You’ve probably already seen Eurogamer’s top 50 games of 2023, but we didn’t leave our end of year thoughts there. Big lists can sometimes feel impersonal, and as you know, individual tastes in games are anything but. So, we wanted to cobble together our collected thoughts on the games we felt shaped 2023.
This brief series of articles will, then, collect the top fives of a handful of different Eurogamer writers each day, and run for four days. The top fives aren’t ordered because ordering is not what’s important here – it’s seeing which games were special to people this year, and hearing about why. And please, feel free to share yours.
Alan Wake 2
I’ve been playing video games since the tape-loading days of the ZX Spectrum so it takes a special kind of game wow me nowadays. One little wow moment is good enough but then, at an age where I feel like I’ve seen it all, Alan Wake 2 comes along and oozes originality out of the screen. I’ve not even completed the game yet – I’ve been taking it slow, drinking it in and savouring every unexpected surprise, be it story-based, a piece of mend-bending visual trickery or even a whole damn [REDACTED FOR SPOILERS]. Sure, it’s a bit slow for some people, but it’s worth playing just for the way that it plays with you. I doubt we’ll see a game this inventive and well-produced for a long time to come.
Super Mario Wonder
Super Mario Wonder is such a joyful game – a piece of sunshine trapped in a Nintendo Switch that never fails to make me smile (except for the level Fluff-Puff Peaks Special Climb to the Beat. That can get absolutely stuffed). Super Mario Wonder reminds me so much of Super Mario World on the Super Nintendo and how I felt when I used to play that game as a child, and really, that’s a totally Nintendo thing to do.
The way Synapse works with the tech afforded by the PSVR2’s headset and controllers, to make you feel effortlessly cool and powerful, is unlike anything else I’ve ever played, and its only downfall for me is the fact that it’s rather short. The shooting and cover mechanics are great, the black and white visuals punctuated by bursts of colour are super stylish, and the Force-like telekinesis mechanics that are controlled using the PSVR2’s eye-tracking technology are intoxicating to say the least. Synapse is a game that deserves to be played by everyone who owns a PSVR2.
Robocop: Rogue City
Sure, Robocop: Rogue City may be super faithful to the movies and be a Robocop fan’s dream come true. And sure, it has gorgeous graphics and some excellent moments of skull-popping ultra violence. But all of that fades into the background when you get into a firefight with some nuked-up creeps and an explosion sets off a chain reaction of detonating spray paint cans. The bright clouds of colour blooming out of fire and flesh look stunning, and as soon as I found out that the paint cans could burst in such a satisfying way, I never passed one without popping it.
Resident Evil 4 Remake
Making a game I’ve played through multiple times interesting to play through again is quite the feat, but Capcom managed it with the Resident Evil 4 Remake – and then some. But the main reason this one is on my list is the sumptuous VR mode that allows you to see its grey and gory world through the eyes of Leon Kennedy. It works so well in VR it feels like a brand new game. It looks insanely detailed and, combined with the physical reloading of weapons, it’s incredibly immersive. In my opinion, the PSVR2 mode is the best way to play through the game.
Kicking off my list is Apex Legends. Yes, it wasn’t released this year but its ongoing updates, new season content and limited-time events made it feel new each time I dropped in over 2023.
Apex Legends has always given depth to its characters through intriguing and often heart-wrenching backstories, alongside developing them in real-time through events. The Uprising event marks the final chapter in a story about my personal favourite Legend, Revenant. Kill Code has been a story that’s brought mystery, peril, and fear to the Outlands, and seeing it wrapped up in what can only be described as one of the best events of the year – where you take on a Simulacrum Army and failure results in you becoming one of them – is the reason Apex has taken this spot.
Chai! Chai! Chai! It’s been a few months and I still can’t get that chant out of my head. I can’t think of another way to describe Hi-Fi Rush other than it being pleasantly addictive, thanks to its audio design and cheeky humour. The way Chai moves to the beat of the music in the background of each level, while you try to attack enemies to the same beat, combines wonderfully. The beat is there and you soon find that you are instinctively trying to follow it.
Also, the art style masters that classic comic look while silkily side-stepping motion sickness – something I often struggle with in games like this. Even though I’ve completed it several times, I always end up going back for more.
My teenage years were the same time as the peak of the MCU, and playing Spider-Man 2 thrust me back there, to the time where heroes battled villains and we watched the emotional turmoil of our heroes as they teetered on defeat. This was a big theme in Spider-Man 2 with both Miles and Peter, which was a big reason I felt compelled to finish it so quickly.
It showed that heroes aren’t perfect, and you can have all the strength in the world but pain will still be pain regardless of how strong you are. How you choose to deal with the pain, and confront your past and enemies, is what really makes you a day-to-day hero. Miles and Peter embody that; they’re superheroes but they’re also human.
The Legend of Zelda: Tears of the Kingdom
We spent roughly three months writing guides about Tears of the Kingdom, and usually spending this long with a game would exhaust my interest in it. But there was just so much to explore here, across the skies and depths and rolling lands of Hyrule. Even after putting the Switch down for the day I found myself thinking about where I would go in the game. Should I fight the King Gleeok that previously blew me to pieces? What’s in that cave guarded by a Like Like? Can I beat that Hinox with my strangely useful Sword with a Gem concoction, while wearing a rubber suit?
Tears of the Kingdom fully ingrained itself in my mind, feeding my curiosity by never revealing too much unless I explored every inch of the map. Even after spending three months on it with around 155 hours of gameplay, I still have plenty left to explore and do – and without the slightest risk of getting bored.
Horizon Forbidden West: Burning Shores
This will come as no surprise to anyone who knows me – I can talk about Guerilla Games’ Horizon series for days on end and never run out of things to say about it.
Burning Shores was one of those rare occurrences where an expansion I’ve been so looking forward to exceeded my expectations. Seeing Aloy’s character develop even further brought home just how much the flame-haired Nora has grown since we first met her in Zero Dawn. The additional area in Burning Shores is visually stunning, and I loved how it hinted at the rest of the post-Faro Plague world, and that we might get to explore some of it in the next Horizon installation.
And then, just when you think you’ve mastered fighting the new machines and the new DLC skills, Burning Shores’ ending throws a curveball – something I had been waiting for ever since I first saw the ominous shadows looming over the environment in Zero Dawn. A Horus Titan. Fighting it with the score building in the background, as Aloy somehow finds the strength to take on something that previously enabled the end of the world, was poetically chaotic. It reminded me that there is no right way to save everything – survival is messy and painful. But there is always a way, and in Horizon that way is Aloy. Once a shunned outcast and now a fearless leader, she truly is a hero.
While it was generally solid out of the gate, it is fair to say that Halo Infinite had a tough couple of years. That changed this year, thanks in large part to the incredible Forge mode. Suddenly Halo multiplayer has a seemingly endless riches of modes, maps, and content. Standouts like the ultra chaotic Husky Raid are fast paced thrill rides, while Infection is a tense game of cat and mouse. There is an argument to be made that Halo multiplayer has never had a brighter future than it does now, and it’s one of the great comeback stories in all of gaming.
MLB The Show 2023
MLB the Show is often considered one of the better sports sims on the market, and it would have been easy enough for them to apply some small tweaks, update rosters, and have another solid entry for this year. Instead, they did something incredible, adding an entire new mode dedicated to the history of one of the most important and fascinating eras of professional baseball: The Negro Leagues. Part gameplay challenge, part playable museum, this addition transcended the “sports game” label, and did something truly special that anyone, not just fans of baseball, should make the time to experience.
The Legend of Zelda: Tears of the Kingdom
The Legend of Zelda: Tears of the Kingdom is a once in a generation perfect storm of a video game. Rarely, if ever, has there been such a perfect convergence of a sequel built on top of one of the greatest games ever made with this much time, budget, vision, and an elite development team at the absolute peak of their abilities. Tears of the Kingdom is incredible, with an expanded scope that takes players on, above, and under Hyrule in a surprise filled adventure that affords incredible creative freedom to players. The influence of this game is sure to be felt for many years to come.
Sea of Thieves
The mad minds at Rare continue to rewrite the expectations of what a live service game can be and do. This year Sea of Thieves saw a massive (and hilarious) Secret of Monkey Island campaign, the first fully fleshed out city in Port Merrick, and the long awaited debut of Safer Seas – private servers geared towards newer players and folks looking for low risk/low rewards joy. Guilds have been added, allowing pirates to join with friends and pledge their ships to shared fleets, and myriad small updates adding new voyages and gameplay tweaks continue to keep this fresh and exciting, with no sign of slowing down.
If I had to evangelise one game from this year that people may have missed, it would be Endless Dungeon. Fighting your way deeper and deeper into the depths of a mysterious and monster filled space station with your team of three heroes is so much fun, and perfectly taps into that “one more run!” compulsion. Making strategic decisions about what defences to place as a wave of enemies get ready to spawn is extremely satisfying. The fact that they fused these roguelite and tower defence elements so seamlessly is extraordinary, and it makes Endless Dungeon one of the most interesting and replayable games of the year.
The Banished Vault
I want a T-shirt that says “I survived (and occasionally thrived in) the launch version of The Banished Vault” so I can reflect fondly on the delicious bouts of misery I went through with my spartan crew of spacegoth survivalist monks. Each solar system is an exquisitely masochistic opponent draped in a cowl of pitch-black science fiction that never lets you forget your mortality. Whatever doesn’t kill you makes you a little better at planning ahead, a little sharper at balancing the next expedition, maybe even willing to risk it all for one shot at success – hard-won pearls of wisdom wrenched from the cold reality of space exploration.
Goodbye Volcano High
What can I say that I haven’t already said in my Goodbye Volcano High review? I’m listening to the soundtrack again for the first time in months, and it still has the raw power of a white-hot wrecking ball yeeting me back to the highs and lows of teenhood. The music – it’s only now that I’m fully realising that music is really what ties all three of my GOTY picks together – is the glue that holds Fang and friends together, and keeps me going in the face of grim inevitability. Do what you love until you can’t – a fierce reminder in the face of doom, and a rallying cry for solidarity in the face of obliteration.
Void Stranger is far more than a sokoban puzzler – it’s a deceptively-layered matryoshka doll that pushes the genre to new heights (or rather, new depths). There are no tutorials or hints – the first few hours are a righteous crucible of trial and error, and just when you think you’re getting the hang of the dungeon, the game changes the rules. A strangely fitting companion to The Banished Vault in terms of its refusal to explain itself (or offer an undo button). I can’t say enough about the absolute killer soundtrack, too – it’s got everything from snatches of old-school jungle to chill synthwave interludes and the heavensent banger that kicks in on level 58 – the whole thing is ripe for plucking on Bandcamp.
Pikmin 4 was my favourite game this year because it was a project I genuinely never thought would see the light of day for a decade, a new entry into a series I grew up with and adore, and the best entry in that series to date. It got criticism for lowering the series’ difficulty, but this was a smart step by Nintendo to try and finally find more of an audience for a B-tier franchise that never hit the big time. It was previously too fussy and off-putting in a way that clashed with its cutesy visuals. In marrying those two things and in providing so much to do – as well as some genuinely tough stuff if you stuck with it – the game really nailed the promise it has had ever since the GameCube.
Resident Evil 4 Remake
Resident Evil 4 did what I thought impossible and turned a game I knew every moment of and made it better. The original loomed large in my memory when I played Capcom’s remake but now forever seems smaller, thanks to the smart choices made to update the game while preserving almost everything that made it so great. It’s still the pinnacle of the series.
Cocoon was beautiful, brilliant, and brain-teasing. A breath of fresh air. It made you feel smart and was (almost) never too tricky for its own good. I got a little stuck right at the end but I still have very fond memories of this simple little game silently teaching me techniques I’d never seen in video games before, and making me feel wonder at what was unfolding on screen.
Dead Space Remake
Dead Space was another great remake (sorry!) with many of the same reasons for being on this list as Resi 4. Less of a ground-up do-over, it enhanced the original while still improving every aspect of it, again making smart choices on how to change the game while honouring the memories of fans who played back in the day. It feels like the loving restoration of a masterwork, with brushstrokes indistinguishable from any faded paint underneath.
Alan Wake 2
Alan Wake 2 was the creepy and enjoyable offbeat Scandi – but definitely set in the US, honest! – drama I had been looking forward to, and the addition of Saga meant neither side of its dual-narrative ever got stale. It’s a huge achievement for a studio of just a hundred or so people in Finland, making something better than almost every other AAA game out there. Also, the music level is great.
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