Game Of The Year Editor’s Pick, 2023

Most years, I can look back at the games I’ve played and choose my favorites with relative ease. This year, not so much. Stop me if you’ve heard this before, but 2023 has been an exceptional year for video games launches. There’s been an embarrassment of riches to behold – a strange thing to say when massive layoffs have rocked the industry to its core, but here we are.



Narrowing things down to ten titles hasn’t been the easiest thing I’ve done this week, but it’s certainly been fun. And agonizing. But thrilling. But also frustrating. Here’s the ten I enjoyed the most, I think.

Fire Emblem Engage

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Fire Emblem Engage’s story is weak, its cast is largely unimpressive, and it relies too heavily on a brand of nostalgia that undermines it rather than elevates it, but it’s also fun as heck. I’m OK with this latest entry upping the ante on Fire Emblem’s excellent battle system, even as it drops the ball on the rest of the package. After all, Fire Emblem used to pride itself on the depth of its combat, the plethora of approaches to victory, and the exciting class system – all stuff Engage has got in spades.

Final Fantasy 16

Final Fantasy 16 - Clive, Cid, Jill and Torgal approaching the Drake's Head crystal

The combat gets stale, the pacing is downright bizarre, and the RPG elements are severely lacking, but the story is solid, the script is spectacular, and the cast is fantastic. Especially its protagonist, Clive Rosfield. Major props to Ben Starr’s voice acting; without his genius delivery, this wouldn’t have worked so well. Ultimately, Final Fantasy 16 is a visual triumph that engrossed me almost the whole way through. (I didn’t love the ending, alas.)

Super Mario Bros. Wonder

Mario Standing On A Dragon While Surrounded By Bubbles

The cheek of Nintendo to name this Super Mario Bros. Wonder, and then to deliver on the stated goal of leaving me in a state of wonder dozens of times throughout my journey to save the Flower Kingdom. If you were hoping for a jolt of fresh energy after so many years stuck in New Super Mario Bros. territory, here it is.

Cassette Beasts

A Cassette Battle in Cassette Beasts

Cassette Beasts is not ‘we have Pokemon at home’, it is entirely its own animal. It’s a video game that takes a well-worn genre and flips it on its head in some very spiffy ways. It’s not just the lingo; any developer can tell you that rather than catching and raising your monsters, you’re recording them and playing them back to battle your foes. But only a developer with the ambition to make it all feel truly unique can give us something this excellent.

Theatrhythm Final Bar Line

I Wish All DLC Was As Simple As Theatrhythm Final Fantasy: Final Bar Line

Despite not having the words ‘Final Fantasy’ in the title, Theatrhythm FInal Bar Line is the best Final Fantasy game of the year. I’m not even much of a rhythm gaming fan, but gosh, I sure do adore Final Fantasy music, and golly gee, there are over 500 tracks here. Theatrhythm doesn’t just smack me with nostalgia. It straight up ambushes me with it, and I eat it up like Gysahl Greens on a warm summer’s day.

Paranormasight: The Seven Mysteries Of Honjo

Paranormasight - Mayu looking in the mirror

The best visual novels have a vibe all their own. You envision them, and that mental image is unlike anything else in memory. From the exquisite art style that blends peak 1980s anime with a dark and cold color palette to the haunting soundtrack and disquieting atmosphere, Paranormasight’s the full package.

Octopath Traveler 2

Rainbow over water in Hinoeuma in Octopath Traveler 2

The original Octopath Traveler was as refreshing as it was repetitive. A rad battle system, a handful of terrific characters, and an oddly good time pilfering belongings off of everyone in the world – but the gameplay loop was mundane, and some of the stories were kind of a snooze.

Everything has been polished to a mirror sheen with the sequel. All eight ‘travelers’ are delightfully written. There’s more room to experiment in battle, more plentiful opportunities to customize your party, and a fittingly epic final chapter ties things together for the cast in a way that really ought to have happened in the first game.

Star Ocean: The Second Story R

The town of Arlia in Star Ocean The Second Story

Look. I realize this is the fourth Square Enix pick in a row, and the fifth one on the list. It’s not my fault my favorite developer had a banner year. But Star Ocean: The Second Story R is, in truth, Gemdrops’ triumphant moment.

Some dubious difficulty decreases aside, none of the original’s legacy has been lost; Gemdrops simply brought Star Ocean: The Second Story into the current decade with savvy UI tweaks, additional gameplay elements galore, and the best fast travel system I’ve ever seen.

The Legend Of Zelda: Tears Of The Kingdom

Link showing off Big Hearty Radishes Truffles and Hearty Salmon in The Legend of Zelda Tears of the Kingdom

Breath of the Wild is an all-timer of mine, and so is Tears of the Kingdom… so I can hardly believe TOTK ‘only’ manages second place, but here we are. Revisiting this robust and marvelously expansive iteration of Hyrule with sky segments and a vast underground realm is spicy enough stuff, but what I love most about this game is the qualitative uptick in several areas BOTW didn’t really wow me with.

The story is richer, with a greater number of quests to enjoy. Hyrule’s scattered settlements have more going on now, and every inch of the world feels more alive.

Baldur’s Gate 3

2-GOTY 2023 Editor's Pic-O'Connor

Historically, CRPGs don’t always click with me, but Baldur’s Gate 3 changed my entire outlook. It’s on so many of my colleagues’ lists that I’m not going to waste your time going into the myriad reasons that I’m right there with them. This is a seminal video game, a labor of love that’s single-handedly brought me into the Dungeons & Dragons fold, and will doubtless do the same for others.


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