Games in 2023 have been a revelation of sorts after some relatively down years, and we’ve gotten so many great games it’s almost been overwhelming. While we knew the games were coming, there was no way to imagine how good every single one would be. Obvious heavyweights were likely to make a big splash, but the most surprising successes of 2023 have been the smaller studios putting out games to hang with the titans of the industry.
Top 5 Game of the Year Contenders in 2023
The wild thing is that 2023 isn’t even remotely close to being done with promising titles, but before we get hit with the oncoming deluge in the next few months, let’s check out some early contenders for Game of the Year in 2023.
5. Jedi Survivor
It didn’t have the smoothest launch, but once the patches came out and everything got up and running smoothly, Jedi Survivor provides one of the best Star Wars experiences in gaming history. To start, you’ve got arguably the best visuals available today. It’s sometimes tough to run on max settings, but if you have the system to handle it, the lighting, character models, animation, and effects combine to produce a feast for the eyes that does the Star Wars name proud.
Cal is back as the main character and is more endearing this time, losing the original’s somewhat kid-friendly feel to take us on a darker, more mature adventure. It’s a longer experience than the first game and gives you many exciting places to explore, side quests to find, and lore to discover.
The boss battles are the highlight, pitting us against some iconic Star Wars monsters and intense Jedi duels that call upon your quickest reflexes to get through. The cast of characters is rich and varied, and the alien races on display are right at home with the universe. While it doesn’t reinvent the wheel, this inventive take on the soul-like genre is an incredible example of what the gaming industry is capable of and, most importantly, what can be done with licensed properties.
4. Remnant 2
Remnant 2 would be a surefire Game of the Year winner any other year, but in a crowded 2023, that remains to be seen. Whether it gets the win or not is irrelevant because Remnant 2 does everything right regarding action RPGs. The first Remnant was a cult hit, but the sequel raises the stakes almost every way. The combat focused on gunplay in the first game now mixes in a fun and effective bit of melee combat that improves your options for taking on your enemies.
The guns feel punchy and dangerous, and the abilities you can discover throughout the experience give the game an unofficial magic system that spices things up. Speaking of discovery, the Remnant 2 relies on you to explore every inch of it for new weapons, armor, or even secret Archetypes that can completely change the way you play.
Bosses are aplenty, and each one is unique from the others. They range from horrifying fleshy monstrosities to alien technology requiring you to solve a maze to beat it. This is one of those games that you play and have no notes for; it’s that good.
3. Final Fantasy 16
No game this year has had more pressure on it than Final Fantasy 16. After a lukewarm reception to Final Fantasy 15, faith in the franchise had begun to wane. The one beacon of hope was the success of Final Fantasy 14 over the past decade, so Square Enix decided to throw that team onto the next mainline entry in the series. Along with this new team came the change in genre.
The switch to action RPG was a brave one, but it succeeded with flying colors. Final Fantasy 16 gives us the darkest entry in the series, and at the heart of it all is the most compelling protagonist the series has had in a while in Clive Rosfield. He is deeply involved in a plot surrounding warring nations, vengeful ancient forces, and compelling antagonists; in other words, typical Final Fantasy fair.
There is nothing groundbreaking plot-wise here, but the maturity and darkness that this tale delves into is a welcome change for the series, and the strong character chemistry elevates it to more than the sum of its parts. The combat is a fast-paced version of Devil May Cry with some Final Fantasy sprinkled. The Final Fantasy name is back in good graces, and it’s as strong a contender as there is for Game of the Year in 2023.
2. The Legend of Zelda: Tears of the Kingdom
Tears of the Kingdom reinvents the wheel in the Zelda franchise and then some. This is all due to the addition of the Ultra Hand, which turns Link into a builder of sorts, able to manipulate most objects in the game into structures that you build. This seemingly simple mechanic changes the way you play the game. The creations that resulted from this mechanic range from the insane to the genius, with one player managing to create a working computer within the game. In addition to the building mechanic, you can now attach normal items to your weapons to create completely different weapons.
The boss fights are amongst the best in the series and introduce some brutal challenges that require you to use everything you’ve learned about in the game to defeat. It’s all completed with an intriguing story that goes a bit darker than the series is used to. Tears of the Kingdom raises the bar in the action-adventure genre in a big way and ensures that Zelda is not only here to stay but is stronger than ever. It will easily be in the 2023 Game of the Year race.
1. Baldur’s Gate 3
Baldur’s Gate 3 takes the CRPG genre and thrusts it into the next-gen of gaming. Many games like to start slow before ramping up the action, but Baldur’s Gate 3 starts guns blazing, with you as a captive on a Mindflayer ship after being infected with a parasite. From there, you fight to take over the ship and crash land it, and off begins a wild journey to figure out how to get this alien parasite out of your head. Your choices in approaching situations are almost endless, and often the only limit is your imagination. The cast you come across throughout the massive, 100-hour adventure is full of engaging personalities, each with fascinating backstories you can explore optionally.
Larian Studios took the budget they accrued from the success of Divinity: Original Sin 2 and used it in the best way possible. All of this is enjoyable with friends online or in couch co-op, and it culminates without hyperbole into one of the greatest video games ever made.
This list is tough to top, but in the next few months, we’ve still got Armored Core VI: Fires of Rubicon, Starfield, Assassin’s Creed: Mirage, Lords of the Fallen, and Spider-Man 2 coming. 2023 is one of the best gaming years of all time, and this battle for the Game of the Year crown is going to be something that will be talked about for a long time to come.