One of the best ways you can show someone that you love them is by cooking a good meal. Venba is a game that portraits culture, family, and traditions through the power of food. No matter where you come from, this is a language anyone can understand. Just ask Jeff Grubb if you don’t believe us. We poured all our love and affection into that mate we gave him at Summer Game Fest (he is still coming down from that high). Here in Argentina, we are not that connected to Indian cuisine, but we know a thing or two about spreading love by sharing a meal. An asado on Sundays, going to your grandparents house to eat some good pasta, your mum preparing milanesas for you and your friends after school are just a few examples of food traditions that, just like in Venba, can tell the story of a culture and its people. This game is a brief but wholesome experience that’s gonna make you shed a tear or two. It certainly made us cry a few times.
At E3 2019, we asked the Vice President of FromSoftware in a motorhome at Devolver Digital’s parking lot (it looked more like the set of an adult film than a place to have an interview) if they were ever going to make an "Armored Souls". He laughed at the question and brushed it off. Turns out he already knew they were making one, except it was less of a souls-like than we thought and more of an unapologetic AC experience. There is no game that makes you feel as cool as this. It’s the best mecha anime you’ve ever watched but you are actually playing it. Prior to its release, we used to make jokes about how much time we were going to spend making a spreadsheet in-game and even though customizing your mech is a huge part of the whole AC experience, once you embark on a mission you’ll feel like the coolest dude alive. If video games are a way to fulfill our wildest fantasies, this game allows you to be the greatest mech pilot ever without the whole existential crisis and anime drama.
Mashups are a beautiful thing. You combine two concepts that shouldn’t go together to make an even greater one. That’s what’s so great about Dave The Diver, a game that blends a diving roguelite action game with how to run a sushi restaurant in the middle of paradise island. It’s also a game that makes us chubby folks feel represented; Dave’s one of us, if he can do it then you can also hunt sharks and serve intricate dishes at the same time (well, maybe not the shark hunting part, but you get our point). There’s a great cast of characters, a lot of humor, a hidden mermaid civilization, Bancho preparing the greatest plate of sushi you’ll ever see and a lot more in one of the most unique games of the year.
If we are being honest, we still don’t really know what the hell goes on in Cocoon. It’s a cryptic, weird and fascinating puzzle game that has one of the coolest game mechanics of the year. The first time you realize that that little orange ball you are carrying has a whole freaking world in it, your mind gets blown into oblivion. However, it’s a puzzle game that doesn’t make you feel like an idiot. It’s not extremely hard and you can get by most of the objectives after just a few tries. This is something other puzzle games have struggled in the past; we still have nightmares about some riddles from The Witness for example. But, Cocoon is so brilliantly designed that it manages to both never underestimate the player and also give them the necessary hints to never get stuck. This is a masterclass in puzzle design that everyone should play.
The great thing about GB Guest Lists is that there are no rules. So we don’t have to waste any time discussing whether an expansion of a 2020 game should be considered for a 2023 GOTY list or not. Phantom Liberty is an awesome piece of content and that’s all that should matter. A great espionage story full of intrigue, netrunners and the most badass president since David Palmer from "24". It also has Idris Elba in it and even though we are still trying to figure out which accent he decided to give his character, the star power is undeniable. Guess those people CD Projekt had to lay off in order to pay Idris was money well spent! Anyways, Phantom Liberty has a lot of great content, Dogtown is a fascinating yet trashy part of Night City and the 2.1 update makes the game even better (any excuse to hang out with Judy or Panam is instant GOTY material). Turns out having a three year early access period allowed them to make one of the best open world RPGs in the market.
5. Alan Wake II
Alan Wake 2 is what happens when a major triple A studio takes risks and is full of confidence in its work. This is Remedy at the peak of its power. This is Sam Lake and the creative team firing at all cylinders. This is a group of talented devs having a lot of fun while making a truly terrifying, weird, bizarre and enigmatic survival horror. The Mind Place and the Writer’s Room are the way in which Remedy made going through journals and traditional menus interesting and interactive. Saga is an amazing new character that sometimes even outshines Alan himself. "We Sing" will go down in history as the one musical that everyone can enjoy even if you're not a musical freak like Mike Minotti. But, there are so many other sections that are equally impressive: Coffee Town is incredibly haunting, the Oceanview Hotel is an ever changing bloody maze, the Valhalla Nursing Home has a lot of tender moments mixed with the most horrifying grandma you’ve ever seen and The Dark Place in general is just incredibly cool. The way this game celebrates every form of art and media is expertly portrayed with poetry, film, radio, music, TV, and literature having moments to shine. Alan Wake 2 puts Remedy in the same tier as some of the best studios in the world. Let’s serve a hot cup of coffee and drink to that.
Super Mario Wonder finally asks the question on everyone's mind: what would happen if Mario got incredibly high? But like really, really freaking high. What if he had the weirdest trip of his life and Luigi, Toad, Toadette, and Peach were there to make the perfect blunt rotation. The answer to all these questions is an amazing game with some of the most creative platform design in a 2D Mario ever. Every single level in Wonder has some unique and new mechanic to offer. It seems as though the development team learned a lot from community creations in Super Mario Maker, especially with the badges system that allows you to play the game in many different ways. This is a Mario that feels incredibly fresh, modern and charming with a completely revamped art style that suits the whimsical and trippy nature of the whole flower power vibe Wonder presents. It even has the miraculous achievement of Nintendo creating a really good online mode to play with your friends. Super Mario Wonder is just great and it will have you screaming "Wowie Zowie!" every time you see an elephant. Pro tip: choose Italian language for the helping flower, it rocks.
Breath of the Wild is widely regarded as one of the greatest games ever made. What Nintendo pulled off in 2017 was a revelation, a proof that you could do open world games with a completely different philosophy. Well, Tears Of The Kingdom makes BOTW look like a tech demo, like a proof of concept, almost a beta version of what the Zelda team could actually pull off. Giving players powers that feel like actual dev tools that have the potential to completely break the game will go down as one of the boldest and most creative decisions in the history of game development. Going through a whole mountain with ascend never stops being weird and cool, Ultrahand took the Nuts & Bolts formula and gave it a whole new meaning, the ability to rewind time allows for some insane combat options and combining every object in the world with your weapons or shields has given us some of the best tiktoks of all time. TOTK is the best realization of a sandbox in an adventure game and the fact that it runs on hardware that’s as outdated as the Switch is nothing short of a miracle.
Street Fighter 6 is probably the most important game of the year for us at New Game Plus. Our community embraced this amazing fighting game like never before. What started as a routine stream of playing the latest release turned into a club, a proto esports team called the MFL (Muñón Fighting League) that is currently competing in the local Street Fighter scene. We’ve already made plans to attend and compete at EVO 2024 in Las Vegas, something that felt impossible just a few months ago. All of this is powered by the enthusiasm of our community. Of course the game itself is excellent; something like this wouldn’t be possible if SF6 wasn’t as good as it is. The tight gameplay, the incredible art style, the awesome music, the modern controls which brought a lot of accessibility to the game and most of all the incredible online system in the form of the Battle Hub and ranked matches. Street Fighter 6 is one of the definitive fighting games and one that our community will enjoy for many years. Hope to see you all in Las Vegas next year.
"You lean forward to kiss the goblin’s feet. There’s a surprising scent of lavender. You put your lips next to the right foot and proceed to kiss it. Without anyone noticing, however, you managed to steal a powerful ring from one of the goblin’s toes".
Yes, that can actually happen in Baldur’s Gate 3. Interactions like these are plentiful in what has become the best translation of pen and paper Dungeons & Dragons to video game form. Baldur’s Gate 3 is one of the most compelling adventures modern gaming has offered in a long time. There won’t be two players with the exact same experience; we’ve all tackled objectives in totally different ways and interacted with characters in a really organic manner creating memorable dialogues and tales. Every single quest, fight or story beat feels important, consequential and handcrafted in ways other RPGs can only ever dream of. The cast of characters is fantastic and it has already cemented itself in the pantheon of great party members. Yes, you can fuck a bear, but that’s just a small sample of the true potential Baldur’s Gate 3 can achieve by giving freedom and trusting the players. That same liberty and creativity can be shown in combat as well, though there’s a big chance that you may end up hurting yourself with a bad dice roll. But, that’s what’s so fun about Baldur’s Gate 3: even failing can lead to fulfilling experiences. You just have to trust the dice.