Top Contenders for GOTY 2023

edited December 2023 in Gaming

Following recent developments in the gaming world, the 2023 Game of the Year (GOTY) debate has taken an exciting turn. Baldur's Gate 3, having clinched the Ultimate Game of the Year (UGOTY) title at the prestigious Golden Joystick Awards 2023, is now a frontrunner for the same accolade at The Game Awards 2023. This surprising triumph has shifted predictions, with many now favoring Baldur's Gate 3 over the previously favored Tears of the Kingdom.

As we approach The Game Awards, set for December 7, the list of official nominees for GOTY 2023 has been announced, further intensifying the competition. The nominees are a mix of genres and styles, showcasing the diversity in this year's gaming landscape:

  1. The Legend of Zelda: Tears of the Kingdom
  2. Baldur’s Gate 3
  3. Alan Wake 2
  4. Marvel’s Spider-Man 2
  5. Super Mario Wonder
  6. Resident Evil 4

With such a strong lineup, the battle for the Game of the Year crown promises to be a highlight of the event, guaranteeing that the 2023 edition of The Game Awards will be remembered for years to come. Stay tuned for more updates and insights as we inch closer to the grand reveal.

What is the Game Awards?

The Game Awards ceremony is an hours-long celebration of video games and their surrounding communities held annually in the first half of December, with awards ceremonies, trailer reveals, and upcoming game announcements. Important video game industry figures, developers, esports athletes, actors, executives, and streamers attend the event as guests, presenters, and nominees. The Game Awards is the biggest gaming award show out there. Although there are others, The Game Awards always seems to bring the most hype and excitement. Especially when it comes to their Game of the Year category.

What is Game of the Year?

The Game Awards has 31 categories, from best narrative to best esports team, and includes contests for best game direction, indie, score, and performance. However, the award that generates the most buzz is the Game of the Year award. Game of the Year is an award presented annually by The Game Awards that is given to a video game judged to deliver the best experience across creative and technical fields.

The 6 Official Contenders for Game of the Year 2023 

1. The Legend of Zelda: Tears of the Kingdom 

Just when people thought nothing could top Link’s journey in Breath of the Wild, the sequel to that game successfully delivered an experience as compelling as the last one. Tears of the Kingdom, which sees Link return to defend the vast land of Hyrule once more, features the most impressive open world map of any Zelda game to date, with so much interactive content to explore it seems nearly endless. The sequel took everything from its predecessor and expanded upon it. Along with that, it introduced an entirely unique crafting mechanic that allows players to build just about anything they can think of, from weapons to flying machines. More than 10 million copies were sold in the first three days, making it the fastest selling game in the Zelda franchise. Tears of the Kingdom, in our opinion, has the greatest potential for taking the GOTY 2023 award home.

2. Baldur's Gate 3 (Winner of this 2023's GOTY)

Baldur’s Gate 3 takes the CRPG genre and thrusts it into the next generation of gaming. Many games like to start slow before ramping up the action, but Baldur’s Gate 3 starts guns blazing, with you as a captive on a Mindflayer ship after being infected with a parasite. From there, you fight to take over the ship and crash land it, and off begins a wild journey to figure out how to get this alien parasite out of your head. The game is adapted from the Dungeons & Dragons 5th edition rulebook, which means your choices in approaching situations are almost endless, with the only limit often being your imagination. The cast you come across throughout the massive, 100-hour adventure is full of engaging personalities, each with fascinating backstories to explore. Larian Studios took the budget they accrued from the success of Divinity: Original Sin 2 and used it in the best way possible. All of this is enjoyable with friends online or in couch co-op, and it culminates without hyperbole into one of the greatest video games ever made.

3. Alan Wake II

A late entry to this year's roster of amazing games, Alan Wake II is a masterful blend of psychological terror and survival-horror action, offering players a 17-hour journey that shifts between the investigative endeavors of FBI Agent Saga Anderson in the town of Bright Falls and the surreal struggles of Alan Wake in a haunting dimension known as the Dark Place. The gameplay is enriched with elements like a caseboard for tracking evidence, environmental puzzles using light mechanics, and intense combat where light is used to fend off shadowy enemies. New characters like the likable Agent Saga and the return of Alan Wake, combined with familiar faces from Remedy Entertainment’s universe, create a rich tapestry of narrative and gameplay. With its intricate plot, innovative mechanics, and deep character development, Alan Wake II not only surpasses its predecessor but also makes a compelling case for Game of the Year.

4. Spider-Man 2

Coming in as the only PS5 exclusive nomination on our list, Marvel's Spider-Man 2 is a masterpiece of interactive storytelling and gameplay, soaring beyond its predecessors to vie for 2023's Game of the Year Award with its impressive technical achievements and profound narrative. Insomniac Games has expanded upon the beloved universe, doubling the playground with a meticulously detailed, larger-than-life New York City that beckons exploration, enhanced by a lively score that captures the spirit of adventure. The game dazzles with its graphical prowess, particularly in its 4K, ray-traced reflections and fluid 60fps performance mode, making every moment of web-slinging through wind tunnels and art deco skyscrapers a visual treat. Gameplay-wise, the sequel introduces enriching side missions with layered storytelling, such as The Flame questline, which adds depth and character to the world. The array of suits and customizable abilities allows for a tailored Spider-Man experience, while the combat and traversal systems have been refined with just enough innovation to feel both fresh and comfortably familiar. Although it has faced some critique for the repetitiveness of certain tasks, these moments are eclipsed by the overall joy and excitement of the game's main and side quests. With a compelling story that weaves together the fates of Peter and Miles, and a living, breathing virtual city, Spider-Man 2 delivers an unparalleled superhero escapade that not only makes players feel like Spider-Man but also deeply connects them to his world, setting a new standard for what a superhero game can be.

5. Super Mario Bros. Wonder

Adding another Nintendo Switch exclusive to the mix. Super Mario Bros. Wonder distinguishes itself as a strong contender for 2023's Game of the Year due to its innovative reinvention of the iconic 2D Mario platformer formula. It successfully captures the essence of joy and surprise that has long defined the series, injecting fresh vitality with its "Wonder effects" that whimsically transform levels, ensuring each stage presents a new experience. The introduction of a new, visually rich environment—the Flower Kingdom—alongside an assortment of unique enemies, provides a refreshing backdrop for the classic gameplay. Furthermore, the game’s customization through unlockable Badges allows for tailored gameplay, enhancing replayability. The inclusion of both satisfying solo and integrated multiplayer options caters to a wide range of players, while charming additions like Elephant Mario showcase the game's humor and creative design. Although it may not surpass the challenge level of past titles like Super Mario Odyssey, the universal appeal, creative design, and the sheer joy of its gameplay solidify Super Mario Bros. Wonder's status as a game that stands out in the year's offerings, appealing to both new audiences and seasoned fans alike.

6. Resident Evil 4 Remake 

It's not every day that a remake comes out and surpasses the original. Resident Evil 4 Remake proved to be one of those rare gems. Capcom did a commendable job on the classic action-horror from 2005. Along with a graphical overhaul that rivals modern day games, the clumsy controls were also revamped for a smooth gameplay experience. The remake also features some new narrative elements and additional characters that improve upon the original game while staying true to its original concept. You can feel the immersion as a player the moment you set foot on the Spanish village of Valdelobos as Leon.

Honorary mentions and other awards

There are several games that deserve honorary mentions for their remarkable impact and popularity this year. Though they didn't make the cut for the GOTY nominees, their contributions to the gaming world in 2023 are noteworthy and have left a lasting impression on the gaming community; thus, they have been nominated for other awards.

This year, there are 31 awards up for grabs. Including the Game of the Year award, there is also: 

  • Best Game Direction 
  • Best Narrative 
  • Best Art Direction 
  • Best Score and Music 
  • Best Audio Design 
  • Best Performance 
  • Games for Impact 
  • Best Ongoing Game 
  • Best Indie 
  • Best Debut Indie 
  • Best Community Support 
  • Best Mobile 
  • Best VR/AR 
  • Best Action 
  • Best Action/Adventure 
  • Best Role-Playing 
  • Best Fighting 
  • Best Family 
  • Best Sim/Strategy 
  • Best Sports/Racing 
  • Best Multiplayer 
  • Most Anticipated 
  • Content Creator of the Year 
  • Best Adaptation 
  • Innovation in Accessibility 
  • Best Esports Game 
  • Best Esports Athlete 
  • Best Esports Team 
  • Best Esports Coach 
  • Best Esports Event

1. Final Fantasy XVI

This action JRPG is the latest instalment of the franchise since 2016. Opting this time for a more medieval fantasy vibe, Final Fantasy XVI features nearly unparalleled graphics and cinematics throughout the entire storyline, immersing the player from the get-go among all the characters, the gargantuan Eikons, and the captivating and emotional story of main protagonist Clive Rosfield. Square Enix’s most acclaimed developers, including top developer Naoki Yoshida (Yoshi-P) and composer Masayoshi Soken, collaborated to bring it all to life. The game features high-octane battles and a compelling storyline, with satisfying, fast-paced combat. Final Fantasy XVI can cater to both single player and multiplayer audiences, and it features over-the-top gameplay elements with intense large-scale bosses like the series is known for. Despite the fact that it is a PlayStation 5 exclusive (for now), Final Fantasy XVI is a worthy contender for the GOTY award.

Nominated for: Best Performance, Best Score & Music, Best Narrative, Best Role Playing Game

2. Armored Core VI: Fires of Rubicon

Positioned as a bit of a reboot for the series, Fires of Rubicon is as much a reintroduction for returning players as it is a primer for newcomers for whom this is their first Armored Core game. In the game, you are a shell of a deceased, augmented human grafted into the shell of an Armored Core. Your first mission for your handler, Walter, is to land on Rubicon and get yourself into the mercenary system so you can start to make money. Fires of Rubicon is a modern classic and quite literally is “just” a rock-solid action game. Which is no surprise, considering it was developed by the renowned FromSoftware, who also created last year’s GOTY, Elden Ring. Although not an open-world game and not having any side missions to complete, Fires of Rubicon does feature fast-paced action and deep customizability of your Armored Core shell, allowing for diverse gameplay and intense boss fights that test any type of loadout. The game has a steep learning curve, but once you get the hang of it, the exciting gameplay makes this one of the best modern action games.

Nominated for: Best Action Game

3. Hogwarts Legacy

Hogwarts Legacy, developed by Avalanche Software, stands as probably the biggest wildcard on our list. The huge, open-world fantasy game is set in the late 1800s, a century prior to the events chronicled in the Harry Potter novels, and puts players in the shoes of a fifth-year student at Hogwarts who holds the key to an ancient secret that threatens to tear the wizarding world apart. Players can explore Hogwarts and the surrounding areas, learn spells, brew potions, and master a variety of skills all while completing fun quests inside and outside the school. Hogwarts Legacy was a massive commercial success and a hugely entertaining game in and of itself. But, unlike some of the other games on this list, it doesn't quite feature the gameplay depth or additional objectives and options to allow it to contend with the real titans of this year. That being said, the way Avalanche offered up magical spells and presented the castle of Hogwarts, the town of Hogsmeade, and the surrounding countryside, is more than enough for Hogwarts Legacy to make the cut in this list.

Nominated for: None

4. Starfield 

Arguably the biggest game of the whole year, Starfield is a monumental release, even if only for the fact that it’s the first new IP release from Bethesda in almost 30 years. When a studio the size of Bethesda has spent decades putting out different versions of Fallout and The Elder Scrolls or publishing games made by other studios like Deathloop, DOOM, or Hi-Fi Rush, you have to take notice when they drop something brand new. A space-faring RPG that boasts up to a thousand explorable planets, each with their own points of interest, missions, and discoverables, Starfield sees you playing as a bold explorer, heading out into the wider galaxy and seeing what happens. The universe feels properly realized and lived-in, with the gorgeous aesthetics helping make the game more immersive. There is some messiness around maps, some noticeable loading times, and vast areas of planets and moons seem to be entirely devoid of life or points of interest; however, these points of contention generally fade soon enough, given that the game offers so much to do, as you improve your ship, pick up more crew, improve your own skills and stats, and tailor your hero (or space pirate, or whatever you want them to be, really) to your preferred gameplay style to complete the various missions.

Nominated for: Best RPG

5. Remnant 2

Remnant 2 does everything right regarding action RPGs. The first Remnant was a cult hit, but the sequel raised the stakes in almost every way. The sequel mixes effective melee action with gunplay-focused combat in a way that improves your options for taking on your enemies. The guns feel punchy and dangerous, and the abilities you can discover throughout the experience give the game an unofficial magic system that spices things up. Remnant 2 offers new weapons, armor, and even secret Archetypes that can completely change the way you play. The bosses are challenging, and each one is distinct from the rest, ranging from horrifying fleshy monstrosities to maze puzzles featuring alien technology that you have to solve. This sequel definitely belongs on any list of the games of 2023.

Nominated for: Best Action Game

6. Diablo 4 

Diablo 4 was the most highly-anticipated game from Blizzard Entertainment for some time, and it made an impressive impact upon its release in June. The fourth installment in the classic dungeon crawler franchise features incredible multiplayer RPG gameplay that allows you to choose from five playable classes as you embark on a new adventure through the human realm of Sanctuary, and of course the realm of Hell. Upon its release, the game was revered by various publications as Blizzard’s magnum opus title—its greatest since World of Warcraft—with millions of players flocking to the game as soon as the early release period went live. Diablo 4 soon became the fastest-selling game in Blizzard’s history, generating more than half a billion dollars in revenue within the first five days.

Nominated for: Best Multiplayer, Innovation in Accessibility

7. Star Wars Jedi: Survivor 

This highly anticipated sequel to Star Wars Jedi: Fallen Order continues the dramatically engaging story of exiled Jedi Knight Cal Kestis, reprised once again by the terrific Cameron Monaghan. Taking place five years after the previous game, Survivor follows Cal and his friends as they struggle to evade the tyranny of the Galactic Empire. The game takes players on yet another epic adventure across the fringes of the galaxy, while fighting for the resistance helmed by Saw Gerrera. All of the explorable level areas are even more expansive and full of fascinating lore and NPCs than in Fallen Order, capitalizing on everything that worked in the last game and making it all bigger and better. The upgrades were all very well-received by players, earning the new installment near-perfect scores across the board. Kestis’ story is definitely worthy of an award nomination, and we could very well see it pop up come December.

Nominated for: Best Performance, Best Action/Adventure Game

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.


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