In a lot of ways, 2023 was a rough year for gaming. Mass layoffs across the industry impacted the most seemingly successful studios even as the cost of being a gamer continued to rise. Largely unchecked greed robbed many of their dream careers and more of their dream games. Events like the likely death of E3 and the continued (often failed) pursuit of a few major design trends at the Triple-A level stole a little of gaming’s identity and magic. There are times when it feels like you have to turn a blind eye to all of that if you want to just talk about the best games of the year.
Yet, it’s nearly impossible to not be impressed by the quality of 2023’s greatest games. It’s been a long time since we’ve seen a year gift us with not just such an overwhelming number of modern masterpieces but such a wide variety of those experiences. When we celebrate the best games of 2023, we celebrate not just the work that went into their artistry but the ways in which they allowed us to escape the too-often harsh realities of the world they were created in. They’re a testament to what gaming is capable of offering when all the bullshit is pushed aside long enough to allow some of our greatest creative voices to get a word in.
Here are just some of the best games of 2023 as voted on by a panel of Den of Geek contributors.
30. Remnant 2
I previously called Remnant 2 the best version of the game that other studios keep trying (and failing) to make. Though I stand by that description, it also feels painfully inadequate in some ways. After all, how many gamers have been burned by yet another action title with RPG elements that feel like it emerged from one of many lines of production that can all be traced back to the same factory?
At its best, Remnant 2 shows why that style of game became so popular in the first place and how much can still be done with it when nothing is taken for granted. From quests and plot points that feel worthy of BioWare at their best to action that feels like a proper extension of the game’s genuinely deep character-building options, Remnant 2 reminds us that even the best ideas still rely on exceptional execution. – Matthew Byrd
29. Darkest Dungeon 2
It’s remarkable to look at all of the ways that Darkest Dungeon 2 deviates from its predecessor. Few sequels in the history of gaming have dared to make so many changes to such a well-received original experience. Of course, not everyone was on board with those changes, to say the least Some even argued that Darkest Dungeon 2 misrepresented itself by suggesting it was a sequel to the first game.
While I love many of those changes (the game’s new roguelike design easily taps into that “one more turn” desire), it’s the creative intent behind those changes that proves to be more impactful. Developer Red Hook Studios did an incredible job of crafting an adventure that feels like it very much belongs in the Darkest Dungeon universe without treading so closely to the original game that you wonder why they even bothered to work on a new project. Despite its many differences, Darkest Dungeon 2 rekindles that old flame that grants you just enough courage to inch a little closer to your almost certain death. – MB
28. Pizza Tower
Before Wario became synonymous with a line of minigame collections, he was the star of his own series known as Wario Land. While Nintendo hasn’t bothered to revisit that franchise in a long time, indie studios such as Tour de Pizza have stepped up to do what Ninten-won’t.
Pizza Tower is a superb platformer that challenges players with a mix of pixel-perfect platforming, collectible hoarding, and speedrunning, all tied together with a velvety-smooth movement system that lets gamers chain together abilities. This recipe creates an adventure that encourages participants to perfect level runs and beat their own high scores. Moreover, each Pizza Tower level features unique gimmicks that don’t feel out of place and keep the game from feeling stale and boring. And if that’s still not enough, Pizza Tower’s hand-drawn graphics, earworm music, and sheer personality give the game a unique flavor that is both all its own and reminiscent of old Nicktoons shows. Once you taste what Pizza Tower offers, you won’t soon forget it. – Aaron Greenbaum
27. Mortal Kombat 1
More than just providing a soft reboot of its continuity, Mortal Kombat 1 feels like a fresh start for the iconic fighting game series. Taking place in the new timeline created by Fire God Liu Kang at the end of 2019’s Mortal Kombat 11, the familiar faces from the franchise have been reimagined as this new history takes shape. Joining player characters in battle are Kameos: a new mechanic that has fan-favorite characters appear as assists in the heat of combat.
Mortal Kombat 1’s gameplay is fast-paced, brutal, and with some of the most seamlessly linked combos that the franchise has seen so far. Featuring an impressive base roster, Mortal Kombat 1 is relatively well-balanced, while its announced first wave of DLC fighters is sure to keep fans coming back for more. Most importantly, judging by the subtle but welcome changes in the game’s second Invasions season, it’s clear that NetherRealm Studios is paying close attention to fan feedback and tinkering with the accordingly post-launch to ensure the definitive Mortal Kombat experience. – Sam Stone
26. Octopath Traveler II
The original Octopath Traveler offered an enjoyable blend of classic JRPG gameplay, relatively modern concepts, and a fantastic visual style that garnered quite a bit of attention. However, that game never really came close to reaching its full potential. It too often reminded long-time genre fans of the great names that have been lost along the way that Octopath Traveller simply nodded at.
Octopath Traveller II is something else entirely. By improving upon nearly everything its predecessor tried to do, Octopath Traveller II successfully forges its own identity. Built upon the thrill of turning a group of worthwhile RPG heroes into a party of protagonists, Octopath Traveller II takes nothing for granted in arguing that every aspect of such RPGs should feel magical and epic regardless of how small they may seem. More than a tribute to those timeless RPGs from another age, it is a testament to their power in the modern age of gaming. MB
25. Pikmin 4
It’s been a decade since Nintendo treated us with a new Pikmin game, but Pikmin 4 on the Nintendo Switch certainly proved to be worth the wait. Starring a customizable protagonist, the game has players search for the missing Captain Olimar and the rescue crew sent to locate him on a remote and hostile planet. Fortunately, the player has access to all the familiar Pikmin (along with two new Pikmin types) cultivating their own army to defeat the enemy wildlife and explore the planet.
Pikmin 4 takes all the winning elements from previous installments in the franchise (from the cooperative multiplayer and exciting alternate game modes) and expands upon them with all-new features. The most notable new mode has players launch expeditions at night, which plays out like a tower defense minigame. Surprisingly relaxing and boasting the most gorgeous presentation in the franchise to date, Pikmin 4 is the definitive entry in the series, rewarding players for exploration and experimentation with its fun-filled gameplay. – SS
24. Like a Dragon Gaiden: The Man Who Erased His Name
Yakuza: Like a Dragon was a surprise on so many levels. The game completely upended the Yakuza franchise’s combat system, main hero, and name (outside of Japan, anyway). Longtime fans thought it was curtains for series protagonist Kazuma Kiryu until Sega surprised everyone yet again.
Like a Dragon Gaiden: The Man Who Erased His Name (“Gaiden” means “Spin-off” or “Side Story” in Japanese) gives players one final romp with Kiryu at the helm, and it’s almost everything they remember from older titles. Like a Dragon Gaiden brings back the bombastic action combat that the franchise relied on for most of its life. While the game features a dramatic main story and hilarious side missions (as is Yakuza/Like a Dragon tradition), there is less to do this time around. The story is shorter by series standards, but what Like a Dragon Gaiden delivers is still above and beyond what most other games deliver. – AG
23. Metroid Prime Remastered
Metroid Prime 4 has been in development since at least 2017, although the project was reportedly restarted in either 2018 or 2019. It’s been a long wait, but this remaster reminded us all why that sequel is so exciting in the first place.
Unlike other games that were remade for 2023, Metroid Prime Remastered doesn’t add much to the original experience. The game has a shiny new coat of Nintendo Switch-powered paint, and it’s now playable on the go thanks to the Switch’s portable nature. This remaster also boasts multiple control schemes that cater to fans of the original’s button blasting and the Wii version’s light-gun controls, but that’s about it. Crucially, Metroid Prime Remastered is the same genre-twisting mix of FPS action and Metroidvania progression it always was. This refined rerelease demonstrates that if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it. – AG
22. Lies of P
Though the prevalence of the Metroidvania and Roguelike genres suggests otherwise, I think there will come a day when the Soulslike genre sheds its current name. The best games in that genre have grown beyond their namesake in ways that make it feel irresponsible to hold them to that specific standard for long. Until that day comes, though, there will always be some who will consider many such titles to largely be derivative of their influences. That’s certainly true of Lies of P: a game that wears its Bloodborne influences with little shame.
Even if you’d like to push aside the argument that we could use more games that follow a bit more closely in Bloodborne’s footsteps, Lies of P easily manages to carve a distinct enough identity to stand out from even the genre’s all-time best offerings. Its world, narrative, and gameplay are not only equally engaging but often rely on each other in ways that greatly enhance the entire adventure. Of course, Soulslike fans know that is the quality that often actually defines these monumental modern experiences. – MB
21. Final Fantasy XVI
Final Fantasy XVI is the most daring mainline entry in the series in years, rethinking everything from combat to story progression. Admittedly, not all of its risks pay off. Though the story of warring kingdoms and family tragedy aims for the heady political intrigue of Game of Thrones, it often falls flat, like well… those unfortunate last couple seasons of Game of Thrones.
But what stays engaging until the end is the new real-time combat system that’s more reminiscent of Devil May Cry while retaining the customization of a traditional JRPG. Plus, the awesome kaiju-inspired Eikon fights between massive beasts are a spectacle to behold until the end. Even if Final Fantasy XVI remains divisive among long-time fans, it’s hard to deny that it’s laid the groundwork for even greater things to come from the franchise in the future. – Chris Freiberg
Starfield is already a classic Bethesda RPG: janky but intoxicating. It’s great fun to explore for hours on end, noodling around to find the weirdest aliens and a handful of well-hidden unique locations lost in the loneliness of space. Its story is better than Skyrim, with a mix of different quest outcomes and a system of factions that don’t wildly overstate your importance.
Probably the most accurate way to sum up Starfield’s current status is to recognize that it, like your protagonist, is working to collect all the pieces necessary to ascend into a greater, stranger version of itself. The structure is ready, the Creation Kit is being prepared, and Todd Howard hasn’t let us down yet. I already love Starfield, and I’m confident there will be so much more to it in the years to come. – Margaret David
The spirit of an outsider has long defined the indie gaming scene. Ideas sometimes seen as too niche, too weird, or simply too confusing to thrive on the mass market have always been able to find a home there. In some ways, Cocoon is the embodiment of that kind of experience. After all, it’s a challenging puzzle adventure game with an oblique narrative and minimalist UI. You could use many of the usual indie game terms to describe it.
Yet, one of the most remarkable things about Cocoon is that it never really feels alienating. Challenging, yes, and certainly not for everyone, but there is such joy in the process of uncovering every discovery (both great and small) that the idea of pressing on is never in doubt. Games like Cocoon remind us of the importance of not just the spirit of indie gaming but that spirit of wonder that should define gaming for all kinds of players and creators. – MB
18. Diablo 4
Diablo 4’s various controversies should not be ignored. From Blizzard’s public fall from grace and the title’s post-launch issues, the conversations about Diablo 4 have often felt dominated by the things that have gone wrong along the way. Yet, there is a necessary component of that conversation that is sometimes not discussed as often as it should be. Despite everything, Diablo 4 offers an exceptional ARPG experience.
It is shockingly easy to lose hours and hours to Diablo 4’s brand of ARPG action. While some of that success can be attributed to the naturally addictive nature of both the genre and the Diablo franchise, this game’s magic isn’t limited to familiar thrills. From the surprisingly robust campaign and a massive world filled with surprises to the compelling conundrums that arise when you are trying to build the perfect hero, Diablo 4 often represents its creators’ clear desire to provide the ideal version of a game that shaped modern gaming yet has rarely been topped. – MB
17. System Shock
Unlike many of the games that received exceptional remakes in 2023 (just take a look at the rest of this list), I think you could make the argument that System Shock was genuinely in danger of being lost to time. Perhaps not among those who grew up with the game, but rather among those who never really got to enjoy this game in its day or are only aware of it because of its many modern influences. There was a scary chance that those gamers would forever see System Shock as little more than a fascinating relic from a different time
Thankfully, Nightdive Studio’s exceptional remake corrected that course. Though there are many individual elements of this game that are worthy of more praise than I have space for here, it’s this remake’s big-picture accomplishments that impress me most. Against considerable odds, Nightdive took a game that was ahead of its time in 1994 and made it feel like a worthy counterpart to the numerous modern masterpieces that have followed in its footsteps. That is the power of truly exceptional video game remakes. – MB
16. Super Mario RPG
The original Super Mario RPG is a classic turn-based game that many fans once thought would never get remastered or rereleased. To call Super Mario RPG’s revival a surprise would be an understatement, but there’s a world of difference between a game launching and a game being good. The Super Mario RPG remake fills both checkboxes.
Super Mario RPG flawlessly recreates the charm and magic of the SNES original. Gameplay is more or less the same turn-based affair (in a good way) but with the addition of new super attacks to help give players a boost during battle. And on the presentation side of things, while Super Mario RPG can’t compete with many other games released this year, it doesn’t have to since it flawlessly translates the art style of the original into 3D form. Super Mario RPG is as simple an experience as it is fun and timeless. – AG
15. Street Fighter 6
When Capcom releases a new numbered Street Fighter game, you know it’s going to be a big leap forward not just for the series, but for fighters as a whole. Street Fighter 6 is no exception. The release day roster of 18 characters is a little on the lean side, but still manages to include an eclectic mix of revamped fan favorites and interesting newcomers like the ninja Kimberly and the breakdancer Jamie.
And you’ll make full use of that roster to customize your World Tour fighter before taking them online with some of the best netcode in any fighting game ever. So you only have your own (lack of) skills to blame if you succumb to the risk-reward strategies of the innovative new Drive System. Street Fighter 6 is sure to keep fighting game fans happy for years to come. – CF
14. Hi-Fi Rush
One of 2023 most surprising games certainly earns part of that status by virtue of its unusual debut (it was released on the day it was announced). Even if we had known that Hi-Fi Rush existed before January 25, 2023, it’s doubtful the game would have been on many radars. A sci-fi rhythm action title made by a studio mostly known for their horror games? Good luck with that.
Remarkably, though, it’s not enough to simply call Hi-Fi Rush one of 2023’s best action games and best games overall. This game also represents the power of allowing a group of talented creators to pursue their passion project and trusting their ability to simply make the kind of game that they too love to play. Hi-Fi Rush may have benefited from catching everyone by surprise, but even those who believe they know what they’re getting into when they play this game will be consistently shocked by the craft and creativity on display. Hacking and slashing to the beat never looked, sounded, or felt quite so good. – MB
In many ways, I fell in love with Dredge the moment I heard it described as a Lovecraftian horror fishing game. That combination of concepts is too unique and fascinating to possibly ignore. Of course, there was always a reasonable doubt about whether or not developer Black Salt Games could turn that premise into anything more than a fun idea.
Well, Dredge is indeed so much more than that. I wouldn’t describe the game as overtly scary (though it certainly has those moments), but it has this way of using horror concepts as the backbone of a much more important structural idea: you never know what is coming next. Every time you set sail, cast a line, or uncover a new part of the world, you are just as likely to uncover an Eldritch horror as the catch of the day. Yet, it’s the game’s excellent management and role-playing mechanics that make the whole thing work when it should fall apart under the weight of its ambition. – MB
12. Sea of Stars
Too many games try to take on the mantle of Chrono Trigger, from its sprawling plot to its ahead-of-its-time battle system. Most fail. Sea of Stars, a JRPG-style expansion upon the retro-joyful world introduced in The Messenger, knows the burden of trying to steal greatness. It settles for knowing its limits, giving us a comfy trip down memory lane. It’s a colorful world of pixel people and a well-honed, lightly familiar battle system that genuinely scratches that Chrono itch.
Ignore the reviews that snidely call it derivative. Sea of Stars knows precisely what it’s doing with its nostalgia. It’s meant for the child in you, not the tired adult. Even the music is on point, including almost a dozen tracks by the legendary Chrono composer, Yasunori Mitsuda. It’s 2023’s inaugural winner of the Warm Blankie award. – MD
11. Star Wars Jedi: Survivor
Sometimes, more is more. Respawn’s Star Wars Jedi: Survivor is a shining example of a studio believing in the core concepts of their original game and leveraging more powerful technology to amplify them and provide an all-around better experience for this second go-round the galaxy. Gameplay-wise, the platforming is greatly improved in the sequel, as is the combat, with improvements like additional stances and even more brutal execution animations. The level design is tighter, too, which makes exploration feel more rhythmic and engaging.
In its broad strokes, the second chapter of Cal Kestis’ story generally stays within the established tropes and themes of the larger franchise. But the characters are so well realized, and the game’s cinematic elements are so effective that the game stands tall as one of the most memorable, rock-solid Star Wars stories in recent memory. – Bernard Boo
10. Dead Space
The Dead Space franchise is one of EA’s most famous and beloved series. The original crafted a horrifying and claustrophobic survival horror experience, so when EA announced it would remake the game without the original developers, many gamers were skeptical. Thankfully, we were scared for no reason.
Much like the Resident Evil remakes, the Dead Space remake brings the original game into the current console generation. While the 2008 version still stands the test of time thanks to its atmosphere and controls, the 2023 remake improves on it in virtually every way. The graphics and controls are a huge step up, but the remake also changes how some weapons work without messing with the difficulty and balance. Most importantly, Dead Space feels like a whole new experience thanks to its additional story beats and semi-open style of exploration. However, these additions don’t affect the game’s atmosphere of horrifying isolation and foreboding. Here’s hoping the Dead Space remake results in subsequent remakes that maintain this level of polish. – AG
9. Dave the Diver
Much like my beloved Stardew Valley, Dave the Diver is a testament to the power of slowly unwrapping an epic experience rather than being thrust into a world of infinite possibilities. What begins as a simple, yet satisfying, game about underwater navigation and restaurant management soon grows to include a surprisingly deep mythology, a large cast of characters, and numerous gameplay concepts.
No matter which direction this game takes you in, though, Dave the Diver always feels born from those wonderful opening hours that hooked you in the first place. That initial “aha” moment that made you realize what else is possible soon sprouts and grows into a thriving ecosystem of possibilities. Through it all, the game’s unfiltered joy warms your heart and soul. – MB
8. Armored Core 6
In 2022, FromSoftware’s Elden Ring earned countless “Game of the Year” awards from numerous outlets (including our own). While FromSoft has yet to release DLC for Elden Ring, it provided the next best thing: Armored Core 6. That’s not a knock against this game but rather an observation that Elden Ring may have set expectations a little too high.
Combat in Armored Core 6 is fast and explosive, and while the game is easy to learn, the skill ceiling is somewhere in the stratosphere thanks to its mech-building system. Every head, jet booster, missile pod, and pair of legs impacts the robot’s combat performance. Half of Armored Core 6’s fun comes from experimenting with builds to fit different scenarios, and the other half is just going ham and creating the most monstrous and broken (in a good way) builds imaginable. All in all, Armored Core 6 is a glorious return to the mech combat simulator franchise that served as FromSoft’s bread and butter before Demon’s Souls changed everything. – AG
7. Cyberpunk 2077: Phantom Liberty
Phantom Liberty and Cyberpunk 2077‘s 2.0 update took the game’s original body to a ripperdoc and had itself chromed so nova that Lizzy Wizzy is giving it a side-eye. Cyberpunk 2077 had its defenders on release, but its rebirth forges it into the game it should have been all along. Helping us into the next phase is Idris Elba as a semi-retired secret agent. Maybe it takes us out of the fiction a bit to see real-world stars in digital form. Maybe, considering the fragile nature of Night City’s sanity, that’s the entire point.
The new Dogtown storyline demands we reckon with our morality, knowing it’s near impossible to shake the world upstairs. What’s cataclysmic to V is a Tuesday to Presidents and CEOs, which puts the main storyline in an even sharper light. Cyberpunk, post-Phantom Liberty is a preem ride, and one of the best modern RPGs to date. – MD
6. Super Mario Bros. Wonder
No game in 2023 is more wholesome and joyful to play than Super Mario Bros. Wonder: a jubilantly colored side-scrolling romp that proves, even within the boundaries of the most traditional of gaming formulas, Nintendo still has more than a few tricks up its sleeve. The game is full of surprises, and discovering each one (particularly the acid-trippy Wonder Flower) feels like unwrapping a nearly endless collection of little confections.
Side-scrolling Super Mario games have felt less inspired since the kickoff of the New Super Mario Bros. era, especially in comparison to modern classics like Galaxy and Odyssey. But Wonder is every bit as imaginative as its 3D counterparts. It’s a dream to play, the art style is expressive, the music is catchy as hell, and the adventure is captivating from front to back. This is the best 2D Super Mario game since Yoshi’s Island, which says just about everything you need to know. – BB
5. Resident Evil 4 Remake
Capcom was riding against a high bar of expectation after it announced it was remaking 2005’s Resident Evil 4 for modern consoles, with many feeling the original game was fine as it was and readily available on most platforms. However, Capcom pulled out all the stops for its remake of Resident Evil 4, modernizing and streamlining the survival horror classic without losing sight of what made the original great. The game follows Resident Evil 2 protagonist Leon Kennedy as he moves to rescue the President’s daughter from a European cult with an insidious secret.
Rebuilt from the ground up, the new Resident Evil 4 is arguably the most technically impressive entry in the venerable franchise to date, refining the gameplay engine and presentation from 2019’s Resident Evil 2 remake. All the major beats from the 2005 game are retained, improved with a number of quality-of-life changes, and with the more tedious bits jettisoned. The Resident Evil 4 remake is the best kind of remake, faithfully keeping the spirit of the original while making the entire experience feel fresh and exciting again as its own distinctly separate adventure. – SS
4. Marvel’s Spider-Man 2
$69.99 is a big chunk of change. However, Marvel’s Spider-Man 2 is one of those rare games that justifies its premium price point and then some. It improves on its predecessor in every way and is the kind of high-end experience that we’ve come to expect from Insomniac, who with each title seem to be cementing themselves as one of the most reliable and impossibly prolific studios in the industry.
But beyond the video game sphere, Marvel’s Spider-Man 2 may be a glimpse into the future of the entertainment landscape as a whole. While recent Spider-Man films have certainly found major success at the box office, it’s fair to say that Insomniac’s take on Spider-Man is on equal footing narratively, financially, and culturally. This is an unprecedented achievement for a video game adaptation and speaks to how extraordinary the game truly is. – BB
3. Alan Wake 2
The power of a creative voice is becoming an unfortunate novelty in modern gaming. Studio and creator identities are too often sacrificed as studios continue to chase trends that are often outdated by the time that their games are released. Games with Triple-A production values that feel like they could have only been made by the people who made them are becoming depressingly rare.
Well, Alan Wake 2 is very much that kind of game. Yes, it is an integral part of Remedy’s surprisingly complex connected universe, but the studio’s unique fingerprints go far beyond references to their previous works. Nearly every element of Alan Wake 2’s incredible campaign benefits from some wonderfully surprising creative decision that nobody else would think to make and few publishers would allow out of fear that such outbursts of personality may alienate their perception of the average player. Well, those who say that Alan Wake 2 didn’t “need” things like a full-blown musical section tucked into the middle of the campaign should be counted among the lost. – MB
2. The Legend of Zelda: Tears of the Kingdom
In the minds of many who played it, The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild was already a perfect game. Yet, Tears of the Kingdom seemingly manages the impossible and somehow improves on perfection. While open-world games are nothing new in 2023, Tears still finds ways to push the genre forward. Rarely has a triple-A game encouraged players not just to experiment with all of the tools at their disposal but to use them to actively try to break the game.
While other games punish you for trying to be overpowered, from the very start, Tears wants you to create unique mechs and devices to trap its powerful enemies (or just torture Koroks). Months after release, gamers are still pushing the envelope of what can be done with the game, and it’s likely that even more contraptions will be discovered in the coming years. And somehow, Nintendo crammed all of this into six-year-old hardware that was already underpowered when it was released. Tears of the Kingdom is truly a modern marvel of gaming. – CF
1. Baldur’s Gate 3
To be honest, I was putting off writing this entry until pretty much every other aspect of this article was ready to go. I was hoping to find the perfect combination of words that would help explain why this game deserved to be ranked above so many other incredible titles and what separates it from that considerable competition. Along the way, though, that started to feel beyond the point.
After all, Baldur’s Gate 3’s greatest accomplishment may just be the ways it has inspired so many gamers to recall that first time they played that first truly special title that would paint the rest of their gaming journey. By refining and expanding upon concepts that have long defined some of the greatest role-playing titles ever made (including the Baldur’s Gate games), developer Larian Studios vividly reminds us of the power of believing that anything is possible and everything matters. What happens if I follow that path? Do I want to fall in love with a vampire or a mage? How will saying no or yes in this conversation impact not just that conversation but every other piece of my adventure that will follow?
It is one thing to raise and maintain the illusion of such possibilities. Countless other tiles (including those special games we grew up with) have done that, and we love them for making us believe such magic exists. Baldur’s Gate 3 not only delivers the real thing but features the Triple-A visuals, writing, and acting that truly make us believe that every adventure of every design is equally valid and very much our own. It is that triumph of technical achievement and creative ambition that only the greatest games can be. – MB