Even if Rogue City had started to rust a little towards the end of its lengthy campaign, its surprisingly in-depth shooting and roleplaying mechanics, love of the source material, and keen understanding of what makes RoboCop so great in the first place has made it one of the biggest surprises of 2023 for me. In a year full of absolute bangers, make sure you spend some time in Detroit.
Despite its uninteresting story and occasional jankiness, Ghostrunner 2 still manages to be a great successor by understanding why the first game was such a success, sharpening nearly every mechanic, and building upon them with the addition of the bike and wingsuit. It might not be the most innovative sequel in the world, but considering how great the original Ghostrunner already was, that’s no bad thing.
It’s a shame that Invasions and the snail’s pace progression drag Mortal Kombat 1 down a little because, if it wasn’t for them, this would easily be the best Mortal Kombat to date. Even with those problems, MK1’s excellent gameplay and story mode make it a much-needed breath of fresh air for the series and a great first step into an exciting new timeline.
Even if it can be a little too easy and was over far before I’d have liked, Gunbrella’s incredible movement options, surprisingly intriguing mystery, and punchy gunfights quickly made it one of my favourite indies in recent memory and a universe I’d love to see more of in the future. Just remember, there’s a 100 percent chance of blood raining from the sky, so you better bring a brolly.
Like with the platforming, the map exploration and Metroidvania mechanics can be a bit too simplistic in execution and mostly tell you where everything is and how to get it. Seasoned platformer fans might find things too easy, but if you can accept that lack of challenge and take Illusion Island for the joyful adventure that it is, then you'll find that it's a good, simple time, with satisfying mechanics, a love for Mickey, Minnie, Donald, and Goofy, and a gorgeous world to explore.
As a fighting game, Street Fighter 6 is pretty much flawless, but it’s the little details across the board that make it clear that this is a fighter for everyone and not just fans of the genre. A wild statement for a series that’s always felt more hardcore and impenetrable than the rest. Whether you’re a newcomer playing with Modern controls or a veteran with a fight stick and a vendetta, Street Fighter 6 feels like the most approachable and welcoming fighter I’ve ever played without ever once sacrificing its potential complexity and fighting spirit.
In comparison, the most unique thing that Clive ‘N’ Wrench has going for it is its focus on speed and its wider pool of moves, which doesn’t feel like a defining feature. How much that bothers you is going to depend on what you go into Clive ‘N’ Wrench expecting. If you’re hoping that it’s going to revolutionise or build upon the collect-a-thon platforming genre, you’re going to be disappointed. If you’re just looking for a simple, nostalgic adventure that calls back to the platforming days of old, then you’ll Clive ‘N’ Wrench might be worth grabbing a backpack for, but its dated design makes it a tough recommendation for anyone other than the genre diehards.
Additions like Magalor Epilogue, Mecha, and the cel-shaded visual overhaul make Return to Dream Land Deluxe the best way to play one of Kirby’s most important 2D adventures. It may be a bit simplistic compared to more experimental games in the series and its main gimmick isn’t much to write home about, but the impact it had on one of the main tenets of Kirby, Copy Abilities, is undeniable.
Still, if my only real complaint is that I wanted more, that shows just how much I enjoyed Lil Gator Game. Its unique approach to platforming and exploration, combined with its gorgeous visuals, heartfelt story, and charming characters make it one of my favourite gaming experiences of 2022.
Technical issues aside, Wavetale is a charming, chill time with beautiful visuals that’s perfect for winding down. It’s a little too simple and chill for its own good, but I still loved gliding along the sea and taking in what Strandville had to offer. If you're looking for something a little more relaxing than saving Ragnarok this Christmas, Wavetale might be the one for you.
When Kukoos gives you a good gimmick to focus your platforming skill on or puts them on the back burner entirely for its main mechanics, it’s a good, gorgeous time. Unfortunately, glitches, strange difficulty spikes, and an over-focus on these pets end up holding it back from being more than a pretty face.
Beyond its unique art style, Need for Speed Unbound doesn’t do anything to reinvent the steering wheel, but it doesn’t need to. This is Need for Speed, so you know what you’re here for - fast races, cop chases, and more cars than you know what to do with. Unbound is all of that packaged in the series’ most stylish entry to date.
I can’t be too upset, though, as Finding the Flowzone is OlliOlli World at its absolute peak, something I thought it had already hit way back in March. If this is the end of OlliOlli World, at least it went out like it lived - radically.
Although Nostalgaia does have some shortcomings that put it below the games it’s trying to ape, the fact that it manages to get even a little bit close is a feat of its own. Whether you’re an IP freak like me who's happy seeing a ton of love for gaming, someone looking to get into the Soulsborne genre, or a FromSoft veteran that’s looking for something new, there’s something in Nostalgaia for everyone.
Although its stealth systems can feel a little too forgiving and easy to work around, Serial Cleaners’ grungey story is still one well-worth going through thanks to its likeable cast, sense of style, varied levels, and satisfying core mechanics that manage to stay fresh throughout the adventure.
Whether you’re a fan of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles or not, the Cowabunga Collection is without a doubt the most impressive gaming compilation there’s ever been. Collecting 13 hard-to-find games with every possible bit of extra content is an incredible effort, and the fact that most of them are still a blast today is just the icing on the cake. The Cowabunga Collection is truly a shellebration of everything TMNT.
Pac-Man World may not be Pac-Man World 2 like I’d hoped, but it’s still a solid classic platformer with enough unique elements to help it stand out. Those who have played the original will no doubt appreciate the nostalgia, but those like me who missed it originally will still have a good time.
Even with the balancing issues and a clear rough start to its first season, MultiVersus’ incredibly solid and unique core mechanics, along with its clear love and respect for every character and series that it represents, let it stand close to the top of the genre. It still needs some fine-tuning, but I’m confident that in a year’s time, MultiVersus will be standing strong next to Smash.