Without a shadow of a doubt, FromSoftware's majestic Elden Ring has quite comfortably earned my own personal GOTY spot for 2023 (with Obsidian's amazing Pentiment in second place) and, really, it's been an easier choice to make than in any other year in recent memory. Nothing else really came all that close, especially with regards to the year's selection of great big AAA monstrosities.
However, as much as I adored my epic journey through The Lands Between, and boy did I adore it, when I look back over 2023 as a whole, it's been indie games, yet again, that have kept me interested, kept me playing and kept me coming back for more on my Xbox over the past twelve months.
There were some indie arrivals in 2023 that we all knew would be crackers long before they got here, such as Sam Barlow's incredible Immortality (the guy just doesn't know how to make a bad game), but others, plenty of others, just sort of sneaked up out of nowhere and provided me with what were easily my most memorable experiences of the year, the kind of gaming experiences that stick in your mind for the long haul and remind you why you love this artform in the first place.
Tribute Games' Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Shredder's Revenge was a game I'd been keeping an eye on for ages - if Dotemu has got anything to do with a project, I'm usually keeping a beady on it - and, although I expected it to be pretty good, it ended up blowing me away, perfectly recapturing the addictive excitement of the old Turtles games I spent so much time and money playing down the arcades after school, but with a modern sheen that made everything that little bit slicker.
In terms of stuff that blindsided me entirely, well, there's been quite a few. Rose-Engine Games' delivered a jaw-dropping bit of sci-fi survival horror with Signalis, a game that has quite unexpectedly ended up in my top five for the year. Bounding Box Software served up an absolutely exquisite slice of old-school shooter action in the form of Prodeus - genuinely the year's finest shooter overall, no questions asked - and Matthias Linda's Chained Echoes is an old-school RPG that manages to pay tribute to the classics whilst bringing plenty of its own unique ideas, excellent combat and endearing characters to the table. How on earth does one person go about making something like that?
Saturnalia is an incredibly unique horror game with a truly nightmarish art style and atmosphere that gave me proper trouble at bedtime over the handful of nights it took me to play it through, Citizen Sleeper is one of the most beautiful and memorable sci-fi experiences of the year and Tunic, well, Tunic is one of those games that's so clever it makes you feel like a total bloody idiot as you play it. An idiot in love with the thing that's making him feel like an idiot, for sure, but an idiot all the same.
There were lots more, too. Vampire Survivors quite rightly took over the world with it's wonderfully simple, maddingly addictive action, Weird West is an absolute cracker of a top-down RPG that's bursting at the seams with emergent fun and Norco, which just arrived onto Game Pass recently, is probably one of the very best point and click adventures ever made and a game you should go and download right now, mate. Seriously.
Honestly, I've heard folk complain on countless occasions recently that 2022 was a bit of a duffer for the old video computer games, but seriously now, if you've even approached coming to that conclusion you're not casting your gaming net nearly wide enough. 2022 has been an absolute banger. A BANGER. It's been a banger in part because of the majesty of Elden Ring, of course, it's one of the greatest video games of all time, period. But it's mostly been a banger because beautiful indie games, time and time again, have delivered exquisite and unique experiences that put the question of games as art way beyond doubt. They've genuinely taught me things, shown me different perspectives and kept me wanting to play, to stay interested and remain passionate about this wonderful hobby for the long haul.