Awards for 2023’s best video game visuals, music, and storytelling are up for grabs, along with the hotly contested Worst Game of the Year.
Although we’ve already revealed what we consider to be the 20 best games of the year we always like to give out other individuals awards for important categories, especially if they help to highlight games that have otherwise not been talked about yet.
We certainly don’t consider Starfield to be one of the best games of 2023 but it does have one of the best soundtracks, along with indie gem Sea Of Stars. It’s also a chance to highlight the best remakes and remasters of the year, given how many good ones there have been over the last 12 months.
It might seem a little ghoulish but the Worst Game of the Year award was the most difficult to decide on, although we hope for your sake that you’re not in a position to judge whether we got that one right or not.
Winner: Spider-Man 2
We don’t usually like to give this award merely to the game with the most high-tech graphics (although that was probably Avatar: Frontiers Of Pandora anyway) but whatever you think of Spider-Man 2 as a game it is a staggering visual achievement. Not just in terms of the detail and complexity of the visuals but the cinematic presentation and facial animation, which rivals Naughty Dog in terms of creating a genuine interactive movie. The game reportedly cost $300 million to make and you can easily believe it. We’re not sure how much Dave The Diver cost by comparison – presumably it was considerably cheaper – but its pixel art is lovely nevertheless.
Runner-up: Dave The Diver
Next time you roll your eyes at some dodgy ragdoll physics, or a lack of destructibility, in a big budget video game just remember that the best physics engine of the generation was in Zelda: Tears Of The Kingdom, which runs on the six-year-old Switch console – which probably has less horsepower than the average smart watch. How Nintendo got it to work is a mystery but it’s not just the complexity of the physics interactions that impress but the full control the game gives you, to use it in your own contraptions. It fully deserves to be spun off into its own game and yet knowing Nintendo’s that’s not necessarily going to happen. By comparison, even Baldur’s Gate 3’s complex virtual Dungeon Master has to play second fiddle.
Runner-up: Baldur’s Gate 3
Format of the year
Winner: Nintendo Switch
One of the most notable things about 2023 is how neither Microsoft nor Sony did anything much of note, beyond the latter’s release of Spider-Man 2. Despite its age, the Switch clearly had the better year, with not just Zelda: Tears Of The Kingdom and Super Mario Bros. Wonder, but also Fire Emblem Engage, Metroid Prime Remastered, Pikmin 4, Advance Wars 1 + 2: Re-Boot Camp, WarioWare: Move It!, and Super Mario RPG. The Meta Quest 3 VR headset also deserves a nod though, even if releasing in the middle of a cost of living crisis probably isn’t the best timing it could’ve hoped for.
Runner-up: Meta Quest 3
Remake of the year
Winner: Resident Evil 4
We really hate not being able to put Resident Evil 4 in our Top 20 (if we did it’d be in the top 10, if not top five) but we have to stick by our rules, which doesn’t allow any remakes or remasters. We made an exception for Final Fantasy 7 Remake because it’s an almost entirely different game, but Resident Evil 4 is still, fundamentally the same experience as the original in 2005. And that’s why it’s amazing.
We were amongst those saying that a Resident Evil 4 remake would never work, because the inability to move and shoot at the same time was too intrinsic to the original’s design, but Capcom made it work. And while it was slightly less goofy than the original it’s still wonderfully campy at times, with even some of the original dialogue – in what is a non-stop roller coaster ride of wonderful nonsense.
Although Resident Evil 4 is the obvious winner in this category it’s been a really great year for remakes and remasters. Advance Wars 1+2: Re-Boot Camp and Etrian Odyssey Origins Collection have brought back two of our favourite portable franchises, and we’ve always loved Mega Man Battle Network Legacy Collection and Might & Magic: Clash Of Heroes as well.
And while we’ve never been big fans of Dead Space you can’t deny the amount of work and effort that was put into its remake. It’s Metroid Prime Remastered we picked as the runner-up though, a remaster so good it was virtually a remake and made the more than two decade old original feel like it was made yesterday.
Runner-up: Metroid Prime Remastered
Winner: Sea Of Stars
Indie role-player Sea Of Stars just missed out on our Top 20 of 2023 list but while every inch of it is a loving homage to Chrono Trigger the one thing that works even better than the 2D visuals is the glorious soundtrack by Eric W. Brown and Yasunori Mitsuda, who is best know for… working on the original Chrono Trigger soundtrack. It’s extra interesting because despite being the only direct connection to the game, Mitsuda’s contribution is not just a rehash of the original but something than stands up on its own merits.
Our runner-up prize goes to the Starfield soundtrack by Inon Zur. We were surprised to see it snubbed during The Game Awards, as we’d say it was clearly the best thing to come out of the game.
Winner: Baldur’s Gate 3
A great problem for storytelling in video games is that the better it gets the more linear and uninteractive it becomes, which often times defeats the whole point of it being a video game… and not just a movie or comic book. Tabletop role-playing is all about improvisational storytelling and Baldur’s Gate 3 understands this better than almost any other video game, offering up a clear narrative structure, with goals and bad guys to be defeated, but along the way you can talk to literally anyone (or in many cases anything) and enjoy a near infinite number of optional, branching stories.
Not that there’s necessarily anything wrong with linear storytelling though and for that we’d certainly recommend indie game A Space For The Unbound, and its heartfelt tale of ordinary teens that suddenly gain extraordinary powers.
Runner-up: A Space For The Unbound
Winner: The Day Before
2023 has certainly been a year of extremes but while the battle for Game of the Year has been hard fought it’s nothing compared to deciding what the worst was. On an ordinary year, rubbish like Crime Boss – Rockay City or even Forspoken might have won but in the end they weren’t even in contention.
Although, truth be told we didn’t review Skull Island: Rise Of Kong and The Walking Dead: Destinies (both by the same publisher, GameMill Entertainment), for obvious reasons, so we can’t talk about them in detail. We also didn’t review The Day Before. We had started playing it, but then developer Fntastic shut down just four days after launch and the game got taken down from Steam.
Whether it was always a scam we don’t know but it’s either that or Fntastic are just really bad at making video games. Despite advertising to the contrary, the game was never an MMO or even really a survival game. It’s not even open world and is, or rather was, a low rent extraction shooter that barely worked half the time and was tediously derivative from the first moment.
In some ways we still feel The Lord Of The Rings: Gollum is worse though, because it was made by a previously respected developer, and featured a world famous licence, but either way it’s been a good year for bad games.
Runner-up: The Lord Of The Rings: Gollum
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