2023 is coming to a close, but while there’s plenty of games to look forward to in 2024, with huge releases like Final Fantasy VII Rebirth coming really soon, sometimes it’s nice to take some time to look back: As such, here’s a list of Frontline Gaming Japan’s ten favorite Japanese games of 2023.
This is not a ranking, some of the games are not (yet?) available in English, we left out some titles that seemed too obvious, and the list is in alphabetical order. Rather than trying to take an objective look at what the top ten best games of the year were, this is instead a completely subjective list of ten games that we enjoyed.
Armored Core VI: Fires of Rubicon
The long-awaited latest game in From Software’s Armored Core series marked a triumphant return to the series’ roots, delivering fantastic gameplay, impeccable controls, and challenging but rewarding boss battles.
Atelier Ryza 3
Though the first game in the Atelier Ryza series had a lukewarm reception from us, its sequels built on its strengths and the third and final game in the trilogy made it all worth it, offering a vast world, refined gameplay, a captivating story, and delightful new characters.
Etrian Odyssey Origins Collection
Though porting the Etrian Odyssey series– comprised of games which heavily rely on the Nintendo DS and 3DS touch screens- seemed like an impossible task for the longest time, the ports of the first three games in the Etrian Odyssey Origins Collection nailed it as well as anyone could hope for.
Fate/Samurai Remnant delivers an action-packed twist on the Fate series, with a compelling blend of combat, colorful characters, and a story that manages to be an excellent entry point for newcomers while being different enough to intrigue franchise veterans.
Fire Emblem Engage
The latest entry in the Fire Emblem series reverently celebrates the series’ heritage by having numerous past heroes appear, and also using them as an interesting way to customize units, and does away with elements like Three Houses’ time management and the children in Awakening and Fates to allow the game to focus more on the strategic combat.
Hayarigami 1/2/3 Pack
Nippon Ichi Software’s classic horror mystery visual novel series, with its X-Files-like setting of police detectives investigating cases involving the occult, has long enjoyed a cult following, and many fans were left disappointed by the 2014 reboot which replaced suspense, dread and mystery with brainless gross-outs and gore; though the reboot series tried to improve on this in the sequels, it never really reached the heights of the original trilogy, and so porting said original trilogy, the latest versions of which were released on the PSP, to current gen platforms is a very welcome move for fans.
Like a Dragon Gaiden: The Man Who Erased His Name
Like a Dragon Gaiden diverges from Yakuza: Like A Dragon by shifting the focus to previous series protagonist Kiryu, and also reverting from turn-based RPG combat to the previous games’ action, and as such feels like the sequel to Kiryu’s story that many series fans wanted.
Tokyo Xanadu (Switch)
Tokyo Xanadu is often outshadowed by Trails and Ys, but combining the post-Cold Steel Trails formula with Ys-like combat and putting it in a fictional version of Tachikawa city (technically still part of Tokyo, but pretty different from the far more common sights of the 23 wards more frequently featured in fiction) results in a pretty comfy game, and the version of the game with additional content was brought to the Switch in 2023.
Though the recent remaster of Kogado’s classic simulation game/visual novel had a rocky launch, most of the problems were quickly resolved with swift updates, making Legacy currently the definitive way to play the game, and though it can naturally feel a bit dated at times (the original release being over two decades old), the game does still have its charm.
Ys X -Nordics-
Ys X shows one of Adol Christin’s earlier adventures in the form of an expansive, oceanic quest, with combat doing away with the three element system in order to focus more on moment-to-moment action.
Want to look back a little back further? Check out Frontline Gaming Japan’s 10 favorite Japanese games of 2022 too!