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Game of the Year 2023

Played a lot of games this year, but found myself feeling some of the more heavy hitters didn't do it for me. Burned out hard on Tears of the Kingdom after 10 hours or so after putting in a 120+ hours on BoTW.

Resident Evil 4 Remake was a bit underwhelming for me too; felt a little bit too self serious whereas the original was cheesy B-movie brilliance. I don't think it really needed a remake either since the game has been released on just about every system/storefront since 2005. RE 2 & 3 made a bit more sense since they had the original tank controls from the PS1 era.

2023 was a great year for gaming, no doubt! Hope everyone had a great 2023 and the games keep coming in 2024!

List items

  • I should preface this by saying that I really have zero interest in the Star Wars IP. I know the main sticking points of the film franchise and have played many games like KOTOR and Tiefighter etc, but I've never really had an affinity for the lore and lean more towards more mature sci-fi like Blade Runner/The Terminator.

    That said though I've absolutely loved the Uncharted video game series from Naughty Dog over the years and this is the best Uncharted-esque video game I've played since Uncharted 4.

    I recognize this is a fairly reductive statement though all things considered because Star Wars Jedi: Survivor really differentiates itself from most games this year for me because I've come to really care for the characters in this series like Cal Kestus, Marren, and Greez. The interpersonal relationships between these characters I've found to be surprisingly endearing and interesting as someone who couldn't care less about Star Wars. Areas like the Cantina on Koboh gave me light Normandy vibes at times as I would speak to the various clientele about their backstories and what led to their current predicaments/status. I really enjoyed the change of pace it offered and how it enriched the overall world.

    I think this game is phenomenal on just about every front. The gameplay itself is fairly simple all things considered, but does offer quite a bit in terms of depth for those willing to put the time into making use of the various abilities/weapons Cal receives over the course of the game. I found the level design to be fantastic as well and felt it got better over the course of the game as you're given more options in terms of mobility and fast travel.

    I played the game on PS5 around the time of launch and will not defend the state of the game from a performance standpoint, but there is an underlying game here that is well worth playing and was the most enjoyable overall package I had the pleasure of experiencing in 2023. Sincerely ready for whatever comes next with this Respawn series.

  • I remember playing Alan Wake back on the Xbox 360 in late 2010 and putting it down after about an hour so to go back to playing more Mass Effect 2 or God of War III. I didn't necessarily disdain the game, but I felt it played like a PS2/Xbox game with an HD makeover as a teenager. I didn't play another Remedy game until Control came out almost a decade later, but fell deep in love with that game and Jesse Faden's story.

    So once Alan Wake II was originally announced I realized I would definitely need to go back and play the first game to ensure I had a better understanding of the first game's story and happenings. I ended opting to play the Alan Wake 1 remaster on PS5 and finished the entire game, but to be blunt, found it to be a middling experience. I just felt there was an over reliance on the tedious combat and the game just had a strange overall tone to it with certain portions of it being too self-serious and other portions like the Old Gods of Asgard farm fight being cheesy B-movie brilliance. I even played the DLCs for the games as well (not American Nightmare), but those didn't really add anything substantial to the game in my mind.

    So going into Alan Wake II with my ambivalence about the first game and my undying love for Control, I really wasn't sure what to expect. But thankfully I came away from Alan Wake II very satisfied, even if there were some aspects of the game that irked me.

    The overall story is still fairly non-sensical, but I will say its presentation is 1000% better than Alan Wake 1. The chapters with Saga Anderson I felt were the most interesting from a gameplay perspective as I gained abilities and items to fully explore the Bright Falls/Cauldron Lake areas. I am a massive fan of the Bryan Fuller Hannibal series and going into Saga's mind palace to look over case details and profiling felt like a Hugh Dancy's Will Graham video game I never knew I wanted.

    However, the chapters with Alan Wake I found to be more of a chore (outside of that romping sing along!!) as the enemies were just more frustrating than anything else. Speaking of frustrating, I have no clue how some of those Saga boss fight passed QA testing from the player perspective. I know there is a reason there were just 3-4 boss fight in the entire game.....

    But these gripes aside, the presentation of Alan Wake II is stunning. The world detail from a graphical perspective (especially in the Dark Place) evinced memories of the matador level from Psychonauts in its aesthetic and detail with the graffiti and billboards. I sincerely enjoyed the humor in this game as well with the Koskela brother videos being a massive part of that. My favorite Finnish custodian having such a prominent role in the game was a lot of fun as well.

    I will throw my hands up and admit that I don't think Alan Wake II is some landmark 10/10 game that reinvents the survival-horror genre, but it's a roller coaster of a good time and lives up to the Remedy pedigree I've come to expect after Control.

  • I am a massive fan of the Expanse series, first and foremost. I would go so far to say it is my favorite Sci-Fi series of this century taking into account both the novels (which I voraciously finished all within the span of a couple months) and short-lived TV show that was cancelled by SyFy and later picked back up by Amazon only to be cancelled again a couple seasons later with a fairly humdrum 5 or 6 episodes. I find that I speak to myself in Beltalowda creole most days as well, sasa ke bossmang?

    Having the Expanse universe paired with the Telltale Games style of game design was a match made in the stars for me, and I absolutely loved this small episodic pack as the inter-politics of Earth, Mars, and the Belt are rife for Telltale's style of decision making/morality and the different blend of crew members offers so many potential choices a ways to align yourself in the game.

    Playing as Camina Drummer (voiced by the incomparable Cara Gee) was a definite treat as well and she puts in a fantastic performance as she did on the TV series as well, I don't think this series reinvents the wheel in terms of the Telltale Games aesthetic, but it's a damn fine tale with some of the best source material they could ask for.

  • I hate comic book related series for the most part and unabashedly could not care less about the larger Marverlverse that has been established over the past couple of years, but I like to think I know a quality game when I see and play one. And Marvel's Spider-Man 2 is one of the most quality video games you could play this year.

    Following in the footsteps of the the first Spider-Man game and the stand-alone Miles Morales release (both of which I loved as well), Marvel's Spider-Man 2 allows you to switch between the main stars of the show whenever you want and features just about the most seamless loading screen I've ever seen in my life, if we can even call it that given how fast it is.

    The story picks up right where the previous games left off and spares no time throwing you into the thick of it, highlighting what has to be the best traversal of any game ever made. The freedom of mobility given to you in this game is as good as it's ever been, and paired with PS5's SSD in performance mode running at 60 FPS, is breathtaking to see on a 4K TV.

    I really enjoyed how it juggled the personal lives/issues of both Peter and Miles and how they assist each other through the transition. I liked that the game really didn't feature too much fluff either and was able to platinum the game in a single weekend.

    Insomniac really went out of their way to put meaningful missions and quest lines in the game that have interesting side characters and stories, which I appreciate in a world where other similar style open world games mire you in bland minutia.

    I sincerely hope Sony keeps pumping out these quality 1st party titles such as God of War, Horizon, etc. There's not been a better series of comic book related games since the Batman Arkham trilogy than what Sony/Insomniac have created with this Spider-Man series.

  • Street Fighter 6 monopolized my time this June/July in terms of video game playing and I think this game is phenomenal. As someone who has been playing Street Fighter since the halycon days of Street Fighter 2, I sincerely think this is the best in the series this side of the 21st century.

    After the humdrum release of Street Fighter 5, I think there was a real realization within Capcom that they needed to hit this one out of the park, and they swung for the fences in my mind. The underlying fighting system is extremely engaging and amount of modes they've added on top of the game is stunning.

    I absolutely had a blast with the story mode of creating my own fighter and being able to pick and choose certain styles as I made my way through the game. Being able to combine Manon's style with Ryu's Hadouken, E. Honda's hundred hand slap, and whatever else I was in the mood to try was awesome. The story itself is a dumb B-movie style cheese fest, and the last couple of chapters were brutal in terms of difficulty (in a really off putting way, that spoiled some of my enjoyment), but the overall mode was super fun. This along with the regular Arcade mode and training modes is a worth the price of admission alone in my mind, but we've not even talked about the Online Multiplayer side.

    And speaking on that, it's just as awesome! The amount of options available for ranked/casual battles in the lobby along with all the other older Capcom Arcade games available for play in the Game Center like Final Fight, etc, really just elevates the package. Joining the lobby and running to the center circle in the plaza to just see what crazy costumes folks were wearing and dancing along with others was just a blast.

    Time will tell if I choose to continue playing more in 2024, but I really enjoyed my time with Street Fighter 6 overall and I think it's a winner for both those experienced with fighting games and for those that might want dip their toes into the genre.

  • The Indie genre in video games is pretty hit and miss with me these days, as the amount of artsy-fartsy type games seems to grow year by year. I find that most of these types of games have style in spades, but there's really not too much substance to them. Cocoon is one of the rare few in my mind that has both in spades and is a truly brilliant game.

    I've always appreciated Limbo/Inside from afar and the Jeppe Carlsen aesthetic, but neither of those games really sunk their teeth into me the way Cocoon has this year. The game itself is absolutely gorgeous and moves well, but what really blew my mind was the number of situations where I was literally saying "Wow!" or "That's f$@#ing, awesome!".

    When you start understanding how you need go multiple layers deep to ensure you can access an item in another layer and begin wracking your brain to think about how you're gonna pull that off, it's a real treat. None of the puzzles are ever so hard you just wanna throw a controller either, which is a big plus in my mind. I like to be challenged, but there's no "The Witness" level of BS here in terms of working your way through the game which will have you losing your mind.

    Cocoon is an incredible game, and one that I will remember very fondly for years to come.

  • I really wish I had played more "Lies of P" this year. I started it on a whim as the game seemed to have some really good word of mouth among the diehard Soulsborne community, which is a pretty tough thing to do with most non-From Software games given how they are pretty heavily skewered/scrutinized. Most games fail to capture the magic of what makes those games so great in my experience. But I'm definitely in agreement regarding "Lies of P" as it's the best Non-From Software game I've ever played.

    I really enjoy the world of "Lies of P" and think said world might be the most incredible aspect of the game. Taking the played out story of Pinocchio/Geppetto and intertwining it with a macabre world of mechanized puppets that have gone rogue and are slaughtering everyone in town is a pretty genius interpretation for a Souls-esque world. This would mean nothing if the game didn't play well, but I find it plays quite well and is chock full of parrying/backstabs I've come to love with this style of game.

    I think the game is difficult too, but never in a punishing way (like those final chapters of Street Fighter 6 story mode...) with many different weapons and items at your disposal for trial and error. I also think the options presented with you in terms of choices are quite interesting and how the apply to the overall ending etc is very novel.

    I only sunk around 5-6 hours into the game before I moved on and started playing other fall releases, but I definitely want to jump back early next year.

  • Much like Street Fighter, I have been playing Mortal Kombat games since the 16-bit era. But unlike Street Fighter, I think Mortal Kombat had a much harder time navigating the early 00's era in terms of it's identity and where the series would go. Much like Street Fighter 4 breathed new life into said series, Mortal Kombat 9 was the beginning of the MK renaissance in my book and was the first MK game in a long while that was truly great. This followed with Mortal Kombat X and Mortal Kombat 11, which were both great games in the own right as well, until we get to the latest iteration in the series.

    From a story standpoint, the aftermath of the events of MK11 really lets MK1 start with a blank canvass and chart it's own path. Liu Kang is the newly minted god of thunder and Raiden/Kung Lao are the new kids on the block. From there a bunch of other long time fan favorites enter the fray and the story kind of goes through it's paces. That is, until the last hour of the game which is probably one of the coolest/most incredible sequences and turn of events in MK history.

    The game itself play extremely well though and the addition of Kameos adds another element of playability to the game in terms of mixing and matching certain fighters and other Kameos. The number of modes is very compelling as well with returning modes like Invasion which offer a lot of bang for your buck in terms of keeping things interesting. Plenty of other online modes to enjoy as well.

    I spent a solid 2-3 weeks completing the story and the Invasions mode and felt like I got most of what I wanted from the game. A handful of matches online also reminded me that I'll never be the world champion either, but Mortal Kombat 1 is a solid game and I'm excited to see where the series is heading next.

  • Dredge is easily the most unique game of 2023 for me. A hybrid fishing/salvage simulator baked into a larger horror game where you are completing quests and dreading having to go out into the night, such a strange hodge-podge!

    An extremely fun hodge-podge though which is ultimately what truly matters. The sense of exploration and reward within this game is enormous. I absolutely loved visiting the various ports and finding various side quests here and there to complete, all the while upgrading my boat and gear along the way. The mini-games are pretty engaging as well.

    I definitely did dread going out at night as well given how likely you are to be rammed by boats that don't exists, insane leviathans from below, rocks that don't exist, and even more insane leviathans from below! If I had one complaint about the game, it's that the difficulty could be a bit too brutal at times in certain sections where there's basically nothing you can do but hope for the best. I liken certain portions of this game to FTL from a decade or so again in how punitive it can be.

    That said, I think Dredge is a phenomenal game and well worth the dread of going out at night and losing your mind. Both within the game and in real life!

  • I've always heard folks refer to Dead Space as being a sleeper hit when it came out in 2008 and I think that there's a pinch of truth to that.

    I can remember leading up to X-Mas that year when teenage Elyk247 had been looking through what 5-6 Xbox 360 games he was gonna ask his parents for presents; the list being littered with soon to be played games such as Fallout 3 and Gears of War 2 among others. Dead Space was also on the list as I had seen some footage of it from the E3 coverage that year and thinking that if the game was as good as it looked, it was gonna be something special. Of course it was and I absolutely loved it with all my heart.

    Looking back at that now, I think the reason I consider the game to be a sleeper hit is due to how incredible it really was and how in the pantheon of games released in 2008 such as GTA IV/Persona 4/MGS4/ and others provided above, I would go so far as to say "Dead Space" the one I look back on most fondly.

    Having not played the game since it originally came out in 2008, this "Dead Space" remake was a very welcome delight as it gave me the chance to play through the tale of Isaac Clarke and the USG Ishimura once more.

    Memories gushed back such as using the plasma cutter the satisfaction of strategic dismemberment against the necromorphs, the awesome set pieces and boss fights, and the overall dread of walking through corridors for the nth time to see what awful horror was there now.

    I sincerely hope EA continues with releasing further Dead Space remakes and hope that new titles will be released in this sci-fi world.

  • I think Resident Evil Village is one of the coolest and best video games to come out in the last couple of years as provided on my previous GOTY for 2021. Playing it in VR as well? Sign me up!

    I honestly think this might be the best reason to own a PSVR2 headset on the PS5, but I don't think it's worth the full $549.99 to play it. Having the option is awesome though, but this game made me about as motion sick as any VR game ever has.

    I can cope with the VR games where you stand in one place like Beat Saber and Job Simulator, but when I start walking around using the control stick, it wont be long until my stomach is churning and I'm feeling woozy.

    I was able to play this game up until around the Castle sequence on and off this year, but I don't think I have the sea legs to see it all the way.

  • I really enjoyed "What the Bat?" this year and it was one of the few PSVR2 titles I played all the way through. It's a delightful game with an awesome premise for VR that's able to capitalize in its execution as well.

  • I'm still calling it FIFA to all my friends, because in all honesty, it really is! Menu's were a bit crappier this year, but I still have a blast playing the game.

    Hoping we can get some fresh player faces for the EPL mode soon though.