Home 2023 Recap: Video Games

2023 Recap: Video Games

As of the time I write this post, I have finished 25 video games this year. I’m currently playing through the second Sly Cooper game (Sly 2: Band of Thieves), though it’s unclear if I’ll finish it this year, and unlikely it would crack my top 10 games for the year if I did.

So what have I played and what have I liked? You can find the whole list here, but here’s a summary:

Best: Mario + Rabbids Kingdom Battle: Donkey Kong Adventure Worst: Bully / Neverwinter Nights 2: Storm of Zehir Weirdest: Eternal Sonata Most Impressive: The Legend of Zelda: Tears of the Kingdom

The Bad



Some games I played this year I didn’t enjoy. Most notably was Bully (2006), the only game I DNFd this year. I’d never played a Rockstar Game before (aside from the first half of the first Red Dead game, Red Dead Revolver), but I remember hearing about Bully when it came out.

I decided to give it a try, and 5 hours later I returned it. I don’t know if 2006 was before we invented accessibility, but the contrast in this game was atrocious. No subtitles, and a color scheme of dark blue on gray makes it very hard to tell what’s going on at times.

Ostensibly, the game allows you to choose whether or not to be nice, and that’s true until the cutscenes take over, where you become just as much of an unlikeable a-hole as everyone else. Not my jam. I finally put the game down in the kitchen scene, where a mix of gross-out humor and transphobia made it clear that I wouldn’t love this game. I checked reviews to make sure it didn’t get better a few hours in, and while IGN says that it opens up right around where I put it down, it seemed like the humor would remain constant. Surprisingly, I was able to get a full refund for this game, which lessened the sting a bit.

Bully contrast Look how hard to read this is!

Advance Wars

Advance Wars

I played the original Advance Wars (2.5/5), and it was fine. The final battle of the game is considered unwinnable under standard conditions (your allies are determined by silent ‘choices’ throughout the game, like whether you beat a mission in a certain time frame, or who you took on an earlier mission).

I played some other games I didn’t love: Super Castlevania IV (2.5/5) would have been frustrating without abusing save states; Neverwinter Nights 2: Storm of Zehir (2.5/5) was a capitalism simulator with all the trappings of D&D 3.5, but none of the charm of the base game’s story or NPCs.

I played Shadow of the Colossus (3/5) for the first time. That game is a work of art, but I’m not sure that it’s, strictly speaking, fun. When I got stuck I looked up videos that were invariably played on the PS4 remake, which looked much cleaner, less muddy, and easier to tell what was actually going on in some cases. If you’re going to play it, spring for the more recent version over the original,

The Weird

Eternal Sonata


The weirdest game I played this year by far is Eternal Sonata (2.75/5). It’s a JRPG about famous Polish composer Frédéric François Chopin, where famous Polish composer Frédéric François Chopin is a playable character. That’s not all —— the world itself takes place in the mind of Frédéric François Chopin.

This game was bonkers from start to finish. It starts out as a screed against taxes, where a bunch of characters decide to go talk to the Count, assuming he’s reasonable. He’s not. He’s a cartoonishly evil twink who tells people that good news is a waste of time and bad news is a death sentence.

There’s a case of mistaken identity, but by the time it resolves we’ve seen a woman monologue for 6 straight minutes about a boy she loves (mind you, this monologue is her dying speech after she’s been stabbed). There’s a whole bunch of politics and intrigue and philosophy, some of which is actually quite interesting. And then… the villain turns into a dragon and goes into a hell dimension for a final fight, for reasons that are never really made clear.

The combat system in the game is interesting. It has a timer, with limited actions per turn. Enemies have no health bars, but tens of thousands of health, making each fight an annoying slog of meaningless numbers. Oooh I did 36,000 damage. Is that a lot? No way to tell!

Eternal Sonata is at its best when its moralizing over whether or not to assassinate a dude who seems evil, when its debating how taxes affect real people, how suspicion of our neighbors make us weak. And this game has a ton of that! But it throws it all away for big meaningless dungeons chasing dragons.

I wrote a very long reivew of this game after I finished it, but all you really need to know is that at several points in the game, the plot is interrupted to show a PowerPoint about the life of famous Polish composer Frédéric François Chopin while a song of his plays in the background.

I do not recommend this game.

The Good

Okay what about games I DID like?

  • Sherlock Holmes: Crimes and Punishments(3.75/5)

My only complaint about this mystery game is that by the 5th of 6th missions, they started to get repetitive. If I’d spaced these out longer, I’d have loved it. I keep thinking about this game, long after finishing it.

I do wish there had been more puzzles that involved rotating shapes in space, and fewer about lockpicking, but so it goes.

Update 01/08/2024: I think about this game more often than most others on this list. I think I would enjoy having one of these in the background, solving one case every week while I play other games. My only complaint was doing it all at once felt repetitive.

  • The Murder of Sonic The Hedgehog (4/5)

I wish this had cracked my top 10. It was unique, ambitious, and enjoyable. Truly a breath of fresh air and a love letter to the franchise. For a free visual novel, I can’t recommend it enough.

  • Midnight Suns (4.5/5)

Another ambitious game. One part platonic romance sim, one part XCOM-ish card battler, one part exploration. I loved this game. I don’t usually go for exploration, but I couldn’t get enough of the abbey grounds. This felt like two or three games at once, and I was here for all of it.

Now, my wife is playing it, and liking it perhaps even more than I did. I see why people didn’t like it —— it’s three different games aimed at (at least) two different audiences. Tactical people wanted less relationship management, Marvel fans wanted the versions of the characters they knew from the movies (and maybe less fights, more time with characters). But for me, all of the pieces melded together really well. My complaints are mostly around QOL features, like upgrading cards through menus being a little cumbersome.

  • SnipperClips


What can I say about SnipperClips (4.5/5) that hasn’t already been said by Penny Arcade? It’s simply a delight to play with friends. Grab the free demo and give it a try. This is my favorite Switch game to play with friends, or to make visitors play with each other. There’s very limited replayability without the expansion, however.

  • Zeldas

I played three Zelda games this year: Tears of the Kingdom (5/5), which was undoubtedly the most innovative and technically impressive game I’ve played this year (maybe ever? It’s up there!)

Link to the Past (5/5), which was a replay for me that still holds up remarkably well. I did have to look up how to get back to the dark world at one point, but then it was off to the races.

Link Between Worlds (5/5), which was the first game I finished this year, and took the crown of my favorite Zelda game. A mix of nostalgia and innovation made it pure fun from start to finish.

My favorite games

But even with all of that, my favorite games were a complete surprise.

I was ‘recommended’ Mario + Rabbids Kingdom Battle by a friend who handed me his copy and said “I hated this, you have it”. That was 4 years ago, and obviously I didn’t prioritize it. I finally got around to this game and immediately fell in love. The mini bosses were challenging, the puzzles were engaging, the humor had me rolling! It’s not XCOM, but it’s extremely good at what it does!


When I finished it, I wanted more, so I grabbed Mario + Rabbids Kingdom Battle: Donkey Kong Adventure, which ended up being my game of the year. It’s the first game streamlined, with fewer characters (you could only have 3 at a time anyway), a tighter plot, puzzles that were designed around the smaller cast, and just a more polished version of the thing I already loved.

So there you have it. 25 games this year, and my favorite was an expansion to a Ubisoft game from 5 years ago. Let me know in the comments what you’ve been playing, and if you have thoughts on anything I played this year.

This post is licensed under CC BY 4.0 by the author.

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