New Guy Walks in With an Obvious Game of the Year Pick: The Legend of Zelda: Tears of the Kingdom
What can I even add to the conversation here that hasn’t already been said? Tears of the Kingdom is just that awe-inspiring. It’s the perfect balance of sandbox freedom, bespoke puzzles shrouded in a densely detailed open world, and cinematic flair to emphasize some of the best moments in the franchise’s storied history. If you’ve played, you know; if you haven’t, I’d be loath to spoil the experience for you. But I will say this: I didn’t expect any game to make me enthusiastic about building mechanics, but the Zelda team pulled it off, which is perhaps the highest praise I can lob at this game.
I also figure this is my best chance to introduce myself to the RPGFan community. I’m super excited to write for you in the new year and have multiple articles in the works that I hope you’ll enjoy.
Best Game I Played for the First Time Thanks to a Re-Release: Final Fantasy IV Pixel Remaster
Final Fantasy IV Pixel Remaster finally landed on consoles this year, giving me the excuse I’ve long sought to fill one of the most prominent holes in my JRPG backlog. While the updated art and new orchestral soundtrack help bring the game into the modern era, it’s the storytelling through gameplay that truly stands the test of time, fleshing out characters in ways only games can. And seriously, it’s wild how right the Final Fantasy team got the ATB system on their first attempt. Consider this a reminder to give the oldies a spin every once in a while, as they’ll often surprise you.
Best New RPG that Isn’t an RPG: Street Fighter 6‘s World Tour Mode
While RPGs are my first love, I also have a soft spot for fighting games. Thus, Street Fighter 6 didn’t need its meaty role-playing adventure to get me excited. Yet this mode—aptly titled World Tour—out role-plays most RPGs released this year. While the
abomination character creator steals the spotlight on social media, this mode truly establishes itself by allowing players to customize their playstyle using moves from the entire roster of fighters. But the RPG similarities don’t end here, as the mode largely operates around stats and damage output, meaning leveling your character and filling out their skill trees are prerequisites to success. Add to this a genuinely decent story with flashy presentation and bustling Yakuza-style free-roam zones, and you’ve got a game that more resembles an RPG than a fighting game. The cherry on top: your avatar transfers into the online modes where you can pit them against other player avatars. For my money, this is the most unique role-playing experience of 2023.