Player Research’s Games of the Year 2023

19 December 2023

2023 has been a story of two halves for the gaming industry. Consumers have reaped the rewards of an almost endless wave of amazing, high quality games; who’d have thought at the top of a year we knew Tears of the Kingdom was coming, that there’d be such an array of potential Game of the Year challengers and choices? 2023 has ended up being one of the most stacked years in game releases in recent memory, and we truly have been spoilt across every genre from titles like Cocoon, Hi-Fi Rush, Resident Evil 4, Baldur’s Gate 3, Sea of Stars, Starfield – the list goes on and on and on!

However, it hasn’t come without cost to the developers responsible for making the games we love and I didn’t feel it would be right to make a list like this without acknowledging that. We’ve witnessed so many layoffs across studios in 2023, and it’s beyond saddening to see the impact of losses on so many talented and creative people. Let’s hope we see a vast improvement in that area from next year onwards.

Games in 2023 have provided space for a slew of memorable adventures and experiences, and this year has been particularly rewarding for games that permit an unrivalled level of player agency. We’ve been able to explore the furthest corners of outer space, magical fantasy lands, stunning recreations of North American cityscapes, not to mention stepping back onto the hostile streets of Night City. There’s really been something for everyone this year!

Before we cover the results, just to say that our in-house rules permit the selecting of live service games with new seasons, significant expansions/DLC for games that may have been released in previous years, and we’re making an exception for God of War Ragnarok to be a valid choice this year since it released outside of our window for writing last year.

Okay, let’s waste no more time pre-ambling and dive on into the Player Research picks for 2023 Game of the Year!



Baldur’s Gate 3

Close up of a fluffy ginger cat's face

Image credit: Twitter User – Axce95

I knew after I’d sunk only a little time into BG3 that it would be my game of the year for 2023. I haven’t played a game that strikes such a balance between engaging narrative, strategic play, and freedom – and BG3 does this and more. The characters feel incredibly real, and the things the player can do feel endless.

It’s like being in a D&D campaign, but one you have the choice to play solo, or with friends and can take your time with or rocket through. Every time I play, I find something new and I’m on playthrough #3. I cannot recommend BG3 more, it’s an absolutely stellar all-round experience.

Honorable Mention:


Most Anticipated for 2024:

Frostpunk 2



Chloe J

Hogwarts Legacy

[Editor’s note: Trans rights are human rights]

witch walking across greenhouse garden classroom, an array of plants in foreground

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As someone who grew up with the Harry Potter books and movies, this game really lived up to my expectation of the magical world. The amazing details of Hogwarts, the rich story line, and the interesting side quests you can take on, are all fantastic and perfect to me.

The game includes pretty much everything from the HP universe, all the spells, the classes Harry took, the magical beasts you can meet and capture, or the cute fun shops at Hogsmeade. I could easily spend an entire day just wandering in the world and talking to people, taking on as many things as I can. There are always something fun and different you can do.

The game really does a good job at making everything feel magical and incredibly fun to do, while providing lots of variety in the gameplay, with puzzles and spells. My two favourite parts are probably the spell system with all the cool and fantastic combos you can do, and flying with my hippogriff!

Honorable Mentions:
Dave the Diver
This Bed We Made

Most Anticipated for 2024:

Black Myth: Wukong



Chloe S:

Sea of Stars

pixel art waterfall landscape with 3 characters swimming in the water, two male with brown and blonde hair and one female with blue hair

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A game that truly caught me by surprise this year was Sea of Stars, and wow what a gift it was to be unexpectedly whisked away on such an epic adventure!

This is a game that’s been so lovingly crafted, and is full of charm from top to bottom. The art style and attention to detail in the pixelated environments is stunning; it had me so excited to get to the next area to see what beautiful biome would be next to explore! Additionally, the soundtrack to Sea of Stars is so captivating and I think the battle music will also be stuck in my mind for a long time.

Speaking of combat, it feels so fresh and fun; the implementation of a timed bonus damage/block mechanic really takes the turn-based battles up a notch and kept me engaged way more than usual for this type of combat. The range of character skills, combos and attacks, not to mention enemy variety was just delightful and also kept things from getting stale.

Really though, it’s the cast of loveable characters that are the stars of the show here, particularly Garl who shone in an underdog role with his wholesome and pure-hearted personality – everyone wants a friend like Garl!

All in all, Sea of Stars tells a heart-warming story of friendship and inspires us to see the superhuman strengths in ourselves and the people around us. It’s accompanied by gorgeous visuals, combat that’s so damn fun, and a soundtrack that’ll worm its way into your mind. It’s not one to be missed!

Honorable Mentions:

Assassin’s Creed Mirage


Most Anticipated for 2024:

Lost Records: Bloom & Rage




Spider-Man 2  [SPOILERS]

Miles Morales as spider man lying on a bed of webs between buildings

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The fact that I would not consider myself a fan of the Spider-Man movies and comics, or Marvel in general, really highlights just how enjoyable this game is at its core without relying on fans’ familiarity and loyalty to the franchise. I absolutely adored the previous 2 titles so I was thrilled to get to play an even more refined addition to the series. The combat feels flawless (for the most part) and the web-slinging somehow even more satisfying. It sounds cliché to say but I genuinely did feel like a spider myself traversing through New York, showing off my Spidey tricks in-between bringing criminals to justice.

I really appreciated the collaboration between the two protagonists from the previous games; Peter Parker and Miles Morales. I felt a comforting connection to them, having got to know about them, their lives and their unique combat styles before. Being able to switch seamlessly between the two in this game and use their individual powers to suit the demands of any given situation felt very special.

And of course, we cannot talk about Spider-Man 2 without a shout out to one of the game’s most significant appearances – Venom! Not only are you granted the honour of playing as Venom, you also acquire Venom powers which made me feel super cool and unstoppable. Roll on Spider-Man 3 (or a standalone Venom game please)!

Honourable mention:

Sea of Stars

Most Anticipated for 2024:

Final Fantasy VII Rebirth




Spider-Man 2

Spiderman web swining across the river in New York City

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As a big fan of the franchise and the character, Spider-Man 2 web-swings its way to the top of my Game of the Year.

The game’s defining feature is the flawlessly executed swinging mechanics, elevating superhero gaming to new heights. Insomniac took everything that was great about the first game and doubled down – the game is so polished and fun.

The open world version of New York is visually stunning and beckons exploration, whilst the sheer joy of navigating the open world, swinging effortlessly between towering skyscrapers, is unparalleled.

Beyond the gameplay, the game weaves a compelling narrative with rich character development, delivering a perfect blend of fun and emotional moments.

From the captivating storyline to the nuanced portrayal of beloved characters and an impressive rogues’ gallery of villains, Spider-Man 2 stands as a masterpiece. I can’t wait to see where it goes next!

Honourable mention:

Star Wars: Jedi Survivor



Elly C:

Baldur’s Gate 3

Fantasy backdrop, glowing blue mushroom and candles with grass in the foreground

Image credit: Twitter user – sistasangen

Larian Studios’ Baldur’s Gate 3 is at the top of my list this year. I’m all about games that have strong narratives, characters you love to love (or hate), and gives players room to shape the virtual world around them; be that total control over who lives and dies, or using the environment to to gain the upper hand in any situation.

Not only is BG3 a genre-defying success, it remains approachable for all players, with or without a background in the Dungeons and Dragons world. You get the chance to embark on grand adventures, master magic or melee, or sneak in the shadows and ambush your enemies (my favourite). Not to mention gain some new BFFs or even fall in love, all while saving the world. Astarion is my personal favourite; his character development was amazing, proving that love bites.

BG3 creates a world where every choice you make was anticipated, voiced out, and placeholders created, ensuring the game stays fun and fresh, no matter how wild your decisions get. Even if you should kill off nearly everyone, except for Scratch; he’s the bestest boy.

Even after many play throughs, the game still manages to surprise me with dialogue I’ve never heard, scenes I’ve never watched, and characters I’ve never met previously. The game is always improving on itself, from early access to patch 5 it continues to keep me enthralled (let’s not dwell on how many hours!).

Honorable Mentions:

Alan Wake 2

Dave the Diver

Most Anticipated for 2024:

Pacific Drive




Baldur’s Gate 3

Image credit: Twitter user – SelkaPlays

I set aside my reservations about turn-based combat and picked this up – boy, am I so glad I did!

Baldur’s Gate 3 is incredible at making the world your oyster whilst still following a linear story. From being rewarded with treasure when searching every nook and cranny of the map to thinking of the most extravagant means of exterminating a goblin camp, I felt like I could really think outside of the box which I LOVE.

The characters are all written and voiced with such love, it’s hard not to get invested in them all. Astarion, look, I know that I made some good choices and I was perhaps not as villainous or naughty as you’d want me to be… but please. PLEASE. I CAN CHANGE! Please love me! Ahem, where was I?

I sunk a lot of hours into this game this year and there’s endless content still to explore, more characters to create and more companions to romance. Thank you Larian Studios! <3

Honorable Mention:

Texas Chainsaw Massacre

Most Anticipated for 2024:

Life By You




Baldur’s Gate 3

group of dwarves running forward holding weapons

Image credit: Twitter user – horace0816

Perhaps not a surprising choice here, but Baldur’s Gate 3 absolutely blew me away with its narrative depth, creative freedom and really excellent systems. I felt connected to a lot of the characters in a way that I’ve not for a while in any game I’ve played (Karlach, I’ll always love you). I loved the flexibility in combat, and generally just couldn’t wait to dive back in.

It’s one of those rare games that seemed to dominate my life for a while – if I wasn’t playing it, I was talking about it, or reading about it, or watching build guides… I can see myself regularly going back to it to play a new character or follow a narrative path I never explored. The sheer density of this game is one that I consistently found mind-boggling. You can talk to all the animals? Yes please.

Honorable Mention:

Most Anticipated for 2024:
Dragon’s Dogma 2




Final Fantasy XVI

male character with black hair in the middle of combat, fire covers the right side of the image

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Whilst FFXVI varied from other Final Fantasy games I’ve played, it completely swept me off my feet.

The combat is exciting and it made me feel powerful straight away. It became even better the more I played, and the controls were easy to grasp. The RPG aspect is less complex than other titles in the franchise, but I appreciated it being simple, with still many ways to build different strategies and approach to combat.

The graphics and level design were stunning. When I started to take in the environment around me, I realised I was able to see other parts of the world in the horizon and I could recognise important landmarks. This was awesome and baffling, the attention to detail was so noticeable!

The soundtrack captured me even more — the music during Boss battles is so EPIC and really conveys that “you’re powerful” feeling *chef kiss*. Blasting through my soundbar, my neighbours love it too I’m sure! And Soken got a well-deserved award for it at the Game Awards.

Usually, what bores me in games are never-ending side quests with little purpose. I’m a completionist, but not a patient one. FFXVI’s side quests were well-thought, always gave more depth about the lore and the secondary characters backstory, and it wasn’t a grind; it was perfect.

Finally, the story was well written — heart-breaking at times. I really felt close to the main characters like Torgal, Clive, Jill, Cid and Joshua. And Goetz, the gentle giant.

With compelling themes of brotherhood, hope, & fighting for justice; I just loved it.

Honorable mentions:
Cyberpunk: Phantom Liberty
Dave the Diver

Most Anticipated for 2024:
Frostpunk 2




Alan Wake 2

projector video showing image of white man with beard on wall as another man walks into the scene

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You read these words in a hard-boiled growl, a dead detective donning
you his throat.

Picking a GOTY is the most unfair of exercises. Like having a sadist crook
point a 3.5’’ at you yelling “Pick!” as your kids stare at you with wide
pleading eyes.
You know picking can save only one.
You pick.
The gun’s barrel blasts. Bullets drop heavy like logs. All lie dead. All but
the chosen. The GoTY.
What mystery decided who gets to be remembered? Love? Reason? Your
Deep down you know it was none of these things. You picked based on a
whole lot of nothing.

Such cruelty makes hell of most years, when you pick between the three
or the four. But in 2023? Like a divine plague they bred like locusts and
now there’s 17 and only one can make it to GOTY. In years like this, GOTY
lists make killers of us all.

They haunt me.

The forgotten many.
The unGoTYed.

But the wind roars outside, the chills frost the windows, and that dame
Snell is pointing her gun at me. So I know it’s time to choose.
I choose Alan Wake 2.

I guess one should have good reasons to condemn Dungeons n’ Dragons 3
and Skyrim Zelda 1.5 to oblivion. It’s a fair question for a fair world.

But we live in the most unfair of worlds… so I chose to let Sam Lake’s
words do the singing. And what a beautifully twisted song they sung…

Honorable Mentions: 



Most Anticipated for 2024: 

Senua’s Saga: Hellblade 2





screenshot of video game Dredge, boat sailing across the ocean with clear skies and island in background

Image credit:

It might have not been the biggest fish in this year’s ocean of game launches, but Dredge — Black Salt Games’ sinister sailing game — really lured me in.

I enjoyed chugging around the troubled waters of Dredge’s rich archipelago, teeming with side quests, selling my increasingly mutated sea creature haul to increasingly paranormal fisherfolk.

Overnight the seas change completely, forcing players to trade their sanity for a chance to snag a trophy catch, or uncover some truth of the reason many of the locals seem so salty to see you.



God of War: Ragnarok

dimly light cavern room, with hearth fire lit

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God of War: Ragnarok, released at the end of 2022, so I only got my hands on it properly in 2023. Following up on its predecessor, this marks only my second PlayStation Platinum achievement and second God of War Game of the Year title.

There are several reasons why it became one of my all-time favorites, with the main ones being its amazingly-written story, satisfying combat, and the beautiful world that truly draws me in. It made me want to feel the warmth of the campfire on my skin, and sit together with Kratos and Atreus in their wood cabin. (Wood cabins in games make them more likely to become my GoTY for sure…)

I love the feeling of being a mighty god of war, traversing diverse realms with my cherished Blades of Chaos – my all-time favorite in-game weapon! Yet, what truly captivated me was how human the characters felt, even though they were gods. The beautiful cinematics portraying Kratos and Atreus’ evolving relationship are engraved in my memory, and left me deeply moved. Despite his flaws, Kratos has become one of my favorite father figures in pop culture.

This game took me on an emotional journey while being perfectly challenging. I can’t wait to see what comes next.

Honorable Mention:

Diablo IV

Most Anticipated for 2024:

Star Wars Outlaws




The Legend of Zelda: Tears of the Kingdom

landscape view of mountainous region, with a castle looming over the land

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‘Breath of the Wild’ was a game-changer for me – it made me sometimes feel aimlessly driven yet always incredibly motivated. ‘Tears of the Kingdom’ takes this vibe even further.

When I got the game cartridge and started playing, my first goal was to boost stamina, sneak the Master Sword, and then – the icing on the cake – snap a photo of naked Link standing on the head of the white dragon. This took me about 5 hours , half because I really wanted the Master Sword, and half just for the fun of it!

Then there’s Ultrahand – it completely revolutionises the game (The University of Maryland, College Park, even has an engineering course on it!). My favourite moments were hauling Koroks around with my goofy machines, spending 20 minutes building a car that just wouldn’t budge, and crafting a tank with revolving guns to chase down Bokoblins – a bit mischievous, I know.

‘Hyrule’ in ‘Tears of the Kingdom’ is a creative wonderland on a larger scale than in ‘Breath of the Wild,’ from high-flying sky islands to mysterious underground areas. There are indeed some parts that feel repetitive, but for anyone who loves Nintendo’s playful, creative style and the joy of building and collecting, ‘Tears of the Kingdom’ is definitely a great choice.

Honorable Mentions:
Assassin’s Creed Mirage
Baldur’s gate 3

Most Anticipated for 2024:
Black Myth: Wukong


Thanks for joining us in 2023, and we wish everyone a happy holidays and wonderful new year!

Written by

Portrait of Chloe Snell MA

Chloe Snell MA

Games User Researcher