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It's already been a huge year for video games. Here are some of the blockbusters

LEILA FADEL, HOST:

Video games make hundreds of billions of dollars each year, but this year has shattered sales records.

(SOUNDBITE OF VIDEO GAME, THE LEGEND OF ZELDA: TEARS OF THE KINGDOM)

MATTHEW MERCER: (As Ganondorf) Do not look away. You witness a king's revival and the birth of his new world.

(SOUNDBITE OF VIDEO GAME, FINAL FANTASY XVI)

BEN STARR: (As Clive) Wait. Something's not right.

(SOUNDBITE OF VIDEO GAME, STAR WARS JEDI: SURVIVOR)

CODY FERN: (As Dagan Gera) How could you let the galaxy fall to this unworthy machine of an empire?

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)

FADEL: NPR staff and contributors compiled a list of their favorite games in the blockbuster year so far. And gaming editor James Mastromarino is here to talk about it. Hi, James.

JAMES MASTROMARINO, BYLINE: Hi, Leila.

FADEL: What's the best of the best of these big games for serious gamers and also for people like me who haven't really played any games since Super Nintendo era?

MASTROMARINO: Well, it's a great time to be a Nintendo fan because The Legend of Zelda: Tears of the Kingdom is finally out. This game was so hotly anticipated for years that every scrap of information people could find online would generate entire, like, Reddit threads, of course, and multiple YouTube videos spanning hours and hours of speculation.

It's now finally here, and it takes the cake for probably the best and biggest game of 2023. And it'll likely remain so because it takes this beautiful world, Hyrule - it's already something you can explore on horseback and climb these mountains, and it gives you so many more tools to do so. So it is truly magical. It's a real success story for Nintendo - their fastest-selling Switch game and a high watermark for this legendary series.

But there's a lot more, including Final Fantasy XVI which, again, was hotly anticipated in another very long-standing series. And then for "Star Wars" fans, there's STAR WARS Jedi: Survivor, which had a little bit of a shaky launch but gives you all the force powers you could ever want to explore a galaxy far, far away.

FADEL: Yeah. I played The Legend of Zelda late '80s, early '90s when I was little, so that's making me want to play again. But, of course, I recognize those franchises. Why is it so notable that now, in 2023, they're out?

MASTROMARINO: Well, the pandemic really delayed games, and we got used to seeing all these release dates slip further and further into the future. And then finally, they all seem to be coming out in 2023. It's really a remarkable year and a record-breaking one.

FADEL: Yeah. And what you're describing, though, is a lot of reboots - not much that's necessarily fully new. And I think we see that a lot in the film industry, and now we're seeing it in the gaming industry?

MASTROMARINO: Yeah. Big media companies love a sure bet. And so you have these beloved franchises that you can just keep on recycling over and over again. And then there's also this technological component because those games you might have grown up in the '80s and '90s - unless you have those original consoles and cartridges, they might be difficult to play.

FADEL: So what about newcomers to gaming or somebody who hasn't played in decades, maybe? I mean, it could feel intimidating. What games are there for beginners or returners?

MASTROMARINO: Well, there are plenty, and I think the games that are often the most approachable are the ones that are focused on a story. So, for example, there's something called PARANORMASIGHT: The Seven Mysteries of Honjo. It's available on mobile platforms, like tablets and phones, as well as PC. And it's basically just a ghost story. And you play it through making dialogue choices and exploring this mystery to its end. There are many other games like that on this list. We even added a category to make it easy to find them.

FADEL: That's NPR's James Mastromarino, who edits NPR gaming coverage, including a new list of the best games of 2023 so far. Thanks so much for the conversation and the nostalgia.

MASTROMARINO: Thank you, Leila. Anytime.

(SOUNDBITE OF NOBUO UEMATSU SONG, "OVER THE HILL")

FADEL: Check out NPR's list of the year's best video games so far on npr.org. 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.

Leila Fadel is a host of Morning Edition, as well as NPR's morning news podcast Up First.
James Perkins Mastromarino
James Perkins Mastromarino is Here & Now's Washington, D.C.-based producer. He works with NPR's newsroom on a daily whirlwind of topics that range from Congress to TV dramas to outer space. Mastromarino also edits NPR's Join the Game and reports on gaming for daily shows like All Things Considered and Morning Edition.