2023 Gaming Recap

Toward the end of 2023 I started to think about all the games I had played and it was a lot! Thanks to the many community challenges of TrueAchievements, the vast library of offerings on Xbox Game Pass, and my own inability to stop bloody buying things, I had plenty to keep busy with during the year. I even managed to complete some of the games, which if you know me and my limited attention span, is quite the feat.

While engaging in retrospection, I figured it might be fun for you, dear reader, to see if there’s anything on this list you haven’t tried, as I would thoroughly recommend them all. The list is presented in reverse order, so my favourite game is at the bottom of the list. They’re all bangers, but feel free to skip to the end or check out the list sans commentary over at Backloggd.

Without further ado, the countdown of the best games I played last year…

Shapez

Game #23 - Shapez

With it’s relaxing music and gentle gameplay progression loop, this is a nice entry point into the “conveyor belts and crafting machines” sandbox sim genre. Be warned, you WILL lose track of time. The PC version - originally released in 2020 - is superb, but it also had a mobile port this year that was equally fun, if fiddly to control.

Shapez 2 is coming soon, and I have high hopes that it will appear on a future annual retrospective.

Get the game here - https://shapez.io/

Old School RuneScape

Game #22 - Old School RuneScape

Mainly hopped on to OSRS this year to do seasonal events, a few quests and focussing on levelling up my agility skill. I still love it as much as I did in the early 2000’s but just don’t commit the time needed to really excel at it.

The mobile version keeps getting lots of quality of life updates though, so it ensures every trip to the toilet is a productive one (if I’m not browsing X or having another shot on Vampire Survivors).

Get the game here - https://oldschool.runescape.com/

Diablo IV

Game #21 - Diablo IV

After putting in hundreds of hours in Diablo 3, I had been eagerly awaiting this sequel. Although it looks great, something about the gameplay loop at launch (and in the first seasonal expansion) didn’t feel very satisifying to me. I’m a glutton for punishment though, and jumped back in for the Season of Blood. Turns out this was a good idea, as I had a lot of fun and got my first level 100 D4 character. Outside of chasing a few achievements, I’m not sure I will return in 2024 though.

Get the game here - https://diablo4.blizzard.com/en-gb/

Starfield

Game #20 - Starfield

Another game I massively overhyped in my head, and upon release there have been plenty of videos to tell you what’s bad about it (and I don’t disagree with them). However, aside from the level 70-100 grind, I actually had a lot of fun playing the main questline and doing oddjobs here and there across the galaxy.

The most fun I had was taking a rediculous amount of photographs with the in-game camera mode. You can read more about my space adventures here on this very website.

Get the game here - https://bethesda.net/en/game/starfield

Warframe

Game #19 - Warframe

A late entry into the list this year, I’d kind of gone off the game for a while (pretty sure this happens to all Tenno after they’ve put in many hundreds of hours of grinding). The reveal of Warframe 1999 and the launch of their final expansion for the year - Whispers in the Walls - absolutely did their job in hyping me up and getting me back into the game.

I’ve dusted off my old frames, updated my mastery rank checklist on FrameHub and am totally committed to playing it a lot on Twitch during 2024, so keep an eye out for that.

Get the game here - https://www.warframe.com/

McPixel 3

Game #18 - McPixel 3

An unexpected entry into my list - I’d never heard of this game until it popped up on Game Pass. Because it has a huge list of achievements I initially downloaded it to help with my daily rewards quests. Turns out, the game is just a huge pile of silly single-player minigames, and a lot of fun (well, it certainly got a lot of belly laughs from me so far).

Imagine, if you can, the gameplay of WarioWare, crossed with the humour of Monty Python’s Flying Circus, but made by a Polish indie game dev. That’s it, you’ve got McPixel (and Steve).

Get the game here - https://www.mcpixel.com/

GoldenEye 007

Game #17 - GoldenEye 007

Finally! I honestly never thought we were going to see this N64 gem make the light of day on Xbox. Sure, it’s missing a ton of visual tweaks and optimisations, and it doesn’t have online multiplayer. But even without that, the updated controls make this far and away better than the Nintendo Switch version.

If you want to recreate the best game mode with your IRL friends, here’s what to do:

I spent a lot of hours playing this game in 97-98 and it was a genuine pleasure to revisit those memories again in 2023. Thanks Rare!

Get the game here - https://www.xbox.com/en-gb/games/store/goldeneye-007/9n6639h7vgh4

Autonauts

Game #16 - Autonauts

Well well, if it isn’t another “conveyor belts and crafting machines” sandbox sim game! This is fast becoming a genre I enjoy (I’ll try Factorio one day), and this entry is another gentle introduction to it that gets wildly out of hand.

You start off by chopping trees, mining rocks and building the basics of a blossiming society. But then you start to build robots who can do all that work for you instead. The hook that really got me was that you program the robots yourself with Scratch-style language and really it’s up to you what tasks they can do and how efficiently they can perform them.

Get the game here - https://denki.co.uk/games/autonauts/

Streets of Rage 4

Game #15 - Streets of Rage 4

The mobile port of this game came out in 2022, but I hadn’t really appreciated how good it was until I bought a Backbone One. Revisiting both the main game and the Mr. X’s Nightmare DLC at home and out and about has been an absolute pleasure.

Get the game here - https://www.streets4rage.com/

Lethal Company

Game #14 - Lethal Company

This little indie gem appeared from nowhere and got the internet talking. Normally I’m about four/five years behind a bandwagon, but not for this one! Do your best to salvage scrap in a dangerous world full of hostile creatures and traps. Play it with friends, jump on the mic and have a hell of a laugh doing so.

Get the game here - https://store.steampowered.com/app/1966720/Lethal_Company/

Path of Exile

Game #13 - Path of Exile

While waiting for the launch of Diablo IV, I got back into POE again. They had a new season that looked like fun, so I picked a build from maxroll and tried my best to get it as far as I could. By the time I hit level 96 things were starting to plateau, but I had a LOT of fun on this season.

If you’re on the fence about trying it, give POE a look, it’s really quite superior to Diablo and I’m looking forward to the sequel whenever it comes.

Get the game here - https://www.pathofexile.com/

Warhammer 40,000: Boltgun

Game #12 - Warhammer 40,000: Boltgun

The “boomer shooter” genre doesn’t really get much better than this, does it? A distinct visual style and all the grandios guns and gore you could want from playing as an Ultramarine in the 40K universe. While the delay of Space Marine disappointed me greatly, this game did it’s best to cheer me up.

Get the game here - https://www.focus-entmt.com/en/games/warhammer-40000-boltgun

Armored Core VI: Fires of Rubicon

Game #11 - Armored Core VI: Fires of Rubicon

I like big robots and I cannot lie. From Software’s mech franchise is not something I’m a huge fan of but something about this entry just oozed stylishness. That is, until I decorated my mobile suit into a bright yellow Giga Pudding monstrosity.

Woefully unskilled as I am, much of this game remains unseen to me, but what I did experience was pure adrenaline-filled bliss. One day I will come back and finish it off, lest Handler Walter be forever disappointed in me.

Get the game here - https://en.bandainamcoent.eu/armored-core/armored-core-vi-fires-of-rubicon

Ghostlore

Game #10 - Ghostlore

Another dungeon crawler on my list is not really a surprise. However, having one that is positioned higher than both Diablo and Path of Exile - colour me surprised! The cartoony pixel style, the smooth jazzy music and the loot, my god the loot. I don’t know much about Southeast-Asian folklore, but they sure have some weird monsters for you to fight in this game. Also, there’s so many things to level up that it kept me entertained for ages - once I’d found a build and play style that suited me.

Get the game here - http://ghostlore.sg/

Turnip Boy Commits Tax Evasion

Game #9 - Turnip Boy Commits Tax Evasion

Like McPixel 3, this is another very silly game. I happened across it thanks to my dear friend and quality Twitch streamer, RoboticMonk3y. Full of silly puns, meme culture references and borderline offensive dad jokes, this is one short but wonderful game about a root vegetable doing fetch quests, fighting mutated animals and solving puzzles.

Look out for the sequel in 2024 - Turnip Boy Robs a Bank - as I’ll be sure to give that a go too.

Get the game here - https://snoozykazoo.com/games/turnip-boy-commits-tax-evasion

Picross S9

Game #8 - Picross S9

Forget first party mainstays like Zelda and Mario - Jupiter Corporation prove once again to be the biggest reason I own and play my Nintendo Switch. The Picross series of games is one of those things I cannot ever put down when I get started, it’s such a relaxing way to end the day but always has a “just one more game” vibe to it. If you’ve never tried a nonogram puzzle before, this is the perfect way to experience them (and if you get hooked there are more than 10 titles in the eshop).

Get the game here - https://www.jupiter.co.jp/e/switch/picrosss9/

Exoprimal

Game #7 - Exoprimal

Every year I feel like there’s a bunch of games released that are trying to capture the PvE/PvP crossover vibe that Valve did so well with their two Left4Dead games. This years’ top contender turned out to be Exoprimal from Capcom, which also added hero shooter elements to the mix.

Pick a robot, join a game and then kill hundreds of swarming dinosaurs and maybe a big boss or two. The premise is simple, the lack of game modes at launch actually helped cement a strong community of players all funneled into a singular experience.

Despite the inclusion of the super difficult Savage Gauntlet weekly mission, it kind of dropped off for me after the first season. That being said, I have killed 50,000 or so dinos at this point, so I’ve done my part in this very excellent title.

Get the game here - https://www.exoprimal.com/en-uk/

Wo Long: Fallen Dynasty

Game #6 - Wo Long: Fallen Dynasty

What if someone made a Dynasty Warriors game where instead of mindless button mashing, the combat was intense and nuanced, like in a Souls game? Where every death, retry and subsequent victory made you feel a real sense of accomplishment?

It’s a conceptual crossover I had never considered, but as a lifelong DW fan I was very pleased to see Team Ninja take the series in a totally radical direction. Perhaps if I had played Nioh it would have not been as surprising.

With a handful of DLC I’ve yet to complete, I’m waiting on a “GOTY” edition to come out before I return to this stellar game, maybe in 2024 🙏

Get the game here - https://teamninja-studio.com/wolong/uk/

PowerWash Simulator VR

Game #5 - PowerWash Simulator VR

On numerous occasions I have been tempted to dive into the world of watery fun, but never found the right motivation until this VR version was released. While the graphical fidelity is not quite as good as I might have hoped - perhaps to accomodate the limitations of Meta’s headset - the gameplay itself feels like the concept was intended for VR all along.

It’s a satisfying feeling looking back on the timelapse of a completed job, knowing that you had to move around, tilt your head, crouch and lean into every nook and cranny to get it done. There’s a certain amount of finessing the selection of nozzles, extensions and cleaning tools and while you can press a button to do most of those, there’s something really cool about having a virtual utility belt at arms reach.

It’s something I’ll be continuing to play in 2024, as there’s plenty of muck left for me in Muckingham.

Get the game here - https://www.meta.com/en-gb/experiences/3713270985434472/

Lies of P

Game #4 - Lies of P

We’re spoiled for choice when it comes to the Souls-like genre, as fans of Iron Pineapple on YouTube will very well know. Lies of P does a really good job of replicating a lot of elements from Dark Souls, Demons Souls and Bloodborne alike, in a way that totally surprised me.

The bizarre Korean spin on the classic Pinochio fairy tale is what made me initially intrigued, but after a very short time this game definitely found it’s way into my heart. The visual aesthetic is exquisite, the combat is frenetic, there’s ample opportunity for exploration and the boss fights can be quite the challenge.

It’s another one I have yet to finish (I got stuck on the second Black Rabbit Brotherhood encounter) so keep an eye out on my Twitch page for the day when I finally get round to completing it!

Get the game here - https://www.liesofp.com/en-us/

Vampire Survivors

Game #3 - Vampire Survivors

Honestly, this game is just the gift that keeps on giving. It proved itself to be an already superb game in 2022, but last year we got a Switch port, Tides of Foscari DLC, Whiteout update, Adventures update and the Among Us Emergency Meeting DLC too! Thanks to the developers continued pouring of love into this game I now own a copy of it on every platform, and still am not tired of playing it.

Sometimes indie games get a lot of hype they don’t deserve, but this is not one of those titles. The hype is real. If you haven’t, please do try it, post haste. It’s only a few quid!

Get the game here - https://linktr.ee/vampiresurvivors

Alan Wake II

Game #2 - Alan Wake II

Easily my favourite game released in 2023. The return to the world of Bright Falls is delivered in such stunning visual direction, with new characters and game mechanics that make it a superior work than it’s forebear. At times, I’ve found myself clutching the controller in absolute terror, the “survival horror” aspects of this game really go the extra mile to make you earn those moments of calm.

Although the game is titled Alan Wake II, it’s really a double act - the new playable FBI character Saga Anderson plays a brilliant part in this mystery, and I loved the way we get to delve into her “Mind Place” and put the clues together. Remedy’s Sam Lake playing Alex Casey is a superb touch too, as well as a certain Finnish actor (I will say no more, perkele).

The entwined stories of Alan and Saga are compelling, but sadly it’s another on my list of “not yet completed” games - I’ll blame a busy christmas period for that one, and will be rectifying it as soon as I can. I was just glad to have experienced the “Herald of Darkness” mission before that absolutely bombastic reveal on The Game Awards.

Also, is it just me or does anyone else chuckle when they hear the phrase “Dark Place”?

Get the game here - https://www.alanwake.com/alan-wake-2/

Control: Ultimate Edition

Game #1 - Control: Ultimate Edition

This is it, the best game I played in 2023…

How often does a a title come along that alters your perception of what is possible with the medium? Remedy were cooking with gas when they made this sensation, and I’m sad it took me so long to get round to playing it. I have to admit, I only picked it up because of the Alan Wake related “AWE expansion”, but man am I ever glad I made that purchase, I had no idea this was going to be such a cosmic horror sensation.

It’s full of rich lore and hidden meanings, it’s strange, confusing, obscure and sinister all at once. Full of brutalist architecture, anachronistic technology and sprinkled a heavy dose of bizarre visual effects akin to Panos Cosmatos’ cinematic efforts. I loved the way they blended live action footage with third person combat and puzzle solving. The gunplay starts simple but as you grow to understand Jesse’s place in the Federal Bureau of Control you develop an array of interesting powers and weapon choices that let you really take control (pun intended).

From start to finish, the game put such a huge smile on my face and I feel it to be profoundly special. Courtney Hope as protagonist Jesse and Matthew Porretta as (mad?) scientist Dr Darling shine throughout, I really hope we get to see more of them in the future. Poets of the Fall appearing as “The Old Gods of Asgard” provide the backdrop to one of the most exciting gameplay sections and it is suitably rock and roll.

Control is now forever entrenched in my heart and will be something I think about for years to come. Now if only Future Press would re-release that artbook.

Get the game here - https://controlgame.com/


And that’s all she wrote.

Thank you for reading this blog post, I know it was long. but if you made it this far then please accept my sincere hopes that your 2024 gaming experiences be as fulfilling as mine were in 2023.

Tata, and farewell 👋

PS - I made a hype list for 2024, things to watch out for in next years recap - check it out over at Backloggd

© 2023 - 2024 Pursuit of Loot.

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