2023 was one of the greatest years of game releases in recent generations, with superb new titles across multiple genres and platforms. It seemed like every few weeks, a new “Game of the Year” contender would drop, sending the gaming fandom into a frenzy. The best games of 2023 filled me with great emotion, challenged my perception, and reminded me of why I fell in love with gaming in the first place.
This is a list of my top 10 games of 2023. The list is purely based on my opinion and nothing else. It was very, very difficult to finalize this list, so if your favorite game doesn’t make the cut, that doesn’t mean it wasn’t considered (check the honorable mentions section at the bottom for even more recommendations). If you enjoy this ranked list, you may also enjoy our other Best of 2023 gaming award lists, including the Best Multiplayer Games of 2023 and the Funniest Game of the Year. Without further ado, these are my picks for the best video games of 2023!
The Best Video Games of 2023
10. Marvel’s Spider-Man 2
Developer Insomniac is no stranger to making fast-paced, fun action games packed with cool gadgets, side missions, and more. So, it makes senses that their latest action game based on the popular comic hero would be a hit. Marvel’s Spider-Man 2 is very much like the first game, just with way more features, multiple playable characters, and a much larger map.
Swinging through New York City feels smooth as butter, there are extra combat mechanics to enjoy, and there’s rarely a dull moment thanks to the highly cinematic feel. Not only is Marvel’s Spider-Man 2 one of the best PlayStation 5 exclusive games, but it also swung past plenty of tough competition to land on my list of the best games of 2023.
9. Star Wars Jedi: Survivor
Star Wars Jedi: Survivor is a sequel that takes everything that worked about the first game, improves upon it, and then cracks the concept wide open with a Metroidvania-style open world. Created by Respawn Entertainment (the same developers as Titanfall 2), Jedi: Survivor features some awesome movement mechanics, like the wall run, Jedi Dash, and more.
The extra lightsaber stances are a fun addition to the combat, making the big-budget set piece moments even better. Plain and simple, Jedi: Survivor made for a highly enjoyable follow-up to Jedi: Fallen Order. It might feel slightly formulaic for the genre, but it’s still damn fun to play.
8. HiFi Rush
HiFi Rush was announced and shadow-dropped on the same day in early January, developed by the passionate team at Tango Gameworks. Controlling Chai, the clumsy goof who, through wild circumstances, becomes a protagonist with a music player embedded in his chest, you hack and slash your way through waves of robots to the rhythm of sweet tunes.
In fact, everything from the obstacles to the environment pulse to the beat of the background music makes HiFi Rush feel like a non-stop action rock musical. Featuring awesome original music and licensed tracks from bands like Nine Inch Nails, HiFi Rush is a linear adventure that dances its way onto our list of the best games of 2023.
7. Sea of Stars
RPGs have been rather actiony of late, haven’t they? Sea of Stars says to hell with modern trends, opting for a fully retro-inspired turn-based adventure. Developed by Sabotage Studio and set in the same universe as their previous game, The Messenger, Sea of Stars is an absolute treat, with beautiful visuals and an engaging battle system to back it up.
Wearing its inspirations on its sleeve, Sea of Stars combines elements of classic retro RPGs like Chrono Trigger, Paper Mario, Secret of Mana, and more, but adds enough modern features to keep you constantly engaged. It’s a quirky treat for genre fans and an excellent entry point for turn-based newbies, which is always a win in my book.
Ho boy, Starfield is a controversial game, often acting as the wide receiver for internet shit-slinging on a daily basis. Despite what Bethesda Game Studios may have promised, Starfield is essentially Fallout 4 set in space, meaning it’s a massive open-world RPG packed with quests, factions, crafting, and exploration. Starfield offers the same style of adventure that Bethesda has been churning out since the early 2000s, and depending on your perspective, it’s either lazy and mid or quirky sci-fi fun.
Obviously, based on the placement of Starfield on this list of the best games of 2023, I’m one of those pesky Starfield apologists, who still found tons of entertainment in the game’s various quest lines, first-person combat, and general exploration. I felt meaningful connections to characters, experienced a personal sense of discovery, and even chuckled a few times as well. Sure, it might not be The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim, but I still had a good time with Starfield, although I wholly acknowledge its shortcomings.
5. Diablo IV
Back to back with the controversial games, Diablo IV lit the internet ablaze when it went live in early June. For me, Diablo has always been about chopping up demons as a blood-fueled Barbarian, and Diablo IV brought me back to that delightful mosh pit of violence. There were a handful of absolutely sick boss fights and atmospheric areas that blew me away, enough to forgive the bumpy story pacing.
It also helped that I had plenty of pals to join me on my Diablo IV journey, as I played through the main story multiple times with various groups (each with differing levels of Diablo experience). The decent-to-excellent seasonal content kept Diablo IV in the rotation throughout 2023, and with any luck, it will continue to grow in the years to come. Sometimes I just like slashing through waves of bad guys and watching the chunks fly. Diablo IV makes that happen.
4. My House
Usually, I don’t consider non-commercial releases for these kinds of lists, but My House demands an exception. Created by just one guy, Steve Nelson, My House is a custom map (often referred to as a WAD) for Doom II. At first glance, the level is your average Doom affair, guiding you towards gunning down demons in a residential home. However, as things start to get weird and a feeling of unease sets in, you start to realize that My House might be more than just a simple fan-made level.
My House doesn’t just defy the expectations of the player, it defies the laws of the very game engine it is built on. It’s a first-person shooter experience that feels extremely refreshing, utterly uncanny, and like a copypasta horror story incarnate (without a hint of cringe). My House can be finished in roughly 20 minutes… or you can get lost in its labyrinth of riddles for hours. It’s a game that rewards curiosity just as much as it meddles with your mind. You can either play the game yourself by downloading the MyHouse WAD and using GZDoom (if you have a copy of Doom II), or feel free to watch one of the many YouTube videos that go into great detail about the game (like the one at the top of this list entry).
3. Super Mario Bros. Wonder
According to Super Mario Bros. Wonder‘s game director, Shiro Mouri, this colorful Nintendo Switch platformer was inspired by the feeling of personal discovery that players experienced in the classic 2D Super Mario era. He didn’t want to settle for a “great” Mario game, he wanted a superb one that was packed with surprise. In my opinion, the result was a stunning success, crafted with care and consistently subverting expectations.
When you collect the somewhat hidden Wonder Flowers in each stage, Super Mario Wonder triggers psychedelic challenges where all rules are off. The camera may shift perspective, or perhaps Mario turns into a giant balloon. In addition to the exceptionally cool Wonder Flower challenges, Super Mario Wonder offers blissful platforming, brilliant visual design, and an undeniable sense of humor. I haven’t had this much fun with a 2D Super Mario game since Super Mario World 2: Yoshi’s Island, making it an easy placement on this best games of 2023 list.
2. Mortal Kombat 1
When it comes to fighting games, I love Mortal Kombat. Sure, I also appreciate zoning out opponents in Super Street Fighter II Turbo or juggling foes to death in Tekken 3, but the Mortal Kombat franchise has its hooks in me hard. The combination of easy-to-learn controls but hard-to-master combos (now with air juggling), a cinematic story campaign, and incredibly realistic visuals make Mortal Kombat 1 an all-around fighting game feast. The extreme violence, amazing stages, and over-the-top death animations just make it all the more fun.
Mortal Kombat 1 had the balls to do a reboot in 2023, but still have it connect to existing lore, providing both a competent story and a deluge of fan service. The seasonal Invasion mode is a personal dream come true, turning Mortal Kombat into a sort of Mario Party-style board RPG adventure. Online multiplayer remains as rock solid as ever, the companion fighter system is hype as hell, and there are plenty of arcade ladders to grind if you can find the time. Just like its predecessor, I’ll be playing Mortal Kombat 1 for a few years, at least until Mortal Kombat 2 slices its way onto the scene.
1. Alan Wake 2 (GAME OF THE YEAR)
Without being hyperbolic in the slightest, Alan Wake 2 is one of the best stories ever told in video games. It requires that you have played the first game (and Control, also developed by Remedy), but once those narrative threads start twisting in your brain, Alan Wake 2 makes sure they never stop. In a sequel that no one saw coming, Alan Wake 2 features a dual-protagonist story with interconnected storylines, some remarkably unnerving survival horror gameplay, intense third-person shooting, and out-of-this-world creative visual design.
Besides a few pacing issues here and there, it’s hard to find any major flaws with Alan Wake 2. Especially for psychological horror fans or those who appreciate meta-storytelling, it’s a trip that will stick with you long after the credits finish rolling. Just as Half-Life 2, Bioshock, The Last of Us, and a few other titles get mentioned when “the best video game story” discussion comes up, Alan Wake II does a 360 backflip (while on acid) and firmly lands among those narrative titans, while also tackling the top spot as the best game of 2023.
Thank you, Remedy Entertainment, for daring to make such an ambitious and creative title that perfectly exemplifies the immersive nature of gaming as a medium, while simultaneously crafting an unbelievably effective psychological thriller. Alan Wake 2 broke my brain in so many wonderful ways, while still being a top-tier video game that was actually fun to play. Control was my Game of the Year in 2019, and with Alan Wake 2 claiming the crown just a few years later, it’s clear that Remedy is ahead of the pack while also creating a distinct style and voice.
There are so many games that are released each that it’s simply impossible to play them all. All too often, games slip under my radar or I only get a few hours of playtime, so it’s hard to vouch for the quality of these games with such a limited impression. However, based on overwhelmingly positive responses from critics and trusted colleagues, I felt like it was important to shout out to these other 2023 releases. Whether through impressive storytelling, progressive game development, or pure fun factor, these games could also be considered some of the best games of 2023:
- Baldur’s Gate 3
- Street Fighter 6
- The Legend of Zelda: Tears of the Kingdom
- Super Mario RPG Remake
- Hogwarts Legacy
- Forza Motorsport
- Lies of P
- Dead Island 2
- Like a Dragon: The Man Who Erased His Name