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GOTY 2023

This year has been notable more for the number of games I didn't get around to than for the ones I did. Here's a quick rundown of games I played which you will not be seeing on this list:

- Tears of the Kingdom, which did nothing for me.

- Starfield and Everspace 2, both of which I swear I'll totally for real get back to at some point.

- Street Fighter 6 and Jedi Survivor, both of which I haven't quite played enough to make it on the list.

These are joined by games I didn't even touch at all:

- Almost all of the high profile remakes. I ain't got the time for that.

- Fire Emblem Engage, because I can't look at that protagonist while maintaining my sanity.

- Baldur's Gate 3, which is nerd shit.

- Alan Wake 2, because I didn't like the first one.

- Spiderman 2, which i will almost certainly play next year.

- Finally, of course, Armored Core VI. I'll see it in hell along with Elden Ring.

Man, there were a ton of games I didn't play. Dave the Diver and Sea of Stars also happened this year, I guess? Probably should have looked at those.

List items

  • A direct sequel to 2014's The Talos Principle is a weird idea to anyone who played it. It was a good-to-great First Person Puzzle game with a creative setting and interesting but basic philosophical aspirations. Yet, after only a couple hours into this follow-up it feels like the most natural progression imaginable.

    The plot is larger with more and deeper characters, the philosophical aspects are expanded and cover topics that, while fundamental, aren't usually addressed in video games. The puzzle design also spins out in systems and complexity from the first game, with more than 150 distinct puzzle rooms and a dozen new gameplay mechanics. This thing goes places with the puzzles, writing, and visuals that you wouldn't expect going in.

    The analogy I've been working with is that the jump from first to second Talos Principle is similar to the jump from the first to second Portal games in terms of scope, complexity, and technical sophistication. This is one of the best surprises I've had with a game in years.

  • They finally made a good New Super Mario game. It shouldn't have been possible for a modern one of these to do everything you'd want in a 2D Mario game, but here it is. The intricacy and overwhelming variety of the one-off wonder effects is truly remarkable. This is also the first multiplayer Mario game that doesn't feel like it sacrificed the singleplayer experience. Nintendo pulled off everything they've been trying to do with these 2D games since Mario World, and it's incredible.

  • This thing came out of nowhere and proved Rhythm Action gameplay can, in fact, work. That's impressive on its own, but when combined with its exuberant sense of style, fun characters, and overall flawless presentation Hi-fi Rush also became something special. It's a real shame a lot of people missed this one since it was dropped in the January dumping grounds. Everyone reading this should check it out.

  • **Placeholder for We Love Katamari Re-Roll**

    This was the only remake I played from this year, and I regret nothing. We Love Katamari is probably the second best game in the all-time-great Katamari series, and the gameplay still holds up really well. If anything, playing this game made me sad that Namco isn't trying to reboot this series, because I'd love to see what could be done with this gameplay fully utilizing modern hardware.

  • The first Sludge Life was my 2020 game of the year, because out of everything it hit in the exact right way for that specific point in time. The sequel is more Sludge Life. There's a new and larger map, more idiots and freaks to talk to, and several new Big Mud tracks. It's just as sludgy as the first, and really we shouldn't expect anything more or less. Yet, this is 2023 and it doesn't hit as hard, through no fault of its own. I know you, yes you, haven't played either of these games and you really should. They embody all of the positive attributes of dirtbag aesthetics.

  • I was an unabashed fan of Forzas 2 and 3 way back when, and I've had a hard time enjoying the main Motorsport series since then. I've had a better experience with this reboot than I did with any of the XBONE entries, so I guess that time off between Forza 7 and now actually helped. This game is pretty much everything I could want or ask for in a mainline Forza title, and I have no complaints. I'll probably use this as my go to Racing Sim for the next few years as I slowly chew on the experience.

  • Man, this is the most up-and-down game on this list. On the pro side, this thing has the best soundtrack of the year, amazing style, enjoyable traversal, and a story that has more going on than it has any right to. For the cons, the trick/combat system is painfully basic and the boss design highly questionable. At the end of the day, I like a lot of what is going on here in Legally Not Jet Set Radio 3. If you don't want to play it, you should at least look up the OST.

  • This wound up being the game that scratched my long suffering open-world itch. The game world and characters are cute, but not the main draw. I played it for the traversal and map clearing and it doesn't disappoint, which is impressive considering you can tell this was made by a small team. I can't speak to how well it represents New Caledonian culture, but I appreciate that it's there.

  • I don't have a name for this genre, but this was my one of those for this year. The gameplay consists of doing basic House Flipper or Construction Sim stuff to clean up bombed out portions of European cities in the late-40's. It's completely functional and fine, which is what I needed out of it.

  • I'm at the middle of the venn diagram for the target audience of people who like interesting traversal and the 2012 game, Journey. You climb your way up a lifeless and abandoned mountain, taking in the beauty and melancholy of the ruined world around you. It expands on the now standard stamina gauge climbing mechanic and hits most of the same emotional beats as Journey. It's a small, decent time for anyone who doesn't mind ingesting trace amounts of le prĂ©tention.