Matt’s top five games of 2023

They're simply the best... better than all the rest.

7 mins read
Jack Jeanne Review 1

Welcome to 2024! We hope you all had the most wonderful Christmas and New Year’s break. To kick things off this year, I’m starting by having a quick look at the year that was, and some of my highlights from the year. You’re probably going to guess at least a few of these, if not all of them, but if you did not get a chance to play any of them last year, then I highly recommend that you at least add them to the “to do” list and catch up at some point through the year to come (in and among all the other amazing games that will get released this year, no doubt).

Final Fantasy XVI

(Read my review here)


It’s no secret that I struggle with a lot of big blockbuster entertainment. It’s not that I don’t enjoy the games, because in many cases I do. I had a great time with both Spider-Man 2 and Assassin’s Creed Mirage this year. My issue with blockbusters is that I typically look for more than just a good time in the games that I value the most. I want my games to say something meaningful and take a position on topics. I want games that make me think, in other words. Just as I like my art in every other art form. Final Fantasy XVI is one of those rare blockbusters that is also very intelligent, with an actual message and point to it. From start to finish I was just as engaged in the story as I was the sublime action and spectacular graphics, and that’s what elevated it as my favourite blockbuster of the year (of many, many years, in fact).

Jack Jeanne

(Read my review here)

Jack Jeanne Review 3

From a massive blockbuster to a very humble (in terms of budget) visual novel, Jack Jeanne is an otome, about a cross-dressing girl that needs to pretend she’s make to make it in an exclusive academy for the performing arts. This very Shakespearean narrative concept is backed up with a sincere love of theatre, dance and opera, and that’s why Jack Jeanne is on my list here. The video game industry very rarely extends its gaze beyond cinema for inspiration, and the rare time that game developers look to work within a broader range of the arts is worth celebrating and supporting. It just happens that this game is also one of joy and a brilliant mix of storytelling, rhythm game and management sim.

Fire Emblem Engage

(Read my review here)

Fire Emblem Engage Preview 1

I have always been a hardcore fan of Fire Emblem (well, for as long as they’ve been releasing them in English). I consume them every time a new one comes out, and this is one of those rare properties where I go out of my way to grab the limited editions and collect as much stuff as I can. The combination of incredible art, taut tactical gameplay, and solid narrative has always managed to hook its claws into me. At the same time, more recent Fire Emblem titles have gone heavy on the additional elements, like the school setting in Three Houses, which I’ve enjoyed, but has distracted from the core loop I love so much. Fire Emblem Engage feels like a love letter to the series traditions for the older fans, and it revitalised my love for the series all over again. Also Lyn shows up and you all know how much I love Lyn.

Master Detective Archives: Rain Code

(Read my review here)

Master Detective Archives: Rain Code Review 2

I was always likely to love a game made by the core Danganronpa team. Rain Code might not have Monokuma or the death game story angle, but it is nonetheless very blatantly a game from that creative team. It has the same aesthetics, the same warped sense of humour, and the same genius narrative writing backing it up. In fact, I may even prefer Rain Code, just that tiny little bit, because this is a Noir thriller, and Noir is my favourite literary genre of all. Ask me how many times I’ve re-read my Raymond Chandler collection. For this reason, I’m fairly confidence that I’ll be doing a semi-regular replay of this quirky masterpiece.

Paranormasight: The Seven Mysteries Of Honjo

(Read my review here)

PARANORMASIGHT: The Seven Mysteries of Honjo Review 3

Square Enix released a lot of great stuff in 2023 – it was certainly the publisher of the year in my view. Of all its great games, though, Final Fantasy XVI and this, its most humble release, were the two that I will remember for many years to come. Paranormasight is the rarest of things – a visual novel from a major publisher. As such, there’s a level of precision, cohesion, and detail in this game that suggests it had better resources backing it than most game developers could afford. It’s a wickedly clever story of branching narratives and ghostly urban legends. The horror elements can get to be pretty intense, too. The closest comparison I can think of is Death Mark, and if you liked Death Mark, then you’re also going to love this.

That’s it for my little top 5 of 2023! Now, let’s all look forward to a 2024 filled with great games to play!

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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.

  • I wonder if in 8 years people will rediscover ffxvi story like they did with x2 and xii. With the review deadline looming, a couple outlets were more dismissive of the story and themes. Maybe playing in a different context will give people a kinder look at the game.
    Another thing of notice about paranormasight is that it is a period piece. Of a time and place that is under explored in English available titles. Love it.

    Does ddnet have plans for a movies of the year? Or maybe Asian movies, both to stay on brand and because Korean movies are huge now and I think it was the Thai scene(?) that has the new hot indie auteurs.
    I ask because I just watched Inu Oh and it’s precisely you all cup of tea.

    • I wish I had have had time for that. Unfortunately my holiday got away from me this year. I didn’t even get to play many games lol.

      But Inu Oh does very much look like my kind of film, so I’m going to try and track down a copy for sure. Thanks for highlighting it!

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