Forget full price video games, 2023 is the year for DLC to shine

Idris Elba in Cyberpunk 2077 Phantom Liberty, Rayman in Mario + Rabbids Sparks of Hope and Aloy in Horizon Forbidden West
(Image credit: CD Projekt / Ubisoft / Guerrilla )

Backlogs. We all have them. Dozens upon dozens of games we've collected over the years that we've never touched, never completed, or never gone back to once new DLC has been released. I'm incredibly guilty of this – especially the latter. I have games I've invested hundreds and hundreds of hours in and yet, when they roll out something new and shiny that should motivate me to jump straight back in that very same day, I never do. 

Not this year, though. This year is going to be different. As money is tighter than ever, DLC provides a great excuse to experience something new in a world I already adore at a lower cost. It's a win-win scenario. On occasion, there are times when I won't even need to spend anything with developers simply rolling out new content for free. 

While 2023 is poised to be a big one, with some of the most anticipated games across PlayStation, Nintendo Switch, and Xbox expected, it's also set for some major DLC. That's only surrounding the things we know about too. So instead of investing $60 to $70 on a new release that you may or not enjoy, simply kick back and relax with something you already trust. The savings alone could be huge.  

Free DLC  

Splatoon 3

(Image credit: Nintendo)
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Ah, yes, the best kind of DLC. Free. Sometimes referred to as expansions or updates, we're going to fall them all under one umbrella here. This type typically arrives shortly after launch providing an incentive to boot the game up once more. It can also be surprisingly sizable. Take Yacht Club Games and how the developer rewarded Shovel Knight (opens in new tab) fans with three terrific new single-player campaigns. Specter of Torment, for instance, is only a couple of hours away from being the same length as the original game while keeping the same high quality. It's incredibly cheap at $9.99 (opens in new tab)/£8.99 (opens in new tab) for the standalone version. 

Nintendo is pretty good at constantly rolling out a plethora of new content too, such as for the likes of Animal Crossing: New Horizons (opens in new tab), and more recently, Splatoon 3 (opens in new tab). The ink shooter has already added lots of new items, weapons, and two new game modes (X Battle and League Battle) since its September 2022 launch with much more planned for just sticking around. 

No Man's Sky

(Image credit: Hello Games)
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It feels impossible to talk about free DLC without mentioning No Man's Sky (opens in new tab). Hello Games' consistent flow of new content to keep players happy is now a thing of legend in gaming mythos. As someone that picked up No Man's Sky on launch day and never went back, I imagine I would be amazed by the difference today with over six years of updates to explore, such as vehicles, base building, multiplayer, overhauled environments, new textures, VR support, 4K/60fps support etcetera. The list goes on and on. It's basically a brand-new game, going for under $25 (opens in new tab)/under £20 (opens in new tab) on average now.  

In the same vein, GTA Online (opens in new tab) has an equally remarkable reputation – specifically, when it comes to Heists. These multi-layered missions are fantastically cinematic, letting you live out your wildest action fantasies. Serving as the 20th major update, the Doomsday Heist features helicopters, underwater cars, tanks, and jetpacks in a three-part blockbuster adventure to save the planet.  It's the sort of quality you'd be happy to pay for.

Master Cycle in Breath of the Wild

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Paying for downloadable content has become increasingly common over the years, for better or worse. When a game maker holds back content only then to charge for it shortly after release, I can't help but feel a bit cheated. On the other hand, if a developer provides something truly substantial I will throw my wallet across the continent to get my hands on it.

One of the most rewarding I found was Breath of the Wild's Expansion Pass at $19.99 (opens in new tab), something I didn't really explore until I revisited the game in 2020. Most notable, is The Champions' Ballad story DLC, adding another dozen hours of gorgeous Zelda lore surrounding Revali, Urbosa, Daruk, Mipha, and the princess of Hyrule herself. On top of this, Master Mode (essentially hard mode) and the Trial of the Sword provide better challenge and replayability, keeping me coming back for hours on end. As Tears of the Kingdom is only a few months away, now is a great time for a refresh. This £13.85 (opens in new tab) UK deal for the expansion is pretty great.

Just the same, Final Fantasy 7 Rebirth is scheduled for late 2023/early 2024, making Final Fantasy 7 Remake's Intermission DLC the perfect way to amp up the excitement for the sequel. At $19.99 /£19.99, the five-hour expansion dives into what the loveable Yuffie has been up to while the main story has been happening, providing plenty of action RPG goodness. Square also released a bundle with the main game and DLC under the name Final Fantasy 7 Remake: Intergrade, which is quite cheap at $39.89 (opens in new tab) in this Humble Bundle sale, or £33.99 (opens in new tab) at CDKeys. 

Cuphead: The Delicious Last Course

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Two more recent entries that I need to get back to are Cuphead: The Delicious Last Course, as well as Resident Evil Village: The Winters' Expansion. Cuphead, especially, has gone above and beyond with 12 new bosses to battle across Inkwell Isle while utilizing newcomer Ms. Chalice for a real high-class bout. Its stunning 1930s cartoon style pays for itself but at only $7.99 (opens in new tab)/£6.79 (opens in new tab), this is a real bargain.

Meanwhile, Resident Evil Village's DLC adds a third-person perspective, Mercenaries mode (where you can control Lady Dimitrescu - be still my heart), alongside a new three-hour story component, Shadows of Rose. Great bang for your buck at an RRP of $19.99/£15.99. This CDKeys deal reduces the price by 20% to $15.99 (opens in new tab) /18% to £12.99 (opens in new tab), making it even more palatable. 

DLC in 2023 

Horizon Forbidden West Burning Shores

(Image credit: Guerrilla Games)

Looking ahead, some of 2023's biggest releases are getting DLC for the first time. Horizon Forbidden West: Burning Shores, a new PS5 exclusive expansion due in April, will continue Aloy's journey as the heroine explores the "untamed wilds of Los Angeles". No price has been revealed as of yet but considering Horizon Zero Dawn (opens in new tab)'s DLC, the Frozen Wilds, was $19.99, I think we can expect a similar price for Horizon Forbidden West (opens in new tab)

After being ostracized from his own series, I feel everyone is relieved to witness the return of Rayman in Mario + Rabbids Sparks of Hope (opens in new tab). Making up the final of three DLC packs for the season pass at $29.99 (opens in new tab), the others will feature a new combat mode (The Tower of Doooom) in early 2023 besides a new mysterious foe encounter in mid-2023. If its predecessor's quality is anything to go by, I think we're in luck. 

Sonic Frontiers 2023 Roadmap

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Another that I'm particularly enthused about is the roadmap for Sonic Frontiers. Three free (yes, free!) updates will roll out in 2023, including a photo mode, new Koco, jukebox, new challenges, and a story component that will comprise the package. For the first time in over a decade, we'll also finally be able to play as Sonic, Tails, Knuckles, and Amy in one game! If you haven't picked up Sonic Frontiers yet, then do yourself a favor, as it's already more than $20 off (opens in new tab) its RRP at most retailers.

Last but certainly not least, 2023 looks to be the time to return to Night City as Idris Elba headlines Cyberpunk 2077 Phantom Liberty – the first and only DLC for the game. While little is known outside of the Luther actor's appearance, developer CD Projekt Red will be looking to generate more goodwill following the game's dismal launch and subsequent resurgence. Cyberpunk 2077 is now available for around $20 (opens in new tab)/£20 (opens in new tab). If you've been curious about the open-world action RPG, now looks to be the time to invest, hopefully culminating in the quality of what 2023 DLC will offer. 

Looking for more ways to make your money go further? Check out the latest cheap Nintendo Switch game sales as well as how to upgrade your PS5 storage for under $100. We've also recently rounded up the best Last of Us prices and deals to prepare you for the HBO Max show.

Matt Poskitt
Deals Editor

Matthew is the Deals Editor for GamesRadar, keeping up with everything in games and constantly searching the web for the best deals on offer. Prior to this, Matthew headed up the games and entertainment section at T3 with his work also found across TechRadar, IGN, Tom's Guide, Fandom, NME, and more. In his spare time, Matthew is an avid cinema-goer, keen runner and average golfer (at best). You can follow him @MattPoskitt64.