We’ve seen plenty of titles released in 2023, from major ones like Final Fantasy XVI, niche titles such as Crymachina, and even a few ‘new to us’ releases like The Legend Of Nayuta: Boundless Trails. As a team, we’ve played quite a lot of them and would like to highlight our favorites.
As with our Yearly Top Visual Novels lists, these are our subjective choices and are based only on games we have personally played. They don’t necessarily need to be the highest-rated games, but the ones we personally enjoyed the most. And if you’re looking for the Top Visual Novels of 2023, you can find them here.
ISAIAH PARKER – THE LEGEND OF ZELDA: TEARS OF THE KINGDOM
The keywords of The Legend of Zelda: Tears of the Kingdom are “interactivity” and “polish”. This game has so many new ideas and toys to mess with that it will throw any player for a loop. Despite taking place in an older iteration of Hyrule, it’s got so many new surprises on offer that even after 100 hours I doubt I’ve seen anywhere close to all of them. The series’ tried-and-true mix of exploration and puzzle-solving is enhanced further with the Ultrahand ability, one of the most impressive mechanics I’ve ever seen in a game. Ultrahand lets you combine any object in-game to create contraptions that will bust open the way forward for you.
This game puts Nintendo’s talents as a developer on full display. Not just their willingness to explore wild ideas to their fullest potential, but also their incredible amounts of polish and foresight. Despite the literally infinite number of possibilities present with Ultrahand and other impressive mechanics like Fuse and Ascend, the game is always rock solid. All told, this game is such a beast that I’d be here all day if I talked about everything. Instead, I’ll leave it at this: The Legend of Zelda: Tears of the Kingdom isn’t just my favorite game of 2023, it’s one of the finest games I’ve played period.
A full review of The Legend Of Zelda: Tears Of The Kingdom can be found here.
THOMAS KNIGHT – FATE/SAMURAI REMNANT
As a fan of Fate Stay/Night and many of Omega Force’s titles, I had high expectations for Fate/Samurai Remnant and it certainly lived up to them. It takes us through a variant of a holy grail war, which as Fate fans will know involves multiple heroic spirits summoned as servants to fight in a death game on behalf of masters. The unique point is that this time it is set in Japan, 1651, which is quite a different setting. It tells an enthralling story with a great focus on exploring the character’s motivations and relationships. I was a little surprised at how much it retreads old ground and I found myself able to predict some of the events due to it, but I still enjoyed every cutscene and chat between the characters.
What Omega Force fans might not expect is just how in-depth the combat is. While it retains some aspects from the musou formula that the developer is known for, it feels extremely different. Fate Samurai/Remnant presents excellent action RPG combat that requires careful thought and it has a wide variety of options that actually matter, which are unlocked through a skill tree.
Between the lore of the Fate franchise, a great story, excellent gameplay, and a number of other high points, it’s no surprise that this was my favorite game of 2023 even with other strong contenders that may score higher.
A full review of Fate/Samurai Remnant can be found here.
WES PLAYFAIR – STAR WARS JEDI: SURVIVOR
While Star Wars often tells tales of grand adventures that span a vast galaxy, the genius of Jedi: Survivor lies in its intimacy. Smartly for a story that has to adhere to the canon of Disney’s media franchises, Jedi: Survivor focuses not on changing the galaxy but on changing its characters. Five years after the events of Fallen Order, Cal Kestis grapples with difficult questions about what it means to be a Jedi in the age of the seemingly unstoppable Galactic Empire and what’s most important in a world where sometimes all you can do is simply survive. There might not be a Death Star to blow up, but the stakes are deeply personal. Propelled by outstanding voice work, cinematic flair, and a memorable final act that builds to a powerfully stark conclusion, this might just be the best story in any Star Wars game, and yes I’ve played Knights of the Old Republic.
Of course the gameplay has to hold up too, and Jedi Survivor’s does and then some. It builds on all the best parts of Fallen Order–combat is tighter with more interesting and varied options and Koboh has plenty to explore and do without bogging you down in virtual chores. Just as important, Jedi: Survivor nails its worldbuilding, bringing “a long time ago in a galaxy far, far away” to vivid life, from the eerie majesty of High Republic ruins to the grit and grime of an Outer Rim boomtown whose best days are long past. Despite a few technical hiccups at launch, Jedi: Survivor is one of the best Star Wars games there is and my game of the year.
POWAHDUNK – RESIDENT EVIL 4: REMAKE
When the “best games of all time” conversation raises its head, Resident Evil 4 is often up there as an all-time classic. When Capcom announced it was remaking that classic, anticipation and worry shot through the roof.
Resident Evil 4: Remake I would argue is the blueprint for a successful remake. It cut the fluff, played on previous player expectations, and made a classic 10/10 game once again perfect while still keeping the original title relevant. Yes, the Separate Ways story content is now paid DLC but even there everything has just been raised tenfold.
Horror action has never been better and truly makes up for the missed chance that was Resident Evil 3: Nemesis while reminding everyone exactly why Capcom is the house that built survival horror.
A full review of Resident Evil 4: Remake can be found here.
DANIEL JOSEPH – VOLCANO PRINCESS
Volcano Princess was a pleasant surprise for me this year. I stumbled on the game a few months after its release, via the otherwise useless Steam ‘Discovery Queue’. Volcano Princess may feel familiar for those acquainted with Gainax’s Princess Maker series, and rightly so. It’s a raising simulation game, where your goal is to be a competent and loving father, guiding your daughter to a happy, healthy future. The decisions you make can lead your daughter into a collection of different careers, relationships, and life goals. The variety of outcomes is incredibly wide, and I’m still exploring them months down the line.
Volcano Princess is a beautiful game, in every sense. There’s a tremendous amount of love poured into its sprites and backgrounds, which elevates the serene, soft tone set by the game’s concept and narrative. The simulation elements are fun, and pleasantly simple to engage with. It’s a perfect game to boot up at the end of the day to chill out with. I didn’t expect Volcano Princess to be my favorite game of 2023, but it’s claimed that spot easily. It’s a game I kept coming back to, and will continue playing well into 2024. If you haven’t heard of Volcano Princess before, please go and give it a look. It is the first game released by developer Egg Hatcher, and after such a promising start I can’t wait to see where they go next. My hopes are high.
DAMIEN BOOTH – BLASPHEMOUS 2
The first installment of Blasphemous is still a firm favorite of mine. I was entirely sure that the 2023 sequel would deliver. The high religious pixel art, luscious soundtrack, and exhilarating combat had Blasphemous 2 matching pound-for-pound with its predecessor.
In important ways, the second game takes these core ideas and refines them. It’s not just a rehash of a great game. It’s an authentic follow-up, expanding the world of Cvstodia and bursting to the brim with brilliance. There was never a zone I didn’t look forward to traversing. Combat is even more engaging, with the addition of three weapons (rather than the one sword of the first game). Carlos Viola’s work on the music is once again a showcase of beauty and atmosphere. You needn’t have played the first game to appreciate all that’s incredible about Blasphemous 2. Standing on its own as a masterclass in metroidvania, Game Kitchen cooked up my 2023 GOTY!
A full review of Blasphemous 2 can be found here.
While there were plenty more great titles released in 2023, if you missed out on these, we hope you’ll give them a try.
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A gamer since the days of Amstrad and DOS and someone who has dabbled in a variety of professions. He enjoys a wide variety of genres, but has been focusing on visual novels and virtual reality in recent years. Head Editor of NookGaming. Follow him and the website on @NookSite.