Here we are, once again, at the end of a year full of amazing video games, and I still don’t know how to properly write an introduction. There has been no shortage of standout titles in 2023, which has made both introduction-writing and GOTY-selection that much harder. In a world where I can’t pick PowerWash Simulator as my number one game of the year, I’ve managed to round up the ten games of 2023 that I’ve found best exemplify what it means to shine in the video game industry. That’ll do, right? Yeah, that’ll do.
The wonderful editors at TheGamer write their own Game Of The Year lists, and once we have them all published, we’re going to compile an overall GOTY article on December 18. See you there, friends!
10. Bramble: The Mountain King
As a fan of Little Nightmares and Limbo, of course Bramble: The Mountain King made it onto my GOTY list. I enjoy being low-key (make that, high-key) terrified in my video games, and Bramble did an excellent job of captivating me with its music and its world. It also scared the living daylights out of me. Nothing beat the sheer terror of jumping across idyllic-looking lily pads while a giant, fiddle-playing monster with hair straight from The Grudge lurked beneath the surface. It was the stuff of nightmares, and I loved every minute of it.
Normally, climbing portions of video games stress me the fudge out. It’s a combination of a fear of heights and knowing a single wrong button press could send my character plummeting to their death. I don’t know how Don’t Nod managed it, but they created a climbing game that feels both epic and soothing. Jusant is a straightforward experience with no dialogue (but plenty of reading) that encapsulates this feeling of perfect loneliness. It’s an underrated high point of 2023. High point? Climbing? Get it?
8. Diablo 4
My enjoyment of Diablo 4 came primarily from the cooperative grind of completing copious amounts of side quests, dungeons, and world bosses alongside my partner. He was a Rogue, Sannik, and I was a Barbarian, Knookles. We spent weeks running around Sanctuary, building up our characters and slowly progressing through the story. Diablo 4, despite its shortcomings, made a multiplayer-online world incredibly engaging, keeping us invested in the grind and delighted with the interplay of our combat styles.
7. Lies Of P
Soulslike titles have the capacity to either wholly enrapture me or frustrate me endlessly, depending on how capably they mimic FromSoftware’s often inimitable style. Lies of P did a phenomenal job of solidly landing in the camp of the former.
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It’s got the challenge and familiar mechanics of a Souls game, but it brings to the table a darkly mesmerizing setting that feels on par with Bloodborne and fresh gameplay elements that suction away the more exasperating facets of a FromSoftware title. Who couldn’t love the Dark Souls Timothee Chalamet puppet game?
Honorable Mentions That Didn’t Make The Cut
6. Super Mario Bros. Wonder
More than any other series, Super Mario has surprised me with how consistently it can fill me with wonder. I know that’s a little on the nose, given the name of the game we’re talking about here. But seriously, the wonder and delight you feel as you jump, sprint, slide, glide, and roll your way through these 2D Mario levels is incomparable. I don’t know how else to put it, but playing Super Mario Bros. Wonder makes you feel happy. And any game that does this in such a stylized and seemingly effortless fashion is a game worth playing.
5. Resident Evil 4
Look, it’s a remake of one of the greatest survival horror games of all time. Of course it made it on my list.
Of all the games here, Venba is the one that actually made me tear up. The gameplay’s nothing intense; you’re just click-and-dragging ingredients into a pan or slow cooker for the most part. But where Venba shines is its story. It’s not some triple-A juggernaut that hammers home ginormous themes about humanity or good against evil. It’s a sincere story about an immigrant family, and how living in a different country creates a gap between generations. But as Venba shows, it’s a gap that can be bridged with understanding… and delicious food.
3. Dead Space
Look, it’s a remake of one of the greatest survival horror games of all time. And it’s set in space and includes a secret sea shanty. Of course it made it on my list.
2. Amnesia: The Bunker
As you might have guessed at this point, I love getting scared. And nothing freaked me out with as much skill as Amnesia: The Bunker. The claustrophobia of those cramped underground tunnels, the unrelenting feeling that nowhere is safe, the scratching of the monster as it prowls through the darkness, the perilous balance of fuel consumption versus adequate lighting — all of these things contribute to making The Bunker a must-play horror title.
Hands down, Cocoon is the best game I played all year. To be frank, I’ve gotten a bit fatigued of games that demand I spend over 60 hours playing them in order to get the full experience. So Cocoon is a breath of fresh air in a busy year. It’s a highly polished title that introduces the mind-bending mechanic of recursive worlds in the most easily comprehensible manner possible. It’s tough to put into words, so just know this: if you are going to play any game this year, make that game Cocoon. You won’t regret it.
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