Year in Review 2023: Yahoo SEA editors' favourite video games of 2023

2023 was a great year for video games, and we're selecting and highlighting some of the most memorable ones.

Baldur's Gate 3, The Legend of Zelda: Tears of the Kingdom, and Honkai: Star Rail were among the Yahoo Southeast Asia team's picks for the best games released in 2023. (Photos: Nintendo, Larian Studios, HoYoverse)
Baldur's Gate 3, The Legend of Zelda: Tears of the Kingdom, and Honkai: Star Rail were among the Yahoo Southeast Asia team's picks for the best games released in 2023. (Photos: Nintendo, Larian Studios, HoYoverse)

The video games industry saw yet another very successful year in 2023, with loads of exciting new games released while existing titles received updates that breathed fresh life into them.

Like many other gamers, members of the Yahoo Southeast Asia team continued to find ourselves spoiled for choice when deciding which to invest our time in, given some of the frankly amazing titles that were launched this year.

With that said, some titles stood out for us more than others, so here are the editors' picks for their favourite game of 2023.

Baldur’s Gate 3 (Jay Chan)

Jay's take:

Caveat: I have never played any tabletop game of Dungeons & Dragons in my life, I have never played any previous games from Larian Studios, and I only know vaguely about the characters from The Forgotten Realms because I play Magic: The Gathering and the set Commander Legends: Battle for Baldur’s Gate came out last year.

I am still clueless why I even bought the game during its release week, except that I thought I should play some triple A games this year, and what an amazing ride Baldur’s Gate 3 has been.

For the uninitiated like me, the game was infuriating at the start because I had absolutely no clue what I was supposed to do (for example, how do I know what I rolled for the initiative and why the heck do I need to do that), and the tutorials were not always very instructive.

But some hours into the game, the amazing voice acting and animations all started to come together. The story became vastly more interesting as I found more companions, and the mechanics slowly started to become familiar.

I spent more than 30 hours in Act I of the game, and I found out later I didn't even manage to uncover everything in Act I. The amount of content in the game is just ridiculous and Larian Studios have been continually patching the game, even adding new endings for Act III of the game!

I have been absolutely hooked playing Baldur’s Gate 3, and the last RPG to have really got my attention for more than 30 hours was Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim. It also says something when I successfully got my girlfriend to be hooked onto romancing Gale in Baldur’s Gate 3, so yes this is definitely the game of the year for me!

The Legend of Zelda: Tears of the Kingdom (Yan Ku)

Yan's take:

Nintendo's sequel to the smash hit game The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild, The Legend of Zelda: Tears of the Kingdom is hands-down my top game of 2023. I was initially worried that there won't be much to see with how obsessively I explored every nook and cranny of the map during my run in Breath of the Wild. I was immediately proven wrong however, and was enchanted once again with the sprawling landscape of Hyrule, now dotted with ancient ruins of the bygone Zonai era, as well as the addition of the Sky Islands and The Depths.

It was definitely a new adventure in a familiar-yet-unfamiliar setting, and I was immediately hooked. I'm pretty sure I don't need to explain the mechanics of Tears of the Kingdom, but the difference with Breath of the Wild made it a breath of fresh air to me — I no longer needed to scrounge up what little rupees I could to buy my trusty bomb arrows, nor did I need to settle with weapons I could find in Bokoblin camps. Fusing was definitely my best friend during the two months I explored and completed quests, and it made travel way easier too. I sped through the map in my makeshift motorbikes and hovercrafts, raising hell to enemies left and right with such vigour maybe the Goddess Hylia herself would look on in abject horror.

Even the koroks were at my mercy. I spent a good week collecting every backpacked korok I could and like every totally normal, sane, level-headed, society-serving player that I was, erected my Korok memorial of crucified koroks glued to Zonai rockets, and sent them to the sky to greet my beautiful Light Dragon cruising amongst the clouds.

I also gathered up my courage and became (in my own right) a literal god when I began to hunt down every Lynel on the map to fully upgrade my Barbarian armour. These centaur-like creatures who, at my early days in Breath of the Wild, made me shake and cry like a wuss were now at the mercy of my SS-tier fused weapons and Puffshrooms. I even had the guts to challenge the Floating Coliseum in The Depths for the coveted Majora's Mask, finishing with the grace and majesty of a true-born hero. I am proud to say that no tears of fear were shed.

But besides my hijinks and tomfoolery, The Legend of Zelda: Tears of the Kingdom's storyline was every bit of writing perfection I could ever ask for. When I freed my captive koroks and finally challneged Ganondorf himself, I was overcome with the feeling of resolute determination that Link must have felt when he finally took to the skies to vanquish evil once and for all.

Honkai: Star Rail (Kurt Lozano)

Kurt's take:

While I'm more of a RTS nut, turn-based anime RPGs have always held a special place in my heart. And years after the release of Persona 5 Royal and Shin Megami Tensei V, I've really been craving for a new title to scratch the itch. HoYoverse's space fantasy RPG, Honkai: Star Rail, was exactly what I was looking for and more.

You can tell that HoYoverse have made good use of all the money made by Genshin Impact by how excellent Star Rail has been since it launched. The game is rich with a gripping setting, a colourful cast of characters, exciting gameplay, banger music, and most importantly, soul.

From the start, the game lets you choose how the protagonist, the Traiblazer, interacts with the characters and world around him — a far cry from Genshin's very silent Traveler and their annoying mouthpiece of a companion that is Paimon. I for one, chose to embrace the Trailblazer's chaotic goblin persona and obsess over the enigmatic beauty of trash cans.

And while we're on the topic of things Star Rail has over Genshin, features like a guaranteed 5-star character in your first 50 pulls and the ability to choose a free standard 5-star character from the Standard Warp have certainly made the Star Rail experience much better for me. And I say that as someone who loves both games dearly.

Star Rail's story has been a blast, especially the Belobog arc, and I'm chomping at the bit for the release of the game's next planet, Penacony, in version 2.0 next February. There's plenty of content to spend hours grinding too, with my particular favourites being the Simulated Universe - The Swarm Disaster and the recently-released Floors 11 and 12 for Memory of Chaos. And, of course, the characters have all been delightful and made the game's rich universe that much more vibrant (proud E2S1 Kafka main here).

Oh, and what's an anime game without its anime moments? Star Rail has had plenty so far, but the best, most fist-pumping one for me would have to be the battle against Cocolia during the climax of the Belobog arc. After a hard-fought first phase of that boss battle, the second phase saw Cocolia ascend to the sky and lob a whole meteor at my party while the absolute banger of a track that is Wildfire came in from the top rope with its chorus.

That was a real chef's kiss moment. HoYoverse really cooked with Star Rail and I'm hungry for what they have in store for next year.

Rusted Moss (Anna Bernardo)

Anna's take:

I’m a stickler for 2D games and Metroidvanias and for me, Rusted Moss is a unique, underrated gem. Don’t expect pretty graphics or the most amazing soundtrack, or the most endearing characters with slow-burn sob stories, or even your typical platformer with a bit of variation.

Instead, you’ll be met with some hilarious, sarcastic, and witty characters with surprisingly dark backstories, a unique platforming mechanic, some really challenging areas, and an intriguing plot.

The game brings together twin-stick shooting and 2D platforming, anchored by a nifty (and sarcastic) grappling hook, in a world hurtling towards a clash between humanity and fae.

I really love that the game makes use of grappling hooks to navigate through most obstacles — there’s some geometry, imagination, and trial and error involved: It’s a novel approach to the genre.

The physics, though exaggerated, add a lively touch, offering a forgiving margin for errors. It’ll take a while before you get used to the mechanics, but it offers players more freedom and creativity in navigating the map, all while having a more organic approach to blocking off areas compared to traditional Metroidvanias. On top of this, the promise of multiple endings and the challenge of mastering the map add a substantial layer of depth to the entire game.

Most importantly, the story keeps you guessing — who’s the villain and the good guy in this game, really? And as you navigate through the game with grappling hooks, it’s the plot that will keep you hooked until the end.

Against the Storm (Aloysius Low)

Aloy's take:

Unlike more action heavy RPGs or web-swinging superheroes, Against the Storm is a city-builder that sees you building towns after towns to try to extend your kingdom's borders in order to reach a forbidden seal. Once there, you'll need to deactivate the seal by clearing various tasks in order to end the cycle of doom the world is facing.

This rogue-lite city builder easily combines strategy, city management, and adds plenty of random chaos as you chop down trees to open up unexplored glades. However, you'll have to be careful of doing too much chopping, as the forest will start turning hostile towards you and affecting your townsfolk's morale. Too low, and they may leave. Don't manage your resources, and they will start dying, too.

Each town building session takes around 30 to 45 minutes, but you'll end up wanting to play more and more. There's a nice level of depth to keep you hooked, and lots of things to do so you won't feel bored. Plus I really do like watching them go about their ways farming, gathering, and building.

Right from the get-go, this game will leave you hooked, even at the lowest difficulty level. And if you already have an PC Game Pass, it's available there for free. Otherwise, pick it up for S$39 on Steam.

Age of Wonders 4 (Bryan Huang)

Bryan's take:

In a year where Kurt decided to go for Honkai: Star Rail and Jay took my first pick Baldur's Gate 3, I still found myself deciding between Jagged Alliance 3 and Age of Wonders 4 (Diablo 4, as much as I enjoy the franchise, deserves to be nowhere near this list). Both games have that nostalgia factor, and JA3 almost edged out AoW 4 until the last few days of the year, when I had more time to dive into Triumph Studio's latest outing in the series.

It might have taken a few rounds, but Age of Wonders 4 has done the best job yet at combining two of my favourite classics — Civilization and Heroes of Might and Magic. While you have champions (or dragons or wizard kings) that are your hero units, combined with the city building aspects, what I liked the most from AoW was the customisation you could do with your civilisation. I mean, seriously, if you wanted a race of angelic toads led by a dragon, it could be done.

The expected RPG mechanics of levelling and tactical combat, the micromanaging of cities, everything comes together nicely to create an experience that I find quite hard to put into words. The research, via tomes instead of tech trees, gave me the same thrill I got when I used to play Master of Magic as a kid (via a DOS command, if you're old enough to know what that is).

Sure, JA3 had THE Shadow back as a merc for hire, but what's the thrill of that versus... unleashing your army of holy moles?

Just be warned, though. As most 4x games, playing this has the unintended side effect of you going "one more turn" and "it's already 3am, what?".

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