As this year has just been too massive for one GOTY list (you can view our Trendsetter Awards here), we went to our full staff to hear about what they’ve liked the most in 2023. Below is a collection of many different games, some you might expect, and others might be ones to try out during the holiday break. One thing is for sure, there are fantastic games that released this year, and you can’t help but love the passion we’ve seen from development teams all over the globe.
David Burdette’s Top 3
Alan Wake 2 – It’s almost hard for me to nail down exactly what Alan Wake 2 does so excellently, especially in what elevates it to my best game of 2023. The technical wizardry of the game is stunning, with techniques and gravitas that make it the new Crysis of gaming (a.k.a. Can your computer run Alan Wake 2?) in look and feel. Beyond that, the narrative is impressive, not only in how well they continue from a game thirteen years past, but in that they perfect a dual narrative, both in how it weaves together and tells two separate stories. Every part of this game is delivered with passion behind it, from the unique combat loop to a freaking musical halfway through. Alan Wake 2 enticing, jaw dropping, and bombastic in all the best ways.
Marvel’s Spider-Man 2 – This game is everything a sequel should be. I recently went back and used Marvel’s Spider-Man Remastered on PC as a testing medium, and I missed the improvements of the spectacular second entry. Swinging around the city has never been better with a host of fantastic additional movement options, especially the webwings. Combat takes a leap, taking on even more baddies with flashy moves and finishers. Not to be forgotten, the story is heartfelt and characters remind you of what it’s like to be human. Marvel’s Spider-Man 2 is endearing and sensational, and the best superhero game ever.
RoboCop: Rogue City – Sometimes you just want to have fun, and RoboCop is a blast. I had just completed reviews of the above titles, and I was rightfully exhausted. When Teyon’s latest dropped into my lap, I wasn’t sure if I’d even have the energy to do it properly. To my surprise, RoboCop is a hidden gem among the bevy of phenomenal releases this year. The combat is simple but entertaining, the open-level concept leads to engaging side missions, and it’s gorgeous to look at. RoboCop: Rogue City is a breath of fresh air and an epic homage to the franchise.
John Farrell’s Top 3
World of Horror – Junji Ito inspired roguelike RPG. It speaks for itself, really, but it also screams, oozes, and stalks your nightmares for ages to come. World of Horror’s blend of survival horror and mystery investigation make for the perfect roguelike experience. Every death calls you back for more. Every setback is a learning experience to help you on the next run. Leaving its long torpor of early access, the final release has new features and balance to make the journey all it can be. No mass market title, this game found its niche and buried itself deeply and shamelessly, earning my respect with its artistry, its boldness, and the depth of its systems.
Live A Live – Back in the day I had to find out about this game from buried message boards, search for a ROM on shady websites, and pray that the fan translation patch wouldn’t mangle the narrative too much. I couldn’t be happier that the youngins don’t have to make that same journey to experience a landmark for JRPGs. Its narrative ranging all over time, mechanics, and genre manages to outperform modern releases, and likely always will. With a short runtime it covers an exceptional array of story, combat, and puzzle solving, and easily wins my recommendation for RPG fans.
Pharaoh: A New Era – I hate city building games, I hate strategy, and I especially hate micromanaging economies, but I fell in love with Pharoah anyway. As a child with attention deficit issues, it taught me how to plan for the future and manage my many tasks. All this game needed was a fresh coat of paint to impress a new audience, and but for some bugs that definitely didn’t come from the original release, its updates to UI and visuals have brought me back for more. A great game for children or adults, it will educate you on Egyptian culture, warfare, trade, and religion all while smacking you with the most delicious of relaxing vibes. Its music, presentation, and accessibility all make it stand out from a crowd that I would otherwise ignore.
David Flynn’s Top 3
Hi-Fi Rush – Considering I’ve been dreaming about a rhythm/character action mashup for years now, there’s no way Hi-Fi Rush couldn’t have been my #1 pick. Both the licensed and original soundtracks are incredible, the combat has a vast amount of depth, the characters are charming, the visuals are stunning, need I go on? Somehow the more I play it the more fun it gets, and I can’t wait to see what Tango Gameworks gets up to next.
Final Fantasy XVI – I’m GamingTrend’s resident Final Fantasy person, so with that and the fact the series is transitioning into full on action RPGs, there was no way I wasn’t going to love this game. More than that though, this was the first game I traveled to preview, which was a great experience. While I am able to find some flaws now that the spectacle and hype have passed, I still fully believe in everything I said in that review, and it’s one of my proudest moments here at GT.
Baldur’s Gate 3 – A game like Baldur’s Gate 3 feels impossible. It feels like a product of pure passion and is big enough to rival or even surpass most AAA games out there. The amount of player freedom and variation is truly shocking, and the lack of corporate meddling is a miracle. Larian Studios was able to do what they do best with a massive budget and, as far as we can tell, complete freedom. That fact that they were able to make a game this good and this big speaks to the developers’ passion and skill. If you let the creatives create, you might just end up with something as good as Baldur’s Gate 3.
Honorable mentions – Slay the Princess, Cyberpunk 2077: Phantom Liberty, Pseudoregalia, Alan Wake II, Xenoblade Chronicles 3: Future Redeemed
Adam Moreno’s Top 3
Legend of Zelda: Tears of the Kingdom – This game has building mechanics so good that the University of Maryland uses it to teach a mechanical engineering class. Nintendo delayed the game until it was ready, and they were right to do so. Tears of the Kingdom is my second favorite Legend of Zelda title behind Twilight Princess, and that’s mostly nostalgia at this point. I loved the feel of this game from the moment you begin the adventure. I found myself wandering for hours, always finding something new on the map either on land, in the sky, or underground. From the puzzle design to the seemingly unlimited potential when crafting, this Zelda title is high on my favorite gaming list for 2023.
Star Wars Jedi: Survivor – This is a perfect sequel to Jedi: Fallen Order and what I believe should be the standard for sequels moving forward. It takes what worked with the first game and expands it while adding brand new things such as the companion attacks, multiple iconic saber stances, and more. Cal, Merrin, BD-1, and the gang have never looked better. The story was stunning and the ending had me actually gasping out loud. As a huge Star Wars fan, Survivor scratched every itch I had for a Star Wars video game.
Baldur’s Gate 3 – I have played so much of this game on the PS5 with my partner. The couch co-op is even better than it was at launch. You’ve probably heard enough about Baldur’s Gate for a lifetime at this stage, but it’s just that good. The characters, the story, the combat system, the sheer amount of replayability. We’ve sunk HOURS into this game. Even with its issues on the PS5 (mainly buggy areas and issues with rendering in Act III) it’s still something we’re playing almost daily.
Corvo Rohwer’s Top 3
The Legend Of Zelda: Tears Of The Kingdom – I’ll be honest, Breath of The Wild really wasn’t my jam when it came out back in 2017. I ended up going into Tears Of The Kingdom with rather low expectations, thinking it would generally be more of the same, but that couldn’t have been any further from the truth. Ditching the Sheikah Slate for a new set of sleek powers was the key to finally get me to click with this modern Zelda game, and I instantly fell in love. The sheer volume of exploration opportunities is astounding, whether you’re in the sky, on land, or even down in the dark below beneath Hyrule. Nintendo has knocked it out of the park designing engaging puzzles and creative ways to utilize your new powers, and we can’t forget the impressive Zonai crafting either. Tears Of The Kingdom feels like a true adventure, and it’s one that I will happily lose myself in for hours and hours on end.
A Space For The Unbound – What’s better than finding the meaning of life and love at the epicenter of the end of the world? A Space For The Unbound follows two high school crushes, Atma and Raya, as they attempt to grapple with an unknown supernatural force. Their cozy town set in rural Indonesia is bustling with life and color, with every character further ensuring the setting feels lived in. Narrative themes of depression and how it affects people is explored from a place of understanding and healing, which creates a story that feels sincere, and is propelled by an almost dream-like art style. A Space For The Unbound remains in the upper echelon of narrative experiences for games this year, and one that I’ll carry with me for a long time.
Armored Core VI Fires Of Rubicon – As a newbie to Armored Core, Fires of Rubicon would share my introduction to both the series itself and the mecha genre as a whole. After playing through the game three times now, it’s safe to say I’m absolutely hooked. There is so much detail in customizing and tuning your Armored Core to fit whatever playstyle you can dream up, whether you’re a missile junkie, speed demon, hulking tank-fortress or something in between. Combat is slick and mobile, with expansive arenas spanning many locations across the planet of Rubicon, controlled by the various factions vying for power over the mysterious resource coral. Fires of Rubicon keeps the gas pedal firmly on the floor from start to finish, and is absolutely one of the best action games to release this year.
Jack Zustiak’s Top 3
Pizza Tower – Anyone can appreciate a painstakingly detailed, beautiful painting, but art doesn’t have to be pretty. Art can be a messy ball of anxieties tossed haphazardly across a canvas and the end result can be just as captivating as something more technically impressive. Pizza Tower leans into these extremes. It mashes its platformer inspirations like Wario and Sonic into something both messy and highly technical. Its aesthetics match this principle, combining MS Paint-esque craftsmanship with surprisingly captivating animations and character designs. Pizza Tower captures a methodical madness that no other title can match, making it the standout platformer of the year.
Street Fighter 6 – Street Fighter 6 accomplished just about everything you’d want from a fighting game: it introduced an exciting new battle system, offered a plentiful content to test the limits of its mechanics, and provided a competent online environment for people to compete in. It checks just about every box it needs to. What I didn’t expect for it to do was make the world of Street Fighter tangible. Between its World Tour single player mode and its charming avatar-infested online lobbies, the world of Street Fighter feels more like a place than it ever has. I haven’t seen a fighting game world so thoroughly realized since Mortal Kombat Deception, and I haven’t seen an online chatroom be so engaging since IRC groups back when the internet was an unknown and exciting thing. Street Fighter always carries with it an underlying theme of bringing the world together in video game form, and 6 uses this unique advantage to its fullest in order to beat out the competition.
Void Stranger – This may sound foreign in the age of drawn-out marketing cycles, datamining, and downloadable content, but games used to be mysterious. You never truly knew if you had seen everything there was to see. Secrets may hide in plain sight, extra levels or features could be waiting to be unlocked. Video games were limitless and unknowable. Void Stranger embodies that feeling perfectly. On the surface, it’s a clever game about pushing blocks and moving tiles to solve puzzles. It’s both exactly that and also much more than that. It excels in what it sets out to do while becoming truly amazing when you experience how far it extends its seemingly simple limits.
Anthony Shelton’s Top 3
Super Mario Bros. Wonder – I wonder how many times I could make a “wonder” joke, but I suspect you wouldn’t like that. But the number of times I could make that joke doesn’t compare to the number of times I thought “Wow” while playing Mario Wonder. What sets Mario Wonder apart is how it flips, distorts, changes, modifies, skews, rearranges, and contorts everything we’ve seen in previous Mario games, and those changes create delightful moments from beginning to end. Wonder Flowers inject enough absurdity into each level without over-complicating them. Creating a Mario game strictly with these kinds of levels would feel too absurd over the top. Instead, the juxtaposition is a nice seasoning that flavors each level in a way that keeps you coming back for more, especially since there are a variety of secrets.
A Space for the Unbound – Not enough people have heard of A Space for the Unbound, and it’s a damn shame. I will join Corvo Rohwer and shout this indie darling from the rooftops. This is an exceptionally well-told story, and the way it gently takes your hand and waltzes you around its harrowing, funny, and delightful dance floor, is unlike any story from a walking simulator you have experienced. Mojiken makes you feel what the characters feel with metaphors that seem absurd (and totally anime) at first, but as the dots connect, you won’t be able to help feel the gamut of emotions. What’s more – what I like most – there is gameplay involved in this Walking Simulator. If that’s been your turn off, here you go. Enjoy a smattering of fun WarioWare-like games that riff on every video game trope you can think of. There are also puzzles you’ll need to solve that become progressively tougher as you play. I’ll keep this simple from here: You need to play A Space for the Unbound.
Street Fighter 6 – There is little I can add to Jack Zustiak’s excellent summary. As a person who has played so many fighting games and have only enjoyed the mountaintop of two (Smash Melee and Soul Calibur II) and has always struggled with Street Fighter 6, I concur on everything Jack mentioned. The way World Tour allows those with excellent skills to have fun and those who are just starting out to learn and have fun as well is unmatched. Every fighting game needs a mode like this, done the way Street Fighter 6 has done it. I’ll also contend the way Street Fighter 6 does enemy encounters is what every JRPG should do from now on. Yes, a fighting game just revolutionized JRPG encounters. I will die on that hill. Street Fighter 6 also has the most exhaustive tutorial system of any fighting game. Combined with Modern controls, Capcom literally held the door open to those who’ve been afraid to jump in and made it as easy as possible. If it were up to me, I would have replaced Resident Evil 4 Remake on the The Game Awards GOTY nominations with Street Fighter 6. Street Fighter originally brought fighting games to the masses. Decades later, Capcom did it again with Street Fighter 6.
Noah Rigsby’s Top 3
Persona 4 Golden – Initially revealed during the GamingTrend Podcast, my curveball GOTY pick is both old and new simultaneously. Early this year, Persona 4 Golden was brought to life for a new generation of consoles, and since Persona 5 Royal is arguably my favorite game of all time, I had to dive into what came before. What I dove into astonished me. Persona 4 Golden flawlessly captures the magic of social sims, thought-provoking turn-based combat, and charismatic storytelling in a complete package that provides hours of engaging dialogue and addictive combat. If you missed out on its initial release like I did or never picked it up, Persona 4 Golden proves why JRPG’s are an S-Tier genre of gaming.
Cyberpunk 2077: Phantom Liberty – Yeah, yeah, I know I’m putting a DLC Expansion in my GOTY list, but it’s my list and Phantom Liberty’s masterful execution as a narrative experience beckons for inclusion. This standalone experience to one of the best redemption arcs this industry has seen since No Man’s Sky pits V into the new section of Night City, Dogtown, in an espionage-themed experience you simply don’t see anymore. Every voice actor brings their A-Game in a gripping storyline that forces you to question the loyalty and truth surrounding not only your friends and allies, but yourself as well. Phantom Liberty is a breathtaking experience, and in case the marketing didn’t make you aware, “Yeah, the game’s fixed!”
The Legend of Zelda: Tears of the Kingdom – Honestly, there isn’t a lot I can say about this title that thousands of others, including our GamingTrend staff, haven’t already stated. This sequel went above and beyond to bring us something truly wonderful and generational. Tears of the Kingdom and its team of incredible developers mastered the art of discovery and implemented nothing but short of perfection. Hundreds of glowing reviews and thousands of pages of praise aren’t enough to warrant what this game is and will continue to do as more and more people experience it. Do yourself a favor and pick up Tears of the Kingdom and witness first-hand the apex of adventure and wonder.
Henry Viola’s Top 3
Resident Evil 4 Remake – This is the unparalleled GOTY for me, given I platinumed both the base game and the Separate Ways DLC, along with putting in over 100 hours in total. Everything about this experience is just perfection, from the polished mechanics and beautiful visuals, to the addictive gameplay loop and immaculate horrors. Capcom knows exactly how to craft a survival horror masterpiece and I very much look forward to future installments in the Resident Evil franchise. This is not to mention the free PSVR2 update they released for owners of the game on PlayStation! Resident Evil 4 is a masterpiece that treads the fine line between action and horror and is a must play.
Honkai: Star Rail – I know I’m going to be judged for this one. A free-to-play mobile gacha game on a Top 3 video game list? Blasphemy! But hear me out… I never play games on my phone, but for some reason, Honkai: Star Rail changed it all for me. It’s immensely free-to-play friendly and doesn’t enforce pay-to-win mechanics whatsoever, and is infinitely times more generous than Hoyoverse’s other game: Genshin Impact. The game being turn-based also makes it easier to navigate and control on the phone as well, as I absolutely hate playing Genshin, a real time hack and slash game, on my phone. The game is constantly being updated, so there’s always new content to dive into, and I love the artwork, characters, and strategy required for end-game content.
Remnant II – Remnant: From the Ashes was a sleeper hit for me when it came out back in 2019. It was the first take on the Souls-like genre with ranged weapons and co-op, and I was all for it. Gunfire Games took what they learned from the first game and cranked it up a notch with Remnant II. The overhauled systems, infinitely replayable procedural generation, top secret loot, and deadly bosses make this no brainer for anyone who loved the first installment. This is hands down the best cooperative Souls-like game on the market.
Cassie Peterson’s Top 3
Star Wars Jedi: Survivor – This game immediately shot up to the top of my most anticipated list for 2023 after more of the game was shown at last year’s Game Awards. But the best part was I hadn’t even played Fallen Order yet. I ended up playing Fallen Order twice and then read Star Wars Jedi: Battle Scars, and then I was ready for Survivor. The game has been everything I loved about Fallen Order, but bigger. The gameplay is fantastic, the story is intriguing, and the world is beautiful. Both games have reignited my love for the Star Wars universe!
Immortals of Aveum – Immortals dominated much of my attention this year. From having done the hands-on preview back in May all the way up to the game’s full release, I was eager for more, excited to put my Magnus boots on and return to Aveum. The magic shooter combat system is so much fun, especially as you continue to unlock different abilities to chain together different attacks and colors of magic. Ascendant Studios has a very bright future ahead of them. I’m very much looking forward to what’s next.
Viewfinder – Viewfinder seemed like it was on everyone’s radar. It’s a game about perspective but there’s so much more that’s happening outside of the unique puzzle-solving system. I loved this game so much, it gets my pick for Game of the Year. It was the most memorable game I played in 2023. #JusticeForCait
Honorable Mentions: The Talos Principle II, Amnesia: The Bunker, The Invincible, Detective Pikachu Returns, and WrestleQuest.
A safe and happy new year to everyone! Enjoy all the many video games 2023 has brought with it!