10 best DLCs 2023, ranked: No. 1 left me emotionally damaged, but it’s worth it

    2023 has been a great year for video game releases. Games like Super Mario Bros. Wonder and Baldur’s Gate 3 kept players entertained for hours.

    However, 2023 was also a great year for video game DLC and expansions. From the epic continuation of Final Fantasy XVI to the redemption of Cyberpunk 2077, here are the best video game expansions of 2023.

    10. ‘Tales of Arise: Beyond the Dawn’

    Beyond the Dawn is the Tales series’ first ever story expansion. Taking place one year after the events of the main game, it shows how the main party is adjusting to their new way of life and introduces a new character named Nazamil.

    Credit: Bandai Namco

    The expansion does have its issues. For example, it doesn’t introduce any mechanics, attacks, or playable characters, but the emotional story around Nazamil is worth experiencing. The real-time action combat is just as fun as ever — and any excuse to go back into Tales of Arise is welcome.

    9. ‘Dead Cells: Return to Castlevania’

    Dead Cells is an amazing 2D roguelike platformer game that draws a lot of inspiration from the Castlevania series, so it’s not surprising that they’ve now collaborated with each other. Dead Cells: Return to Castlevania adds both Alucard and Richter Belmont as allies and some new boss battles, including one against Dracula himself.

    'Dead Cells: Return to Castlevania' promo still

    Credit: Motion Twin

    Fans of Castlevania will also recognize the new weapons that are added to the new Dead Cells expansion, such as the Holy Water and the Vampire Killer. As you attempt to conquer Dracula’s Castle, you’ll find many other homages to the Castlevania franchise such as costumes and remastered tracks along the way. Dead Cells was already great on its own, but this crossover feels like a match made in heaven.

    8. ‘Cult of the Lamb: Relics of the Old Faith’

    Relics of the Old Faith is a huge expansion that adds a post-game questline where the player needs to slay four more bishops and free their souls. Combat was arguably the base game’s weakest aspect, but Relics of the Old Faith improves it by adding in new attacks and giving old bosses some new attack patterns.

    'Cult of the Lamb: Relics of the Old Faith' promo still

    Credit: Nintendo

    The expansion also includes new game modes in Boss Rush and Dungeon Gauntlet, giving players even more content to chew on in an already jam-packed game. Additionally, you can take cute, but deadly pictures of your followers in the newly implemented Photo Mode as well.

    7. ‘Sea of Thieves: The Legend of Monkey Island’

    The Legend of Monkey Island is a three-part expansion collaboration with Sea of Thieves called the Tall Tales trilogy. The first adventure started in July of this year with players visiting iconic locations from the Monkey Island franchise like Mêlée Island and teaming up with the legendary pirate Guybrush Threepwood.

    Sea of Thieves: The Legend of Monkey Island

    Credit: Microsoft Studios

    It’s a wonderful expansion that culminates in a journey to the legendary Monkey Island to defeat Guybrush Threepwood’s greatest foe, LeChuck. Sea of Thieves has come a long way since its 2018 debut — and it has become one of the best pirate games of all time.

    6. ‘Horizon Forbidden West: Burning Shores’

    Burning Shores takes place in former Los Angeles and sees protagonist Aloy take on a brand new AI threat. The setting includes many real life locations such as Griffith Observatory, now called Starlight Rise, in Horizon’s post-apocalyptic future. The expansion also introduces a new character Seyka, a charming young woman who’s just as fiercely independent and strong as Aloy.

    'Horizon Forbidden West: Burning Shores'

    Credit: PlayStation

    Burning Shores still has fun battles against giant robotic dinosaurs and machines that the franchise is known for, but the shorter length of the expansion actually makes Aloy’s subsequent adventure feel much more concise and tightly paced. Its ending also seemingly has ramifications for what’s to come in future games, and it makes me even more excited to see where Aloy goes next.

    5. ‘Xenoblade Chronicles 3: Future Redeemed’

    Future Redeemed is a prequel story to Xenoblade Chronicles 3, one of 2022’s best RPGs. It brings together a mixed cast of new and old characters: Matthew, A, Nikol, and Glimmer, along with protagonists Shulk from the first game and Rex from the second. There are familiar friends and enemies from the previous games in this new adventure that resolves lingering questions that many fans may have.

    Xenoblade Chronicles 3: Future Redeemed promo still

    Credit: Nintendo

    While it’s a prequel story, Future Redeemed is the perfect ending that provides an emotional sendoff to the characters we’ve grown to love in the franchise. There’s no telling where the Xenoblade Chronicles franchise will go from here, but Future Redeemed makes me optimistic for its future.

    4. ‘Final Fantasy XVI: Echoes of the Fallen’

    Final Fantasy XVI is one of the best action games of 2023, and it’s awesome that we’re getting its first expansion before the end of the year. Echoes of the Fallen takes place before the events at the end of the game and follows Clive and his buddies as they take on Omega.

    Final Fantasy XVI: Echoes of the Fallen

    Credit: Square Enix

    This expansion is very combat-focused, as you’ll be going through many linear corridors and beating up a bunch of Fallen enemies along the way. It’s a bit light on the storytelling, but offers more context and lore behind the Fallen for anyone who’s curious. 

    The fun, action-based combat really shines with this expansion — and the new accessories for Clive to equip help change up the gameplay. It’s well worth your money and I’m excited to see what the next expansion, The Rising Tide (featuring Leviathan), has in store for us in 2024.

    3. ‘Resident Evil 4 Remake: Separate Ways’

    Capcom’s remake of Resident Evil 4 is one of the best survival horror games of 2023 and has brought the game to modern times by updating its presentation and controls. In Separate Ways, you play as Ada Wong as she searches for a sample of “The Amber.” As you progress through the game, you’ll learn more about her relationship with benefactor, Albert Wesker, as well as run into Leon Kennedy more times than you can count.

    'Resident Evil 4 Remake: Separate Ways' promo still

    Credit: Capcom

    Ada has a few tricks up her sleeve that separate her and Leon from a gameplay perspective. She has a very cool grappling hook gun that lets her travel across long distances. It can also be used as a weapon; it nixes enemies from a distance or launches ranged attacks. Furthermore, Separate Ways also adds Ada and Wesker as playable characters in Mercenaries Mode!

    2. God of War Ragnarok: Valhalla

    This DLC expansion follows Kratos and Mimir as they traverse through Valhalla, fighting enemies from Kratos’s past and finally confronting his previous sins. At first, this DLC seems like it just contains a bunch of isolated combat encounters, but it is so, so much more than just that. 

    'God of War Ragnarok: Valhalla'

    Credit: PlayStation

    Valhalla definitely has those intense fights against powerful adversaries you’d come to expect from the God of War series, but the character development that Kratos goes through during his trials is insurmountable. It also wraps up Kratos’s character arc from the original Greek mythology God of War trilogy before the 2018 reboot with Norse mythology. God of War Ragnarok was one of 2022’s best games and Valhalla is just the icing on top.

    I honestly can’t believe it’s a free update, too.

    1. ‘Cyberpunk 2077: Phantom Liberty’

    It’s incredible how Cyberpunk 2077 has managed to turn itself around with the Phantom Liberty update. It now plays like a completely different game from its initial 2020 iteration, with new skills and gadgets to play with, and virtually no annoying bugs nor glitches.

    'Cyberpunk 2077: Phantom Liberty'

    Credit: CD Projekt Red

    As V, you follow FBI agent Solomon Reed (played by Idris Elba) on a new espionage mission to save the president of the New United States of America, Rosalind Myers. Along the way, you’ll meet a netrunner named So Mi Song, or Songbird. Phantom Liberty has multiple endings, but one ending in particular emotionally damaged me to the point where I couldn’t stop thinking about it for days.

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