Amoebic's Top Games of 2023
Ranking in numerical order has never really sat right with me. It's so hard for me to choose from dozens of 3rd place contenders this year. I like this category-thing, so I think I'll carry on making BS categories to suit my fancy, going forward.
To the games in question!
The ones that got me obsessed:
Baldur's Gate 3
We’ve said so much, but I’ll say it again; fully realized characters and worlds excel just being populated with the feeling of actual people. Larian achieved depth to their storytelling through extensively voiced and mo-capped actors leaning into the creativity of their trade and expressing the deeply personal and universal truths around agency and choice. This, combined with their attention to detail, made Baldur’s Gate 3 not just game of the year but possibly game of the decade.
The Legend of Zelda: Tears of the Kingdom
The world of Hyrule and the people who love and fight for it have matured with its audience in ways that I still dwell on long after playing. I don’t think I can adequately express my gratitude for how this story handles truth, choice, and sacrifice. And that's just the story. The shrine puzzles and crafting were just long enough to satisfy without being tedious, and the building allowed for some incredible creativity.
The One I'm Still Playing:
I absolutely love card-based Roguelikes, and am also exceptionally terrible at them, so it comes to no surprise that I'm still throwing myself at this day after day. I'm not sure what it is, but I feel like maybe I'll be onto something real soon. The unique universe and engaging, cell-shaded art style tickle something lovely in my brain, and the animated card actions are gracefully rendered and a joy to watch every time.
Baby, I'm Sorry I Forgot About You:
Wildfrost is still my go-to game for the Switch, with 40+ hours and counting, only supplanted by Beneath Oresa for punishingly hard card games. Its incredibly cute and bubbly art style lure you into a sense of security before painting the halls with your blood. Its brutal learning curve is only mildly blunted by how adorable it is. In fact, I stopped writing this to get a couple more rounds in. Flummoxed, I forgot it during our podcast list recording.
More Big Faves of the Year:
Dave the Diver
What a vacation Dave the Diver is, whisking you away to a faraway place, where it's always summer and the sea life is thriving, to an interesting little corner of the ocean Dave calls home. Challenging but never too tough, its satisfying, daily, 3-part loop captures a tropical sense of time while still giving into the machine of routine that is running a restaurant, which you do with the help of the enterprising staff you hire to take care of things while you swim about the ocean. Every few days Dave the Diver throws a new delightful spin at just the right moment without overstaying its welcome. What a gem of a game.
Oxenfree II: Lost Signals
Oxenfree II is another game this year that seemed to mature with its audience and acknowledge how people of various ages and experiences handle the strange and supernatural. I think there's a sense that the world has kind of learned to adjust to weird sh*t doing weird sh*t things, and someone's got to stop it so we can get back to some kind of normal.
Spider-Man 2 entered my list with a short time played because I dipped in just enough to taste its potential. I look forward to being home again with my PS5 sometime in the future where Spider-Man 2 can get more time onscreen. Having played a bit of Spider-Man and Miles Morales, it’s great to have both simultaneously to really compare and contrast the different abilities and playstyles. Combat is still as fun and satisfying as ever.
Star Wars Jedi: Survivor
Venba is a lovely story about origins and fitting into a modern world while family and home tug at the heart. Food is often a central theme for family bonding and memory, and each chapter starts with a recipe and ends with a memory. It is told from the perspective of mother to son, illustrated beautifully with a colorful, paper doll-like quality and nostalgic design of the kitchen utensils and tools that might have been common in households through the 80s and 90s.
Hi-Fi RUSH is a bombastic, high-energy production that feels like the crescendo of a really great pop song embodied in a brightly-colored rhythm game with heart. It was a sudden and delightful surprise early in the year, and left a lasting impression in it’s confidence and flair.
Thirsty Suitors is a fun, punchy (pun intended) take on dating games. The dialogue is funny, quick, and doesn’t take itself too seriously. There are lots of lovingly rendered cultural references to various games and media of the 80s and 90s that really make Thirsty Suitors a delightful romp. There’s a clear nod to boss fights and trash mobs in the gameplay that I find hilarious, which put this one up there as one of my favorite games of the year.
On any other year, I feel like Remnant 2 would have made it fully onto my list as well as received more playtime. The 3-person-party multiplayer shooter genre was strong after the first game, so R2 didn’t quite do much new other than finely refining what made it fun, namely the unique weapon craft and player builds.
Warhammer 40,000: Rogue Trader
An honorable mention for the late entry and troubling universe. Space horror is one of my favorites, and the low-level permanence of necessary evil that powers so much of the game is nightmare fuel of a different sort. Due to the weight of the subject matter, one I need to be in the right mood for, I will give this one more time.
Phenomenal, incredible year for games. I think we're hitting the boom after a post-pandemic delay, and there seems like almost too many amazing things to possibly try in a single year. If next year is more of the same, it'll be even trickier to keep up.
It almost doesn't seem fair, especially for smaller games and devs trying to reach for a little bit of sun under the canopy of bangers and tent-poles that was 2024—I suspect we'll be hearing about more slow burners and sleeper hits in the year(s?) to come.