2023 was one of the best years for video games released (somewhat less so for developers given the high number of layoffs that the video game industry has experienced, and in this regard, I refer you to this article by Lorenzo Mancosu for Multiplayer.it): I loved so many works and, therefore, to select only 10 of them would be extremely reductive. I decided, after hours and hours of sleepless nights (no, I didn’t), to individualize 15 of them because between remakes, indies or alleged indies, sequels and new productions, one is really spoiled for choice.
Before proceeding with the list, I would like to point out that the one you are about to read is an entirely personal ranking – in the first place there is a video game that might turn most people’s noses up but peace – that includes only the titles actually played by the small “editorial staff” of Freaking News: do not be alarmed if you do not find, for example, Sea of Stars, the acclaimed JRPG that arrived in August on Xbox, PlayStation and PC or Star Wars Jedi Survivor. Lastly, I wanted to thank Francesco Muccino, Matteo Regoli and Riccardo Baiocco for helping me with the ranking of the year-end games.
15) Final Fantasy XVI
Difficult to analyze Final Fantasy XVI: I literally devoured the first few hours of the game, either because of those Game of Thrones-like vibes that immediately put so much meat on the fire, or because of a combat system that promised to make you feel like a God descended to earth. Over time, however, my hype waned because of both the minimal exploration and that much-vaunted choral story that is instead replaced (at least, that was my impression) by a heavily Clive-centric narrative.
Nevertheless, the boss fights were a sight for sore eyes and Dualsense (in line with previous chapters in the saga), and the combat system proved quite varied without ever becoming overly technical or complex. In the end, I liked the action drift proposed by Final Fantasy XVI and was also pleased to see the end credits of the latest Square Enix effort.
Starfield was called to an important task: the new Bethesda IP was expected to be the ultimate Xbox and PC exclusive, ready to give the Microsoft ecosystem a big boost after a complicated period in which it lacked a name that could make a deep mark on the current video game industry. Well, net of a few flaws such as an exploration factor that quickly loses its bite or an enemy AI that is far from up to date, Starfield managed to turn out to be that weighty Xbox exclusive that was expected.
The Starfield universe is boundless with endless possibilities and leaves the player with considerable freedom to approach action and discovery; in that sense, Bethesda has not gone this far in many years. Perhaps, even key works such as Skyrim or the more recent Fallout do not come close to such a broad type of approach, such a broad and concrete RPG concept as has rarely been seen in recent years.
13) Lies of P
Lies of P, developed by the Koreans at Neowiz Games and arriving on September 18, 2023 on Xbox, Playstation, PC, and at day one on Xbox Game Pass, did not disappoint expectations, proving to be, hands down, among the best soulslike video games not developed by From Software. As Pinocchio, played by a Timothée Chalamet look-alike, you will experience an all original retelling of Carlo Collodi’s fable.
Less scattershot in terms of level design than any Dark Souls (there will be no risk of getting lost being a game that is, all things considered, rather guided), the crowning glory of Lies of P – in addition to the combat focused on the use of parries that reminded me so much of Sekiro: Shadows Die Twice – are the boss fights, leathery to the point but never overly punishing, except perhaps the one against Laxasia (if you’re struggling, here’s the Guide to the Hardest Bosses in Lies of P).
Here is one of those titles that could easily be in the top 3 best video games of 2023, a prime example of how much good stuff has come out in the last 365 days: Dredge turned out to be a totally unexpected little gem, because of both a gameplay you struggle to detach yourself from (ah, how wonderful to go fishing) and a Lovecraftian and horror tale embracing you to never let go.
I played Dredge on Nintendo Switch on an airplane, on the route Rome – New York and back, and in the end, that twelve-hour trip literally felt like three (no pun intended, “the time flew by“). In short, if you want to give yourself a little end-of-year gift, the work of Black Salt Games is highly recommended.
It is hard to find the right words to describe what it was for me Jusant: the work of Don’t Nod struck me to the heart thanks to an environmental narrative that manages to make you feel the drama of a people simply through reading short messages written by the people that, before a mysterious natural disaster, inhabited the Tower, a mountain to climb whose summit is our goal to reach.
And so we climb, relentlessly climbing one wall after another, feeling no fatigue in our arms but only heaviness and anguish in our hearts. In the meantime, we wonder if, once we reach the highest point of the Tower, we will find the answers to the questions we have been continually asking throughout the adventure. This I will not reveal to you but I can assure you that Jusant’s is a trip worth experiencing.
10) Resident Evil 4 Remake
We grab our shotgun to fend off the hordes of Ganados who want to take us down. Here comes a peasant with a pitchfork ready to pierce our stomach, but instead of taking damage, we stop him with the knife, setting up a parry: stunned, we give him a good rolling kick to break his neck. Having passed the wave and reached the new area, we give up Rambo mode and start moving silently to kill all the enemies arranged within a killer level design.
“The Resident Evil 4 remake is a true Luna Park that allows the player to give free rein to his warmongering instincts“. I wrote thus in my review of the Capcom game a few months ago: on March 31, 2023, I understood why, back in 2006, the work of Shinji Mikami (an author we will find again in this ranking) was a step ahead of all others in invective and brilliance.
9) Dead Space Remake
The most complicated (and thankfully overcome) challenge of this video game year of mine: in 2009 Dead Space did not let me sleep at night so much that I was forced to abandon it on the street. However, the arrival of the Remake on Xbox Game Pass – and what a remake I would like to add – gave me a chance to try again at the delusions and madness of the action-horror developed by Motive Studio.
In the end, despite all the difficulties involved, the fear of always being a victim and never an executioner of the Necromorphs and, more generally, of the pitfalls that lurk within the Ishimura space ship, I managed to make it safely to the end credits. A very scary horror film. I’ll tell you more, Dead Space Remake is so awful that I often couldn’t get through play sessions longer than thirty minutes.
Edited by Riccardo Baiocco
On a desert planet, in whose rocks are embedded pieces of alien technology, a signal arrives: a ray of light causes a cocoon to open, from which a firefly-like being emerges. The game world does not speak to you or the player. With Cocoon, developed by Geometric Interactive and published by Annapurna, we return to the degree zero of video gaming, to simple yet enlightening gameplay that gets under our skin like a vibration ready to recode us willy-nilly.
In contrast to the growing trend of creating vast game environments overflowing with detail, Cocoon reduces its elements to the bone. Thus, this puzzle game with platforming elements manages to create a world capable of triggering fundamental discourse without saying a word, of lulling us-thanks in part to Jakob Schmidt’s extraordinary ambient soundtrack-to new dimensions.
7) Marvel’s Spider-Man 2
I really enjoyed Marvel’s Spider-Man 2, the second installment of the Insomniac Games saga dedicated to the most famous Marvel hero of all. From a narrative point of view, the title really succeeds in conveying the essence of your friendly neighborhood Spider-Man: you will feel on your skin all the difficulties experienced by the dual identities of Peter Parker and Miles Morales.
From a gameplay perspective then, the addition of the Venom symbiote, manages to fully impact the game’s combat system. Finally, compared to its predecessor, Insomniac has decided to reduce the amount of side quests, and the reward for those who decide to finish them all will be narrative. In this way, we will have a complete picture of the story directed by Bryan Intihar and Ryan Smith.
6) Super Mario Bros. Wonder
Edited by Francesco Muccino
After many years Mario finally returns to star in an unforgettable 2D Platform. With Super Mario Bros. Wonder, Nintendo has touched heights of creativity and originality such as it has not demonstrated in a long time with the two-dimensional adventures of its mascot (for more, here are the best Super Mario games available on Nintendo Switch).
The work for Nintendo Switch is a perfect level design manual for anyone who wants to try their hand at platforming to study, a concentrate of ever-changing ideas that stimulate players’ imaginations as they discover, bit by bit, all the wonders of the Kingdom of Flowers. The transformation into the Elephant, as well as the upheavals to gameplay unleashed by each Wonder Flower, have already entered the collective imagination of fans, aware that they have experienced one of the best adventures starring the mustachioed plumber.
5) Hi-Fi Rush
After earning the top spot on the list of the best video games landing on Xbox Game Pass in 2023, Hi-Fi Rush also makes an overbearing return to this list. The colorful stylish action rhythm game, developed by Tango Gameworks and hatched from the brilliant mind of Shinji Mikami, won me over like few other titles have managed to do this year.
The shadow drop during the Xbox Showcase last February, through which Microsoft made the entire gaming world aware of the immediate availability of the title, remains in history just as unforgettable remain the very first minutes of adventure with in the background Gold on The Ceiling by Black Keys that explodes, full force, into the headphones.
4) Zelda: Tears of The Kingdom
Edited by Matteo Regoli
The Legend of Zelda: Tears of the Kingdom is freedom, discovery, it is the pleasure of deviating from the path and getting lost in curiosity about what you might find a little further on. Far more than the previous Breath of the Wild, of which it is both a sequel in story and an expansion of both the game world and gameplay concepts, Tears of the Kingdom is an endless container of adventures, a video universe in which everything is ready to turn playful, which puts the player’s imagination at the center of the story, challenging him to overcome every obstacle placed along the way by offering him only the tools and never the solutions.
Whether it’s the smallest gestures like plucking an apple from a tree, the most childlike like descending a sand dune sliding upright on an inverted shield glued to a rocket or of the most glorious such as jumping from the clouds to land on the back of a golden dragon, The Legend of Zelda: Tears of the Kingdom is the definitive open-world about the meaning of travel and adventure understood as experience and training.
3) Alan Wake 2
Edited by Francesco Muccino
13 long years of waiting totally paid off. With Alan Wake 2, Remedy Entertainment has perhaps reached its zenith in creative and narrative terms, breaking every mold and demonstrating no small amount of courage in experimenting with ideas you would never imagine finding in a survival horror. The new adventure of the cursed writer, joined this time by FBI agent Saga Anderson, knows how to leave anyone who wants to experience his story and events speechless.
The sublime mixture of dark atmospheres, puzzles, exploration and combat result in a chilling experience capable of unsettling the player’s certainties with continuous unexpected revelations. All this without forgetting the masterful performance of all the actors involved and an artistic direction that is destined to change forever the way horror adventures are understood. Alan Wake 2 confirms itself as one of the most brilliant masterpieces of 2023, the kind that makes anyone who considers himself a video game enthusiast proud.
2) Baldur’s Gate 3
With the new year will also come the review of the Xbox Series X version, but in the meantime let me tell you that if it were not for the name you will read in first place, the award for the best game of the year would have gone to Baldur’s Gate 3, the latest immense effort by Larian Studios that also recently won the Game of The Year at The Game Awards 2023.
It’s impossible to summarize Baldur’s Gate 3 in a few lines so I will just tell you about my experience: when I started my first campaign after choosing my character class (here by the way, the Baldur’s Gate 3 Best Classes Guide), I played continuously for five hours without realizing the time elapsed. Here, I became addicted to Baldur’s Gate 3.
1) Armored Core 6
We have come to the end. Despite hyper fierce competition, Armored Core 6 wins the Best Video Game of 2023 award (here’s the review of Armored Core 6). After Elden Ring last year, From Software once again returns to the top of our rankings with a superlative production, all gameplay, third-person shoot-outs, and legendary boss fights (true CEL 240?).
I took so many missiles to the face, recorded an uncalculable amount of damage, and fell several times during the course of Armored Core 6’s campaign. However, I was not discouraged, identified the right set-up for my mech and set off again, more charged than ever. As From Software has always taught us, despite the difficulties, there is always a way to overcome even the greatest stumbling blocks.