With 2024 in full swing and new great games planned to come out year round I thought it would be nice to take a moment to highlight how great 2023 was for games. There were so many wonderful games – more than I could end up playing during that year – but it didn’t stop me from experiencing some excellent games, as well as reviewing some great ones for CultureHoney.com! So I figured what better way to show it than showcasing some of my personal favorites that I played.
When I saw the trailer of a fisherman returning to port again and again and how things became more and more twisted and Lovecraftian each time, I knew that I needed to play that game and I’m so glad I did. Dredge is a fishing horror game, an odd-sounding type of game but one that works so well. Playing as a nameless fisherman, you go from port town to port town selling the fish you find within the seas until you stumble upon an isolated island. There you find a collector who wants you to collect old relics hidden within the depths of the ocean. I won’t spoil where it goes from there but it’s safe to say it was one of the best indie titles of the year. The all-consuming atmosphere, gripping music and interesting tale make it a hard game to put down. What makes it even tougher is how hypnotically zen the gameplay can be as you reel in fish and go to a port town before spotting another area of the map that looks tempting to explore. It’s a game that deserves all the praise it has received and more and with a DLC having come out I can’t wait to jump back into the world and get engulfed in it once more.
Coffee Talk Episode 2: Hibiscus & Butterfly
I remember playing the first Coffee Talk after having heard it was a chill time and was blown away by it. I sat there making different drinks for the customers, getting swept up in their stories and cheering for their victory. Before I even realized it I had finished the game and sat back feeling content and refreshed even though I had been playing for the past few hours. Coffee Talk was like enjoying a warm drink on a rainy day as you look out the window, the sounds of low-fi tunes gently washing over you. It was a wonderful experience so when I heard that a sequel was coming out I didn’t hesitate to grab it up and get ready for another wonderful experience. It did not disappoint in the slightest. With new lovable characters, more great personal tales of new and returning customers and beautiful new drinks and game mechanics it was an easy slam dunk for me. Coffee Talk Episode 2: Hibiscus & Butterfly is the ideal game to play when you want to cozy up under a blanket and have a nice cup of tea and a chill gaming session.
Marvel’s Spider-Man 2
Insomniac absolutely killed it when they released Marvel’s Spider-Man back in 2018. Every single inch, every collectible and detail showed that this was a team that not only were fans of Spider-Man but understood him and Peter Parker as a character. It was a game that was filled to the brim with love and heart and the same was true when they released the Miles Morales game. Jump forward to 2023 and Marvel’s Spider-Man 2 came out – and let me tell you, it feels like they are hitting home runs every single time when it comes to making games of our favorite web-swinging superhero. Everything that was great within the first two games is evident in this game along with the wonderful story, gut-wrenching character beats and an open world that is never not fun to explore. With the newest additions to the game on top of all the other spectacular aspects of previous iteration there was never a dull moment for me. From start to finish Marvel’s Spider-Man 2 is an absolute joy and makes you want to keep swinging through New York until the late hours of the night.
Sea Of Stars
Chrono Trigger is held up as one of the most influential JRPGs and one of the greatest games of all time. So it makes sense that certain studios would be inspired by such a great game and try to pay homage to it. Sea Of Stars is a beautiful 2D art style turn-based JRPG that wears its heart and inspiration on its sleeve. It brings all the wonderful things that came with the classics of JRPG while also adding some quality of life improvements and personal touches that make it stand out on its own. With beautiful music, a compelling story, lovable characters and an interesting world there was plenty to love and more in Sea Of Stars.
Venba was a game that wasn’t on my radar at all in 2023. It was only when a friend of mine recommended it that I decided to give it a chance and boy am I glad I did. It is a wonderful cooking game with a emotionally driven story surrounding an Indian family moving to Canda in the 1980’s. There they try their best to build roots and have a good life with their young son. The struggles, emotional beats and music make this game one that has stuck with me since I finished it. It is an indie game that deserves more recognition and praise and one that I will continue to recommend well beyond 2023.
Resident Evil 4 Remake
When Resident Evil 4 came out way back in 2005 it cemented itself as one of the greatest games ever made. Not only that but it also changed the ball game when it came to games in general and how they were made. It was and continues to be one that gamers from all over hold in high regard. So when the remake got announced people were nervous that they would mess with perfection. Well, I can tell you now that they didn’t. In fact, I believe that they captured what made the original so special while also adding new details and bits and pieces to the remake that make it well worth playing. In an era of gaming where remakes are happening left and right, Capcom showed a great example with what to do with the Resident Evil 4 Remake. Every single second of the game had been enhanced and every so often I get the itch to download the game again, boot it up and travel with Leon into the terrifying and thrilling adventure he faces while tasked to protect the president’s daughter.
Like a Dragon: Ishin
Another remake that came out this year, Like A Dragon: Ishin comes from RGG Studios who made the Yakuza series. Ishin is a spin-off of that series that takes place during a historical period in feudal Japan. It was a game that never left Japan and got localized and was one that fans begged for RGG Studios to localize. Not only did they do that but they also remade it, adding some quality of life and graphical updates to the game. While some fans who played the original had some gripes with it, I personally absolutely adored this game. I’m a sucker for historical settings and to have that along with the Yakuza style gameplay and the side stories was like a dream come true for me. It was an absolute blast to play and even though it came out during the first few months of 2023 it stuck with me during the whole year, holding up as one of my personal favorites for 2023.
Like A Dragon Gaiden: The Man Who Erased His Name
Like A Dragon Gaiden: The Man Who Erased His Name is a game from RGG Studios that takes palace in between Yakuza Six: The Song of Life and Yakuza: Like A Dragon. It follows the events of Kiryu after he has been pronounced dead to the world in order to protect his family and now lives in the shadows under a fake name. It is a shorter game within the series but that does nothing to lessen its quality. This game feels like it understands the protagonist Kiryu Kazama through and through. It does a great job focusing on him and his character throughout the span of its runtime while also delivering some of my new personal favorite Yakuza/Like a Dragon characters, a kickass soundtrack and fun gameplay. This game will make you smile and laugh but it will also hit you like a train with its emotional gut punches. Without going into spoilers it has one of the most powerful scenes in the entire series and in gaming for 2023. It feels like a great send off for Kiryu while also opening the door for Like A Dragon: Infinite Wealth that is coming out in just a few short weeks now. With some of the best moments for one of the greatest game protagonists of all time and a game that is a blast to play, it is without a doubt my personal game of the year for 2023.
There were other games that I wish I had had the time to play and finish like Lies of P and Baldur’s Gate 3. Both of them are wonderful so far and deserve every single ounce of praise they have received but I wanted the list to consist only of games that I finished. I hope you found a new game that you were curious about or spotted one in my list that you loved and are glad to see made it. With 2023 in the rearview window and 2024 already in full swing it is sure to be another great year for gaming. I can’t wait to see what it brings and what amazing stories I get to experience next.