The Best Year in Gaming: 2023

Last year’s stacked lineup of games for the Game Awards had us thinking: What was the best year in gaming? As part of our series on determining gaming’s best year, we’re putting together an article on each year, charting the major releases and developments of the year, and talking about both their impact and what made them great.

The Year: 2023

2023, the year that launched fifty articles. 

Normally, recency bias is anathema to saying something is “the best ever.” Sure, it was pretty good, but the best ever? How could a year that just happened stand against the classics? Most years, this cools down the hype and strips the rose colored glasses, and we measure the worth of a year in gaming with clear minds.

So it’s really something special that even when the rose colored glasses are off, 2023 still is an unbelievably great year for games of all kinds.  

2023 is also a year dominated by the new generative artificial intelligence, or generative AI, craze. Generative AI is not true artificial intelligence in the H.A.L 9000 sense. Rather, they are incredibly powerful programs that are able to look at a large set of data and make decisions or create new amalgamations of that data very quickly. This tech has unbelievable potential for millions of people, so naturally big corporations decided to ignore those possibilities and instead explore generative AI options that can make a quick buck. The release of ChatGPT by OpenAI at the end of 2022 launched a surge of interest in using generative AI tools to circumvent the need for creative types like artists or writers, saving money and time by punching in a few prompts into a program and going from there. 

This led to the biggest story in the entertainment industry of 2023: the Writers Guild of America strike, followed swiftly by the Screen Actors-American Federation of Television and Radio Artists (SAG-AFTRA) strikes of 2023. A major factor in these strikes is the encroaching presence that AI was having in the entertainment industry, as AI started being used to replace background actors and skim down writers rooms. Without additional protections against this new tech, actors and writers both faced the troubling possibility of being replaced by computer programs. After several months of protest that ground many American productions to a halt, both the writers guild and SAG came to an agreement that while imperfect, does give some protection against AI in Hollywood.

Mass Layoffs Rock the Games Industry

But to talk about 2023, we need to address the 10,500 pound elephant in the room: the layoffs.

As the consequences of over-hiring during the global COVID-19 pandemic, rising interest rates, and the colossal monetary cost of making a modern video converged in 2023, video game publishers and developers across the board were left in dire financial straits. Despite bringing in $188 billion in revenue, the industry struggled to keep up with costs or make the kind of profit that pleases company shareholders. And with that, the avalanche of layoffs that 2023 became infamous for was set into motion.

As stories of new layoffs seemed to come every week, it became clear that while video games might be truly better than ever, the industry is on an unsustainable trajectory. As is, even making massively successful games like Insomniac’s Spider-Man 2 will struggle to make a profit.

Does this disqualify 2023 from being considered the best year in gaming? No. While the industry itself may be in its prolonged dumpster fire era, the hard work done by those within it is still top tier and deserve all of the praise they’ve gotten. While we recognize the awesome things that have happened for games this year, we should also continue to demand an actually sustainable industry. We can, in fact, do both.     

Games Workshop releases Warhammer 40,000: Tenth Edition

Games Workshop released the next edition of Warhammer 40,000 in the summer of 2023. It’s launch box, Leviathan, brought with it new Tyranids and Space Marines, and a host of new changes from ninth edition. Tenth edition focused on streamlining the rules bloat that 9th had suffered, one of its biggest changes limiting the number of stratagems and instead rolling those abilities into new datasheets. It also reworked matched play into a more dynamic game with the introduction of the matched play deck. 

Much like eighth edition had a few years prior, tenth edition marked a hard reset in the games ruleset. While many of the rules were familiar to players of the previous edition, all the existing codexes were replaced by indexes. In general, weapon deadliness was rolled back across the board, and vehicles and monsters were given higher toughness ratings. On release, the balance of these Indexes were all over the place, but after a few balance passes the problem factions were brought into line. As of this writing, Warhammer 40,000 tenth edition is thriving, with an increasing number of global events and growing playerbase. 

Magic the Gathering Gets a Lord of the Rings Tie-In

The Universes Beyond Magic the Gathering sets, which focus on crossovers between the game of Magic and other fictional IP, found a massive success with its Lord of the Rings tie-in during the summer of 2023. The set, titled Universes Beyond: Tales of Middle Earth, was filled with art that presented a bold and imaginative take on Middle Earth, while creative set mechanics like being tempted by the One Ring made the set fun to play for all kinds of players. The set would be a massive success for Wizards of the Coast, becoming one of the all time highest grossing Magic sets and prompting Wizards to focus more on Universes Beyond releases in the future.

Tales of Middle Earth also has the novelty of having the most valuable card in Magic history. A special one-of-one printing of The One Ring written in the Black Speech of Sauron was bought by Post Malone for $2 million. Go off, Post Malone. 

Disney: Lorcana Hits Big on Release

Despite being plagued by supply concerns on initial release, the new TCG Disney: Lorcana’s debut was met with praise across the gaming community. As a card game, Lorcana provides an engaging experience with meaningful decisions to make each turn. It also avoids the classic magic pitfall of being stuck with an over or under abundance of resources with its Inking system, using cards in your hand as a resource. The games vibrant artwork is fantastic, and helps make Lorcana appealing for those who may be new to the TCG sphere or for family game nights.    

Horror Remakes Shine

Some of my fellow authors at Goonhammer have already spoken about how 2023 is a great year if you’re a fan of the recent wave of horror remakes. System Shock Remake, Resident Evil 4 Remake, and Dead Space (2023) each examine their source material and adapt it in different ways, with some like Resident Evil 4 Remake being almost entirely different games while System Shock finds charm in being stubbornly retro. Yet all of these remakes impressively keep the spirit of the original game, if not outright amplify it. While the continued popularity of these horror remakes seems like a scheme for companies to make quick nostalgia bucks, these remakes time and again are love letters to what made these games great in the first place, while still finding new ways to set high watermarks in the genre.  

Street Fighter 6

Street Fighter 6 is Capcom’s latest home run release in what might be one of the most impressive hot streaks in recent memory for any video game publisher. While the latest Street Fighter is a mechanically excellent game that feels right at home to play for series veterans, its biggest success is in how the game goes out of its way to bring in new players to the fighting game community. Whether it is through its extensive tutorials, introduction of simplified directional based modern controls, or the globetrotting “World Tour” single player mode, Street Fighter 6 is a rare mainstream success for what is normally a niche genre, and one of the best games of the year. 

Legend of Zelda: Tears of the Kingdom

When The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild came out, it not only radically impacted the Zelda franchise, but what is possible in exploring an open world in video gaming can be. Its follow up, Tears of the Kingdom, isn’t content to rest on its laurels and instead once again pushes the boundaries while exploring the kingdom of Hyrule. It does this by introducing a new suite of physics based tools to the player, focused on using the environment to combine and build new objects into a dizzying array of options. With these tools, players can flex their creativity with how they approach problem solving, with options like putting a fan on a shield to blow enemies off cliffs, putting a bomb on a long stick for explosive problem solving, or even creating sailboats or flying machines to speed up traversal.

Combined with its improvement to the dungeons and boss battles, and the addition of a terrifying new underground area, Tears of the Kingdom is more than just a worthy successor to Breath of the Wild; it is a triumph in its own right.  

TheChirurgeon: Tears of the Kingdom fixes the biggest flaw from Breath of the Wild – namely, the game’s weak dungeons and lack of bosses. The dungeons in Tears are innovative and its bosses memorable, and the addition of the sky and underground areas triples the size of the game’s already expansive map. It’s hard to recreate the wonder and sense of exploration you got from Breath of the Wild going into that same Hyrule a second time, but Tears of the Kingdom manages to get there. The only downside is the game’s story, which is just kind of bad. But the gameplay more than makes up for that, and Tears was one of the best games of a stacked year.

Alan Wake 2

The first Alan Wake is a love letter to David Lynch’s Twin Peaks that never reaches high enough to break out of anything bigger than cult classic status. Thirteen years later, and with the lessons from their previous title Control under their belt, game developer Remedy Studios returned to the Alan Wake universe and delivered not just a powerful and suspenseful survival horror game, but one of the best games of the year. Through its tense combat, incredible art direction, and smart writing, Alan Wake 2 keeps players on their toes, exploring a nightmare one step at a time. 

There’s also a musical number, which was performed at the Game Awards and has a fun little dance. Goonhammer author Jonathan Bernhardt may not have liked it, but you can read more on why Alan Wake 2 was his favorite game of 2023 here.

Jonathan Bernhardt: Look, musical segments are in right now, and the intro sequence to Peacemaker and the musical segment in the preceding Remedy title Control set a really high bar that this didn’t quite measure up to for me. Still my Game of the Year.

Armored Core VI: Fires of Rubicon

From Software could make souls-like games until the heat death of the universe, and if Elden Ring is anything to go by then From Software would still be delivering hit after hit to fans. Yet 2023 saw the company briefly step away from its Souls success to return to one of its original popular franchises, the mecha series Armored Core, with Armored Core VI: Fires of Rubicon

Fires of Rubicon takes the gameplay loop of tinkering with your mech and testing those changes through sorties to make the best possible metal killing machine that the series is famous for, and strengthens it with a faster pace and improved combat design that makes AC6 both a great entry point into the mecha genre as well as a thrill for veterans. The Souls game influence can still be felt in the games boss design, making boss fights bullet hell spectacles that push players to their limits.

Still want more? Check out our review of the game here.

Baldur’s Gate 3

Baldur’s Gate 3 entered early access in October of 2020, and after three years of quietly toiling away on it, adding content bit by bit, Larian Studios released the full game in August of 2023 to unprecedented critical and commercial success for a CRPG. Baldur’s Gate 3 offers player freedom and choice in ways that are engaging and rewarding every step of the way in nearly every aspect of the game. Combat encounters often find the player outmatched at first glance, pushing players to get creative and come up with smart plans that range from careful ability combinations and crowd control to clear rooms in a breeze to the slapstick comedy of pushing bad guys into lava because lava very hot. Both are viable, and rewarded by the game with a wink and a thumbs up.

The story for both your character and companions are equally as adaptable. You can meticulously try to make every party member the best version of themselves, taking part in their engaging stories and excellent performances, or just kill them on sight and take their lunch money. Quests often have many solutions, and rarely is there a quest or character in Baldur’s Gate 3 that you stumble upon where the decisions you make don’t have some sort of consequence later.

Baldur’s Gate 3 is the closest we have ever come to the exciting freedom presented by a TTRPG, where one’s imagination is the limit for how they go through the world set before them. It’s a must play for almost any fan of tabletop games, and my personal favorite game of 2023.  

Super Mario Bros. Wonder

TheChirurgeon: One of 2023’s dark horse game of the year candidates, Super Mario Wonder brought the franchise back a more familiar 2D style while updating that style’s game play for the modern era. What follows is a wonderful side-scrolling platformer filled with color and whimsy where every single stage has one or more amazing twists, which constantly keep you guessing. Super Mario Wonder is a game for the whole family to play and enjoy, and one of the best Mario games of all time.

Hi-Fi Rush

TheChirurgeon: If there’s a modern successor to Jet Set Radio, it’s Hi-Fi Rush, a cel-shaded 3D action-platformer where every single action and movement in the game occurs to the beat of the soundtrack playing from the iPod grafted into the main character’s chest cavity. Using his newly acquired cybernetic arm and music enhancements, protagonist Chai has to battle his way through hordes of robots as he takes down the villainous Vandelay technologies and stops their plan to take over the world. The game has a fantastic soundtrack and some amazing characters, and it’s chock full of great humor. It’s also got a refreshingly distinct art style, with a unique blend of US animation and anime elements, and the way the game seamlessly blends in-game graphics with prerendered cutscenes leads to some stunning sequences that feel ripped right out of the Toonami block.

Blasphemous 2

TheChirurgeon: The original Blasphemous was one of the best Soulslike games released in the past ten years, giving us an intriguing world full of religious fanaticism and misery with some of the most intense art direction in a game of the past decade. Blasphemous 2 built on that original game’s foundation with new and improved mechanics, additional weapons – with one of three chosen at the game’s beginning – and a new story which continues the tale of the Grievous Miracle. But perhaps the game’s best improvement is shortening its boss fights, letting them amaze visually and still be challenging without overstaying their welcome and becoming a slog.

Sea of Stars

TheChirurgeon: We’ve seen a wave of Earthbound-like games over the past decade, with the most notable being 2015’s Undertale, but a surprisingly small number of games attempting to copy the mechanics and style of Chrono Trigger. Enter 2023’s Sea of Stars from developer Sabotage Studio, a prequel to their 2018 retro game, The Messenger. Sea of Stars is a wonderful, charming game about three friends working together to save the universe, with a fantastic combat system, some great humor, and an addictive minigame. You will absolutely fall in love with the world and its characters if you play it. Especially Garl.

Final Fantasy XVI

TheChirurgeon: Square Enix’s latest mainline entry into the Final Fantasy series brought the series back to its more medieval fantasy roots, opting for Game of Thrones-style intrigue. It’s another massive, sweeping epic in line with prior games in the series, full of spectacle and big moments. It’s not the best Final Fantasy game but it’s not a bad game, and in most other years would have likely been a real game of the year contender. You can read our review of the game here.

As you can clearly see, the environment tells the story of Tzeentch being owned.

A Host of Great Warhammer Games

TheChirurgeon: In addition to 10th edition 40k, 2023 was also a solid year for 40k video games – Boltgun, Rogue Trader, and Chaos Gate were all notable entries in the 40k video game pantheon, with experiences ranging from “boomer shooter” to “squad RTS” to “action RPG.” We’ve come a long way from the days of Fire Warrior on the PS2 (read about the time we made Bernhardt play that here), and it’s crazy to think we live in a time when it’s more likely a new 40k video game will be good than bad.  

Marvel’s Spider-Man 2

Magos Sockbert: Following the proud tradition of a shocking number of Marvel properties, Spider-Man 2 is the third game in the Spiders-Men franchise by Insomniac Games. It’s also the most spidery, starring both Miles Morales and Peter Parker as the titular Mans and the largest New York City for you to swing around in the most oh my god this is therapy way possible. Seriously, the continual thwip-swoooosh, thwip-swoooosh, thwip-swoooosh is like ASMR for my soul. Venom? Criminal syndicates? JJJ? Never heard of ’em, I’ll get back to you after I’ve dived down from the top of the Avenger’s Tower just to see how many spins I can perform on the way down. Oh, and you can fly now, just in case you were some kind of animal who didn’t get giddy at how honestly organic the web-swinging is in this game.

And really, that’s what you want; the Batman Arkham series perfected both the flow of melee combat and detective/spider vision, and many awesome games have amazing stories, but Spider-Man is about two things: fluid, natural movement at high speed and high altitude, and the narrative relentlessly beating the shit out of Peter Parker. The first Spider-Man game broke my heart seeing the collapse of his friendship with his research supervisor Doctor Otto Octavius and the deaths of people he cared about, and Spider-Man 2 continues to punish the character, reintroducing his best bud Harry Osborne. The moment you see him back, especially after his brief appearance in the first Spider-Man, you know how awful this is going to get, and it goes bad. Spidey 2: the Spidening is way, way darker than the other two games, and you’re shunted between Miles and Pete (while bouncing between the two in free play) as they experience this trauma and hope.

Insomniac does a wonderful job at making you excited, and joyous, and then truly horrified. At moments this game makes Spider-Man, a dude who can take a car to the face and still make a bad pun, utterly scary, really showing off how horrifying that kind of power can be. Seriously, Yuri Lowenthal and Nadja Jeter do incredible jobs as voice actors here, particularly as Spidey becomes more deranged as his foes gain power and he becomes one himself.

I’ve been fairly opaque about the details of why this is a GOTY, but you really need to play this. It isn’t a long game, and the journey you take is really what you want to be playing this for. The gameplay is great the story is solid (even as the weakest game of the three, it’s still top tier), the soundscape is superb, but this is kinda everything you expect from a big AAA title backed by both Marvel (and thus Disney) and Sony. The world and the characters are why you’re really here, and there is yet to be a superhero game as immersive, emotional, and powerful as Spider-Man 2.

Jonathan Bernhardt: All I have to add is that this is the best version of Kraven the Hunter that’s been realized to-date (not an especially high bar to clear, but it does clear it with ease), and that the game’s emotional beats and character motivations for its Spider-men are so well-defined you don’t realize until you stop to think about it that not only do they barely even mention Uncle Ben, but he never shows up in any scene, never had an actor cast, and only appears in one or two generic family photos around the Parker house. All of that pathos has been put on May instead.

Pikmin 4

Marcy: Pikmin 4 was absolutely a GOTY contender that was sadly just a little too niche and maybe a little too unusual to garner the attention it rightly deserved. Pikmin has always been a bit of an odd franchise from Nintendo’s catalog which has always garnered success, but never been a true blockbuster capable of reaching out of its niche and into popular acclaim. In that regard Pikmin 4 is the best Pikmin game you can play because it is also the most user-friendly and beginner friendly in the entire series.

There’s no onerous time limit to your overall gametime, and instead Pikmin 4 has an oddly relaxed flow to the game’s structure that wants you to focus on efficiency and organization over anything else. In fact, the game’s defining philosophy–Dandori, which means ‘plan’ or ‘arrangement’ in Japanese–is what makes Pikmin 4 shine. Figuring out and executing your plan, especially in the underground dungeons, brings an amazing sense of satisfaction. 

The lighting engine in this game is so good they shove candles everywhere, including inside armoires.

Diablo IV

TheChirurgeon: Blizzard was back in the saddle with the fourth installment of their venerable Diablo franchise. After taking a hard look at what didn’t work with Diablo III – especially that game’s disastrous launch – Blizzard decided to just drop most of that game’s developments save the lore and characters and positioned Diablo IV as a spiritual successor to Diablo II. The result is a game which drops the more cringeworthy bits of its predecessor in favor of a better-written, gimmer return to form, even if it does falter with regard to the main character. The game is a good time and a great return to form. You can read our review of it here.

Why 2023 was the Best Year in Gaming

Look, the layoffs were bad, and unfortunately in 2024 they continue to be bad. It will always be a black mark on this year in gaming. It deserves attention, and the industry needs to adapt or we are in for some rough times.

Yet the hard work that goes into making games from those inside the industry is incredible, and 2023 is the marquee year to show just how far we’ve come in all forms of gaming. Warhammer 40,000 has gone from its humble, goofy Rogue Trader roots to a worldwide phenomenon with its best ruleset ever. Video game after video game this year took the lessons of years past and iterated on them to make something just truly incredible. We’re still finding ways to make games that draw in new audiences into genres normally considered niche, like with CRPGs and fighting games. 

2023 feels like reaching the peak of a tall mountain, sitting down, and taking in the view of everything that makes games of all sorts great. It is no hyperbole to call this year the best year ever in the history of games, and I can’t wait to see where we go from here.

This article is part of a larger series on the best year in gaming. For more years, click this link. Have any questions or feedback? Drop us a note in the comments below or email us at