It’s hard to believe, but another year is ending. Once again, it has been a challenging year that has pushed us even deeper into the world of video game escapism. Fortunately, when it comes to games, everything was in order — it’s hard to recall another year like this. There were so many masterpieces and simply excellent releases that one could create several articles like this. Easy.
The list will include only those games we played ourselves, so if your favorite title didn’t make it, don’t be upset — it’s better to share it in the comments.
12. Hogwarts Legacy
Why: An interactive museum for fans of the book series.
It’s hard to overlook the year’s potentially most successful game—Hogwarts Legacy. This marks a triumphant leap for Avalanche Software, a studio previously unaccustomed to such colossal projects. The outcome is visually stunning and loyal to the source material, yet it leans toward monotony. The plot spirals into questionable territory, and the RPG’s role-playing elements are as rare as a hen’s teeth. A delightful present for those raised on Harry Potter, but as a gaming experience, Hogwarts Legacy starts to wear thin by the tenth hour. Still, it stands out as one of the year’s major releases that demand attention.
Why: An expansive galaxy and an impressive ship-building feature.
There’s been a lot of buzz surrounding the highly anticipated new IP from the minds behind The Elder Scrolls and Fallout. However, arriving at a unanimous conclusion was not easy. Is it a bad game? Certainly not. It’s a vast, sprawling space RPG we’ve yearned for since the days of Mass Effect 3. Despite its undeniable strengths, particularly the noteworthy ship builder, the game’s overall impact is hindered by numerous shortcomings, with the plot being the chief offender. It falls short of the mark for a release of this magnitude. The conspicuously weak graphics are also open to criticism—those faces, that dialogue camera… This discrepancy is especially disheartening compared to releases like Horizon Forbidden West: Burning Shores and Cyberpunk 2077: Phantom Liberty.
10. Spider-Man 2
Why: A standout superhero game of the year.
The highly anticipated sequel for many, Spider-Man 2 revisits the narrative of Peter Parker and his young protege, Miles Morales. This time around, the story takes a darker turn, and the world expands further, though it’s still the familiar New York setting. The new installment doesn’t introduce any significant surprises, sticking faithfully to the established formula. The gameplay remains just as enjoyable, with responsive controls. Yet, there’s a growing realization that it might be time for something fresh. The constrained storyline doesn’t engage as it should, and the persistent abundance of bugs is an ongoing drawback.
9. Street Fighter 6
Why: The legendary fighting series has become inclusive for everyone.
This year sparked lively discussions among fans of fighting games. Mortal Kombat 1 undeniably earned its spot in these conversations, but our ultimate choice for the best of the year was Street Fighter 6. While MK stuck to its established path without significant surprises, Street Fighter 6 revolutionized the formula, rendering the new release remarkably accessible to newcomers in a way that, it seems, no one had achieved before. Vibrant, contemporary, and brimming with content, including a distinctive story mode, it was a delightful surprise and one of the year’s standout releases.
8. Dead Island 2
Why: A triumphant comeback for the beloved zombie game.
Frankly, the prospect of playing Dead Island 2 seemed like a distant dream, and we were even more skeptical about its potential quality. Fortunately, it defied our expectations and emerged as the perfect sequel. Despite numerous delays and shifts between development studios, the team at Dambuster Studios miraculously preserved everything that made the first installment special. The gruesome dismemberment reminiscent of classic horror films? Check. The humor? It’s still present. Moreover, the game boasts great visuals and shows no signs of being stuck in development hell.
7. STAR WARS Jedi: Survivor
Why: A captivating tale from the Star Wars universe.
Discussing STAR WARS Jedi: Survivor proves to be just as complex as its predecessor. On one hand, it offers a fantastic action experience with breathtaking landscapes, a compelling narrative, and intriguing characters. On the other hand, it’s another release that struggled at launch, requiring patches for about half a year before earning our recommendation. Respawn Entertainment doesn’t seem to excel at delivering polished products from the outset. Nevertheless, the overall impressions of the new release were positive, solidifying its status as the premier modern gaming series set in the Star Wars universe.
6. Dead Space
Why: A remake that’s nearly flawless, far surpassing the original.
Remakes constantly stir up controversy, with everyone having their opinions on the matter. Especially when the original Dead Space doesn’t appear all that outdated. However, EA needed to assess whether there was still interest in the franchise. The outcome? Arguably one of the best remakes in recent memory. This year’s Dead Space comes remarkably close to perfection. Every aspect has seen improvement: visuals, gameplay, story, and setting. The creators did away with unpopular elements and introduced a wealth of new content.
5. Alan Wake 2
Why: Striking visual design and an unforgettable narrative.
The first Alan Wake left a lasting impression, drawing inspiration from the works of Stephen King. The sequel surpassed its predecessor, becoming even more captivating, wilder, and visually stunning. It arguably features the most compelling story of the year and stands out as the most visually impressive game. The less we reveal about it, the better. Go play it!
4. Baldur’s Gate 3
Why: Unrestricted freedom.
In a year filled with RPG releases, Baldur’s Gate 3 stands head and shoulders above the rest in terms of depth, quantity of content, and freedom. Lately, the term RPG has been applied liberally, even to games lacking in player choice or the option to craft one’s own character. BG3 marks a return to the genre’s roots, and that’s precisely what makes it so beloved.
3. Final Fantasy XVI
Why: A grand narrative, breathtaking visuals, and a groundbreaking game encyclopedia.
The first major PS5 exclusive of the year might not be on everyone’s radar, and that’s a missed opportunity in our view—it stands as the pinnacle of exclusives for the console in 2023. The latest entry in the enduring series follows the adventures of Clive and his band of renegades. It’s incredibly epic, visually stunning, and surprisingly reminiscent of the Devil May Cry series, quickly earning its place as one of our favorites and maintaining that status. The standout feature is its innovative encyclopedia, seamlessly displaying information about all characters on-screen at any given moment, providing comprehensive explanations.
2. Super Mario Bros. Wonder
Why: A top-tier platformer revitalizing the series.
Before dismissing it with a “Another Mario? Again?” refrain, it’s essential to note that the previous installment in the series hit the shelves over a decade ago. It’s been a significant wait for a new 2D platformer featuring the mustachioed plumber, but Super Mario Bros. Wonder proves that the wait was entirely worthwhile. It is easily one of the best entries in the mascot’s extensive history.
1. The Legend of Zelda: Tears of the Kingdom
Why: Remarkable new mechanics.
Amidst skepticism, many wondered if lightning could strike the same place twice with the sequel to Breath of the Wild, especially given its extended development time and a seemingly the same game world. However, the prolonged development wasn’t in vain; the game introduces entirely new mechanics, exploring sky and subterranean worlds. The result is something truly unique—a game that defies the limitations of outdated Nintendo Switch hardware, not just running smoothly but doing so with mechanics that continue to perplex developers trying to understand its physics engine.
Cyberpunk 2077: Phantom Liberty — Once deemed the disappointment of the year, Cyberpunk 2077 has transformed into one of the best games. With substantial fixes and an outstanding expansion, the developers have finally delivered on the expectations set three years ago.
Horizon Forbidden West: Burning Shores — The new expansion, while slightly lacking in story, easily earns the distinction of the most visually stunning title of the year.
Dredge — Black Salt Games’ debut game stands out as one of the best this year.
Hi-Fi Rush — Tango Gameworks delivers an exceptional game that blends cool music with a unique visual style.
Jusant — the studio behind Life is Strange gave us one of the chillest and original games of the year.
Major Disappointments of the Year:
Forspoken — It’s hard to identify what this game does right; the horrendous story alone earns it a spot on this dishonorable list.
Lord of the Rings: Gollum — Potentially the worst game of the year, plagued by bugs, terrible visuals, and a lackluster story, serving as a clear example of how not to develop a game.
Redfall — What was supposed to be Xbox’s triumph turned out to be a complete failure, which was especially disappointing given the studio’s fantastic portfolio in the past.