7 Games From 2023 That Brought Me, Ruby, Back To Life

7 Games From 2023 That Brought Me, Ruby, Back To Life

You know what they say, dogs simply love returning to that one fateful shop sign that they can’t help but do a big hot piss on. And I’m that freakin’ dog, baby!

When David reached out to ask me to write this list, I was very excited! Sadly, it was only moments later that I was wrecked with grief. How the fuck am I supposed to choose a Top 5 Games of 2023 in this year? [John Oliver voice] The current year?!

So basically, the time between Sweet Davo asking me to write this and now has been arguably an uphill battle. In a lot of ways, I am so much like Sisyphus. However, I’m making the active decision to not elaborate on that, so as to keep everybody’s imaginations active and functioning.

But enough about me, how are you? I’ve missed you! I’ll give you this pause as a moment to respond, like I am Dora the Explorer and you are the sticky-handed child that is learning basic Spanish from me and my chimp friend.

That’s either great news, or I’m sorry to hear that!

But I have digressed, as I often do. There’s no time to catch up, I’ve got this list to get through. Before I rudely interrupted myself, I mentioned that David asked me to do this, and you’re probably wondering why it’s so hard.

Have you seen the line-up from this year? Not just in the AAA world, but the indie world too? Are you serious? This is cooked! There’s far more good stuff than just 5! This sucks!

It doesn’t really suck, though. It’s great! I love video games. I also love the people that make them, and it would be irresponsible of me to not mention that despite the array of absolute bangers we’ve gotten to play this year, it’s been a total shitshow for workers in the games industry.

This year has been a year of layoffs, redundancies, and studio closures like no other. According to videogamelayoffs.com, an estimated 9000 people in the games industry lost their jobs in 2023. 

With a year of killer (good) releases, why is this seemingly such a killer (bad) industry? Why have all these venture capitalists tried to swoop in to ‘save the industry’, only to change their tune and hang these studios out to dry? The video game industry is making so, so much money! Where the fuck is that all going?

There are too many studios that have lost staff, and some of them make you really mad while others just make you really sad. And hey, job losses and redundancies are one thing, but entire studios closing is a different kind of heartbreak. That’s a piece of history ending. Some of these studios have been around since the 90s.

Just a few days ago, we saw Triple Topping Games announcing their closure, and only weeks before that we saw our very own local Samurai Punk shutting its doors. Mimimi Games, Vanpool, Industrial Toys, and Giga are all studios that shut their doors this year. It’s sad as hell!

And hey, how about Embracer Group? That funny little company that decided to buy up as much of the games industry as they could? How are they going? Oh, they’ve shuttered Volition, Studio Onoma (formerly Square Enix Montreal), Campfire Cabal, and now most recently Free Radical Design? And laid off a bunch of people from Gearbox to Crystal Dynamics? Great. Cool. Does anybody else feel like they’re losing their minds?

I know what some of you might be thinking, too. Volition released that bad Saints Row game, though! And hey, Daedalic Entertainment got shut down too, but they released the shitty Gollum game! It’s all justified, right? Well, let’s consider this: if every studio closed after one flop, most of your favourite games probably would’ve never been made! A mid game shouldn’t be a death sentence!

Shit. Sorry. I’ve completely digressed. This is a huge digress. But I can’t just not talk about it, sorry! My heart goes out to everyone affected by the games industry layoffs of 2023. You are all such talented people, and I hope this industry starts treating you better soon.

Alright, let’s get to it.

2023 has been a year of truly incredible releases, with so many genre-bending titles coming out that the usual easy win of “This Game Is Just Like This Other Game” not really working anymore. It’s so exciting when new ideas bloom.

So the 7 games that I’ve chosen (sorry David, but it’s also a little funny) are, to me, representations of exciting additions to the world of video games that I can only describe as either completely new experiences for me, or absolute perfections of already existing ideas. And yes, this is all my opinion.

And yes… there’s going to be a few honourable mentions. I’m sorry, this is already hard enough. Anyway, let’s get on with it! Here’s my year in games in no particular order!

Pikmin 4

Image: Ruby Innes

This is the perfect Pikmin game. They did it. The freaks at Nintendo did it. All the beauties and horrors of the first three games have been perfected in Pikmin 4. I had such a fantastic time with this one.

From the character customisation (with your outfit not only being worn by your team, but also colour co-ordinating with the ship? I’m gagging), all the way to that fucked up goopy monstrosity that’s desperate to go Swedish Chef on my poor weird bug children, I found myself deeply obsessed with this game from start to finish. 

The Dandori challenges are a delight and a great test of your Pikmin leading abilities, Oatchi is an addition to the team that has made my actual life better and potentially healed my ailments, and it’s just a treat to have so many different Pikmin to work with. Also, Nintendo has really outdone themselves with how beautiful this game looks. A visual wonder. I love it.

Also, there’s the opportunity to revisit the Olimar days within this game. So you’re basically playing a whole new Pikmin game while also getting to play the old one inside it, too. I just think that’s neat!

Hello Kitty: Island Adventure

Image: Ruby Innes

A licensed game? In MY Top 5 7 Games of 2023? It’s more likely than you think.

Actually, no it’s not. It’s pretty unlikely. However, Hello Kitty: Island Adventure is my most prized exception to the rule. It’s rare to play a licensed game made with so, so much love.

I’ve been playing Hello Kitty: Island Adventure almost every single day since its release on July 28th. This game fuels my very being. It’s incredibly cute, very sweet, engaging as hell, and… Look, who doesn’t want to become best friends with Hello Kitty and Friends?

Not only is this game feeding the horrible, wretched little ghoul that haunts my heart and demands Sanrio content in a sickly voice, but when that ghoul is fed, it means that I can get on with the rest of my life. If I do not feed it, it starts to shut my internal organs down. It all started when I bought a haunted amulet from a shop as a joke, but we don’t need to talk about it.

Anyway, this game rules. It’s one of the best games on Apple Arcade, and a pretty good argument for the platform.


Image: Ruby Innes

Videoverse is a constructed memory wrapped in a video game. It’s an ode to when the internet was simpler, and you were younger.

I didn’t expect to like Videoverse as much as I did, if I’m honest. It looked very cute, but I didn’t expect an interactive visual novel to get me like it did. That being said, I’m impressed with how immersed I felt in the Videoverse world.

Exploring the Videoverse on your Kinmoku Shark is only part of the experience of this game. Playing from the perspective of a teenage boy on the internet is surprisingly wholesome, while also fittingly cringe. It’s endearing. The relationships that Emmett has throughout Videoverse, from the sweet friendship with Mark to the new relationship with Vi, feel real. 

They remind me of a time where I was making friends online, not realising they’d be friends I’d still have to this day. And that’s the big part of it: this game reminds me of so much. Old internet forum culture, the wonderful world of the Miiverse, the internet’s weirdest perverts. They’re all there in Videoverse.

Knuckle Sandwich

Image: Ruby Innes

You might remember that in last year’s end-of-year list, I listed the 2022 Knuckle Sandwich demo in my honourable mentions. Well, the game’s out now, and here it is in its entirety, on this list.

Knuckle Sandwich plays with a lot of old ideas but, in my opinion, sets itself apart as something very new. Yeah, it’s got the GameMaker energy (and engine), but there’s also stuff in there that shouldn’t even work in GameMaker.

The WarioWare fighting style of this game is one part of its endless charm. It’s a bit of a challenge to do anything really new with the turn-based battle format, but the injection of microgames to force you to rise to the challenge of every battle is just so fuckin’ cool, man.

Another part of what makes Knuckle Sandwich so charming is its story, and in particular, just how unapologetically Australian it is. Seeing native trees, L plates, and Melbourne bus stop signs is one thing, but (correctly) identifying that a Christmas special would, in fact, air in Summer really got me.

Also yeah, this game is hard as shit. But god, it feels good when I win.

A Space for the Unbound

Image: Ruby Innes

This game feels like the best anime you’ve ever seen. In fact, A Space for the Unbound did perfectly what Loop8: Summer of Gods tried to do. It’s a time travel story done so, so right.

Time travel, despite being something that we’d all love to do after an embarrassing social faux pas that leaves a complete stranger very unimpressed with a joke about joking about 9/11 (which is different to a joke about 9/11, actually), is a pretty done-to-death theme in media. That being said, I genuinely believe that few have done it as well as A Space for the Unbound.

Set in 90s rural Indonesia (which is beautifully portrayed in detailed pixel art), A Space for the Unbound tells a story of young love, loss, and great change. It’s rare that you can play a game where you go and see a movie with your girlfriend and also stop the end of the world from happening. I promise there’s a lot in between.

I’ve got a lot of love for this game. It’s a beautiful world filled with deep characters, all of which have their own lives outside of the protagonist that you’re immediately keen to learn about. I laughed, I cried, and I was constantly and pleasantly surprised with every step.

Tears of the Kingdom

Image: Ruby Innes

I didn’t finish Breath of the Wild. I just never got around to it. And you may hate me for it, but consider this: Have you heard a baby’s laugh? Have you seen a crepe myrtle tree in full bloom? Or even given a cherished family member a call? Consider one of these before telling me to kill myself. Life is so beautiful!

I did, however, finish Tears of the Kingdom, and then some. Lemme tell ya, this game is a fine example of letting Nintendo cook for a little longer if they need it. This game almost went into my honourable mentions, but I can’t have 155 hours played and not have it in the full list.

Tears of the Kingdom is, to put it simply, sooooooooooo good. I loved exploring with my ghost companions. I loved shooting myself up in the air with a rocket on my shield. I loved helping Koroks by gluing them to a makeshift segway. I love my huge buff horses. I loved every character I met. I love so much about this game.

From the cloud islands to the depths, this game always kept me engaged. I truly lost myself in this Hyrule. Building contraptions in this game is a modern gaming marvel that I’ve only seen done in this way in one other game that’s on my list…

Mars First Logistics

Image: Ruby Innes

Oh shit, what a segue! And now, I have officially used both ‘segway’ and ‘segue’ in a single piece of writing. Ain’t words neat?

Pardon my French, but FUCK! Mars First Logistics is SO COOL! You are playing LEGOs on Mars! Oh my god! That rocks!

Mars First Logistics is a test of patience and skill. It is an impressive education tool in teaching trial and error, something that seems to be missing from a lot of people’s skill sets. Your parents may think you’re just like an Apple Genius, but they don’t know this one trick: trying every piece of troubleshooting until the phone eventually works.

There’s style in simplicity, and Mars First Logistics’ colour scheme POPS in a 60s retro-futuristic kind of way without going too crazy on detail. The little astronauts made me squeal. And speaking of style, this game arguably has one of the best soundtracks of 2023. Thank you, Mr Golding!

But obviously, where this game shines is in its main mechanic: the vehicle construction. Where Tears of the Kingdom has a functional-yet-ramshackle vibe when it comes to player-made vehicles, everything you make in Mars First Logistics is gonna look cool. Delivering items as a sweet little buggy with a giant fucking claw has never looked better.


  • Stray Gods – I am generally pretty anti-musical, but this game was simply so charming in its character writing and art design that I couldn’t help but be swayed.
  • System Shock Remake – Nightdive Studios really nailed it here. A truly fantastic refresher of a timeless classic. Absolutely fabulous stuff.
  • Dredge – Not gonna lie, the only reason this isn’t in my main list is because I haven’t finished it yet and felt it wouldn’t be fair. I’m still playing it. I fucking love it.
  • Hi-Fi Rush – Same situation as Dredge. Life got in the way. That being said, every part of this game that I played, I enjoyed. A perfect action rhythm experience.
  • Gubbins – I gub every day. Every day. I am gubbing. I am always on that Gubbins grind.

Image: Ruby Innes

And that’s my list! There are also heaps that I didn’t include but still loved a lot, because these lists are not full representations of people’s interests. It’s true, people can like more than 5, 7, 10, and even 12 games in a calendar year. There’s also omissions that I probably would’ve loved, but just didn’t get the chance to play. No, I haven’t played Baldur’s Gate 3 or Alan Wake 2 yet.

I’ve missed it here, and it’s a shame that after being brought back to life after dying 6 months ago, I must now be put to death again. The Kotaku Australia security guards are taking me out the back and putting me down, Ol’ Yeller style. Thanks for having me though, and happy new year!

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