Best games I played in 2023


Hi! This post comes somewhat late but I really wanted to finish some games so they could make it into this list. I played a lot of games in 2023, including a couple of really big ones, and this time I really want to focus on highlights, on the games that wowed me in one way or another, the games I could recommend. I didn't write any opinion pieces except for Ōkami last year because I decided to invest all my time and energy into finishing the Sekiro project. And I did finish it! That's probably my biggest achievement of 2023.

Before we start, let's go through some disclaimers:

  • All games I mention in this post were fully completed, except for the two that I will mention specifically. I try my best to never give my opinion on a game that I haven't fully completed because there are games that start off great and end up being a mess.
  • It's a list of games that I played last year, they weren't necessarily released in 2023.
  • I don't think I'll spoil anything major about any game but just to be safe check the table of contents and if you don't want to know anything about one game or another because you intend to play it yourself, just skip the section.
  • And the most important thing! Everything in this post is my personal opinion.

We'll start with two games that I dropped halfway through, and then move on to the games that I wholeheartedly enjoyed.


Developed by Maddy Makes Games Inc., Extremely OK Games, Ltd.


I know people love Celeste and I think this praise is well-deserved. This game just isn't for me. The controls never felt that smooth and it was a struggle to move forward, especially considering that the further you progress the more platforming you need to do before encountering a character or a piece of story progression. I played about half of it and felt that if I moved forward, I would like Celeste considerably less, so I decided to stop while I still liked it. On the bright side, it helped me realize that precision platformers are not for me. Otherwise, Celeste is an amazing game: it has a great story and fantastic music. Now I totally get why people love it so much.

Playtime — 3.5hrs

LAIKA: Aged Through Blood

Developed by Brainwash Gang


I had a similar case with LAIKA, which would have ended up being one of the strongest highlights of the year had I completed it. LAIKA is the newest game from Brainwash Gang, the devs who made GROTTO that I absolutely adore. I played LAIKA's demo before it was released, and that demo kicked my ass. I couldn't really wrap my head around the whole motorvania thing, flipping forward and backward to reload the gun or reload the dodge, it was really challenging for me. However, there was no way I could resist the incredible storytelling, the brutal plot, and fantastic music so I picked it up on release. I played a little more than half I think and decided to leave LAIKA at the point where I still loved it. I found that I could not ensure the mechanical precision of the motorcycle platforming; too often I felt like my success depended on chance, rather than on my reaction speed or my jumping prowess, and I didn't really like that. I still recommend playing the demo if you want to get the feel of LAIKA, and even if you are not inclined to play it, just find the soundtrack and listen to it, it's just that good. I wanted to like LAIKA more than any other game this year but alas.

Playtime — 9.8hrs

And now let's move on to the games that I enjoyed the most this year listed in no particular order. We'll crown this list with my game of the year so buckle up!


Developed by Clover Studio


The only opinion piece I wrote this year was on Ōkami, and I assure you, it is for a reason. The game originally came out in 2006 and then received an HD remaster — it looks incredible even today thanks to its unique artstyle that combines ink-wash painting, cel-shading and Japanese watercolor. Ōkami is an epic adventure full of memorable characters, unique brush fights, Japanese folklore, exploration and heart. It is well-paced and keeps the adventures fresh until the very end. Ōkami aged beautifully so if you have a Nintendo Switch, I'd recommend getting the game there and playing in handheld mode to reap the joy of just drawing on the screen with your finger, it's a lot of fun. If you don't own a Switch, no worries, Ōkami HD is available on other platforms too. I have a no-spoiler post on it, check it out if you feel like it!

Playtime — 48hrs

Mass Effect Trilogy

Developed by BioWare


I bet you didn't expect the Mass Effect Trilogy to show up on this list, did you now? I played a bit of Mass Effect 1 when it came out, which was a long time ago, and I hadn't really touched the franchise since then. I am very partial to space operas but living in 2023 while not having any relationship with such a classic felt like I skipped elementary school for gamers. Besides, this is the number one favorite game of one of my good friends, so I felt like I really needed to get properly acquainted with Mass Effect.

I hope I'll get to release my gigantic opinion piece on Mass Effect Trilogy but in short — I quite liked it. Mass Effect 1 was perfect, I love it to bits. The defining feat of Mass Effect, something that only the first game could do, is that it does a great job both explaining the world and the setting and introducing characters. It juggles the scale of the Galaxy and your personal story as commander Shepard astonishingly well. It also shows the tragedy of its antagonists, which not many games do even nowadays.

I hated most of Mass Effect 2, the game, in my humble opinion, is hot garbage. I despise it :D It almost convinced me to drop the whole trilogy and forget about it. After the incredible inspiration that I got from ME, ME2 felt like someone punched me in the face and broke my nose. I didn't have any of my chosen companions from ME1 available, but I had like 50 other companions, and almost all of them were super unlikeable. ME2 did improve some things that needed improvement, like combat and levelling, but I was playing for the story and the companions, and that part was super disappointing.

I debated whether or not I should even start ME3 after ME2 had pulled every last bit of my soul from my body but then I thought, 'Well, I didn't like ME2 and I don't have to play it anymore'. ME3 felt like THE Mass Effect you usually hear about — epic, heroic, more polished mechanically, where every mission feels like a part of the main quest (because they all kind of are). I really liked it, except probably for the ending part but I don't bear a grudge, I don't think I do. And it also makes Mass Effect 2 much better in retrospect, which felt good but almost like cheating.

All in all, despite having an issue with Mass Effect 2, I loved the trilogy. It has some of the most memorable characters in gaming history, and a truly legendary protagonist. Even if you're not really into space operas, like I am not, give it a try if you haven't. It's a most charming classic.

Playtime — 105hrs

Frog Detective: The Complete Case

Developed by Grace Bruxner, Thomas Bowker


Frog Detective was an absolute blast. The gameplay is very simple if not primitive; each one of the available 3 cases is basically a prolonged exchange quest where you find a thing, then exchange it for another thing, then do it again, until you hit the end of the chain and the mystery gets resolved. What makes this game so stellar though? The absolutely hilarious writing. It is a short and sweet game with some incredible jokes sometimes told with a straight face; I'd recommend playing it with your friends or family, this experience is even funnier when shared.  

Playtime — 6.5hrs

Baldur's Gate 3

Developed by Larian Studios


I have always had a very difficult relationship with Larian games; I believe I've played everything or almost everything they've put out and I could never say that I enjoyed it all that much. Still, there was no way I'd miss their take on Baldur's Gate because there was just too much nostalgia for me in it. I grew up playing classic isometric RPGs, it is my most favorite genre. I played the original Baldur's Gate games a long time ago, I absolutely adore Neverwinter Nights and while I haven't played DnD, I spent all my childhood and adolescence reading Forgotten Realms books. It felt like a long-awaited homecoming.

I hope I'll be able to write a blogpost or even make a video on BG3 but in short: I enjoyed it very much. The RPGs of this kind are few and far between, they are notoriously expensive to make, they take a lot of time, and the audience for them isn't all that large. Seeing such an RPG looking as gorgeous as BG3 literally brought tears to my eyes. This is what original Baldur's Gates and Neverwinter Nights look like in my head. Voice actors are fire, and they mocapped them too which made the most mundane camp dialogues look like little movie clips. The writing got much better compared to Original Sin, and that specific Larian sense of humor that I can't stand was thankfully kept in check and distilled into really good jokes and some hilarious dialogues. It is an adventure of a truly epic magnitude where all the different ways you can complete quests — even the tiniest side quests — are accounted for and end up making tidal waves later down the line. I think this was one of the things that I liked the most in BG3 — how I kept finding echoes of my previous decisions, and it all made sense. It warms my heart to hear how people who usually avoid this type of games because they seem boring or complicated get drawn in and invested. I hope the audience continues to grow and even more people discover this incredible genre through Baldur's Gate 3 and finally make it super popular.

Of course, there were still some unfortunate bugs and glitches that prevented me from completing a few Act 3 quests and sabotaged my relationships with some companions. I hope Larian continue perfecting the game because a hundred hours for a playthrough is kind of a lot, and if something gets bugged along the way, the player might not have enough spare time to replay the whole thing again.

Playtime — 115hrs

Small Saga

Developed by Darya Noghani


Small Saga came out of nowhere for me but ended up being one of the brightest highlights of my gaming year. It is a turn-based RPG about a tiny mouse on an epic quest of revenge and self-discovery. It absolutely blows my mind that for the most part this game was made by one person. It is a labor of love and passion and believe me when I say that it shows. Small Saga is brilliantly written, has a lot of good humor and memorable main characters, each with established background and a character arc. Don't let the premise deceive you, the game can be very brutal both in its themes and the events unfolding. I recommend this fantastic game to everyone; even if you are not exactly inspired by turn-based RPGs, I urge you to try. There are no random encounters, they are all very much story-related, and the combat itself consists of a few solid mechanics so it's very straightforward while allowing enough freedom to develop your characters in the way you see fit.

Playtime — 14hrs


Developed by Joon, Pol, Muutsch, Char & Torfi


NUTS is often compared to Firewatch because of its story canvas: you are a lone researcher in a national park studying an endangered species of squirrels. Your only contact is your supervisor Nina to whom you fax your findings after a few days of tracking squirrels around the park with 3 cameras. During the day you set up the cameras according to your assignment and then during the night you watch them to see what the squirrels are up to. The game's unique artstyle and sound design create a haunting atmosphere of being in the deep woods completely alone on a mission that you don't quite understand. Then the plot starts to unravel with each of Nina's calls, and your head spins with multiple theories on what exactly is happening in Melmoth Forest. I'd say it is not as well-rounded in terms of story as Firewatch and many things are open to interpretation, but I'd lie if I said I wasn't thoroughly entertained the evening I played it.

Playtime — 2.8hrs

Terra Nil

Developed by Free Lives


I usually stay away from strategy games and city builders not only because they are exhausting for me to play, but also because I get very anxious about the simplest things like building placement. What if I build something and then end up not liking it? Re-building it will disrupt processes and cost resources. Well, in Terra Nil I didn't have to worry about any of it at all: it is a reverse city builder where each map is a puzzle that you need to solve in order to turn barren wastelands into an assortment of thriving biomes. I created riverbeds and coral gardens, grew massive forests and managed the climate to get it just right for the rain to fall. The best thing though is that it does not matter at all if you build your facilities sub-optimally, asymmetrically or otherwise imperfectly. As soon as the ecosystem is restored, your task is to destroy everything you built, clean up all the rubble and leave for the next mission so there's not even a trace of you left. I found this gameplay loop to be incredibly refreshing so if you too stress too much while building stuff in games, give Terra Nil a try. It is a beautiful game.

Playtime — 5hrs

Slay the Princess

Developed by Black Tabby Games


Slay the Princess is a psychological horror visual novel about you, the Hero, who is tasked with slaying her, the Princess. You're on a path in the woods, and she is in a little cabin just up the hill. The Narrator tells you to take the pristine blade and slay her because otherwise she will destroy the world. What will you do? Will you talk to her first? Or not? Maybe you don't need to take the blade: she is all chained up, how could she be a danger? Or maybe you will just plunge the blade into her chest and save everyone. What you do in the cabin determines your path that can span many chapters. I don't want to spoil anything but if you've played Stanley Parable, you're familiar with the concept: do as you're told and you'll get to the credits pretty quickly but that's not the point at all. The game has multiple endings and a lot of different routes, all brunching from your decisions when meeting the Princess for the first time. It is well-written and fully voiced; some episodes are hilarious, others — terrifying. Be sure to check all trigger warnings for visual effects; you can tweak most of them in the options menu.

And remember: this is a love story.

Playtime — 4hrs


Developed by Visai Games


I have to say that Venba had me absolutely fooled: I expected a short story-driven cooking game that would allow me to learn more about Indian cuisine and culture — and it does all that, don't get me wrong — but it also punched me in the feelings HARD. Venba tells a story set in the 80s about an Indian family who immigrated to Canada and is struggling a lot with fitting into the new society and adapting to a new way of life while preserving their cultural heritage. There's more to it than that, I don't want to spoil it, but I will say that it touches upon some very complex matters, and not in a shallow way, which is no small feat for a game that is barely 2 hours long. Venba expertly combines the hardships of immigrant life and family relationships with vibrant cooking puzzles that strike a hopeful chord in your heart. Even if you cannot fully relate to the premise of Venba, I can guarantee that in one way or another you will be touched by this game nonetheless.

Playtime — 4hrs (I streamed it and also failed every cooking puzzle lol)

Chicory: A Colorful Tale

Developed by Wishes Ultd., Greg Lobanov, Alexis Dean-Jones, Lena Raine, Madeline Berger, A Shell in the Pit


While we are on the topic of games that hit me hard this year, we must talk about Chicory: A Colorful Tale. It is an adventure game about a wonderful vibrant world that lost its color because Chicory, the wielder of the legendary Brush, went missing. It is up to you, Chicory's janitor, to find her and reunite her with the Brush. In the meantime, you are the Wielder, and you can color the whole world however you like! But finding Chicory is a priority, of course.

This game has everything: puzzles, fights, exploration, great worldbuilding and dialogues that made me take a pause and just breathe. Chicory touches upon themes of anxiety, depression, dealing with high expectations and the highs and lows of friendship. This game really spoke to me in a way that very few have. Ultimately, it is a great adventure full of hope and good humor, so I strongly recommend it to everyone.

Playtime — 9hrs

Turnip Boy Commits Tax Evasion

Developed by Snoozy Kazoo


Turnip Boy Commits Tax Evasion is a wild ride :D The game is about 3 hours long, but it is absolutely packed with quirky characters, funny jokes and emmm tearing important documents to shreds. After one such document turned out to be your tax form, you end up in a massive debt to mayor Onion and have to work for him. While running errands for the vegetable government that might or might not be corrupt to the bone, you learn a whole lot about the history of the world, which I didn't expect at all. Turnip Boy is a big story masterfully accommodated within a small timeframe, and it is simply superb. About halfway through it turns 180 and becomes something else, as you unravel the truth about the seemingly idyllic garden community.

Turnip Boy Commits Tax Evasion was a blast, and I can't wait for the sequel, Turnip Boy Robs a Bank, that is set to come out in a couple of weeks.

Playtime — 3hrs

Dave the Diver

Developed by MINTROCKET


I feel like everyone has heard about Dave the Diver at some point, and for a good reason: this adventure RPG with roguelite elements is something of a unique singleplayer experience among other similar games that deal with gathering resources and crafting. You play as Dave, who is a diver helping a local sushi restaurant near the mysterious Blue Hole where all types of fish and sea creatures can be found. During the day you catch fish, and in the evening you run the restaurant, serving fresh sushi to your customers. Simple, right? Wrong, because Dave the Diver is a cornucopia of game mechanics, and it doesn't stop giving you new things even if you're already dozens of hours in. There are various types of upgradable weapons, many different harpoons, each with its own minigame, a giant main quest about Sea People, not to mention the restaurant management system, ratings and reviews you get from customers, the ingredients you need to gather for more complex dishes, special events, VIP guests, hiring staff and dozens upon dozens of other things. It might seem overwhelming the way I am describing it, but the game is hyper aware about how much content it has, so the new mechanics are introduced to you in a graceful manner. The tutorials are basically like "here's a big new system but don't worry about it, for now you just need this small element of it", and the rest of the learning comes naturally. However, this approach might lead to a few tiny but important mechanics being left unexplained, but really, nothing you can't figure out on your own if you're curious enough. Dave the Diver masterfully balances the periods of relaxed exploration with exciting chases and fights, mystery and blood-boiling restaurant shifts because let me tell you, it's hard to feed a bunch of people when you also need to grate wasabi, pour matcha and wipe the tables. After you finish the main storyline, you can just continue playing the game and managing the restaurant. When I finished the main quest and watched the credits, the game didn't really seem to notice and just continued to introduce new mechanics, including a big new chunk of the game, blowing me away once more. 

Playtime — 40hrs

Lies of P

Developed by NEOWIZ


One of the biggest releases of this year, Lies of P took me by surprise. I was interested in it mostly because of the setting and combat, and not really because I wanted to play another soulslike — to be completely honest with you, I don't even know what a "soulslike" game is supposed to be like, this label gets slapped on everything nowadays. Despite a few really annoying chunks, Lies of P turned out to be one of the brightest highlights of my gaming year. It is very... well-rounded. It feels whole, a complete well thought-out experience. You play as a puppet created by a genius engineer Geppetto on a mission to save the crumbling city of Krat, once a prosperous capital of progress, now — bathed in blood burning ruins, filled with crazy puppets. You have a special legion arm that you can upgrade in many different ways, it's a little like Sekiro's prosthetic that can change the way you fight in a meaningful way. There is also an awesome system of weapon construction that I found really refreshing. Basically, you can disassemble any non-legendary weapon and get a blade part and a handle part. You can upgrade blades to deal more damage, and you can change handles to scale with a different stat. And the greatest part is that you can combine any handle with any blade, and the new weapon would inherit the damage from the blade, but the scaling and the moveset from the handle. Not only can you create a weapon tailored to your style of play, but you can also have some pretty hilarious combinations that are just fun to fool around with. The combat is not as tight as I expected it to be but it's still pretty good: you can go with dodging or with perfect guarding. I went with the latter, hoping to pull off some Sekiro combat and most of the time I even succeeded. Recently the developers patched the game to have some basic mechanics from the start and not as a level up in the middle of the game so I can only imagine how much more comfortable it is to play it now.

Lies of P weaves brutal punishing combat with quieter moments of contemplation and melancholy. The soundtrack is simply superb. It is a dark story inspired by a classic Pinocchio tale. Remember how Pinocchio was promised to be turned into a real boy if he is brave, truthful, and unselfish? But isn't lying an inherently human thing?..

Playtime — 40hrs

And now, after we have discussed the games I loved playing in 2023, let's move on to my game of the year!

The Legend of Zelda: Tears of the Kingdom

Developed by Nintendo EPD


I am sure it comes as no surprise, but my game of 2023 is The Legend of Zelda: Tears of the Kingdom. Breath of the Wild was my game of the year when I played it, and Tears of the Kingdom is everything I ever wanted the sequel to be, and even more. I played it day one, and then for months and months, every single day being blown away by what they did with the concept I thought myself pretty familiar with. Breath of the Wild was revolutionary but SOMEHOW Tears of the Kingdom makes it seem like a demo.

I don't want to spoil it because Nintendo went out of their way to hide it in the trailers and promo materials, but if you thought Breath of the Wild was big, Tears of the Kingdom is much, MUCH bigger. I'll say no more.

Despite using the same Hyrule map as Breath of the Wild, Tears of the Kingdom overhauls it in such a way that even if you vacuumed every corner the last time you were here, you'll discover that now you have even more exploration to do. Hyrule has changed significantly: not only have the islands fallen from the skies, there are caves now and vast systems of tunnels to explore. The kingdom changed because some time has passed since Breath of the Wild, and many places just don't look the same. Besides, the world is actively responding to the main events instead of being in a relative stasis, like in BotW, and that's probably my favorite thing. You actually feel the calamity plaguing the land at every step, you see people of Hyrule struggling and fighting, and I found it to be incredibly immersive.

Tears of the Kingdom has probably the most story out of all Zelda games I've played: there is a whole anime series inside of it, dozens of story cutscenes, a lot of dialogue, and branching questlines for all the main characters. In Breath of the Wild exploration had little to do with the main plot: the main quests were confined to their specific locations. In Tears of the Kingdom each main storyline takes you through a whole region with multiple challenging quests and a good chunk of story. I'm not gonna lie, it was the hardest thing for me to adjust to because in BotW I just explored a region and then went to tackle the quest, while here it doesn't make much sense to avoid the quest because it will involve a lot of exploration. It's probably counter-intuitive for a game of such massive scale, but I'd say that it's probably a better choice to actually follow the main quest to a point, and then explore freely whatever is left, because completing the branches of the main quest actually makes the exploration easier and more exciting.

And then there are new mechanics that are absolutely mindblowing, especially considering how none of them break the game although on the first glance they absolutely should. Link can now Ascend, which is basically vertical teleport through any terrain, you might have seen it in the trailers. You'd think this ability will be absolutely broken and you'll be able to abuse it somehow but in reality, it is mainly for quickly getting out from under ground, gaining verticality without the need to climb a slope for 10 minutes, and also for puzzle-solving and strategic combat. It doesn't actually break anything. And I won't even touch on the engineering mechanic, I'm sure you've seen videos of people coming up with the craziest stuff for both traversal and enemy encounters.

I loved every minute of it. You don't have to play Breath of the Wild to enjoy Tears of the Kingdom but having played it and seeing how the places and characters I loved changed, meeting Hestu and koroks, meeting Sidon and Riju, walking up to Dueling Peaks and exploring the Great Plateau again was worth everything to me. Tears of the Kingdom is the best game I played in 2023.

Playtime — 194hrs



This year technical quality and good optimization were a big point of consideration for me when I chose games to play. As I grow older, I have more responsibilities and less free time to invest in gaming, even though it remains my primary source of quality entertainment and my biggest passion. Lies! — you might say — you spent 200 hours playing Tears of the Kingdom! That's a lot of free time! And that's precisely the point. I chose to play Tears of the Kingdom because I trusted Nintendo enough to test their game well — even a game of such staggering enormity as Tears of the Kingdom — and provide me with a top-notch experience even if I choose to play the game day one. I played Tears of the Kingdom on release, and I had no issues with it. I probably wouldn't have liked Lies of P as much as I did had it not been for its absence of bugs and remarkable optimization that allowed me to both play comfortably and also stream it with zero loss of quality. Even though I don't really anticipate games most on the time, there are titles I want to dive in right around their time of release, and I can't put into words how disappointed I am when such a game doesn't work properly. Happened this year multiple times too: I tried to play a certain game, not even day one, and right at the start it had that stupid bug where the text didn't warp but just went off-screen in one long line. Because it was a game where you're supposed to read, I figured it's not worth playing now because I can't read anything. I still have not returned to it. Maybe I never will. The industry is so competitive I feel like games don't really get second chances. My backlog is huge, and my spare time is limited; I am interested in a lot of genres, and if a game doesn't work properly, I just move on because I have so much choice among the games that do work. That is why I am always okay with games being delayed; I'd rather the developers take all the time they need to polish and optimize than release something that needs to be patched every two days for the next few months.

I had a great gaming year and I hope 2024 will be just as good, if not better. I remain hopeful for the future of this blog too so please do stick around. And of course, feel free to share your best — and worse! — gaming experiences of 2023. I always go through the comments afterwards and compile a list of games that you recommend. As usual, it doesn't matter if a game was actually released this year, it only matters if you played it this year.

Thank you very much for your time and I'll see you in the next one. And Happy New Year. Take care.

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My name is Shetani. I am a linguist (EN-JP), and I write about videogames. I am on hiatus till May, see you then!

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