GGRecon's Game of the Year 2023

GGRecon's Game of the Year 2023
Capcom | Nintendo | Larian Studios

Written by 

Lloyd Coombes

Published 

15th Dec 2023 16:49

2023 is almost in the books, and it's been a mixed one for the games industry. It's seen an incredible number of titles pushing the envelope as far as player choice, open worlds, and virtual reality go, but it's also seen the artist, engineer and developer communities ripped apart by layoffs.

That dichotomy extends to games media, too. So many of our peers have seen their livelihoods irreparably damaged by algorithm updates and AI-based copy and pasting, and at the end of the year, we're thankful for every reader in the GGRecon audience. Whether you came here for a puzzle solution in Tears of the Kingdom, want the latest news, or want to read one of our reviews, we're more than happy to have you.

We've seen complete overhauls of games we played years ago (particularly in the horror genre), and we've seen CRPGs hit the mainstream. We've seen the return of Link, Mario, and Alan Wake, and we saw a FromSoft release that's still not Elden Ring DLC.

As Editor in Chief, it gives me great pleasure to share the GGRecon Game of the Year, as voted for by the GGRecon staff.

The Rules: We set very few limits on what can be voted for in Game of the Year, with the only sticking point of note being that the game must've originally been released after January 1, 2023. Re-releases and ports don't count, but full ground-up remakes are allowed.

Honourable mentions

The following three entries are sensational video games, and it's a testament to the year in gaming that they couldn't creep into the top 10.

Cocoon

Exploration in Cocoon
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The designer of LIMBO and Inside was always going to impress with their next title, and Jeppe Carlsen has only added to his lineage with Cocoon.

Its world simultaneously makes no sense but is bound together by a central logic that reminds you that not understanding is part of the adventure. The idea of diving in and out of pocket universes is surprisingly cohesive, and Cocoon is bursting with unique designs, sounds, and atmospheres that make it one of the most unforgettable experiences you may ever have.

Joseph Kime, Senior News Writer

Lies of P

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Drawing in all manner of action-RPG fans with its souls-like inspirations or being simply pitchable as “Pinnochio: The Game”, Neowiz Games and Round8 Studio crafted Lies of P to be more than the sum of those parts as if being made by Geppetto himself.

When the beautifully, gothically decrepit levels within the city of Krat weren’t leaving us stunned, it was instead Lies of P’s tight and satisfying combat - giving goosebumps with every slash, guard, and parry - alongside an intriguing story to boot.

Allowing for seemingly endless creativity with the weapon assembly system, Fable Arts abilities, and the brilliant interchangeable Legion Arms - each with different perks in combat - smashing through puppets in this horror-steampunk world makes for hours of endless thrills.

Ben Williams, Senior Guides Writer

Final Fantasy XVI

A battle in FF16
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For a series in its 16th mainline entry, you’d think Final Fantasy would be well past running on fumes at this point. However, thanks to the new direction of the team in Square Enix’s Creative Business Unit III, Final Fantasy XVI proves just the opposite - burning brighter than Ifrit and the Phoenix itself.

In the beautiful and well-built world of Valisthea, Final Fantasy XVI captured our hearts in a nuanced tale balancing hope, love, and tragedy. Not only is Clive Rosfield the best Final Fantasy protagonist we’ve had since Cloud Strife, but FF16’s pairing of a Masayoshi Soken-composed soundtrack, elemental Eikon powers, and sword-slashing combat made every one of its many epic battles across its long campaign feel like a roller coaster ride we never wanted to end.

There’ve been many games this year with exciting set pieces and fun stories, but Final Fantasy XVI’s narrative and gameplay will stay with me into 2024 and beyond.

Ben Williams, Senior Guides Writer

GGRecon's Game of the Year

10 - Pikmin 4

Gameplay of Pikmin 4
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When it comes to innovation, Pikmin 4 sees the adorable creatures at their peak, with all new abilities mixed in with the classics. Seeing them doing their silly little tasks, like carrying pastries, toys and other oversized knick-knacks never gets old, and goes to show they need protecting at all costs.

With more Pikmin than ever, there are plenty of new ways to explore, all new enemies to fight and an underlying story that oozes charm.

As cosy games go, Pikmin 4 is certainly up there. A warm and vibrant game never gets old and may just be one of the best-looking games on the Switch. Oatchi was a fantastic addition, and having a customisable pilot gave it the personal touch I was craving from the series.

Jack Roberts, Guides Writer

9 - Armored Core 6

A mech in Armored Core 6
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There is somewhat of an expectation that any new FromSoftware game will be in contention for any Game of the Year award at this point, but there were genuine questions surrounding how a new Armored Core entry would fit into the almost-exclusively Soulslike body of work of last decade.

While Armored Core 6 certainly still has fragments of the Souls formula that we all know and love so fondly, it stands by its identity as an Armored Core game - and potentially the definitive one.

Industrial wastelands torn apart by warring companies serve as the backdrop to the utter chaos that encompasses much of Armored Core 6. When you're not ripping through grunts with the effortless cool only a mech game can achieve, you'll be facing down many a monstrous robotic creation that often supersedes the classification of 'boss'.

Harry Boulton, Guides Writer

8 - Super Mario Bros: Wonder

Mario in Super Mario Wonder
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Growing up, 2D Mario games were always my favourite, but even I can admit that Nintendo had been resting on its laurels when it came to the retro-inspired side-scrollers in recent years. That all changed with Super Mario Bros. Wonder, a much-needed leap forward for the franchise that proved 2D Mario can easily keep up with its younger, shinier 3D sibling.

At first glance, Wonder appears similar to the games of old. Then you grab a Wonder Flower, and suddenly you’ve turned into a Goomba, a chorus of Piranha Plants is singing a catchy tune, or you’re cruising on the back of a giant dragon. Every level has its own surprises to discover, so you never know what to expect. The new Elephant Fruit power-up is a joy, too.

Ultimately, Super Mario Bros. Wonder acts as a reminder of what Nintendo does best. It’s bursting with creativity, childlike joy, and some devilish challenges courtesy of the game’s Secret World. I dare you to play through it without a goofy grin on your face.

Daniel Megarry, Deputy Guides Editor

7 - Diablo 4

Necromancer key art for Diablo 4
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Diablo 4 has become a new ritual for me when I find some time. Its campaign is chunky, taking dozens of hours to tear through, but its seasonal updates have kept me coming back long after Lilith has been dealt with.

While some patches were more warmly received than others, Diablo 4 feels like the basis for something that’ll last for just as long as Diablo 3 did - and I can’t wait for Vessel of Hatred already.

It’s also my go-to Steam Deck game, the perfect companion to watching TV or settling in before bed by thinning the hordes of hell.

Lloyd Coombes, Editor in Chief

6 - Star Wars: Jedi Survivor

Lightsaber fight in Jedi Survivor
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Jedi: Survivor helps remind me why I love Star Wars. It offers everything I could want from a Star Wars game, combining an unusual cast of characters with otherworldy locations to create a planet-hopping adventure.

Lightsabers feel even better this time around, with every swing feeling dangerous and the new stances help keep the combat fresh throughout the story. Returning characters feel more fleshed out, and the newcomers to the cast serve as great additions to further our understanding of Cal Kestis and his fight.

Even non-Star Wars fans will find a lot to love, with one of my favourite moments of any game this year happening in Jedi Survivor. Outside of that, with the new customisation options, you can play with long hair, a headband, and a vest like an action hero from the 80s - which is always a win in my book.

Morgan Truder, Guides Writer

5 - Alan Wake 2

Saga Alan Wake 2
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Remedy Games has been one of the most forward-thinking and anarchic storytelling studios in the gaming industry for some time now, but even with its reputation, few of their games can match the balance of compelling gameplay and freaky, bizarro narratives of Alan Wake II.

Blending the unknowable concept threads of Alan Wake and Control with the anxiety-inducing ammo management and perspective of survival horror, Alan Wake II cranks its spooks and excitement to 11 without feeling so overwhelming that it becomes impossible to contend with.

Delivering on Remedy’s best story yet that folds in new silliness with familiar horrors, the next chapter in the story that began over a decade ago is more than worthy of its stature, and proves that it’s not just Kojima that can deliver on weirdness in an industry that has a habit of shying away from such strange concepts.

Alan Wake II is the Frankenstein’s monster of everything that makes Remedy’s works so compelling, and is a case for the team’s title as the best storytellers in the business. Alexa, play Herald of Darkness by Old Gods of Asgard.

Joseph Kime, Senior News Writer

4 - Marvel's Spider-Man 2

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It’s a rare thing for a sequel to surpass its predecessors that set the bar so high in such spectacular fashion, but that’s exactly what Marvel’s Spider-Man 2 did. From the moment you take that first swing, you’re back to feeling that child-like sense of wonder that made you feel like Spider-Man, and having two to play with makes it all the sweeter.

With heavy-hitting villains like Kraven the Hunter and Venom posing a serious threat to Miles, Peter and the whole of New York, the stakes have never been higher and the story is the peak of superhero stories. Only time will tell how the next game will go, but it will have to do a lot to beat this one.

Jack Roberts, Guides Writer

3 - Resident Evil 4 Remake

A building in Resident Evil 4
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With the rev of a blood-soaked chainsaw, Capcom is back.

Remaking what’s arguably one of the best video games of all time was never going to be easy, and while we’ve seen many (many) Resident Evil 4 ports over the years, 2023's remake is worth every penny. Leon S. Kennedy is back in this glossy evolution of the Resiverse, which takes the DNA of the 2005 GameCube game and unleashes a much bigger beast.

Somehow, 2023's Resident Evil 4 remake even makes babysitting Ashley Graham bearable.

Tom Chapman, News Editor

2 - The Legend of Zelda: Tears of the Kingdom

Ganondorf in Zelda
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From the moment I took my first dive off a sky island in Tears of the Kingdom, I knew it was a game for the ages. This is a title with so many magical moments like that spread out across an epic world, and it’s filled with new tools designed to stir your creativity at every turn.

Old areas have new surprises, making it worth revisiting every inch of the map. The sky and the depths both add so much to the game, expanding the scope to an unbelievable degree. It’s a miracle it even manages to function on such a tiny cartridge, yet it’s more polished than the vast majority of games on the market.

Nintendo's developers are magicians, and Tears of the Kingdom is one of their most incredible performances yet.

Dani Cross, Guides Writer

1 - Baldur's Gate 3

Baldur's Gate 3 party overlooking a picturesque landscape
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It's likely no surprise that Baldur's Gate 3 takes the crown for GGRecon's Game of the Year. Our review dubbed the game an 'unmissable adventure' - and that sentiment holds true a few months on from release.

What's more, Baldur's Gate 3's voice acting, storytelling, thought-provoking decisions, and worldbuilding present a new benchmark that will undoubtedly shape the course of other RPG titles that release in the future.​

It's not just the gameplay itself that's captivated me, though, as Borislav Slavov's soundtrack, and in particular, 'Down by the River' is a piece of music that I find myself listening to on repeat (and I imagine I will for some time to come).

With incredible post-launch support with meaty, seemingly endless patch notes (including Update 5's epilogue), Faerûn has plenty to discover tucked away throughout the corners of its map, meaning replayability and some of the most captivating companions (yes, that means you, Astarion) can be returned to again and again.

Ava Thompson-Powell, Evergreen Editor

Lloyd is GGRecon's Editor-in-Chief, having previously worked at Dexerto and Gfinity, and occasionally appears in The Daily Star newspaper. A big fan of loot-based games including Destiny 2 and Diablo 4, when he's not working you'll find him at the gym or trying to play Magic The Gathering.

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