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The Best Games Of July 2023, According To Metacritic

After a couple of months slammed full of major blockbuster releases, July 2023 might seem a little light in comparison. May saw the release of the juggernaut hit "Legend of Zelda: Tears of the Kingdom," while June kept up the momentum with bangers like "Street Fighter 6," "Diablo 4," and "Final Fantasy 16." It's been a season of heavy hitters.

July isn't quite so full of big franchise sequels (aside from one or two, of course), but that's not to say some real winners didn't release in the middle of the summer. As the weather's gotten way hotter in the dog days of summer, gamers have had plenty of excellent opportunities to chill indoors with some fantastic games. From games that allow us to build whole worlds to those that aim to change our perspective on reality, here are the very best video games of July, as ranked by Metacritic scores.

Pikmin 4

Look, there's just no way that "Pikmin 4" wasn't going to be a total winner. The original game was a revelation for fans of the Nintendo GameCube, and each entry afterwards has built on that solid foundation of puzzle solving and adorable combat strategy. Though we've gotten a few spin-offs in the intervening years, fans have been clamoring for a new mainline "Pikmin" game since "Pikmin 3" hit the Wii U a decade ago.

"Pikmin 4" was worth the wait, according to critics. Though its difficulty level probably isn't going to challenge anyone over the age of 10, the series has gotten an upgrade in just about every other respect, even adding a canine-adjacent companion to the mix. Each new area offers a different set of physics and obstacles to consider, from eerie missions in the dead of night to a body of water that must be traversed in order to grab necessary loot. 

As Destructoid's Chris Carter notes, "Whenever I found my interest waning a bit, I'd just leave and warp to a new level, uncovering a new path or divine a new concept on the fly that would lead to a new area." The "Pikmin" series always rewards outside-the-box thinking, but this might be its finest execution yet.

  • Release Date: July 21, 2023
  • Platforms: Nintendo Switch
  • Genre: Real-Time Strategy
  • Game Modes: Single-Player
  • Metacritic Score: 88 (Switch)
  • ZaaZ's Review

Oxenfree 2: Lost Signals

"Oxenfree 2: Lost Signals" had some big shoes to fill. Not only was it developed to stand alone as its own story, thereby inviting newcomers to join the spooky fun, but it also had to serve as a follow-up to a game that almost universally loved. Set five years after the first game, "Oxenfree 2" sends players through a new series of time loops and hallucinatory sequences, ultimately revealing new things about the characters and their world. Like the original, "Oxenfree 2" also offers multiple endings, each of which are contingent upon player choices and the bonds they've forged with the other characters.

Some critics have argued that "Oxenfree 2" doesn't take quite as many narrative risks as the first game, but rather makes a point of building on what came before in subtle ways. The result is a game that IGN's Carli Velocci writes is "built out just enough to feel fresh and to lead you to some unexpected and surprising places."

  • Release Date: July 12, 2023
  • Platforms: Mobile iOS, Nintendo Switch, PC, PlayStation 4, PlayStation 5
  • Genre: Adventure, Point-and-Click
  • Game Modes: Single-Player
  • Metacritic Score: 85 (Switch), 74 (PC), 79 (PS5)

Viewfinder

"It's not often that a first-person puzzle-platformer comes along with a new mechanic that's as brain-breaking as 'Portal,'" begins IGN's review of Sad Owl Studios' new game, "but 'Viewfinder' deserves to be put on that same high shelf." Players would seem to agree, as "Viewfinder" has become a bit of a sensation on social media. The game tasks players with using an instant camera to generate photos that can then be used to manipulate reality and solve puzzles. As the story progresses, different visual mediums are added to the protagonist's bag of tricks. The game's unique design has inspired players to post their own gameplay discoveries and even attempt lightning-quick speedruns. 

"Viewfinder" has been praised for its lush jazz soundtrack, clever worldbuilding, and fascinating narrative that unfolds in a satisfying way. Some players may feel the puzzles are easier after conquering games like the aforementioned "Portal," but most gamers will find themselves charmed by the game's aesthetics and mechanics to be utterly charming. Despite the underlying darkness of the game's plot, "Viewfinder" is a game that encourages you to play around until you find the answer.

  • Release Date: July 18, 2023
  • Platforms: PC, PlayStation 5
  • Genre: Adventure
  • Game Modes: Single-Player
  • Metacritic Score: 84 (PC), 81 (PS5)

Jagged Alliance 3

July really was a solid month for strategy games, as the "Jagged Alliance" series also returned with its strongest installment yet. Featuring an impressive roster of 40 characters, players can have a blast mixing and matching their favorite mercenaries into their ideal, well-oiled fighting force. Although the newest entry has been knocked by some critics for its storytelling and attempts at pithy dialogue, it has been lauded in other areas, including its polished combat and massive map.

Each character can be leveled up to unlock new abilities and earn new weapons, which keeps the game's turn-based combat from getting stale. Players can decide whether to take a methodical approach by sniping the enemy's heavy hitters, or else go in with guns blazing and fists flying. Co-op play allows gamers to pool their resources against common foes, which surprisingly adds to the immersion. After all, the name of the game in "Jagged Alliance 3" is to have more guns and better fighters than the other side, so why not bring in a real-life friend to bolster your ranks?

  • Release Date: July 18, 2023
  • Platforms: PC
  • Genre: Strategy, Tactics, RPG
  • Game Modes: Single-Player, Online Multiplayer (Up to 2)
  • Metacritic Score: 81 (PC)

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