its predecessors and deliver on the potential it could never quite capitalize on.”
I have yet to mention the inherent charm that comes with big crossover fighters like this. No other game will let you pit Aang from Avatar: The Last Airbender and Hugh Neutron from Jimmy Neutron: Boy Genius against Grandma Gertie from Hey Arnold. Nickelodeon All-Star Brawl 2 is available now for PC, PS4, PS5, Xbox One, Xbox Series X/S, and Nintendo Switch.
Last Train Home
For those who prefer more tense and strategic experiences, Last Train Home was a last-minute bombshell release this November. It’s a historical real-time strategy and survival management game hybrid about Czech Legionnaires who have to make their way across Russia and Siberia on a train so they can escape the country. The game ultimately strikes an engaging balance between resource management as the train goes from station to station and small-scale RTS battles in the towns where the train stops.
“The journey Last Train Home depicts feels like it’d work best in a video game, where players can personally experience the feeling of scavenging for ever-dwindling supplies while micromanaging soldiers in the hopes that as many of them can get home as possible,” I wrote about Last Train Home. “After a few hours of play, I see how gaming was the best medium to make people more aware of the emotional pathos of this story. Ashborne Games and THQ Nordic delivered a captivating RTS and survival game that does just that with Last Train Home.”
Another thing I want to highlight about Last Train Home is its plethora of difficulty settings and toggles that allow players to customize the experience. People can make the survival elements more challenging and RTS battles easier, or vice versa, focusing on the aspects of the game that they care about the most. As such, this is an RTS and resource management game I can recommend to anyone interested in its historical context. Last Train Home is available on PC.