Whenever we ponder our favourite games of the year so far it's always amazing not only how fast the year has gone, but how many great titles there are to choose from, and 2023 is no exception.
We've seen some best-in-class remakes, the return of fan-favourite franchises, as well as more sequels than you can shake a controller at. What’s been your highlight so far?
If, like Liam, you haven’t played a lot of new games, it’s perfectly acceptable to choose a classic you’re just discovering, or rediscovering. Read on for our picks and share your own on our Discord.
Much like Liam, the list of new titles I've played in 2023 is shorter than I would've thought. After extensively searching and checking the release dates of everything I have even the vaguest memory of downloading, I finally settled on the very first game that jumped out at me, days prior.
Loop Hero is one of the indie-est indies I've stumbled across, merging different elements to create something that should be a mess, but makes perfect sense as a package. It's a roguelike auto-battler in which the hero wanders a (potentially) endless, randomly-generated loop, defeating enemies and acquiring loot, gearing up for the eventual boss fight.
Though player agency is absent during combat, you are in control of how the loop evolves, as you build the world around it. Cards gained from battles can be placed on, or around, the loop, granting passive stat boosts or buffs and, usually, spawning a different enemy type. After you've filled a set number of empty tiles, the boss spawns in at the end of the current loop.
As expeditions can be over fairly quickly if you allow the hero to traverse the loop without too much intervention, it can be a relaxed, easy-going, adventure. Or, you can choose to micro-manage every part of your hero's loadout and design the world with precision, to provide as many benefits as possible whilst minimising risk. I found myself walking the latter path more often, as the narrative slowly pulled me in with its genuinely enthralling, sci-fi, nonsense.
I'm yet to see how the entire story unfolds, but the bitesize nature of Loop Hero means I'll probably return here and there, maybe in between not playing some of the bigger releases this year.
Taking it right back to the beginning of the year, I was all ready to dive into Forespoken and love it, but unfortunately the demo left me cold – meaning an early contender for GOTHY was immediately out.
Redfall too was a disappointment, though far from the complete technical and narrative that was reported (and expect a review of it in the not-so-distant future), which left me zero for two – or perhaps a half – for the year, but surely there’d be a game coming along which could really knock my socks off eventually, right?
I’m hoping that game will be Pikmin 4, due this month, but in the meantime there was one last contender for the first half – Planet of Lana.
I played a bit of the game back at EGX 2022 and the end result was a beautiful example of a handful of simple mechanics executed extremely well and is generally a really well thought out experience.
Special mention should go to Hi-Fi Rush which came out of nowhere and contrary to Liam's experience, really impressed on all fronts, from the vivid and exciting art style to the execution of its music-inspired mechanics. It’s one you should absolutely not pass up.
You might think The Legend of Zelda: Tears of the Kingdom is conspicuous by its absence, and in fact if I had played more of the game it may well be here, but so far I’m still collecting my thoughts for the review, that you’ll have to wait a bit longer for.