I’ve toyed with this for a good month now. Looking at how I can write about the best games I’ve played this year. Going over them in advance etc. But honestly, time to get it all together and make a big fuss out of our game of the year 2023 hasn’t really been there.
Still, game of the year is important to me and I want to make sure there’s some coverage!
As always game of the year is less about the best game released in the year, but the best game that I’ve played. It could be a 20 year old classic for all I care. Not because good things haven’t come out this year, but in a world where we’re spoiled for choice and literally can’t play everything during any given year, prioritising games to play is a task in itself.
In fact, 2023 has been an exceptional year for gamers. Massive, successful releases, big hits for indie titles, and so much in between. It’s been a struggle to keep up and actively take part in the 2023 gaming discourse!
All that said, I’ve spent a long time deliberating the contenders, because game of the year is nothing if not a contest of the games that took up most of my time. And whilst I’ve seen the birth of a second son, and work ramping-up, I’ve done my best to commit to games with the time that I have.
So, in no particular order, here’s a quick rundown of what’s in consideration, and why.
Game of the year 2023 is varied to say the least!
Wait, not 2k24? No, I’m waiting for the price to drop quite frankly. With all annual-release sports games, I don’t agree with buying them at release. However, I got 2k23 for a steal, and unbelievable it became a part of the my internal game of the year discourse quite quickly.
I’ve never gotten to grips with these games, but always, always wanted to. This year I committed to getting into it, and honestly, I think it’s borderline perfect in terms of a basketball simulator.
It plays great on the steam deck, too. So my season with the Golden State Warriors was continued no matter where I was.
Looks great, plays great and once it clicks for you, it’s just a good daily player. Re-igniting my love for basketball, too. I’ve been able to really get back into watching it.
Capcom took a chance on a game that combined the best of Overwatch and Anthem, then threw-in a shit ton of dinosaurs for good measure. In a lot of ways, it just shouldn’t work, but it just does. Goddamn.
Fun, accessible, unique. What else do you want from a game? Game of the year contenders have to be fin at the very least, right?
Exoprimal ticks a lot of boxes, but I suspect actually it flew well under a lot of people’s radars, because marketing was minimal and well, what the heck is Exoprimal when you look at it on face value? It’s a tough sell, and I thought it would be trash, but it’s my second-most played game on Xbox/Gamepass this year, and it’s genuinely great.
Cyberpunk 2077 – Phantom Liberty
I loved Cyberpunk 2077, despite it’s flaws. So a major expansion, new story and Idris Elba? Sign me up!
Game of the year for a DLC might seem crazy, but you could essentially play Phantom Liberty as a standalone story and it shines all by itself. Combined with the significant 2.0 update. Cyberpunk 2077 is firing on all cylinders.
A story of espionage, government chaos, hacking. Elements of it feel like you’re in a James Bond Movie. The entire campaign was a joy from top to bottom, and I squeezed another good few hours out of a game I thought I was mostly done with.
Returning to the familiar, whilst seeing it all shiny and new. Well-acted and just hitting all the right notes narratively and emotionally. Phantom Liberty is a stunner from 2023.
The Legend of Zelda: Tears of the Kingdom
Certainly my most anticipated game of 2023. The follow-up to one of my favourite games of all time. Tears of the Kingdom took everything that made Breath of the Wild incredible and upped it by 100%.
My expectations were high, and they were shattered into a million pieces. With 92 hours on record, released merely weeks after my son was born. It’s certainly been my most played game of the year.
Creative, fun, big. Enough about me. Tears of the Kingdom delivered in spades. To come out and make Breath of the Wild look like a technical demo or something, is no mean feat.
Baldur’s Gate 3
Well, this is a really interesting one. Baldur’s Gate 3 was barely on my radar when 2023 started. Little did I know a game could be so creative, so freeing and so personal.
Built on the rules of Dungeon’s and Dragons, you live in a world that basically plays as the table-top game would. Reliant on dice rolls, luck and creativity at every turn. I don’t know that there’s anything else like it. This is winning Game of the Year awards all over the place, and rightfully so.
I’ve barely written about it here, and have yet to finish it. But it’s left a strong enough impression to say with confidence that this is a one of a kind experience. Something so novel, and so within my personal wheelhouse of pleasure, that I’m literally scheduling January and February as the time to finish my first run-through.
Runs well on the Steam Deck too, somehow! And that’s a significant factor in my choices these days. Portability and experience away from the desk and monitors.
Horizon Forbidden West
Odd choice here, particularly considering the tone of my review. Horizon Forbidden West was a chore for approximately 85% of the time. But when it wasn’t, it was a beautiful world full of really creative and enjoyable stuff.
I ended up putting plenty of time into it to finish it, and that alone means I have to consider it. Why stick with it if you’re not into it? I must, at some level have had some significant enjoyment from it. When the credits rolled I was gutted that it was over. That melancholy that you get from game or film or book. You won’t experience it again, you won’t feel that way again.
It’s in the running, it has to be!
Dave the Diver
Dave the Diver is a game that wouldn’t generally turn my head. On the face of it, it’s a fishing sim and sushi restaurant manager sim. Done in 2D pixel art. I’m a sucker for big-budget, and really have to force myself to engage with the smaller indie titles.
How the heck did it get on the Game of the Year 2023 list?!
Well, I got my head out of my arse and started to try smaller releases this year, and Dave the Diver is proof that the real fun and ingenuity is coming from smaller studios and smaller games.
Chock-full of personality. It looks incredible, it’s silly and funny, but the core gameplay loop is perfect. Diving for fish and selling it at night. It sounds basic, but it’s deep (pardon the diving pun)….
Add-in the story, the cast of characters, and just how truly charming it really is, and you’ve got yourself a game that deserves to be on every list at the end of the year.
I’m still mulling this one over, and working on playing a few more games over the next week. However, I think the list is set. This is the definitive list of contenders for the 2023 ninjarefinery.com game of the year.
It’s going to be closer than I imagined, and I’m really amazed by just how taken aback I’ve been by some of these games this year.
I’ve missed loads, I need to finish others, and I have some other honourable mentions, too!
But this is it. By the end of this year, one of these games will be crowned the king of 2023 for ninjarefinery.com
What’s your GotY this year?