The Top Games of 2023

Console Creatures’ Top Games of 2023

Top Games of 2023

It feels like it has been a seminal year for video games. In 2023, the scope of what was released outpaced even the wildest expectations, and it can be said that this year was filled with more than a fair share of incredible titles.

Some of the best games this year weren’t only massive AAA titles like Marvel’s Spider-Man 2, Starfield, and Star Wars Jedi: Survivor but smaller indie titles like DredgeCobalt Core, and Tchia.

And while the releases we’ve seen this year have been easily one of the most packed in ages, the games industry has struggled. Despite many companies posting record-high profits, over 9,000 people were laid off from their roles. In most cases, the executives have not done right by their employees, and we can see that they would rather bend the knee to shareholders than take a stance and support the people making video games.

How we chose our list:

The entire team got together to list anything that launched this year. Any video game launched from January 2023 to December 2023 is eligible, with consideration of December 15 being the cutoff. Anything released past this date is eligible for inclusion in our rankings next year.

Jusant

Developer: Dontnod

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Jusant hit me like a ton of bricks. In what is easily the most under-the-radar game I’ve played this year, I decided to finally dive into Dontnod’s latest game after Dave’s gushing review and a hefty playthrough of Lost Judgement. I had stopped and restarted Jusant a few times prior, but it wasn’t until I accepted that this title asks you to get involved in the gameplay.

See, the premise of Jusant has you climbing a daunting, abandoned and lifeless structure. Without climbing gear (only a carabiner to recall your line), you begin the upward journey into the unknown. As you progress upwards, you learn of the people who once lived in each section of the structure at various times. There is much joy in some, while others paint a dire picture of drought and famine. 

Jusant is unique because it has an incredible soundtrack to help deliver you to the top of the tower, and the climbing mechanics are some of the best. In most games, climbing is basic and functional, mediating between setpieces; not so in Jusant, as you need to pay attention when plotting your path through treacherous pitfalls, pathways, and against nature. In a smart move from the developers, you’re left to piece together what happened to this world through letters and frescos spread and hidden throughout the world. 

I haven’t stopped thinking about Jusant since I rolled credits earlier, and it is easily one of my favourite games this year.

-Bobby Pashalidis

Super Mario RPG

Developer: Nintendo

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Frankly, it seemed impossible that Super Mario would work as an RPG, but Squaresoft and Nintendo proved that it works and works well. Since then, we’ve had dozens of spin-off games featuring the iconic Brooklyn plumber, but few, like Super Mario RPG, have stood the test of time.

As it were, Nintendo revealed it was working on a remake of one of the most beloved games from the Super Nintendo era, one firmly relegated to the past. In November, the remake dropped, and it felt as fresh as ever while maintaining all the charm the original had. By improving the battle system, adding quality-of-life changes, and a brilliantly rearranged score, a new generation can now experience one heck of a ride — plus, the story was impressive and has still been a milestone for the Mario series.

-Bobby Pashalidis

Theatrhythm Final Bar Line

Developer: Square Enix

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Square Enix’s Theatrhythm series has always felt like a celebration of the composers and artists working on the Final Fantasy series. Despite having heard most songs endlessly on repeat, it’s hard to get tired of the works of Nobuo Uematsu, Yoko Shimomura, Masashi Hamauzu, Hitoshi Sakimoto, and Masayoshi Soken. 

Simply loading the incredible celebration of the Final Fantasy series feels like a treat as it is filled with wonderful Easter Eggs and plays well. You can lose hours playing the game because it offers several skill levels and is easy to pick up and play but hard to master. Of course, the mechanics are also a lot of fun to match as you press and hold buttons depending on the notes playing on the screen as you land flourishes that boost your score or unlock limit breaks. Of course, many excellent expansions have been added over the years, adding music from the Mana, SaGa, NieR, and more, so it is a celebration of Square’s music catalogue. 

-Bobby Pashalidis

Super Mario Bros. Wonder

Developer: Nintendo

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Nintendo’s first new 2D Super Mario games in over a decade is easily the best we’ve seen in over two decades. Eliciting the same emotions I felt playing Super Mario World as a child is no easy task, but Nintendo and Super Mario Bros. Wonder did just that as it filled me with wonder!

The addition of the Wonder Flowers means anything can happen as you pick from one of several characters — from singing Piranha Plants to warp pipes moving about like worms to Mario himself becoming one of the very creatures he’s coming up against in the Flower Kingdom. New powerups like the Elephant, Bubbles, and Drill are a blast to discover and use in often hilarious scenarios. Paired with the Badge system, a mechanic you can use to customize your experience, you have a winning formula for one of the best games this year. 

Super Mario Bros. Wonder is charming, whimsical and detailed, from the start menu to the credits roll. It has many exciting new animations showcasing why Nintendo is exceptional with every game they work on. 

-Bobby Pashalidis

Viewfinder 

Developer: Sad Owl Studios

Viewfinder is another title that flew under the radar this year, and that’s a huge shame. For a game about changing your perspective, I was more people could do the same and check out Sad Owl Games’ incredible title.

The premise is simple enough – you pick up a photograph and look at it. From there, the image comes to life as the world changes perspective to the pictures. It can be wildly impressive to watch the world around you change. As you progress further, your mind begins to understand the mechanics as it connects the dots and opens up the possibilities of how you solve puzzles. It’s a pretty impressive title that works so well in virtual reality, and much of the story unfolds through audio logs, allowing you to grasp what’s happening.

-Bobby Pashalidis

WarioWare: Move It!

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Developer: Nintendo

Nintendo’s outrageous WarioWare series has been around for decades. While not every game in the series hit the highs of WarioWare: Shake It, the latest entry comes about as close as possible and is easily the best game in some time. Using the Joy-Cons to get up and be silly physically is no easy feat these days. Still, the motion controls are incredible and allow you to enjoy acting out some of the most hilarious scenarios you’ll encounter this year on the Switch. 

Move It! is a lot of fun when you get to wrangle up a few friends to join in on the fun and be able to Choo Choo your way through a minigame like locomotion, speed skate, opening loose drawers, and more. 

-Bobby Pashalidis

The Legend of Zelda: Tears of the Kingdom

Developer: Nintendo

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Within minutes, the stakes are at an all-time high. Zelda has disappeared, Link is injured, and Ganondorf has returned to full power. With the Master Sword destroyed and Hyrule in complete disarray, you must figure out how to locate the Princess and kill the man bent on tearing the world apart.

The Legend of Zelda: Tears of the Kingdom is a direct continuation of Breath of the Wild, picking up months after its ending. Nintendo’s follow-up is one of the most anticipated games this year, let alone the decade. While it shares many similarities with its predecessor, it also differentiates itself by feeling like a brand-new experience. Some people have been vocal about the launch, saying that Nintendo is giving players an expansion, but that isn’t true. What Tears of the Kingdom is decades of game development knowledge applied to create one of the most unique and engaging games I’ve ever played. 

The new abilities like Ultrahand are reason enough to justify the existence of this game. The way you can use Link’s newfound powers to manipulate the environment and create a wealth of things that showcase one of the best physics engines in existence is easy to recommend to everyone. We’ve seen what crafty players can make on TikTok, and the evolution of Ultrahand’s ability will likely thrive well into the future. I fully expect universities to use Tears of the Kingdom in engineering courses to showcase how incredible the developers at Nintendo are.

After nearly 300 hours, I  had difficulty stepping away from Hyrule. Even with such a high playtime, I had a lot left to do, and it was because I had other responsibilities that I moved on. I intend to go back and wrap up the rest of Link’s adventure even months later.

-Bobby Pashalidis

Fire Emblem Engage

Developer: Intelligent Systems

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This year’s Fire Emblem Engage is fan service. That’s the easiest way to describe the latest entry, as it throws out narrative cohesion for incredible gameplay mechanics. You immediately learn your character is essential to the inhabitants of this world, and many of them are willing to die for you. 

As the campaign progresses, more and more people join the cause, and dozens of iconic Fire Emblem characters join the fray via the Engage rings. These accessories hold the souls of characters like Marth, Ike, and even Byleth, and all have their powers and abilities your character, Alear, can use to stop the Fell Dragon from returning. In short, the plot is outlandish and sometimes even nonsensical, but the combat is the best the series offers. 

-Bobby Pashalidis

Pikmin 4

Developer: Nintendo

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It only took four games, but it wasn’t until this year that I genuinely felt the series clicked for me. Previous games were fun but left me anxious to finish the campaign. Pikmin 4 had the opposite effect on me, and as I crept closer to the ending, I was upset, knowing I was about to hit the credits roll. 

The gameplay loop is wildly addictive and can easily split into 15-minute chunks, and I would frequently spend two in-game days (30 minutes) clearing out a couple of days. Time is measured in days in Pikmin 4, with one day lasting 15 real-world minutes, and it’s a perfect pick-up-and-play title because of this.

While I am not the biggest Dandori fan, the campaign takes place on an uncharted alien planet where you find Captain Olimar, several space-faring tourists, and their kids haphazardly crash-landed on the planet’s surface. Your job as a Ranger is to see everyone and bring them home safely. Along the way, little Pikmin of various colours will help you fight, build, and restore levels so you can work through the sprawling levels teeming with puzzles and enemies. 

-Bobby Pashalidis

The Talos Principle 2

Developer: Croteam

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Croteam’s The Talos Principle was a knockout when it launched, and the sequel doubles down on what made the original so great. In a world where AI reigns, sentient robots pick up the slack and take over where Humanity left off. And now, as AI becomes more of an everyday reality, the sequel expands its premise as you work to solve genius puzzles.

A ton of philosophical content will leave you feeling existential at times. Throughout the game, you’ll find troves of enlightening words.

-Bobby Pashalidis

Assassin’s Creed Nexus

Developer: Ubisoft

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The Meta Quest exclusive Assassin’s Creed Nexus is not a half-baked experience. Instead, it’s an entire Assassin’s Creed game in VR. Ubisoft could have taken the easy route and shipped a mediocre experience, but what launched earlier this year is easily one of my best VR experiences. 

I feel like a true assassin between the parkour, the environments, the sneaking, and the assassinations. Specifically, as you piece together an overarching story as an Abstergo double agent working with the Assassins, Ezio, Kassandra, and Connor. 

I was exploring Venice, Athens, and Colonial Boston, diverse and fleshed-out locations. Sure, we’ve been to these places before, but not like this, and frankly, I didn’t expect to have large playgrounds at my disposal, but the team at Ubisoft went above and beyond to adapt the Assassin’s Creed in VR. 

-Bobby Pashalidis

Oxenfree II: Lost Signals

Developer: Night School Studio

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Despite my built-up anticipation, numerous delays, and Night School Studio being acquired by Netflix, all within the last few years, I held out hope for one of my most anticipated titles in years. I’m happy to report that Oxenfree II: Lost Signals is all that and more.

Storytelling is an art. In mediums like TV, movies, and games, that art often needs to be delivered with as much care and passion as the source material offers. Thankfully, every aspect of this game’s dialogue and voice acting is as top-notch as possible. For me, it was near flawless.

A lot is going on behind the scenes to make seamless transitions in conversation seem natural and authentic. Night School has created a dialogue system that makes the world of Oxenfree, despite supernatural occurrences, feel real. The mystery at play is engaging and meaningful, but none of it would work as well as it does if it weren’t for the expertly crafted components. Oxenfree II: Lost Signals is another fantastic outing from this studio I have never missed.

-Dave Pietrangelo

Dredge

Developer: Black Salt Games

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I love some dark, dreary, mind-bending storytelling. Dredge has that in spades with a tone and setting that feel ripped from a classic novel.

At its core, Dredge is a fishing game. But it’s so much more than that. With inventory management that’s fun and interesting, a day-night cycle that makes sense and tests your limits, and a tall tale of exploration and characterization no other game has pulled off so successfully.

I was hooked at every turn, whether just trolling along shallow waters at dusk, deep sea fishing for creepy aberrations, or dredging up material to improve my boat. I found myself sucked into the world and gameplay loop of Dredge far more straightforward than I expected, and I have thought about this game for a solid six months since I rolled credits.

-Dave Pietrangelo

Tchia

Developer: Awaceb

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Open-world games are a tricky beast for me. In recent years, I’ve fallen off most of these big releases. But when a game like Tchia comes along, I have to give it at least a chance, and I’m so glad I did!

Tchia is based around a real-world place called New Caledonia and centres around a young female protagonist trying to save her father. A deep backstory of indigenous and traditional lore drives much of the story, pitting you against unexpected foes throughout your exploration. The game draws inspiration from previous games in the genre and makes its own wonderful thing, tying into the culture and history of a place like New Caledonia.

This game was a labour of love, and it’s easy to see. From serene musical numbers, beautiful landscapes and lighting, and relationships that feel real and touching, Awaceb crafted a truly unique and wonderfully fun open-world experience.

It also won a Game Award, taking home the Games For Impact award at this year’s show.

-Dave Pietrangelo

Chants of Sennaar

Developer: Rundisc

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The story of Chants of Sennaar draws heavily from the myth of the Tower of Babel, in a world where different people live on different floors of a giant tower without understanding each other.

You find yourself at the entrance of an imposing tower brimming with secrets and challenges. Your very first obstacle is a stream of water blocking your path. Fortunately, nearby levers hold the key to controlling its depth. The challenge lies in deciphering the unfamiliar symbols on the wall, guiding you on which levers to raise and lower. With these symbols meticulously noted in your in-game journal, your quest to unravel their meaning begins.

-Bobby Pashalidis

Starfield

Developer: Bethesda Game Studios

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Bethesda Game Studios’ Starfield is not Skyrim despite the multitude of comparisons online. Instead, it is a new IP from one of the most established developers in the industry that has established itself as a new series with elements of Fallout and The Elder Scrolls. 

Starfield has a lot to offer players, and it’ll take you across the galaxy while continuously throwing new questlines, companions, and enemies at you. Bethesda’s bread and butter are on full display as you head into the unknown and discover over 1,000 planets, which, compared to No Man’s Sky, feels like a misstep given how little there is to do on most planets. Despite this, the several faction quests are better than the primary campaign and offer some of the most narratively rewarding adventures you’ll embark on. 

-Bobby Pashalidis

Metroid Prime Remastered

Developer: Nintendo

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We all know this title was in the pipeline for Nintendo, given how many leaks have been published over the years, and despite that, the official reveal was a blast to see. In February, Nintendo released Metroid Prime Remastered, and it holds up even two decades later for its excellent maps and eclectic gameplay. 

Retro Studios’ trilogy may not be available on the Switch yet. Still, the first entry has done seemingly well enough to see the entire run added to the expansive console’s catalogue. Moving away from the 2D plane and into a far more realized 3D world, the Prime series puts you into the role of Samus Aran as she’s left stranded on a hostile alien planet.

What unfolds on Tallon IV is nothing short of staggering, and Samus’ feels as immersive as ever. With everything being shown in first-person, seeing your visor reflect weapon spray, energy blasts, scan enemies, and even your breath adds immersion to the mix. 

-Bobby Pashalidis

Paranormasight: Seven Mysteries of Honjo 

Developer: Square Enix

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In another impressive year for Square Enix, some of the smaller titles the publisher launched are the most memorable. Look to Paranormasight: Seven Mysteries of Honjo, a solid visual novel mystery set in Japan filled with dread. 

With the help of The Storyteller, a meta-character who directs the player through each chapter, you feel like his role is that of a guide through these urban myths. Think of Dr. Hill or ‘The Analyst’ from Until Dawn, who serves as an outside force looking in, and you’ll understand why these characters feel similar.

Within minutes, you’ll witness a brutal crime that sets off a chain of events in Hojo that will lead you down the rabbit hole. Each character you play is left to hold a cursed stone that inevitably ends in two ways. As you progress, your choices as these characters shape the story you’ll experience.

Paranormasight is a visual novel, so you can check your progress and revisit stories to see alternatives to your choices. It is necessary to pay attention to the events unfolding and actively keep note of people and places you come across to ensure that your characters don’t suffer a terrible fate. 

-Bobby Pashalidis

Cyberpunk 2077 Phantom Liberty

Developer: CD Projekt Red

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I had written off Cyberpunk 2077 as a game I wouldn’t return to, and it wasn’t for me. I loved The Witcher 3, so it truly bothered me that I couldn’t get into Cyberpunk 2077 at its launch. Fast forward three years, and I love the game.

With update 2.0 and the best DLC I have played in years in the Phantom Liberty, I couldn’t put the game down. Phantom Liberty is what CD Project Red intended the game to play like. The story for Phantom Liberty covers espionage and politics and is captivating. Idris Elba steals the show, and you can’t convince me otherwise. 

Phantom Liberty has a smaller map and much more evolved combat with new systems like vehicle combat and updated melee combat with update 2.0. CD Projekt Red makes your cyberware more crucial and allows you to continue to upgrade past previous limits. The driving has improved along with the vehicular combat; your car steers better and doesn’t feel clunky.

To go from a game I regretted buying to a game I highly recommend to everyone looking for something to play says a lot about the time and effort CD Projekt Red put into Phantom Liberty and Cyberpunk 2077 Update 2.0.

-Court Lalonde

NHL 24

Developer: EA Vancouver

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NHL 24 improved so much over previous years of their games to become 80 percent of my gaming bandwidth this year. The systems EA Vancouver added, like the pressure system, make the game feel and act more like a real hockey game. They said a season pass to CHEL this year, which isn’t a game mode I play a lot mainly, but I haven’t seen the outrage from the community, so people like it. 

Icon passing is another system they added this year that is a complete game changer, allowing me to map put plays better and no longer only look to pass to my closest teammate. I have had some goals using Icon passing. The improved goaltending techniques they have added to the game make goalies better, and no longer can you slide in front of the goalie from out of the corner and roof a top-shelf goal.

I play predominately in the Hockey Ultimate Team, where I still have criticisms, mainly because the pack system doesn’t feel rewarding and pushes the players to a pay-to-win method I’m not a fan of. I play, and I spend no money, but that does take an ample amount of time.

-Court Lalonde

 Star Wars Jedi: Survivor

Developer: Respawn Entertainment

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Star Wars Jedi: Fallen Order blew me away when it was released in 2019, and it helped save single-player-focused games at EA. The gaming industry focused on Battle Royale and Live Service games, and EA was no different. Jedi Survivor continues that story and has some big shoes to fill. As a Star Wars fan, I am blown away by the world-building in Jedi Survivor. We have more planets to visit but more of those planets to explore.

Jedi Survivor launched dismally and was unplayable on PC, but with several updates, the gem is far more stable. As a Star Wars story, which is now canon, it made me look past all of it and enjoy my time with the game. Respawn takes you on a journey in Jedi Survivor that hasn’t been told before and feels like it belongs in the Star Wars universe. Respawn improved and reworked combat and added several combat stances. It reminded me a lot of Ghost of Tsushima, which isn’t bad. Using the dual hilt was exciting but challenging. Star Wars Jedi: Survivor is a must-play game for any Star Wars fan. If 2023 weren’t stacked with so many great games this year, Cal Kestis’ journey would be at the top of many people’s lists.

-Court Lalonde

Dead Space

Developer: EA Motive

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When remakes or remasters get announced, we hear much backlash from the gaming community asking for new IPs or games. Dead Space proves all the critics wrong with one of the best remakes I have ever played. It captures all of the magic from Dead Space’s original release in 2008 and brings it to next-gen consoles. The jump scares are more impactful in beautiful 4K, and the gore can make some people look away.

Seeing what Motive Studios did with this remake gives me hope for other Dead Space games to receive a makeover. The studio didn’t reimagine the first game but improved upon its original release and fixed areas in the game, like the Asteroid shooting section. The improved Dead Space visuals bring the series to life and deliver a scarier experience while bringing more life to a franchise I have loved for years.

-Court Lalonde

Assassin’s Creed Mirage

Developer: Ubisoft

Ubisoft went back to the drawing board with Assassin’s Creed Mirage. Initially, it was supposed to be a DLC for Vahalla; it was made into a full game but not a full-priced one. Ubisoft returned to the roots of Assassin’s Creed and made gameplay more stealth-focused. 

We learned Basim’s origin story and ran and jumped through the streets of Baghdad. Baghdad becomes its character in the game and feels alive as you climb its rooftops to see the beautiful architecture and run through the bazaars and alleys while being chased by guards.

With Mirage’s success, I hope we get more Assassin’s Creed games like this. Mirage was refreshing and welcoming as a long-time fan of the franchise, and if you have doubts or have suffered some burnout on the franchise, I suggest giving it a try.

-Court Lalonde

 Like a Dragon: Ishin!

Developer: Ryu Ga Gotoku

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For longtime Yakuza/Like Dragon fans, it has been a long wait for Like a Dragon: Ishin! to make it over here to the West, and overall, it was worth the wait to experience the franchise’s first localized historical setting title. The original game released in February 2014 was a PS4 launch title in Japan, so with all that time removed, franchise developer Ryu Ga Gotoku (RGG) Studio put in the extra effort to visually modernize the game by remaking Ishin! in Unreal Engine. While this approach was a quicker solution for a studio balancing (at minimum) two other Like a Dragon games in development, it led to the actual feel of Like a Dragon: Ishin suffering in the long run with dated gameplay that felt disappointingly stuck in the franchise’s mid-2010s heydays as the franchise once again returns to its brawler gameplay roots.

Like a Dragon: Ishin! makes up for its lack of modern feeling fight mechanics from the Dragon Engine games with an enthralling narrative that takes players back to the days of the samurai while on a journey of revenge from the perspective of Sakamoto Ryoma, a well-known figure from Japan’s history during the Bakumatsu era (1853–1867). While in a different setting from the modern games, the faces in this game will be all too familiar to Yakuza fans as all of Ishin’s major and side characters in the game share the faces and voices from the franchise’s past like Kazuma Kiryu playing the role of Ryoma in Like a Dragon’s historical stage drama.

The 2023 remake replaces a select few faces with those from Yakuza 0, Yakuza 6 and Yakuza: Like a Dragon, giving the game the most fanservice experience with an entire cast that borrows characters from eight mainline titles. The game’s narrative has a great sense of balance as RGG Studio doesn’t just do fan service for the sake of it, as each character serves their purpose to push the story forward in a satisfying way while hooking players into the Edo period setting. Similar to the Ghost of Tsushima in certain aspects, Like a Dragon Ishin! does an excellent job of trying not to glorify what the samurai are in pop culture and represents them somewhat faithfully during this historical period title.

Overall, RGG Studio combines aspects from its past in a “new” feeling story that players will get a lot of with the developer’s fantastic approach to telling a compelling narrative with all the Yakuza energy fans know all too well. Although the game’s final creative choices in the story and the game’s ending made Like a Dragon: Ishin feel like a lesser product, while not my favourite Like a Dragon title, I’m still happy that I finally got a chance to take a crack at the game as the very idea of Sega bringing the game over didn’t even seem realistic a year and a half ago.

-Dennis Price

Like a Dragon Gaiden: The Man Who Erased His Name

Developer: Ryu Ga Gotoku

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Like a Dragon Gaiden: The Man Who Erased His Name is the better franchise entry in 2023 by a mile, with fans getting to see the return of the franchise’s OG street punk/yakuza fighting hero, Kazuma Kiryu, back in the protagonist role in his eighth mainline game. This solo adventure is much shorter this time – comparable to a Spider-Man: Miles Morales in length – while giving players a more satisfying ending that focuses and shows more respect to Kiryu’s character arc. 

The last game, Yakuza 6: The Song of Life, was treated as the “finale” to Kiryu’s almost 20-year story, although at the time, it never really felt like an ending that we needed. Five Years later, RGG Studio did it right in a game set during the events of Yakuza: Like a Dragon, which feels like Kiryu’s best game yet. This is thanks partly to Like a Dragon Gaiden: The Man Who Erased His Name’s fun, engaging, and refined gameplay that showcases the franchise’s best execution of the action-brawler genre.

The addition of the game’s James Bond-like Agent Style was sometimes comical by using your spider watch gadget to launch a steel wire to tie up enemies and throw them across the screen; gimmicked jet shoes are always a fun time. Like a Dragon Gaiden: The Man Who Erased His Name is also noticeably beautiful as a side-by-side to this game, and Yakuza: Like a Dragon shows RGG studio’s effort to level up its visuals. While Like a Dragon Gaiden: The Man Who Erased His Name won’t get any honourable mentions in the game of the year discussion, in my mind, the game earned the title of 2023’s “cry of the year” in that emotional ending that will have Kiryu fans of all emotional spectrums shedding a tear in its final moments.

-Dennis Price

Cobalt Core

Developer: Rocket Rat Games

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I love roguelike games. Throw in some bright, pixelated graphics, a killer lo-fi sci-fi-inspired soundtrack, and some witty writing, and you have an excellent setup for a great game!

Cobalt Core has you take control of a set of three anthropomorphized creatures trying to get out of a time loop in space.

I loved managing the different ships and abilities, meshing together several playstyles and guaranteeing that each run was unique and challenging. The reward loop is also entertaining, as the game drip-feeds you with backstory and context for how your crew got themselves into this mess in the first place.

I recommend trying this game if you’ve ever enjoyed playing games like Into the Breach and FTL: Faster Than Light. Or, if you’re like me, play it for dozens of hours over just a few weeks and more.

-Dave

Street Fighter 6

Developer: Capcom

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After playing Street Fighter 5, I was ready to write the series off as someone at Capcom threw away any goodwill the series garnered. Taking a hit on the chin was enough of a wake-up call for the developers to revisit what made the series so beloved in the first place.

Street Fighter 6 has been completely rebuilt from scratch in RE Engine and has many new features built into the game, like the excellent World Tour mode, a single-player RPG where you make your fighter and work towards becoming an iconic fighter within Metro City. You’ll battle many characters on the streets and learn new moves. 

There’s also the excellent Drive Gauge mechanic that makes for some incredibly flashy moves against an opponent, and paired with the Drive Impact mechanic, you can quickly turn the tide against an enemy by countering them. 

Most importantly, Street Fighter 6 is much more approachable for newcomers as the new control schemes bring Modern Controls to the series. Veterans can still use the same inputs they’ve known for years. Still, those who’ve only recently started with the series can use simplified controls to get a similar experience to deliver flashy combos. 

-Bobby Pashalidis

 Advance Wars 1+2

Developer: Nintendo

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Despite being delayed by a year, the Advance Wars remake is terrific. The Game Boy Advanced title comes to life on the Switch, and it looks and feels incredible. Fans of Fire Emblem will feel at home with the series as they share similarities. The series has been relegated to the Nintendo vaults for some time now, but the recent remake will hopefully boast a return in the future. 

As colourful and engaging as the gameplay and characters are, the downside is that these are basic games from a more straightforward platform. The gameplay variety is limited, but those available are wonderful and worth your time. A remake of Advance Wars and the sequel, Advance Wars 2: Black Hole Rising, also boasts a unique art style I wish more games utilized. 

Combat is the main draw here, and you’ll spend a lot of time battling enemies across some excellent maps. Time can get away from you as battles ramp up, and you’ll quickly find yourself looking to finish the campaign and move on to the next entry. 

-Bobby Pashalidis

The Legend of Heroes: Trails to Azure

Developer: Nihon Falcom

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The Trails Crossbell arc duology is officially no longer Japan-exclusive thanks to the release of The Legend of Heroes: Trails to Azure earlier this year, which is the follow-up to last year’s The Legend of Heroes: Trails from Zero. Its predecessor was a detective-centric JRPG that, for the most part, felt like a standalone story in a new location that references Sky arc in specific regions throughout the game alongside Sky’s dual protagonists popping up in the early part. Azure, however, opens the floodgates to the franchise’s MCU-like world with main cast characters from the Sky arc returning to the series in Crossbell with some characters from the following arc, Cold Steel, appearing and a noticeable reference to Cold Steel’s Class VII.

Similar to Trails from Zero, you’re not dealing with the average port in Azure as developer Nihon Falcom put in the extra effort to help modernize a PSP game (later ported to the PS Vita in Japan) in 2023 on modern platforms thanks to enhancements, including improved visuals, UI, customization options, framerates, and more. During my review of Trails of Zero, I did not get a chance to appreciate these additions as the PlayStation version I was playing didn’t have most of them, so playing the game on Steam Deck, I got to see what I was missing and how much effort the team put into making a pixelated game truly beautiful, especially in the environments and that turn-based gameplay at 60 fps.

Azure’s story is where the game shines the most with a fantastic and bold execution of its storytelling and character development while tying up the loose ends that were left unanswered in Trails to Zero in a satisfying conclusion to the Crossbell arc duology. How it gets there is surprisingly emotional between the game’s protagonist, Lloyd and his surrogate daughter, KeA, as the game slowly unravels the puppet master behind Trails to Zero’s villain and all of Crossbell as they publicly show its corrupted hand to our heroes including who was behind the murder of Lloyd’s brother, Guy.

With Azure being the final Trails game of the 2D era, the gameplay felt like at top form with the introduction to the master quartz and burst system, which added an extra but welcomed period to get the most out of party members. The overall package led to what I consider easily one of my favourite games in the Trails franchise, out of Trails to Zero and the eight other entries I beat for the first time this year.

-Dennis Price

The Crossbell duology was an arc that I had read about for years. After falling down the Trails rabbit hole with Cold Steel back on the Vita in 2014, I always wanted to complete as much of the series as possible. I had visited Crossbell in Cold Steel but only heard whispers of Lloyd, Ellie, and the gang’s adventures. Online, Zero and Azure were touted as some of the series best, and after finally playing Zero last year, the wait for Azure was a challenge. I needed to know what happened next. I had to find out where these characters ended up. Azure finally launched and quickly became one of my favourite games of the year and one of my top JRPGs of all time. 

Azure comes out swinging, wrapping up threads left unsolved in Zero almost immediately, then quickly repositioning the characters for the follow-through. The cast is some of the series’ best, delving further into the backstories that made these characters unique. Returning to Crossbell, as both a location and a living, breathing character in its own right, felt like a homecoming. I knew these streets and locations like the back of my hand. While many of the areas were recycled from Zero, the way they’re used and connected back to the cast was always meaningful. 

The breakneck pace that Azure keeps you moving at has you constantly engaged, and the battle system supports an incredible story. The combat feels great, as you find the right builds for each character while offering a ton of flexibility to specify these characters how you want them. Creating the right team composition is a blast as you mix in characters you know and love while keeping the right attacks, skills, and magical abilities in mind to create true cohesion. 

The Trails series has some of the strongest character writing, world-building, and lore crafting that you can find in gaming, with Azure being among the best of the best. While the buy-in can seem daunting, it’s well worth the adventure. There is so much to love in Trails to Azure. If you’re a fan of JRPGs, great stories, and loveable characters, this game is not one to miss. 

-Matt Sowinski

The Legend of Heroes: Trails Into Reverie

Developer: Nihon Falcom

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Before the Trails series heads to the Republic of Calvard with The Legend of Heroes: Trails Through Daybreak in 2024, we have the next entry, The Legend of Heroes: Trails into Reverie. The title of the 10th Trails series served as the epilogue to both the Crossbell and Cold Steel arcs following half a year after the “Great War” conclusion in Trails of Cold Steel IV. This is a game that most people may not have on their list of Top RPGs of the year, with how much commitment (nine games) it takes to get all that needed context from the past games.  However, for those who went on that journey, Nihon Falcom’s approach to Trails into Reverie’s brilliant climatic finale with the series’ iconic storytelling and worldbuilding from the past nearly two decades added to the experience. 

Unlike past games, where it tells its story from the perspective of one protagonist, Trails into Reverie tells its story from three perspectives which include the series past protagonists – Lloyd Bannings (Trails From Zero/Trails to Azure) and Rean Schwarzer (Trails of Cold Steel I-IV). The last one is someone brand new to the player, and it is a mystery who they are, as they are a masked person known as “C,” the same alias from the first Trails of Cold Steel game.  Noticing their mannerisms, it becomes clear that someone new has taken up the name for their own unknown goals and is joined by a party of brand new characters that players will learn more about as C’s story progresses. 

The game does a good job of giving each hero their time in the limelight as the game is split into acts, and afterward, the player is forced to complete the other campaigns to progress to Reverie’s next act. Even with a massive cast of over 50 playable party members, Falcom does an impressive job balancing three distinct perspectives and all the lore from the past games that inevitably lead to one of the most satisfying conclusions I’ve experienced. What I loved most about the game was its setting approach; after four games centred around the Erebonia Empire, it felt so good to be back in Crossbell, making it feel like Lloyd and the gang’s third game (deserved). This time around, though, with locals remade in 3D with all the gameplay systems from the Cold Steel games alongside some neat additions to the Trails’ formula.

-Dennis Price

Armored Core 6: Fires of Rubicon

Developer: FromSoftware

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FromSoftware’s latest title is a return to the developer’s roots, as we heard to Rubicon-3 in a stunning mech title that’ll punish players in an engaging and gratifying campaign. Armored Core is not Dark Souls, Elden Ring, or Sekiro: Shadows Die Twice, but it shares some similarities by offering a unique interconnected world. 

You’ll face memorable bosses and find yourself continually at odds with enemies, and the level of challenge Armored Core 6 brings is easily a highlight for those able to overcome it. Without a doubt, the latest entry in the long-running series plays and looks incredible, elevating what I come to expect going forward. 

The benefit of having the series on the backburner is that the developers could utilize many lessons from its Souls games and implement many of the mechanics cleverly and entertainingly. Fine-tuning your mech’s build is vital to surviving this alien planet, and you must bring the right parts to battle, whether it’s a laser sword, Gatling gun, or bursts of speed. 

-Bobby Pashalidis

Lego 2K Drive

Developer: Visual Concepts

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Visual Concepts’ Lego 2K Drive has many moving Lego parts. You’ll see bits of Mario Kart and Forza Horizon in its DNA, and it’s an incredible arcade racer that came out of nowhere. There’s even a sprinkle of The Crew you’ll notice as the ability to swap vehicles on the go is available from the outset, and it works well as you move between boats, street, and off-road vehicles. The story mode sees you tackle a series of races and learn to become a better racer, and there are challenges you’ll complete to keep you busy. 

Players journey across Bricklandia’s multiple unique biome regions as they compete against a series of charismatic rivals, hoping to win the coveted Sky Cup Trophy one day. You can build the vehicle of your dreams with over 1,000 unique Lego pieces, and that is where a lot of the fun lies, as you’re free to create what you can think of. 

-Bobby Pashalidis

Lies of P

Developer: Neowiz

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Did anyone expect The Adventures of Pinocchio to be the perfect vehicle for a Soulslike? In hindsight, the makings are there, and to this day, some elements in the novel and even the Disney adaptation feel right at home. However, the initial reveal did not prepare me for the first game, which could be a successor to Bloodborne, the PlayStation exclusive that people are still discussing. As more and more details came to light, the comparisons were hard to ignore, and now, after playing Lies of P, it truly feels like something FromSoftware developed.

Bosses hit hard and encourage you to learn their strike patterns across multiple attempts. You’ll fall, fall, and fall repeatedly but then understand how to make mince of each obstacle before you. Finding and upgrading Pinocchio is a blast; discovering weapon hilts and blades allows you to find a build that’ll get you through a complex scenario.  

Neowiz’s first game, Lies of P, is a remarkable feat and has come a long way since its launch, with tons of feedback and improvements making the experience better. There’s room to grow in the sequel.

-Bobby Pashalidis

Sea of Stars

Developer: Sabotage Studio

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Sabotage Studio launched Sea of Stars earlier this year to a positive reception from critics and consumers. The prequel to The Messenger is an homage to JRPGs from the 16-bit era and feels right at home on the SNES. However, it also brings many modern sensibilities to the genre, giving players an excellent experience across 40 hours.

In The Messenger, the protagonist’s world is lonely, with only one island left from a flood that essentially destroyed everything. The prequel Sea of Stars’ compelling world unites players with Valere and Zale, youths fated to become Solstice Warriors. Combining their Sun and Moon powers to perform Eclipse Magic, they pledge to fight the monstrous creations of the evil alchemist, The Fleshmancer, in a world not yet pulled underwater.

Combat is similar to Super Mario RPG, and takes time to master the timing mechanics. The world map is stunning and paired with excellent animations, which we rarely see. You also get some smartly designed environmental puzzles to solve; generally, everything comes together succinctly. 

-Bobby Pashalidis

Octopath Traveler 2 

Developer: Square Enix

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Octopath Traveler 2, the sequel to 2018’s Octopath Traveler, doubled down on most mechanics and served us a follow-up that leaves its predecessor in the dust. The series has also spawned the HD-2D engine fans are asking developers to use for many revivals, including Dragon Quest, Star Ocean, and Final Fantasy. 

While you experience the world from a bird’s-eye view, the classic turn-based battles take place in a more lateral view. The Boost system, with which you can overcharge attacks or execute several blows in succession, returns, as does the Break system, with which you remove the resistance of your opponents to leave them vulnerable.

Octopath Traveler 2 intersects several storylines, with many characters crossing over to push the plot forward. And while some characters’ storylines aren’t too exciting, the other character’s stories pick up the slack and help pull you into the narrative. 

-Bobby Pashalidis

Marvel’s Spider-Man 2

Developer: Insomniac Games

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Pound for pound, Marvel’s Spider-Man 2 is the best representation of the superhero fantasy in video games. Insomniac Games has an unparalleled understanding of ‘fun’ in gaming and storytelling. As a lifelong fan of everything Spider-Man, I feel this entry delivered some genuinely unique and memorable moments that capture the authenticity of the characters. 

Marvel’s Spider-Man 2 is an example of restraint. Don’t overburden the player with tedious B plots and activities to pad the run time. Instead, Insomniac Games focuses on improving the gameplay loop and left me wanting more from Peter and Miles. Handling not one but two iconic comic characters is no short task, but Marvel’s Spider-Man 2 left me with many raw emotions by the time the credits rolled. As sales figures show, this is one of the most premiere PlayStation experiences available.

-Steve Vegvari

As a lifelong Spider-Man supporter and fan of Marvel’s Spider-Man and Marvel’s Spider-Man: Miles Morales, I knew Marvel’s Spider-Man 2 would be good. Insomniac had already proven they knew precisely how to make a superhero adventure based on my favourite comic book character, and the reveals of both Kraven and Venom for the sequel had me anxiously waiting to get my hands on the game. I expected them to nail it, but what I didn’t expect was just how profoundly they built on an already fantastic foundation.

Marvel’s Spider-Man 2 is confident from the very outset. The massive boss battles, the relationship between Peter and Miles, and the genuine understanding of the character were all just parts of an incredible picture. Moving through the city was a constant blast, with both the swinging and wingsuit being fun in their own right. The fights flowed and were constantly entertaining, weaving together different abilities for each Spider-Man, gadgets, and of course, the Venom suit. The aggression the symbiote suit brought, its weight, and the damage it did both narratively and in battle was brutal. That storyline is one of my favourites in Spider-Man canon, and Insomniac Games added to it naturally and essentially.

Marvel’s Spider-Man 2 was full of big moments that deserve to be celebrated, but the small quiet moments should not be passed over. A conversation with an elderly man as he reminisces on his life had me in tears. There was no combat, battle, or enemy to dodge – just a quiet understanding that Peter and Miles bring to these very human situations. Spider-Man has always been super, but humanity is central to the character. Insomniac Games understood the assignment and delivered the best superhero game ever.

-Matt Sowinski

Alan Wake 2

Developer: Remedy Entertainment

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Alan Wake 2 is what the industry gets when you combine unrestrained creativity, passion, and a decade’s worth of patients. Remedy Entertainment had big shoes to fill after Control, and to return to what’s largely considered a niche property, Alan Wake 2’s success is a triumph. Eagerly awaiting Alan Wake 2, I was blown away by how much Sam Lake and co. could elevate the survival horror genre. In a year when classics like Dead Space and Resident Evil 4 were both remade, Alan Wake 2 offered a more contemporary look at visceral horror (and unabashed use of jump scares to boot).

I quickly grew fond of Saga Anderson and her arc. Her journey not only compliments Alan Wake’s but it gives players a brand new perspective on the town of Bright Falls. The Mind Place is one of the most novel and exciting mechanics I’ve seen in a story-focused game in a long time. Alan Wake’s more subdued yet meta contributions to the story yanked me from my couch and had my utmost attention until the credits rolled. Alan Wake 2 is a brilliant psychological experience that shows how confident the development team is. The Remedy Connected Universe is now fully established and is set up for a beautifully rich feature.

-Steve Vegvari

Blasphemous 2

Developer: The Game Kitchen

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I had no exposure to Blasphemous before stepping into the sequel. I found a wonderfully crafted Metroidvania, brushed with profound influences of Christianity and Spanish architecture. While admittedly, most of the story and lore went over my head; I couldn’t help but pour over the art direction and look of Cvstodia. The Game Kitchen expertly nails that ‘one more’ loop after a death. As The Pentient One, the arsenal you obtain through the game maintains a balance that encourages you to return to those boss battles or monster closets that narrowly defeated you. The world is bizarre and obscure, but it hooked me all through.

-Steve Vegvari

Hi-Fi Rush

Developer: Tango Gameworks

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Tango Gameworks has always had a special place in my heart since the creation of The Evil Within. The studio has a unique perspective on game design and creative thought. Hi-Fi Rush is a prime example of that, and its shadow drop this year set the tone for what became one of the best years for software. Hi-Fi Rush is the dream experience for any rhythm-based game fan. Incorporating music and applying action to the beat, Hi-Fi Rush is a treat to play.

Even for someone who has never mastered the rhythm aspect fully, Hi-Fi Rush never penalizes the player. Instead, it gives so many options for tailoring the experience. Upon its release in January 2023, I replayed it twice to get more from the game. Beyond being a visually impressive arcade-like experience, Hi-Fi Rush captures the essence of games from the Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3 era. It’s a little weird. It’s a little quirky. But it is so representative of Tango Gameworks. I’m happy projects like this can exist in a world where studios are looking for their next tentpole AAA experience.

-Steve Vegvari

Final Fantasy 16

Developer: Square Enix

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Ever since the Final Fantasy series entered the HD era in the late 2000s, while good games, it hasn’t felt like Square Enix has released a new Final Fantasy mainline entry (not counting the MMO here) on the level of its most famous predecessors that is forever on fan’s top five. It feels, at least for me, like that conversation changed with the release of Final Fantasy 16 in June, with Square Enix taking a paradigm shift approach to Final Fantasy this time. 

The PlayStation exclusive added a higher production level focused on massive boss fight sequences not seen in this amount in past games that honestly, at some point, made me feel like they were lesser games with Final Fantasy 16’s ever-impressive cut scenes. Thankfully, the narrative doesn’t take a back seat with a massive Game of Thrones-inspired sprawling world of multiple enemy nations that players will encounter while exploring open zone areas on the game’s overworld. With fun, I can always feel when a developer is focused on story rather than gameplay and vice versa. Still, it feels like the team behind the game went all out to deliver a great game that puts in the effort to juggle the narrative and the massive set pieces that push it forward. 

One aspect that stands out is the actual performances of the cast, mainly Ben Starr, the actor of Final Fantasy 16’s protagonist, Clive Rosefield, that at times had me say to myself, “damn, this guy is good” with how his portrayal of Clive during emotional scenes came across. That’s not to say the performances in other voice-acted mainline Final Fantasy games are bad. However, making the English performances the game’s base rather than dubbing over Japanese voices was to Final Fantasy 16’s benefit.

-Dennis Price

Humanity

Developer: tha

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Humanity is something out of PlayStation’s earliest moments, and because of that, the developer tha’s puzzle title stands out this year. Keeping players on their toes, you’ll begin the adventure with simple puzzles before the entire premise flips itself upside down, especially in VR. 

In short, you play as a god, but the longer answer is that you’re a dog with godly powers where humans will do your bidding and follow every command. In Humanity, you control a Shiba Inu and make humans do what you say. You can make the humans jump, turn, float, swim, climb, and more to reach their goals in each stage. The more you play Humanity, the more mechanics are introduced with further challenges to keep you busy. This is a boon to Humanity’s success as it smartly introduces new mechanics while rarely burdening the player with new mechanics at the worst time.

-Bobby Pashalidis

 

Cocoon

Developer: Geometric

Cocoon is a unique take on the puzzle adventure genre, where each world exists within an orb you can carry. The mechanic is being able to move between worlds and then combine them to solve puzzles. You’ll interact with alien environments and biomechanical devices left behind by an ancient civilization.

Solving puzzles is immensely satisfying, and gameplay is seamless, paired with some incredible sound design; Cocoon is a unique and brilliant puzzle title that’ll keep you constantly feeling like a genius as you shift between worlds to push forward. As a distinctly bug-like protagonist, you explore a world of wonder and out-of-the-world sights. The story beats are light, but you’re playing Cocoon to overcome the challenges in front of you.

-Bobby Pashalidis

 

Ghost Trick: Phantom Detective

Developer: Capcom

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Ghost Trick: Phantom Detective is an interactive experience that made a return later this year. It originally made its way to North America in January 2011 on the Nintendo DS. It came to us from the mind of Shu Takumi, who has been the godfather of the legal-themed puzzler with Professor Layton and Ace Attorney franchises.

As Sissel, a ghost stranded on Earth, you must work to find out what happened to you and how you died. The journey will involve a ton of puzzle-solving and using your new supernatural powers to discover the truth of your death.

Capcom’s port brings a better resolution, better controls, and a few extra scenes that’ll help flesh out the story. The beauty of this game’s story is in its puzzles’ absolute banality. It’s hilarious and satisfying to think of a spirit moving to change historical events through a bike shimmying down a crane’s wire or moving from a lower level to a higher one by having a fan blow a flag up its resident poll. Like in Professor Layton and Ace Attorney, environments are used expertly and comically to be puzzled.

-Bobby Pashalidis

Baldur’s Gate 3

Developer: Larian Studios

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I had no hype leading up to the launch of Baldur’s Gate 3. While I have a lot of love for D&D, I wasn’t always one for CRPGs. They always felt too constricting and too narrow in their approach to game design. Then I heard whispers online of a trailer described as a beary good time. Reviews hit, celebrating it as one of the best games of all time and a must-play for fans of deep narratives, flexible encounters, and ridiculous fun. After diving in, I lost myself entirely for over a month. 

What Breath of the Wild did for open-world games, Baldur’s Gate 3 did for RPGs. The amount of choices and pathways you have to finish any quest, encounter, or combat scenario is staggering. Larian designed a massive sandbox that constantly had me see what ends I could push it to, then genuinely being surprised that things worked. Moments of questionable logic on my end would lead to hilarious moments, some of my favourite gaming pieces in recent memory. Baldur’s Gate 3 rewards creativity in a way that most games wouldn’t even let you consider.

I can’t recommend this game enough for just about anyone. There is genuinely something to find here for everyone. Brutal battles, meaningful and impactful decisions, hilarious and ridiculous moments, a grand epic – all are present here and constantly on display. I’m not one for replaying games, but this is one I know I’ll be coming back to again for an evil playthrough to see how much it differs. I love this game and hope more people give it time because there’s so much to find here. Larian deserves all the praise and more for Baldur’s Gate 3.

-Matt Sowinski

Diablo 4

Developer: Blizzard

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With a franchise and studio that carries so much weight (and recent allegations that have knocked it down quite a few pegs), Diablo 4 was one of the year’s most anticipated titles.

I’m happy that nearly all tweaks Blizzard has made since Diablo 3 are for the better. It looks and sounds amazing, the story is compelling and more interesting than ever, and the gameplay is tight and exciting.

Sure, the first Season or two haven’t been as compelling as many might have hoped as a Battle Pass was added for the first time; they may have gotten off on the wrong foot there. But everything else about Diablo 4 shines, from the classic genre-defining mechanics to the epic loot and dungeons.

Playing with friends is easier than ever, and ripping demons to shreds with any class is always a good time! Putting over 100 hours into this game felt like a breeze. A cool, hellish breeze that is highly recommended.

-Dave Pietrangelo

Dave The Diver

Developer: Mintrocker

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I never thought I’d see a game blend so many genres with ease like Dave the Diver does.

On the surface, it’s a game that seems simple enough: catch fish and serve food at the restaurant. And while that gameplay loop is a great time, there’s a wacky set of characters backing up an even wackier story the whole way through. I didn’t expect to be catching exotic fish and interacting with underwater societies before returning to the surface to run a sushi restaurant with an expert chef. And that’s just the beginning!

I found the seemingly endless amount of gameplay systems to be a little too overwhelming at times, but there’s still no doubt that they are all very fun and quite polished.

Dave the Diver wants you to have fun. From the writing, art style, music, and all of the varied mechanics, this is a title filled to the brim with joy. It rewards even the most minor investment or “successful run,” always giving out some incentive to keep playing well past your bedtime.

-Dave Pietrangelo

Resident Evil 4 Remake

Developer: Capcom

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I have always wanted to like Resident Evil. I’ve tried almost every game in the series and never played more than a few hours. I remember playing the original Resident Evil 4 on GameCube when I was young and liking it, so when Resident Evil 4 Remake was announced, I was excited to give it another go. I’m happy I did. RE4R runs like a dream on Steam Deck, and it completely enthralled me with its story, characters, and combat.

The game was just a blast to play. It felt like an old-school horror action movie, as Leon shoots and kicks his way to get to and protect Ashley. The minute-to-minute gameplay was satisfying and not weighed down by meandering puzzles, which never really gelled with me in other entries. I couldn’t put it down; it entirely sat in my mind and would not leave.

Resident Evil 4 Remake is everything a remake should be. It brought new players to the series, felt lovingly remade compared to the original folks remembered, and made it a GOTY contender almost 20 years later. Hopping into the VR mode on PS VR2 has been an incredible experience, and I can’t wait to keep going. I don’t enjoy most horror games, but Resident Evil 4 Remake was so good that playing it opened my mind to new possibilities

-Matt Sowinski

Synapse

Developer: nDreams

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PlayStation VR2 may have had a slow launch year, but Synapse should not be slept on. The grayscale colour palette with bright splashes of colour immediately washes over you. The story of trying to break into someone’s mind to learn the truth of who they are and why they were there was gripping, being told over multiple runs by a stellar voice cast. The roguelike nature of the game fits so well in VR and is held up by the gunplay and telekinetic abilities.

Playing Synapse was quickly my VR highlight of the year, with the power fantasy it provides being incredibly fun to play. The progression moves quickly, too, as each run leads to new abilities. They don’t gate the great stuff behind hours of progress either, and you end up feeling like a Jedi master pretty quickly. It is so satisfying to use your gun to pop headshots as you lift explosive barrels, toss them at enemies, lift other enemies, and send them careening into one another. This was one that I lost hours in without realizing, and that one more run itch developed pretty quickly. Synapse is my VR Game of the Year and one of my favourite games this year, full stop.

-Matt Sowinski