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The best video games of September 2023: Starfield, Cyberpunk, and more

If you had any doubts before, it’s now clear that the flurry of fall video game releases is finally upon us. September 2023 was full of very notable and long-awaited games — it was nearly impossible to keep up with it all. That momentum isn’t slowing down as we head into a busy October and November. That’s bad news for your backlog, but at least there’s no shortage of great games to catch up on.

From expansive RPGs to experimental indies, there were loads of high-quality games this month that spanned genres. To help you sort through the mass of titles, here are seven that stood out most to us this month. I’d recommend you check at least some of them out while you still have time because we’re in for a very busy October.


Key art for Starfield
Bethesda Game Studios

One of the biggest game launches of the year happened this month with the release of Bethesda Games Studios’ Starfield. There was a lot of pressure and anticipation heading into this game’s release, and while some aspects of the game didn’t live up to the hype, it’s still a gigantic sci-fi RPG that’s worth getting lost in. If you are a fan of Bethesda’s previous RPGs, you’ll find a lot to love in Starfield.

“The studio has always dreamed big, creating massive titles like The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim that push the limits of what’s possible in video games,” Giovanni Colantonio wrote in a three-and-a-half-star review of the game. “Starfield takes that philosophy to a more awe-inspiring scale, looking to capture the boundless wonders of our universe in an artistic medium that’s often defined by its technical limitations. It’s a sublime feat, but one that finds Bethesda facing the same bittersweet truth that Constellation’s intrepid explorers grapple with: those who seek the farthest stars will forever float in space.”

Starfield will keep you busy for a while too, as even a straightforward story path campaign will likely take you over 20 hours, and a clever twist on a New Game Plus mode will keep you coming back. Bethesda RPGs of this scope are once-in-a-generation occurrences, so you’ll want to check it out. Starfield is available now for PC and Xbox Series X/S and, like all first-party Microsoft games, is on Xbox Game Pass.

Mortal Kombat 1

Smoke and Cyrax in Mortal Kombat 1
WB Games

In the wake of Street Fighter 6, the golden age of fighting games continued this month with the launch of Mortal Kombat 1. The latest from NetherRealm Studios is still as violent and grisly as you hope but has deepened its mechanics with a Kameo system that gives everyone an assist character to help during a fight. While the story mode and Invasions are a bit shallow, it’s still a thoroughly entertaining fighting game at its core.

Mortal Kombat 1 successfully soft-reboots the series with refined gameplay that should engage any fighting game fans for hours,” I wrote in a three-and-a-half star Mortal Kombat 1 review. “The shortcomings of Invasion and its core story just mean that it isn’t the best choice for those who like to play and explore the single-player modes of fighting games by themselves. For those that care the most about action-packed stories and tight gameplay in their fighters, though, nothing else in the genre matches the feeling of watching fighters get shredded to bits a satisfyingly gruesome fatality.”

This is the best a Mortal Kombat game has ever felt to play, so those looking for a slower-paced and gruesome fighter that’s fun to watch should have a good time. Mortal Kombat 1 is available now for PC, PS5, Xbox Series X, and Nintendo Switch (although you may want to avoid the Switch version).

Chants of Sennaar

A character overlooks a desert in Chants of Sennaar.
Focus Interactive

One of the best games of the year dropped this month, but it’s probably not the game you’re imagining. Chants of Sennaar, from Rundisc and Focus Entertainment, utilize language as its main narrative and gameplay crux. As players uncover languages that feel foreign to them, they’ll be able to solve more puzzles and learn more about the world it takes place in.

Chants of Sennaar is an ingenious puzzle-adventure about the nuance and complexity of communication,” Giovanni Colantonio proclaimed in his four-and-a-half-star review of Chants of Sennaar. “Players aren’t just uncovering the meaning behind foreign letters, but learning how language can be used to celebrate what we value in our cultures … or oppress ones we don’t agree with.”

Making translation the main gameplay hook is a bold choice, but developer Rundisc pulls that idea off while showing that communication can transcend cultures and language. It makes you feel quite smart when you work out the meaning of a rune, too, so it’s a title that puzzle game fans should definitely check out when they get the chance. Chants of Sennaar is available now across PC, PS4, Xbox One, and Nintendo Switch.

Cyberpunk 2077: Phantom Liberty

Promotional art for Cyberpunk 2077 Phantom Liberty.
CD Projekt Red

Cyberpunk 2077 is a pretty infamous game at this point, but CD Projekt Red finally delivered the game’s expansion and released a 2.0 update to overhaul many of the systems that players were originally frustrated with. While we’re almost three years out from Cyberpunk 2077’s initial release at this point, the game finally seems to be in a state that both developers and players can feel happy about following the launch of Phantom Liberty.

Phantom Liberty, along with the 2.0 update, is the culmination of CD Projekt Red’s efforts to rehabilitate the game’s troubled launch. Having not played since those early months before any patches, coming into this expansion finally felt like the game had reached the state it was always meant to,” Jesse Lennox wrote in a four-star review of Cyberpunk 2077: Phantom Liberty. “It may have taken nearly three years, but Cyberpunk 2077 is now the game it should have been all along.”

In terms of the new content Phantom Liberty itself actually brings, there’s a lot of new story content (which stars Idris Elba) and a whole new area of Night City called Dogtown. If you enjoy the world of Cyberpunk, then expansion delivers a lot for you too. Cyberpunk 2077: Phantom Liberty is available now for the PC, PS5, and Xbox Series X versions of the game.

El Paso, Elsewhere

James dives in a meatpacking level in El Paso, Elsewhere.
Strange Scaffold

If you like new indies inspired by classic video games, then you should check out El Paso, Elsewhere. On a surface level, this is a tense and enjoyable third-person shooter that takes a lot of inspiration from the first two Max Payne games. Look deeper, though, and you’ll discover that developer Strange Scaffold is using that throwback premise to tell a very personal story about relationship trauma. There’s a reason this game is about vampires.

El Paso, Elsewhere‘s early 2000s game aesthetics are crucial to maintaining the oddball shooter’s otherworldly feeling as players descend further into its main character’s literal and personal hell,” my four-star El Paso, Elsewhere review states. “What starts as a supernatural, neo-noir tribute to greats like Max Payne and Blade morphs over time into an intimate story about abuse. Clearly a very personal project from Strange Scaffold’s Xalavier Nelson Jr., the rough edges of El Paso, Elsewhere are what make it a beautiful, must-play indie.”

El Paso, Elsewhere aesthetics, gameplay, and narrative all work together to reinforce the feeling of otherworldliness while telling an intense story. It’s a special indie game that only Strange Scaffold could’ve made, so it’s worth checking out whether the gameplay or the narrative is what initially entices you. El Paso, Elsewhere is available now for PC, Xbox One, and Xbox Series X/S. You can also play it if you have an Xbox Game Pass subscription.

Lies of P

Pinocchio in Lies of P.

If you’re a fan of Soulslikes, then you should know about this oddball Pinocchio game starring a character that looks like Timothée Chalamet. Yes, we know that sounds bizarre, but Lies of P is a surprisingly competent Soulslike that takes the right lessons from Bloodborne, one of FromSoftware’s best games. Some boss fights can get annoying, but that’s all part of the fun and charm of a game like Lies of P.

“With its fascinating setting and atmosphere, as well as unique gameplay systems that twist the Soulslike formula, Lies of P is one of the most impressive takes on the genre to date,” George Yang’s three-and-a-half star Lies of P review explains. “With some solid imitators in the genre like Wo Long: Fallen Dynasty, Code Vein, and Nioh, Lies of P at the very least matches its contemporaries.”

This game has such a weird premise that it always felt kind of like a joke to me. The fact that developer Neowiz earnestly pulled it off with such confidence earns a lot of respect and solid recommendation to those who love games that play like FromSoftware’s titles. Lies of P is available now for PC, PS4, PS5, Xbox One, and Xbox Series X/S


An alien structure appears in Cocoon.
Annapurna Interactive

Spearheaded by Limbo and Inside lead gameplay designer Jeppe Carlsen, Cocoon is a puzzle game about an insect-like creature navigating worlds within worlds. It’s a simple but unique concept and even pretty intuitive to pick up and play, but Carlsen once again flaunts his talent with intricately designed puzzles and gameplay that feels grand yet intimate at the same time.

“Cocoon is a striking experience that’s unlike anything I’ve played before,” Giovanni Colantonio wrote in a four-and-a-half-star review of Cocoon. “It’s an otherworldly celebration of the small creatures on our planet that operate with machinelike efficiency. Elegantly designed, though at times routine, puzzles teleport me into the mind of a bug, an unknowable, instinctive intelligence I yearn to understand.”

Few games from former Playdead developers have truly been able to live up to that studio’s pedigree, but Cocoon is the closest one of those developers has gotten. As such, those who adore Limbo and Inside need to check out this game before the year gets even more crowded with great video games. Cocoon is available now for PC, PS4, PS5, Xbox One, Xbox Series X/S, and Nintendo Switch. It’s also available as part of Xbox Game Pass.

Editors' Recommendations

Tomas Franzese
Gaming Staff Writer
Tomas Franzese is a Staff Writer at Digital Trends, where he reports on and reviews the latest releases and exciting…
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