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2023 was a freight train that didn’t know when to stop. With acclaimed games dropping each month or even every week, they faced off in a bid for players’ time and wallets. There’s a good chance some of the games on this list are already on your 2024 backlog.
While this year gave us an incredible variety of titles, it also took a great deal from us. Layoffs hit multiple companies like Epic Games, Embracer Group, EA, Microsoft, and Naughty Dog among others. On a more positive note, the SAG-AFTRA voted for strike authorization for actors in the video game industry. It’s a wake-up call for a medium whose performances rival other visual media in complexity and nuance.
Video games have always had the power to forge human connections. And during a time of intense political and cultural turmoil, this sentiment is especially distinct. Be it games that relied on a community or those that tackled important themes via their narratives, they’ve fostered a safe space where decisions still matter. In doing so, video games remain a growing force of introspection and fun that brings humanity together.
And with that, here are VideoGamer’s best games of the year.
10. Diablo 4
Blizzard’s renowned dungeon crawler slashes its way into our list with the familiar formula of slaying monsters for better gear and loot. While the reception to its first Season might not have matched that of the campaign, Diablo 4’s second Season made up for it with a raft of balance changes and neat additions. As a game that evolves every couple of months, few do it as well as Diablo 4.
Read Ford’s Diablo 4 review here. Available on PC, PlayStation 5, Xbox Series X|S, PlayStation 4, and Xbox One.
9. Alan Wake 2
After 13 long years, cult hit Alan Wake finally got a mind-bending sequel. Packed to the gills with meta-narratives that question pretty much everything, Alan Wake II succeeds by giving you more questions than answers. With dual protagonists, killer survival horror elements, and an aesthetic that Remedy Entertainment honed to perfection, it’s well worth a first and even second visit. If you’re in a dark place, remember to stay in the light.
Available on PlayStation 5, Xbox Series X|S, and PC.
8. Pokemon Scarlet and Violet – Teal Mask and Indigo Disk
Look past its glitches and decent graphics and the Pokemon magic still shines in Scarlet and Violet. Its open world with interconnected locales and the option to head to any gym leader are ambitious decisions that aren’t completely thought-out. A strong highlight is the Paths system that brings you closer to the characters you meet on your journey. The Teal Mask and Indigo Disk DLCs pad the base game with even more content. The former whisks you away to the new Kitikami region and Indigo Disk brings you face-to-face with the new Blueberry Elite Four. While fans are divided over the game’s presentation, there’s enough here for nostalgic fans to warrant a return.
Here’s Alex’s Pokemon Scarlet and Violet review. Available on Nintendo Switch.
7. Sea of Stars
Sabotage Studio did a phenomenal job of bringing a retro-inspired adventure to life. Chrono Trigger’s seamless battles? Check. Super Mario RPG’s timed inputs? Check. A brilliant soundtrack with help from Yasunori Nitsuda? You bet. Cookie-cutter story aside, Sea of Stars won us over with its tasteful pairing of retro mechanics with heartfelt writing and gorgeous visuals. ‘When some zones felt haunting and oppressive in Sea of Stars, I would bring in the sun to cheer me up.’ That’s from my Sea of Stars review and few games can compete with that.
Available on PC, PlayStation 5, Xbox Series X|S, PlayStation 4, Xbox One, and Nintendo Switch.
6. Final Fantasy 16
Few franchises can match the visual splendor of Final Fantasy. In this department, the latest iteration soars, with Eikon fights and incredible environments that feel like the designers had an infinite budget. But as Tom noted in his Final Fantasy 16 review, stifled combat and a bloated story hold it back from greatness. While most of the story beats stick their landings, the game’s smaller moments paired with excellent voice acting do a better job of lending authenticity to its world. Final Fantasy purists will have their pet peeves but Final Fantasy 16 delivers on most fronts, serving as an excellent addition to the franchise.
Available on PlayStation 5.
5. Cyberpunk 2077: Phantom Liberty
Sitting between bittersweet and gut-wrenching is a tough ask but Phantom Liberty pulls off a heist on your emotions. In a redemption arc after a divisive launch, CD Projekt Red redeemed itself with an expansion that delivers a booster dose of refinement and heart. With streamlined combat and an overhaul of most of its systems, Phantom Liberty is a welcome sequel to V’s Night City adventures. Check out my Phantom Liberty review here.
Available on PC, PlayStation 5, and Xbox Series X|S.
4. Super Mario Bros. Wonder
After starring in one of the biggest movie blockbusters of 2023, our friendly plumber didn’t need to jump far to land on our list. With a cast of beloved characters on a mission to beat Bowser and save the Flower Kingdom, Mario’s latest is a great portal to a franchise built on decades of love. While most of the platforming mechanics will be familiar to longtime fans, the visual upgrade and intricate level design make Super Mario Bros. Wonder a must-play title.
Available on Nintendo Switch.
3. Marvel’s Spider-Man 2
Spider-Man 2 from Insomniac doubles the tempo by giving you control of Peter Parker and Miles Morales, complete with their own arcs and side stories. It’s packed with just as much heart as Spider-Man and Spider-Man: Miles Morales, with interesting characters finding themselves in all kinds of situations. While the game is shorter than its predecessor, more impactful side quests and refined combat make it an exhilarating experience. Amaar’s Spider-Man 2 review is a spotlight on a title that stands toe-to-toe with the best superhero games of all time.
Available on PlayStation 5.
2. The Legend of Zelda: Tears of the Kingdom
This excerpt from Alex’s Tears of the Kingdom review describes it well so I’ll let him grab the Zonai wheel. ‘It is nothing short of a triumph that with Tears of the Kingdom, Nintendo has managed to improve on Breath of the Wild in every regard. The freedom offered by the game’s mechanics is unparalleled and when combined with a deep story and an enormous map with a variety of distinct areas, it serves to create one of the most fun and unforgettable experiences I have ever had in gaming.’ Paired with a community that continues to mine its depths, few titles in recent memory have had the cultural impact of this Nintendo juggernaut.
Available on Nintendo Switch.
1. Baldur’s Gate 3
Ah, we’re finally at the most backlogged game of the year. Take it from an inexperienced D&D Dungeon Master (DM), creating stories is hard work, especially ones that grow alongside their players. My Baldur’s Gate 3 review praised its reactive stories and satisfying choice-driven conclusions. ‘Baldur’s Gate 3 is not limitless but it accounts for nearly any crockery you throw at it, even more than Larian Studios’ Divinity: Original Sin 2. Its threads of continuity hold my attention in a way few games have this year.’ If charming hyenas, tossing potions, and pushing hags off cliffs speak to you, grab some friends and dive into the best role-playing experience the genre has witnessed in years.
Available on PC, PlayStation 5, and finally Xbox Series X|S.