Game(s) of the Year 2023

The year is almost over which means it’s time for all those game of the year lists. Since I never agree with any of those, and because I love making lists, I’ve decided to make my own. The criteria for the Anosou’s Game of the Year award is simple: I must’ve made up a reason to put it on this list.

So let’s get to it!

Most exciting backlog addition: Fire Emblem Engage

This award is given to a game that came out this year and that I also bought, but that I haven’t played yet. It’s probably the category with the most competition as I’m a habitual collector with a giant backlog.

Fire Emblem Engage takes home this prestigious award as the only reason I haven’t played it yet was that my girlfriend got to it first, and then I started playing other games instead and kinda forgot about it. I’ve loved every Fire Emblem game I’ve played (and I own pretty much all of them), so this is one I’m very excited to play!

Honorable mentions: Star Ocean: The Second Story R, Labyrinth of Galleria: The Moon Society

Best remake or re-release: Final Fantasy Pixel Remaster

It took a while for the console version to come out, but in 2023 it finally did. The first six Final Fantasy games are legendary for a reason and the Pixel Remaster is the perfect level of tasteful touch-up to warrant a new playthrough. I’m playing this on Switch, the elusive European Square Enix store physical copy, and finished Final Fantasy I, II, III, and IV during 2023. Currently in the middle of Final Fantasy V and remembering why I love this series so much.

Honorable mentions: DoDonPachi DaiOuJou, Super Mario RPG, Pikmin 1+2, Baten Katios I&II HD Remaster, Akai Katana Shin, Ghost Trick: Phantom Detective, We Love Katamari, Metroid Prime Remastered… damn this was a good year for old games.

Best pinball machine: Foo Fighters (Pro)

Yes, I’ve played a lot of pinball this year. So much so that I feel comfortable with this award. While I haven’t played many games released in 2023, I’ve played two. Out of Venom and Foo Fighters, I’ll have to give it to Foo Fighters. It has these incredible shots that (when you find them) you immediately start wondering “how has no one done this before!?”. While it can be quite punishing if you miss those shots, that’s often the sign of a great pinball machine. Big up, Jack Danger and Stern Pinball! You did good.

Honorable mentions: Venom was pretty cool too

Best game I played that was not released this year: Final Fantasy VII: Remake Intergrade

I bounced off of FFVII Remake back on PS4 and never finished it, which is strange since the original is one of my favorite games of all time. I was probably just not in the right mood, because I tried again on PS5 this year and damn was it good.

Yes, it takes some liberties with the original game but have you played that recently? It has some of the most confusing story, odd dialog, and wonky pacing in gaming history. And even as a kid I just wanted to spend more time in Midgar, get to know the charcters, and hang out at Wall Market. In Remake, I finally could. The INTERmission side-story was also thoroughly enjoyable (shout out to Fort Condor!) and I can’t wait to dive back in when Rebirth releases next year.

Honorable mentions: void tRrLM(); //Void Terrarium

Biggest robots: Armored Core VI

They were really big. That was cool!

Smartest systems: The Legend of Zelda: Tears of the Kingdom

It rides on the back of greatness, but Tears of the Kingdom adds to the gameplay systems of Breath of the Wild in ways I couldn’t have imagined. There are so many fun fusion combinations to discover and weird vehicles to build that people will be doing it for years to come.

Honorable mentions: Tunic

Best for a break: Pinball FX

I really like big JRPGs and other massive games. However, I often need a break between gameplay sessions to not get overwhelmed. In these cases, Pinball FX has been my choice this year. Zen Studios’ latest iteration of digital pinball is truly amazing and while you can whinge and moan about pricing models or minor bugs the core game is brilliant. I’ve always loved digital pinball that goes beyond the real thing and Pinball FX does that super well, but their Williams emulations are incredible. They’ve ramped up the pace and variety for table releases, too, so there’s definitely something for everyone. Great for a quick game between games.

Coziest feels: Octopath Traveler II

Octopath Traveler II makes me want to drink tea. It’s one of those games where you snuggle up on the couch and (if you’re of a certain age) feel like you’re going back in time to play a classic RPG. Of course it’s vastly improved on the classics in the gameplay department, but it still feels a bit like coming home. It’s filled with secrets and little details, those things that were so magical in the 16-bit era but that are often forgotten (or overtly telegraphed) in modern games. I absolutely adore it.

Honorable mentions: Final Fantasy Pixel Remaster, Tunic

Best music: Theatrhythm: Final Bar Line

This is almost cheating but I don’t care. It was utter joy hearing all the fantastic Final Fantasy songs I know and love. Beyond that, Theatrhythm made sure to lift in music from other Square Enix games and some real deep-cuts from FF spin-offs you didn’t know existed. It’s simply some of the best video game music ever made, all compiled into one game.

Most severe hand pain: Theatrhythm: Final Bar Line

Competing with some real heavy hitters this year in Armored Core VI and Pinball FX, in the end my hands hurt the most from Theatrhythm: Final Bar Line. It’s not because the controls are bad or anything, it’s because I’ve cleared every single song on Ultimate and played the game every single day for several weeks. It was well worth it.

Best manual: Tunic

Because Tunic’s a game about reading the manual. But in a good way! It’s also one of the best games I’ve played on Switch this year and I needed a category to put it in.

Biggest let-down: Final Fantasy XVI

Don’t get me wrong, I actually really liked Final Fantasy XVI. I just don’t think it’s possible to live up to what a new mainline Final Fantasy means in my mind. When XVII comes out, I’m sure it will win this award too. Sorry Squeenix…

Pacing of the year: Super Mario Bros. Wonder

I beat Super Mario Bros. Wonder in a little over 10 hours and every single minute of that was great. Every level felt interesting, every new mechanic easily understandable yet fun. Any more and it would’ve started to feel drawn out, but now it remains near perfection in my mind. Kudos!

ACTUAL REAL GOTY 2023: Baldur’s Gate 3

What can I say that hasn’t been said? Baldur’s Gate 3 completely engulfed me. Everything else melted away as I spent well over 100 hours exploring its meticulously crafted world with my new friends, enemies, and frenemies. It’s a once-in-a-lifetime RPG and one that everyone should play. You can read more about what I think about it here.

Honorable mentions: The Legend of Zelda: Tears of the Kingdom, Theatrhythm: Final Bar Line, Octopath Traveler II