It’s time for our annual countdown to award the very best games this year had to offer. Over the next ten days, we’ll count down our top ten games of 2023.
As always, the votes of each Press Start team member, weighted from #10 through to #1, were collated to compile our collective very best for the year that was. Games worthy of one’s top spot would be awarded the maximum of 10 points and the values would descend down to their tenth selection, which would receive a single point.
A round of rapid polls were utilised to settle dead heats and finalise the top ten.
Like a buoy bobbing on a troubling sea, Dredge kept its head above the competition this year on the indie front. It combines commercial fishing with the macabre eldritch horrors of lore to create a surreal, eerie fishing game unlike anything we’d seen before.
There’s an intoxicating gameplay loop here that sees you venture out in your modest vessel with all of the trinkets you can afford, and pick the ocean clean before nightfall welcomes to the waters all kinds of twisted, nightmarish creatures. It offers peace and panic in equal measure and filling out the bestiary gives hints of Pokémon.
Although we won’t go so far as to claim Black Salt like our nation did Phar Lap and ‘Rusty’ Crowe, it’s no secret that Dredge’s success has been an enormous boon for homegrown Australasian game development.
“To use fishing terms, Dredge isn’t one you’d kiss and throw back. It’s the definition of a trophy catch. Its series of elegantly simple systems interplay nicely, blending seamlessly with an eerily stunning eldritch style and a moreish checklist of sea life to catch.”
James W said:
“Such great things from such an unassuming little game about a boat, Dredge charts developer Black Salt Games’ first voyage, seamlessly collaging a compelling fishing game with ethereal horror and one of the most striking art directions found in a 2023 title.
Bucking the emerging visual stylings of other “cosy” experiences, Dredge revels in the muck and the grime, each encrusted barnacle and mutated fish somehow still of a piece with the game’s oddly soothing, mildly haunted boating adventure. Beyond the aesthetic and esoteric though, the game’s escalating systems and constant loop of exploration and reward mean Dredge runs a tight ship through and through.”
“Dredge is as charming as it is unsettling, and I loved every moment of Eldritch horror on the high seas, including the game’s short DLC expansion.
With a perfect balance of narrative-driven adventure, grinding and skill-check challenges, Dredge has something to delight everyone. I only wish I could play it for the first time again.”
At the time of publishing, Dredge (for Xbox Series X) stands at an 85 on Metacritic.