GOTY 2023: 10-6

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GOTY 2023: 10-6

The time has finally arrived for my Top 10 list! I’ve been writing this series since 2017 and always had fun doing so. Last year was probably the most expansive series I ever wrote, and while this year might be even more challenging to create a definitive Top 10 list, it might be my most enjoyable gaming year since I seriously delved into game critique.

As I have previously mentioned, 2023 has been a mixed bag for the gaming scene. On one hand, the amount of great releases was staggering. Right up until last week, I was still trying to get through half a dozen titles that I wanted to give a shot at making that coveted list. For the first time in years, I’ve had plenty of fun with some AAA releases as well as the cool and quirky indies!

Despite the great games, there have been many stinkers and disappointments. My greatest disappointment was not a game launch, however, but the growing cascade of the gaming industry. As post-lockdown and the pandemic era slowly come to a close from the public eye, the gaming industry that had ballooned during the lockdown is starting to contract, causing thousands of job losses. As a struggling narrative designer looking for work in this volatile scene, my heart goes out to my fellow developers. Hopefully, we can push our way through the dark tunnel and back into the light.

The difficulty I had in forming a Top 10 list brought its own set of challenges. At one point, I had 28 games fighting for a spot, and that did not include all the great games that left Early Access in 2023! I had to leave out most games that hit that 1.0 launch such as Against the Storm, Turbo Overkill, Wartales, Grounded, Everspace 2, and Coral Island just to give me a chance.

My previous Top 10 from 2022 was as follows:

10) Pokemon Legends Arceus


8) Wylde Flowers

7) Crystal Project

6) BROK the Investigator


4) Symphony of War: The Nephilim Saga

3) Roadwarden

2) I Was A Teenage Exocolonist

1) Ctrl Alt Ego

Overall, 2022 was a pretty strong year. This one, however… holy shit on a potato. Horrible mental image aside, let us begin! This is a long article, so grab some snacks and your favourite drink and get comfortable.


One of the greatest challenges after creating a definitive Top 10 list was ranking them. How the hell was I going to manage that, I wondered. I considered just making this an overall ten favourite games list without a ranking, but that would be an enormous change from my previous series, and ranking games are fun!

So here we go. Don’t put too much thought into my ranking system, here. Every game I cover in this series is great in their way. I’m overall content with how I got these sorted, however.

Kicking off my Top 10 this year is the nostalgic visual novel Videoverse. I reviewed this brilliant gem earlier this year, as well as interviewing Lucy. I have links down below where you can check those out.

What drew me to Videoverse was the raw honesty. It does not make bold claims but achieves everything it set out to do. It reminded me heavily of the ancient video game forum websites from the early 2000s, or DeviantART, which is still used to this day. These dedicated subreddits and channels on Discord for video games weren’t an item, so we all had to rely on forums to keep up to date. Videoverse is a love letter to those times and is a fantastic visual novel in its own right. I still believe it is better to be played directly than listening to a British dude waffle on about it, so I won’t go into big detail here.

The player interactivity is great with some fantastic character development and writing. I felt like I was Emmett, the POV character in Videoverse. Furthermore, Lucy added full Steam Deck support in a recent update, making handheld gaming a breeze. I’m a little sad this only ranks at Number 10 on my list, but given the competition, that is still significant praise. You only have to look at my Honorable Mentions list for that, and Videoverse squeaked in over all of them. I highly recommend it.

9. Jagged Alliance 3

It took me a while to ease into Jagged Alliance 3, but it took me by surprise. The Jagged Alliance series is an old one with a passionate player base, so when Haeminont Games announced they were creating a sequel, I was intrigued. We haven’t had a Jagged Alliance game for years, and the older gaming communities tend to be the hardest to please. I’ll admit that I haven’t played as much in the series as I would like, but I recently started playing a modded version of Jagged Alliance 2 and having a blast. Mods make everything better, you’ll. Many laud the second version as not only the best Jagged Alliance title but one of the best tactical games period.

Jagged Alliance 3 launched in July earlier this year, and after a potentially rough start with some management bugs, has come into its own. The developers have been updating the game constantly, providing extra content, quality of life patches, and slowly adding in the extensive mod support that the prequel is well known for. We’ll soon be able to create our maps and campaigns. This is a true labour of love, and Jagged Alliance 3 is a great tactical RPG in its own right. While it continues the slapstick quips and humour from older games and suffers a little from technical problems, this feels so damned good to play. Being a tactical RPG designer in 2023 must be a serious challenge with a certain behemoth lurking over everyone’s heads, but I recommend Jagged Alliance 3 for anyone who even has a slight interest in this genre.

(Baldurs Gate 3 shook the gaming world up, huh?)

In a mercenary civil war simulator, players must marshal their talent in managing a rebellion while keeping their forces alive. With many different characters and a ton of abilities to spend into, it makes for an excellent blend of management and turn-based combat. Capturing towns and locations on the map provides income and resources for your growing campaign against the Major, with the areas brimming with NPCs to interact with and missions to carry out. It’s one of the better RPG/TRPG titles on the market, and with the growing mod tools, this is a game to keep an eye on. As soon as the custom map tools launch, this is going to explode.

8. Season: A Letter to Our Future

In recent years, I’ve witnessed a change in my gaming tastes. I play more comfortable simulation games, or powerful narrative experiences like this. Lost Ember was the game that that trend — a beautiful little walking sim with a powerful story. Other games like Spiritfarer, Outer Wilds and I Was a Teenage Exocolonist have contributed as well. After playing through the 10-hour story of Season: A Letter to the Future, it belongs at the top of the pack. It’s not perfect — I had a few issues with character control, but it deserves a slot in my Top 10.

Playing as a young woman heralding from a small village, the player is tasked with exploring their strange, wonderful world before the end of days. In the opening segment, I explored the small house that was my childhood home, gathering important treasures for my mother’s ritual to protect me from the upcoming cataclysm. From the very start, the worldbuilding in Season drew me in. This is a game about exploring every detail, using sound as well as sight. With the camera and recorder, it’s your job to gather knowledge and keepsakes of the world before the end. Stopping at a beautiful river for instance — taking a photo of a waterfall and recording the noise the water makes is just part of Season’s appeal. There’s some lovely voice acting and narration too. Most photographs and audio clips you make will give some insight from the player character. This is a gorgeous world, slowly decaying.

Once you have your bicycle and leave your home village for the first and last time, Season plays like a walking sim. The environment is vibrant, and while it lacks some finer details, it’s still gentle on the eyes. The game allows you to explore at your own pace. Take photos of anything you want, explore, and talk to everyone or anyone. I like games that allow me the freedom of time, and Season’s combination of relaxing music and Zen gameplay is like eating a comfortable ice cream sundae. I even forgot the world was ending.

Throughout my playthrough, I spoke with memorable characters, went on a bike tour of a rundown valley, helped a mother choose what things to take with them in their escape from a lethal flood, and befriended several cows. The usual things, you know? While the world of Season feels like the real world, there are mystical elements too. One of my final interactions in the game was with a large, pale green goblin-like man, who helped guide me away from the oncoming flood. The writing and dialogue are excellent overall and helped immerse me into the world.

True, Season isn’t perfect — there were a couple of instances I wish it had more polish. While I did not experience any crashes or major bugs, your character will clip on terrain quite often. Despite the large environments, there were several instances of invisible barriers impeding my progress. Being able to jump over obstacles would solve most of these issues, but there is no way to jump. While the terrain clipping is a little immersion-breaking, it did not detract from the overall experience much. I tried Season on my Steam Deck, and while the experience was reasonable enough, you require at least a 6 TDP to make it playable. I’ve had some great success with the Steam Deck’s ability to play titles at a low TDP, so seeing Season: A Letter to the Future perform poorly was disappointing. For my battery life obsession, it wasn’t ideal, but you can play Season on the Steam Deck with few issues. It’s just more performance-hungry than you might expect.

In conclusion, Season: A Letter to the Future was a comforting and well-written experience from start to finish. It is not a particularly long game — my first playthrough took about 10 hours while exploring a lot, but I know I did not see everything on offer. Shorter game experiences are a breath of fresh air amongst the horde of endless RPGs. There’s enough for multiple playthroughs, and the quality of the narrative on offer blew me away.

7. Shadow Gambit: The Cursed Crew

While this is a bittersweet mention, I could not miss this game from my Top 10. Minimi Games provided several great hits over their time as a developer team, but it is with a heavy heart that Shadow Gambit: The Cursed Crew is their final game.

I cannot put into words how massive a blow this is for the video gaming industry. In a year fractured with thousands of job losses across the industry, seeing one of my favourite game studios close their doors hurts. Shadow Tactics: Blades of the Shogun, Desperados III, and Shadow Gambit are all enormous successes and brilliant tactical RPGs. Now I’ve found more time to play Shadow Gambit in the past few months, I am still unsure which one I like the most. While I loved the feudal and Western settings from the first two titles, I love what they did with Shadow Gambit — all the fantastical elements and powerful magic combined with the pirate setting beautifully.

I covered Shadow Gambit earlier this year, so I won’t go into any big details on reviewing it here. If you fancy a more in-depth look at Shadow Gambit’s mechanics and how it felt to play, check the review out down below:

While Mimimi Games are closing their doors, they provided a brilliant last hurrah for Shadow Gambit with two characters DLC as well as a chunky patch that adds treasure hunts to the many locations in the game. The base characters are all pretty unique with a great selection of abilities, and the expansion characters complement the main game well.

While playing Shadow Gambit is a magical experience, it does suck knowing it is Minimi Game’s final title. I hope whatever they do in the future helps because they deserve all the good things in the world. Four titles across their development history, and all four games were popular hits. That’s one hell of a track record, and Shadow Gambit: The Cursed Crew is an excellent game to finish on.

I’ll miss you.

6. Roots of Pacha

So many farming sims. For someone who usually loves the death simulator games and creating human skin hat farms in Rimworld, I’ve played a lot of farming simulators. I know that makes me sound like a sadist. No, keep your attention on me. Just ignore the prisoners wailing away in my Rimworld prison of death and misery. Yes, they fight each other for food.

Ahem. Onto more wholesome stuff. While Stardew Valley remains the apex of farming games, I’m always surprised by the sheer variety out there. Just this year, we’ve seen Fae Farm, Outpath, the full launch of My Time In Sandrock and Coral Island, Paleo Pines, and Cornucopia. While I’ve enjoyed all these games, Roots of Pacha might be the most unique of the bunch. It made a great impression on me, and it was the game that got me to return to my Steam Deck earlier this year.

What drew me to Roots of Pacha ever since I saw the preview trailers was the setting. We don’t get many games that are set in prehistoric times, and a farming simulator/village management game that’s set in that era sounds amazing. Roots of Pacha exceeded my expectations and might be the best farming game I have played in 2023. While it takes upon many characteristics of games like Stardew Valley, its stunning pixel-art visual design and the way it advances mechanics make it stand out from others amongst the pack.

It’s not just farming, of course, although it is a big part of Roots of Pacha. Settling in an idyllic valley surrounded by rivers, your clan grows and evolves alongside you. This is awesome because it reduces the pressure on the player. Every day, knowledge points are collected depending on daily deposits into the community chest, further emphasizing teamwork. The clan survives, while loners die — a fair message! While it is highly beneficial to offer as much tribute as possible per day, the clan will progress without the player’s help. This is a hard thing to balance, and Roots of Pacha does a splendid job of it.

Over time, the clan grows and with it new ways to prosper. Clan members come up with frequent ideas for further advancements such as drying fish or cooking, giving the player a constant influx of tasks. Many games struggle to provide content organically, forcing players to be overwhelmed by the sheer amount available. Roots of Pacha was able to do this in a lore-abiding way, and while it has my dreaded ‘Sleep to Save’ mechanic, I never felt rushed to go through my day ASAP so I could save the game.

Roots of Pacha is great so far. Does it have enough to challenge the mighty Stardew Valley? Maybe not yet. The insane content and modding potential of Stardew make it a tough nut to crack, but Roots of Pacha is an incredible game in its merit, and that is what matters.


Wow. That was a lot to write, now I think about it. I hope you all like my choices! We can all agree that picking a definitive list of top games in 2023 is hard.

What are some of your favourite games? Let me know in the comments. We’ll have a Roundup and funny little awards article before I officially announce my Top 5.

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TheThousandScarAuthor/Blogger/Cartographer/Streamer/Narrative Game Writer/I play far too many games. |

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