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Our NPR colleagues weigh in on their favorite video games of the year

JUANA SUMMERS, HOST:

There were a lot of great video games that came out last year - so many, in fact, that we cannot stay quiet about it. Our colleagues at NPR are here with some of their favorite video games of 2023.

NINA FILL, BYLINE: My name is Nina Fill, and we are going to be discussing Hello Kitty Island Adventure.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

UNIDENTIFIED NARRATOR: Hello. Ready for a vacation at Big Adventures Park?

FILL: You do all the normal cozy gaming things like fishing, crafting. Of course, you make friends with all the Sanrio characters, and who doesn't want to be best friends with all of them? Just really liked being able to pick up and put down a game whenever I wanted to, and that's what I like. There's no pressure.

REGINA BARBER, BYLINE: My name is Regina Barber. I am the scientist-in-residence at NPR. And I want to talk about Dave The Diver because it surprised me that I love it so much.

(SOUNDBITE OF CRASHING)

BARBER: Dave the Diver opens with a man who is living on the beach, and he gets a call from his friend. And his friend's like, I have this awesome business venture. And what you're going to do is - 'cause I know you love diving - you're going to dive into the ocean and get fish for this sushi restaurant that I've opened.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)

BARBER: And then the plot starts to thicken. You start to realize that your friend has weird connections with ecoterrorists and - like, and then there's pirates around. This game is for people who liked games like Harvest Moon. There is some growing of crops. It's cute, but it also hits, like, kind of a cooking itch. Like, if you have any game that has any food in it whatsoever, like, this is going to do it for you.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)

JAMES MASTROMARINO, BYLINE: Hey, I'm James Mastromarino, Here & Now producer and NPR gaming lead. We're going to be talking about Alan Wake II, which was my favorite horror game out of a year with great horror games.

(SOUNDBITE OF VIDEO GAME, "ALAN WAKE 2")

MATTHEW PORRETTA: (As Alan Wake) In a horror story, there are only victims and monsters.

MASTROMARINO: It's a story about stories. It's a story about how we frame stories, how we position ourselves as heroes within it.

(SOUNDBITE OF VIDEO GAME, "ALAN WAKE 2")

PORRETTA: (As Alan Wake) How do you run from an idea...

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)

PORRETTA: (As Alan Wake) ...From a story that lives in your head?

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)

MASTROMARINO: And it's one of those games that you just want to think about for a while. Like, after the credits rolled, I couldn't believe what I had experienced. I just kind of, like, sat there and, like, was like, I have to play that again. I have to see what's going on with this, like, insane story.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)

RAKIESHA CHASE-JACKSON, BYLINE: My name is Rakiesha Chase-Jackson. I am a project manager on the Member Partnership team at NPR. And the game we're talking about is A Space For The Unbound. You are playing as two high-schoolers in the '90s in Indonesia, and it seems like it's the end of their school year. They're planning a festival. They're going on dates, and you're just living through their life. This is definitely a game I would recommend if you're looking for a game with a really strong story.

JONAS ADAMS, BYLINE: My name is Jonas Adams. I'm the director of ALL THINGS CONSIDERED at NPR, and today we're talking about Mortal Kombat.

(SOUNDBITE OF VIDEO GAME, "MORTAL KOMBAT 1")

MATTHEW YANG KING: (As Liu Kang) The time draws near for the grand martial arts tournament...

ADAMS: The thing I like about Mortal Kombat - ever since it came out, it was one of the games that just completely grabbed your attention in the arcade because they went further than everybody else.

(SOUNDBITE OF VIDEO GAME, "MORTAL KOMBAT 1")

UNIDENTIFIED ACTOR: (As character, screaming).

ADAMS: My favorite player has always been Scorpion. Whether or not it has something to do with me being a Scorpio is - I don't know. Maybe it does have a lot to do with it. Maybe it doesn't. My reaction to this version of Mortal Kombat that just recently came out, Mortal Kombat 1 - they figured out a way to keep the game going and keep it updated and keeping it fresh so that you're not just sitting around just fighting to get your friends all the time.

(SOUNDBITE OF THE IMMORTALS SONG, "TECHNO SYNDROME")

SUMMERS: That was our director, Jonas Adams, keeping it fresh, as always. We also heard from NPR's Nina Fill, Regina Barber, James Mastromarino and Rakiesha Chase-Jackson all talking about their favorite video games of 2023. You'll find even more recommendations at npr.org.

(SOUNDBITE OF THE IMMORTALS SONG, "TECHNO SYNDROME") Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by an NPR contractor. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.

Vincent Acovino
Kathryn Fox