TLDR

I played the NieR series this year and loved it. I watched probably too much anime. I got back into game dev.


Welcome to the 2nd annual “stuff I played/watched/did/etc. in ”. This time, it’s 2023. What a year 😩 We had some ups, some downs, some plateaus, etc. but now it’s all over. I hope everyone reading has a great new year.

Quick disclaimer for these lists: The “X I Enjoyed” doesn’t necessarily mean that the thing released this year, but it is the year I got around to enjoying it, whatever it was. While these lists aren’t ranked, I will bold items I particularly enjoyed. All of the items are just a showcase for things I enjoyed and wanted to mention. Now, on with the show!

Games I Enjoyed in 2023

  • Aliens: Fireteam Elite
    • This was a really fun co-op experience, but I can’t imagine playing this solo.
  • Baldur’s Gate 3
    • Winner of basically ever game award and awarded a 10/10 basically everywhere, of course this one is one of my favorites. I’ve been playing through a campaign with a few friends and it’s one of the best co-op experiences I’ve ever enjoyed. I can’t speak to solo play, but I hear it’s great too.
  • Bloodstained: Ritual of the Night
    • I’m a sucker for Castlevania-likes, so I finally got around to playing it this year. I played through it, but got a “bad ending”, so I’m going to have to look up a guide or something to play through and get the “full experience” at some point.
  • The Break-In
    • This game is worth every penny. Please go and pick this up. What a phenomenally hilarious experience. This game brought me the hardest laughs this year.
  • Castlevania Harmony of Dissonance
    • Last year, I played through and beat Circle of the Moon, so this year I tried Harmony of Dissonance (next will be Aria of Sorrow). While I haven’t beaten it (yet), I’ve thoroughly enjoyed my time with it so far. What a bop of a soundtrack too, especially given the cartridge limitations.
  • Castlevania: Rondo of Blood
    • I bought this on the PS4 since it’s the only way I can legally play this at this point. I’m glad I did because this should have been part of the Castlevania Advance Collection as far as I’m concerned (and evidently Castlevania X isn’t just a SNES port of Rondo). I haven’t beaten it yet, but man this game is so good and the soundtrack makes me not want to put it down.
  • Crab Champions
    • This was a random one, but I’ve had a ton of fun with it. I wish I could get the soundtrack somewhere though, because the music is just so fun. This game is so light-hearted, and it’s a terrific co-op experience.
  • Dark Cloud (PS2)
    • I played a few hours of this game this autumn. I was feeling nostalgic, and this game scratched that itch. It’s so charming and such a hidden gem. I wonder if the dev/publisher would ever consider a remake of some sort?
  • Diablo IV
    • Full disclosure, I wasn’t going to pick this up, but a few friends (vaguely) pressured me into getting it. Funny enough, I ended up playing mostly by myself. While I absolutely loathe the actions of the higher ups at Activision/Blizzard, the feelings this game evoked while playing were all the right ones. I remember very vividly playing Diablo 2 til 6am on school nights as a kid. I did the same here because I couldn’t put it down (though it’s work instead of school now). The story was gripping and I couldn’t stop taking in all it had to offer. I stopped playing before the “season” or whatever, so I didn’t get the negatives from that a lot of other people got. Maybe I beat it just in time? Who knows if I’ll go back to it because I’ve since uninstalled the game. If/when there’s an expansion, perhaps I’ll go back.
  • Double Dragon Gaiden: Rise of the Dragons
    • This one was a surprise. I played through it once and enjoyed myself quite a bit. My only complaint is that there’s no online co-op. Granted, you could possibly get away with using something like Steam Remote Play or Parsec, it’s just not a substitute for good online play. Having said that, it was a ton of fun.
  • Forza Horizon 4
    • Horizon 5 was such a surprise gem for me last year. Horizon 4 didn’t have the same effect on me as 5 did, but I did enjoy it. These games are always so beautiful that I often find myself just driving around and looking at the scenery rather than play the actual game.
  • The Legend of Zelda: Link’s Awakening (2019)
    • Let me first start of saying that I loved this remake. It’s adorable and there’s obviously a lot of love put into it. Having said that, there could be a museum filled with unfinished projects and games for me at this point. Yes, I never finished it (though I plan to).
  • Megaman Legends (PSX)
    • Around the same time I was playing Dark Cloud, I played a bit of this too. It definitely scratched the nostalgia itch, but man, does this game feel weird to play nowadays.
  • Mortal Kombat 1
    • I’m a fighting game lover, and while this was my least favorite fighting game I played this year, I did enjoy this one. I do wonder how many more times they’re going to just re-write the entire timeline though 🤔.
  • NieR Automata
    • This game and its prequel did something to me. Let me first say, I’m a sucker for “what does it mean to be human” narratives (see my love for Blade Runner). Yoko Taro and his team do such a beautiful job of crafting a world that feels oddly personal. I don’t know why I slept on this one for so long, but I’m glad I finally got around to playing it. Going through it at the same time as watching the anime was a fantastic experience. I spent way too much time watching YouTube lore videos after I beat this and Replicant. Drakengard 3 is next on my list of Yoko Taro games.
  • NieR Replicant
    • This was my absolute favorite this year. I planned on playing it when it (re-)released in 2021, but never got around to it. I’m glad I finally had the time to play it though. I felt a lot closer to the characters in this one over Automata, and I ran the soundtrack of this one into the ground. I bought the CD, Kaine and Nier plushes, and a Kaine music box off of SquareEnix’s website. I’m obsessed. I think about this game, its world, and its character’s almost daily. It lives in my heart rent free.
  • Persona 3 Portable
    • While I haven’t finish this one, I plan to this January (right after I finish 5 Tactica). I’m a good deal into this one, but come on. It’s Persona 3. It’s only second to 5 in my book. The theme of death and acceptance is timeless. It’s an emotionally hard game, but I’m excited to finally witness the difference between it, FES, and Reload (LET’S GOOOOOOOOOOO).
  • Persona 5 Tactica
    • I’m roughly 15 hours into this one, but I’m enjoying Baby’s First XCOM quite a bit. I’ve never played an XCOM-like before, so being surrounded by familiar faces helps a lot. The story takes a minute to get going, but I’m hooked now. I’m well invested into Toshiro’s and Erina’s back story. I think I like Striker’s better from a story perspective (as far as spin-offs go), but this one holds its own.
  • Ready or Not
    • This game tells me that I need a GPU better than my GTX 1070 TI. It’s so fun, but it chugs in some places. I don’t know if that’s due to less than stellar optimizations or my specs. Even so, it’s a ton of fun as a co-op game. I don’t imagine I’d ever play this solo though.
  • Risk of Rain Returns
    • This game is a ton of fun, though it can be brutal sometimes. I have it on Steam, but it’s nice to see it on the Switch (and possibly other places?) too.
  • Sea of Stars
    • I really wish I got more time with this game because it’s obvious there’s a lot of love in it. I’ve watched more videos about this game than I’ve played it, but what I did play was so charming and comfortable. I hope I can give this the playthrough it deserves next year.
  • Starfield
    • This game is on this list because I did enjoy it, despite everything surrounding it. It’s boring from a gameplay perspective, but the world is fascinating and the visuals (when it’s not buggy) are gorgeous. I hope that if/when we get Starfield 2 (or even just an update for this game), it’ll be a bit more fleshed out and be the “Skyrim in space” we all expected it to be.
  • Starship Troopers: Extermination
    • This game is so silly. It prompted me to give the original movie a watch, and I was not disappointed. I love campy things and this one has camp in droves. I love that everyone you play with is in on the joke and everyone just quotes the movie. This gave me a hint of the community feeling that Pokemon Go gave when it first came out. Everyone is just in it together and we’re all here for a good time.
  • Street Fighter 6
    • This is my favorite fighting game of all time. Full stop. My only complaint is with the economy of the game (microtransactions, etc.), but I feel like that’s kind of to be expected of any big name game company these days (see also Diablo IV). Even if you only ever pay for the base game, it’s 100% worth it. The story mode alone is such a fun time. The personality of all of the fan favorites shines and it’s just a ton of fun. The online is the best I’ve ever played. I really love how the battle hub rekindles the feeling of playing in an arcade, and the fact they have rotating old capcom classics available is great too. If you only ever play one fighting game in your life, make it this one.
  • Super Mario Wonder
    • I really wish I could have given this game more time, but I only have about 5-6 hours in it at the time of writing. It’s so charming and I love every bit of it. So much love and care went into making this one. This is my favorite 2D Mario game. The singing piranha plants alone are worth the entry price. The online play is terrific too. I actually prefer it over local multiplayer since you’re not confined to sharing the screen space (apologies to my wife 🙏 gotta go fast bby).
  • Tekken 7
    • After I saw the Tekken 8 trailers, I was excited enough to try out the previous iteration. Mortal Kombat is my worst fighting game, but this is a close second. The focus on juggling and carrying your opponent to a wall makes it difficult to “git gud”. I had the pleasure of playing and practicing with a friend, so it made the journey much more bearable. There’s just a lot to this game, so it’s hard to recommend to a beginner unless you just really have the motivation to learn it.
  • Tekken 8 Demo
    • Thanks to Street Fighter 6, we have a baby mode in Tekken now (it’s me. I’m the baby). The inclusion of “special style” was a fantastic move. Now I can focus on learning movement and footsies rather than a bunch of timings and button combos. I’ll be able to work my way up to playing without the handicap, but I’m super happy it’s included. I’m really thrilled with the “ghost mode” too. Being able to play against yourself and figure out your shortcomings while playing a match is game changing. I really love that Bandi Namco and Capcom are pushing the boundaries here and making fighting games both more accessible and enjoyable. This is my most anticipated game of 2024 behind Persona 3 Reload.
  • TMNT: Shredder’s Revenge DLC
    • This was my game of the year last year, and while I really enjoyed the DLC, it didn’t have the staying power the initial release did. I do really like the new modes and characters though. It’s worth picking up, especially if you already have the base game. If you don’t have the base game though, do yourself a favor and get it. You won’t regret it.
  • Vampire Survivors
    • There was so much hype surrounding this little indie title that I just had to check it out. At a $5 entry point, it’s hard to not recommend it. It’s the perfect game for short play sessions. I can see gamer parents, or just busy gamers in general getting a lot out of this gem.
  • Yakuza 0
    • This is another game I wish I had more time with. It’s got a really nice and gripping story, and the combat feels great. Perhaps next year I can give this one the time it deserves.

According to Steam, I played 67 games this year (and that’s just on the PC and through them!). There are tons of games I really wanted to play, but I didn’t pick up because I knew I wouldn’t be able to find the time to play them. I hope I can pick these up next year and give them a go (things like Super Mario RPG, Tears of the Kingdom, etc.).

I had a list of things I wanted to tackle this year.

  1. Persona 3 Portable
  2. Kirby’s Return to Dream Land Deluxe
  3. Zelda: Tears of the Kingdom
  4. Final Fantasy 15
  5. Final Fantasy 12
  6. Persona 5 Royal
  7. Metroid Dread
  8. NieR Automata

The only one I ended up completing was NieR Automata. I won’t beat myself up for not finishing these things. I am glad I played through a great deal of most of them. The only one I didn’t play was Tears of the Kingdom. I don’t think I’ll make a list for 2024. I think it’d be a short one anyway (just Tekken 8 and Persona 3 Reload).

Game I Enjoyed the Most

NieR Replicant

Honorable Mentions

Baldur’s Gate 3

Most Anticipated for 2024

Persona 3 Reload

Anime/Manga I Enjoyed in 2023

Hey, it’s me, the hopeless romantic that only ever watches rom-coms 👋

  • Aharen-san wa Hakarenai
    • Nothing will ever be funnier than misunderstandings
  • The Angel Next Door Spoils Me Rotten
    • This is the cutest anime of all time. It physically hurt me it’s so cute.
  • Chainsaw Man
  • A Couple of Cuckoos
    • I enjoyed this, but man it was weird.
  • DARLING in the FRANXX
    • This was a surprise favorite for me. I kept seeing how much people loved Zero Two online (maybe a bit too much 😩), so I felt like I needed to check it out. Love stories hook me every time and this was no different. I wept at the ending. It was beautiful.
  • Fruits Basket -prelude-
    • Fruits Basket is one of my favorites, so it was nice to see Tohru’s parent’s story here. Granted, the setting is a bit weird for the modern day, but I can still appreciate the story.
  • Horimiya: Pieces
    • This was such a nice follow up to the original anime. This is my comfort anime. The soundtrack is also terrific and Yoh Kamiyama was one of my top artists on Spotify this year.
  • How Heavy Are the Dumbells You Lift?
    • This one is hard to recommend because it’s a bit too anime, if you catch my drift. If you can get passed the tomfoolery though, it’s a fun time. I also really like that it demonstrates a ton of home work outs and teaches you form as well. Not that I’ve used a ton of it, but it’s still nice to have that knowledge.
  • The Ice Guy and His Cool Female Colleague
    • This one is also extremely cute. The manga got an English release this year, so you know I had to pick up the first volume. Adult workplace romcom (as opposed to high school setting romcom) was a staple this year for me. The characters are an absolute delight and Fuyutsuki needs to be protected at all costs.
  • Kaguya-sama: Love is War
    • This is one of the few anime I watched where I didn’t watch the Japanese dub first. I did watch some of it, but the English dub goes hard. Everyone did such an amazing performance, and I love how they made the narrator a character in this version. If you only ever watch one anime, watch this one. If you only ever watch one episode of this one, watch the Shojo manga episode. This anime had me in tears in both laughter and the love story between the two protagonists. 10/10 cannot recommend this one enough.
  • More than a Married Couple, but Not Lovers
    • So, first off, I love this one. It’s great, but it’s hard to recommend. The setting and level of anime BS holds it back for a general audience. Having said that, the character’s are great (Jiro is a scoundrel) and the way the various relationships develop over time makes me feel warm and fuzzy. It was joy to watch, but my wife and I couldn’t help but just say, “oh my god 😩” (a la Bob Belcher) during many of the scenes (likewise with the Dumbbells anime).
  • My Clueless First Friend
    • I can’t quite decide if this anime is cuter than The Angel Next Door Spoils Me Rotten, but they’re neck and neck. The elementary school setting just adds to the cute factor since they’re all basically babies. It just reminds me of that time in my life when everything was innocent. We should all strive to be like Taiyo and emit that kind of sunshine-y positivity everywhere we go.
  • My Dress-Up Darling
    • This one is pretty ecchi, but if you can get passed it, you’re in for a treat. The dynamic between Kitagawa and Gojo is adorable. The way they help each other grow as individuals is lovely. I love the over-the-top comedy. It’s just such an enjoyable watch, and you know they hooked me with the love story. I’m a sucker for that.
  • My Love Story with Yamada-Kun at Lv999
    • Another love story, but this time it’s very tame. I relate the characters here a lot more since they’re all gamers. The dynamic between Yamada and Akane is a delight, and the last episode brought me so much joy and relief.
  • My Senpai is Annoying
    • Patrick Seitz doesn’t miss. His big booming voice is such a delight, and this anime is no exception. Seeing the relationship between the two main characters blossom just filled me with the warm and fuzzies. The side characters also developing a relationship was nice too. It’s just a really enjoyable anime.
  • My Tiny Senpai
    • This one was basically My Senpai is Annoying, but with the ecchi of “More than a Married Couple” thrown in. If you can get passed that, it’s an enjoyable watch. There’s a lot of silliness.
  • NieR Automata Ver1.1a
    • Of course, I had to accompany my playthrough of the game with this. They did a terrific job of adapting the game to an anime. If you don’t play the game (which you should), at least give this a watch. It’s got a banger of a soundtrack to go along with it.
  • The Quintessential Quintuplets
    • I couldn’t put this one down. I was obsessed with this one. I didn’t think I’d get into it like I would, but the character development was just phenomenal. It was a little weird going from season 1 to 2 with the change in studios, but I quickly got used to the style of season 2. I believe the movie was done by the same studio as season 2, so it’s not jarring going straight into the movie. But MAN, the love story here was wild. I was on the edge of my seat the whole time (slightly disappointed in the end, but the ending made complete sense). This anime had my favorite character development of any other one I watched this year. It felt familiar in an odd way, just watching these high school kids grow into working adults. What can I say? It’s a great slice-of-life anime.
  • Rascal Does Not Dream of a Dreaming Girl
    • There are several more of these coming out sooner or later, but this was the latest one in the series. I’m so glad I watched it. It continues the story of the anime and adds more context surrounding the original plot. I’m excited to see where the rest of this goes, but the ending hit me pretty hard (in a good way). It was a roller coaster getting there though.
  • ReLIFE
    • This one was a really slow burn. It’s also probably the oldest anime I watched this year. The OVAs were the perfect addition to it to and wrapped things up really nicely.
  • Science Fell in Love, So I Tried to Prove it
    • Full disclosure, I didn’t finish watching this one because my wife went through all of it and said we needed to stop at a certain point before things took a dark turn. At least, up to the point I watched, this one was really funny. The characters are charming and silly, and the voice performances were top notch. I knew I recognized the voice of Yukimura within the first few minutes. RIP Billy Kametz. We lost you too soon. What an outstanding performance though.
  • Skip and Loafer
    • I can’t wait to see more of this one. What a surprise! I didn’t expect to like this one as much as I did, but it’s so cozy. I like any story where I can see a character (or preferably characters, plural) grow into better versions of themselves. Mitsumi is so relatable to our adolescent optimism, and Shima exudes the kind of kindness and understanding we all would like to have. The way their dynamic unfolds through the series just feels my heart with the warm and fuzzies. It’s such a cozy anime to watch. Curl up this winter with some hot chocolate or some coffee and give this one a watch/read.
  • Spy x Family
    • What can I say? It’s Spy Family. It’s the anime all of the non-otakus watch, and for good reason. The characters are fun and interesting. The setting is mysterious, yet familiar. I swear this is Japanese propaganda to get everyone to have kids, because it somehow makes family life seem sincere and comfortable (at least to this guy). I really like how season 2 went into the back stories of some of the side characters. It makes this world feel more lived in and relatable. I can’t wait to see what the movie will bring. Also, I have a volume of manga I need to get around to reading 👀.
  • Tomo-chan is a Girl!
    • This one also surprised me. I didn’t think I’d enjoy this one as much as I did, but I watched the anime twice (dub and sub), then read the manga. I couldn’t get enough! It’s really short and sweet, so it doesn’t overstay its welcome, and it’s not hard to get into (I will never watch One Piece and I’m not ashamed to admit it). The dynamic between Misuzu and the rest of the cast kept me laughing the whole time. Jad Saxton (her voice actor) is a national treasure. I was also amazed that the voice actor for Carol is the same in both the Japanese and English dub. Sally Amaki is incredible!
  • TONIKAWA: Over The Moon For You
    • To be honest, I can’t remember if I watched all of this one this year, or if I just watched season 2 + the bonus stuff this year. Regardless, it’s a really nice watch. There’s still a lot of mystery surrounding the plot, so I’m excited to see where it goes next. I enjoy anything with Erika Harlacher in it, so this was an easy like for me.
  • Trigun Stampede
    • I never watched the original that aired on Toonami (or was it Adult Swim? or both?). This one was a really fun watch though. They left things open for a season 2 at the end, so I’m excited to watch more when it comes out (granted they make a season 2).
  • Wotakoi: Love is Hard for Otaku
    • I watched this one later in the year after all of the other adult workplace romcoms, and this one was easily my favorite of them all. Do yourself a favor and find the OVAs once you’re done because it’s so worth it. The characters are fantastic, and I loved the relationships and dynamics among the main cast. I hope we’ll someday get an English dub of this one, because I think it’d be great for more people to see this. I haven’t started the manga yet, but it’s on my to-do list. My wife has been binging it and I always hear her laughing about a scene that wasn’t in the anime, so I’m excited to start that one soon. If you’re a nerd/otaku, give this one a watch. It’s great!

Anime/Manga I Enjoyed the Most

This is really close between Kaguya-sama and the Quintuplets, but I think I have to give Kaguya-sama the final win because the English dub is just absolutely the best dub I’ve ever had the pleasure of witnessing.

Honorable Mentions

I think the nerd community ate really well this year. We had so many good games and anime release this year that we’d be hard pressed to not find something we like. Since I couldn’t give the Quintuplets the win in the section above, they’ll get it here. The movie did a really nice job of wrapping everything up from the anime, and I honestly couldn’t even make it to the release of the movie in time, so I ended up binging the manga in one sitting.

Personal Projects in 2023

I’ve been keeping a dev log of sorts for the past few posts. As you may well know, I’m doing my best to get back into game development and take it more seriously. Being a game dev has been my dream since I was just a kid. Of course, I’m not very good at it (yet), but I’m eager to learn more and improve. This year, I started and completed some courses on Godot. I’ve been keeping track of my progress in a monorepo. While I’m done with the courses, I didn’t want my education to end there, so in my last post, I asked what kind of game I should try and make. My wife suggested I combine two of our favorite series (Kirby and Castlevania) into something. Thus, the idea for KirbVania was born. While I’m not done with it, I have made some good progress. The experience has been a challenging, but rewarding one.

I will never release this “game” to the public, because I’m not an imbecile. The last thing I need is N*ntendo knocking on my door. However, using familiar characters and set pieces has made this project more bearable and fun, especially as someone that’s focused more on the programming aspect of things.

Going into 2024, I’d like to finally get around to redoing my website. I’d like to have more control over things, so I want to get away from using Hugo. I don’t know if swapping to Astro or NextJS is going to be super beneficial yet, but I’ll mess around with it once I get the chance. If I had the time and money, I’d love to work with a designer to get the new site looking good, but alas, I’m not in that position at the moment, so I’ll just need to work with what I have.

Conclusion

It’s hard to remember everything that’s happened in a year, so I’m sure I missed some things here and there. I look forward to the new year since I plan on taking a trip to Japan. It’s been a dream of mine to go there since I was a kid, so over the course of the next several months, it’s time to learn some Japanese. Let’s all do our best. 皆さん、一緒にがんばろう! (みなさん、いっしょにがんばろう!) Happy New Year!