Cary’s Best Video Games of 2023 Awards Show!

It’s the end of the year so you know what that means?  It’s time for my “Best Video Games of 2023 Awards Show!”  Keep in mind that this is my list only and no other outside opinions contributed.  And if a game isn’t on this list, it either just didn’t appeal to me as much or I haven’t had a chance to play it yet.  Ok with that out of the way, let’s begin!


Trombone Champ (Switch)

When I was in high school, I played trombone in the band.  So when I first heard about the music game Trombone Champ, I was intrigued.  Originally it was just on Steam, but after looking at it I thought it would be a perfect Switch game.  I guess they thought so too because it got ported to Switch this past year.  It gets the award for two reasons.  One, it reminds me of the silly music rhythm games we got on the PSOne and PS2 like Mad Maestro and Gitaroo Man.  And two, when I was in high school, I actually played the bass trombone more specifically, and this game lets you play a bass trombone, too!  Fun Fact: this isn’t the first motion controlled trombone game.  There is a mini-game in the first Super Monkey Ball game on the Wii that lets you play trombone, but it’s not very good.  This one’s way better.  Just good, silly fun.

Runners Up:

Theatrhythm Final Bar Line (PS4)

I really like these music games, since they feature Final Fantasy music, some of the best songs ever.  The first one was even my GOTY way back when it was released.  After I played this home console version, I realized that they only made this one since they can’t make money off the 3DS versions anymore.  In fact some parts of the 3DS games are better, but it’s still pretty much the same game. But I still really like this series a lot so it gets a mention here.  I’m really glad I got to play the arcade version.  Shame we never got the Dragon Quest version that came out only in Japan.

Samba de Amigo: Party Central (Switch)

Before Taiko Drum Master, Samba de Amigo was my favorite music game.  I still even have the Dreamcast maraca controllers under my bed!  This one just uses the JoyCons for motion controls.  It works better than the Wii version anyway.  They even have some Sonic songs, which is cool.  I think you can get some Space Channel 5 songs as well via DLC.  I wonder if Ulala dances with you like in the Wii version?  Any game with Ulala in it can’t be all bad, right?

Head Bangers: Rhythm Royale (Switch)

Battle Royale games, where you compete online against a bunch of others for the number one spot, are becoming very popular lately.  Most of these are shooters, but some are a bit more creative, like Tetris 99 or the more recent racer F-Zero 99.  And now there’s a music/rhythm battle royale game with Head Bangers: Rhythm Royale!  Play as your very own head bobbing silly pigeon as you play music mini games (kind of reminds me of Rhythm Heaven), as you compete for the highest score.  And on a personal record, it’s the first Battle Royale style game I’ve gotten first place on!


Metroid Prime Remastered (Switch)

This is always the biggest category because I like classic arcade collections and remakes.  Even if I do get tired of how many there are on the Switch.  When I first got Metroid Prime on GameCube, I didn’t think I’d like it, since I’m not a big FPS fan.  But boy I sure did like it!  While I didn’t notice a significant change in the remastered version, it has been a long time since I played it last, so maybe I’m just remembering it better than what it was.  I still say it looked pretty good for a GameCube game.  Metroid Prime Remastered has that addictive quality that not too many games have anymore.  If you missed out on this one, you really should play it.  I’m glad I got the physical version!

Runners Up:

Mega Man Battle Network Legacy Collection (PS4)

I hate how Capcom advertised it had ten games, since it counted each version of some of the sequels.  But it’s still a good collection of the first six games here.  I really only played through the first three back in the day, but my brother Jeff sure loved them.  I think they could’ve added more to this, like the GameCube Network Transmission game, the Battle Chip Challenge card game, and the 3DS Star Force games.  But maybe they’re saving that for the sequel.  Capcom’s done that before!

Zool Redimensioned (PS4)

Back in the 90s, 2-D mascot platformers were all the rage, thanks to Sonic.  There were so many that I got downright tired of them and skipped out on quite a few.  Also this was about the time I was really big into 16-bit RPGs like Final Fantasy and Chrono Trigger, so yeah.  Anyway, one of these mascot platformers I missed out on was Zool.  He was a ninja gremlin guy who tromped around 2-D levels based on themes like candy, tools, toys, music, and more.  Zool was on pretty much all the consoles at the time, but hasn’t been heard from since.  There’s a rumor that the infamously bad Wii game Ninjabread Man was originally going to be a 3-D Zool title, but I’m not 100 percent sure on that.  Anyway, now Zool is back on some modern consoles and PC with all sorts of new modes and features.  Now that I’ve played it, I have to say I didn’t think this one was THAT bad.  Kind of reminded me of Jazz Jackrabbit, a 2-D mascot platformer I did like back then.

Kirby’s Return to Dreamland Deluxe (Switch)

I’m not the biggest fan of all the Switch ports that have come out over the years, but at least this one adds a lot of neat stuff like new copy abilities, a new game mode with different levels to play as with Magolor, and a whole theme park with a bunch of classic mini-games.

We Love Katamari Reroll Royal Reverie (Switch)

I love the Katamari games so this one goes on here.  They say they added some new levels featuring the young King of All Cosmos, but it’s really just five of the same levels with slightly different rules.  I used to not want a brand new Katamari game, since Namco kind of beat that series into the ground.  But I think we’re ready for a new one now.  And when I say new, have different locations to roll around in other than mostly Japan.  Maybe different time periods like rolling around dinosaurs or medieval castles.  Or maybe roll up characters in Namco worlds like Pac-Land or Soul Calibur?

Ray’z Arcade Chronology (PS4)

This is a collection of Taito’s “Ray” series of shooters.  There’s only three of them, but only three were ever made.  You’ve got RayForce, RayStorm, and RayCrisis.  I never really spent much time with these beforehand (and I call myself a Taito fan), but after playing these now, I came away pleasantly surprised.


Sea of Stars (PS4)

When I was a teenager in the early to mid 90s, I loved 16-bit RPGs.  Couldn’t get enough of them.  I poured over Final Fantasy 4 and 6, Chrono Trigger, Secret of Mana, Lufia 2, and many more.  But once I started college and the 32-bit era came about, I started to fall out of the RPG loop for whatever reason.  And now I don’t play near as many RPGs as I used to as a teen.  Many times since then, a game maker has tried to capture the magic of those 16-bit RPGs with a new title, but they almost always miss the mark.  Until now.  Sea of Stars is a new RPG by the same folks who did The Messenger.  The Messenger was a 2-D platformer starring a ninja, and I reviewed it way back when.  Sea of Stars is actually meant to be a prequel to that game, but luckily you don’t have to have played it to understand what’s going on here.  Which is good since I don’t remember a whole lot about what went on in The Messenger!  Anyway, in Sea of Stars, you’ll play as one of two Solstice Warriors as they are charged with defeating evil Dwellers.  Along the way they’ll meet friends, encounter twists and turns, betrayals, and much more.  Sea of Stars plays most like Chrono Trigger.  There’s actually a better RPG than this that came out this year, but it wins an even bigger award!

Runner Up:

Trinity Trigger (Switch)

This is actually an action RPG, but I liked it so I’m putting it here.  It plays like Secret of Mana (three people can even play at the same time) and has GameCube era graphics and style.  I used to love playing games like this, and they really nailed that classic feeling here.


Puzzle Bobble Everybubble (Switch)

I freaking love Puzzle Bobble.  It’s one of my top three favorite puzzle games, right on up there with Super Puzzle Fighter II Turbo and plain ol’ Tetris.  It’s actually a spin-off of the arcade classic Bubble Bobble, but this is one case where the spin-off ended up being more popular than the original game it was based on!  The series was originally called Bust-A-Move in the US, but I’m so glad they changed it back recently because I hated that name.  Puzzle Bobble just makes more sense.  Also, this is one type of game that gets heavily imitated on cell phone devices.  I bet Taito wished they would’ve gotten some kind of stricter patent or something (not sure how that works), but their game isn’t entirely original itself either.  Anyway, the newest game in the series: Puzzle Bobble Everybubble is now available on Switch!


The Legend of Zelda: Tears of the Kingdom (Switch)

Of course this one’s no surprise.  As much as I ragged on Breath of the Wild, I still spent more than 60 hours on it and beat it, so I must’ve liked it somewhat.  This one took me too months and 100 hours to beat!  The sequel certainly improves on some things, like better dungeons, bosses, and progression.  It has that additive quality that makes you want to keep playing.  Just like Metroid Prime Remastered that I mentioned earlier.  The building gameplay mechanic is cool, which allows for lots of creativity.  I like to call it “The Legend of Zelda: Nuts & Bolts.”  And I got to keep my horse from Breath of the Wild.  A lot of people would consider this their GOTY, but not me, as it had too many problems for my tastes.  Breakable weapons (nobody likes that, Nintendo), confusing controls, and unintuitive gameplay mechanics are the three main culprits.  And is it just me or does the Internet sure like Purah?  My favorite is Urbosa, myself.


Super Mario Bros. Wonder (Switch)

No big surprise here.  Super Mario Bros. Wonder is probably the best 2D Mario since Super Mario World and Yoshi’s Island.  It’s not BETTER than those games, but it’s very good.  A very lively and imaginative game.

Runners Up:

Disney’s Illusion Island (Switch)

This is actually a Metroidvania 2D platformer, albeit a very easy one.  But it’s meant for the whole family as four can play at the same time as Mickey, Minnie, Donald, and Goofy.  Too bad they didn’t call it “Island of Illusion” to go along with the other Mickey game titles like “Castle of Illusion, World of Illusion, Power of Illusion” etc.  But this one really doesn’t play like those games.  It’s more similar to Rayman Legends.  I’m not really a big fan of Paul Rudish’s Mickey style, but this one’s still a lot of fun.

Sonic Superstars (Switch)

It’s another 2D Sonic.  I’m not the biggest fan of Sonic, but this one’s pretty decent.  And you can play as Tails, my favorite character.  I don’t know why people rave about this and Sonic Mania, but hate Sonic 4.  Aside from the episodic release, I didn’t have much problem with that one either.


Detective Pikachu Returns (Switch)

I think the weirdest thing about this game is that it was actually released!  A lot of people gave it bad reviews, but I really liked this one.  But then, I also liked Pokémon Channel, so what do I know?  It’s really more of an interactive narrative, but I like to call it “Phoenix Wright for kids.”  And if your kids have strong reading skills and like Pokémon, I think they might like this one, too.

Runners Up:

Everybody 1-2-Switch (Switch)

Just like Detective Pikachu Returns, I think the weirdest thing about this one is that it was actually released.  It’s actually a sequel to the Switch launch title, but this one takes a more Jackbox style approach.  It’s not the best, but not as bad as other reviewers say it is.

Pokémon Sleep (Mobile)

There are many Pokémon games out there, but the strangest ones are usually on mobile devices.  We’ve gotten the Pokémon teeth brushing app with Pokémon Smile, and Magikarp Jump!, a game starring the most useless Pokémon of all!  And now you can track your sleeping habits with the Pokémon Sleep app.  I liked how this game featured Snorlax, as that’s my favorite Pokémon.

WarioWare: Move it!  (Switch)

It’s WarioWare, so you know it’ll go here since I like the series so much.  A lot of people say this is like Smooth Moves on the Wii, but did you know in Japan, the title translates more to Smooth Moves 2, so it really is more like a direct sequel to that one.


F-Zero 99 (Switch)

Nintendo’s futuristic high speed racing series: F-Zero, hasn’t had a new game in nearly two decades!  Until now.  F-Zero 99 is a 99 player battle royale racing game modelled after the original SNES launch title.  I’m not sure that’s exactly what F-Zero fans wanted, but for a Nintendo Switch Online freebie, it’s not too bad.


Nickelodeon All-Star Brawl 2 (PS4)

What? You thought I’d say Street Fighter 6?  Well as much as I like Cammy, I wouldn’t want to pay full price for SF6.  The only reason why I have SFV is because I got it super cheap at Capcom’s booth at PAX one year.  But Nickelodeon All-Star Brawl is a Smash clone with Nick characters.  It’s not as good as Smash, but still fun and it has Garfield in it and I really liked Garfield as a kid.

Before I get on with my Game of the Year, I wanted to list a couple of games that I played this year that actually came out last year that I really liked.  I wish I could’ve played them last year and put them on that list, but you can’t play ‘em all!  So those games are Arcade Paradise on PS4 and Ace Angler: Fishing Spirits on Switch.

And now it’s time for my Best Video Game of 2023 award!  Taiko drum roll please…


Super Mario RPG (Switch)

I complain about all the ports and re-releases and remakes on Switch, so I guess I’m being a bit of a hypocrite here.  But in this case, I’m OK with it.  You see, this past decade so far has been pretty rough for me.  Probably for all of us.  We’ve had COVID, my mom’s breast cancer scare, some family problems, and I’ve had to move this past year.  So having a game that is both comforting, memorable, and familiar is just what I needed.  The original game came out at a time in my life when my outlook was more positive and hopeful (just starting college), and I have so many good memories playing it.  My little brother Jeff loved it and as a little kid he always asked for me to play “Mario PG” and I’d have to read every single line to him and if I forgot he’d yell out, “Tell it!”  And even though I didn’t know it at the time, in just a few months after the game’s initial release, I’d be starting working at The Dallas Morning News writing game reviews!

And the Super Mario RPG remake is a darn good one, too.  Back in the day, having Nintendo and Square collaborate on something was a big deal, and there weren’t very many Mario spin off games like there are now.  The remake is very faithful to the original, and the updated graphics look amazing and the remixed music is exactly how I imagine it would sound improved.  The text is funny and peppy and the original was one of the first games to really have a more ‘modern’ sounding translation (along with EarthBound).  It’s a bit short and easy, but perfect for RPG beginners and anyone who just wants a fun and breezy RPG to play.  It put a smile on my face anyway and games don’t do that much anymore for me.  The best part is that next year in 2024, we’re getting an even BETTER port of another Mario RPG: Paper Mario: The Thousand Year Door!

Well that’s all for now.  In the comments section, let me know what you think of my picks, and tell me YOUR favorite games of 2023.  Later!  –Cary

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