Welcome to Indie Ranger’s 2023 end of the year features, it’s been a while, but when I was asked to recap some of my favorite games this year, I couldn’t say no.
For me, it feels like the indie scene was more subdued than usual. There were a few big indie hits (like Lethal Company) that came out of nowhere, but surprisingly some larger titles managed to recapture my attention.
So for 2023 I thought I’d share my top 5 games of the year.
Lethal Company was this year’s sudden hit, you and up to 3 friends can slave away for a faceless space corporation and retrieve artifacts from alien worlds. All the while encountering low-poly monstrosities and the hilarity of proximity voice chat.
Much like how Phasmophobia captured audiences, the scares come from the game, but the humor comes from who you play it with. I’ve spent hours with friends stealing everyday items from monster-ridden warehouses
Refind Self is another experimental game from developer Lizardry whose past work includes a visual novel where you have to learn a fictional language. In Refind Self you play a robot that can only perform a set number of interactions before powering down. The things you choose to do, the order you do them in, and the choices you make culminate in a personality profile.
The game encourages repeated playthroughs and features an overarching narrative beyond each individual run. Thankfully, the game keeps things honest and understands that you’ll behave differently in subsequent playthroughs. So even as you discover and explore your personality profile will remain true to yourself.
The Disgaea franchise came back in full force this year. Disgaea 6 felt a bit sloppy, but with the seventh installation in the franchise, I was able to spend a lot of time grinding levels; which is basically the entire gameplay loop of the series. But that’s what makes it a great timesink, finding new ways to gear up and level is rewarding and there’s always some clever trick you can pull. On the surface, Disgaea 7 is a strategy game, but at heart it’s all about playing the meta.
The irreverent brand of humor that the franchise is known for is back and parodies the opening of Japan in the mid 1800s following the gunboat diplomacy of Matthew Perry. The best thing about the franchise is how each game is a largely self-contained narrative, so no need to play the 2003 original.
World of Warcraft: Season of Discovery
World of Warcraft is back… again. While WoW Classic has been around, Blizzard is finally trying their hand at something more exciting with old content. We previously had Season of Mastery, which was just a rehash of ‘Classic’ with some quality of life improvements.
Now Blizzard is finally brave enough to change the game, create new content, and new mechanics. Blackfathom Deeps was revamped into a level 25 RAID and Ashenvale itself became a zone with world pvp objectives culminating in an Alterac Valley style event. Hopefully the popularity of Season of Discovery encourages future experimentation.
Sea of Thieves
Bringing up the end of the list is my usual standby game Sea of Thieves, despite it being years since the game came out, there’s nothing quite like Sea of Thieves.
This was a rough year for the game, with a long content drought and extended seasons, but the great thing about Sea of Thieves is that no session is the same. Despite the lack of new content, it’s always one of my favorite games to come back to; and with quick content like sea forts and hourglass, you don’t have to commit hours per session.