Every time someone mentions the lack of video games in a given year, someone with very thick glasses appears and says “akshully…” with a list of games you’ve never heard of. I’m not here to do that. 2023 has delivered a disappointing return so far, and there aren’t too many big games on the agenda for the rest of the year: Zelda and Spider-Man need some breakouts. Games have always moved through peaks and valleys, but the pandemic and ever-increasing development times (often resulting in mediocre releases) is a major problem that we can’t fix by simply talking about great indie games. We need strong triple-A pitches for the medium to thrive, and we should worry that we can’t seem to rely on that anymore. But while we’re all busy worrying about it, let me look through my very thick glasses and give you a list of games you’ve never heard of. Just give me a second to get into character. “Akshully…”
The first game is Paranormasight: The Seven Mysteries of Honjo, a much better game than its convoluted title suggests. Playing as a variety of characters, you explore the history of curses befalling a city in 1980s Japan, and the mystery to prevent various murderers and spirits from taking revenge. At first glance, it’s a visual novel with some point-and-click mechanics, but below the surface there are fourth wall breaks, moving themes, quest questions, and a constant barrage of twists and turns. There are multiple endings to unlock, one of which is the darkest I’ve ever seen in a video game. Paranormasight isn’t perfect – it sometimes struggles with its pacing, the range of puzzle difficulties could be more limited, and I’d like more fourth wall meta stuff – but it’s the most unique and compelling game of the year so far. .
I considered focusing on Paranormasight entirely, as it seems to be the least discussed of all the games here, as well as my personal favorite. But of course, it’s also the only one I’ve finished, so the rating could change. However, I thought saying ‘You probably haven’t played the best game of the year’ and then mentioning just one game would be unfair to my beautiful readers who I’ve expertly tempted to click here, and I never like to leave my dissatisfied readers. More specifically, it’s not just about Paranormasight. While triple-A games have been rare and have relied on admittedly excellent remakes, we’ve seen three great indies worth paying attention to. If you want to be in the know when the end of the year rolls around, check these three hidden gems off this list now.
A Space for the Unbound is another favorite not to be missed. Another period piece, this game takes place in the ’90s, based on director Dimas Novan Delfiano’s experience when he was a boy going to school in Indonesia. It takes a lot of cues from Psychonauts, with the protagonist able to dive into the minds of others, but where Psychonauts wraps its more serious themes inside goofy humor or platforming antics, A Space for the Unbound isn’t afraid of the dark. I have yet to finish it all, but I know this is a game that a lot more people should be talking about, and I hope by the end of the year more will have given it a try.
Now for something completely different: Pizza Tower. I just started this one so I’m freaking out but don’t worry this is a game to vibe with. Pizza Tower is Wario Land played at the speed of Sonic, with graphics that look like a Flash game version of Ren & Stimpy. It’s a lightning-fast platformer that’s bound to be covered in secret ingredients, and I can’t wait to try them all. It is also important in a different way; both Paranormasight and A Space for the Unbound are more cerebral and artistic games that can turn off certain players and even seem to have a superiority complex at times. Pizza Tower is more upfront about how good it is, and if some are turned off by the indie scene due to its slow pace and tendency to minimize gameplay for the story, order yourself a stuffed crust from Tour De Pizza.
There’s still a major problem with bigger games leaving slots on the schedule thanks to inefficient production models that aren’t even guaranteed to result in anything special, but 2023 already has some great games available. You may have to search for them a bit. Or, thanks to this article, you won’t. What a lucky duck you are.
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