Hello once again, friends. We’re back with another vital piece of our best of 2023 roll-out. Regular readers will recognize this pattern. Today, we’re giving out some Genre Awards. I’ve grabbed a bunch of different popular genres and selected my favorite game in each category. There’s also a runner-up for each in case you want more to chew on. Let’s dive on in and have a look at what I think are the best of the bunch in each genre for this year. And of course, feel free to comment below with your picks if they’re different.
Best Platformer Game
Super Mario Bros. Wonder ($59.99)
I was genuinely looking forward to reviewing this one, and then I landed in the hospital for ten days. Silver lining: we got to see Mikhail’s review. Other silver lining: I got to digest this amazing game at my own pace. I had thought Nintendo had essentially closed the book on 2D Mario with New Super Mario Bros. U and Super Mario Maker 2. What more could be done? A lot, it turns out. Bolstered by a fresh presentation and a busted fire hydrant of fun new ideas, Super Mario Bros. Wonder showed that this old dog can keep showing off new tricks all day long almost four decades on. And that, my friends, is wonderful.
Runner-Up: Curse Crackers: For Whom the Belle Toils ($15.00)
Best Role-Playing Game
Octopath Traveler II ($59.99)
This was an incredibly competitive genre this year, with plenty of great options that could easily slot in for this position without much argument from me. With that said, I wanted to highlight original titles over remakes, and in that regard I believe Octopath Traveler II to be the top of the heap. While the first game was the talk of the town when it launched, I feel like a lot of people slept on this one. It’s a shame, because I think this game does a better job of delivering on the promise of the first one. With excellent writing, intriguing gameplay mechanics, and a solid level of challenge, this is one to play for any RPG fan.
Runner-Up: Labyrinth of Galleria: The Moon Society ($59.99)
Best Puzzle Game
Suika Game ($2.99)
Hey, it’s new to North America this year. And importantly, this game that had quietly sat unnoticed in the Japanese eShop for a couple of years suddenly caught fire in 2023. It’s tough to describe all of the way this game pulls you in, but I believe it’s a fine combination of a charming presentation, predictable physics that can still sometimes surprise you, and just the right amount of randomness to force you to adjust your plans on the fly. Going for a watermelon is always a solid challenge, and even once you’ve accomplished that you can always aim for a higher score. I don’t know if I’ll still be playing Suika Game in 2025, but we’re about to head into 2024 and I’m not tired of it yet.
Runner-Up: Snakebird Complete ($14.99)
Best Action Game
Astlibra Revision ($24.99)
It was hard to find a place to fit this game, but I think the action component is big enough to put it here. I really had no idea what I was in for with this game when I first started it, but I knew Mikhail had praised it quite a bit after he played it on another platform. And yes, this is indeed quite the specimen. It’s an action-RPG that goes on for a frankly absurd amount of hours, but the time just flies thanks to the solid mechanics and compelling character progression. If you’re looking for a game that will keep you busy for a very long time without boring you, Astlibra Revision is an excellent pick.
Runner-Up: Vampire Survivors ($4.99)
Best Sports Game
EA Sports FC 24 ($59.99)
In contrast to other genres, this one was quite thin this year. I feel like this is the one category where the Switch sometimes doesn’t have a good option, and that leaves me with handing this award over to EA Sports FC 24 for actually trying for once. It’s not a hand-me-down from the PlayStation 3/Xbox 360 generation of consoles, and it’s not a Legacy Edition. Is it up to the version on more powerful consoles? No, of course not. But it’s a solid soccer game for Switch owners, and that’s enough to give it the nod in 2023.
Runner-Up: MLB The Show 23 ($59.99)
Best Racing Game
F-Zero 99 (Free with NSO Subscription)
I don’t think anyone would have seen this coming at the beginning of the year, but the winner of our racing award this year is an F-Zero game. An F-Zero game where you race against tons of other players, available for free through a Nintendo Switch Online subscription. In hindsight this is a very obvious candidate for Nintendo’s massively multiplayer line, and F-Zero works very well with this set-up. A great blend of the old and the new, and one that can please fans and newcomers alike.
Runner-Up: Hot Wheels Unleashed 2: Turbocharged ($49.99)
Best Fighting Game
The King of Fighters XIII Global Match ($19.99)
Another genre with somewhat slim pickings this year, but luckily SNK rolled in near the end of 2023 with an excellent port of The King of Fighters XIII. A few UI issues are the only real spots on this conversion, and the game itself is excellent. Just make sure you find yourself a decent controller or stick, because this can get gnarly in a hurry with the stock Joy-Cons. Note that while I have put Mortal Kombat 1 here as the runner-up, I really don’t recommend it on this platform if you have any other choice.
Runner-Up: Mortal Kombat 1 ($69.99)
Best Music/Rhythm Game
Theatrhythm Final Bar Line ($49.99)
In finally making a full break from the Nintendo 3DS and its stylus, Theatrhythm had the chance to make some big changes. Some will like them, and some won’t. But I think even if you prefer the previous game in the series, it’s difficult to argue with the value proposition of this game. Even if you don’t indulge in the DLC, you’ve got an absurd number of songs to play through, with just about every corner of the Final Fantasy universe getting at least some acknowledgement. Final Fantasy fans are sure to be pleased, and rhythm game fans in general will also have a good time.
Runner-Up: Trombone Champ ($14.99)
Best Party Game
WarioWare: Move It! ($49.99)
The garlic-breathed rotter came back to Switch for one more go with this follow-up of sorts to the Nintendo Wii Smooth Moves. Take on various stances and play a wide array of mini-games. My initial playthrough of this game was with my son, and we had a great time figuring out what to do each time and then trying to pull it off. Some of the asks are a little much for the tech, but all of the players will have to deal with that so it works out fine in a multiplayer context.
Runner-Up: Manic Mechanics ($24.99)
Best Metroidvania Game
Blasphemous 2 ($29.99)
The original Blasphemous earned a lot of fans with its blend of exploratory platforming and Soulslike combat, leaving its sequel with some tough shoes to fill. Fortunately, it was up to the task. If you liked Blasphemous, you’ll enjoy Blasphemous 2 just as much if not more. There are a bunch of new weapons, and each one really changes things up in terms of how you play. The world design once again stands out, and poking around to find all of its corners and secrets will keep you playing for hours on end.
Runner-Up: TEVI ($34.99)
Best Adventure Game
The Legend of Zelda: Tears of the Kingdom ($69.99)
Breath of the Wild isn’t just an excellent reinvention of a series that needed a shot in the arm, it’s also a game synonymous with the Nintendo Switch itself thanks to its launch title status. Following it up was not going to be an easy task, and the development team took several years to do the job. While the decision to keep Tears of the Kingdom in the same world means it isn’t quite as surprising or novel as its predecessor, the new gameplay mechanics and changed context for most of the familiar sites of Hyrule put a satisfying new spin on things. Add in the huge sky and underground areas, and you’ve got lots of good reasons to dive into the Switch take on Hyrule one last time.
Runner-Up: Cocoon ($24.99)
Best FPS/Shooting Game
Metroid Prime Remastered ($39.99)
I know, this is a weird place to put this game. It’s not really a first-person shooter in the traditional sense. You’ll do lots of shooting, and it does use a first-person view, but this is really a genuine first-person, 3D take on the Metroid formula. This “remaster” really went above and beyond in updating the game, and it somehow managed to be one of the best-looking games on a platform three generations past its origin. If you’ve never played Metroid Prime before, this is an excellent way to do so.
Runner-Up: DRAINUS ($19.99)
Best Narrative Adventure Game
Meg’s Monster ($14.99)
Meg’s Monster absolutely destroyed me. I had no idea what I was getting into when I started playing the game, but I had heard some buzz from Japanese players and thought the visuals looked good. There are some light RPG mechanics in play here, but it’s more of an adventure game with a heavy narrative focus. A little girl appears in a world of monsters, and it seems as though the world might end if she cries. A monster named Roy ends up taking her in to try to help her get home, and the journey is absolutely heart-wrenching. Meg’s Monster still lives rent-free in my head months after finishing it, and I think at this point it’s going to be setting down roots there.
Runner-Up: Jack Jeanne ($49.99)
Best Strategy Game
Pikmin 4 ($59.99)
Good year for Gamecube revivals, I suppose. After the surprising success of the Switch version of Pikmin 3, it seemed pretty much inevitable we would finally see the promised fourth entry. And hey, it came. It looks amazing, it’s easier to get into than ever, and it remains one of the most charming real-time strategy games you could imagine. Along with the surprise release of ports of the first two games in the series, the Switch is now the ultimate home of Pikmin games and I couldn’t be happier about it. Head on out and get exploring the surrealism of the mundane!
Runner-Up: Fire Emblem Engage ($59.99)
The Making of Karateka ($19.99)
Building on the extremely well-executed Atari 50‘s foundations, this is an incredibly deep dive into a single game and everything that went into its creation. There are a handful of versions of the game in question that can be played here along with a few other bits and bobs, and they’re enjoyable enough in their own right. But having such rich context provided for each of them makes it even more compelling to dig into these historical artifacts. It doesn’t matter if you like Karateka or not – this interactive documentary is equally fascinating for any student of gaming’s past.
Runner-Up: Wonder Boy Anniversary Collection ($49.99)
Best Simulation Game
PowerWash Simulator ($24.99)
It’s hard to believe, but I ended up pouring just about as many hours into PowerWash Simulator as I did Tears of the Kingdom this year. This is a great game to chill with, cleaning the many interesting settings the game throws at you with your power washer and a few handy nozzles. Every little thing you clean flashes and gives you a little “ding!”, and you will soon learn to live for the “ding!”. The free DLC is also incredibly generous, greatly extending the already robust main campaign.
Runner-Up: DREDGE ($24.99)
Xenoblade Chronicles 3: Future Redeemed ($29.99)
There was a lot of good DLC to choose from this year, but ultimately the Future Redeemed expansion for Xenoblade Chronicles 3 gets the nod. It’s the mark of a strong add-on if it becomes essential to the game, so what does it say when an add-on is essential to its entire series? Future Redeemed ties together the entire Xenoblade Chronicles trilogy, drawing things to a satisfying close. If you like Xenoblade, you need to play this DLC.
Runner-Up: Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Shredder’s Revenge – Dimension Shellshock ($7.99)
Best 1-2-Switch! Game
Everybody 1-2-Switch! ($29.99)
It was a stellar year for 1-2-Switch! games, as we got a 1-2-Switch! game. Everybody 1-2-Switch is undeniably the greatest 1-2-Switch! game released in 2023. If you’re looking for a new 1-2-Switch! game to add to your collection, there is no better choice this year than Everybody 1-2-Switch!.
Runner-Up: Everybody 1-2-Switch! ($29.99)
That’s a wrap for the 2023 Genre Awards, dear friends. If you’re looking for more along these lines, there have been plenty of Best of 2023 articles posted to the site this week. Tomorrow we’ll have our overall Best Games of 2023 list, so keep your eyes peeled for that. I hope you can find some games to enjoy among the many featured here, and if you have some favorites of your own to share, I encourage you to comment below. As always, thanks for reading!