2023 was both an amazing year and an awful year.
We would be neglecting our duties in celebrating this year in games to not mention the other half of what was noteworthy about this industry in 2023 and that was the nearly 10,000 people laid off on the development and media sides of the industry. It seemed like the main reasons for these layoffs were due to bad deals falling through, the endless human job sacrifices that infinite growth capitalism requires with very few executives ever suffering the consequences of their actions, and private equity selling off the companies they acquired to flip later for a profit or loss. It was a rough year to follow along with every story because it seemed like for every cool or surprising thing that happened, we had layoffs or a company shutting down to keep any of us from being able to fully enjoy the fruit of the people’s years of labors to get these games out of the door in as good of a state as they could. Plenty of games released in good states, but many others did not for many reasons that are too numerous to state. We hope that 2024 is better for those making games and those reporting on and/or commentating on the industry we all love so much and that as many of you can form unions to make the most of your unique situations to get the fair treatment you deserve.
Just to give you an idea of how many quality games came out this year, we had 29 total games and one expansion among the six individual lists that we have this year and that doesn’t even include the games that would reside just outside of those lists that are also worth checking out. We cut that down to 10 games here that are the most recommended games we have to offer with a lot of heavy hitters here that features eight sequels, one that is technically a prequel to the developer’s previous release, and one original indie game. We have four exclusive to a platform and four that are exclusive to the current generation of consoles for the last stats I’ll offer here. It’s been a phenominal year for playing games, so I hope you found at least a few games that piqued your interest at some point this year.
Here are SmashPad’s Top 10 Games of 2023:
10. Armored Core VI: Fires of Rubicon – PS5, PS4, Xbox Series X|S, XB1, PC
“From Software went back to their roots with this one, and they added all of the lessons they’ve learned from their Dark Souls series and similar games with it.” – Brandon Perkings, Editorial, Let’s Weekend Host
9. Street Fighter 6 – PS5, PS4, Xbox Series X|S, PC
“No matter the result of a match, I always had a blast competing against someone, learning something about my playstyle in the process, and improving where I could. It’s been a while since I’ve played a game with the intention of continuously getting better at it. Street Fighter 6 reminded me how much fun that could be.” – Jon Yelenic, Editorial
8. Dredge – PS5, PS4, Xbox Series X|S, XB1, Switch, PC
“Dredge was easily the best indie game of the year and it’s such a weird game that is outside of my typical wheelhouse. It’s a fishing game where you have crashed your fishing boat amongst these mysterious islands and are given a new boat to work off a debt, but then you realize that weird Cthulhu-esque horrors are going on all around you that are hard to ignore as you meet strange new people and get even stranger requests.” – Chris Selogy, Managing Editor, Day 0 Update Host
7. Final Fantasy XVI – PS5
“While the series has grown to become something that might have alienated its original fandom, I’m someone that can appreciate the strides Square Enix has made at keeping Final Fantasy epic. Sure, the turn-based battle system is all but gone, but the action in the game is quick and seamless, allowing players to really take in the atmosphere of this broken mideival realm as Clive Rosfield. On top of that, the callbacks and hints to previous games in the writing, environment, and amazing music easily make this the best Final Fantasy I’ve played since Final Fantasy X.” – Danreb Victorio, Executive Editor
6. Marvel’s Spider-Man 2 – PS5
“This year’s list is full of big, interesting open worlds and Spider-Man 2 is the best of them all. I didn’t think a game would ever exist that topped Just Cause 2 and 3‘s range of fun and fast ways to explore their worlds and Insomniac has managed to do that with the power of the SSD.” – Chris Selogy, Managing Editor, Day 0 Update Host
5. Sea of Stars – PS5, PS4, Xbox Series X|S, XB1, Switch, PC
“Top-down, 2D pixel art and turn-based combat have always been near and dear to my heart, and Sea of Stars is an expertly crafted love-letter to said genre, checking all the boxes of an outstanding retro-like experience. The colorful cast of characters, music, art, and exploration would be right at home on the SNES. Luckily, it’s a modern title with modern quality of life features, and is one the year’s best games.” – Myles Obenza, Editorial
4. Super Mario Bros. Wonder – Switch
“The best Mario game since Odyssey. Nintendo somehow managed to add yet another trick to the old formula and knock it out of the park. Worm pipes, friends. Worm pipes.” – Brandon Perkings, Editorial, Let’s Weekend Host
3. Alan Wake 2 – PS5, Xbox Series X|S, PC
“There has not been a game, at least in the AAA space, in the past 10 years that has demonstrated half of the storytelling ambition that Alan Wake 2 proudly puts on display. For years, the industry has sought for games to be more “cinematic,” and an unfortunate byproduct of that has resulted in some games over-relying on cutscenes or other non-interactive elements in telling stories — “movie games,” if you will.” – Jon Yelenic, Editorial
2. Baldur’s Gate 3 – PS5, Xbox Series X|S, PC
“There have been dozens of Dungeons & Dragons adaptations over the years. However we’ve gone a very long time since there was a good classic RPG released. Larian Studios showed they absolutely know what they’re doing, crafting a game that blends tabletop conventions with modern RPG mechanics. Plus, they put the ‘role’ in role-playing by giving you choices that are not always black and white.” – Filippo Dinolfo, Associate Editor
1. The Legend of Zelda: Tears of the Kingdom – Switch
“The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild was nothing short of astounding, and while I’d stop myself from calling it my favorite Zelda game, it was easily the one game I’d love to experience again for the first time. The Legend of Zelda: Tears of the Kingdom did that and a lot more.” – Danreb Victorio, Executive Editor
It’s been a great year for games, so feel free to get mad that certain games didn’t make the overall list or were not in the order you would have put them and then keep that to yourself. Enjoy what makes you the most happy and be content that others have done the same for themselves.
Please do check out our multiple ways of putting out content beyond what you may see on the site, like our Twitch and YouTube channels and our podcasts (Let’s Weekend for non-gaming news and Day 0 Update for gaming talk) to hear us talk about the good and bad news that happens every week.