Before the year concluded, discussions were already percolating about whether 2023 was the best year for video game releases ever. It was a challenging year for the industry as a whole, but in terms of artistic output, 2023 is absolutely a contender. Whittling the year’s releases to a mere 10 games was challenging, but we did it (you can read our top 10 right here).

However, the year’s game release calendar was so much more than just those 10 games. Below, you’ll see our winners for various categories, allowing us to celebrate a wide range of games, moments, characters, and elements from the extremely strong year for game releases.

Best Combat – Armored Core VI Fires Of Rubicon

Armored Core VI’s combat is defined by grace. Despite its blistering pace, you never feel out of control. The game constantly flexes around how you want to approach the tools you bring onto the battlefield, only building upon the highly responsive combat mechanics, making for an experience that feels authored by you.

Best Original Score – Final Fantasy XVI

The bar for Final Fantasy music is high, but its most recent entry has exceeded it. From explosive boss fights to quiet moments at the hideaway, the music team for Final Fantasy XVI fired on all cylinders. The score enhances the best parts of the game, and it’s one we’ll be humming for years to come.

Best Hero – Clive Rosfield (Final Fantasy XVI)

Clive is more than a stereotypical brooding hero. A gripping backstory and a passionate performance by actor Ben Starr set him apart from other protagonists. In a setting like Valisthea, the audience needs a lodestar to guide them through the complex world. Clive fills that role beautifully.

Best Villain – Ganondorf (The Legend of Zelda: Tears of the Kingdom)

We’ve been fighting permutations of Ganon for decades at this point, but The Legend of Zelda: Tears of the Kingdom’s version stands out among his peers. He had a voice for the first time, and with his immortal, dehydrated form, we don’t know that he’s ever looked scarier. The final confrontation may also be our favorite Ganondorf fight ever.

Best Dork – Chai (Hi-Fi Rush)

Chai’s wannabe attitude is more than a personality trait – it’s the tone driving the whole game forward. The cartoonish presentation pairs perfectly with his cheesy grin and constant wisecracking. Facepalms and eyerolls at his excessive enthusiasm cement his Best Dork victory.

Best Boss – Bahamut (Final Fantasy XVI)

What begins as a catastrophic city-scale fight with the Bahamut Eikon escalates to the cosmic scale, pitting gods against each other to the backdrop of space, with awe-inspiring visuals and stunning sequences to match. In a year with some truly excellent boss battles, Final Fantasy XVI’s fight with the king of dragons soars above the rest.

Best Moment – Alan Wake Recap (Alan Wake 2)

Few studios understand big-budget video game storytelling like Remedy Entertainment – and even fewer dare to be so bold. Halfway through Alan Wake 2, you play a recap of the first game. It just so happens to be a live-action [redacted] featuring choreographed [redacted] and brutal combat.

Best Art Direction – Alan Wake 2

Between its photorealistic visuals, creating a moody and unnerving Pacific Northwest and Lynchian New York City, bold chapter cards, and eerie and gruesome enemies, Alan Wake 2’s art direction stands tallest in a standout year of gorgeous games. Treading the line between reality and the titular author’s nightmarish dark place, Alan Wake 2 consistently entranced us with everything happening on screen.

Best Narrative – Baldur’s Gate 3

Baldur’s Gate 3’s narrative is groundbreaking because it replicates the D&D experience so closely. Its supreme flexibility sacrifices none of its storytelling quality, accounting for such a wide variety of actions that most people will play totally different but equally compelling versions of the same events. The game doesn’t just have a great story; it has countless great stories.

Best Family Game – Super Mario Bros. Wonder

Infused with vibrancy, humor, and positivity from the start, Mario’s visit to the Flower Kingdom provides a delightful adventure to share with the whole family. Up to four-player cooperative local play ensures everyone can enjoy the laughs. A variety of character choices add more than variety; several playable heroes make gameplay easier for newer players. And clear difficulty markers on each level help the family decide what they’re ready to tackle.

Best Cooperative Multiplayer – Baldur’s Gate 3

Players can experience the complete version of Baldur’s Gate 3 with up to three friends, making it one of the most in-depth co-op games to ever exist by extension. This role-playing game captures the fantasy of adventuring alongside friends in Dungeons & Dragons without needing an experienced dungeon master to lead the way.

Best Competitive Multiplayer – Street Fighter 6

The fighting game genre was built on competitive play, and Street Fighter 6 carries the tradition forward to significant effect. Whether you’re walking around an in-game arena brimming with potential opponents or just creating a lobby with friends, playing online is a blast. Once you’re in the matches, the action is often buttery smooth, making the best fighting game of the year shine regardless of whether your opponent is across the globe or across the couch.

Best Developer – Nintendo

The iconic company gave us our Game of the Year, The Legend of Zelda: Tears of the Kingdom, and delivered one of the best 2D Mario games in Super Mario Bros. Wonder. Add Pikmin 4 and more to that already great concoction, and Nintendo’s year was nearly impossible to top.

Best Publisher – Capcom

Capcom was on its game in 2023, successfully remaking the already stellar Resident Evil 4, launching the best fighting game of the year in Street Fighter 6, and surprising skeptics with the entertaining Exoprimal. Capcom’s renaissance shows no signs of slowing down.

Best Remake – Resident Evil 4

The Resident Evil 4 remake seemed like an impossible task. How do you remake one of the best — and most important — games of all time? Luckily, Capcom was up to the task. Resident Evil 4 is paced down to the second to be a fun, thrilling, and scary adaptation of its source material, becoming one of the best games of its era in its own right.

Resident Evil 4 (Remake)

PlayStation 5, Xbox Series X/S, PlayStation VR2, PlayStation 4, PC, Mac, iOS

Release Date:
March 24, 2023 (PlayStation 5, Xbox Series X/S, PlayStation 4, PC), 
December 20, 2023 (Mac, iOS), 
December 8, 2023 (PlayStation VR2)

Best Expansion/DLC – Cyberpunk 2077: Phantom Liberty

Phantom Liberty is an excellent epilogue to CDPR’s admittedly rocky journey through Night City and a reminder that this studio makes exceptional RPGs. Alongside its 2.0 revamp, the now-final Cyberpunk 2077 package is home to great storytelling, expansive and exciting gameplay, some of the genre’s best explorable spaces, Idris Elba’s Solomon Reed, and more.

Best Action Game – Marvel’s Spider-Man 2

Insomniac’s Spider-Man games already boasted great action, but between Peter and Miles’ distinct arsenals of symbiote and venom powers, plus a helpful parry mechanic, combat reaches its zenith in Spider-Man 2. The incredible web-swinging/gliding steals the show; simply getting around is as exciting as a big boss fight or setpiece, if not more so. The result is a superpowered thrill ride unlike any other.

Best Shooting Game – BattleBit Remastered

Created by a team of three independent developers, BattleBit Remastered harkens back to the days of Battlefield 1942’s massive class and vehicle-based multiplayer. Supporting up to 254 players, this low-poly shooter supports large-scale destruction and proximity chat, leading to moments of hilarity whenever your squad has to narrowly to escape a falling building.

Best Role-Playing Game – Baldur’s Gate 3

The best parts of a good RPG are the exact elements that make Baldur’s Gate 3 so good: a complex narrative, deep combat systems, intricately branching dialogue, tons of romance options, and, above all, choice. Your choices constantly impact the world, on levels big and small, to an astonishing degree. Baldur’s Gate 3 isn’t just the best RPG of 2023 – it’s set a new bar for future RPGs to aspire to.

Best Sports Game – MLB The Show 23

The MLB The Show series has long been one of the premier sports franchises, but 2023’s entry gave us the series’ best showing in a long time. Smooth gameplay is bolstered by a rich suite of modes, including a stellar historical option focused on the players of The Negro Leagues.

Best Racing Game – Forza Motorsport

The Forza Motorsport series has been trading paint with Sony’s Gran Turismo franchise in a fight for the pole position of sim-racing franchises for decades. Thanks to its fantastic physics, stunning visuals, and a solid evolution of its Drivatar system, Forza pulled into the lead with this latest entry.

Best Fighting Game – Street Fighter 6

Following Street Fighter V’s rough launch, Capcom returned to the drawing board, with new leadership turning things in the subsequent years. The team that reversed that game’s fortunes had a chance to start from scratch with the next game, and the results were astounding. Street Fighter 6’s mechanics are among the series’ best, and with a ton of modes, characters, and control options from the start, it stands tall as one of the best fighting games in a long time.

Best Platforming Game – Super Mario Bros. Wonder

It takes a lot to create novelty in one of the oldest established genres, but Mario’s latest outing manages the feat through clever level design and precise controls. Various amusing power-ups and badges help keep things fresh from one stage to the next, and the new Wonder effects offer bursts of surprise that change up the gameplay in unexpected ways.

Best Simulation Game – Terra Nil

While most games in Terra Nil’s genre task you with building a sprawling metropolis, Terra Nil asks you to help nature reclaim what humanity has destroyed. Pushing the planet in the right direction is immensely rewarding, and the various challenges offer plenty of reasons to return for more.

Best Puzzle Game – The Talos Principle II

The Talos Principle II is a great follow-up, boasting over 100 well-crafted puzzle rooms we had a blast unraveling. A fascinating, choice-driven story tackling philosophical discussions on the morality of consciousness and existence makes for one of the most intellectually thoughtful games of 2023.

Best Horror Game – Alan Wake 2

Alan Wake 2 is a gorgeously claustrophobic nightmare of a game to play through. Taut encounters with horrific enemies, expertly crafted survival-horror stress, and terrifying audio design meld together to create a game only Remedy Entertainment could have made. And in a year with some excellent horror, none kept our hands sweatier and our heart rates higher than Alan Wake 2.

Best Mobile Game – Warcraft Rumble

Blizzard’s real-time strategy game delights. In head-to-head tower defense scenarios, two players vie for control over the map by securing segmented lanes with Warcraft-themed miniatures. Battle it out in distinct arenas inspired by early World of Warcraft locations like Elwynn Forest and Stranglethorn Vale while earning fun tabletop interpretations of beloved characters.

Best Sony Exclusive – Marvel’s Spider-Man 2

Peter and Miles’ adventure is an emphatic exclamation mark on Insomniac’s trilogy of Spider-Man epics to this point. The studio has proven its understanding of both heroes in a thrilling adventure that reinforces both of their strengths while accentuating their differences. Exploring the detailed, sprawling city with the smooth-as-butter web-swinging is a technical showpiece of the PlayStation 5 hardware.

Best Microsoft Exclusive – Hi-Fi Rush

Tango Gameworks’ surprise hit set the tone for 2023 thanks to its ingenious blend of stylish action and rhythm music wrapped in a gorgeous presentation reminiscent of the best Saturday morning cartoons. We tapped our toes to the beat as often as we smiled at Chai and his endearing band of rebels.

Best Nintendo Exclusive – The Legend of Zelda: Tears of the Kingdom

Nintendo is no stranger to good years, but 2023 saw the rare release of a new Zelda and a new Mario, alongside a collection of other great games like Pikmin 4, the remake of Super Mario RPG, and plenty more. But even against all that stiff competition, the juggernaut that is The Legend of Zelda: Tears of the Kingdom took the crown without much debate.

Best PC Exclusive – Friends vs Friends

Developer Brainwash Gang’s inventive card-based first-person shooter cultivates a novel experience in the competitive multiplayer space. Play randomized cards from your deck to execute potent combos, like pairing the Big Head debuff alongside the sniper card to gain an advantage on unprepared enemies, all within wonderfully colorful arenas.

Game of the Year – The Legend of Zelda: Tears of the Kingdom

The Legend of Zelda: Tears of the Kingdom surprised us, made us feel smart and creative, and inspired thousands to become virtual engineers with incredible creations of their own using the incomparable Ultrahand. Throw in fantastic puzzles, a fun story, and one of the best conclusions Zelda has ever experienced, and it’s not hard to understand why it’s Game Informer’s 2023 Game of the Year.

For more on our favorite games of 2023, check out our list of the Top 10 Games of 2023 here.

Parts of this article originally appeared in Issue 362 of Game Informer.

Source: Game Informer Game Informer's Best Of 2023: Category Winners