15 Best Games Of 2023

Or, the 15 best that Ash has played.

Best Game of 2023
Best Game of 2023

We’ve said it a bunch of times already, and we’ll say it again: 2023 has seen an overwhelming deluge of all-time classic video games. The industry as a whole hasn’t had quite as positive of a time, of course, but today we’re here to celebrate the games themselves instead of dwelling on the negatives. No matter what your preferred genre is, this year has ensured that your needs have been satiated.

Because of how many games there have been this past 12 months, creating a “definitive” ranking is kind of impossible. Aside from freelancers, we’re a two-man core team here at Cultured Vultures, and there simply isn’t enough time to play everything. Instead, I’m just going to rank my picks for the best games of 2023. These are the ones I liked and this isn’t definitive, so please keep that in mind before you start commenting about Baldur’s Gate 3, Zelda or Armored Core 6. I’ve hardly played two of them and one of them doesn’t interest me.

 

15. Like A Dragon Gaiden: The Man Who Erased His Name

Like A Dragon Gaiden
Like A Dragon Gaiden

Look, is Like A Dragon Gaiden: The Man Who Erased His Name the best that the franchise has to offer? Not really. Quite frankly, it’s a bit of a filler story that only really serves to set up some characters and motivations heading into Like A Dragon: Infinite Wealth, but that doesn’t mean this isn’t an incredibly enjoyable beat ‘em up. Kiryu’s new Agent abilities alone is perhaps the most interesting moveset RGG Studio have created so far, and it’d be great to see them again in a bigger game in the future.

Even if the story on the whole feels like it’s going through the motions, it’s the character work and acting that’ll stick with you after playing Like A Dragon Gaiden: The Man Who Erased His Name. The pure emotion displayed during the ending, which felt like a cathartic pay-off to nearly two decades of storytelling, has stuck with me long after the credits have rolled.

Goddamn, Infinite Wealth is going to break me, isn’t it?

 

14. Trepang2

Trepang2
Trepang2

Goofy name aside, Trepang2 feels like it’s been slept on by a lot of people this year, which isn’t surprising given the sheer amount of games that have launched in the past year. No-one can find the time to play every single AAA game and indie darling, so some games are going to fall through the cracks, but if you’re looking for a rollicking good time shooting goons and monsters, Trepang2 is worth checking out.

A loving homage to mid-2000s shooters like FEAR, Trepang2 whisks you through military blacksites and secret labs at reckless speed, tasking you with murdering everything with your superior speed, strength, sick guns and slow-motion powers. Trepang2 gives players a lot of abilities, then funnels them through multiple murder playgrounds filled with enemies begging to be riddled with bullets. This isn’t a complicated game, but Trepang2 is an incredibly fun one.

 

13. Wo Long: Fallen Dynasty

Wo Long: Fallen Dynasty Xielong
Wo Long: Fallen Dynasty Xielong

Soulslikes are arguably more prevalent than genuine FromSoftware games at this point, and 2023 saw plenty of entries into the hardcore offshoot of the RPG genre. A few people might have enjoyed Lords of the Fallen, while many more were certainly enamored with Lies of P, yet another game that I’ve got installed but not played yet. However, one game has seemingly been forgotten about, which is a shame considering it was a lot of fun, and that’s Wo Long: Fallen Dynasty.

A Soulslike set in a dark fantasy version of the Romance of the Three Kingdoms, you create your own character and team up with people you’ve probably already played as in Dynasty Warriors, like Cao Cao, Guan Yu, Zhao Yun and others. Instead of a large open world, Wo Long is broken into several battlefields, each playing like a mini Soulslike map filled with secrets, shortcuts and tough enemies. While the gameplay formula might have been rigid, the combat and varied locales kept Wo Long engaging throughout its runtime, and it’s well worth checking out if you missed it back in March.

 

12. RoboCop: Rogue City

RoboCop Rogue City
RoboCop Rogue City

We’re simple folks here at Cultured Vultures. Give us a game about shooting creeps in the penis, and you’ll get a thumbs up and a pat on the back for your troubles. That isn’t why RoboCop: Rogue City felt like a revelation in the FPS genre this year, but it certainly helped its case. Truth be told, in an age of twitchy movement shooters and “waiting for the blood to fall off your face” to recover your health, playing as a walking tank armed with the most powerful pistol in sci-fi history is one hell of a feeling.

While RoboCop: Rogue City might be a tie-in to the movie franchise, sitting between the second and third films, you don’t really need any knowledge of the series to have fun with this one. You’ve got a big gun, there’s a bunch of squishy fleshbags trying to kill you, go have some fun throwing them around and watching them ragdoll. It’s ropey, glitchy and a bit of a one-trick pony, but man, what a great trick.

 

11. Ghostrunner 2

Ghostrunner 2
Ghostrunner 2

You tell me there’s a game where I can play as a cyborg ninja, and more often than not, I will be seated. There’s something so primally cathartic about being able to carve through hordes of cyborg goons with a katana and some shurikens, and if that sounds like fun to you too, Ghostrunner 2 is undoubtedly a game of the year contender. It might make you want to spike your controller into the ground at times, but it’s still incredibly enjoyable.

A sequel to one of 2020’s underrated gems, Ghostrunner 2 continues the cyberpunk adventures of Jack, as he ventures out from Dharma Tower to take on new enemies and threats. One More Level Games have expertly blended games like Mirror’s Edge, Hotline Miami and others to create a wholly original first-person slasher. Those who enjoyed the first game will find a lot more to love here, though it’s not really necessary to play Ghostrunner 2. Just watch the provided catch-up movie and head right into dicing up enemies.

 

10. Mortal Kombat 1

Mortal Kombat 1
Mortal Kombat 1

Fighting game fans have enjoyed a great year in 2023, and while I’ll get to the main reason why later, we can’t discount the level of success Mortal Kombat 1 achieved in changing the MK formula once again. Perhaps no other fighting game has been reinvented as much as Mortal Kombat has, both in terms of story and gameplay, but in this most recent iteration, Mortal Kombat 1 might have hit upon the winning formula.

The secret ingredient for this installment is Kameo Fighters, which gives players a separate roster of characters that have their own assist moves, allowing you to extend combos and control space better. Finding your perfect match of character and assist ensures you’ll be playing Mortal Kombat 1 for a long time, but if you’d rather just mash buttons and see the gruesome fatalities, you can do all that too.

 

9. Final Fantasy XVI

Final Fantasy XVI
Final Fantasy XVI

Is Final Fantasy XVI the best game of the entire year? No, and you could easily make the case that it’s not even the best Final Fantasy game (FFX-2 hive, arise), but what FFXVI manages to accomplish as a cinematic action RPG is nothing short of incredible. From impeccable gameplay that rivals games like Devil May Cry or Bayonetta, to the amazing set-pieces that feel like they’ve been lifted straight from Asura’s Wrath, Final Fantasy XVI’s campaign is a breathless whirlwind.

Final Fantasy XVI’s story of slavery and bigotry might play safe most of the time, but it’s carried by the impeccable voice acting work from the likes of Ben Starr as Clive, Ralph Ineson as Cid and Susannah Fielding as Jill. The emotion and chemistry that the voice cast are able to channel is what will keep players invested until the end credits, and with DLC adding to the overall experience, there’s never been a better time to jump in.

 

8. Star Wars Jedi: Survivor

Star Wars Jedi Survivor
Star Wars Jedi Survivor

People were cautious about Star Wars Jedi: Fallen Order back in 2019, as Respawn taking on a Soulslike-esque formula after only creating first person shooters seemed like too much of a leap, but somehow they knocked it out of the park. The pressure was on to live up to that quality with their sophomore effort, and while Jedi: Survivor is largely more of the same, the new powers and abilities smartly improve on that established formula.

Much like Final Fantasy XVI, it’s not just the gameplay that’ll keep you coming back, as the story and characters are likable, relatable and, in some cases, despicable. Crucially, the tail end of the story also plays into a much darker tone that some Star Wars games have shied away from, and it’s amazing to see. A third entry in this Jedi series is practically guaranteed at this point, but it’s going to be fascinating to see how this trilogy of Cal Kestis concludes.

 

7. El Paso, Elsewhere

El Paso, Elsewhere
El Paso, Elsewhere

“In the hole, in the hole…”

If most of this list conveys anything, it’s that you don’t have to be original to be one of the best games of the whole year, and El Paso, Elsewhere makes no bones about the fact that it’s a Max Payne homage. Painkillers, dual-wielding slow motion dives, a self-deprecating narrator; all the hallmarks of a Payne-like are present and accounted for, and while gunning down werewolves and vampires is incredibly fun, it’s what El Paso, Elsewhere does with its story and writing that deserve the most attention.

Lead character James Savage is a flawed and broken man, on a one way trip into the bowels of hell to stop his vampire ex-girlfriend from completing a ritual that’ll bring about the end of the world. How their relationship panned out is revealed throughout the game, bringing with it many layers of addiction, abuse and the idea of holding out hope for a lost cause because of “one good day”, creating one of the most complex and well-written games of the whole year. If that’s not enough, Strange Scaffold even commissioned a whole hip-hop album for the soundtrack, and it slaps.

 

6. Dead Space

Dead Space Remake
Dead Space Remake

More than any other genre this year, the third person horror shooter has dominated, with multiple huge releases throughout the year that are worthy of GOTY contention. One that might have slipped everyone’s mind given how many games have actually launched this past year is the Dead Space remake from Motive Studio. It might not have been acknowledged much at The Game Awards this year, but it’s leaps and bounds above the original game.

Unlike other horror remakes that like to change a lot of what worked about the original, Dead Space’s take is to be the best version of Dead Space it could possibly be, including all the original enemies, locations and even certain moments in glorious 4K detail. However, the improvements made to the map design, side quests and unlocks make this feel like a completely overhauled experience.

 

5. Marvel’s Spider-Man 2

Marvel's Spider-Man 2
Marvel’s Spider-Man 2

Superhero games can be quite hit or miss, as if you don’t find the right partnership of superhero and developer/vision, you can find some truly disastrous results. Marvel’s Avengers spring to mind, but we’re here celebrating 2023’s success stories and Marvel’s Spider-Man 2 makes the case to be known as one of the best superhero games of all-time. Insomniac have struck gold getting their hands on Spider-Man, and they’re going to have their work cut out for them when they inevitably get around to Spider-Man 3.

Playing as both Peter and Miles is as fun as it ever was in the previous two Insomniac Games, only now there’s the added bonus of the wingsuit, which makes traversal across the game’s expanded map even more fun. However, it’s the villains like Kraven and Venom that really steal the show here, even if Miles’ suit at the end of the game might try to put a dampener on the whole affair.

 

4. Resident Evil 4

Resident Evil 4
Resident Evil 4

Capcom fans have been saying “we’re so back” for a few years now, and why shouldn’t they? The Japanese publisher has been killing it with their output, whether it’s their fantastic horror games, the work done on the Monster Hunter series or their smart retro ports like Ghost Trick or the Mega Man collections. Still waiting on a God Hand remaster though, lads. That said, Resident Evil 4’s remake somehow managed to nearly equal what many would consider to be the best video game of all-time. Heck of an achievement, that.

Much like Dead Space, the remake of Resident Evil 4 doesn’t deviate too much from the source material, though certain pieces of content have been rearranged or merged into Ada Wong’s Separate Ways DLC campaign. However, the tight gameplay that includes knife parries, something I never thought I’d need until Capcom delivered it to us, helped ensure that players came back for multiple runs of this brilliant game.

Oh, okay. Maybe just one more run over Christmas with the infinite ammo rocket launcher. As a treat.

 

3. Alan Wake 2

Alan Wake 2
Alan Wake 2

Wow. That’s about the only word that can really sum up a game like Alan Wake 2. Fans have been badgering Remedy about making a proper follow-up to 2010’s cult horror hit for over a decade now, and the wait was worth it. A completely different beast to the previous game, Alan Wake 2 is a bizarre, ridiculous and utterly brilliant multimedia experience, one that has to be seen to be believed. If you tuned into The Game Awards this year, you’ve got a glimpse of that utter lunacy for yourself, but you should really try the full game.

A story of two stories, all wrapped up in a story turducken, Alan Wake 2 is a bonkers piece of meta-fiction where the lines of reality are blurred between both of the game’s narratives and even the real world. The amount of easter eggs, cross-overs and references to the Remedy Connected Universe, and Remedy’s career as a whole, is staggering, but you don’t need to notice these aspects to appreciate Alan Wake 2 for what it is: a superlative survival horror shooter.

 

2. Street Fighter 6

Street Fighter 6
Street Fighter 6

The king is back, baby.

Street Fighter 5 might not have blown the world away when it launched, but as we established earlier on in this list, Capcom have been on their CapGod flow in recent years, and Street Fighter 6 is arguably their biggest win yet. Somehow, Capcom have managed to create a hall of fame worthy fighting game that retains all the technical depth that the best fighting games boast, while including the most accessibility and onboarding for new players.

Part of that innovation comes from the Modern control system, which makes it much easier for players to input special moves and perform tricky combos, but the trade off is that you’ll have access to less moves and deal less damage. It’s a perfect way of balancing systems, giving players an easy way to get started with Street Fighter 6, while providing decent incentive to learn, improve and grow so you can reach your full potential. Combine that best in class gameplay with a Yakuza-esque open world RPG mode, and Street Fighter 6 is perhaps the best fighting game there’s been in years.

 

1. Hi-Fi Rush

Hi-Fi Rush
Hi-Fi Rush

Xbox really took a risk at the start of this year when they decided to stealth-drop Hi-Fi Rush during the middle of a developer-focused livestream, with no fanfare at all. Just “surprise, here’s something completely unlike anything else in our catalog, and it’s available right now on Xbox Game Pass”. After catching a glimpse of Hi-Fi Rush’s eye-catching art style and character-action inspired gameplay, it’s possibly the quickest I’ve ever hit install on a game in a long time.

A far cry from Tango Gameworks’ usual horror inspired fare, Hi-Fi Rush is a triple threat of a game: perfect gameplay, excellent graphics and genuinely hilarious writing. Without trying to get into reductive comparisons, the style and humor of Hi-Fi Rush feels like the closest gaming has ever reached to fully emulating the Spider-Verse style. Meanwhile, the rhythm-action combat that gives Devil May Cry a run for its money, kickass soundtrack that lets you fight a robot to Nine Inch Nails, and loveable characters that’ll keep you chuckling until the credits roll, meant that Hi-Fi Rush was undoubtedly my game of the year.

READ MORE: 10 Best Looking Games Of 2023

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