Best Selling Video Games of 2023
The year 2023 came to a close, and what an amazing year it has been for the video game industry. Countless high-profile titles, including Starfield, The Legend of Zelda: Tears of the Kingdom, Marvel’s Spider-Man 2, Diablo IV, Call of Duty: Modern Warfare III, were released, and several titles catapulted themselves into the charts. So which games sold the best in 2023? We reviewed Circana's rankings to discover the best selling video games of 2023. Read on to see which games were the most popular and why.
1. Hogwarts Legacy
The Harry Potter novels spawned a franchise that spans movies, games, and merchandise, and developer Avalanche Software took a stab at reinvigorating the franchise’s gaming side by creating the first big-budget Harry Potter game in a decade. Hogwarts Legacy is an action-RPG that delivers an open-world interpretation of the Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry and the familiar landmarks that surround the academy. Hogwarts Legacy gets just about everything right, with its immersive storyline and myriad of main and side quests. Perhaps its finest feature though is Hogwarts itself, providing as much joy in just exploring the halls as performing set tasks. Notably, the game earned the number one spot as the best selling video game of 2023.
2. Call of Duty: Modern Warfare III
Activision’s annual juggernaut series returned in November with the launch of Call of Duty: Modern Warfare III. In a somewhat surprising move, the game did not become the number one best selling game of the year after its first month as the franchise normally does. It did get to number two, however. Modern Warfare III retains the realistic, modern setting of its predecessors and continues the subseries storyline. The story follows multinational special operations unit Task Force 141 as it tracks down Vladimir Makarov, a Russian ultranationalist and terrorist planning to trigger a third World War. The game arguably sees the series in something of a holding pattern—neither finishing the solo narrative nor revolutionizing the online experience. Established series veterans will grumble about the relative lack of completely new material, but this is another polished continuation for a series which likely has another decade left in it.
3. The Legend of Zelda: Tears of the Kingdom
In 2017, Nintendo reinvented Zelda with Breath of the Wild, ditching its tried-and-true formula and building an earthen, meditative adventure out of a limitless incarnation of Hyrule. Tears of the Kingdom somehow doubled the expansive scope of Breath of the Wild—the direct sequel is dotted with floating islands in the sky and benthic caverns deep underground, all of which can be explored with karts, flying machines, and hot-air balloons that can be fused together with surprising intuition. Rarely has a triple-A game encouraged players not just to experiment with all of the tools at their disposal but to use them to actively try to break the game. Tears of the Kingdom encourages players to create unique mechs and devices to trap its powerful enemies (or just torture Koroks), and months after release, fans are still pushing the envelope of what can be done with the game. Coming in at the third best selling game of 2023, we wouldn’t be surprised to see it hit new records this year.
4. Marvel’s Spider-Man 2
In Marvel’s Spider-Man 2, players take control as either Peter Parker or Miles Morales and untangle the mystery of another Marvel tale—with the usual host of familiar characters—while taking breaks to fight crime all over New York City with one of the simplest and most acrobatic combat systems ever designed. The game maintains the series’ core strengths, offering thrilling web-slinging, familiar combat joys, and a compelling narrative. Overall, it excels in technical achievements and visual splendor; however, its open-world design and side content show signs of stagnation. Nevertheless, Marvel’s Spider-Man 2 delivers an excellent gameplay experience, as demonstrated by its position as fourth best selling game of 2023.
5. Madden NFL 24
Madden NFL 24, released August 18, 2023, is one of EA’s mainstay sports titles, coming out after FIFA 23 and just before FC 24, two other EA games that were popular in 2023. Madden NFL 24 might have seen mixed reviews, but its sales were strong. The game provides a pretty good simulation of NFL football when you’re on the field, and its animations and AI are improved over what was provided in FIFA 23. Overall, the game is fun, and it’s quite challenging at the higher difficulty levels. Madden fans who return to this series every year likely consider Madden NFL 24 perfectly tolerable, but die-hard football fans and those new to the series will likely relegate this title to history given that it has slightly too many bugs and visual glitches and that it offers relatively mediocre gameplay. Nevertheless, the game reached fifth on the list of the best selling games in 2023.
6. Diablo IV
Diablo IV was an instant hit when it was released on June 5, 2023, for the PlayStation 4 and 5, Xbox One and Series X|S, and PC. The game was first announced at Blizzcon 2019 and received a trailer at The Game Awards 2022 and a performance of “Lilith” by singer Halsey. Blizzard’s grisly Diablo series is caked with marauding undead, rivers of blood, and tortured souls, just what fans of the series love, and the long-awaited sequel to Diablo III certainly delivered on what was anticipated. Players clear their way through dungeon crawls, flay hordes of demons, and pursue the loot that awaits. Diablo IV altered the series’ blueprint ever so slightly to take the shape of a genuine MMO—with player characters sprawled all over the map. With a refined combat system, extensive build options, captivating visuals, and an interesting endgame, to many, this stands as the best Diablo installment to date.
7. Baldur’s Gate 3
Baldur’s Gate 3, the long-awaited follow-up to the classic RPG franchise and 2023’s Game of the Year, is a total conversion of Dungeons & Dragons precepts into the digital realm, using the D&D 5th edition rulebook. As players navigate misadventures in Faerûn, a chatty narrator, somewhere behind the veil, essentially serves as dungeon master, filling in the vivid color of the trials and tribulations that players experience. The fact that the developers built in modding capabilities so that players could customize their experience—making the game easier, more difficult, or just much more fun—was icing on the cake, helping get the game to seventh on the list of the best selling games of 2023.
8. Star Wars Jedi: Survivor
Respawn’s Star Wars Jedi: Survivor is the perfect example of a studio believing in the core concepts of their original game and leveraging the latest technology to amplify those concepts and deliver a sequel with an entirely improved gameplay experience. The mechanics in Star Wars Jedi: Survivor, particularly the platforming, are greatly improved from the game’s predecessor, and the combat is better too, with additional stances and more brutal execution animations. This second chapter of Cal Kestis’ story generally stays within the established tropes and themes of the larger franchise. The characters are well realized, and the game’s cinematic elements are highly effective. Perhaps the most impressive aspect is how well fleshed-out the adventure is—better even than many of the TV series and films on which the game is based. This is a blockbuster in the truest sense, and deserving of each of its sales in 2023.
9. Mortal Kombat 1
Over the course of the last ten years—after Mortal Kombat made a glorious return to a 2D fighting plane—NetherRealm Studios has generated some truly epic, MCU-sized sagas for Mortal Kombat’s cast of ninjas, demons, and miscreants. Mortal Kombat 1, a reboot of the chronology, is no different. The single-player campaign essentially functions as a full-length animated feature with a few brawls dropped in, and the multiplayer functionality improves the gameplay experience even further. Although as a whole the game is not as “meaty” as its predecessor, the story mode and the several new, intuitive fighting mechanics make this an excellent gameplay experience.
Being the first new IP by Bethesda Game Studios in more than 25 years, Starfield was one of the most highly anticipated titles of recent years. The game was first announced at E3 2018 and finally released on September 6, 2023, on the Xbox Series X|S and PC. Despite being in development for eight years, Starfield is a bit of a throwback—a true Bethesda-style open-world RPG. Bethesda clearly chose not to innovate with new game design principles in this release. Essentially, players complete a myriad of side quests, explore a ton of dungeons, connect with a vaguely uncanny cast of characters, and face the occasional game-breaking bug. They also face a good number of barren wastelands in which there is little to do other than extract necessary resources and take off promptly to somewhere more interesting; however, overall the game offers so much to do, so many systems and abilities to explore, missions to complete, spaceships to loot, and species to catalog, that it’s no surprise this game is so popular.
Ashley is a technology writer who is interested in computers and software development. He is also a fintech researcher and is fascinated with emerging trends in DeFi, blockchain, and bitcoin. He has been writing, editing, and creating content for the ESL industry in Asia for eight years, with a special focus on interactive, digital learning.