The best 2023 had to offer
There’s been a lot of talk about just how great 2023 has been in terms of gaming. Every year brings us a slate of stellar titles, but the stars aligned in 2023 for an absolute glut of fantastic experiences. Every genre welcomed some incredible games, so much so that our backlogs ballooned to astronomical proportions. Still, we found time in the last 365 days to work our way through a massive portion of unforgettable adventures.
For years now, I’ve (RMC) talked at length about the games I’ve played. I’ve written many a review for GoNintendo, shared in-depth thoughts on the GoNintendo Podcast, and even expanded on my opinions over on Patreon. To be blunt, I think you guys get more than enough of my thoughts on the games I played, liked, loved, or grappled with. This year, it’s time to turn things over to my fellow staffers.
We ran a more traditional awards breakdown in 2022, and to be completely honest, I always struggle with the idea of our “stamp of approval” meaning anything. Who am I/are we to label things as the best in graphics, sound, music and so on? I know, I know…I tend to get a bit too in my head, but that’s the way I’ve always been! That’s why this year we’re trying something different.
In the breakdown below, you can read about the various games GoNintendo’s crew found to be the best and brightest of the year. There were no restrictions on what games could be chosen, so that includes titles across all platforms, but obviously Switch was very much included. The end result is a smattering of games you’d expect along with some choices that might surprise.
Without further ado, please enjoy the GoNintendo crew’s picks for their favorite games of 2023.
Alternis Liz's Favorites of 2023
Octopath Traveler II
This game is an improvement in every way over the original, but if I had to pick what to recognize specifically, it’d be for music or story. Nishiki did an excellent job composing for this game, with some of my favorite songs being Hikara’s theme, Agnea’s theme, and Ku Land of Scarlet Sunset Day. As far as writing goes, the combination of the dark themes and plot twists were wonderful, with Oswald’s story being a particularly high point.
Xenoblade III’s DLC
This DLC was a solid conclusion for the trilogy, and I loved how all three titles were connected in the end. Seeing new characters, such as Matthew and Glimmer, alongside old favorites like Shulk and Rex, was a lot of fun. Not surprisingly, the music was also outstanding, with the final boss’ theme really wowing me. All of this left me excited to see what Monolith Soft tackles next.
Fire Emblem: Engage
Yet another praiseworthy soundtrack that also stands out from other Fire Emblem games. I usually don’t like many FE tracks save for a few songs, but something was different in Fire Emblem Engage. Right from the opening song, the composers showed they were capable of some superb compositions.
Quence's Favorites of 2023
If there’s one theme to sum up my 2023 gaming habits, it’s not having enough time to play all the amazing new games that got released. I’ve still got plenty of heavy hitters like Alan Wake 2 in my backlog, but most of my gaming time this year was devoted to the Switch. It seems like (fingers crossed) a successor is right around the corner, and if that’s true, Nintendo picked a good year to go out on. The major players are obviously Super Mario Bros. Wonder and The Legend of Zelda: Tears of the Kingdom, both of which are incredible experiences and deserve all the praise. That said, Pikmin 4 is the Switch game that I think deserves more time in the spotlight.
While not getting the same level of hype or awards attention as Mario and Zelda, it feels like Pikmin is finally making a play to become one of Nintendo’s bigger franchises. Pikmin 4 expanded the world in a big way, while also making things more accessible than ever to newcomers. While it didn’t have quite the level of challenge I’ve come to expect from Pikmin, its beauty and creativity were enough to hook me completely. Even with the Switch’s limited hardware, I thought it was one of the most gorgeous games I played all year. Plus, Oatchi became an iconic character as soon as he appeared on screen, and my love for him knows no bounds. It’s my sincere hope that Pikmin 4 launches the franchise into the stratosphere with tons of new players, and that we don’t have to wait another decade for a new entry.
Sea of Stars
Sea of Stars is another gem I have to acknowledge for giving me a warm, fuzzy feeling I didn’t think I could get anymore. It’s been a long time since a JRPG-style game really captured my attention, but I could tell Sea of Stars was special even from the demo. Right away I was flooded with memories of what it felt like to play Chrono Trigger and Golden Sun for the first time as a kid. In spite of the obvious influences though, Sea of Stars doesn’t just feel like a nostalgia grab. It emphasizes all the best aspects of classic SNES era RPGs,while deemphasizing grinding and cliche storylines. It’s on the shorter side for an RPG, which means it cuts back on any filler, and every quest feels like a genuinely exciting new adventure. Of course, the art and designs are beautiful and inviting too, making it a game world I was happy to escape to. In a year with major AAA RPGs like Starfield and Baldur’s Gate 3, it was great to see a smaller game like Sea of Stars getting the love it deserves.
Jmaldonado's Favorites of 2023
Metroid Prime Remastered
I’m a recent convert to the Metroid franchise. I always had an interest in the series thanks to Super Smash Bros and various YouTube game reviewers, but my first attempts at trying to get into the series through Metroid: Samus Returns and Metroid Prime Trilogy went unfinished. This had nothing to do with the quality of those games, but rather my waning interest in both the 3DS and Wii U with the Switch on the horizon. This year I’ve beaten both Metroid Dread and Metroid Prime Remastered, and I feel confident in calling myself a series fan.
Metroid Prime Remastered really pushes the definition of the word “remaster.” In my mind, that term relates better to something like the Switch release of Skyward Sword; a graphical update with some new gameplay features. Metroid Prime Remastered looks so radically improved from the original game I wouldn’t blame anyone for thinking it a full-blown remake. The environments, which already looked stunning on GameCube, now feel like living concept art, all while retaining the tight control and design of the original release. While I do have some criticisms, such as the finicky nature of the Boost Ball and a dearth of warp points, there’s no denying Metroid Prime Remastered is a stellar remaster of one of the GameCube’s finest.
Super Mario RPG
With the games industry embracing remakes and remasters more and more these past few years, it’s easy to become cynical. The industry cannot survive alone on old ideas with a fresh coat of paint, but what happens when those old ideas fall by the wayside? If you know anything about Mario RPG fandom, you’ll recall the state of the series before the Super Mario RPG remake was announced. Paper Mario is doing its own thing, Mario and Luigi was (and still is) M.I.A., and even the latest Mario + Rabbids release didn’t sell well. These factors combined are what made Super Mario RPG’s remake so exciting.
This is one of my games of the year less for what it is and more for what it represents. At the end of the day, this is still the original Mario RPG that started it all, refreshed with new bells and whistles for modern audiences while retaining the charm, fun, and creativity of the SNES outing. While part of me wants to be grumpy about this title and next year’s Thousand Year Door remake, I can’t bring myself to feel that way. For the first time in a long time I’m actually excited about the future of Mario RPGs, and if Nintendo can bring the same effort in these remakes to a brand-new title, we’re in for something special.
I knew this was going to be my game of the year before the year even started. Pikmin is quite possibly my favorite Nintendo series and Pikmin 4 more than delivered on the 10-year-long wait. I was concerned that all the waiting for the fourth installment would result in a release that wouldn’t live up to the legacy of the series, but I am so happy I was wrong. Pikmin 4 is not only stuffed to the brim with content to justify the long gestation period, it also provides all sorts of mechanics that Pikmin newcomers and fans alike can deeply appreciate.
I don’t really have outward reactions when I play games by myself, but I remember being audibly excited seeing Pikmin 4’s callbacks and new twists. My most giddy reaction came from returning to a place that was hauntingly familiar (if you know you know). My biggest criticisms of Pikmin 4 come down to the overbearing tutorials at the start and the 3-Pikmin-type limit, though I understand these changes were likely made to tap into a larger audience. While I do wish those aspects had been handled better, if these tweaks mean I can play Pikmin 5 before I’m 30, I’ll gladly bite the bullet.
Jack's Favorites of 2023
I must confess that I did not play Pizza Tower for its own sake. I played it because it looked like Wario Land. I love Wario. Pizza Tower is not Wario, and that’s exactly what makes it so exciting. It uses its obvious Wario inspirations as a springboard for its own ideas. Tight and technical controls mix with speedy and chaotic level design. The art looks poorly drawn on the surface, yet that hides a surprisingly keen attention to detail in animations and general aesthetic. Pizza Tower far surpassed my expectations for it as a “Wario” by being something completely different yet just as compelling. It’s wacky, it’s messy, and it’s a lot of fun, much like pizza itself.
In Void Stranger, you push blocks and rearrange tiles. That’s the most boring way to describe the game, but it’s an accurate and necessary one. If you like pushing blocks and rearranging tiles, you’ll find that Void Stranger does those things very well. If you do not, Void Stranger will indeed make you feel as though you are a stranger thrown into a void…a void where you need to push blocks and rearrange tiles, which you do not like. Those who do enjoy this void, however, will be rewarded handsomely with a game that pushes its seemingly tame limits as far as they can possibly go, with compelling narrative and mechanical twists to match. Void Stranger is simultaneously straightforward in its appeal while also deeply mysterious. I highly recommend it…as long as you like pushing blocks and rearranging tiles.
Street Fighter 6
Some say that soccer is The World’s Game, but I don’t know anything about soccer, so I say that Street Fighter is instead. In their best moments, fighting games feel like another form of communication, a type of communication that crosses borders without the limitations of language. Only your actions matter and your playstyle allows your personality to shine. Street Fighter 6 not only delivers on that kind of experience with a fresh and engaging fighting system, but also in its surprisingly extensive realization of the “world” of the Street Fighter. The World Tour mode makes the world of the Street Fighter a living, breathing place, while the online lobby system makes for a surprisingly comfy chatroom full of all the bizarre deformed avatars you could ever want. Street Fighter 6 is the first new fighting game in a while that truly excited me on every level, and I’m satisfied by how thoroughly it delivers on everything it sets out to do.
Mega Man X Dive Offline
Just kidding, play Gravity Circuit instead.
Nintimdo's Favorites of 2023
The Legend of Zelda: Tears of the Kingdom
What more is there to be said about this game other than it’s a genuine masterpiece? Everyone has waxed poetic about nearly every aspect about TotK, but new gameplay mechanics and heart-wrenching cinematic story aside, I really want to highlight the caves. The CAVES! I love how many there are and how expansive they can be, and the fact that you have to physically dig into them with makeshift hammers is so addictive. I spent hours in those caves, especially the ones you find in random wells. Those were my favorites. So much fun!
OXENFREE II: Lost Signals
I wrote the GoNintendo review for this game, and I still stand by all of my feelings for OXENFREE II: Lost Signals. The sequel iterates perfectly on the foundation laid by the first game, from the visuals to the music and the dynamic cast of characters. But the elements that still stand out most to me are the interdimensional rifts and time loop mechanics. While both OXENFREE games are clearly inspired by shows like The X-Files and Twin Peaks, Lost Signals really kicks things up a notch in how it throws Riley into the past so she can reshape her future. It’s a gem of a game and one everyone should play.
Sea of Stars
Chrono Trigger meets Golden Sun with a dash of Mario RPG, Sea of Stars is a rare treat of a game. I did not play this game on Switch (hello Xbox Game Pass), but god I adored nearly everything about it. The rhythm based battle mechanics are expertly fine-tuned, making every enemy encounter dynamic and fun. The music and visuals are also big standouts, making the game look and feel like how I remember the JRPGs of my youth. I was also deeply invested in the story, right up to the final boss when the game (unfortunately) just barely missed the mark. It could have been perfect, but what we got was still a wild and wondrous ride and one I will always remember fondly.
ZJMaster's Favorites of 2023
Master Detective Archives: Rain Code
With a whimsical setting in Kanai Ward, a city of perennial rain, we solve fascinating mysteries alongside memorable characters from the World Detective Organization. Showcasing writing that brings to mind amazing detective adventures like Ace Attorney, this is an journey that hooked me from beginning to end and left me wanting to see more mysteries from this team.
Detective Pikachu Returns
Pokémon is my favorite franchise, which is why it’s not a surprise a Pokémon game found its place among my top four Switch games of 2023. Once again we follow coffee-connoisseur, Detective Pikachu, in trying to solve various questions and problems that affect Ryme City’s inhabitants, all while looking for his old partner, Harry Goodman. While the mystery is not as engaging as other detective games, it’s the setting and the way Pokémon come to life that earns this adventure a special place on my gaming award shelf for this year.
The Legend of Zelda: Tears of the Kingdom
I am not a fan of open-world games and Zelda is not in my top 5 Nintendo franchises. Furthermore, Breath of the Wild did not hook me as much as it did most of the gaming world. That said, Tears of the Kingdom felt so different for me. Personally, having such a myriad of side quests and extra adventures to do, characters to meet, tangible goals to achieve and a more dense world, means that TotK keeps me going back weekly to chip away at all those objectives without feeling any fatigue or desire to just rush to the end. I rank it among the top three Zelda games for me.
Ok, I bet any amount of money that no other writer will bring this game up (or maybe even know it exists). Hear me out: with so many responsibilities and big games that never end (I’m looking at you Xenoblade Chronicles 3 and Splatoon 3), I couldn’t play big releases like FE Engage or Octopath Traveler 2. Instead, I try to play small games in-between big RPGs.
FMV games are among my favorites and I found the prequel to Ten Dates, titled Five Dates, to be quite fun and engaging. Naturally, this led to my interest in giving the sequel a try. In Ten Dates, a girl or guy goes to a Speed Dating event and tries to find a date among five options, then follows that up with even more dates. The cast is quite diverse, with fun dialogue, real characters, and engaging personalities that felt really well done. You end up hating some of the dating options while loving others, and it felt like a nice, mini rom-com with a nice dose of reality. Absolutely recommended for those looking for something cute and fun to play between towering adventures.