Dann’s Top Games of 2023

Forget the rest, here are the ones that I thought were the best: Dann’s Top Games of 2023.

Ah 2013, what a year, huh? We had a new Pikmin game, The Last of Us Part One, a new Diablo game launch. Somethings never change — eh? A decade on and we’re still seeing a lot of the same series (or, in the case of certain properties, games) crop up on the regular, but there have been a lot of great new games too. In a time when the gulf between big-budget and shoestring-indie has grown wider and wider, I want to take a minute to reflect on my favourite games of 2023.

I’ve got to start this list by saying that I’ve spent the year catching up with games that I missed the first time around. I gorged myself on Disco Elysium, Ghostwire Tokyo and The Big Con, finally getting to play through them, while also dipping into other titles I’d never given time to, like Loop Hero and Return of the Obra Dinn. Then there’s the fact that so many games are live products now, games like Hitman, Pokemon Go, Crusader Kings III and Stellaris simply keep giving and giving… it’s a surprise that anybody has any time to play anything new anymore. I started this year aiming to get through the Yakuza (Now Like A Dragon) series before new games launched, and utterly failed, ending the year three-and-a-half games in. What a time to be alive.

Now, on with my favourites of the new games that I did get to play:

Mr Sun’s Hatbox

Mr Sun's Hatbox

From Castle Wolfestein to Metal Gear Solid to Mr Sun’s Hatbox; the stealth genre has come full circle thanks to Mr Sun losing his hatbox. Knock out enemies, steal their stuff and complete increasingly difficult, freeform missions, all while building up a totally irreverent and nonchalant base to refine and enhance your mob of enlisted maniacs and assorted incompetents.

Mr Sun’s Hatbox perfectly captures the “Mario X” that Speulnky did with the rogue genre all those years back, and it just keeps giving and giving and giving.

Passpartout 2

I can’t draw for putty, but I fell in love with the first Passpartout when I first laid eyes on it one thousand years ago. The sequel is better in every way. You’re still a struggling artist who is trying to hawk scribbles and sketches to extremely particular customers, but now the world you explore is open for you to run around, there are quests, and there’s an actual story.

There are also more tools, and you can paint on more than just easels… in fact, the world changes as you advance throughout, with warning signs, car designs and billboards all eventually proudly displaying your creations as you quest to become A Good Painter.

Jagged Alliance 3

Jagged Alliance 3

On the subject of games that came out a thousand years ago, and completely ignoring my conversation about 2013 in the intro… Jagged Alliance is back. There have been approximately 100 attempts at rekindling the Jagged Alliance series since 2 came out back in ’99, so much so that a lot of people lost faith.

How wrong they were to stray from the light and lose their faith, Jagged Alliance 3 is a masterpiece that almost entirely captures the feel of the first two, and while it did feel light on meta gameplay (buying guns online, weapon variety, alternative merc collectives) it made up for it in quality, mod support and — as it turns out — post-launch features, including the return of Bobby Ray’s Online gun store.

Monster Hunter Now

I was a sucker for Pokemon Go: it was a great franchise to adapt to mobile and the whole ‘getting out and meeting people’ side-effect of playing it to a high level has given me a bunch of new friends who I would have never met if I hadn’t have dived in so hard. Monster Hunter feels like an odd fit for the formula, and it’s a different type of game, however, the combat is sublime and the team behind it are churning out new content at such a rate that I wouldn’t be surprised if the next update (Hunt-a-thon), or one that comes soon after it, suddenly causes the social element of it to bloom.

Pizza Possum

Pizza Possum

I can’t put a price on the value that Pizza Possum has given me. I regularly play games with my family, and my youngest daughter loves freeform, sandbox games. Due to their nature, there isn’t always too much cooperation or coordination required to do stuff, and when there is, it rarely feels like it’s achieving anything.

Pizza Possum was a game that she locked on to due to its beautiful visuals and clever level design. The cooperative play is its ideal version, and the chaos/stealth fusion feels perfect. It gave me instant joy and amazing bonding time with my youngest daughter who was always indescribably excited to hop on it again and try to nab another crown.

I’m still not done, to be honest. There are some honourable mentions — in fact, I could have made this a list of ten. Ozymandias was an amazing 4X that challenged the genre on a fundamental level, I hope that the developers get to keep doing that. Six Ages 2: Lights Going Out was as fantastic as the previous entries and sent me on a massive lore spiral that resulted in me replaying Ride Like the Wind and KoDP several times this year. The Bookwalker surprised me with its trope twist on tropes and the way it bundled stories and gameplay. Beyond The Long Night excited me with its balloon-hoisted fusion of dungeon crawling and bullet hell.

There’s more, of course. There always is. It’s been an amazing year for games and I barely scratched the surface of it. Here’s to another year of new and exciting games, and, also, to all of those series that’ll keep the big machines churning too.

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