The best gacha games to start playing in 2023

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The best gacha games are still going strong in 2023, and these three titles stand out for their unique gameplay and free-to-play friendliness.

Gacha games have officially broken into the mainstream, and fans of the genre are now flush with choices. With more games to play than ever before, it can be hard to tell which ones are worth investing time into apart from the cash grabs. If you’re looking to add another mobage to your rotation in 2023, here are the three best gacha games to choose from.

Genshin Impact is still the king of gacha games

Genshin Impact is arguably the only reason most western fans know what the word gacha even means. This open-world RPG took the world by storm with its simultaneous release on mobile, PC, and PlayStation. Developer Hoyoverse has kept the ball rolling over the years with more than double the space to explore since its launch.

In terms of content, only a few AAA-produced games can hold a candle to Genshin. With four continents in the current version of the game, the sheer size of the map is enough to keep most players entertained for hundreds of hours. The gameplay itself is also notably interactive for a gacha, with players controlling a team as they travel throughout the world of Teyvat.

In terms of art, Genshin equally appeals to all audiences with a mostly-even mix of female and male playable characters. Content updates are frequent, with smaller events every two weeks and massive updates once every two months. If you want Breath of the Wild’s gameplay in your pocket, Genshin Impact is the absolute best in terms of content.

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Genshin isn’t perfect, and the game’s questionable banner system can suck a ton of money before finally giving players what they want. However, gamers who want familiar gameplay and a ton of it have no better choice than Genshin Impact.

Arknights is one of 2023’s best gacha games

If you don’t want to spend hours grinding gacha games every day, Arknights makes a great addition to your rotation in 2023. This mobile title is one of the best gacha games in terms of time investment, with all dailies possible to complete in a matter of minutes. Events provide more chances to interact with characters and the story, but in terms of average time investment, developer Yostar had busy people in mind when it created Arknights.

Arknights gameplay is closer to tower defense than the typical stats-based RPG system. In combat, players place units along a predetermined path either in front of enemy units or on inaccessible towers near the lane. The units fight automatically, with players determining their placement and order of appearance. 

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The art style is also a little more family-friendly than the standard gacha fare, with the devs explicitly targeting both a male and female audience. If you don’t mind your friends poking fun at the Plants vs Zombies-style combat, Arknights is a great gacha game to play for busy people who still want to test their luck on the banners.

Azur Lane is the most free-to-play friendly gacha out there

Azur Lane is another gacha game developed by Yostar, and it continues the trend of using the in-game currency for pulls and real money transactions for skins and cosmetics. There are a few opportunities to spend actual money, such as expanding the infamously-small starting dock to accommodate more units. However, nearly all of the game’s content can be accessed without spending a dime. With the drop rate for top-rarity units at a whopping 7%, Azur Lane is one of the best gacha games to start playing for free in 2023.

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As for the gameplay itself, Azur Lane is themed around historical battleships from navies across the world. In traditional gacha fashion, the boats are represented as women wearing various degrees of clothing. After equipping units and raising their level to the appropriate mark, players engage in sidescrolling bullet hell gameplay against AI-controlled ships with character-specific abilities and interactions driving gameplay forward. 

All of it is represented as chibi art, though the game switches back to a more detailed style between missions. If you can stomach (or have a taste for) the more adult-oriented art style, Azur Lane is a great gacha for free-to-play grinders.