Bringing You the Daily Dispatch

"Readers' Top Picks for 2023: Video Games That Bring Pure Joy and Excitement"
Culture Games

“Readers’ Top Picks for 2023: Video Games That Bring Pure Joy and Excitement”

Marvel’s Spider-Man 2

The second installment of Spider-Man was even more impressive than the first. The element of surprise regarding the villains added to the thrill, and swinging through the bustling city of New York was even more heart-pumping. The side quests offered their own unique cutscenes and challenges, making them full-fledged adventures. All of the actors delivered exceptional performances and the plot twists kept the audience on the edge of their seats. From Matt in Castlemaine, Australia.

The Legend of Zelda: Tears of the Kingdom

It has to be Tears of the Kingdom. I was never a Nintendo kid – always Sega – and I bounced off of Breath of the Wild in 2017 and haven’t touched my Switch since. With this year’s release, I had serious fomo watching clips of Tears on social media, so I blew the dust off my Switch and got to work. I am 200 hours in and find it a tranquil and relaxing experience of distractions and goofiness. I am yet to complete the main quest, but I’m in no rush. Its systems are perfectly weighted towards pure joy and fun – something missing in a lot of modern video games. Here’s to another 200 hours of gaming nirvana in Hyrule. Shaun, Penarth, Wales

Baldur’s Gate 3

Astarion in Baldur’s Gate 3.

Without a doubt, it’s a clear winner. When Baldur’s Gate 3 was released, it was a well-crafted game with a strong focus on details. I dedicated 100 hours to my first playthrough. One aspect I particularly liked was the inclusivity in character creation, with representation of various identities and sexualities in the game. Additionally, the graphics are intricately designed, the gameplay is engaging, the NPC storylines are captivating, the combat is satisfying, and there is a subtle touch of humor. I have had a great time playing this game. Liz from Scotland.

The Talos Principle 2

The sequel surpassed the first installment in all aspects. The puzzles were of higher quality and the philosophical themes, ranging from Straton of Stageira to recent inquiries about artificial intelligence and the downfall of humanity due to our own actions, were explored in greater depth. The act of solving the puzzles led to satisfying revelations and meaningful dialogue, which was lacking in the simpler first game. It was refreshing to not only escape our anxious reality, but to also delve deeper into it through a hypothetical future (often desired by Silicon Valley moguls and accelerationists). This future allowed us to not only experience a post-human world, but also to mourn and celebrate humanity. And of course, there were cats involved. Sofia, a 35-year-old from São Paulo, Brazil.

Lies of P

Lies of P.

Lies of P is my game of the year. I didn’t have high hopes for it, as the Soulslike genre is typically only well executed by FromSoftware, but Neowiz absolutely nailed it! The fighting is tight, fluid, exceptionally well-balanced and features some great mechanics that support each other well to make it a tug of war. Nearly all of the bosses are phenomenal, too, providing a good challenge but not unfair (apart from the swamp monster – it can get in the bin). Iain Pollitt, 33, Scotland


I thoroughly enjoyed playing Dredge on the Nintendo Switch – the aesthetics and game design were fantastic, and I especially loved the feeling of being a small boat navigating the sea and catching fish. However, I took a break from playing for a bit because I found the sea monster attacks to be too stressful – I’m not a fan of being chased in games. But when the developers introduced a passive mode where there are no attacks, it was as if they knew exactly what I needed. I was instantly hooked and couldn’t stop playing – pun intended. Aoife, 27, from Dublin.

EA Sports PGA Tour 2023

I understand that selecting an EA Sports game as my top choice is comparable to picking vanilla as my preferred flavor of ice cream – plain, mainstream, lacking personality. However, in 2023, EA Sports PGA Tour became a pleasant companion. Due to my limited gaming time of only one hour per evening, it’s ideal for completing a round of 18 holes. The visuals are stunning and the atmosphere is tranquil and leisurely, allowing for careful strategy on each hole. The vibrant green fairways, blooming pink azaleas, and polite applause at Augusta National have been a joy this year. Tom, 33, from Berkshire.

Bramble is known as the Mountain King.

Bramble is a Nordic fairytale horror game that is enchantingly dark and hauntingly atmospheric. The story is engaging, terrifying and beautiful while the world created is simultaneously a stunning, earthy vista and a realm of garish nightmares. Hayley, 32, Dublin

“The Musical Roleplaying Game of Stray Gods”

Stray Gods: The Roleplaying Musical.

Stray Gods. It’s a musical, with Greek gods in a modern-day setting. Not only is the music incredible, and the cast a who’s who of voice-acting greats, but it innovates with what games are capable of as a storytelling medium more than any game since Final Fantasy VII. The whole game is based around player choice, to the extent that songs can have different lyrics, instruments, even genres, based on your choices. One song, Challenge the Queen, can be everything from a smooth jazz number to a rap battle. The work and maths involved is mind boggling. That it wasn’t nominated for game of the year is criminal. James Bennett, 32, Havant, Portsmouth

Goodbye Volcano High

Goodbye Volcano High is my game of the year. It is one of the most original games I’ve played; the PaRappa the Rapper style rhythm sections are surprisingly addictive and satisfying, and the art style and aesthetic are gorgeous. Principally though, I love it because I just love explaining the premise – especially to my non-game-playing wife. “It’s about a non-binary dinosaur in a lo-fi band called Worm Drama, trying to navigate their way through the last year of high school while dealing with an impending meteorite and the end of the world.” Standard stuff, really. As an adult with a family where game time is at a premium, it is short but sweet. Philip, London

Final Fantasy XVI

Final Fantasy XVI.

I had a great experience playing Final Fantasy XVI. Despite the significant change from traditional RPG to a more action-oriented approach, the game still prioritized its narrative and characters. The voice acting, led by Ben Starr and the rest of the cast, was outstanding. The music, composed by Masayoshi Soken, was exceptional and showcased his talent as one of the top names in the industry. However, the standout feature was the epic boss fights that incorporated elements from various genres to create thrilling and non-stop action. Alex, aged 37 from Sydney, Australia, thoroughly enjoyed the game.

Alan Wake 2

Alan Wake 2 is a supremely artful game from one of the industry’s most creative and thoughtful studios. It immaculately uses different art forms to explore the destructive and salvational power of artistic creativity. It stands out from the competition for 2023’s game of the year for being more aesthetically, thematically and structurally innovative. Nick, 35, Oxford

Chants of Sennaar

A friend, who is more knowledgeable about new games than I am, introduced me to this game by chance. I am grateful because Chants of Sennaar has been one of the best games I have ever played. The game mechanics are exceptional – you are thrown into a world where you do not speak the native language and must navigate through puzzles. The game is very intuitive, using hand signals in conversations, interpreting images on walls, and picking up contextual clues. The storyline becomes even more intriguing as you progress. This game is a great choice for those who enjoy puzzles, compelling storytelling, and something unique. – Sorcha, 33, Cardiff


Impactful … Starfield.

The most enjoyable game I experienced this year was Starfield. Despite its flaws, lack of content, and unoriginal elements, there is a certain purpose behind it all. The central focus of Starfield is space itself, constantly making its presence known. It is unforgiving, yet stunning, unpredictable, and personally impactful. Your actions are heavily influenced by this environment, and credit to Bethesda, the consequences feel significant and meaningful – especially the final decision you must make. In that moment, you assert your control and are faced with philosophical implications. It’s a rare game that puts you in such a thought-provoking position. Todd McGillivray, 46, from Saint John, New Brunswick, Canada.

Super Mario Bros Wonder

It’s got to be Super Mario Bros Wonder. My wife bought me a Nintendo Switch for my birthday a while ago – my mini midlife crisis – but I don’t play much and the kids use it more often. But then Wonder came out. It’s got all the nostalgia of old-school Mario, with crazy, updated graphics. It’s amazing, creative gameplay. I love playing it with the kids, plus I sneak in a few solo rounds on WFH days. Graeme, 45, Singapore

Source: theguardian.com