The Game Awards are like the Oscars or the Grammys of the gaming industry. In similar fashion to those award shows, there are always a number of detractors, snubs, and oversights when it comes to the nominees. Ultimately, an award is more like a gesture than anything concrete, it really doesn’t objectively speak to the actual quality of any of these games. It still would have been nice to see some of these games get credit in Game Awards categories where they didn’t, though.
Best Score and Music: Starfield
While the actual gameplay of Starfield was controversial enough that it likely didn’t need the GOTY nomination that many of its most passionate supporters say it should have received, the presentation of the game is undeniably impressive. That makes it fairly surprising that the game didn’t get any nominations in the visual or sound categories. Inon Zur’s soundtrack does an amazing job of enhancing the feeling of traversing the vast expanse of space.
Most Anticipated Game: Hollow Knight Silksong
It feels like at every major gaming announcement event of 2023, there never lacked a number of hyped Hollow Knight Silksong fans who were left painfully disappointed by the lack of any significant updates. The follow-up to the indie Metroidvania classic is undeniably one of the year’s most anticipated games, and it’s strange it didn’t get a nomination.
Best Sim/Strategy: The Lamplighter’s League
The Lamplighter’s League flew tragically under the radar. It’s a tactical RPG in the same vein as X-Com but with a story that more closely resembles something out of Call of Cthulu, with plenty of early-20th-century mystery, espionage, and spooky otherworldly happenings. It’s not a perfect game, but it easily stands up there with the competition that received nominations in the best sim/strategy category.
Best Narrative: Lies of P
Lies of P was a surprise hit Soulslike this year, and its story is a fascinatingly dark twist on the classic Pinocchio tale by Carlo Collodi. It’s actually not particularly similar to Collodi’s original book, Pinocchio’s nose doesn’t even grow and he certainly doesn’t possess the mischievous and careless personality he’s traditionally known to have. The narrative in Lies of P is still strong, though, with plenty of fascinating lore and multiple interpretable parts of the story to dive into.
Best Art Direction: Atomic Heart
As Mundfish’s debut title, Atomic Heart definitely feels rough around the edges in many areas, but where it undoubtedly shines is in its art direction. The studio did an impressive job of blending the Soviet-era aesthetic with mid-20th-century sci-fi visuals and the end result is something undeniably unique.
Best Game Direction: Fire Emblem Engage
Fire Emblem Engage was certainly worthy of its nomination for best sim/strategy game. It lacks a bit in the story department compared to many of its predecessors, but its direction (helmed by Kenta Nakanishi) does a great job balancing the title’s many ambitious gameplay concepts. The result is a Fire Emblem title with a flair unlike anything else in the franchise.
Best Sports/Racing: F-Zero 99
F-Zero 99 is a fairly simple concept following Nintendo’s trend of making battle royales out of its classic titles in recent years, and like many of those other titles, its execution feels remarkably effortless. Fans of the F-Zero series are likely still looking for a full-fledged new title, but this will do to hold them over in the meantime, and it’s hard to understand why this would be one of the big Game Awards snubs since many consider it one of 2023’s best racing games.
Game of the Year: Final Fantasy 16
Perhaps one of the most surprising Game Awards snubs of the year is Final Fantasy 16 missing out on the GOTY nomination. The game definitely got credit from the awards, securing four nominations in other categories. All of those other nominations should suggest that it’s a pretty quality game, though, right? It’s unclear why it missed out on at least being in the running.
Game of the Year: Hogwarts Legacy
There is a controversial nature surrounding Hogwarts Legacy that sadly tainted the release of an otherwise entertaining and well-made game. It’s really not worth getting into for the sake of avoiding the hordes of people who apparently have nothing better to do than talk about things like this, but regardless of any personal stance behind the game, it does remain one of the best-selling games of 2023, and maybe wasn’t deserving of a complete Game Awards snub.
Game of the Year: Pikmin 4
Pikmin 4 thankfully wasn’t completely snubbed by The Game Awards, it did receive due credit in the categories of best sim/strategy and best family game, but it missed out on the big one. Maybe in some ways, it feels too derivative of past Pikmin titles to warrant a GOTY nomination, but it has become a surprise Switch hit recently, achieving the title of best-selling game in the entire Pikmin franchise. Clearly, this is a standout Switch game for the year and it maybe should have received more credit for that.