Gamer Escape's Top 5 Reviewed Games of 2023

31 Dec 2023

New Year’s Eve, 2023. You’re preparing to ring in what is sure to be another great year to come. You have bottles of your sparkling beverage of choice lined up and ready to go. Perhaps you have a stream of the Times Square ball drop up on your monitor or television. Maybe you’re still trying to figure out how to work ‘2024’ into a pair of glasses for all your friends to wear in a trend that should have died out 15 years ago.

But before all that, you find yourself here, at Gamer Escape, for the greatest New Year’s tradition of all.

Earlier this month I gathered our writers and contributors, locked them in the GE coliseum, and tossed in the list of all the games we reviewed this year. After they tore through them in a rabid fury, what remained were the true standouts. The five games we believe everyone in our community should experience at least once.

As in the past, we have brought back the original reviewer of each game to give their final thoughts of the year. Also, as is tradition, the only games in consideration for this list are ones we reviewed here at Gamer Escape in 2023. Despite the hours of our lives we lost to playing games such as Baldur’s Gate 3 and Alan Wake 2, they will not be found here.

And so, without any further ado, we present to you, dear Gamer Escape readers, your favorite New Year’s Eve tradition…

Gamer Escape’s Top 5 Games of 2023!

5: World of Horror

Reviewed by: Timothy Hyldahl
Release Date: October 19th, 2023
Systems: PC, Mac, PS4, PS5, Switch
Reviewed Version: PC
Gamer Escape Score: 10/10

Very few games in 2023 stuck with me as much as World of Horror. Long after I’d finished my review, I kept finding myself returning to Shiokawa for just one more run. There were plenty of games this year where every part of it felt great, but what truly elevates a game to being fantastic is when all these parts enhance each other as well. This harmony is what truly turns a game into an experience.

The low-fi sound and graphics are nostalgic for those of us who grew up with the original Game Boy or early PC games, but also add to the unsettling nature and fit the 80s setting. Horror anthologies are super popular and a great fit for a horror game, but they also allow a narrative-focused roguelike to thrive by allowing self-contained stories to work together. The tense resource management and permadeath makes for a thrilling roguelike, while also putting you in the right mood for the scares to affect you.

All of these combine to form a truly memorable experience. The concept of a horror anthology roguelike in the style of old narrative-driven adventure games might sound like a rather niche title, but developer Paweł Koźmiński managed to make something that I feel any fan of horror would absolutely love.

4: Cyberpunk 2077: Phantom Liberty

Reviewed by: Justin Mercer
Release Date: September 26th, 2023
Systems: PC, PS5, XSX|S
Reviewed Version: PC
Gamer Escape Score: 8/10

As has been said time and time again, Cyberpunk 2077’s release three years ago was an unsteady one. Following a disastrous launch on previous generation consoles and a thorough dashing of many a player’s expectations, the game has slowly but surely been improved to a state of positive reception—also helped in no small part by the popularity of the fantastic Cyberpunk: Edgerunners anime.

Given its status as the first and final DLC for the title, the onus was on the Phantom Liberty expansion (and its accompanying 2.0 update) to take that burgeoning goodwill and carry it enough to stick the landing and it did so. The character-driven main storyline was engaging, the new progression system excised the chaff of its original incarnation, and the combat encounters allowed them all to shine within the grimy confines of Dogtown.

It certainly didn’t make changes so sweeping as to convert someone who’d already bounced off of Cyberpunk 2077, and not all content found within it was of similar quality to the best of the base game. But if you were already a fan of playing around in Night City? You were eating good with Phantom Liberty.

3: Like a Dragon Gaiden: The Man Who Erased His Name

Reviewed by: Aaron Botts
Release Date: November 8th, 2023
Systems: PS5, PS4, XSX|S, XB1, PC
Reviewed Version: PS5
Gamer Escape Score: 8/10

Yet another year passes, and Ryu Ga Gotoku Studio continues its streak of serving up quality games in its premier franchise. While Gaiden is a side story, it’s far from light regarding story and gameplay. This is par for the course for these guys, but this is the kind of franchise that somehow turns its side-story content into something that rivals the length and density of some triple-A releases.

There is some payoff for longtime fans here with the overall story, notably having one of the most emotional endings I’ve seen in the franchise. It helps fill in the gaps in the established timeline and is a generally good time. That is, once things start to fall into that familiar Yakuza/Like a Dragon path that fans have walked down many times before.

The content-to-price ratio is on par with most of the other titles in the series, and getting to mess around with the new Agent-style gadgets in combat is just loads of fun. Honestly, the whole game feels like a heartfelt victory lap for Kazuma Kiryu and what makes the franchise so special to the fans who love him. He’s come a long way from his debut on the PS2, so it makes sense that Gaiden would engage in a little self-indulgence.

With Kiryu sharing the spotlight with Ichiban in Infinite Wealth next month, Gaiden succeeds at filling in the gaps leading up to it and celebrating their leading man as well. Lack of physical release aside, this is sure to please anyone who plays it.

2: Resident Evil 4

Reviewed by: Andrew Copeland
Release Date: March 24th, 2023
Systems: PS4, PS5, XSX|S, PC
Reviewed Version: PS5
Gamer Escape Score: 10/10

With a dozen saves on my GameCube memory card from the original release, the bar for Resident Evil 4 in my mind was already pretty high. However, there was an amount of worry after Capcom’s last remake, Resident Evil 3, strayed a bit too far from the original.

That said, Resident Evil 4‘s remake knocked it out of the park. While it was missing a couple of small things with its initial release, it was still an incredibly solid action horror title that made me feel like a kid again, running playthrough after playthrough.

Since its release, the DLC focused on character Ada Wong, Separate Ways, has also been released. For anyone that took bigger issues with content from the original that didn’t make it over, this DLC solved every single one of those issues that players would have had. While we didn’t review Separate Ways, I’d also highly recommend picking it up. It’s a great addition to an already great game, and I’d consider it essential if you’re a fan of the original.

1: Final Fantasy XVI

Reviewed by: Josh McGrath
Release Date: June 22nd, 2023
Systems: PS5
Reviewed Version: PS5
Gamer Escape Score: 9/10

Final Fantasy XVI is a bold game. Shifting the mainline Final Fantasy series to an entirely different genre definitely met with some backlash, and seems to have given the game a muted response in the months since its release. As someone who embraces change and experimentation whole-heartedly, though, Final Fantasy XVI really clicked with me.

A well-written, mature, and memorable core cast. A storyline that blends traditional Final Fantasy tropes with a western dark fantasy core. Stunning graphical presentation and bombastic setpieces, and a beautiful soundtrack helmed by Masayoshi Soken helping to tie it all together. The game held me in its thrall from beginning to end, even through its slower moments.

It’s also literally the only game I’ve ever played that I went back and started a New Game Plus immediately after finishing my initial run, so that’s saying something. With a new piece of DLC recently dropped and another on the way, Final Fantasy XVI is on track to become one of my most-replayed games, up there in my personal pantheon with Mass Effect 2 and Deus Ex Human Revolution.

All images taken by their respective reviewers.