Holy snapping duck shit can 2023 go and fuck itself.
For reasons I won’t dive deeply into here 2023 was not a great year for me personally. There were enough tragedies, conflicts and challenges (both personal and professional) that made just getting through the year a real slog. It was a different set of the challenges than the ones I had gotten used to throughout the pandemic, something that shook my internal support system enough to make me take a very, very long break this year. I do have hope for the next year though as all those hits I took last year have, thankfully, put me in good steading for the next. Here’s to that.
One shining star in all of the mire I found myself in was my chosen refuge: gaming. It’s been a good few years since we had a cracker of a year like this one and for that I’m infinitely thankful. I saw so many devs who I’d been fans of for ages release their next titles, long awaited sequels drop and the resurrection of numerous IPs that were both fan and critically acclaimed. This is brilliantly reflected in my average scores this year, as well as the honourable mention list which has swollen to a grand total of 7 games which I’m sure is a record.
The relaxing of my usual rules also saw me improve ever so slightly on last year’s game count, hitting a grand total of 39 titles. I’m very happy with this number, although I will still forever chase that elusive 52+ number just for the sake of pushing myself to keep exploring. This was also the first year when I’d bought a couple games that I just simply didn’t get around to, something I would’ve never done in the past. They’re on the cards for some of the first games for me to play this year since I have the luxury of time on my side.
As is my want and tradition on this blog here’s the list of all games I played in 2023, in chronological order and with their ratings:
- God of War (2018): 9.25/10
- God of War: Ragnarok: 9.25/10
- As Dusk Falls: 8.5/10
- Forspoken: 5.5/10
- Juno: New Origins: 8.0/10
- Hi-Fi RUSH: 7.0/10
- Mighty Party: 4.0/10
- Hogwarts Legacy: 7.75/10
- Destiny 2: Lightfall: 8.0/10
- Poly Vita: 7.5/10
- Forklift Extreme: 8.0/10
- Blanc: 7.5/10
- Storyteller: 8.5/10
- Terra Nil: 8.25/10
- Beyond Contact: 7.5/10
- Breakout 13: 8.0/10
- DOTA 2: New Frontiers: 9.0/10
- Horizon: Forbidden West: 9.25/10
- Planet of Lana: 8.0/10
- Star Wars: Jedi Survivor: 8.25/10
- Diablo IV: 9.5/10
- The Legend of Zelda: Tears of the Kingdom: 9.85/10
- Class of ’09: 8.0/10
- Desta: The Memories Between: 7.0/10
- Oxenfree II: Lost Signals: 8.5/10
- Remnant 2: 9.0/10
- 9 Years of Shadows: 7.0/10
- Atlas Fallen: 6.0/10
- 20 Minutes Till Dawn: 8.75/10
- Armored Core VI: Fires of Rubicon: 9.25/10
- Starfield: 7.5/10
- Playdate: Unrated.
- Cyberpunk 2077: Phantom Liberty: 9.5/10
- Goodbye Volcano High: 8.5/10
- Viewfinder: 7.5/10
- The Talos Principle 2: 9.5/10
- Cities Skylines 2: 6.0/10
- Alan Wake 2: 8.5/10
I do not feel bad about this year’s wooden spoon award which goes to the ever-deserving Mighty Party. A predatory mobile game that seeks to capture both your attention and your wallet with reckless abandon it got past my bullshit detector by promising some mindless entertainment before swiftly throwing me into microtransaction hell. Worst still it seems that this dark pattern has infested every single similar kind of game you can imagine as my quest to find similar titles ended up with me finding basically the same thing no matter where I went. Fuck you Mighty Party and all those that seek to emulate it.
As I mentioned before this year’s honourable mentions list is a long one, so buckle up champ let’s dive in:
- God of War/God of War: Ragnarok: I’ll put these two together since they effectively became one long experience for me. It’s a testament to the 2018 release that it held up so well by today’s standards and Ragnarok just delivered even more of the same. In fact the recently released Valhalla DLC is the first thing on my list to play this year, a surprise that I was very happy to see during the Game Awards ceremony.
- DOTA 2: New Frontiers: There’s nothing quite like being able to review a game multiple times over the decade plus I’ve been playing it. DOTA 2 remains the staple that I’m not able to put down, my regular crew pretty much always up for a game or two every night that serves as group therapy and a social touch point. New Frontiers shook the tree on it enough for me to count it as a new game but Valve hasn’t stopped there with it. The most recent patches continue to keep the experience fresh, so much so that I feel like another one of these reviews will be on the cards in the next year or two.
- Horizon: Forbidden West: Whilst the base game was able to take out my GOTY in a heated battle with Elden Ring the DLC, didn’t manage to reach the same heights. To be sure, I still loved it, but it’s in the ring with a lot of high powered contenders and it didn’t reach the same dizzying heights. I’m still looking forward to the next instalment in this game as it’s really setting itself up for something grand.
- Diablo IV: My mouse thought it was safe, but it was not. Diablo has always been a favourite IP of mine and a lot of my friends. So logging on every night to see a solid crew of people already playing warmed my heart to no end. Couple that with the actual, shockingly, fun gameplay and you have a recipe for a great experience. I haven’t been back since then though, but I won’t rule it out.
- Remnant 2: I don’t think anyone expected this game to be as good or as deep as it was, punching so far above its weight class it wasn’t funny. Whilst I didn’t get as deep as I did in say Elden Ring with the build I went for I still had a ton of fun figuring out how to build something that felt broken. Couple that with the first proper implementation of procedural generation for all aspects of the game, including the narrative, you’ve got something really special here.
- Armored Core VI: Fires of Rubicon: Slow to start but man, it did punch hard with the narrative choices. No matter what I did to rationalise what I was doing in that game I still felt like I had no good options towards the end. Couple that with the ultra spammy mech play that was tons of fun once you’d made “that” build and I couldn’t really ask for more.
With that all out of the way this my Game of the Year for 2023 is:
Absolutely no contest here, The Legend of Zelda: Tears of the Kingdom was my game of the year after it’s opening hours. It just had everything I needed in a game at that time and the fact that I spent more than double my hours in it when compared to the original (whilst still thinking I’d spent about the same amount of time in both) is a testament to how good it is. I don’t usually crack the 50 hour mark on any games these days so to unknowingly do it with Zelda further reinforces just how well all of its various elements come together. To be sure I know many will likely choose Baldur’s Gate 3 over ToTK but I couldn’t even bring myself to start it as I’ve never enjoyed games in that genre unfortunately. Truly though Zelda is the only reason I have a switch in the house, and will likely be for a long time to come.
In second place is The Talos Principle 2 for taking an beloved IP from long ago and doing all parts of it on a much grander scale. The puzzles were great, providing enough challenge to make you feel like a real smart person when you finally clicked on a solution. The narrative stands out as well, expanding the world significantly and, hopefully, setting up for some amazing things to come. It’s one of the few games I’ve 100% during my initial playthrough and given how your actions in the game impact the ending I’m so glad I did.
Finally, taking out a very close third, is Cyberpunk 2077: Phantom Liberty. This DLC just makes the whole game better on so many levels and the work that CD Projekt Red put in over the last few years has paid massive dividends. It’s a shame that we won’t see more from this game as the redemption arc that it’s gone through as it’s carved out an extremely solid foundation for itself. The days of having DLCs that are the same size of the main game are rare now and I hope the industry looks to what the devs did here and seek to replicate it more fully.
What’s the outlook like for 2024 then? Having gone through my review queue over the last few days, moving things around as dates slip, there were a bunch of things that I was waiting on in 2023 that should be coming out then. There’s your usual mix of AAA sequels, which are mostly looking good, along with a lot of experimental titles and new IPs to explore. This is also the year I’d planned to start gaming in earnest with my kids, so perhaps you’ll see a slight shift in some of the titles that make their way up here. So it looks interesting to say the least.
Happy new year y’all. Here’s hoping for a better one!