Tuesday, January 09, 2024

My favorite games of 2023 that came out before 2023

Not all of the games I played and loved in 2023 actually came out in 2023. The three titles covered here -- About An Elf, Dragon Quest Treasures, and Pokémon Violet -- are prime examples. They're also among my favorite games of last year.

About An Elf (Switch)

Developer and publisher Meringue Interactive describes About An Elf as a "point-and-click-ish, RPG-ish, visual-novel-ish game." Though accurate, it doesn't do this 2022 eShop release justice.

About An Elf may be the strangest game I've ever played. Nearly every aspect of it will have you scratching your head -- from the outlandish cast (which includes an Ulala-esque elf and her "oh noes"-spouting cat companion), to the nonsensical save-the-world story, to the inscrutable battles, and more.

They'll also likely put a smile on your face and keep you engaged for the few hours About An Elf lasts, though, which is the main reason I'm giving it a nod here. Another reason: despite the fact that About An Elf is a fairly silly and superficial experience, I regularly think about returning to it and its fever-dream world.

Dragon Quest Treasures (PC, Switch)

A lot of folks turned up their noses at this release as soon as they realized it wasn't a new Dragon Quest Monsters game. I feel no allegiance to nor nostalgia for the Monsters series, so I went into it with few biases or expectations.

I'd like to think that's at least partially responsible for why I enjoyed it so much. Also helping matters was that Dragon Quest Treasures reminded me of a similar offshoot, Pokémon Legends: Arceus, that quickly won me over in recent years. Both games offer up open worlds that are thrilling to explore and more action-focused gameplay than their parent series provide.

Sure, Treasures could and probably should include a wider selection of Dragon Quest's iconic enemies, but I had a blast even with the palette-swap-heavy crew that currently fills the game's varying environs.

Pokémon Violet (Switch)

Well, well, what have we here? Another game that message-board denizens love to hate and yet I adored. For me, Pokémon Violet was one of the best experiences I've had with a Pokémon game to date.

Of course, how could it not? It took what was my favorite aspect of Pokémon Shield, the Wild Area, and expanded it to cover the entire map, after all. Another draw for me was the three storylines you can tackle at your discretion. I get the feeling it would be difficult, if not impossible, to finish the game without completing all three stories, but I appreciated the increased freedom all the same.

Really, though, the highlight of playing Pokémon Violet for me was the same highlight of all my favorite Pokémon games so far: the simple joy of spotting a new Pokémon, trying to and (hopefully) succeeding at catching it, and then moving onto the next, rinse-and-repeat style. 

See also: my favorite games of 2023 (that actually came out in 2023)