Monday 25 December 2023

2023 in Review: Top 10 Games

Merry Christmas everyone. 2023 is almost over which means it is time for yet another season of my Year in Review series of posts. So for the rest of this week, I'll be highlighting my favorite movies, TV shows, and the like, as well as my general thoughts on the year as a whole. And much like recent years, I am kicking things off with my favorite video games released within the calendar year.

The video game industry definitely had a lot of ups and downs in 2023, especially when you factor in all the widespread layoffs, leaks, and controversies. But in terms of the actual games themselves, it was certainly one of the stronger ones we've gotten in recent memory. As usual, I didn't get around to playing nearly enough of them, so expect to see more than a few glaring omissions on my list. But out of all the ones I did get to play, these are the ones I consider my Top 10.

10. Super Mario RPG

We all have certain gaps in our gaming histories. For me, I never got to play Super Mario RPG back when it was originally released. At least not on original hardware. This is why I was very excited when a remake was announced earlier this year. And after playing through the game recently, I can finally see why it is held with such high esteem by fans. It boasts an engaging turn-based battle system as well as some clever writing and a cast of colorful characters that is as fresh today as it must have been back then. Wish I could say the same thing about its platforming sections though, the one frustrating aspect of the game that hasn't aged all that well, thus preventing it from placing higher on this list.

9. Cocoon

I'll always have a soft spot for bite-sized adventure games with a heavy emphasis on environmental puzzles, especially ones that sport a unique visual style or gimmick. And Cocoon indeed manages to tick all those boxes which shouldn't be surprising since it is coming from a former Playdead designer who'd worked on Limbo and Inside. Its world-hopping gameplay mechanic never ceased to amaze me throughout my playthrough and the puzzles built around this were almost always intuitive enough to feel satisfying to solve.

8. Pikmin 4

I didn't own a GameCube growing up so I never did get to see what the fuss was about those early Pikmin games. I've never really been a fan of strategy games in any case but something about Pikmin 3 Deluxe on the Nintendo Switch worked to win me over. So I was happy to jump into Pikmin 4 the first chance I got. And the new game definitely didn't disappoint as it oozed with a level of charm you can only find in a Nintendo game. The addition of new Pikmins and Oatchi helped to keep things feeling fresh but it was the impressive visuals and its tried-and-tested gameplay loop that left me eager to explore each new environment I found myself in.

7. Street Fighter 6

The Street Fighter series got a much-needed facelift this past year in the form of Street Fighter 6. And while I never did get into Street Fighter V the way I got into past entries, this one immediately piqued my interest with everything it was bringing to the table. The biggest addition of course comes through the World Tour, a single-player, story-focused mode that would have you free-roaming the streets of Metro City with your custom-created character, as you learn the ropes and fight your way to the very top of the rankings. But it is ultimately its refined combat and smooth gameplay that make Streer Fighter 6 a more-than-worthy addition to the popular fighting game franchise.

6. Sea of Stars

I still hold firm to the belief that the SNES is the greatest game console ever made, an opinion that was inspired by its vast library of stellar games. And you only need to take one look at Sea of Stars to tell where it draws inspiration from. Games like Chrono Trigger and Secret of Mana immediately come to mind but it is a testament to the skills of the developers at Sabotage Studios that their game still finds ways to improve upon the formula already perfected by those aforementioned classics. Its beautiful pixel art style is matched only by a soundtrack that is evocative of the very best SNES-era RPGs but we really can't expect any less from the same guys that gave us The Messenger, can we?

5. Metroid Prime Remastered

Another GameCube game I'd completely missed out on was Metroid Prime. Originally released in 2002, the game is renowned for reinventing the 2D Metroid series as a first-person action-adventure title. It was very ambitious for its time and it found its way onto the Nintendo Switch earlier this year through a brand-new remaster. But calling the new game a remaster almost feels like underselling it as it currently boasts some of the most impressive visuals to ever grace the hybrid console. And with its modernized controls, you almost have a game that could very well rub shoulders with the latest and the greatest that the genre has to offer.

4. Resident Evil 4

And while we are still on the topic of games that originally debuted on the GameCube, Resident Evil 4 is one that has graced nearly every console ever since it first reinvented the survival horror series back in 2004. But never has it looked or played so great as it does in the ground-up remake it received in 2023. Adopting a darker tone more in line with other recent RE remakes, the new game took what was already considered a groundbreaking overhaul by most and refined it even further, resulting in the quintessential way to play the highly beloved classic.

3. Super Mario Bros. Wonder

In a year that was already full of pleasant surprises, one of my fondest ones was Super Mario Bros. Wonder. The game takes Mario and friends back to their 2D platforming roots, ditching the stale art style of the recent New Super Mario Bros. games for one that can only be described as vibrant and endlessly expressive. But more importantly, the game features the kind of creativity and pinpoint perfect platforming that helped the series grow into what it is today. It quickly became one of my favorite Super Mario games of all time, joining the ranks of Super Mario World on the SNES.

2. Hogwarts Legacy

Hogwarts Legacy was easily one of the most controversial games of 2023. But regardless of where you fall on the J.K. Rowling debate, I've always held on to the notion that we need to separate the art from the artist. And as far as art is concerned, Hogwarts Legacy is the most faithful recreation of the Wizarding World we've gotten in video game form to date. So being the massive Potterhead that I am, I was elated for a chance to experience this massive homage to what was effectively a cornerstone of my childhood. And I wasn't alone either because the game would eventually go on to become the highest-selling game of the year, showing just how alive and hungry for more Harry Potter the fandom remains till this very day.

1. The Legend of Zelda: Tears of the Kingdom

Shocking, I know. But no other game released in 2023 even comes close to the mammoth greatness that is The Legend of Zelda: Tears of the Kingdom. Not only was it my most hotly-anticipated game for three years straight, but it is also the one I've logged the most amount of hours in since Animal Crossing: New Horizons took over much of my life in 2020. And despite my 200+ hours with the game, it still feels like there's tons left for me to see and do. The game builds upon everything introduced in Breath of the Wild with new abilities, improved dungeons, and vast areas to adventure in. And while I feel it doesn't exactly recapture the magic of exploring this version of Hyrule for the first time, it still goes above and beyond as a more-than-worthy extension to what was an already-brilliant game.


  1. I don't play a lot of games and haven't had a console since the PS2. I'd probably like the Super Mario RPG because I played a lot of the D&D video games on the C64/PC in the early 90s. Speaking of, I'm sure a lot of people would have Baldur's Gate 3 on their list this year though I haven't played that either.

    1. I haven't played Baldur's Gate 3 either, though I remember playing both 1 and 2 way back in the day.