2023 has without a doubt produced a staggering wealth of absolute gaming bangers, meaning that trying to pick out something resembling a definitive list of the best games of 2023 is a little more difficult than it otherwise would have been. Undaunted however, we have nonetheless forged ahead and done just that, so without further ado, here are our picks for the best games of 2023.
Alan Wake 2
With some 13 years and change in the books since the original Alan Wake released, it was honestly a surprise when it was announced that Alan Wake 2 even existed. Initial surprises aside, Alan Wake 2 quickly established itself as one of the very best games of 2023 thanks in no small part to its terrifying survival horror gameplay, cutting edge path-traced visuals on PC and a narrative that oscillates frequently between the grim and the downright bizarre. Simultaneously the best and most outlandish offering that developer Remedy Entertainment has ever crafted, you soon realise that attempting to wrest your eyes from the mad spectacle of Alan Wake 2 is nothing less than blissfully futile.
Baldur’s Gate 3
Another sequel that felt like it would never materialise – such is the vast gulf of the 23 odd years that exists between Baldur’s Gate 3 and Baldur’s Gate 2: Shadows of Amn – Larian Studios’ latest has nonetheless utterly redefined the common notion of what an RPG can be. A massively sprawling genre effort in which player agency and non-linear narrative progression sit at the forefront of its effortlessly engaging experience, Baldur’s Gate 3 has players controlling a ragtag group of adventurers as they seek to vanquish ancient evil all the while attempting to maintain their soul in the process. Opulent, sophisticated and boasting a breathtaking fantasy realm generously stuffed with interesting characters and stories that can be shaped however you please, Baldur’s Gate 3 makes a compelling argument for not just being Game of the Year, but Game of the Decade, too.
EA’s full-blooded remake of its seminal late 2000s survival horror Dead Space is not only welcome, but alongside Capcom’s Resident Evil 4 Remake presents players with a one-two punch of genre excellence. Whisking players onto the decks of interstellar craft the USG Ishimura, players must investigate the mystery behind the ship’s disappearance, only to stumble into a waking nightmare of alien slaughter and murder that must be escaped. Gorgeously realised, relentlessly hyper-violent and with enough jump scares to send Jason Vorhees back leaping into the depths of Crystal Lake, EA’s Dead Space remake is the perfect way for both new and old players alike to experience what EA and Visceral Games created all those years ago.
Final Fantasy XVI
Representing an almost complete antithesis to the much more light-hearted and open-world driven shenanigans of Final Fantasy XV, Final Fantasy XVI instead whisked players off into a relatively linear, dark fantasy fable filled with enough violence, tragedy and swearing to make HBO blush. Though calling it Final Fantasy by way of Game of Thrones is somewhat reductive, Final Fantasy XVI remains a JRPG effort that nonetheless soars on account of its screen-filling bosses, epic encounters, superb voice acting and routinely jaw-dropping audio-visual presentation.
It’s certainly fair to say that outside of its dalliances with the LEGO brand, Harry Potter games generally haven’t been very good. At all. Thankfully, that unfortunate streak came to an end this year with the release of Hogwarts Legacy, a third-person action RPG with sky-high production values that gloriously evoked the wonder and charm of the Wizarding World of Harry Potter. Encompassing a prequel storyline that unfolds during the 1800s, Hogwarts Legacy takes players back to a much earlier era, where dark wizards once more threaten to destroy the world of Muggles and reign supreme. Dripping absolute reverence to its big-screen source material and allowing would-be wizards choose their wizarding house from the start, Hogwarts Legacy not only does tremendous justice to the Harry Potter movies and lore, but so too does it craft a ruthlessly compelling adventure that players, Potter fans or not, have enjoyed the world over.
Marvel’s Spider-Man 2
A larger, more flamboyant and yet more thoughtful sequel that unites Peter Parker and Miles Morales against a common enemy, Marvel’s Spider-Man 2 ticks all of the expected bingo boxes one would expect from such a high budget follow-up and yet, it’s really in the little things that Insomniac’s superhero sequel truly soars. Chiefly, Marvel’s Spider-Man 2 excels because it recognises that your friendly neighbourhood Spider-Men are more than just the sum of their big, bombastic battles, but rather are defined by the good deeds they do for both everyday folk and the friends that have come into their lives. An engrossing superhero team-up for the ages that boasts real heart, a thunderous story and the most detailed take on New York City to date, Marvel’s Spider-Man 2 has set an impossibly high bar for other superhero video games to beat.
Resident Evil 4
Among some groups of Resident Evil purists and crusty old fans of the survival horror genre in general, the idea of remaking something so precious as Resident Evil 4 felt a touch gratuitous and that Capcom would be better served to simply leave the 2005 classic alone. Thankfully, it’s clear that Capcom didn’t listen (or didn’t care) to such musings and in doing so have given players not just one of the best remakes of all-time, but one of the best survival horror games of recent years too. A pitch-perfect remake that deftly maintains the essence of its legendary origins all the while leveraging contemporary game design and technology to make it even better still (including a full rework of the infamously QTE-heavy Krauser boss battle), Capcom’s Resident Evil 4 Remake is as essential as it gets for both Resident Evil and genre fans alike.
Sea of Stars
In a year awash with licensed titles, sequels and remakes, the presence of JRPG Sea of Stars is quite the refreshing affair. Much more than just an effective palette cleanser for triple A malaise, Sea of Stars is a turn-based JRPG with an eye on the classics of the past. From the developers of 2018’s indie darling The Messenger, Sea of Stars puts players in the shoes of two siblings that must marshal their lunar and solar powers to defeat a nefarious alchemist known as The Fleshmancer. Rife with the charm of JRPG titles from the 16-bit and 32-bit eras, Sea of Stars is a delightful and boundlessly charming love letter to those earlier times and one that clearly shows there is so much life yet in the traditional JRPG formula.
Street Fighter 6
Though the Street Fighter franchise is rapidly coming up on its 40th(!) anniversary, Street Fighter 6 truly shows just how well Capcom’s iconic fighting franchise has matured. Not only does Street Fighter 6 weave fighters both and new into its tapestry of skilful fisticuffs, but so too does it expand upon its classic blueprint with a Like A Dragon style, roaming action RPG scenario and Fighting Ground, an evolved set of traditional modes which allows players to both compete against one another alongside a vast array of different CPU opponents to improve their game. Throw in some eye-searing visuals, the new Drive Gauge system which promotes more tactical play and a trio of different control systems to aid series newcomers and stalwarts alike, it becomes difficult to argue against Street Fighter 6 as the best fighting game money can buy right now.
The Legend of Zelda: Tears of the Kingdom
Building upon its GOTY winning predecessor in all sorts of meaningful ways, The Legend of Zelda: Tears of the Kingdom is far from just a straight continuation of Nintendo’s flirtation with open-world game design. With its neat array of physics systems that sit atop a world stuffed with all manner of enticing secrets in every nook and cranny of its creation, Tears of the Kingdom is that rare sort of offering that actively rewards curiosity and experimentation, as players balance delving into dungeons and tackling towering bosses with creating all manner of improbable contraptions to plunder the world of its hidden secrets. To say there is no more essential title for Nintendo Switch owners than The Legend of Zelda: Tears of the Kingdom sounds like mere hyperbole. It’s not. This is a seminal action adventure offering quite unlike any other that should be experienced without delay.
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