2023 is only halfway through, but it’s already been a shockingly great year for video games. Here at Inverse, we have already given out five 10/10s — more than all other years combined!
Whether you like indie games, Nintendo exclusives, or big-budget AAA tentpoles, 2023 seems to keep providing something incredible for everyone. Here are the 16 best games of the year so far, but don’t get too lost in them, because we still have six more months to go!
16. The Legend of Heroes: Trails to Azure
The Legend of Heroes is a sweeping RPG series that’s told an interconnected story across nine different games and multiple systems. For years the West was missing a vital chapter of that saga with the Crossbell duology, Trails From Zero and Trails to Azure. This second entry in the duology proves that Crossbell is one of the most fascinating settings in all of gaming, a megacity steeped in culture and politics. Trails to Azure is a massive RPG that masterfully weaves a complex narrative, while providing tons of customization and deep turn-based combat to back it all up.
15. The Legend of Heroes: Trails Into Reverie
Trails Into Reverie is the culmination of nearly two decades of storytelling, bringing a climactic finale while also setting the stage for the next phase of the franchise. The Trails series remains unmatched in terms of world-building, and that’s never been more clear than with Reverie.
While you can’t really jump into this entry without playing previous games, the emotional payoff and catharsis here is something you don’t often find in gaming. Pile on top of that some small changes to the series’ already great turn-based combat, and you have one of the best RPGs of the year.
14. Like a Dragon! Ishin
The Yakuza series has an impeccable talent for blending dramatic crime storytelling with over-the-top campiness. Like a Dragon! Ishin retains all that goofiness, but transports it to the historical setting of the Bakumatsu period of Japan (roughly 1853). The dramatic Samurai-fueled story of Ishin gives way to a host of ridiculous sidequests and minigames that are almost universally a blast to engage with. It’s a perfect encapsulation of what has made Yakuza so great all these years.
13. Advance Wars 1+2: Re-Boot Camp
The long-awaited remake of the first two Advance Wars games was worth the wait. For fans of the strategy genre, it is a can’t-miss package that delivers the cleanest and best-feeling version of two of the most important games in the genre. Walking the line of feeling both nostalgic and fresh, Re-Boot Camp doesn’t reinvent anything but delivers the fantastic gameplay fans expect.
12. Horizon Call of the Mountain
VR still struggles to justify itself to most consumers without a single killer game, but Horizon Call of the Mountain might just be that. As a launch title for PSVR2, Call of the Mountain is a dazzling experience that shows the potential of VR by letting players loose in the world of Horizon, with climbing and arrow firing in plenty that make it feel like a theme park.
11. Bayonetta Origins: Cereza and the Lost Demon
Following up the third Bayonetta game, a series known for its sexual innuendo and hard action, by releasing a prequel in the form of a puzzle platformer is the kind of unexpected thing we shouldn't be surprised PlatinumGames did. What is surprising is just how good Bayonetta Origins is. The fairytale world of Origins is a welcome change from the mainline series, one that also delivers a shockingly emotional story that stands out as one of the franchise's best.
10. Pikmin 4
Nintendo continues its trend of innovative sequels with Pikmin 4, the most approachable game in the series to date, and better for it. The fourth game removes the time limit restrictions of past games and does an impeccable job of incentivizing players throughout the experience, always rewarding your efforts in some way. Pikmin 4 is yet another must-play for the Nintendo Switch.
9. Paranormasight: The Seven Mysteries of Honjo
Paranormasight is a unique game that is hard to get your head around but worth playing if any element piques your interest. It is a mystery thriller visual novel published by Square Enix that takes place in 1980s Japan. The game plays out in typical visual novel fashion with moments of interaction that engage the player more. The story and themes are well executed and hard to discuss in detail without ruining some of the fun. Just play it.
8. Resident Evil 4
The progenitor of all modern third-person action games is back. The string of Resident Evil remakes from Capcom finally reached Resident Evil 4, and the result is glorious. If you were worried that a remake would not do much for one of the most modern entries in the series, then worry no more. Resident Evil 4 remake is the best Capcom has to offer, making everything about the original more beautiful while also fixing some of the narrative and mechanical problems of the original in the process.
7. Star Wars Jedi: Survivor
Jedi: Survivor is, simply put, the best Star Wars game since Knights of the Old Republic. It revisits Cal a few years after Fallen Order and quickly catches players up with what has been going on. As any good sequel does, Survivor streamlines what was messy in its predecessor and opens up the world with more planets to visit and more powers to play with. It also leans into the fun lore of the Old Republic, a beloved part of the franchise.
6. Final Fantasy XVI
Final Fantasy XVI marks a huge moment of change for the franchise, brining in a more mature tone and a drastic shift to action RPG. Even though it draws huge inspiration from the likes of Game of Thrones and God of War, the game manages to translate all that into something that still feels uniquely Final Fantasy. While the combat system and complex characters are highs in their own right, the real star of Final Fantasy XVI are the Eikon battles, which hit a nearly-unmatched level of ambition and scope.
5. He F—d the Girl Out of Me
He Fucked the Girl Out of Me is an unabashedly queer story that functions as a visual novel but in actuality feels more like a semi-autobiographical memoir, and it’s one of the year’s most unforgettable experiences. It’s a short experience that only runs roughly 40 minutes, but packed into that time is a deeply personal experience that isn’t afraid to talk about sex, loneliness, and the process of healing. It’s a shining example of what art through the medium of video games can be.
4. Hi-Fi Rush
Playing Hi-Fi Rush evokes the same feeling as listening to a perfect album in its entirety without interruption. Tango Gameworks, known for horror games like The Evil Within, dropped the biggest surprise hit on gamers this year with no warning, which makes how joyous Hi-Fi Rush’s rhythm action and platforming all the more fun. It is dripping with style in its design, sound, and feel and is perfect for anybody looking to recapture that PS2-era magic.
3. Street Fighter 6
Seven years after the middling reception to Street Fighter V, the sixth entry in the series recaptures the utter magic of the king of the fighting game genre. Street Fighter 6 is the platonic ideal of a fighting game, offering a finely tuned system perfect for veterans and newcomers alike. The addition of an RPG-like story is just the cherry on top of one of the most stylish and well-executed fighting games ever made.
2. Dead Space
The corridors and inner workings of the USG Ishimura feel brand new again thanks to the 2023 remake of 2008’s Dead Space. In a year highlighted by the rebirth of horror classics (see number six again) Dead Space stands as a testament to the power of a remake. It recaptures the wonder and terror of the original as you imagine it, which means in reality that everything is better than it ever was in 2008. This is horror at its finest.
1. The Legend of Zelda: Tears of the Kingdom
Tears of the Kingdom improves upon the masterwork that is Breath of the Wild in almost every way. Hyrule is bigger and better than ever with the addition of Sky Islands and the Depths to explore in addition to the main map, while mechanics are more inventive thanks to the endless potential of Ultrahand and Fuse. Zelda as a franchise rarely does direct sequels, but Tears of the Kingdom justifies itself so competently that you can’t help but want this era of Zelda to be a trilogy.
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