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Top 10 Games of 2023: Nintendo Editor Michael’s Picks

We’re halfway through 2024, which means I’m still early when it comes to posting about my Top 10 games of 2023!
(Last year’s was in September, so, you know, improvement!)
In no particular order:

Theatrythm: Final Bar Line

Top 10 Games of 2023

Theatrythm: Final Bar Line is the most fun I’ve had with a rhythm game, due in no small part to its incredible song list (500+ with DLC) and pivotal co-op play. It’s missing some of my favorite tunes, but it’s hard to complain with what is on display. Whether or not you play Final Fantasy titles shouldn’t affect your decision on whether or not to play Theatrythm, but a familiarity with the franchise’s tunes sure doesn’t hurt!

Metroid Prime Remastered

Metroid Prime’s remaster is the kind of beautiful that we remember, but isn’t totally accurate to the original. In aesthetics, anyway. Even its gunplay is infinitely more fluid, thanks to modernized controls. But for all the updates, Metroid Prime Remastered is every bit the classic it has always been, and a must-play for fans of the series and the adventure genre.

Advance Wars 1+2: Reboot Camp

Top 10 Games of 2023

Ah, Advance Wars, how I’ve missed you! Not since the Nintendo DS have we received a new iteration in this spectacular strategy series, and that is truly a crime (right up there next to being made to wait for F-Zero, 1080, Custom Robo, and other Nintendo classics). While not new, this sprucing-up of the GBA originals has made them importantly accessible for the modern gamer by sheer virtue of being on a modern console. Also important: a much higher ceiling for custom map limits, letting me build more and more co-op maps to play with friends and family.

The Legend of Zelda: Tears of the Kingdom

It shouldn’t be possible to take a game map I explored so thoroughly at the Switch’s launch and make it feel brand new. The new places aren’t particularly interesting, and the story (especially when told by the tears) is largely bad, but the tools and gameplay are absolutely stellar. Nothing tops the opening for Tears of the Kingdom, which culminates in dropping down on a Hyrule that is little-changed but nonetheless immediately unfamiliar. I put this one through its paces, completing every shrine above and below the earth, until really the only thing left to do was find Ganon and tell him what I thought about spawning Silver Bokoblins before I had upgraded any of my armor.

I had thought Breath of the Wild would be a once-in-a-generation experience, and I’m so very glad it wasn’t.

Street Fighter VI

Street Fighter VI just has an energy that I found intoxicating. I’ve always been more of a watcher than a player of the franchise. I briefly owned Street Fighter IV, but I watched Street Fighters of all kinds avidly during Evo and other tournaments. Street Fighter VI is the first game that I think the combat really clicked for me. I only really ever played it versus my brother, but those dozens of matches were a highlight of the summer. (The matches at Evo 2023 were also great viewing.)

Pikmin 4

In cooperative play, Pikmin 4 is a giant step back from Pikmin 3. But in every other way, it is a delight, featuring laid-back exploration and challenges alike. Truthfully, the idea of dandori applies more to Pikmin 3, but Pikmin 4 surely gets points for being so approachable for any kind of player. Also for never ending. The first credits are such a lie that I stopped being surprised when there was only MORE content available around every corner. It’s only too bad it had neither the full campaign co-op of Pikmin 3 Deluxe nor the co-op challenge missions of Pikmin 3‘s standard.

Super Mario Bros. Wonder

Super Mario Bros. Wonder does for 2D Mario what Mario Odyssey did for 3D: yanks the series out of the stale, sterilized state it has existed in since the DS and makes it creative again. An absolute blast in co-op, and elevated by its Journey-like system of impromptu multiplayer. I’d only ever really fallen in love with two 2D Mario games (Super Mario Bros. Deluxe on the GBC and, against all odds, New Super Mario Bros Wii U) (3, if the Yoshi one on GBA counts) before now. (And yes, you may revoke my street cred for not caring for Super Mario Bros. World or 3). But Super Mario Bros. Wonder takes the cake!

Robo Quest

Top 10 Games of 2023

This two-player roguelite FPS combines satisfying speed of movement (bunny hopping, grappling hooks, jetpacks, and more) with a smorgasbord of guns, skills, and build options, all culminating in a co-op delight. Want to snipe? Go for it. Prefer to get up close and personal? Bring a chainsaw. However you play, Robo Quest will reward you for taking risks and having fun. I highly recommend it.

Star Wars: Jedi Survivor

I really enjoyed Star Wars: Fallen Order, and Jedi Survivor is a bigger version of that. Better, even, minus the ending, which, in my opinion, shows the fundamental flaws with prequels, interquels, and most others sorts of quels. The world was built to be saved by Luke Skywalker. The empire was devised to be destroyed by Luke Skywalker. Anybody else living in that galaxy far, far away is ultimately unable to do anything meaningful. That doesn’t mean good stories don’t exist (see: Andor), it just means that if your Star Wars game follows a Jedi bent on fighting the empire, who constantly runs up against Darth Vader, he can never win. Drama typically falters before foregone conclusions, as it does here.

The ending also kind of undermines the game’s developed antagonist by outlasting him by a dozen hours (though to be fair, many of those hours were me running down the last collectibles before I ran credits). But I digress.

Really, Star Wars: Jedi Survivor is great, polished fun with engaging combat and rewarding exploration. Its level design stands up there with the greatest Dark Souls games, a landmark in how to build 3D worlds that fold in on each other. And the bulk of the storytelling is fantastic. Which is why, despite my qualms with the last fourth, it’s one of my favorite games from 2023.

Axon TD: Uprising (Early Access*)

Top 10 Games of 2023

Axon TD: Uprising is by Element Studios, the team behind Element TD 2, the full-release sequel to a Warcraft III mod, which means it has everything a long-time fan of the genre can ask for: co-operative modes, a campaign, a rogue-lite survival mode, and more. Its hook is the ability to manipulate the map, removing tiles to add them elsewhere. Creating the perfect maze to survive waves of enemies with crisscrossing lanes requires teamwork, communication, and the right blend of towers and traps, and, sometimes, a little bit of luck. It makes for an exciting tower defense, especially as updates continue to add new options and ways to play. I can’t wait to see what else Element Studios has in store for the game in 2024 (spoiler alert: a map editor)!

*Historically, I haven’t included early access titles in my Top10 lists, relegating them to the Runners Up list until the 1.0 release. I’m still trying to find the right balance for how to date these titles,

Runners Up

Fire Emblem Engage: I’ve definitely said my piece about Fire Emblem Engage, so you know why it didn’t make my top10 games of 2023. But it was still worth playing, because that’s just the way Fire Emblem is, even at its eye-rolling worst.

Fashion Dreamers: If we’re lucky, Fashion Dreamers will be Style Savvy’s Happy Home Designer: a proof of concept that will provide its progenitor with all of its coolest ideas down the line. Social fashion is a hoot!

Disgaea 7: Disgaea 7 is a much better Disgaea 6, refocusing the grind on strength, not efficiency. The story kind of squanders its every emotional beat, and its characters mostly finish their tales before they join your party, robbing the title of any real momentum, BUT hitting three-by-three squares over and over again until your characters are 9,999 is a satisfying treadmill all the same.

Granblue Fantasy Versus: Rising: This should have been on my Top10 list for 2023. It only had to stay the course; perhaps clean up the wolf and angel halo hunting. But they gutted GBF Versus, leaving a shell. It’s a shell that still does 1v1 fighting very, very well, but a shell nonetheless.

Inkbound (Early Access—now in 1.0 Release): A tactical whale of a time, Inkbound is a cooperative roguelike RPG where positioning and communication are key. Even in 2023, when the game was still in Early Access, the strategy was a ton of fun.

Bomb Rush Cyberfunk: I never played Jet Set Radio due to not owning the necessary console, but as a big fan of Team Reptile’s Lethal League series, I couldn’t miss out on this radical graffiti game. If you want to move fast and trick out to groovy tunes, I suggest you don’t either!

Games I Watched

Since I live with a gaming roommate (my brother), I often watch entire games from afar and more or less have my fill. As one child of many, I often consumed games this way when growing up—funny how some things never change.

Assassin’s Creed: Mirage: The gameplay and tighter scale of the open world both looked as good as Assassin’s Creed has looked in recent years, but the UPlay pop-ups drove me insane.

Octopath Traveler 2: A significantly improved story helps Octopath Traveler 2 tremendously, but my favorite part still has to be the incredible music (not enough of which made it into Theatrythm: Final Bar Line).

Final Fantasy XVI: I won’t pretend that FFXVI wholly follows its initial conceit as Final Fantasy: Game of Thrones, but the story it tells is still engaging, with incredible performances across the board.

Hogwarts Legacy: While the castle was intricately realized, I felt the plot and combat were antithetical to the series as a whole.

Games I Missed

Sea of Stars: I had barely finished Chained Echoes by the time Sea of Stars came out, so I wasn’t ready yet for the next indie JRPG.

Spider-Man 2: Priorities pushed Insomniac’s latest to the side, but that was because I knew full well that when I was ready, Spider-Man 2 would be easy to fire up and get into.

Baldur’s Gate 3: We’ve been waiting for the right opportunity for Baldur’s Gate 3, when the crew would have enough free time that we could delve in. Still waiting. In fact, we’ve been waiting so long that one of the promised crew members forgot we were going to play together and started it alone.

Persona 5 Tactica: Everything I read about the story before launch made it sound too unnecessary—disappointing, after Persona 5 Strikers proved to be a worthy sequel to Persona 5 proper.

Avatar Frontiers: A co-op open world? Sign me up. Avatar? Well, maybe later…

Ghost Trick: Phantom Detective: A classic I missed back on the DS, and, thus far, a classic I’ve missed on Switch. I should have a chance to get into it sometime this year…

One Piece Odyssey: Ultimately, I didn’t buy One Piece Odyssey at launch because the story sounded enormously underwhelming. Still does, but these days I wonder if I’d welcome any excuse to witness such a fantastic-looking adventure through one of my favorite manga.

Blanc: An adorable, 2-player co-op adventure starring a wolf cub and a fawn, Blanc made me fall in love from its first trailer. So how did I miss it, in a year I’ve been decrying the lack of co-op adventures? Admittedly, I was looking for a higher player count, but also maybe just the right person to play with.

Chants of Sennaar: I didn’t hear about this linguistic adventure until 2023 was done and gone, and what a shame! Deciphering a language while exploring and solving puzzles sounds like exactly the kind of thing I want to do with my downtime. It’s available on basically every console, so I really have no excuse not to right this wrong.

Tales of Symphonia: The disappointing port should have been an automatic purchase, but it failed on so many fronts that it’s hard to consider when my Gamecube is up and running. If you never played the original, it’s got to be worth a look, even if it’s the worst version of the game, due to the sheer strength of story alone. The patches have been slow, but they presumably helped.

Enjoy my list of the Top 10 Games of 2023? Then check out last year’s list! Otherwise, I’m sure I’ll be back in December 2025 to tell you all about my favorite games from 2024!

About Michael

Brutal Gamer's Nintendo Editor spends an endless amount of time on his Switch (when he isn't lost in the mountains), dreaming of the return of 1080, F-Zero, and Custom Robo.

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