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Old Man's Top 9 Games of 2023

This year had too many good games.

List items

  • Are you kidding me bro. Where did this game come from? I love Mass Effect and Dragon Age, but had no feelings or knowledge about Bioware's earlier Baldurs Gate games. And I'd tried Larian's previous game, Divinity: Original Sin 2, but I didn't love the combat and didn't feel drawn in to the characters.

    Here comes Baldurs Gate 3, with a seemingly impossible combination of complexity, fidelity, breadth and depth of not only its function, but its writing. Characters that are consistent and varied, and stories that are interesting and somehow don't break even when you have the opportunity to try to break them at any time.

    BG3 doesn't do much very new, it just does what others have done extremely well, extremely deeply. That's good enough to be one of the best of all time. It could have been 30 hours shorter and it would have been just as good.

  • This game shows the power of creative direction and intentionality to overcome all else. I hate jump scares. I hate survival horror. Combat as Alan was clunky in a bad way. But this survival horror game filled with jump scares is one of the best of all time.

    In the story, Alan Wake talks about how the story flows into the world like darkness as night falls. In a game full of meta commentary, I wonder if this was a commentary on this game where the story fills every little detail of the explorable game world. This game shows how a connected universe can be incredibly fulfilling, rather than a chore.

    An incredible feat of exploring the creative process while also building up an inception-like rule structure, while also being a meta commentary on the studio itself. I feel like a madman describing this game. I also felt like a madman trying to figure it out. I keep reading people talking about it, who pick up on a connection that seems obvious in hindsight. Yet there are a million connections like it. Sam Lake out-hideod Hideo Kojima.

  • This game is also one of the best of all time. There was a point when clearing the depths where I entered a zone of enjoyment that was unparalleled this year. Grabbing lightroots, building contraptions, collecting zonai stuff, created a loop made all the more fulfilling by the insane freedom of choice. The ultrahand in this game is the exact level of creativity that is ideal for me: extremely broad possibilities for those who want it, but plenty of fun little stuff for people who don't want to think too hard (me).

    This game carries a lesson of game design that I wish other studios adopted--it is perfectly good and fun to give your player a completely broken ability if it makes it more fun. I'm talking about Ascend--the ability to swim up through any object or building to the top. Absolutely insane that this ability exists and that they were able to design around it.

    This game also has the best story of any Zelda game I've played. The moment at the end of the tears segment was genuinely moving in a way I've not felt from the series, and same goes for the very end.

  • With the Phantom Liberty DLC and Version 2.0, Cyberpunk is now in conversation for the best games of all time. But it's up there mainly because of the writing. Both the moment-to-moment dialogue and story beats are deliciously human and layered. The most impressive thing to me was the ending I chose--The Moon--which created one of the most deeply conflicting feelings I can recall any creative endeavor eliciting from me. I really don't know why I felt compelled to make the choice I did, and I kind of want to ask them about it. The actress behind Songbird was incredible and deserved awards over Idris Elba (who also did great).

  • I think that if this game had the FROMSOFT name attached to it, it would have been in discussion for GOTY. So many games have tried to ape the Soulsbourne style, but all have felt lacking their own ambitions. This game is clearly working in that formula, but has its own ambitions that turned it into much more than an imitation. This especially goes for the story, which was better than any FROM game I've played.

    The biggest downside is boss enemy tuning. My least favorite boss in Elden Ring was the Elden Beast because if its awkward-to-avoid, huge-AOE attacks and huge health pool. This game has like 3 of those fights.

  • Resident Evil 4 was rad, and this game is also rad. Mix this game's gameplay with Alan Wake's creative sensibilities and you might have my favorite game of all time.

  • If you measured games by the % of time spent with a big, dumb smile on my face, this game would be GOTY. Awesome, funny musical moments. One of the best slapstick sequences I can remember. Easy recommend to anyone with gamepass.

  • A game of pure, pulse-pounding action. The game does a whole lot with graphics that feel like they could have come from an early PS4 game. Vibes will go a long way. Feels like a throwback in the best way.

  • It shows the strength of this year that this game is at #9, when it was an absolutely well-done, competent AAA open-ish worldish action game of its type. The story kind of sucks for about 80% of the time but you're probably not here for that. You want to fight with a lightsaber, and guess what, it's great at that. If they ever come out with DLC I'll be playing it.