Here we are at the end of another year. It feels like just the other day we were looking ahead to 2023, and now it’s almost over.
At the end of every year, I like to take a look back and highlight the top 5 games I played. It’s not quite a “game of the year” list, since their release dates don’t matter, but rather a personal list drawn from games I played this year regardless of their release dates.
Before we dive into the list proper, I’d like to highlight a few honorable mentions. Ghost Trick: Phantom Detective feels as though it should be on this list, but since I played the original back when it first came out, I decided to exclude it. Jack Jeanne is in contention to be one of my favorite games of 2023, but since it’s a lengthy, slow-paced visual novel that I’ve been taking breaks in between routes of to avoid burning out, I’m not quite done with it yet. Finally, Yakuza 5 gets to be an honorable mention two years in a row, because while I did finish it this year, it just barely missed making the cut for top 5.
So, let’s get into the actual list now! Here are the top 5 games I played in 2023.
5. Yakuza 6: The Song of Life
I am obligated to give Yakuza 6 a 10/10 after learning Kiryu can pet cats in the cat café if you let him sit there long enough.
Just kidding, Yakuza 6 earned its spot on this list for more than just cats. One surefire way for a story to win me over is to have plot points that emotionally resonate with me, and Yakuza 6 is one of the most emotional entries in the series. Its more personal story really hit me hard.
I had high praise for it in my review, and while working on this list, I realized that I like it more than the previous game, despite all the amazing content in Yakuza 5. Yakuza 6 had an emotional, impactful story, fun substories with a great sense of humor, and a ton of fun mini-games.
4. Like a Dragon: Ishin
Yet I have to heap even more praise on Like a Dragon: Ishin, which finally came out in English this year thanks to the new remake. I was dying for this game ever since I first learned of its existence, and it did not disappoint.
Like I mentioned in my review, Ishin is an odd one for me because I don’t think it’s the best at anything it does, but it’s strong enough in every area that those pieces all come together to make it one of my favorites.
I especially loved the farm. I’ve never really gotten into farming sims, but the simple farming side activity in Ishin was just so pleasant. It also has an advantage over Yakuza 6 in that you can adopt cats (and dogs) and pet them whenever you want.
3. Ace Attorney Investigations 2 (fan translation)
It’s hard to believe it was just this past year that I finally played the fan translation of Ace Attorney Investigations 2. This is the sole remaining unlocalized Ace Attorney game, and I couldn’t sit around waiting for localization news any longer.
My review goes into detail about some issues I had with it (which is why it didn’t rank higher than #3 on this list), but the positives ultimately outweigh the negatives. In particular, a certain character’s arc still stands out in my memory. Never before have I felt so proud of a fictional character.
I enjoyed Ace Attorney Investigations 2 a lot, and I have my fingers crossed that it will eventually get an official translation. Who knows? Maybe this time next year, we’ll be eagerly anticipating an Ace Attorney Investigations collection.
(You might laugh, but it was only two years ago that I was desperately grasping at straws about an Ishin localization.)
2. Danganronpa V3: Killing Harmony
Oh yes, the controversial Danganronpa game is not only the first one to make it onto one of my top 5 lists, but it earned the #2 slot. Maybe there’s some recency bias at work… but when I thought of games to include, I knew V3 had to be on the list.
You can read my Danganronpa V3 review to see my more detailed thoughts, but let’s just say that this game broke my heart, then turned around and broke my brain. Those might not sound like positive things, but trust me, they are.
I didn’t have the same early sense of disappointment that I had with Danganropa 2, and it didn’t drag in the middle like poor Master Detective Archives: Rain Code. Instead, it was pretty solid from start to finish.
Although I have some criticisms of certain parts, I enjoyed Danganronpa V3 more than any other game in the series (heck, I even enjoyed the trial mini-games for once in my life), and it ended up being one of my favorite games I played this year.
It didn’t take the #1 slot, because that went to…….
1. Yakuza: Like a Dragon
I can and I will! Yakuza: Like a Dragon, aka Yakuza 7, has claimed the top spot for this year, because it took everything I love about the Yakuza series and combined it with my favorite genre.
Now you might be wondering why you haven’t seen me review this game yet, if I loved it so much. That’s because I finished it today, on New Year’s Eve, as my (most likely) final game of 2023.
This entry caused some controversy amongst fans due to being a turn-based RPG, a change not everyone appreciated. Now, I can sympathize with not wanting to see a beloved series change its gameplay so drastically, but as someone who loves turn-based RPGs, this was like a match made in heaven.
While it probably still hasn’t topped Yakuza 0 as my favorite in the series, it has a great story, fantastic substories, and some incredibly fun mini-games. I’ll save my detailed thoughts for when I write up my review, so just know that I really loved playing Yakuza: Like a Dragon.
And there you have it – my top 5 favorite games I played in 2023. The Yakuza / Like a Dragon series earned three entries in the top 5, with Ace Attorney and Danganronpa snagging the other two slots. I didn’t have time to play all the games I wanted to this year – Alan Wake 2, for example, has been on hold waiting for me to finish Yakuza: Like a Dragon – but I still played many excellent ones. And from the looks of things, 2024 might be even better!
What are your favorite games that you played in 2023?---
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