My top 5 games of 2023

Well, look at the time! Another year has passed, and I have to say, compared to the years before this one, it didn’t suck nearly as bad. Sure, it still had its share of downs to equal the ups, but looking back, I think this is the year I could say, “Yeah, I’d do that again if I could.” It was a combination of good food, good company, and good games.

I know this is new for me, as I’ve never been much for recapping what I played, but I decided this year that I want to give a spotlight to the games I think went beyond good and sailed into great, taking up so much of my time, but in a good way.

So join me after the cut as I look at my top 5 games of the year. (In order of lowest to highest ranking.)

Diablo Immortal
I tell you honestly, I didn’t expect a free mobile game to ever make a list of top games for me, but from the moment I downloaded it, Diablo Immortal has been my go-to game to go. I’ve played it everywhere, whether I just needed to waste a few minutes or fill up long times on a train ride. I love every character class equally, and I’ve tried just about every option available apart from PVP. (Which I’m not really a fan of in any game, so that’s me, not them.)

What keeps sucking me in is the ease of picking one of my characters and dropping into the game to do whatever. One character might be used to run through the story again, while others are just for wandering around to see what kind of dungeon crawl or boss raid I feel like doing that day. In both cases, every session brings new loot that changes my character’s abilities, which encourages me to always be trying new build ideas instead of falling into a rut. So as we rush into a new year, I’m still happy to keep playing, and I’d call that a major accomplishment.

Party Hard
So much carnage and chaos in this tiny package. For a morbid murder simulator, I’m shocked at how often I ended up laughing with Party Hard. Part of it is “phoning in” support from a variety of killers, which change from one level to the next and includes aliens and zombie as well as more pedestrian options like a team of pest fumigators.

But more than that, it’s getting into an insane rhythm and finding the right time and place to take out huge swaths of party goers. Doing that and not getting caught always made me laugh in a way that might cause polite company to scoot away from me quickly. But at the same time, losing and getting caught by the cops, slain by a fellow serial killer, or curb stomped by a panicked party goer elicited a similar amused response before I pressed the button for one more try. I enjoyed this so much that I’ll be getting Party Hard 2 soon, and while I can’t say yet if it will make the top games of 2024, I am going into it with high expectations.

Turnip Boy Commits Tax Evasion
I got this just based on the title alone, and once I bought it again on the PC to play with my controller, it took me less than a day to see all it had to offer. I could do with more games like this, with a little price tag and just a few hours of game on offer. But more importantly, I love everything offered in this tiny package. The story is good, the characters are cute and quirky, the music is fantastic, and the controls are simple and easy to get used to.

I’ll admit, I didn’t expect the story to take a turn for the dark side, but once the game asked, “But why are vegetables talking?” the answer kinda makes sense in that old school sci-fi kind of way. It all ends with a truly bizarre mega boss fight that I struggled with because I’d already forgotten some of the abilities I’d picked up. At least when I play it again in a few months with a fresh run, I’ll know what to do. But for sure, I will be playing this several more times because it’s just the right amount of bite-sized fun that I need between all these hundred hour runs in RPGs.

Gotham Knights
Hoo boy, I was told how much I was going to hate Gotham Knights, and I went in with my expectations so low that the height of that bar would make limbo veterans flop sweat. Imagine my surprise when I walked away from my first few hours wearing a huge grin. Aside from a couple boss fights that I didn’t care for, the open world sandbox and the set of grappling hooks and bat weapons felt so good to use. I actually wanted to spend time patrolling Gotham instead of just pushing through the story, and on the other hand, I loved the story and wanted to see it through to the end.

I didn’t go in for all the collect-a-thon activities, or for the dungeon crawl that’s clearly meant to be played with a full crew of online allies, but it doesn’t matter. What really matters is, I beat up a lot of bad guys, and I did it with a smile. So if they ever decide to make a sequel to this wild what if sandbox, you can count me in.

Vampire Survivors
I got Vampire Survivors in January based on it showing up on so many game of the year lists for 2022, and it is without a doubt my top game of 2023. It would have made the list at a lower ranking before the DLC offerings got updated with proper maps, but now those improvements plus another DLC and a steady stream of free updates keeps me coming back for both the new stuff and to mess around with all the older levels and characters. In fact, they just dropped another DLC with a new level, a collaboration with Among Us that includes 15 new weapons and four new music tracks. It’s on my to-buy list for January.

They’ve also just released Adventure Mode, but I can’t talk about that yet because I’m still downloading the update as I type this. Even so, it’s a safe bet that I’ll be playing well into next year, and maybe even farther. I can see it, like the Dark Souls trilogy, remaining in constant rotation around newer games because it’s too much fun to ever truly let go of for good.

So there you have it, folks. All told, it’s been a great year for gaming. (Well, for me, anyway. For a lot of studios, greedy publishers have taken to gutting their teams rather than admit they have set their profit expectations way too high.)

Next week, I’ll be doing a proper end of year review, but I’ll offer a teaser: this is the first year in a long, LONG, L O N G time that I will look back on with fondness rather than fatigue or regret. That’s something I have to treasure, knowing that 2024 could go right back to the suck. Let’s hope it doesn’t suck, or blow, unless we paid for it.

See y’all next week!