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Games of the Year 2023: The Good

The persistent delays of the past few years finally led to a plethora of releases in 2023, of which a surprisingly large number turned out to bangers. Of the 21 games that I was anticipating 20 of them were released (Suicide Squad: Kill the Justice League was the only delay). I managed to play only 11 because several games took over 30 hours and two of them crossed the 100 hour threshold. We really got our money's worth this year.

1. Baldur's Gate III

I had never played a game from Larian Studios before Baldur's Gate III. 112 hours later, Larian is now one of my favourite developers and I cannot wait to see what they do next.

The writing, the voice acting, the worldbuilding, the storytelling, the graphics, every aspect of this game was fantastic. But what I find so funny about Baldur's Gate 3 being critically acclaimed is that this type of game is not new. 20 years ago we had games like this in Icewind Dale, Neverwinter Nights, Planescape: Torment. Hell there is the ORIGINAL Baldur's Gate and some people may consider Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic to be in this vein. But as 3D graphics improved and the first-person shooters and action-adventure games took hold the traditional CRPG faded into obscurity.

It is very apropos that Starfield was released the same year as Baldur's Gate 3. Bethesda took the crown as the king of role-playing games with the release of Oblivion for the Xbox 360 and hadn't relinquished it since. But complacency breeds failure and not only did Bethesda fall flat on its face with the release of Starfield, but Baldur's Gate 3 was waiting in the wings to remind people what a role-playing game truly could be.

I haven't even mentioned the support Larian has given to the game after it's launch. Baldur's Gate 3 was in early access for nearly three years. But in just the four months since its August release, Larian has put out five major patches and even added an epilogue to the game with over 3,500 new lines of dialogue.

At the start of 2023 if you had told me that a potential "Game of the Decade" was being released I wouldn't have believed you. Nothing that had been announced looked that good. But Baldur's Gate 3 has easily made that list. The only question now is how high will it climb?

2. Persona 3 Portable

I have written about how my introduction to the Persona series was through Persona 4 Golden. Since then I have played every Persona game the moment it's released but have never looked backwards. This year I changed that with the release of Persona 3 Portable on Steam.

I was not prepared for how amazing of a game Persona 3 would be. My understanding was that Persona 3 was the first game in the "true" Persona series and it kicked off ideas that were perfected in Persona 4 and Persona 5. I honestly think the story of Persona 3 may be the best of them all. It was so engaging I put over 60 hours into this game on my Steam Deck.

To be very clear the combat, the dungeon design, and the graphics are quite dated so if you bounce off the game because of them I wouldn't blame you. Really the only negative thing I have to say about Persona 3 Portable is that I wish I hadn't played it. Because they are remaking it in the Persona 5 engine in 2024 which could easily be one of the best RPGs of next year.

3. Super Mario Bros Wonder

You'd think after 30 years Nintendo would be running out of ideas for a Super Mario Bros game and finally ship a dud. But they continue to impress and straddle that line between being faithful to the franchise and continuing to innovate.

Super Mario Bros Wonder is another terrific addition to the series and is a must play game for anyone with a Nintendo Switch. You're going to get a great mix of the perfectly designed 2D Nintendo side scrolling levels that have made the game such a darling. While at the same time have access to cool new additions to the formula like badges that augment a characters ability for a single level to the "wonder fruit" mechanic which can almost feel like you're playing a brand new type of game.

And you can do all of this in a 4 player coop mode that even has characters who cannot die so your little brothers, sisters, nieces, and nephews can join in on the fun.

4. Cyberpunk 2077: Phantom Liberty

Cyberpunk 2077 made my list of honourable mentions in 2020. My expectations had been set so damn high that it was probably impossible for any developer to match them. At best we received a futuristic Skyrim and while that was fun, it just wasn't what I had been hoping for.

Jump ahead three years and we have received Phantom Liberty, the first (and most likely only) DLC for Cyberpunk 2077. The reason it made my good list in 2023 is because this time around it met every expectation I had. After the v2.0 update where CD Projekt Red overhauled nearly game mechanic, I understood what type of game Phantom Liberty was going to be and planned my character accordingly. Gone was the farcical idea of being a netrunner who could take on the world without ever having to fire a gun. Instead I embraced the idea of getting right into my enemy's face and tearing it apart using either mantis blades or a shotgun. And I gotta say, it was an immensely satisfying power trip for 40+ hours.

5. Mortal Kombat 1

You'd think after twelve games NetherRealm Studios would run out of ideas but they have once again delivered a great fighting game with an awesome story in Mortal Kombat 1.

If you're not a fan of their previous games this one isn't going to change your mind. But that is exactly why I loved it. The combat, the graphics, the voice acting, are all A+ like usual and they are used to tell an engaging story. I literally could not ask for anything more.

6. Suika Game

There really isn't much to say other than Suika Game is an addictive little puzzler which you could easily find yourself losing hours to. Play at your own risk.