Goty 2022

Game of the Year 2023

Another year comes to an end as 2023 closes its doors and welcomes 2024. This new year is already looking solid for game releases, so potentially 2024 could be just as mad with great releases as 2023 was. The world is still a little crazy, but we can always enjoy video games for that bit of escapism and enjoyment before we have to return to the real world again.

Now that everyone has had a break to think about the year and is hard back at work, it felt right to showcase the variety of great games available in 2023. DarkZero has voted on our favourite games of the year. Let us count you down through the gems that made it into our top 20 list.

20 Exoprimal PC, PS5, PS4, Xbox Series X/S, Xbox One


Exoprimal is a personal sleeper hit for me. I have spent many hours blasting dinosaurs and other players in Capcom’s PvEvP, third-person hero shooter. There have been a few PvEvP games, but none feel like Exoprimal.

This game has its action done in two phases, the first phase and the end game. The first phase is what makes this game unique, as at this point it is all PvE where a team of five tries to beat the randomly selected missions as fast as possible to gain an advantage in the end game. Every time you beat a segment in the mission gauge, the team is treated to red silhouettes to see how the other team is faring. Managing to speedily finish before the other team means starting on the end phase early, gaining a time advantage to finish the match before the opposition. It gives the game this urgency as if the whole point is learning to speed run through the missions. It throws me little vibes of The Club (Bizarre Creations) in terms of that speed aspect. There are things to help balance the losing team behind, as in the last phase the two teams can battle each other while doing the objective, but a lot of the game is focused on ensuring people are working together to gain that time advantage.

Exoprimal is something a bit different in the crowded hero shooter market, and its freshness and emphasis on speed make this an exciting and chaotic multiplayer shooter, plus, it has friggin dinosaurs!

19  Bomb Rush Cyberfunk PC, PS5, PS4, Xbox Series X/S, Xbox One, Switch


Yooo, look, it’s not one of those deep skating games that require excellent input execution, balancing, and timing. The 3D world isn’t something to struggle against or overcome. It’s not easy to learn, difficult to master – it’s just easy to learn. And that’s fine. Because Bomb Rush Cyberfunk isn’t about the challenge, it’s about the vibes; much like its inspiration, Jet Set Radio. Just playing around the streets figuring out how to tag those tricky to reach places and fighting off dystopian (but ever more increasingly real feeling) anti-cool cops is just a good time. Especially so when it’s backed up by a phat soundtrack that seems to be the very essence of ‘cyberfunk’. What I didn’t expect however, was for it to also pull off such an interesting plot with twists and turns that often took me completely by surprise. Blading, skating, and biking around the differently themed areas of the large open city pulling off massive chains of simple tricks and whipping up graffiti is so chill that it leaves you in an impossible state of ambivalence feeling both mad hyped yet totally laid back in a way that very few games can ever accomplish.

18 Diablo IV PC, PS5, PS4, Xbox Series X/S, Xbox One


It is crazy to think it took so long for Diablo IV to appear. We are talking 13 years after Diablo III, which meant people were thirsty for a new entry from Blizzard. I jumped straight into this title from its launch day and felt that Diablo IV was a great action RPG that moved the series back to its darker visuals and themes. The transition to one open area that contained all the Acts was an immaculate one, as it made the game feel connected rather than disjointed between Acts, giving a sense of adventure with its interconnected mass with different thematic environments.

Initially, people might have been put off by all the doom and gloom microtransactions posts on sites, but thankfully all that is just overpriced throwaway cosmetics that NO ONE needs to buy. I do feel this part brought in the audience that made it “cool” to hate on the game due to its greed for extremely overpriced cosmetics and simple end-game content; I wish there were more variety in dungeons and their objectives, which I’ll imagine will be fixed in the game’s recently announced expansion coming out at the end of 2024.

I do have to note that as a person who does not play the same game constantly, I never have issues if games do not offer anything past the initial playthrough, so I never had any problem with the limited post-game content and bosses that took the players in Diablo IV to level 100. Still, improvements to that end game did come over the months, making me play through the game with three different classes.

From the get-go, it’s clear that Blizzard keeps on upping its presentation game, as Diablo IV’s is superb, and its story is interesting with the whole Lilith mystery and what her plans are. This genre does not always have strong stories, as its focus should be on the gameplay and its loot and powering up progression, but having those extra bits never hurts. The combat and loot are what make this game addictive, with the action having a feeling of impact and devastation when screens full of enemies all explode into shiny goods. The feedback from this is exceptional, due to the brilliant sound and visual impact of slaying millions of monsters of hell. Throughout Season 1 and Season 2, Diablo IV kept on improving its end-game content, offering more bosses and things to do to, and now I cannot get enough of the addiction known as Diablo IV…although I still can’t find a Shako…

17 Hi-Fi Rush PC, Xbox Series X/S


3rd-person hack-n-slashing combo madness mixed with the constant beat of a rhythm game is such a perfect marriage of genres. They fall hand-in-hand as if that’s the way it’s always been, which I guess with combat timings for combining juggles and attacks along with deftly dipping around enemy fire it sort of is? For a genre that used to be absolutely packed, it’s sad to see the amount of entries dwindle year-upon-year but Hi-Fi Rush does its inspirations justice with a banging soundtrack to swing your guitar-sword to and a killer cartoon cel-shaded look that only heightens the goofy comedy. Though I do think each stage is just a smidge too long, often having repeated arena fights, new abilities and enemies (as well as unlockable moves) do keep fights fun and engaging. The boss fights though. They hit hard with a wallop of nostalgia for classic action games as you fight giant robots, heavy melee tanks, and duel it out with backing from some of the coolest tracks you could possibly fight – coming in from the likes of Nine in Nails (a personal favourite) and The Prodigy.

16 Slay the Princess PC, Mac


You’ll never be more tense playing a visual novel than with Slay the Princess. Starting off as what seems to be an interesting deconstruction of the classic knight’s journey to save a princess from a tower, quickly spirals into a void of 4th, 5th, and 6th wall breaking meta-narrative so strange and captivating you won’t be able to tear yourself away. With every minute decision exploding into a twisting, writhing set of new paths to walk and each step down them carving your fate and designing the consciousness of your inner voices, no two players will have the same experience. And even though I’m desperate to explore more options after the end of my playthrough, I feel it would be a disservice to myself and the game to allow myself to reset it all and go back through. It left me with so many questions but also with a story that is forever mine and mine alone. And this is all apart from the absurdly multi-levelled voice-acting and incredibly effective hand-drawn art that ranges from beautiful, to the deranged, to the unexplainable. It was easy to miss this one, but make sure you do yourself the favour of spending a dark evening alone with it because it’ll reward you with something you can’t quite get anywhere else.

15 Dead Space (2023) PC, PS5, Xbox Series X/S


The original Dead Space was a brilliant horror game from 2008 that took an intriguing weapon design with the plasma cutter and made it part of its gameplay by blasting limbs off Necromorphs. It was a terrific gameplay loop that stimulated the violent nature of space horror into a key gameplay component. EA And Motive Studio’s have brought Dead Space into 2023, but in what is probably more shocking than anything else, the team have kept it nearly identical to the original game. This is a remake that stays close to home, offering quality-of-life improvements, shiny new visuals and superb audio design to make this an impressive-looking game that adds to Dead Space’s already amazing atmosphere. Sure, Isaac has a voice now, but it feels natural to have this. The original was violent, but this remake steps it up with even more gory deaths as their bodies peel apart as they are dismembered. If you have not played the original since its release, then I fully recommend picking up the remake and reliving the brilliance that the original Dead Space brought to the horror genre in this gorgeous remake.

14 Amnesia: The Bunker PC, PS4, Xbox Series X/S, Xbox One


The first Amnesia will always have a special place as being one of the few horror games that got under my skin. The sequels I felt never quite produced what the original had, but this new sequel, subtitled The Bunker, truly knows how to make its players feel panic and terror. This release offered a truly dreadful experience, in a positive sense, which is something only horror games can deliver. Amnesia: The Bunker comes with many more ways to keep the friction and tension high between the player and the game compared to other entries. The setting and its use of the generator and how powerful the light is in keeping the player safe, but also enabling visibility, are the game’s biggest strengths. Being left in the dark with just a pully flashlight that makes noise when pulling to charge, along with the amazing atmospheric ambient sounds while hearing the monster grunting around a few faces away from your hiding spot, is such a haunting experience. This is a game that people should stomach to experience how horror games can make you feel when set in an isolated dark environment with minimum ammo and a huge monster tracking you down. Truly one of the scariest games of 2023.

13 Small Saga PC, Mac


Turn-based RPGs don’t do it for me, not anymore. Too much grinding, too much samey-feeling combat with no stakes. Small Saga flips that on its head. Each fight is a unique engagement, meaning there is a set amount through the entire game. The narrative is in charge here – it will decide when new enemies are introduced and skirmishes occur, when characters level up, and when new skills are unlocked. For a genre that is usually so steeped in their stories, why is this not a more common thing? It makes so much more sense! And although combat does still quickly become too easy once you understand a few of the mechanics and, naturally, abuse them, the lack of random battles means you’ll never be driven to boredom repeating the same old patterns. Instead you’ll be able to focus on what really matters – the wonderful cast of characters and their arcs. Running only around six hours or so, a tenth of the length of any common RPG, Small Saga manages to chronicle an entire hero’s journey, along with the tales of the misfit friends he meets along the way, without losing any of the depth or character development. Taking the old joke about RPGs always going from fighting rats in the sewers to killing a God to the absolute extreme, this plucky adventure is the game that had me most fall in love with the world and its inhabitants this year. It’s also the only game that almost had me in tears, even from just the demo! It’s not the most challenging or exciting title but it’s the one with the most heart by far. And the pixel art looks so good!

12 Laika: Aged Through Blood PC, PS5, PS4, Xbox Series X/S, Xbox One


Remember those old 2D flash games where you’d have to navigate a motocross bike over an obstacle course? Imagine those but now you have a gun. Who came up with this?! A 2D metroidvania played entirely on a motorbike, where back-flipping reloads your weapon and front-flipping recharges a parry (yes, you can parry too it’s absolute madness out here) is one thing, but like five minutes into Laika and you will be left agape after an intensely gory scenario. But it’s played out seriously, not with the intent to shock but to immediately set expectations for what kind of world you’re in and whose side you’re on. There is no doubt after this moment that you are out to get each and every one of the bastards that would commit such a horrific act. The post apocalyptic setting and anthropomorphic coating sets a dark scene but the characters provide a powerful spark of hope that has you really believing you can make a difference. It’s strange having a silly-seeming set of mechanics attached to such a grave narrative but they work so well together to keep you engaged and excited to progress that you’ll find it difficult to put down, even after getting your ass kicked over and over by some of the trickier scenarios you’re presented with. But, once you get done pulling off speeding into a room full of enemies, blocking bullets with the bottom of your bike and sniping the more pressing targets, only to completely roll back into a flip for a well timed reload in order to take out the rest or finish with a spinning parry you’ll be on a high no other game this year could hope to provide. And holy hell is the soundtrack phenomenal.

11  Cyberpunk 2077: Phantom Liberty PC, PS5, Xbox Series X/S


The Phantom Liberty expansion is in two parts for me. I was a fan of Cyberpunk 2077 when it came out in 2020. I am speaking strictly of the PC version and not the horrid state the console release was in. I find that CD Projekt Red has this ability to push amazing visuals to create a city that felt alive and believable, an interesting story, fascinating powers to use in the solid gun combat, and magnificently written characters. Coming with this expansion is the 2.0 patch, which adds a lot of features to not just the expansion content, but the main game as well, bringing a package that feels like THIS is how Cyberpunk 2077 should have launched. Phantom Liberty is a release to put things right, changing a lot in the game, features, skills, and mechanics, allowing Cyberpunk 2077 its redemption to greatness.

But of course, what about the actual expansion? I was so excited to jump back into Cyberpunk 2077 that I started a brand-new character and decided to play through the game again doing different things in the story. Phantom Liberty does what a good expansion should do. It brings with it a group of brilliant new characters, a new location that adds its distinct flavour to the environment of Night City, and a story that dabbles more in thriller and covert ops, what with the President of the New United States of America involved, offering twists and turns in a familiar genre. CD Projekt Red knows how to make each scene hit hard in this expansion, be it how the dialogue is delivered between characters and the backing music emphasising the situation or the cool set pieces, such as the assault from a giant mechanical walking tank, and finally actually getting Mantis Blades so we can slice and dice our enemies! All this makes this 15-hour adventure memorable from beginning to end. It is wonderful to finally see Cyberpunk 2077 in all its glory and this expansion makes it worthwhile to jump back in and experience the refinement and improvements.

10  Ghostrunner 2 PC, PS5, Xbox Series X/S


Ghostrunner was an excellent release that it slid into my top 10 for 2020. This is now the same for its sequel, which is an evolution of what was crafted in the original, coming with new ideas and mechanics to expand the core concept of Ghostrunner’s challenging but rewarding one-touch death gameplay. This sequel does most things better than the original making it a worthwhile follow-up. The sequel comes with new moves, new enemies and an even more exciting level design while keeping the awesome parkour and wall-running but adding some tweaks to elaborate the series’ great puzzle-solving platforming. The bike adds a cool new mechanic and mostly fits in well with Ghostrunner 2’s gameplay. There are just a couple of irksome experiences in the open area section of one of the game’s levels that spoil what is almost an unsoiled inclusion of bringing vehicles to Ghostrunner 2’s pinpoint level design. There is even a rogue-lite mini-game in the hub area that acts as a break between missions that challenges the player’s skill in exchange for rewards. In all, Ghostrunner 2 makes living, killing, dying, and repeating a process that is so highly enjoyable and addictive.

9 Super Mario Bros. Wonder Switch


I have often been seen complaining about Mario titles (especially 2D ones like Wonder) being far too dedicated towards family game time when its roots show that it was made to be an ever increasingly difficult and thrilling experience. What I mean is that Mario games are too easy, often only hiding one or two actually challenging and interesting stages behind an entire campaign of overly-similar and babified levels which can be a real slog to grind through for such a brief taste of the sweet masochistic design I’m here for. Well the same is true for Wonder actually, but instead of rolling my eyes and blasting through nice looking but entirely uninspired levels, I found myself giddy to see what the next stage would bring and how the wonder flowers present in every stage would shake things up. Whether it turns you into Metal Gear Goomba hiding from hazards, has you bouncing around as some weird blob fish, or even riding on the back of an ancient Yoshi dragon, the creativity and playfulness with which Nintendo approached this entry is exactly what I hope to see for every future family-focused Mario game – silly fun first and forget everything else.

8 Armored Core VI: Fires of Rubicon PC, PS5, PS4, Xbox Series X/S, Xbox One


Man, we hadn’t had an Armored Core game in over a decade! Though I’m sure the nostalgia of passing the pad and forth between a group of friends way back on the PS2 with AC3 still has some influence over my love for the franchise, it’s probably still more to do with the giant ass mech battles and non-stop explosions. Boasting easily the most customisation than any of the previous games, Fires of Rubicon also leaves them in the dust – I mean just absolutely smokes them – when it comes to showing off with enormous set-pieces and bosses that make you feel like a meched-up ant in comparison. Though it is the same old tried-and-tested 3rd person free rein combat that allows you to constantly feel like you’re going all out whilst simultaneously bombarding you with a hailstorm of nukes and artillery fire to evade, this time around everything just feels heavier – every impact feels greater, and bursting your way past the footsoldiers to reach troublesome enemies feels more strategic and disciplined. Almost as if this ‘FromSoftware’ dev team (whoever they are) have learnt from previous experience how to make the player feel small but mighty – how to challenge them greatly but fairly within the mechanics of the game. I wonder…

7 Turbo Overkill PC


I feel Turbo Overkill has been slightly overlooked this year, as I have not seen it mentioned much in the media’s Game of the Year round-up, which to me is a travesty. This is simply because Turbo Overkill is probably the best first-person shooter this year. There are plenty of 90s first-person shooters, or “Boomer Shooters” as the subgenre has been titled now, but Turbo Overkill stands out, which it has to do with such a cheesy name. Turbo Overkill is an encapsulation of absurdity, trying to push itself to the heights of stupendous fun through its creative weapons, augmentations and dumb, wild scenarios while offering plenty of mechanics and rapid gameplay to satisfy those old-school action lovers. With its superb throwback visuals, quality soundtrack, outlandish level design, brilliant controls, fluid movability, and hyper-bloody, brutal action that never seems to let up, Turbo Overkill is a quality and thrilling first-person shooter.

6 Remnant II PC, Xbox Series X/S


I won’t deny I was a little disappointed with Remnant II due to the lack of more diverse worlds when paralleled with the first entry, as well as the narrative essentially being another run through of the same plot, but there’s no denying it’s still King when it comes to that gun-toting yet somehow perfectly souls-like 3rd-person combat. Every dodge roll matters and each bullet counts when you’re holding off three flanking marksmen as an elite beast approaches with the intent of flattening you with a warhammer. The weapons and movement just have a weight and recoil to them that feels so damn good to play with. Pair that with the cool universes you’ll be traversing and the unique arrays of enemies and areas they offer and you’ll understand why I spent so much time with this title in 2023. Replaying the shifting generated worlds in order to find and fight every incredible and distinct boss as well as scavenge for more items and upgrades to try out was fantastic the first time around, but here in the sequel there’s also characters classes that provide whole new abilities to master and levelling through them is the perfect excuse to spend even more time blasting through runs over and over, revelling in the mayhem. The co-op is just a giant juicy cherry on top of the cake of sweat and tears you’ll shed wrestling through some of the big bads on apocalypse difficulty.

5 Resident Evil 4 (2023) PC, PS5, PS4, Xbox Series X/S, Xbox One


The original Resident Evil 4 from 2005 easily slots into my top 10 favourite games of all-time list, hell, it inspired a whole generation of game development. Due to my love for the game, I was worried about this remake from Capcom. My main concern was how would this legendary classic be treated. Would it get the amazing love that the Resident Evil 2 Remake received, or would it be cut open and butchered like the Resident Evil 3 Remake? Thankfully, the former is the direction Capcom decided on the route to go. This means that the experience stays close to the original, with a few changes here and there to the flow of the progress, new small locations build up the horror themes of the game while the story gets a little update with new scenes. What this means for players is we get the amazing Resident Evil 4 but with the advantages of modern technology.

Resident Evil 4 Remake is an excellent-looking game that has a darker visual presentation than the original release, giving it more of the mystery horror vibes that Resident Evil 4 is full of. It still manages to keep the gameplay close to that of the 2005 release, but adds in a few things to spice up the combat, such as more features around melee as now players can parry with knives and use different strikes. Just like the original, Resident Evil 4 Remake’s gameplay remains as absorbing and satisfying as it did back in 2005 and this remake is a game that will remain a legendary part of gaming in how true to original remakes should be done. The only negative I have is that one section was transferred to the Ada Wong DLC, Separate Ways, which is a DLC that costs money, while free in the re-release of Resident Evil 4, but apart from that tiny issue, Resident Evil 4 Remake is one of the best action-horror games on the market.

4 Cobalt Core PC, Switch


Yes, yes, it’s a roguelike deck-builder, I hear you. But I promise that the mechanics of moving your ship in and out of danger as well as simply attacking and defending makes all the difference in the world when it comes to feeling fresh in a cluttered genre. And that’s really just the start as new unlockable characters not only help fill in more pieces of the jigsaw-puzzle story but also contribute totally unique play styles such as controlling the middle area of the field of combat, where the drones and rockets hang out the turn they’re fired but before they strike, adding another entire level of depth to every decision. Considering you select three characters as part of the ships team on any given run, as well as different ship layouts, each expedition feels like an entirely new challenge making the search for the truth about the topsy turvy time-loop you’re all stuck in an addicting and alluring experience. Plus that pastel colour palette is just so relaxing that, along with the gently electric soundtrack, you can just sink right into a cosy little game without hardly even noticing.

3 Alan Wake 2 PC, PS5, Xbox Series X/S


Alan Wake finally got the sequel that fans have spent 13 years waiting for and I am happy to say it did not disappoint. The developers, Remedy Entertainment, have taken what was learnt with their approach to Quantum Break and Control and mastered that craft in Alan Wake 2. This is blending games with other mediums of art, blending TV, film and music with video games and this is the closest the developers have come to perfecting this combination.

An obvious point is that the game looks fantastic, with state-of-the-art graphic technology used to make its world one of the best currently in video games. But graphics aren’t everything, as it is the creative brilliance that the developers have that shows how ingenious the team is at Remedy Entertainment, which delivers memorable moments in Alan Wake 2‘s 18-hour adventure. There is a lot of talk about the musical chapter of Alan Wake 2, which is spectacular to witness, but there are so many other elements that build this game up, be it through its horror themes, its murder mystery thriller, noir dialogue or its random comical moments that often appear through the game’s radio and TV advertisements. Hell, there is even a 15-minute film to watch in the cinema, which just shows how much detail Remedy Entertainment wanted this world to be filled with.

Having two central characters allows the game to show off its supernatural elements and investigative inspirations. Alan Wake uses the power of writing, a theme that has been part of the two games, but now is implemented into gameplay to enable him to alter his reality to find clues and progress through his story. This is while Saga Anderson is trying to help Alan Wake, but also protect her family as her life is being altered by the power of the Dark Place and its hold on manipulating the real world. It is a fascinating narrative from beginning to end and it is backed up by solid action horror gameplay that continues with the light defeating darkness gameplay and gun combat. It is an experience I will not forget, as Alan Wake 2 is one of the most atmospheric single-player games of 2023.

2 The Legend of Zelda: Tears of the Kingdom Switch


I adored Breath of the Wild. It was one of those games that somehow managed to have an objective for the player but still enable them to make their own stories through self-created gameplay experiences and a multitude of ways to solve puzzles in the world of Hyrule. Well, Nintendo felt like they were not finished with this concept and decided to expand on their original scope and add even more ways to interact with the amazing physics and objects that litter the land of Hyrule. This is Breath of the Wild’s Super Mario Galaxy 2 follow-up, Nintendo going crazy with ideas and implementing them into this direct sequel to offer even more freedom.

This comes with the new tools; Ultrahand, a power that picks up objects and attaches them with green goo. Fuse, a power that fuses two items to make better weapons, such as one of the new Zonai items, where one is a head that shoots fire, attach that to your shield and suddenly you have a flamethrower shield! The tools are near limitless, such that things like aeroplanes, mechs, cars, ships and even torture devices can be crafted with all the objects in the game. There is an insane amount of creativity given to the player, which leads to people doing their own things to solve the problem scenarios in Tears of the Kingdom. The options are vast, and it comes down to how much creativity the player has as they once again make their own stories in Hyrule.

These new tools open the new scope of exploration that has now been expanded to the islands in the sky and the dark depths that linger under Hyrule, which bring different ways to explore, as the depths are about revealing the light within the darkness, while the sky is broken into bits, requiring Link to glide or fly between the floating platforms. Interestingly, the same land is used, but somehow exploring it again feels refreshing with the changes to the story, the turmoil that has happened to twist the land and all these new powers Link has. Bring in proper temples, something that was missing from Breath of the Wild, and what you have is a video game that lets the player do what they want in a world that is asking them to do just. while also having more of those The Legend of Zelda key features that we have come to love over its lifetime in this expansive and amazing video game.

1  Baldur’s Gate 3 PC, PS5, Xbox Series X/S


There’s little to be said about Baldur’s Gate 3 that it hasn’t already been worshipped for. It has won pretty much every game of the year award in 2023 and there’s a very simple reason for that – it deserves it. It is a masterpiece of game development, sure, but even then I can’t believe how, considering its niche genre of strategic turn-based RPG, it has somehow managed to take the entire world by storm, sweeping up everyone who even sheds a passing glance at it into its dense universe. But us forever-DMs appreciate its excellence on a whole other level – finally getting to take the role of a Player Character in Dungeons and Dragons! Getting to be involved in such a wonderfully deep and branching campaign as a player for once, where the choices of your approach seem almost infinite, is as close to being part of a real tabletop game as can be. Held fast by the insane set pieces, world-class voice acting, and intriguing narrative hooks, I have no doubt Larian Studios is just brimming with inspiring bards and unstoppable creatives. I’m still not even done with my first playthrough and I already have my next two characters, love interests, and decisions lined up! I only wish I could stop the world for a week to spend it in Baldur’s Gate 3.

Congratulations to the team at Larian Studios and Baldur’s Gate 3 for taking the top spot, our runner-up The Legend of Zelda: Tears of the Kingdom and the other entries too. There were a ton of great games that blessed us in 2023!

Happy New Year and best wishes from everyone at DarkZero for 2024!