In theory, each year is a better time to start gaming than the last - it’s not like games from the past get deleted, and… wait. I’m hearing they do in fact get deleted all the time as we move from console to console and fail to account for backwards compatibility or availability in an all-digital world. It’s for that reason that remakes have become so common, and why this year really is the best time to get into gaming.
It’s not just that we’ve had a lot of remakes this year. That’s been the case for a while now. It’s that when we look at the specific games that have been remade, we see a clear pattern. System Shock just launched to a solid critical reception, and while the fanfare has been quieter than for some, it remains a crucial video game in the canon, having most obviously influenced Deus Ex and BioShock, as well as Prey, Alien: Isolation, and Metro.
Alongside System Shock is Resident Evil 4, the best game in the series and by far the most influential. The claustrophobic over-the-shoulder perspective tied to scarce resources, overpowered and thematically important villains, and heavy variation in gameplay experience depending on the player’s choice of how to approach a scenario all shaped the horror genre and wider gaming for over a decade. Not only the best Resident Evil game, but a contender for the best and most influential game ever put to polygons.
Resident Evil 4’s influence can be found in everything from Demon’s Souls to Uncharted, with a brief layover at The Last of Us. The most obvious inspiration though can be found in Dead Space, which also takes a lot of cues from System Shock. With Dead Space also returning to the shores of Pixellandia this year, it’s a supercharged history lesson, especially for horror aficionados.
While we’re on the trail of essential and influential entries in video game history being remade for modern audiences, we have Metal Gear Solid: Snake Eater to look forward to next year. We just need to figure out if it’s called 3 or Triangle or Delta or if the symbol is silent. Welcome to the wonderful world of gaming.
It’s not just via remakes that 2023 is providing a safe landing for newcomers, though. Several new games either are (or promise to be) a newcomer’s dream. Tears of the Kingdom is the Game of the Year-elect, and it prides itself on being a ‘do anything’ playground that does not require an expert level of skill. Compare that to last year’s GOTY champion Elden Ring and despite the two games sharing a core exploration philosophy, you find two very different experiences.
It would need something spectacular for it to dethrone TOTK, but Starfield is another major contender as this year’s biggest game, and it launches a whole new IP - everyone is a newcomer. Final Fantasy 16 meanwhile has taken great pains to emphasise that it is for brand new players, even considering dropping the numbers altogether. Street Fighter 6 is also winning praise for embracing rookies into the fold.
It could also be worth mentioning Mortal Kombat 1, whose name suggests a newcomers-welcome reboot, despite the fact it will probably be the most confusing narrative of the lot with in-jokes and multiversal references and timeline shenanigans. Maybe stick with Street Fighter 6.
Of course, there’s the indie scene too. This is often a more sensible pathway into gaming anyway, with a greater range of approachable games thrown in with the experimental ones. This year in particular the breakout hits have been A Space for the Unbound, Pizza Tower, and Dredge, all of which take simple gameplay concepts and expand on them with fresh ideas or interesting narratives.
Gaming is taking in a wider audience than ever before, and new viewpoints only make games fresher and more relevant. 2023 is providing history lessons and easy on-ramps that make it the best year to be a new gamer in quite some time.
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