2023’s been a wild ride for the world of gaming. Between the colossal list of bangers and a few unfortunate duds, we witnessed some of the highest highs and lowest lows the industry has to offer. With a year this absurdly stacked full of releases, it seems almost criminal to narrow our list down to our top ten games, but hey, we can only fit so many characters on a feature image before it starts looking ridiculous.
The Prima Teama each ranked their five favorite games of the year out of a list of 44 notable releases. After tallying up the results, we ended up with a list of honorable mentions that just barely missed the top five, the four runners-up, and, of course, Prima’s pick for Game of the Year. We asked our team of talented voices to share a few words about why they chose these games and why they deserve the recognition.
The Worst Best Year of Gaming
We’d be remiss not to acknowledge the thousands of people who lost their jobs in what should have been the most celebratory year of gaming in over a decade. Artists, programmers, composers, writers, community managers, Q&A testers, and everyone outside and in between. 2023 brought record-breaking sales and profits to publishers of all shapes and sizes, and yet we witnessed an unfathomable amount of talent chewed up and spit out by parties with seemingly no regard other than big numbers on pale spreadsheets.
It’s easy to become immersed in great works of art like the games on this list and forget that behind each one is a real, human cost. Thousands of talented individuals pour their hearts out for these projects, from the initial conception of ideas, throughout the arduous creative process, and the years of continued support post-release. Video games don’t exist in a vacuum, and they wouldn’t be made without the help of hundreds of thousands of people who love them just as much as we do.
Prima Games would like to thank all of the incredibly talented humans who made 2023 one of the most memorable years of gaming of all time.
Prima Games GOTY 2023 – Runners-Up
Alan Wake II – Remedy Entertainment
I jumped into Alan Wake 2 having never played the original and not knowing what to expect out of its successor. I prepped myself for what I thought would be the usual song and dance of survival horror – escape a spooky forest while fending off crazed cultists. What I got, instead, was a mind-bending narrative so brilliantly unique that my face, much like Alan’s, is locked in a permanent state of utter disbelief, fear, and confusion. In the best way possible.
Alan Wake 2 is a psychological hell ride, juggling players between clarity and chaos like playing chicken with oncoming traffic. One moment, I’m connecting the dots of evidence in a series of grisly murders; the next moment I’m flicking light switches to alter reality around me. It’s an experience that’s simply incomparable to anything else and a game that will loop forever in my mind.
Sea of Stars – Sabotage Studio
2023 saw many games, but Sea of Stars was one of the best. Developed by Sabotage Studio, Sea of Stars tells the story of Valere and Zale, two Children of the Solstice who are fated to embark on a journey to save the world from an evil SOB known as The Fleshmancer. It takes inspiration from classic turn-based RPGs like Chrono Trigger and Super Mario RPG and has a plot that will undoubtedly make you cry. More than once.
I had the chance to review Sea of Stars earlier in the year, and I gave it a solid 10/10. It’s genuinely one of the best games I’ve ever played and is actually my personal GOTY. Combat is fun, the story is phenomenal, and the soundtrack is freaking beautiful. I bet y’all $10 it will be top on my Spotify Wrapped in 2024 because I literally can’t stop listening to it.
The Legend of Zelda: Tears of the Kingdom – Nintendo
More than any other game this year, I’ve sunk countless hours into the creative world that lay before me in The Legend of Zelda: Tears of the Kingdom. While other players may have spent their time casting critical rolls, I spent my time creating countless machines, objects, and anything my mind could string together. While I’ve been a fan of the Zelda franchise since a young lad, Tears of the Kingdom drew me in like no other. Maybe it’s because of the rich world and lore that surrounded me. Maybe it was because of the countless possibilities that I could create. Maybe it was just because the game was just so much fun.
The story carried on effortlessly throughout my time spent in Hyrule, the cast of unique characters that peppered my adventure filled me with joy, and even sly references to past entries in the franchise made Tears of the Kingdom one of my favorite games, not only of this year, but of all time. It’s almost impossible to understand how a game of this magnitude can even work on the Switch in the first place, but even after completing the game, I find myself yearning to enter the world for as long as I can.
Octopath Traveler II – Square Enix
Octopath Traveler 2 is a dream for all those who adore RPGs. And, for me, it’s the perfect example of the genre, sweeping me back to the original Octopath Traveler, which I poured countless hours into. And Octopath Traveler 2 does everything the original did, but better.
In typical RPG fashion, the story follows eight protagonists on different paths that slowly intertwine until they unite as one unit to fight a world-ending evil. But while the bare bones might seem trite, Octopath is anything but. The moment I started the game, it kept me burning the midnight oil until I fully completed it two weeks later. Octopath Traveler 2 is the perfect marriage between innovative combat systems and worldbuilding which makes every aspect of the game a pleasure.
Prima Games GOTY 2023 – Honorable Mentions
We’re almost to our pick for Game of the Year, but first, we can’t forget this handful of Honorable Mentions that didn’t quite reach our top five but managed to squeeze their way into our top ten. Any of these games could’ve easily been replaced by another, and we often had to settle a few of these with tiebreakers. Honestly, there were enough outstanding releases this year to triple the length of this entire feature, but for the sake of brevity and bandwidth, we narrowed it down to five.
Hi-Fi Rush – Tango Gameworks
If you’d have told me my personal game of the year would be a shadow-dropped character action game, reminiscent of an exuberant Dreamcast era, where I’d be stringing combos together to the beat of The Prodigy and Nine Inch Nails, well, I’d absolutely believe you because that sounds badass. And that’s exactly what Tango Gameworks surprised the world with when they burst down the doors of 2023 and dropped Hi-Fi Rush, an instant classic that set the stage for the incredible year of releases that followed.
Hi-Fi Rush is everything I’d ever want out of a video game, and its overall cadence brought some of the most entertaining moments I’ve experienced in the medium. It knows when to be silly and when to be wholesome, when it’s time to be serious and when it’s time to break the fourth wall, but it never stops being fun. There’s also a robot cat named 808 who emulates the “doink!”, “bop!”, and “bip!” sounds of the drum machine she’s named after as she hops around. Wrap it up, we’re done here, folks.
Resident Evil 4 (2023) – Capcom
While I’m one of the few people who never played the original, Resident Evil 4 was a real treat. Not only did it manage to modernize the classic RE mechanics in a way that came across as faithful but felt great, but its visuals were also top-notch. It almost feels like its own game at times, even if it seems to hold the same general story as the original.
That isn’t even including the much-welcomed Separate Ways DLC released earlier this year which added a lot more to the experience than I first expected. Given the track records with remakes thus far, I’m excited to play through RE5 and then see how it stacks up against the future remake. Truly a great survival horror game, and one of the best this year against some stiff competition like Dead Space Remake.
Pizza Tower – Tour De Pizza
As a child of the 90s, the platformer genre is something that I hold near and dear to me. Alongside growing up on cartoons that I likely shouldn’t have been watching in my youth (I’m looking at you, Ren and Stimpy), I never thought that I would see the day that my favorite genre receive such a breath of fresh air, even if it’s coated in pepperoni grease. From the moment I first laid eyes on Pizza Tower, I knew that I was in for something special, even if I didn’t expect it to rule my life the way that it had from the first time I played it.
Alongside pitch-perfect controls, an electric soundtrack peppers each stage with personality, and the use of classic screams that sound like they’ve been ripped from the Mel Blanc Looney Tunes era makes Pizza Tower feel like a game specifically made for me. I’ve learned that all I need in life is a silly little game about a man with a plan to save his business. Godspeed, Peppino Spaghetti, and thank you Tour de Pizza for making a game that is specifically catered to me in every way, shape, and form.
Also, does Baldur’s Gate 3 have Mort the Chicken from the PlayStation 1 classic “Mort the Chicken”? I think not.
Final Fantasy XVI – Square Enix
Whenever a new Final Fantasy game is released, there’s always those who love it and those who hate it with seemingly no in-between. Final Fantasy XVI is a far more gritty Final Fantasy title than previous games in the series, and the story is absolutely captivating. The worldbuilding, lore, and individual characters feel so real and oftentimes relatable. Although the main cast all have incredible powers, they are realistic in the personal battles that they must overcome.
The battle system is fun, and the inclusion of certain accessories to allow players of all ability levels to experience the game is well-received. On top of this, the game boasts absolutely gorgeous landscapes and characters alike, as well as an amazing and memorable soundtrack.
Plus, there’s Torgal. Final Fantasy XVI deserves the top spot for having a dog in the main cast. The bond between Clive and Torgal was a personal highlight of the game. Frost Wolves truly are an Eikon’s best friend.
Super Mario RPG – Nintendo
Like all remakes, Super Mario RPG has to put on one of the toughest balancing acts in game design: what elements of the original game should stay the same, and what should be changed? “Timeless” visuals and gameplay only make the process even more challenging. If the original is so “timeless,” what justifies a remake when a port would suffice? There’s nothing to worry about here, though: Super Mario RPG keeps the integrity of the SNES original with ease.
The remake’s updated graphics and added cutscenes enhance the cast’s already stellar sense of charm. The shiny new visuals are also put to good use in battle, where new Triple Moves spectacularly show off the party’s combined prowess. These moves also provide new skills for players to tinker with. Other gameplay alterations, such as the ability to swap out party members while in battle and a new combo meter, feel like natural additions that could have been in the original game all along. All this is wrapped up in the game’s phenomenal soundtrack, arranged by the original’s legendary composer, Yoko Shimomura, with the added option to swap between the new arrangements or the classic tracks at will.
Super Mario RPG is a magical remake made with silliness and earnestness with a pinch of stardust—a shooting star that comes around only rarely, but when it does, you won’t want to miss it.
Prima Games’ 2023 Game of the Year
Baldur’s Gate III – Larian Studios
This year was full of games that were guaranteed heavy hitters, and yet it was Larian Studios that made waves. Baldur’s Gate 3 is a reminder that player agency and choice in a grand fantasy adventure is what leaves lasting impressions. Larian crafted an enthralling world that is meant to reward you for your clever actions or provide unexpected consequences when the dice has other plans.
It’s all a testament to the sandbox feeling that used to be more common in RPGs as a whole, and with a worthwhile narrative to tie it all together, Baldur’s Gate 3 will surely be stuck in the minds of gamers for years to come.
Baldur’s Gate 3 struck a part of my heart that few games have over the years. As someone who typically avoids complicated games, jumping into this, learning its mechanics, and venturing off the beaten path to discover secrets left me constantly excited to hop back in and see what else I could accomplish hour by hour. I enjoy chatting with its characters, exploring the world, and trying random combinations of gear, classes, and spells to see what works best.
It’s still my goal one day to romance as many characters as possible in one playthrough just to see how they all react.
Over 100 hours later, I’m still having a blast with it, anticipating what wacky additions each patch will introduce over time. I wholeheartedly believe Baldur’s Gate 3 deserves all its praise, and I’m happy to see its spot here on our 2023 Game of the Year list.
You know what they say – there’s only three things certain in life; death, taxes, and Prima’s love for RPGs. See y’all in 2024.