The best eleven games of 2023 to date

What a great year it has been.

11 mins read

We are now half way through 2023 (wow has time flown by), and as we like to do at DDNet, we’ve decided to go back through everything that has been released this year so far, and pick out our favourites.

What a year it has been! These eleven below are by no means the extent of the great games that have been released in the year to date. Indeed, so far it has been a remarkably strong year.

Master Detective Archives: Rain Code

Master Detective Archives: Rain Code Review 2

Read our review here.

The most game on the list (it just came out today at the time of writing), Master Detective Archives is too easy to dismiss as being “another Danganronpa-like.” The inspiration from Danganronpa is clear and the game clearly shares the same creative team, but Rain Code does a brilliant job of finding new ways to surprise and delight, and its neon-noir cyberpunk anti-capitalist message is one of the strongest efforts that we’ve ever seen in games. A truly literary visual novel.

Final Fantasy XVI


Read our review here.

The rarest of the rare: a thematically and philosophically deep game that also happens to be one of the biggest blockbusters we’ve ever seen. Final Fantasy XVI mesmerises as an action game experience, with the Devil May Cry fight director bringing his brilliance to Square Enix’s flagship. But Final Fantasy XVI is also an intense and deep story about determinism, slavery, political maneuvering, climate change and revolution. It’s far more relevant to our world today than the swords-and-magic setting might suggest. If only more people talked about that, rather than whether this was a Final Fantasy game…

Jack Jeanne

Jack Jeanne Review 3

Read our review here.

Jack Jeanne looks humble. There are visual novels with more detailed art, and on the surface of things a “game about going to drama school” might not be the most dramatic topic. But Jack Jeanne is such a beautiful celebration of the performing arts, dance, opera and theatre. With some neat little rhythm games and simulation aspects, Jack Jeanne is also a little more than a standard visual novel, and it’s a rare treat on every level.

The Legend of Zelda: Tears of the Kingdom

Tears of the Kingdom Review 1

Read our review here.

Nintendo’s biggest release of the year delivered everything it promised and then some. It would be easy to say that it’s just a retread of Breath of the Wild, its predecessor, but that would do it a disservice. Tears of the Kingdom is far more playful and creative, as Nintendo took all the great ideas from BoTW and polished them, while also giving people more freedom to go nuts and play. I heard the game described as “Nintendo’s disappointment that they didn’t invent Minecraft,” and that’s probably the right way to describe it.

Paranormasight: The Seven Mysteries of Honjo

PARANORMASIGHT: The Seven Mysteries of Honjo Review 2

Read our review here.

Square Enix’s second game on this list (the company followed up a bumper 2022 with an obscenely good 2023 to date) was a real pleasant surprise. A major Japanese publisher throwing out a modest death game visual novel? Where did this even come from? As it turns out, a really brilliant place. One of the creepiest death game games you’ll ever play, this one has exceptionally written characters and is the most brilliant play on Japanese urban legends we’ve seen since Death Mark. A very different project from Square Enix, but the execs were right to throw their support behind it.

Project Zero: Mask of the Lunar Eclipse

Project Zero: Mask of the Lunar Eclipse Review 4

Read our review here.

We finally got to play “that Nintendo Wii Project Zero that had never left Japan,” and it was worth the wait. Made with the support of Goichi Suda and his team back in the day, Project Zero: Mask of the Lunar Eclipse has “ethereal beauty” written all over it. Some have commented on how slow the movement is, but that very deliberate pacing gives the game an elegance and grace which is such a far cry from the violent aggression of most horror games. It is, again, beautiful horror, and rarely, it’s a horror game by Japanese developers that is happy to be Japanese horror in theme and aesthetics. I hope Koei Tecmo finds a way to push on with Project Zero, because we need more horror experiences like it.

Wo Long: Fallen Dynasty

Digitally Downloaded covers the new trailer For Wo Long: Fallen Dynasty

Read our review here.

Wo Long has one of the cruellest first bosses in video game history. Once you get past him, though, you are fully trained and equipped to tackle the rest of the adventure, and what an adventure it is! Wo Long takes Koei Tecmo’s expertise in Soulslikes from Nioh and applies it to the “Dynasty Warriors” era in China – the Three Kingdoms. You’ll be able to participate in those epic battles and encounter the iconic heroes and villains from that era of ancient China from a very different, intense, and rewarding point of view. You’ll quake at the thought of running into Lu Bu with a combat system this fast and intense, that’s for sure.

Like A Dragon: Ishin!

Like A Dragon: Ishin! Review 2

Read our review here.

Like A Dragon: Ishin takes the Yakuza formula and characters, and drops them in the Meiji era of Japanese history. The effect is unique and brilliant. You’ll feel like you’re participating in a theatre performance, with these modern-era characters playing their roles against a historical backdrop. It’s surreal and intelligent, and gives those characters and their relationships with each other a breath of fresh air and new perspective. Every time you wonder about how SEGA might run out of ideas for Yakuza, they prove you very wrong.

Theatrhythm Final Bar Line

Theatrhythm Final Bar Line Review 2

Read our review here.

A game that brings together more than 300 pieces of music from Final Fantasy was always going to be a favourite among the entire team at DDNet. Theatrhythm is almost certainly going to have all your favourite pieces of music from decades of gaming history on there. In addition, it has the most delightfully warming presentation of the characters and monsters from the series. This is a genuine celebration of the heritage and impact that Final Fantasy has had on any JRPG fan, and you just couldn’t ask for more than what it offers.

Pocket Card Jockey: Ride On!

Pocket Card Jockey Ride On Review 1

Read our review here.

After the 3DS was retired it seemed like that would be it for Pocket Card Jockey – a quirky one-off experiment by Game Freak (yes, the Pokémon studio). But then the team found an outlet in Apple Arcade, and this game is a good reason to subscribe to that service all by itself. In Pocket Card Jockey, you race horses… by playing solitaire cards. Yes, it is as surreal as it sounds, but once you get into it, it is almost impossible to put down. Pocket Card Jockey tests your tactics, your ability to think quickly, and even your ability to raise horses. It looks cute, but the more you dig into it, the more you get out of it.

Fire Emblem Engage

Fire Emblem Engage Preview 4

Read our review here.

One of the first games released this year really set the tone for a year of quality and variety. Fire Emblem Engage came across as a deliberate effort to get Fire Emblem back to its roots, and the game that so many of us loved back when it was on the GBA and GameCube. They largely succeeded, too, offering a Fire Emblem experience that looked modern, but played classically. This was also done with plenty of nods and homages to the heritage of the series to date, and that was a most welcome form of fan service for the longtime followers of the series. Now if we can just get that remake of The Blazing Blade with these aesthetics, that’d be great, Nintendo and Intelligent Systems.

And so there’s our eleven! What games would you have on your own lists? Sound out in the comments!

Matt S. is the Editor-in-Chief and Publisher of DDNet. He's been writing about games for over 20 years, including a book, but is perhaps best-known for being the high priest of the Church of Hatsune Miku.

  • Hey, a fine list! With a couple of exceptions, I have played and really enjoyed all these games — deserving of high praise for sure! My own Top 11 would also include Street Fighter VI and Diablo IV in the Top 5, and a bit lower would come Hi-Fi Rush, Octopath Traveler II, and A Space for the Unbound. Combining your list and my list, I don’t know if there are a Top 10-15 games in a 6-month period that have given me this much joy since 2003. That is not an overstatement. For me, the top games of 2023 may be even better than the top games of 2007 and 2017. I have been gaming non-stop, and loving it. Staying up until dawn playing these games on weekends. I literally have not done that in years. A lot of these games, including BIG games much to my surprise, are getting back to the root of what makes videogames fun. The way I felt depressed about new videogames in 2020, I never would have guessed this would happen.

    Maybe videogames aren’t dead yet? Are we in a glorious “swan song” period before the corporations fully homogenize and destroy everything fun? Or will good game devs continue to prevail in a way that good musicians and film directors have not (having drifted into almost complete obscurity in the last 30 years, thanks to the corporate shmoes who control the music and film/TV industries…)?

    • I would add Resident Evil 4 Remake to this list. Then its perfect 😉
      Seriously though, cool collection of games. I am looking forward to checking some of those out over the coming months.

    • It’s tough. There are certainly an amazing number of wonderful games getting made, but it’s hard to shake the feeling that we’re on the precipice and the art side of games is about to be dropped from all consideration. Way (way) too many people not talking about these games in a nuanced and deep enough manner. It’s going to be difficult to justify making those kinds of games when people largely miss the point of them.

      But, still, even if that happens there’s enough games out there to sustain us all for our lives as it is :-).

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