- 15. Street Fighter VI
- 14. Goodbye Volcano High
- 13. BattleBit Remastered
- 12. Super Mario Wonder
- 11. Diablo IV
- 10. Little Goody Two Shoes
- 9. Sea of Stars
- 8. Armored Core VI: Fires of Rubicon
- 7. Final Fantasy XVI
- 6. Cyberpunk 2077: Phantom Liberty
- 5. Hi-Fi Rush
- 4. Marvel’s Spider-Man 2
- 3. Resident Evil 4
- 2. Baldur’s Gate 3
- 1. The Legend of Zelda: Tears of the Kingdom
Gaming in 2023 was the most wild experience. It was like indulging in the sweetest treats that your mom wouldn’t let you have. The IPs alone were ridiculous — we have Zelda, Resident Evil, Spider-Man, Final Fantasy — I mean, I can keep going, but we might as well talk about our list.
Every title here stunned us, whether it was with its inventive mechanics, incredible story, or overall aesthetic. Now, there are plenty of wonderful games that couldn’t make the cut, and it’s either because we didn’t think they belonged (sorry, Starfield), or our relatively small staff didn’t get a chance to play them (sorry, Alan Wake 2). However, that did give us the opportunity to highlight some more indie gems and underrated titles. You’ll recognize many of them from our PC, Xbox, PS5, and Switch pages.
This is our Game of the Year list for 2023.
15. Street Fighter VI
A robust roster of fighters, an eye-catching new art style, a novel online battle system and a fairly balanced combat system that’s approachable for newbies, Street Fighter VI has quickly become a darling in the fighting game community. As I haven’t played a Street Fighter in quite awhile, I was definitely impressed with the training mode which helped me get up to speed fairly quickly. Soon, I was proficiently fighting my way through the Arcade mode in Fighting Ground mode. Was I good enough to beat online challengers? Eh, after a while I hit a win ratio that I didn’t feel too embarrassed about. But I’m nowhere near proficient. However, with some time, patience and mastery of the Drive system, I could be.
I really enjoyed learning the ins and outs of the Drive system since it fleshes out the combat beyond unleashing the most special moves in the shortest amount of time to bring your opponent to heel. Managing your Drive Gauge is an integral component of battle in Street Fighter VI, with Drive Rush, Drive Parry, Drive Reversals, Drive Impact and Overdrive special moves being the keys to victory. Deplete your Drive Gauge and you go into Burnout mode which cuts off your ability to use any Drive-powered moves. While it’s a dangerous position to be in, strategy, move mastery and a little luck can win the day. I’m looking forward to mastering series favorite Chun-Li and newcomer Kimberly before the year is out.
— Sherri L. Smith
14. Goodbye Volcano High
Diversity is important in all artforms, and as games continue to evolve, we’re (slowly) seeing people from more cultures, sexualities, genders, and ethnicities represented within our favorite stories. I’ve always believed the value of seeing yourself represented in a narrative bears so much weight, but it’s rare when you finally get to experience that first-hand.
Goodbye Volcano High accomplishes that for me. I’ve never related more to a fictional character than I do Fang, as they are Arabic, struggle with finding acceptance from their parents due to their non-comforming gender, even being deadnamed by them with other family claiming “they’re trying,” and are seen as the “spoiled brat” by others. Beyond just how much Fang’s journey touched me, the cast is full of diverse genders and sexualities, and is a must-play for anyone in the LGBTQ+ community.
Maybe it’s because I saw myself so much in it, but the story broke me. Goodbye Volcano High introduces the player to a group of teenagers who feel alarmingly real, and to thrust the end-of-the-world onto them is shattering. These high schoolers, with palpable ambitions and dreams, cannot escape their impending deaths from an unstoppable asteroid. All they have is each other, and each happy moment is accompanied by an inescapable dread. Goodbye Volcano High acts as a necessary reminder to cherish those around you, and I will never forget how I sobbed uncontrollably upon reaching credits.
— Momo Tabari
13. BattleBit Remastered
BattleBit Remastered is the game that modern Battlefield trailers try to catfish you into believing Dice are still capable of making — only with RTX turned off. Way off. It may look like a Roblox spin-off, but the developers of BattleBit are single-handedly wrenching everything I love about the Battlefield franchise out of the greedy, directionless mitts of Electronic Arts and handing it over to me on a silver platter.
Far from a simple low-fi, demake of that other franchise, BattleBit includes all of the quality of life improvements that fans of multiplayer, squad-based, large-scale warfare games have been clamoring for. Larger squads, richer interactions, tighter gameplay, and a dismissal of the battle passes and loot boxes designed to nickel and dime you.
It’s as if CERN’s LHC tore a hole in the space-time continuum and spat out some alternate universe version of the Swedish developer famed for pioneering this genre. A version that wasn’t sapped of all soul and creativity by its domineering corporate overlord. It’s just fun. Remember fun? It was that thing you got to enjoy before life’s oppressive thumb brought home the reality of taxes and your friends getting entirely too political about almost anything. And this game delivers it by the bucketload.
— Rael Hornby
12. Super Mario Wonder
The best thing about Super Mario Bros. Wonder is that it’s not a remake or a sequel. Don’t get me wrong, I love playing the classics on the Nintendo Switch, but a new Super Mario Bros. game was long overdue. Sure, there’s the turn-based, Mario Rabbids strategy game, but the high-jumping adventure of Super Mario Bros. gets my adrenaline going. One look at the Super Mario Bros. Wonder trailer and I mentally claimed it for my collection. And when the opportunity to save $20 on Super Mario Bros. Wonder presented itself, I jumped on it, like any Mario fan would.
I’ve spent hours on my Nintendo Switch clearing levels with the same excitement I had playing Super Mario games on the NES as a kid. Nintendo did a great job calling back to the classics while creating new environments and achievements. During your adventure, you collect gold coins, flower coins, wonder seeds, badges, and unlock new worlds. Super Mario Bros. Wonder includes elements of Kirby’s Return to Dreamland. From Mario morphing into a virtually unstoppable elephant bulldozing his way through enemies and barrels to using giant adversaries to remove obstacles.
Gameplay starts off relatively easy and becomes more challenging as you progress within the game. With so much to do and worlds to explore on the map, Super Mario Bros. Wonder is fun, delightful, and addictive. It evokes feelings of nostalgia for seasoned Mario fans and with support for up to four players, it’s a game the whole family can enjoy.
— Hilda Scott
11. Diablo IV
I’ve put a stupid amount of hours into Diablo IV and I’m still nowhere in this game. I have played almost every character class, and have one sorcerer past the first level cap. I love how creative your builds can get, and I thoroughly enjoy the cosmetic system — it keeps me hunting for more loot despite already having decent gear. It’s great that Blizzard is still putting work into it, and as long as it doesn’t become a greedy money tunnel, then hopefully most players will benefit from updates.
Playing in co-op with friends is really the biggest highlight of Diablo IV — it’s very seamless, and you can even make friends easily with its semi-MMO lobby system. It’s not as packed as a true MMO, but you’ll see quite a few players running around and doing events. Having an active community helping each other out with the challenges brings me back to the very old days of World of Warcraft. This is easily one of the best multiplayer games of 2023.
— Rami Tabari
10. Little Goody Two Shoes
Little Goody Two Shoes revolves around a young woman trapped in a small village, low on funds, forced to do manual labor to get by. But a mysterious darkness appears in her life, and for the dream of freedom, she pushes the limits of her humanity at whatever the cost. Within every night lies the promise of abstract, nightmarish terrors putting her conviction to the test.
It’s full of compelling twists and makes a stunning commitment to bringing a children’s book to life. The tiny details within its user interface, like small drawings inserted within a dial to showcase different times of day to its hand-drawn map ooze personality. Its character designs are clearly inspired by 90s anime, and there are even animated, musical interludes at different points in the story.
With a romanceable cast exclusively made up of women, it brilliantly blends the joys and horror of a fairy tale alongside a sapphic dating sim, all while the player must manage their dwindling funds to maintain sanity, hunger, and health. Little Goody Two Shoes is stunning to behold, and it is the best looking game of this year. Fans of sapphic romance stories, alongside surprisingly disturbing horror, need to give it a shake.
— Momo Tabari
9. Sea of Stars
Sea of Stars is such a special game for people who love turn-based RPGs. It takes everything we love about the genre and enhances it with modern art and mechanics. Despite how much I love every game I wrote about on this list, Sea of Stars is the only one that made me cry. It’s about love and friendship persevering through darkness. It’s wholesome, dark, epic, personal — all the adjectives. Just throw them at a wall and half of them will stick.
I have been eyeing Sea of Stars shortly after it got funded on Kickstarter and immediately knew that I’d be enamored by it. The dynamic combat and traversal, gorgeous art, and space magic all sent me into a frenzy of hype. After walking away from it now, I can say that the hype was worth it, especially if you follow through all the way to the end. And I do mean all the way. Anyone who’s ever played an old school RPG knows what I mean. Good luck with those Flimsy Hammers, solstice warriors.
— Rami Tabari
8. Armored Core VI: Fires of Rubicon
As the self-proclaimed “Laptop Mag’s biggest FromSoftware fan,” I couldn’t be more excited to see what the company’s modern take on a mecha action game looked like. After all, the developer has been in the business for a long time, and Armored Core has been around since 1997. How would the company redefine what this series means after expectations raised tenfold from legends like Dark Souls, Bloodborne, Sekiro, and Elden Ring?
The answer is pure adrenaline, culminating into a project where every facet is designed to feel the unimaginable weight of giant machines clashing into one another. Armored Core VI: Fires of Rubicon has my favorite soundtrack of the year, acting as a head-banging catalyst for excitement while dodging hundreds of inconceivably fast missiles and bullets. Finding your time to strike, whether that be through a laser blade, high-powered rifle, or gigantic shotguns in the middle of this chaos effortlessly gets the blood pumping.
Beyond my love for the tight, energetic dance within each battle, I loved heading into the garage and building nearly a dozen different machines throughout three separate playthroughs. There are so many unique builds to mess around with, and being able to jump between them at any point turned me into a giant robot lover.
— Momo Tabari
7. Final Fantasy XVI
I love a good Final Fantasy and Final Fantasy XVI is a great one. Can it take the place of FF IV, VI and VII in my heart? No, but it’s definitely made it into my top ten. It took only 20 minutes for me to become engrossed in the saga of Clive Rosfield, the eldest prince of the kingdom of Rosaria, brought low by political intrigue and betrayal. It’s a story that spans decades and involves many colorful, intriguing characters. For fans of old-school RPGs, there’s plenty of lore and terminology to sink your teeth into. And gamers who don’t want to spend precious time away from questing, there’s Active Time Lore, a new feature to the series that access relevant compendium entries during cutscenes. So if you weren’t paying attention to why two kingdoms are fighting or the relationship between characters, ATL is the place to do so without digging through scores of entries.
I’m a big fan of the combat — it reminds me of something you’d find in Bayonetta or Devil May Cry, instead of the traditional turn-based system. It’s a revelation to have the ability to string together combos, deftly dodge and unleash hell via Eikons (this game’s name for Summons). While it might be tempting to button mash (you’ll definitely mash your way through lower-tier enemies), it’s more rewarding to learn how to string together moves efficiently. It’ll let you get enemies into Stagger mode quicker, allowing you to get big hits for an easier path to victory. I’m still trying to master the skill tree, but I’m having a blast learning.
The story is where Final Fantasy XVI shines and while many might draw comparisons to “Game of Thrones,” (and there are quite a few moments where I wanted to lob out a GoT reference) FFXVI stands on its own. And out of all the Final Fantasies I’ve played, this iteration of Cid is by far my favorite. But more importantly, Clive doesn’t fall by the wayside as a mute, moody protagonist meant for players to imprint themselves on. He has real depth despite giving me serious Jon Snow vibes. I highly recommend this game to anyone looking for a modern RPG.
— Sherri L. Smith
6. Cyberpunk 2077: Phantom Liberty
Cyberpunk 2077: Phantom Liberty struck a chord with me more than any other game this year. It’s easily the best part of Cyberpunk and embodies the Punk genre way more than the rest of the game. Of course, there are a number of endings to the expansion, but there’s only one that’s canon in my mind, and it’s the one where you don’t stop.
It was more than an espionage thriller to me — the spy stuff was fun, but that wasn’t where the meat was. It could have been delivered through any means. The titular soundtrack captures what’s so special about the expansion, and I’ll feed you just one line from it that I absolutely adore: “Wires and chains (I’m just tired of looking the other way).” I don’t want to spoil it for those that are planning to play it, so instead I’ll let you posit the question that you’ll be asked:
How far are you willing to go?
— Rami Tabari
5. Hi-Fi Rush
Tango Gameworks miraculously pulled this project out from under its hat and released it on the same day it was revealed. While that’s already magic in itself, words cannot describe how glad I am that Hi-Fi Rush exists. It’s a nostalgic revival of a long-gone era of gaming, finally thrusted back into the spotlight, surprisingly by Bethesda’s iconic horror team. It’s full of goofy charm, and isn’t afraid to focus on a colorful, coherent visual direction rather than being imbued with the fanciest, modern graphical technology.
Everything caters to a rhythm, with each level and boss accompanied by its own set of unique tunes. Chai, the protagonist, moves to the beat regardless of your timing, with bonuses for performing to it. But beyond the mechanics functioning in tune with rhythm, every aspect of this world, from its cutscenes to props within the environment to obstacles littered throughout each level, all interact with the music to make a non-stop, playable music video. Not only is Hi-Fi rush my favorite game of 2023, but it somehow feels like a part of my childhood.
— Momo Tabari
4. Marvel’s Spider-Man 2
Insomniac has done it again. Following up on the critically acclaimed Spider-Man and Spider-Man: Miles Morales, Spider-Man 2 swings into focus bringing everything we loved about the first two entries in the series times two. A tale of two Spider-Men, Spider-Man 2 lets you fight through the web-crawler’s more popular rogues’ gallery while switching between Peter B. Parker and Miles Morales. The story is stellar, delicately balancing between real-world problems, like finding (and keeping steady) employment and feeling apprehensive about achieving a new milestone against the intense and awesome responsibility that comes with being a superhero. Some of the best moments in Spider-Man 2’s story are watching Peter and Miles interact with the people closest to them. Don’t get me wrong, villain interaction is great, but it’s the former situations that ground both heroes as humans.
The combat and web traversal mechanics are just as smooth as in the previous games. And Insomniac's portrayal of New York City is even grander than before, making it feel like a living, breathing entity despite being overrun with the broken consciousness of one supervillain and littered with secret villain bases. Another thing the vast open world is full of: side quests. Yes, the side quests are back for better or worse. They’re diverse, allowing you to beat up bad guys, splice DNA, save the bee population and other missions befitting a friendly neighborhood Spider-Man. However, while I’m a sucker for side-missions as a completionist, others might be overwhelmed and write them off as filler content.
Overall, Spider-Man 2 doesn’t make any real big changes. It feels familiar, kind of like a well-worn (Spidey) suit. Fans of the series know its unique creases and snags, but it fits like a glove. And for those of us that have responsibilities outside of gaming, it’s a relatively short game that can be beaten in about 20 hours if you keep the side quests to a minimum. That’s great because I have a host of games I’d like to get to before next year’s class.
— Sherri L. Smith
3. Resident Evil 4
When Resident Evil 4 Remake was announced, my immediate response was “why.” I couldn’t understand the necessity of this project when the original is already in third-person, versus Resident Evil 2 and 3 going from fixed cameras with tank controls to a modern take on the series. I wanted nothing more than for Capcom to greenlight anything else.
Imagine my surprise when I finished this reimagining of the franchise’s most acclaimed title and ended up loving it even more than the original. Not only does Capcom revisit its story, pluck out the frustrating, B-movie schlock and take itself more seriously, but iconic characters like Ashley and Luis are infinitely more compelling. Rather than being oversexualized in the case of the former or weirdly tropey in the case of the latter, they feel like proper characters with actual motives.
I will still never forgive Capcom for removing my beloved dragon section from the original, but I am enamored with how this remake expands upon previously established areas and irons out its worst flaws—I’m looking at you, helicopter level.
— Momo Tabari
2. Baldur’s Gate 3
If you told me that a Dungeons & Dragons video game would be on the short list, let alone number 2, for Game of the Year, I would have cried because I thought you were mocking me. Yet here we are in 2023, and Baldur’s Gate 3 is one of the most astonishing feats in the gaming industry.
It has sexy vampires, immortal hags, big red dragons, and tentacle creatures that want to slurp your brain. The fantastical nature of it isn’t what puts it up here, though. It’s the charming characters, deep narrative, and stupid amount of player agency. I don’t think I’ve ever played a video game that let me do almost anything that I wanted. I once circumvented a whole serial-killer narrative by counter-spelling the killer’s teleport. It was not how the quest was supposed to be at all, but I felt so damn cool stopping them there and then.
Even months after Baldur’s Gate 3 launched, people are still finding hidden dialogue, and Larian Studios are still updating the game with massive patches. It’s easily one of the greatest RPGs of all time.
— Rami Tabari
1. The Legend of Zelda: Tears of the Kingdom
Like so many others I bought a Nintendo Switch at launch in 2017 and for almost the first year it may as well have been a dedicated Breath of the Wild machine. But it wasn’t my obsession alone, toward the end of that first year, my then 4-year-old son wanted to play “the climbing game,” as he called it, too. While Splatoon 2, Super Mario Odyssey, Hollow Knight, Animal Crossing: New Horizons, Hades, and many others all had their time on our Switch, BotW was never unseated as the favorite.
I say all this not just as wistful musings, but to illustrate that Tears of the Kingdom had a lot to live up to and as you might surmise from its lofty position as Laptop Mag’s Game of the Year, it managed to achieve that almost impossible task. While fans of BotW will find themselves wrapped in a warm and familiar blanket with the art style and open world exploration in TotK, it’s not just a glorified DLC. Hidemaro Fujibayashi and the rest of the team created an even deeper experience (literally and figuratively) that will once again drive players well beyond 100 hours to explore not just the now tri-level world, but the possibilities of what you can do in it. If BotW was “the climbing game,” TotK is “the building game,” and it quite literally changes everything.
While my now 10-year-old son breathlessly recounted a play-by-play of his final stand to defeat Ganondorf, it was the building that captured his imagination and had him running to me with Switch in hand to show me his latest madcap mashup of materials. Whether it’s crafting yet another bizarre weapon concocted from a Lizalfos Tail or pairing a battery and fans with a wing to soar over the landscape, the endless sandbox that is TotK manages to recreate the fun and freedom of BotW while breaking new ground. If you own a Switch, The Legend of Zelda: Tears of the Kingdom is another must-have game, and if you don’t have a Switch, you should go out and buy one now so you can play both of these masterpieces.
— Sean Riley
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