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The best video games I played in 2023

View the rest of my favorites here.

THE LAST OF US, PART I

It’s hard to consider it anything but capital disrespect that Sony keeps putting out good games when they’re fully aware I haven’t owned a PlayStation in a decade. This was a game with a powerful enough story that it inspired a show so great it inspired me not only to purchase and play that original game but also to spend weeks reading a book about mushrooms, and not entirely to reassure myself we’re more than days away from a real fungal pandemic. Zombies are scary. People are scarier.

DAVE THE DIVER

Dave the Diver gripped me and held me underwater until I drowned. Dredge the internet’s friendlier gaming-related corners and you’ll find plenty of touching stories about games that saved people in one way or another. Dropped in the middle of summer, Dave the Diver is no different in that it saved me from having to go outside.

Read my full review of Dave the Diver here.

BOWSER’S FURY

Bowser’s Fury is such a weird game. It’s short, it’s a weird hybrid of two different styles of Mario game, and it’s packaged as side content to a rerelease of a Wii U title. But it’s also a lovely little game, a sort of experimental Nintendo side project the likes of which probably end up on an internal hard drive never to be seen by the public nine times out of ten. This one made it out alive by symbiotically embedding itself in the larger body of Super Mario 3D World, a game that I reserve a special appreciation for and one that makes the package deal a no-brainer.

Read my full review of Bowser’s Fury here.

RAISIN D’ARGENT: PENTIMENT

I finished Pentiment so long ago the ink has started to flake from its curling yellowed pages. This game, the narrative-driven story of a semi-itinerant artist completing a residency in 15th century Bavaria, is without a doubt the most unconventional, experimental, and unique game I played this year. With features like character dialogue being presented as unique, handwritten text that becomes adaptively messier and inkier as tempers flare and in-game wiki-style text links that zoom out and manifest as marginalia explaining the time-and-place context of the scene, you’d think this game was tailor-made for a nerd like me. But you can play it too, and you should. 

Read my full review of Pentiment here.

RAISIN D’OR: BALDUR’S GATE 3

What do you write about a game that released in the most banger-packed year in a decade and still managed to rack up as many Game of the Year nods as all of its other brethren combined? Baldur’s Gate 3 went toe-to-toe with the children of battle-tested recent hits like The Legend of Zelda: Tears of the Kingdom and Spider-Man 2 and still came out on top. I sunk more hours into this game this year than any other, finished it after months of effort, and I’m still eager to go back to do it all again. Each corner of the game tapped into the tadpole munching on my occipital lobe and screamed beauty. If we can get one game a year that comes close to the strength, wisdom, and constitution of this one, I’ll finally be able to divorce myself from the tether of the human world completely. This must be what ceremorphosis feels like.

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