Games of the Mid-Year 2023: Celebrating Some Also-Rans

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ALLTheDinos

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Edited By ALLTheDinos

For the last few years, I've been able to play 25-35 games in sufficient quantity to rank them for a GOTY list. I write at least a paragraph about my top 10, as well as short blurbs on my Honorable / Dishonorable Mentions. An unfortunate side-effect of this structure is that I fail to even note some games that are worth discussing. This is especially unjust for any early releases that occupy a top 10 spot until the annual autumnal glut of gaming options shakes up my entire list. With the mid-year mark coming and going over the long holiday weekend, I figured I would take this opportunity to pay tribute to some games that are unlikely to Hang (TM) when December rolls around.

(The numbers in front of each entry indicate where the game currently sits on my rolling GOTY Notes app list.)

10. Luck Be A Landlord (PC)

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Most of my hours spent on this game were during early access in 2022, but Luck Be A Landlord quietly hit 1.0 this year. Much like fellow Jan Game Super Auto Pets, it is absurdly easy to sink a ton of time into it. I'm not sure of the full list of additions included in the official release, but the most important one to me is Steam achievements. Each one appears to be tied to a specific icon and a quirky way of using it, which made things novel for someone who had mostly grown tired of the game. From the simple (destroy a symbol before X turn) to the not-so-simple (have a Dwarf and a Pirate share a Beer), I had something to shoot for in every run. It's become a game I occasionally pop into when I don't have much play time, and it's always nice to have one of those on tap.

9. Hi-Fi Rush (Xbox Series X / PC)

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I suspect we're going to hear this game discussed a lot around GOTY time, at least amongst video games media people. Personally, I wanted to like this game more than I did. Part of the issue was that I could never calibrate the timing right on my TV tied to the Series X, so I made it a PC game. The thing is, when I exile myself to the PC instead of hanging out with my partner, I'm usually looking for a different vibe than Hi-Fi Rush offers. I'm not close to finishing the game, and I don't know if I ever will, but I can't deny that it's a good overall game. It's squarely in the Subnautica zone of "game I didn't personally like that much but recommend to everyone when it's on a subscription service".

8. Terra Nil (PC)

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Ah, the weight of expectations. I thought this game was a shoo-in for my final top 10 list after playing the demo. It turns out, the game is much more puzzle than I expected, and with my brain fried at the end of every day, it's never what I'm looking for to wind down. I suppose if it were more like Dorfromantik, I'd have an easier time finding my way back in. I still love the core concept of building an ecologically diverse landscape out of a wasteland, then needing to pack everything up at the end. However, I think the game would have been better served by tracking a high score, rather than providing limited resources and potentially forcing you to wind everything back to finish the level. It was released around the same time as Resident Evil 4 (2023) and Dredge, which certainly didn't help Terra Nil's case for my limited time. But the game is really cool and novel, and if it ever caught your interest, it's slightly on sale right now.

7. Matthew Rorie's Tape to Tape (PC) [Early Access]

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I just grabbed this over the weekend and have been having a lot of fun with it. A caveat is that it's very early in its early access, so it's pretty rough around the edges. But as someone who used to break out my still-functional Genesis to play NHL 97 until a decade ago, I'm always in the mood for an arcade-y hockey game that doesn't care for offsides or human decency. My main complaint is that the runs feel very similar to each other, so I only want to bank a couple before moving to a different game. It's definitely a game to keep an eye on, and once Rorie finishes programming / drawing / publishing the game by himself, it could be really special.

6. Like A Dragon: Ishin! (Xbox Series X)

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This is a really good game, released in basically the ideal time of year for it, that is going to get absolutely buried after October. For a brief moment, it was my #1 Game of the Year. I entered the Yakuza (er, Like A Dragon) series with Ichiban Kasuga, so the ties to older games didn't do it for me... at first. I worried that its silliness couldn't compare to LAD, but the 19th century setting proved to be fertile ground for goofs and new experiences. The minigames occupies far more time than I'm willing to admit (partially because I could actually play those with the kids awake). At the beginning, I wasn't into the combat, but it ended up being one of my favorite systems of the year. As I neared the end of the story, I kind of didn't want to finish it, since I knew I wouldn't touch it again afterwards. But man, that Diligence Record just has too much stuff in it for me to ever complete, so finish it I did. I mostly enjoyed the story, but the ending (limited by history, to be fair) left me wanting. I think if you got part of the way through it, the game peaks while you're still solving the mystery of the killer's identity. Ending the game can be an afterthought, since the journey there is the real fun. I'm happy this series, made with care, by a loving developer, is getting its well-earned time in the limelight lately.

I'll keep my top 5 to myself for now. But I'm always interested in the Not-Quites that people have for their GOTY lists, particularly if stuff like Wild Hearts or Star Wars Jedi: Survivor end up on their lists.

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Xolotl

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#1  Edited By Xolotl

Wow I had never heard of Terra Nil, this looks right up my alley.

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BisonHero

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@xolotl: Not sure what experience you want going into the game, but fwiw, Terra Nil is fairly chill on the easiest difficulty where it gives you way more build resources than you possibly need. On normal you do have to pay attention to your resources as you build, but I never quite failed a map (though I think you could fail for sure if you’re less strategy/city-builder minded).

Anything above normal does seem like a stiff challenge where you have to do a lot of penny-pinching or else fail the map because you’re basically broke.

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ALLTheDinos

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@bisonhero: I think at this point I might swallow my pride and bump it to the easy difficulty. That should fit my required vibes after the kids are in bed, and as I said before I really do like the game. With really limited time to play anything, I think any amount of backtracking just hits a really sore point of personal irritation. Thanks for the tip!

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Ginormous76

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@allthedinos: Because of how I do my game awards, my schedule is December - November (vs calendar year). I have played 20 games so far, so here they are. I'm currently working on FF16, Dead Space Remake, Killer Frequency & Super Lesbian Animal RPG as far as additional 2023 games.

20) Layers of Fear Remake

19) Redfall

18) High on Life

17) Hi-Fi Rush

16) Atomic Heart

15) Ravenlok

14) Metroid Prime Remastered (I had never played the OG, so I was definitely grading this as a modern game)

13) Marvel's Midnight Suns

12) Chained Echoes

11) Wavetale (I think this technically released on PC previously, but it came to consoles in December and I am a console gamer)

10) Coffee Talk Episode 2: Hibscus & Butterfly - I enjoyed some of the story, but it wasn't as great as I thought it would be. Still fun to make beverages. This didn't resonate with me as much as the first one, but Riona was pretty cool.

9) Star Wars: Jedi Survivor - Oof. I loved Last Survivor. I was super disappointed by this game. It just felt really bland throughout. Nothing offensive. I liked that you start with the stances/items/powers you ended the last game with. It just felt like it suffers from lack of direction. Fallen Order felt like you were going to these epic worlds. Survivor feels like they wanted to slap "open world" on the box and watered down everything great.

8) Resident Evil 4 Remake - Well, they made it better than the mediocrity that was the original RE4. There are some additional side quests, but it's still held back by feeling part way between horror and action. They even added a stealth mechanic that is not great. It could have added a lot of tension and made the game better.

7) Super Kiwi 64 - Wow! This took me about an hour to 100%. It only cost $3. It was a fantastic 3D platformer collectathon. Highly recommend.

6) Elderand - A short, fun Metroidvania! Really enjoyed this. There are some flaws. I wish points of interest came off of your map once you finished them. I'm missing a key item that I cannot find anywhere, which is a bit frustrating.

5) Like A Dragon: Ishin - I really came around on this game.. When I started, I was not really into it. I think I'm not big on samurais. Somewhere around Chapter 8 though, it really grabbed me and I was excited to play and see it through to the end. This is definitely a great LAD game.

4) The Callisto Protocol - I do not understand all of the hate this game received. I really, really enjoyed it.

3) River City Girls 2 - What a fantastic sequel! This game went from 2-player co-op to 4-player co-op! The game is roughly twice the length of the first one. Towards the end of the first one, I was ready to be done. When I realized I was about to start the end section of this game, I felt like this was about the right length. This means they kept the pace going very well.

2) Choo-Choo Charles - Fantastic. Everything I wanted it to be. I <3 Charles. There were a number of mechanics in this game that made me go, "Why is this not done more?!"

1) Street Fighter 6 - This game is great. World Tour mode is fantastic. It took me about 30 hours. Now, I'm taking a little break before attempting to learn some characters and get beat by people online. Hopefully, ranked matchmaking is good and I can actually feel like I'm paired up with people on my level. So far when doing the daily arcade cabinet challenges (no real matchmaking), I have either paired up with people way better than me or seemingly completely new to SF.