🎶 Mike Minotti... Mike Mike Minotti... 🎶
Cocoon reminds me of those indie games from the Xbox Live Arcade days. It has a simple idea that it adds complexity to throughout a short, well-paced journey. And even though this is a game all about puzzles, it somehow also has some of the best boss fights of the year.
I played this on my Switch when I was feeling a bit of handheld RPG fatigue, and it hit the spot better than a Diet Dr. Pepper from the Arby’s soda fountain.
As much as I like Mario, I’ve always preferred the 3D games to the 2D outings. That’s partially because the New Super Mario Bros. series, while having some good mechanics, always felt aesthetically dull. Wonder has better visuals all around, but it’s really the improved animation that makes this game so much more interesting to look at and play.
Also, you can play as Daisy the whole time.
8. Sea of Stars
A lot of indie games try to recapture the magic of the 16-bit era of RPGs and rarely succeed. Sea of Stars manages it thanks to some of the prettiest pixel art I’ve ever seen. It also smartly adapts Super Mario RPG’s combat system into something a bit more complex. It’s a gorgeous RPG that finds a happy place between nostalgia and new.
And if you haven’t played this studio’s previous game, The Messenger, you’re missing out. That retro 2D action game went under the radar a bit, so it makes me happy to see Sea of Stars get so much recognition.
There are few things in any video game as fun as swinging New York City in Spider-Man 2, especially with the new wingsuit helping you cover long distances between tall buildings. I’d be happy if the swinging was the whole game, but Insomniac also gave Spider-Man 2 some slick combat and some of the best takes on classic Spidey characters that I’ve ever seen (love ya, Kraven).
The game is so good, it made me smile almost as much as its characters do in every cutscene in the first 3/4s of the game.
I had zero experience with Armored Core before this. Like a lot of others, I gave this one shot simply because of FromSoftware’s modern pedigree. Man, I’m glad that I did. While this doesn’t have that much in common with Dark Souls or Sekiro, Armored Core VI is still one of the best action games I’ve played.
It’s also got some of the boosting ever, and I sure do love my boosting. And shoutouts to Rusty! I love you!
5. Pikmin 4
Oh hey, another series I hadn’t played much of before! But, Jeff Grubb bullied me into giving this one a shot, and … well … I’m glad he did. Pikmin 4 was hard to put down until I had explored and collected everything. This was definitely the game that I’d have the hardest time putting down.
Also, those of you who get sad when Pikmin die are weak! They are pawns that must be sacrificed to take down kings!
I just can’t think of many fighting games that feel as good to play as Street Fighter 6. The drive system adds a layer of complexity to both offense and defense without actually feeling, you know, all that complex. I mean that it’s easy to understand, difficult to master. That’s exactly how a good fighting game should feel.
I almost wish that I had fewer games that I wanted to play in 2023 just so I could have spent more time with Street Fighter 6 and really master it.
I loved Breath of the Wild, but Tears of the Kingdom is better in just about every way. I appreciated having a bit more story content, the dungeons and bosses were more substantial, and abilities like Ultra Hand and Ascend open up a seemingly endless amount of creative possibilities.
There are already a lot of great Zelda games, but this is one of the best.
Going into 2023, Baldur’s Gate 3 was a game that I assumed I was going to have no interest in. Then it got mountains of praise, and I felt pressured to check Baldur’s Gate 3 out myself. All of the Dungeons & Dragons stuff that I thought would feel intimidating was actually charming, and I couldn’t believe how dense the game was. Everywhere I went, I discovered something that felt important. Even after playing through the massive adventure once, I know I missed a lot and feel an urge to do it again.
And before you ask, yes, I did fix Shadowheart. And we’re very happy together.
Some might raise an eyebrow at me having a remake as my number one, but I don’t care. Resident Evil 4 is the game that I couldn’t stop thinking about this year. My first playthrough was immaculate. It was a barrage of precise shooting, thrilling setpieces, and challenging boss fights. It’s one of the best paced games ever made.
Then when I beat it, I played RE4 again … and again … and again. I’m not normally like that. I usually beat a game and then move on. I didn’t leave RE4 until I had mastered it, and even still I constantly think about going back.
Capcom took one of the best games ever and somehow made it better. Sure, it’s a remake … the greatest remake of all time. I love this game so much that it has completely changed my stance on horror and spooky media in general. I used to be a wimp. RE4 makes it obvious why monsters and scares are fun. Now, just like Kevin McCallister, I’m not afraid anymore.