As we talked about in our previous Best Games of 2023 list, it was a banner year for mobile gaming. But not just mobile gaming, but all platforms were graced with all sorts of awesome games throughout 2023. We are first and foremost a mobile gaming site, but when the Nintendo Switch launched in 2017 we were huge fans, and since it did fit in pretty well with what we were doing on TouchArcade already we’ve since welcomed it into part of our daily coverage. Then last year the Steam Deck launched, and while I wouldn’t say it’s quite as close a cousin to mobile devices as the Nintendo Switch is, it’s still a gaming device designed for on-the-go, and… it has a touchscreen. So, boom! Let’s cover Steam Deck as well!
The truth is that each of us here are just gamers at heart, and while we have a deep love of mobile gaming and feel it deserves to be taken just as seriously as consoles and PC, we’re also huge fans of all gaming platforms. Adding Switch and Steam Deck into our coverage rotation comes mainly from our own passion of wanting to do so, and in turn we hope we’ve helped to bring some great content to readers who normally come here for mobile gaming stuff but love their Switch and/or Steam Deck devices too. So for our Game of the Year piece this year we’ve decided to pick a winner for both Switch and Steam Deck in addition to an iPhone and iPad choice.
There’s another wrinkle to this year’s picks. Previously we’ve included picks specific to Apple Arcade and Netflix in addition to regular old App Store releases because it felt kind of weird to pick a game that was “locked” behind a subscription as our sole GotY pick, but it also didn’t feel fair excluding those games simply because they were part of a different kind of pay model. Our solution was to just pick one for each. However, after Apple Arcade then Netflix showed up, and now this year Crunchyroll is getting in on the subscription fun, and it’s hard to know where the state of these services will be going in 2024. Do we just keep picking a GotY for each subscription service even if there ends up being, like, ten of them? That seems kind of silly.
For this year we decided to take how a game was paid for or accessed out of the equation. We wanted to compare the games themselves against each other without any of the pay model stuff entering into the equation. The result, as you can likely see by now, is that our iPhone Game of the Year is an Apple Arcade game. This was the game that we enjoyed the most and felt best deserved the honor. Is this going to be controversial? Maybe! But the alternative might mean adding more and more GotY picks to these posts each year, and I feel like that kind of dilutes things. Anyway, I just thought it was worth mentioning our thought process. I do feel bad that people who don’t have Apple Arcade can’t play our pick, but I guess if we picked a paid game and you were flat broke, you wouldn’t be able to play that either, so maybe this isn’t really all that different.
I’ll stop rambling now! Hopefully you enjoy our picks and please feel free to leave any comments, both good or bad, about these decisions in the comment section below. Or if you feel very strongly that there were other games that deserved these honors, tell us about ’em. As always thank you for reading and supporting TouchArcade, we hope you have a happy and safe new year and we’ll see you in 2024!
iPhone Game of the Year 2023: ‘Ridiculous Fishing EX’
[Review] – [Game of the Week] – You know, right around this time 10 years ago we were picking the original Ridiculous Fishing as our Game of the Year for 2013. Boy, where does the time go? At that time we highlighted the excellent gameplay loop that had you launching a fishing line down into the depths of the ocean, tilting your device to try and avoid hitting any creatures in order to do down as deep as the line could go, and then once your line was on its upwards swing trying to catch absolutely everything you could on the hook before you reached the surface. Once you did reach the surface the really absurd fun began, as all your caught sea creatures were then flung into the sky, where you would then use a variety of weapons to blast them out of said sky and earn cold hard cash for doing so. That cash could then go towards upgrades that would let you go deeper, shoot harder, and unlock more and more places to partake in this weird brand of fishing.
It’s a gameplay loop that still hold ups and is a perfect fit for mobile. The only problem was that over the years, as new devices and versions of iOS showed up, the original Ridiculous Fishing never quite kept pace. I mean, keeping any mobile game running smoothly long term can be a tall order, but it was especially upsetting to see one of the greatest mobile original games of all time falling by the wayside. Ridiculous Fishing needed an update, or a remaster, or something to bring it up to modern standards and continue delighting players for many more years to come.
Well that is what we’ve got here with Ridiculous Fishing EX. Original developers Vlambeer, Zach Gage, and Greg Wohlwend partnered up with GNOG developer KO_OP to rebuild the game from the ground up as an Apple Arcade original. The unique angular pixel art style of the original is translated into gorgeous 3D visuals, and there are many more modern touches all over the place, but the core experience of the original Ridiculous Fishing has been preserved in this EX version. This is the Ridiculous Fishing we all know and love, but built for modern times and looking better than ever. Basically a dream come true for me and many others.
Except… they didn’t stop there. While the entireity of the original Ridiculous Fishing was present in this new remake, KO_OP went a step further and added something called the Pro Fishing Tour. Here they were free to play around with the original formula and try new ideas and mechanics, while still leaving the original experience intact. Pro Fishing Tour feels almost like a full sequel, with its own progression system and unique modifiers, and with its very modern seasonal approach to new content it’s like the part of the game that just keeps on giving. You could have released Pro Fishing Tour as Ridiculous Fishing 2 and I would have been completely satisfied. That it’s built in alongside an exquisite full remake of the original just makes this feel like the ultimate realization of Ridiculous Fishing. – Jared Nelson
iPad Game of the Year 2023: ‘Hitman: Blood Money — Reprisal’
[Review] – [Game of the Week] – Just like last year, Feral Interactive wins 2023’s iPad Game of the Year with Hitman: Blood Money — Reprisal. Not only did Hitman: Blood Money — Reprisal offer a superb conversion of a fantastic game for mobile, but it feels amazing to play on modern iPads delivering the definitive version of IO Interactive’s classic. It is so good that I hope Feral Interactive gets to bring it to consoles and Steam.
While we try and limit this to iPad-only games, Hitman: Blood Money — Reprisal did enough on the iPad side to be the version I go back to the most following my review of it. A few months ago, I figured something like a Resident Evil port or another release would win here, but Feral Interactive knocked it out of the park with this conversion. As usual, I can’t wait to see what Feral Interactive has in store for us in the next 12 months. Hitman: Blood Money — Reprisal is easily the best iPad game of 2023, and one of Feral Interactive’s best conversion yet. If you’ve been playing on iOS for many years, you know I wouldn’t say that lightly. – Mikhail Madnani
Nintendo Switch Game of the Year 2023: ‘The Legend of Zelda: Tears of the Kingdom’
[Review] – And so here we are, with the obvious pick. Sometimes that happens. Honestly, I thought The Legend of Zelda: Tears of the Kingdom had it fully in the bag, no contest, back when it came out. It’s one of those games where you almost immediately feel that it’s on a level of its own. Then Mario had to roll in and make this an actual fight. Ultimately, I feel the new mechanics did some very heavy lifting in terms of making this world we’ve already seen feel fresh. The Ultrahand in particular totally changes the interactivity of the world, allowing us to have entirely new situations and “conversations” with familiar elements. So much of the fun in Breath of Wild was in how you started as a small speck in a big world and gradually became a force to be reckoned with.
Tears of the Kingdom ups the ante on this progression, and you almost feel like a god of some sort by the end. Fortunately, it also throws an appropriate counter force against you so that you have a reason to push yourself further. It’s not a perfect game, but that’s not really what any of this is about. It is, however, a tremendously fun game that shapes itself to the player’s imagination and creative whims, all while maintaining a nice balance of exploration, puzzle-solving, combat, and even a little story as a treat. I don’t know how the Zelda team is going to one-up this, and I don’t know if a return trip to this specific version of Hyrule would work again. But it certainly worked this time, and I’m just sitting here flabbergasted we got two Zelda games of this level of quality in a single generation of hardware. – Shaun Musgrave
Steam Deck Game of the Year 2023: ‘Street Fighter 6’
This is the first year where we are doing a Steam Deck Game of the Year in addition to our iPhone and iPad awards. 2023 remains one of the best years for gaming, but one stood tall above the rest in its quality and in how much I played it across multiple platforms including Steam Deck. With Street Fighter 6, Capcom went all out and overdelivered after the subpar launch of Street Fighter V. Street Fighter 6 is not only perfect on Steam Deck both online and offline, but it also delivered one of the best fighting game packages ever from launch day with its superb story mode, training options, brilliant multiplayer experience, and fantastic gameplay across the board. Capcom even added in some notable accessibility settings making it more approachable across the board.
Whether you’re new to fighting games or have been playing them for ages, Street Fighter 6 is an easy recommendation. Give the Street Fighter 6 demo a shot if you aren’t sure yet. I even came around to the music, and in a lot of ways, Street Fighter 6 is Capcom’s best fighting game since Street Fighter III: 3rd Strike. It is absolutely worth your time, and is a Monster Hunter World: Iceborne level release from Capcom that continues Capcom’s massive winning streak that began a few years ago. I can’t wait to see how much it evolves in 2024 as more characters are added. – Mikhail Madnani
Previous Game of the Year Picks: