Games of the Year

RPGFan Games of the Year 2023 ~ Editors’ Awards: Izzy Parsons

RPGFan Games of the Year 2023: Editors' Awards

2023 was an incredible year for video game releases (and a disgusting one for video game company layoffs. Let’s hope 2024 makes huge improvements there). Still, I always manage to play far more “old” games than games from the current year, so I split my selection into two categories — games first released in 2023 and games I first played in 2023. I am listing these alphabetically, as I am allergic to ranked lists. I am also sticking to games we cover on RPGFan to make this easier on myself. Finally, I have not listed several games that may have contended for various arbitrary reasons.

Games of 2023, released in 2023

A New Cult Classic: In Stars and Time

In Stars and Time is an indie cult classic in the making. It is one of the most thematically sound and resonant games I have ever played. It is also adorable, emotionally powerful, and has a cast of characters that are impossible not to love. If there is a game I recommend completing even if the gameplay doesn’t land with you, it’s this one.

Two people standing in a park looking out at darkness in In Stars and Time

The Best Kind of Summer Vacation: The Legend of Nayuta: Boundless Trails

Just a joy to play, The Legend of Nayuta: Boundless Trails is action RPG Falcom at its best. Stages are quick to play and full of unique gameplay elements, the cast is colourful and makes Nayuta’s world feel alive, and the summer vacation vibes are all over this title.

Occult Vibes Forever: Paranormasight: The Seven Mysteries of Honjo

I love the ’80s/’90s Japanese occult vibes, and Paranormasight feels effortless in bringing the player back to that place and time. I went into the game expecting something fun and ended up with a contender for my favourite visual novel of all time.

Remake Perfection: Star Ocean: The Second Story R

I believe Star Ocean: The Second Story R to be the best straight remake of a game. It takes a beloved classic and artfully butchers its flaws and grills them into a perfect rare steak. It is truly something special to make a game that barely had a battle system into one where I anticipated every battle.

A Culmination 13 Years in the Making: Xenoblade Chronicles 3: Future Redeemed

Xenoblade Chronicles 3: Future Redeemed is not just “downloadable content” or an expansion to Xenoblade Chronicles 3. It is a culmination of the entire series. It features some of the best gameplay and characters in the series, the return of Shulk and Rex, and gives some genuinely surprising hints at the future. I never expected something marketed as DLC to end up as my favourite Xenoblade game, but Future Redeemed may have accomplished this.

Games of 2023, Released Before 2023

The Best of Indie RPGs: Chained Echoes

I should have played Matthias Linda’s Chained Echoes sooner. Indie throwback RPGs rarely click for me, but Chained Echoes is a huge exception. What’s not to love about a tense and unique battle system, an intricately told story, and MECHA? It is also a massive game with tons to see and do, so it is incredible one person is behind it all.

Chained Echoes Screenshot of four Sky Armors flying in front of a line of trees with a giant worm creature visible in the background.

A Philosophical Odyssey: Digital Devil Saga Duology

Digital Devil Saga and Digital Devil Saga 2 are some of the best RPGs on the PS2, and it is a crime they are not available on modern consoles. The focus on ideas pulled from Hinduism and Buddhism combined with an aesthetic at home in cyber or dieselpunk makes for an incredibly unique setting. The two games are also a great entry point to the greater Shin Megami Tensei series as they are more story-heavy and replace demon negotiation with highly customizable characters.

NES Final Fantasy at its Finest: Final Fantasy III Pixel Remaster

The DS version of Final Fantasy III might as well be an entirely different game, and for my money, the original game is a far more enjoyable experience. Final Fantasy III utilizes a job system much like Final Fantasy V, but uniquely, changing jobs is not just encouraged but required to progress in Final Fantasy III. Some dungeons or bosses are next to impossible without the correct loadout of jobs, which I found surprisingly rewarding. Like all Final Fantasy games, the soundtrack is also a total banger.

For the Bug Collecting Child in All of Us: Jade Cocoon

A strange and eerie monster-capturing and raising game for the original PlayStation, Jade Cocoon is well worth playing. The setting is one of the most unique I have seen in games, and it is easy to love the twisted bug monsters created out of the game’s ambitious fusion algorithm. It also features gorgeous cutscenes with art by Katsuya Kondō of Kiki’s Delivery Service fame.

High School Not Required: Persona 2 Duology

I have a new favourite Persona game, and it is Persona 2: Eternal Punishment (also my new favourite character because Maya Amano is our queen), but it is impossible to talk about Eternal Punishment without its prequel, Persona 2: Innocent Sin. This duology is Persona at its best: unforgettable characters, philosophical themes, a heightened-reality Japan, and strange occult occurrences.

Izzy Parsons

Izzy Parsons

Izzy has been a fan of RPGs since before they were born, so it's no surprise they would end up as a reviews editor for RPGFan. When they aren't playing seven different RPGs at once, Izzy enjoys reading and writing fiction, chatting with their friends, and long walks in nature.