When I reflect on 2023, I always think that when it comes to gaming, this year was both the best and the worst in some regards. So many great releases from big companies and indie developers alike that it’s almost hard for me to just pick five games and rank them in this yearly list we do every year at Noisy Pixel, and trust me, my backlog has been bursting at the seams. Still, after much deliberation, I’ve finally managed to make my selections. So here we go.
Truth be told, I wasn’t expecting to see the Bayonetta series make it into my top list at all. After all, I was never a fan of the games due to their action combat and mature overall themes not being my general cup of tea. However, Bayonetta Origins: Cereza and the Lost Demon moves away from what the series is generally known for.
In my opinion, this honest-to-goodness charming puzzle platformer has such an engaging narrative, and it kept me hooked from beginning to end as I learned more and more about Cereza before she became the beloved witch that everyone loves to this day.
This is also thanks to its mesmerizing tunes (Together in the Moonlit Forest is an earworm that refuses to leave my head) and its storybook aesthetic, as both of them really help you figure out what set forward the events of future titles. Now, does this mean I’ll play the Bayonetta games in the future? Time will tell, I suppose, and I’ll certainly think about it, but I’m not exactly sure.
4. Pikmin 4
After laying dormant for almost a decade, I was honestly skeptical of whether Pikmin 4 would even come out, especially since its predecessor, Pikmin 3, was sort of stuck on the Wii U until we got Pikmin 3 Deluxe. But lo and behold, here we are with Pikmin 4, the latest installment of the Pikmin series.
This new installment of the series adds in so many new mechanics that exploring the wide open areas took hours and hours of my day, and I was always excited to see what sort of treasure I would find next.
In fact, it was also one of the few games I’ve managed to 100% this year. Now, it’s a toss of the dice whether we’ll get a Pikmin 5, but given that Pikmin 4 sold so well and continues to be frequently advertised by Nintendo, I’m inclined to believe in that seed of hope.
3. Jack Jeanne
For many years, Broccoli, a well-known otome game developer in Japan, has hardly brought their IPs over to the West, with my only contact with them being with the now-defunct Uta no Prince-sama mobile game and its anime. However, Aksys Games managed to bring Jack Jeanne to the west, a rhythm otome game where we follow Kisa Tachibana, who joins the Univeil Drama School under the conditions of concealing herself as a boy and landing a leading role in the main performance.
Suffice it to say, this otome drew me in from the very beginning, and I was immediately charmed by its cast. Sui Ishida’s art style was a treat for the eyes, and its soundtrack was absolutely a joy to listen to. Still, and I probably have said this before, I would love to see a sequel to it because I’m just dying to know what will happen next with Kisa Tachibana.
When WarioWare Move It! was first announced, I was so excited that during the month of November, I just didn’t care about any other releases. After all, I was introduced to the series with Smooth Moves on the Wii, and Move It! is essentially a spiritual sequel that retains the quirky spirit of the series and also introduces some wacky fun for both single-player mode and local co-op.
While some would argue the Forms were a tad finicky, such as the IR camera not working as intended in Hand Model, I would argue that it’s that sort of jankiness that makes the game so appealing, and it’s also a charming title that you can boot up from time to time if you’re looking to just move your body to some fast-paced microgames, either by yourself or with a friend.
Predictable, I know. But I would be doing a disservice to myself if I didn’t include Xenoblade Chronicles 3: Future Redeemed in my list. If you want to split hairs, then yes, you could argue that it’s a DLC for Xenoblade Chronicles 3 and not its own standalone game like Torna was, but it definitely feels like one, and you should definitely not overlook it because of that.
Not only is it a grand finale to an overarching series as someone who has been playing since the original Xenoblade Chronicles release on the Wii, it is, in my opinion, the perfect DLC expansion. While I can’t honestly recommend that you play this expansion before any other of the games due to how it relies on your series’ knowledge, you won’t be disappointed if you play through the series.
Honorable Mention: Final Fantasy XIV
Back in July of this year, I got really interested after watching the announcement trailer for Dawntrail, the upcoming expansion for the critically acclaimed Final Fantasy XIV. I’ve given the game plenty of tries back in the day, but it never stuck to me. However, that changed somewhat when two close friends of mine gifted me the Complete Edition as an early birthday present.
While I did have my fair share of complains while playing through the beginning of A Realm Reborn (and honestly, most do…), I tried to challenge myself and push on, and honestly? I’m so glad I did because right now, as of the time of writing, I’m close to pushing over 700 hours, and I’m still trying to catch up on the latest content, and it would be fair to say it’s been the one game that’s been on my mind throughout the later part of 2023.
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