2023: Still Riding The Rush
Join Jon from Games with Jon & James as he shares his personal Game of the Year!
2023 has been a landmark year for video games. There were so many tentpole releases: highly anticipated installments in long-standing franchises, amazing licensed games (and some terrible ones), new genre standard-bearers, throwbacks to classics, and so much more. While this is the time of year for people to look to the future, I enjoy taking the time to look back at my favorite games of this year. Upon reflection, there is one game in particular that stands out from the rest. A game that came out of nowhere, announced its presence with authority, and a game that I still find myself thinking about nearly 12 months later. I’m speaking, of course, about Hi-Fi Rush.
In the same year that brought us a brand new Final Fantasy, 2D Super Mario and Sonic the Hedgehog, I still find myself obsessed with this game. I remember watching the sizzle reel showcasing what Microsoft had cooking for Xbox in 2023. This was the year of Starfield. This was the year of Red Fall. Instead, it became the year of Hi-Fi Rush: a new game from Tango Game Works and Bethesda that evokes memories of the 6th generation of consoles. A rhythm-action, spectacle-fighter, platforming adventure game; a genre that I felt was long dead in an industry saturated with the multiplayer grind-a-thons and over serious Hollywood envying ‘narrative experiences.’
You play as Chai, our hero who draws the ire of Vandalay Industries along with their leader Kale, and his cabal of eccentric villains. You’re immediately pulled into a deeper conflict alongside Peppermint, a hacker attempting to foil the plans of Kale, after learning that project Armstrong is a cover for something far more sinister. Along the way, you make new friends, overcome challenging enemies and bosses, unlock new combos and special moves, all set to an amazing soundtrack in an immersive world loaded with humor and personality.
Before this falls into full-blown review territory, I want to express how thrilled I am that this game exists. Here’s a short list of the modern gaming conventions it doesn’t follow:
No In-Game Shop
No Battle Pass
No Season Pass
No Resource Gathering
No RPG Mechanics
No Leveling or Grinding
A Complete Story, With An Ending
And Free Post-Game Content
It blows me away that this game exists in the state it does. It speaks to the confidence of the developers for this to drop this the day it was revealed on game pass, and at a modest price on PC — Which you know I bought as a companion to my Game Pass download.
To me, this is what Xbox should be doing. This is the type of game that Xbox should be promoting on its platform; a game whose sensibilities are the polar opposite of their competition. A well crafted, finally tuned video game. Not a live service, no over blown budget or hype machine, just a good, fun video game.
Not only that — and this might sound unrelated but stick with me — I was fortunate enough to marry the love of my life this year. We share a love for video games, and this was the year she bought herself an Xbox. This was her first experience on the Xbox platform, and what a game to start with. It was something we could play together, where we could cheer each other on as we powered through challenges, a game whose characters made us laugh, and made us empathize with their struggles and goals. Most importantly, it was a game that was focused on fun. A fun world with fun characters, using fun mechanics telling a fun story.
Hi-Fi Rush is a game, unlike many other games released nowadays, that when it was over, I wanted more. Even after finishing the post game challenges, I still want more. To this day, it’s a game I return to just to feel the joy of being in that world again. It’s inspired creativity and focused vision, set it apart from so much of the dreck that we get nowadays. When was the last time you played a game that brought you a sense of unbridled joy? Hi-Fi Rush is a flag-bearer for what games once were, and what they can be again.
So, Phil, when’s the sequel?
About the Author:
Jon Anderson is a gamer, illustrator, graphic designer, video and sound editor, broadcaster, photographer, videographer, voice actor, and even a 2D artist for a brief time in the gaming industry. He's brought his eclectic skillset to the Games with Jon & James Podcast!