December 25, 2023

The 15 best games of 2023

By Tim Biggs
December 25, 2023 — 8.35am
, register or subscribe to save articles for later.

Save articles for later

Add articles to your saved list and come back to them any time.

When people look back on 2023, it will be remembered as one of the all-time biggest years for video games. With the Xbox Series X/S and PlayStation 5 hitting their stride, and the Nintendo Switch preparing to bow out with one final push of incredible games, it’s very difficult to whittle things down to 15 picks.

To help ourselves out we’ve eliminated all remakes and remasters, even though they’ve provided some very enjoyable experiences this year, including Metroid Prime, Resident Evil 4, Super Mario RPG, System Shock, Dead Space, Layers of Fear, Quake 2, The Last of Us and Kirby’s Return to Dreamland. With that caveat out of the way, here are our picks for 2023 in no particular order.

Final Fantasy XVI

Clive is out to dismantle the tyranny of the crystals in Final Fantasy XVI.

PS5 Eschewing both the series’ original turn-based design and the modern tendency to make everything open world, XVI is a fast-paced action game in the style of God of War, drenched in a familiar mythology and framed with a Game of Thrones political plot. Following prince turned slave turned eco-terrorist Clive on a journey that vacillates between personal stakes and boss fights that detonate to kaiju-like proportions, it feels like an electrifying new beginning for the 35-year-old franchise.

Pizza Tower

PC A rare example of a crowd-funded video game becoming a broad success, Pizza Tower is the work of a tiny team of pseudonymous developers and artists. Looking like a 1980s French cartoon made in MS Paint and sounding like a funky psychedelic panic attack, it’s a masterful 2D platforming adventure with the speed of Sonic the Hedgehog, the design sensibilities of Wario Land and sprinklings of inspiration from Metroid and others. Surreal and satisfying, it’s an instant classic.


The universe is yours to explore in Starfield.

PC, Xbox Series Though it’s copped criticism from those who don’t think it lives up to previous Bethesda Games Studios icons like Skyrim or Fallout 4, Starfield is a colossal space adventure of cascading, intermingled gameplay systems perfect for anyone who’s ever watched Star Trek or Firefly and wanted to be a part of that world. From building your own starships to exploring uncharted worlds, and from solving mining disputes on Mars to maybe becoming a sort of galactic Batman, there are thousands of stories to create or discover.


Star Wars Jedi Survivor

PC, PS4, PS5, Xbox One, Xbox Series Ginger wizard Cal Kestis is back and, as in 2019’s Fallen Order, helping to deliver some of the greatest canon Star Wars content in years. Lightsaber combat and force powers are peerlessly executed here, the huge worlds are a joy to explore, and the narrative gets surprisingly deep into both dark empire and high republic lore. Cinematic set pieces and charming characters new and old also help the whole thing shine, including the year’s best frog boy (an unexpectedly crowded category).

Super Mario Bros. Wonder

Super Mario Wonder is a non-stop cavalcade of surprising and novel ideas.

Switch What made the original Super Marios of the 1990s great was the surprising power-ups, the inventive level design, and how those two things meshed for non-stop delight. That was dulled by familiarity in the 2000s and 2010s “New Super” series, but Wonder brings it all back. A new setting and new power-ups create singular experiences, every level contains a hidden flower that transforms the world in surprising ways, and it’s all wrapped in expressive new animation and musical styles that make this the greatest 2D Mario since the Super Nintendo.


PC, PS4, PS5, Xbox One, Xbox Series A polished and thoughtful puzzle adventure, full of fresh ideas and mysteries, Cocoon is the kind of game that has you grinning from the constant procession of brilliant solutions and impossible possibilities. From some of the minds that created Limbo and Inside, it casts you as a bug-like person who carries entire worlds like marbles on their back. You can fly in and out of these worlds, or even carry one into another, to solve problems that confound, but never frustrate.


The sun setting is not a welcome site in Dredge.

PC, PS4, PS5, Switch, Xbox One, Xbox Series An atmospheric fishing management game set in a haunting Lovecraftian archipelago, Dredge makes the most of an unexpected genre mashup. Spend time how you wish: catch and sell fish to earn money and upgrade your vessel, or scrape treasures from the deep, while also contending with horrific sealife aberrations, twisted islanders and an insanity-inducing fog that rolls in after dark. There are moments of true horror when you find yourself stranded too far from safety, alone (or not) in your boat.

Dave the Diver

PC, Switch On the other end of the nautical spectrum, Dave the Diver is a charming delight from start to finish. By day you spear-fish in an ocean packed surprisingly full of mystical secrets and adventures, and by night you serve your catch in an up-market island sushi restaurant. As you progress the game adds more quirky characters and more ridiculous wrinkles to the ever-satisfying gameplay loop, until you’re meticulously pouring tea for world-famous celebs and parlaying with a society of merfolk.

Sea of Stars

Sea of Stars wears influences including Chrono Trigger and Secret of Mana on its sleeve.

PC, PS4, PS5, Switch, Xbox One, Xbox Series Half of this list could easily have been niche indie retro RPGs, but in the interest of variety we’ve chosen just one, and it was a difficult choice. Sea of Stars is head and shoulders above the rest simply because of its polish and irrepressible beauty. Inspired by 90s classics but without the randomness and grinding, it’s absolutely gorgeous to look at and listen to, with a combat hook and original story compelling enough for both genre newcomers and old fans.

The Making of Karateka

PC, PS4, PS5, Switch, Xbox One, Xbox Series There are plenty of examples of old games being re-released on modern platforms, but few developers that care as much about context and preservation as Digital Eclipse. Its latest release is so much more than a way to play 1984 trailblazer Karetaka (precursor to Prince of Persia). With video interviews, material scans, interactive demonstrations and many playable prototypes and iterations, it’s an engrossing playable documentary, and a wonderful look at a father-son duo who changed games forever.

Baldur’s Gate 3

No game of any size can match the epic-feeling scope of Baldur’s Gate 3.

PC, PS5, Xbox Series Some of the greatest role-playing games of all time were sold on the idea that your choices really matter, and will ripple through the rest of the experience to shape the outcomes. In most cases, it’s an illusion, but Baldur’s Gate 3 makes you really believe it. Set in the world of Dungeons & Dragons, it’s a meticulously written and realised fantasy epic with a level of sheer choice that can be overwhelming, but pays off in impressively reactive and seemingly indeterminent ways.

Fire Emblem Engage

Switch There’s nothing quite like Fire Emblem, a strategy series built around simple systems of strengths and weaknesses that are fun to exploit but also punishing if you’re not paying attention, which also happens to be a series about flirting awkwardly with mages, barbarians and assorted love interests who may die permanently if you make a wrong move on the battlefield. Engage is a phenomenal entry that lets you bind your professional murderers/romantic goofballs to the memories of heroes past, opening up many delicious tactical (and sartorial) options.

The Legend of Zelda: Tears of the Kingdom

That Tears of the Kingdom even functions when you can fly upwards through any roof, attach any objects together to make vehicles and rewind time whenever you like is a miracle.

Switch Not satisfied with Breath of the Wild, arguably the greatest open world of all time, Nintendo has topped itself and raised the bar sky-high. Hyrule has tripled in size (on the Y axis!), and Link has four new powers that are not only phenomenally impressive, but would each break any other game. Astonishingly, the world feels hand-crafted and interesting while being both intimidating and susceptible to your god-like manipulations at all times, a trick Nintendo has now pulled off twice without anybody else coming close.

Marvel’s Spider-man 2

PS5 Insomniac’s third open world web-head adventure looks incredible, packs solid swinging, great combat, and an emotional, twisting narrative. Sure, you could say that about the previous two as well, but this one’s faster, bigger, and when we’re talking about the absolute zenith of superhero games it’s OK to have more of the same. Peter Parker and Miles Morales share the lead this time, the personal themes from each Spidey’s respective game continuing and resolving here even as a new batch of deadly villains wreak havoc on New York City.

Alan Wake 2

Alan Wake 2 builds on the original in every way, but the introduction of a new protagonist makes it easy for newcomers to grasp.

PC, PS5, Xbox Series Developer Remedy is famed for its tech, its surrealism and its offbeat American settings with a proud Finnish flavour, and all three elements hit their intoxicating height here. There are survival-focused combat encounters, mind-bending puzzles, a full system devoted to placing evidence and red string on a murder wall, and amazingly good musical numbers. There are arresting visuals and performance capture, and also moments of live action cinema. It’s as Twin Peaks-y as games get, but it’s also entirely its own, beautiful, characteristically Remedy thing.

Get news and reviews on technology, gadgets and gaming in our Technology newsletter every Friday. Sign up here.

, register or subscribe to save articles for later.
Tim Biggs is a writer covering consumer technology, gadgets and video games.Connect via Twitter or email.


Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published.