I’m basically re-hashing what everyone else has said about 2023 regarding the video game industry. It sucked, in a way, because there were many layoffs (cough Embracer cough). Both automation with AI and corrupt business leaders have led to the destruction of many careers. Who says you need to hire a voice actor anymore? Just have an AI do it almost just as efficiently, with faster results and more money saved. Who says you need to make your own character models? Just rip off some assets from a game engine store and give them credit in the Credits menu.

That being said, with a little bit of sifting, there were some great gems found this year, that you know for a fact wasn’t partially or entirely driven by AI. Here’s my list below. Unlike last year, this list is actually in order, ranging from least favorite to most favorite.

5. Hot Wheels Unleashed 2 Turbocharged

This game builds upon its predecessor with new game modes, new cars, new environments, new mechanics, and plenty of customizable race track parts for building your own track. The story mode is a bit better too now that you actually have a purpose for getting on the track.

Drifting in HWU2

Only drawback for some is that the game uses EAC. Still works just fine on Deck though, and has cross-platform multiplayer.

4. Learn Japanese RPG: Hiragana Forbidden Speech

While this is likely a game you never heard of, it’s honestly an excellent way of learning a new language – in this case, Japanese. The in-game RPG-style battles will put you against the clock trying to figure out what the transation of the on-screen Hiragana is. All the while, the story mode will progressively teach you the grammar basics.

Learn Japanese RPG screenshot

If only I had some more time to keep playing this game. Once I actually get some more reviews out of the way, I’m planning on going back to this game and finish up the story and jot a few more notes down. Who knows, by that point I might actually be able to get a basic grasp what Masahiro Sakurai says on his YouTube channel without having to rely on the subtitles.

3. Witchfire

This first-person shooter is a combination of a roguelite, Souls-like, and some other sub-genres mashed in. The gunplay is pretty addicting. And you will get incentivized to keep playing, because if you escape the map without getting a game over, or defeat the boss for that level, you’ll earn Witchfire. That Witchfire will allow you to upgrade your stats, unlock more weapons, spells, etc. and make your subsequent runs a little easier.

There is a big update that was initially planned to be released in November, but kept getting pushed back. Now, according to the developers’ latest blog post, it should be out “early next year. Hopefully, very early.” Can’t wait for it!

Just be aware that the game is currently in Early Access and is exclusive to the EGS.

2. Nickelodeon All-Star Brawl 2

Oh yes…the closest thing we have to Smash Brothers. It is far, far better than the original, with added mechanics that would be too long to list here. It really does feel like a Smash game now. Without having to set up an emulator or having the ninjas at Nintendo hovering over your shoulder, threatening to DMCA the hell out of you just because you’re playing their game outside of their own hardware. Cross-platform multiplayer, a story mode, voiceovers…the list just goes on.

A recent Proton Experimental update “fixed periodic frame rate drops.” So, hopefully Steam Deck users won’t get a headache playing the game now when changing the graphics settings!

1. Metroid Prime Remastered

Heh…was anyone surprised that I listed this as number one?

I remember talking the heck out of this game when it first came out earlier this year. And I wouldn’t shut up about it for like a week or two after that. It probably irked some of my readers…shrugs. So, needless to say, I don’t think I need to re-iterate everything I’ve said about the game.

Can’t wait for Metroid Prime 4! (…if it even comes out in my lifetime lol)

What were your picks this year? Let me know in the comments!

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