2023 was a year where I felt separated from Gamesline. I wanted to do more. Wanting does not equal doing, and that ended up making for a lot of time not spent here and more spent at work or just trying to come down from work. I can only hope 2024 allows me more time here, and while that hasn’t fully happened yet, I think it will begin soon. For now, I’ll talk about my favorite games I actually put my hands on in 2023, and hopefully by this time next year GOTY will have come and gone a lot faster, and I will have contributed more.

Honorable mention: Spider-Man 2

I have always been more of a story person when it comes to games. I can put up with some jank if the story’s good enough! Spider-Man 2 is the inverse of this, where I think the story is pretty hollow, but playing the game is so sick I still ended up 100%-ing it. The more I thought about the plot, the more I felt bad for the weakness of Miles’ involvement, how hamfisted some of the character interactions felt, and how Venom was just kinda there. 

However! The web swinging. The combat. The missions. It was all very rewarding! This is an extremely well-made game that is bogged down by Sony’s desire to sand off any and all rough edges in their plots, with the compounding problem of having to focus on two Spider-Men with very different goals and problems. Miles, dude, just write the friggin paragraph. 

10. Fate/Samurai Remnant

I probably shouldn’t have played this on Switch. It wasn’t a disaster, mind you, but the towns ran pretty poorly! This is a great follow-up to Spider-Man, actually, because the gameplay got really tiring after a bit, but I powered through for the plot. Iori is a fun main character, and his dialogue with Saber is adorable and a massive highlight. Fate lore is vast and occasionally eye-rollingly frustrating, but Samurai Remnant keeps things breezy and fun, and I absolutely had to put it on my year-end list if only for Musashi and her shit-eating grin.

an image of miyamoto musashi from fate/samurai remnant looking especially smug

9. The Murder of Sonic the Hedgehog

The folks over at Sega did something with Sonic that I didn’t expect, and that’s making an April Fool’s point-and-click game that isn’t a bad dating sim joke. It could’ve been another One Of Those, the horribly written garbage games that Western devs think are just the funniest jokes ever. Instead, The Murder of Sonic the Hedgehog is a treat, tossing a new self-insert character into a locked room mystery involving the apparent slaying of Sonic. 

There’s fun character moments, adorable art, everything you need to showcase how great Sonic And His Friends actually are. I don’t play Sonic much, but it makes me happy to see him and his friends around, and this is a perfect example of what Sega should be doing with the property.

8. Octopath Traveler 2

This is only ranked as low as it is because I’m not that far! I think this will happen every year. I’m sorry. Anyway, Octopath! They fixed pretty much everything that was wrong in the first game, then built on that as foundation. The major issue with the original was how nobody’s stories overlapped, and the party only really interacted through combat. They weren’t a group, they were just…around each other, I guess. 

In the sequel, you actually feel like a cohesive unit, and the entire game feels like the incredible final chapter of Live a Live. That single big change turns Octopath into something truly special, and I can only hope the team in Creative Business Unit II can keep cooking like this.

7. Pizza Tower

Spiritual successors feel like a dime-a-dozen these days, and their existence often feels a bit unnecessary once the thing they’re aping off of actually returns. It takes something real special to be so obviously inspired by a dormant franchise, yet rise even further into its own sense of self, and that’s what Pizza Tower does. 

Pizza Tower is extremely Wario Land 4, but beyond its basic controls and a bit of its vibes, Pizza Tower is unlike any game I can think of. It’s gross, goofy, and overly animated in the best way possible. Peppino is a character who stands just as tall as Wario; both a bit bumbling, but still very capable. I love watching his expressions, hearing him scream bloody murder, and how the game warns you to not let Peppino get hurt…or else. Pizza Tower is never going to leave my brain, and it’s the new standard for fast-moving treasure hunting platformers. Wario’s gonna have to step off his pedestal. 

I know this DLC came out in 2024 I don’t care.

6. Granblue Fantasy Versus: Rising

Granblue is an incredible fighting game, and it’s one I can see myself playing for a good long while. I love it so much, I even started doing commentary for it every month over at ArcadeUFO! I’ve learned a lot from Granblue, not just in gaming, but in speaking and my own talents. I loved the original version of Granblue Versus, but this one has rollback netcode so it’s automatically better. I don’t have much to say, since it’s a pretty standard fighting game package, but it plays so well and has a great community. I’d recommend it if you want to get into an anime fighter but don’t want to jump into the deep end of Melty Blood or…shudders Blazblue.

5. Metroid Prime Remastered

I got obsessed with Metroidvanias a few years ago, but I never got around to the Metroid Prime games. Boy, was that a mistake. This remaster is as basic of a remaster as there ever was, as it’s just a graphical upgrade without much other flair. However, the game is still really good, one of the better Metroidvanias I’ve experienced. And hey, that simple graphical upgrade is impressive, especially for a Switch game. I remember people saying it was awe-inspiring to see rain drip down Samus’ visor in the Prime games, and I think I was just as amazed looking at all the creatures and locales of Tallon-IV on the Switch. If this is how good they could get a game looking on Switch, I’m excited to see Prime 4 on the Switch 2, am I right folks?

4. Endless Monday: Dreams and Deadlines

Creating anything worthwhile in 2023-2024 feels almost futile. AI is seen as the answer to so many of corporate America’s needs, and both artists and writers feel the impending danger from this foolish, incorrect opinion every day. I’ve been trying to find writing work for many years now, and things haven’t felt this dire….ever, maybe? We’ll adapt, there will always be a need for human expression, and Endless Monday is all about that constant adaptation, fear of losing your artistic self to your work self, and everything that comes with those issues.

Artist and writer hcnone has expressed a lot of these anxieties in the zines they have released in the past, and Dreams and Deadlines expands on these troubles, telling a story about a woman who has the talent to live off her art, existing in a world that would rather she sand down her rough edges to be as safe as possible. The act of creating art for yourself these days is in itself something to be celebrated, and Endless Monday is all about that desire, that need that artists have. Check this game out if you hate your job!

3. Resident Evil 4 Remake

Those bastards did it. They remade RE4, one of the greatest games of all time, and didn’t just make it a retread! There’s a ton changed in RE4R, some of it slightly questionable, but overall as a new way to experience a bonafide classic. I love how they updated Ashley and Luis. I loved Separate Ways. Remakes to good games need to be reimagined, because even if you don’t like how RE4R treats what RE4 puts down, the original is still there and readily available! I’m so happy that one of my favorite games ever got such lovely treatment almost twenty years later.

2. Pikmin 4

We can’t make the joke any more. Pikmin 4 released, it’s available on store shelves right now, and it’s a very good game. Pikmin 4 smartly builds on the previous entries, Pikmin 2 more than anything, and crafts a tight experience that is consistently rewarding. Rolling back to two controllable characters instead of three, Oatchi’s new movement options (swimming, jumping, ramming into objects) breathe new life into puzzle solving instead of circumventing everything. There’s also plenty of extra content such as challenge rooms and a whole side-quest as Olimar to keep things varied. Pikmin 4 feels like a game that needed all that time in the oven, because it’s polished like a perfect pearl. Y’know, like the ones in the clams you gotta throw Pikmin into. 

1. Xenoblade Chronicles 3: Future Redeemed

Don’t even try to say anything!!!! They kept building on Xenoblade 3 and made its combat better, and wrapped up not only the entire Xenoblade story but also alluded to the other Xeno games? And they brought Shulk and Rex back in a way that wasn’t pandering at all? How could this not be my favorite thing I played in 2023? Xenoblade 3 has continued to rise in my “Pantheon of John Faves” as I continue to ruminate on all of its successes, and then Future Redeemed rolls around to completely lock it into the top five of all time. Every little aspect of revealed lore, all the new characters that fit snugly into the previously revealed information, it’s just…so good. So absolutely perfect. The scrumptious dessert after a full-course meal. My only gripe is that they didn’t release it as a physical Switch cart, so I can’t put it in the collection alongside Torna

About John

John Michonski is Gamesline’s Editor in Chief. He’s a fun man who likes to do good.

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