2023 in video games was brilliant wasn’t it? Seems to have been a very strong year, with a load of franchises that have had stellar returns.
Like last year, I’ve decided to use a bit of a lull as most of us wind down for Christmas to look at the video games I played in 2023. Especially as the post Crimbo Limbo will have a bunch of sales. I think every one of these is worth a bit of your time. I’d also like to highlight last year’s list, especially as the game at number 2 and number 3 (Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Shredders Revenge & Trombone Champ), I still play. Overwatch 2? I don’t touch.
Similar ground rules as last year – It must have been released in 2023. It can be a compilation or a collection or a remake, but it need to have had it’s first release within the year of 2023. Oddly the games I expected to feature didn’t, and some that I didn’t expect to see, including number one, came out of nowhere.
But let it be known, every game below here is worth your time. I occasionally list the negatives about them but often these are outweighed with the positives. I’ve played more, but those games didn’t really grab me (with the exception of one – Portal – that I finished this year but 95% completed it a while back). Here is a full comprehensive list of games I completed on my TwitchyRhys Twitter profile.
Games I Enjoyed Playing in 2023
As always, this post highlights the games released in 2023. However there are a bunch more games that I first seriously played in 2023. Here are games from previous years I played this year.
- The first completed game for me was a gifted game from a friend of mine (Fee). Gris (PC*) was excellent. An arty platform game that with a story about loss and grief. Gris (pronounce gree) is nice and short and just beautifully animated.
- I was intrigued with Brutal Legend (Xbox 360*), which promised the writing of Tim Schafer mixed with the comedic chops for Jack Black. A mix of action adventure and real time strategies. It starts really strongly, but gets lost half way through. A love letter to metal, the gameplay is solid but couldn’t decide as a game what it was, and the story is okay. Will make you smile though.
- I played my first game from the Yakuza game this year. Yakuza Kiwami (Xbox One) was a cracking introduction. A great story that I got absorbed with, and Kiryu’s fighting style that felt very “Virtual Fighter” means that I’m not going to turn my nose up at this franchise anymore. Didn’t think I’d like this franchise. I was utterly wrong.
- Maybe my game of the year, The Case of the Golden Idol (PC*) – along with the game of the year for me – scratched the “Obra Dinn” itch. A 1800’s murder mystery game where you have to piece together a story about a Golden Idol, it’s powers, and how each person who came into contact with it had their demise. Ignore the rudimentary art style, this is a fantastic deduction game. I’m already looking forward to the sequel being released next year, and I wouldn’t be surprised if that’s my Game of the year next year.
- Another franchise I never dabbled in, I played Shining Force CD (Sega CD) on my fantastic little Ambernic device (seriously if you’re a retro head this is the best £150 I spent all year). And it’s brilliant. No real story but a fun turn based battle system that sees you play as the entire Shining Force. It was for a couple of months my “play for 20 minutes” game, and the Ambernic helped achieve this when travelling.
- I’m going to talk about a game later that would have been potential Game of the Year but it didn’t nail the landing. Let’s talk about a game that really did nail the landing. I’ve never gotten on board with the 3D games of popular Nintendo Franchises however I played and completed Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time (Nintendo 64) for the first time ever. I found it occasionally a bit of a slog, but holy hell the last dungeon was brilliant. If a game is remembered by how you ended it, then I really enjoyed this. I don’t however have the nostalgia trigger for me to consider this the greatest game ever that many of my peers did. Good, excellent, and you can appreciate it, but may not be for me. It’s my Taylor Swift of video games.
- A love letter to the early 80’s arcade games – Donut Dodo (PC) has been an inspiration for a potential project I’ve been coding on my downtime 👀. A fantastic Donkey Kong/Bomb Jack high score challenge, it’s just made with love and well worth picking up for cheap. If you do, please let me know how you get on. If you don’t, my god, listen to the soundtrack at least. It’ll get into your head.
- FAR: Lone Sails (PC) was a interesting atmospheric platformer with driving elements. You have to pilot a steampunk train across a post apocalyptic landscape. Why? Nobody knows. Beautiful looking, though.
There were a few games that didn’t quite make the top 3, but are well worth picking up. Here’s my honourable mentions for the list.
Like Zelda, I never really gravitated to the 3D Metroid game, but when Metroid Prime: Remastered (Nintendo Switch*) came out. I thought I’d give it a go. It was okay in all fairness. However, I felt there was far too much walking around lost, and I did end up very confused. It was okay, but not Super Metroid, nor Metroid Dread.
The Murder of Sonic The Hedgehog (PC) was a wonderful find! A free release from Sega on April Fools day, this gag turned out to be a fun, tongue in cheek visual novel featuring Sega’s most famous character. Just really good, with a solid murder mystery plot, and best of all – it’s free. A bog standard PC can run it and well worth playing through over the course of two hours.
En Garde! (PC*) was on my top games for 2023 for a long time, but ultimately lost out. A fun little reactive swordfighting game with a lot of interactive elements (think Batman: Arkham games for combat style), you play as Adalia de Volador, a swashbuckling hero with a tongue as sharp as her sword, as she takes down the odious Count-Duke and rids him from her town. The game has a fun style and a wonderful sense of humour. The problem? The difficulty level ramps up heavily on the last battle which left it a sour taste in my mouth. Shame, as it’s well worth exploring.
This was a surprise.
I must admit, whilst I enjoy the Super Mario 2D franchise (again, another series I don’t really enjoy in 3D), the endless stream of “New” Super Mario games got a bit tiresome, without much in the way of innovation. It was always my least favourite franchise in the Mario Maker games. Over time however, friends who’s opinions I respect kept saying “you need to play Wonder! It’s the best 2D Mario game since Super Mario World” I wasn’t sold but eventually I relented.
3 levels in, I was smiling. It took familiar Mario tropes and with the Wonder Flower powerup, turn it on it’s head.
Guiding the plumber and his friends (yes including Peach & Daisy – no more damsels in distress here!) through 6 fairly open worlds to collect the Wonder Seeds and save the Flower Kingdom from Bowser, Super Mario Wonder is brave. It does innovative things time and again and then discards them never to be seen in the game. And the music? God it sticks with you. Classic Mario tunes.
My only complaint is that it’s probably slightly too easy for my liking, but you can go through the game and miss stages and paths, so there is a fair amount of replay value.
Also it must be commended in being the first Mario game that accurately depicts what happens when you eat random mushrooms (albeit with the “Wonder Flower”, which is probably cannabis).
2. F-Zero 99 (Nintendo Switch)
This was very nearly #1.
A game franchise I felt had been abandoned for too long, and I’m sure I uttered to myself “Wouldn’t it be cool if F-Zero had a battle royale racing game?”. Well Nintendo delivered with F-Zero 99.
I’ll be honest, I was hoping it would have been a new iteration of the franchise (or using F-Zero X instead), hence why it’s not my game of the year. However this has had some fun experiences. Connecting with streamers, playing in races, and just having carnage. On my Twitch channel I play a lot of Wreckfest and this is similar. A fun, pick up and play racer where you can race 5 races or 5 hours of racers. The best multiplayer racing experience on the Switch since Mario Kart 8, and come just at the end of the life of the console. It’s also a testament to the game that out of all the games here, this is the one I’m still playing.
It both respects your time and tempts you with one more go, the likes of which I haven’t felt for years. And it’s free. Please Nintendo, give us a new entry in the F-Zero franchise.
1. Chants of Sennaar (PC*)
I like games that make me feel intelligent.
I often call this my “Brits in Benidorm” simulator. Chants of Sennaar sees you play as a hooded protagonist thrust into a world full of simple puzzles. The only problem? You don’t speak a word of the language. Piecing together what is being said, eventually the language opens up to you. Only for you to then discover that the Devotees (the first race you encounter) are having a bitter dispute with the Warriors. And they have their own language, and are not speaking to each other.
As you begin to figure out each language you learn what’s important and what’s special to each race. There are differences, but there are also similarities, and eventually you become a walking Duolingo between all races which leads to a satisfying conclusion.
There are stealth mechanics (my least favourite mechanic in video games) but they are quite small and easily navigable. A beautiful game with a great soundtrack, this indie title is well worth picking up and playing through. My game of the year for 2023.