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Staff Picks: The Best Video Games of 2023

A standout year for Nintendo, plus lots more!

The year has wrapped up so here at Ani-Gamers it’s once again time to count down our staff’s favorite media of the year. This year we’re skipping the manga list since our team didn’t have enough picks, so we begin with video games.

2023 was a particularly good year for Nintendo, as evidenced by the multiple shout-outs to both Mario and Zelda on these lists. But that’s not all! Keep reading for RPGs, puzzle games, and much more. And as a little bonus, since some team members wanted to include a few extra games that they didn’t have time to finish, or old stuff they dug up in 2023, this time we’re including some “honorable mentions” after the main rankings.

Enjoy, and let us know your personal picks in the comments below or on X, Instagram, or Discord.

David Estrella

#3: Atelier Marie Remake: The Alchemist of Salburg

Koei Tecmo and Gust have been on a hot streak with the runaway success of Atelier Ryza, which has seen the RPG series break through in the West in a big way over the last few years. While Ryza 3, released in 2023, is pretty good from what I’ve seen, it’s one of several 60+ hour open world games in my backlog so I’ll talk about the other Atelier game released last year, Atelier Marie. A remake of the original PlayStation game, Marie is a cozy little game that has been revamped in just about every way to introduce modern Atelier fans to the series’ humble beginnings. Assuming the role of the silliest girl in town, players are asked to juggle Marie’s studies into alchemy and her activities as an adventurer for hire to keep her workshop afloat and ultimately pass her final exam to become a full-fledged alchemist.  Players will spend most of their time demystifying the item synthesis mechanics and making pals with other fellow adventurers, and perhaps even topple a demon lord or two before graduation. Atelier Marie has convinced me that they really need to go back to making RPGs that are 30 hours long or less.

#2: Super Mario Bros. Wonder

If I managed to finish The Legend of Zelda: Tears of the Kingdom, it would probably be in this spot, but that didn’t happen so instead I’m placing Wonder as one of my three Staff Picks of 2023. Wonder more or less makes up for all the mid-tier New Super Mario Bros. games I’ve had to play, hopelessly chasing after the feeling of playing Super Mario Bros. 3 for the first time again. With Wonder, we leave the Mushroom Kingdom behind for the Flower Kingdom, a once-peaceful land that is now being subject to Bowser’s despotic rule. Wonder leans hard into the idea that there is still something new to be found in the experience of playing a 2D Mario platformer and incredibly enough, there’s still new ideas out there that re-imagine what a side-scroller can be on a fundamental level. The crustiest Mario cynic that hasn’t had fun since the 90s will definitely crack once they touch their first Wonder Flower. Keep Mario weird, Nintendo, and I’ll keep playing them.

#1: Super Mario RPG

I should have had more faith in this remake but I can’t be blamed for keeping my expectations low. Seeing what The Pokemon Company did to the Diamond and Pearl remakes broke my heart and I couldn’t help but look at the trailer for Super Mario RPG (2023) and begin to imagine the worst. However, actually playing the game, it all started to make sense. The rearranged music. The faithfully reproduced character animations. The spot-on timing for bonus hits in combat. This is a remake made with full respect for the original title, a late-period collaborative SNES title from Nintendo and Square. Developed by ArtePiazza, the studio largely responsible for all the good Dragon Quest ports on Nintendo consoles for nearly 20 years now, this game could not have been in better hands. After failing to rescue Princess Peach from Bowser after the unsettling arrival of an army of weaponized creatures from another dimension, Mario has to collect all the star pieces from the shattered Star Road lest the Mushroom Kingdom and the world at large fall into despair, doomed to live a life where wishes no longer come true. This game rules and everyone should play it.


#4: Redfall

Just kidding. Oh, what a disappointment, I was really hoping for great things from the new Arkane title. Ah, well.

#3: The RTS Resurgence

Despite what may just be the best ever StarCraft II finals to begin the year, it was not a good year for the competitive scene as a whole. In a move that broke hearts worldwide, Blizzard, ever keen to lurch along as a rotting, zombified shell of its former self, pulled their financial support for competitive SC2, leaving the future of it in serious doubt.

And yet the SC2 community has rallied together now, in utter darkness, to keep this beloved game going. No matter what the future holds, that sense of community and history is the thing that will last in people’s hearts for years to come. But, RTS as a genre is experiencing a massive resurgence after the better part of two decades of very few new titles being produced. More and more people are coming to this genre and there’s even some amazing looking wholly new RTS games on the horizon. As a lifelong die-hard for this genre, it makes me feel excited to see what’s next.

#2: Suika Game

Suika Game is less of a piece of entertainment and more of a gap in space-time you fall through; start one game and in the blink of an eye it’s eight hours later and you forgot to make dinner. An inspired iteration of one of the foundational video games, the continental plate which everything sits on that is Tetris, Suika Game doesn’t even need me to explain what it is or how it works, it’s just been that omnipresent and impossible to avoid in 2023. A near perfect mix of immensely satisfying and extremely frustrating. It reminds me of wasting time on flash games in my youth in the absolute best possible way. And speaking of…

#1: Dangeresque: The Roomisode Triungulate

Continuing my annual tradition of trying Evan’s patience by putting Homestar Runner games on my year end list, Dangeresque: The Roomisode Triungulate has the classic humor, gameplay and yes, good graphics you can expect from The Brothers Chaps. I’ve talked before that TBC have always felt somewhat like frustrated game devs, and their semi-regular return to their magnum opus almost always taking the form of video games is certainly no accident. Previously only available on the DVD release of the cartoons from two thousand and fucking eight, but updated for the ’20s, it’s more than a nostalgia piece even if it makes me remember what my brain producing its own serotonin felt like. It feels in 2023 like video games have to be glowering, Serious Art that costs millions of dollars, bankrupts companies and destroys lives, not fun entertainment you can finish over a couple of beers. This is a labor of love from TBC and it makes me very happy.

Honorable Mentions

  • He Fucked The Girl Out Of Me: Technically a 2022 release however I played it in 2023. I was so moved by this game I wrote a whole article about it.
  • Control: Yes, I am late to this party. Yes, this game is old enough to be called “pre-pandemic.” Yes, it’s as good as everyone has always said it is. Yes, I nearly fried my computer trying to run it and need new cooling parts.

Evan Minto

#1: The Legend of Zelda: Tears of the Kingdom

The magicians over at Nintendo have done it again. The sequel to the era-defining Breath of the Wild may be set in the same kingdom of Hyrule, but it manages to evoke nearly the same sense of wide-eyed wonder as the original game. After a seismic “Upheaval,” Hyrule has been transformed, with Castle in the Sky-style sky islands dotting the upper atmosphere and a sprawling pitch-black world called the Depths stretching below the surface. Princess Zelda needs saving once again, though this time she’s not imprisoned by Ganon but transported to the distant past, as depicted in a series of twisty and dramatic flashbacks that lead to a satisfying final reveal. Link has some new abilities, including the game’s signature mechanic allowing players to construct freeform structures, vehicles, and custom weapons using an array of building materials, powered devices, and enemy drops. Rarely has a AAA franchise achieved the level of expressiveness on display here; players can tackle dungeons in any order and navigate the world in nearly limitless ways. Ride a dragon. Dive from a sky island. Launch yourself from a catapult. Build a rocketship. Over 150 hours in and I’m still discovering new things in Tears of the Kingdom.

Honorable Mentions

  • Super Mario Bros. Wonder: Only demoted to honorable mention because I haven’t made it through enough of the game yet. So far Mario Wonder is a masterclass in platforming level design and one of the most delightful, consistently surprising games I’ve played in years.
  • Baldur’s Gate 3: I started playing on December 31 so I don’t have nearly enough playtime to give it a ranking, but I’m impressed with level of detail and unbelievable number of options available to customize my play style. And since you asked, I’m playing a Drow Druid who can transform into a giant spider.
  • Dave the Diver: A dizzying and ever-growing list of mechanics come together to create just enough moments of tension, calm, and comedy in this charming fishing/restaurant sim.

Patrick Sutton

#3: Super Mario!

Shockingly we got two awesome and very different Mario games back to back at the end of the year. Nintendo finally made 2D Mario good again after a dark 17 years of suffering in the world of New Super Mario Bros. The latest 2-D Mario game, Wonder finally makes Mario feel like he is supposed to again. Just perfect platforming action, amazing level design, and wonderful music.

On the other side is the remake of Super Mario RPG, one of the perennial SNES RPGs. I’ve been really weary of these classic RPG remakes that have been popping up over the past few years but there have been some real hits, after Live A Live last year I started to wonder if maybe it’s possible to do things right and Mario RPG proved it. An incredibly faithful remake of a classic that makes it feel so fresh while never undermining what made the original great. The new music and cutscenes are great too. Also everyone does a little dance when someone levels up.

#2: Armored Core VI

Finally, From Software makes a good video game again. But seriously it was so nice to have Armored Core back. They managed to thread the needle between making updates to the formula without making it feel like it wasn’t Armored Core anymore. The story it tells is genuinely affecting and the characters are all so well realized, especially when you consider that they’re all faceless voices on the radio. Experimenting with new builds to solve problems in missions is so much fun and really rewards players. In any year without Zelda it would be an easy number 1.

#1: The Legend of Zelda: Tears of the Kingdom

Evan already said all that needs to be said about Tears of the Kingdom. It’s a masterpiece and somehow made the entire formula from Breath of the Wild feel fresh again. Every aspect of Link’s new powers are incredible accomplishments and they make the game feel so creative and free without being overwhelming. Zelda getting much more characterization in this one was very welcomed too. I loved it so much.

Looking for more 2023 recommendations? Stay tuned in the coming days for our anime Staff Picks and subscribe to our Patreon to access our patron-exclusive “Everything Else” list for music, movies, and more.

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