Last weekend, I went to my first PAX event ever. And damn, 2023 has been a good year for games, but if this PAX was any indication, we’re in for a doozy of a year in 2024. If 2023 was the best year for AAA’s, it’s looking like 2024 will be an incredible year for indies. Here’s our top 10 best games of PAX West 2023.
This comes with a couple disclaimers:
- The lines for those Persona games were way too damn long for me to bother waiting. They might have been up here with the best. We’ll never know (until they come out)!
- I’m including a lot of games I played at the MIX event too because the event was sick and there were really, really good games there. Yell at me in the quote tweets if that makes you unhappy so we can farm some engagement off of you, at least.
Captain Wayne is the champion of one of my favorite genres: intense, first-person action. I absolutely made an idiot of myself struggling through the demo at this booth, but the times I actually made a tiny little baby bit of progress made me feel like a total badass. I’m hoping when I get my hands on this on its release, I can actually make my way through it. Plus, I got to meet the real-life Captain Wayne. Pretty cool, if you ask me.
Okay, you might roll your eyes when I say “Earthbound-inspired RPG,” but I promise Cricket has an individual, interesting spin on the genre. First of all, timing-based bonuses for RPG attacks are back, baby, and in Cricket they come with a great risk-reward system for perfect timing. Combine this engaging system with an American cartoon-inspired art style, and you’ve got a great turn-based RPG on the horizon with this one.
A Vampire Survivors-like with a Flash game-esque art style, Extremely Powerful Capybaras is a great dumb fun game. The best part: it’s launching with both local and online co-op. Get this with three friends when it comes out in December and catch up with the fellas while your Extremely Powerful Capybara just destroys shit on the screen.
First-person mystery games like this have never really interested me, but after hearing nothing but praise, I decided to go check out Pacific Drive. I’m glad I did, because this game is perhaps the most unique of any I played last weekend. A run-based horror(ish) game, you have to find energy cells to power your car, while also finding scrap parts to keep your car in good shape as you face off against paranormal threats in the Pacific Northwest. This was a game that had me super intrigued, and I’m looking forward to playing the full game when it releases in Q1 2024.
A lot of games were surprises for me on this list, but Cobalt Core might be the most so. This was the last game I played on the last day of the convention, seeing “roguelike deckbuilder” on the TV advertising games at Brace Yourself’s booth. My eternal love for Slay The Spire drew me to it, and I was really happy not to see an imitator, but an innovator. Movement and positioning your ship against enemies is key, and adds a lot of depth to the game. Combine that with great music and a charming art style and you’ve got a deckbuilder that Spire fans won’t want to miss.
I’m not going to try and get fancy with it: this is Hades in Camelot in all of the best ways. Combat and movement felt great, and exploration is much less linear than the choice-based progression that Hades presents. I couldn’t get much of a feel for how the dialogue stands up to that of its Greek counterpart in the short demo I had, but here’s hoping that holds up as well. Either way, the floor of this feels like an homage to one of the best roguelikes out there. This is absolutely one worth keeping an eye on.
DISCLAIMER: I HAVE NEVER PLAYED A ‘PRINCE OF PERSIA’ GAME. I HAVE NO IDEA WHAT YOU GUYS ARE EXPECTING.
And with the major disclaimer out of the way, another minor one: I’m not a big Metroidvania guy. Both of those being said, I adored this demo. The movement feels great, and the combat is one of the most creative & fluid systems I’ve gotten my hands on in a 2D platformer. Teleporting through time with my sword and bow feels great, and I can’t imagine how much better it will feel as I gain power as I travel throughout the world and get new abilities.
I’ve never played Crypt of the Necrodancer, the original in this franchise, so I had no idea what to expect when I played Rift on the showfloor. What I got was, yes, a great rhythm game, but also a boss fight that feels really close to Punch-Out! There’s a lot more rhythm mechanics this time around, sure, but the boss fights are definitely inspired by the long-dormant Nintendo franchise. I’m not sure if these inspirations are the only ones that are focused on throughout the game or if it keeps trying these zany ideas throughout, but I’m coming along for the ride in 2024 either way.
I was a little lukewarm on the original Rivals of Aether. I love platform fighters, but found it a bit tough to get into as a casual player. Rivals 2, on the other hand, feels a lot better, even as a casual player. Controls feel more familiar to Smash Bros, while keeping features that keep Rivals its own thing, like the parry mechanic and the incredibly creative character design. Succeeding in the fighting game space is a tough ask, especially without the backing of a major publisher, but I’ll be rooting for Rivals 2 when it launches in 2024.
This game is the lovechild of two of the very best modern party games: Mario Kart and Ultimate Chicken Horse. Unlike most other multiplayer games at PAX, I was having a blast despite playing with complete strangers. This one is coming to all platforms with cross play, so players that are either casual or competitive are going to love Make Way.