2023 was an exceptional year for video games. We got a huge mix of highly-anticipated sequels and breakout hits that made it hard to keep up with everything that came out. This year, it felt like there was a new hot game that came out of nowhere every other week. No matter your taste in games, there was something for you to play.
This year, quantity matched quality. Sure, there were a few standout stinkers like The Day Before, but practically everything that came out this year could have made the list of contenders for someone’s game of the year. The Attack of the Fanboy team certainly had differing opinions on 2023’s best, but we ultimately came together to decide on the best games of the year.
Honorable Mention: Spider-Man 2
Even in a year loaded with some of the most inventive games in recent memory, you just can’t beat the classics. Marvel’s Spider-Man 2 is a somewhat safe sequel, but it’s packed with even more love and care for the character than the first game. In our review, we wrote “Marvel’s Spider-Man 2 takes the exact formula from the first games and improves upon it thanks to better UI, better villains, a better story, a bigger world, Web Wings, and two Spider-Men. Though the combat is still repetitive, this is peak Spider-Man.”
This game is yet another example of why Insomniac Games is one of the most talented development studios in the industry. It’s able to expand upon ideas that most thought were played out and deepen mechanics that had seemingly reached their peak. The traversal and combat mechanics are so good in Spider-Man 2 that they make it hard to revisit the first game, and that’s an achievement all on its own.
Honorable Mention: Starfield
There’s a lot that can be said about Bethesda’s highly-anticipated space RPG Starfield. Discourse aside, Starfield is a reminder of why the Bethesda RPG formula is so beloved. The game also has some interesting ideas about blending its narrative and gameplay mechanics, and while not everything lands, it’s hard not to love Starfield for what it tries to do.
In our review of Starfield, we wrote “It would not be a stretch to say this could be one of the most ambitious games ever made, and that it followed through with many of those goals with relatively low compromise. For those fearing this game was Bethesda flying too close to the sun, this is a reminder that this same ambition, mixed with lots of caution and expertise, is also what put us on the moon.”
Game of the Year Runner-Up: Alan Wake 2
Who would’ve thought that a sequel over a decade in the making would end up becoming one of the most beloved games of the year? In our review of Alan Wake 2, we wrote “Alan Wake 2 is an ambitious, shockingly loaded, and intense sequel. It’s clear why Sam Lake considered this to be his passion project. Lake, along with Kyle Rowley, has successfully directed a tremendous game, with particular highlights being the visual storytelling, the visuals themselves, and the deliberate nature of Alan Wake 2’s gameplay.”
Alan Wake 2 is an exceptionally interesting multimedia experiment that draws influence from everything and everywhere in a way only video games can. While it doesn’t land every one of its punches, the game has so much character, charm, and personality that it’s hard not to think of the game as an old friend after the credits roll.
Attack of the Fanboy GOTY 2023: Baldur’s Gate 3
2023 was such a standout year that most people had their GOTYs locked in by the first half of the year. Then Baldur’s Gate 3 happened. While Larian’s ambitious sequel began life in early access three years ago (on both Steam and Google Stadia, to put the timeline in perspective), nobody could have predicted the absolute chokehold it would have on the gaming industry at the time of its full release.
Baldur’s Gate 3 is a testament to why we love video games. It offers an unprecedented amount of player freedom and choice, with the developers creating instances so specific and branching paths so large that they would give any project manager a heart attack. Not only does Baldur’s Gate 3 outclass other games in the genre (which already offer spectacular levels of choice and freedom), but it also marries that freedom with insanely high production value and a budget that is unheard of for games like this.
It’s a game that we reviewed twice (on both PC and PlayStation 5) and gave a perfect score to both times. That should say enough about the game’s quality, but a 5-star review doesn’t even begin to scratch the surface of how great Baldur’s Gate 3 is.
Above all else, Baldur’s Gate was a risk. It was a risk taken by people who love video games, a risk taken by people who know what this medium is capable of. Its influence will be felt throughout video games for the next few decades. Baldur’s Gate 3 is lightning in a bottle, and it’s unlikely that we’ll see anything like it for quite some time.