Patrick's Top 10 Video Games of 2023

Patrick Klepek

Where to begin? I watched as my livelihood was taken away from me by a failing media company, then started a tiny (but not yet failing!) media company with some close friends and colleagues. I wondered how I’d help pay the bills and support my family, then started a successful newsletter about being a parent.

It’s been a land of contrasts, much like the video game industry. Ups and downs. Highs and lows. Amazement and despair. A year of incredible games, but 9,000 game developers have lost their jobs. How to reconcile these contradictions?

The answer is you can’t. It’s what we’ve tried to remember at Remap this year, balancing two ideas in our head: terrific work made in a miserable industry.

Which isn’t far off from my own corner of this miserable industry, games media. Losing my job, however much I expected it, blasted a hole in my heart, my soul, my wallet. It seemed like my time doing this type of work had come to an end. I’m fortunate those around me picked me up, came up with a plan, and forged forward. I've been extremely lucky in this regard. But not all of my colleagues have been. 

In the muck, can you carve out a place to call your own, fail on your own terms?

We’ll see. It’s been six months. We’ll see what happens in another six.

But amidst the chaos, there were games that challenged me, put a smile on my face, and in one very wonderful case, absolutely scared the crap out of me.

A screen shot from the video game Bluey.

10. Bluey: The Videogame

Somehow, the greatest crime Bluey: The Videogame commits is spelling video game as “videogame.” It’s the sin of being crushingly average. There’s an age where simply being in the same world as a place you admire is enough. My children, ages 7 and 3, are at that stage with games. Being in Bluey is enough, even in the context of a mediocre game. It’s why so many adults, I think, are taken by places like Galaxy’s Edge or Super Nintendo World. As we grow older, we demand more when we’re surrounded by worlds that have entertained us elsewhere. Nonetheless, my children love Bluey, and importantly, I love Bluey, too. This was the first time I finished a video game from start to finish with my oldest, and it’s the first time my youngest tried her damndest to figure out how a controller worked. It was adorable and a cherished memory.

A screen shot from the video game Star Wars Jedi Survivor.

9. Star Wars Jedi: Survivor

It’s too bad Jedi: Survivor was such a technical mess at launch. But Repsawn was onto something with Fallen Order’s mingling of Metroid and Dark Souls, and with Jedi: Survivor, the mingling only got more cozy. The world design is better, the addition of stances that magically turn wielding a lightsaber into a great axe are terrific, and I love that it doesn’t give a shit about what’s happening in the rest of the galaxy. Jedi: Survivor is allowed to be (mostly) its own thing. Perhaps what I’ll remember best about Jedi: Survivor, though, is how an innocuous tweet about an infamous boss fight near the end of the game, one that garnered only a little engagement and certainly did not go viral, convinced one of the most popular YouTube creators to follow me.

A screen shot from the video game Jusant.

8. Jusant

Where Dontnod walks, I will follow. Or, in this case, where they climb? Strangely, though Dontnod is best known for its compelling narrative work about young people, that’s where Jusant is at its weakest. The basic premise—your ancestors exploited the planet and it all went bad—works, but the character work is lacking. It’s a lot of picking up notes. But it’s a joy to scale the mysterious mountain at the heart of Jusant, one that’s equal parts gorgeous and terrifying. 

A screen shot from the video game Spider-Man 2.

7. Spider-Man 2

How could this not appear? It’s part of the only series that I 100%, after all. And while I have big problems with Spider-Man 2, including how it pushes Miles Morales to the sides despite pitching itself as a game with two leads, hot damn do I like playing these games. (I should say that I do like where the story ends up with Miles, and makes for a potentially really exciting third game.) It’s probably not a coincidence that Jusant and Spider-Man 2, two games where I have narrative misgivings, are next to each other, because for each, navigating their spaces was the highlight. Swinging through the world always feels like a magic trick. The movements look so complicated, it should be impossible for the player to manipulate them so effortlessly and with such accuracy. 

A screen shot from the video game Bayonetta Origins.

6. Bayonetta Origins

I’m pretty sure a grand total of 100 people played Bayonetta Origins this year. And it’s a little funny that I’m one of those 100 people, given that I passed on Bayonetta 3 last year, hoping a more technically proficient version will come down the line eventually. Also! I’m completely uninterested in the Bayonetta lore, so why would I care about a prequel? Because this game is sick, that’s why. I’m taken by games with novel ways of interaction. It helps explain my obsession with plastic instruments for music rhythm games, and why I was compelled by the Kinect. In Bayonetta Origins, my brain flexes in multiple directions, because I’m forced to control two characters at once, with each assigned to another analog stick. It’s incredibly cool, and transforms what is otherwise a basic (but lovely) action game into an unforgettable experience. 

A screen shot from the video game Dead Space.

5. Dead Space

This is a remake. You respect the past, while bringing it into the present. Capcom’s Resident Evil 2 remake from a few years back showed the path forward, and Electronic Arts followed. The original Dead Space is not a bad game, despite its age. I can say this for a fact, because I played it alongside Rob working through the remake during a series of streams at our old home, Waypoint. It looks old, yes. It feels a little rusty, yes. It’s no longer as scary, yes. But the bones are good, and the remake understands the bones didn’t need replacing, they needed refining. And yet, the developers weren’t afraid to take a few risks, and put their own spin on things. It’s a remarkably confident work, given how precious and cautious revisits to the past often become.

A screen shot from the video game Cocoon.

4. Cocoon

I keep playing puzzle games against my better judgment. Who wants to play a game that makes them feel bad? But enough of them can make me feel good, and when the right one hits, insert that Antonio Banderas GIF because there’s just not another feeling like it. And so I keep chasing it and chasing it and chasing it, despite the disappointments along the way. 2023 was fortunate, because both Cocoon and Viewfinder were vibing precisely on my intellectual wavelength. It felt like a peek into how other people talk about playing a game like The Witness, which I bounced off when I realized I was likely going to be referencing a guide the whole time. Not so with Cocoon, a game that made me want to high-five myself and not be (too) embarrassed about it. 

A screen shot from the video game Super Mario Bros. Wonder.

3. Super Mario Bros. Wonder

It’s been nearly 20 years since New Super Mario Bros. on the DS, and in those nearly two decades, Nintendo has spent precious little time coming up with an identity for its every-so-often attempts at making a 2D Mario game. Which is why it’s so heartening that Super Mario Bros. Wonder has an answer to that question right from the jump: expect the unexpected. It’s not without some missteps, such as the underserved badge system that rarely asks the player to actually utilize the extra (and often cool!) powers, but Super Mario Bros. Wonder, with its cartoonish aesthetic and rapid-fire sense of experimentation, sets the stage for a very exciting new era. 

A screen shot from the video game Alan Wake 2.

2. Alan Wake 2

It’s remarkable that Alan Wake 2 exists, and deserves this spot for that alone. I’m writing this having not finished Alan Wake 2, but when this list goes live, credits will have rolled. It does not matter. At worst, what’s likely to happen is that I may regret not having the ultimate courage of my convictions and just giving Alan Wake 2 the top spot. It’s a remarkable achievement in synthesizing design, narrative, and frankly, technology? This game looks good as hell, and it’s truly wild a game this incredible-looking is specifically engineered to scare the crap out of me. But it’s also engineered to move me, entertain me, thrill me, and tickle the part of my brain that’s been enjoying Remedy games since 2001. Has it really been that long? How lucky we all are, to watch a studio, over many years, better understand what’s made it special since the beginning.

A screen shot from the video game Hi-Fi Rush.

1. Hi-Fi Rush

If you’re wondering how a top-tier, once-in-a-lifetime survival horror game doesn’t end up at the top of Patrick’s list, here’s your answer. Just about the only thing that could topple such a stacked prospect is Hi-Fi Rush, a remarkable music rhythm game thrown into an action game with a dash of platforming. There are games that speak to you, and then games made for you. Hi-Fi Rush even reminded people that Zwan’s single album was good. Truly, what more can you ask from a video game?

Patrick Klepek (he/him) is an editor at Remap. In another life, he worked on horror movie sets, but instead, he also runs Crossplay, a newsletter about parenting and video games. You can follow him on TwitterThreadsMastodon, and Bluesky.

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