This year may have been the most unpredictable one that Geek to Geek Media has covered yet. Some games that were expected to be heavy hitters ended up getting outshone and some long shots made a surprisingly big splash. To celebrate this monumental year in gaming, we present the 2023 edition of Geek to Geek Media's Game of the Year Awards!
Note: We selected our winners via a poll of the entire Geek to Geek Media gaming staff. Any games our staff members played released between Dec-01 2022 and Dec-01 2023 were considered for awards.
Best Action Game
Armored Core 6: Fires of the Rubicon
Mecha fans have been eating well this year, from the strong showing of Gundam: The Witch from Mercury and the worldwide distribution of Macross to, this year, the revival of FromSoftware's decade-dormant action series. Armored Core 6 absolutely brings back the sullen cynicism and highly technical control that made Armored Core, building on it with tighter controls than ever and two generations' worth of expertise in finely-tuned action. From the deep flexibility in customizing your machine to an extensive multi-run story and even an online arena, Armored Core is the most triumphant return that fans could have asked for. – David Erickson (aka “Data_Error”)
Other games nominated: Street Fighter 6, High on Life, En Garde!
Best Platforming Game
Super Mario Bros Wonder
You could pretty much call 2023 the year of Mario. There was a blockbuster animated film, the return of Mario RPG, and our favorite platformer of the year, Super Mario Bros Wonder. As the original king of the genre, we knew to expect a colorful adventure with tight jumping controls and power-ups. However, this game's “wonder effects” take the already surreal world of Mario to a whole other level. With trippy surprises baked into every single stage, Super Mario Bros Wonder was pure platforming bliss. – Jay Caplan (aka “Capsulejay”)
Other game nominated: Jusant
Best Adventure Game
In Dredge, you can take a well-earned vacation from your stifling buttoned-down existence and head on down to a bleak Lovecraftian island village for a relaxing, terrifying weekend fishing adventure. A smudgy, oil-spill color palette soaks this open-world sailing adventure with a delightful sense of dread. Meet intense, bizarre weirdos as you explore a tight map of shipwreck-laden islets while you harvest terrible mutated monstrosities, crusty relics, and seafood destined for gas station sushi bars to upgrade your (t)rusty ship. Expand the cargo holds, pump up the potency of the engines, and construct nets and rods that give you access to more and more horrible resources. Grow increasingly more insane and desperate as you uncover the mysterious plots and rituals of the game. By the time you make your final fateful choices, you will easily have whittled away a cozy weekend amongst the crashing waves and sucking tentacles.
Dredge is a cozy adventure game that doesn't stray too far from the formula. It's an experience that you can wrap up in a couple of days with game mechanics that are easy to learn. On top of that, it delivers a unique setting and interesting experience that stays with you after the credits roll. – Nixxee
Other games nominated: A Space for the Unbound, Slay the Princess, Tchia, Cocoon
Baldur's Gate 3
As one of Geek to Geeks resident Dungeons and Dragons nerds, I was both super excited and mega apprehensive about the release of Baldur's Gate 3. From the moment I booted BG3 up, I knew I was in for a world of amazing adventure and a very creative narrative, but what I didn't expect was the sheer amount of fun I had throughout the entire game. From learning the backstories of the primary characters to building one of my own, falling in love with Lae' zel, then breaking her heart with Mizora. For me, this game had everything an amazing D&D campaign should have, great storytelling, amazing loot drops, mega bosses, oh, and lengthy role-playing segments.
Baldur's Gate 3 is not only Geek to Geek's pick for Best Turn-based RPG of 2023, it's my personal Game of the Year for 2023 and the frontrunner for my Game of the 2020's! I highly recommend this game to anyone intrigued by high fantasy, turn-based RPGs, and Githyanki. – BamaShockz, Geek to Geek Game Master and Roleplayer
Other games nominated: Honkai Star Rail, Sea of Stars
Best Action RPG
Final Fantasy 16
I was very hesitant to play Final Fantasy 16. When Square Enix announced the game was going to be full action RPG, going even further away from the combat styles of 15 and 7 Remake, I thought it was going to be far too Devil May Final Fantasy for me. But it turns out that the combat works beautifully for the world the devs have created, and I shouldn't have doubted them. It's a simple combat system, but it's not the kind where you can mash a single button to win all but the most inconsequential of encounters.
The narrative stands up to–and exceeds–the standard set by many previous entries in the series, and it has easily become one of my favorite FF games in terms of storytelling. It feels like the true epic fantasy story a lot of us fans have wanted the series to return to for years. I'm quite impressed with the game, and I can't wait to dig into the DLC to see what else Yoshi P has cooked up for us. – BJ Keeton
Other games nominated: Wild Hearts, Lies of P, Cyberpunk 2077 Phantom Liberty
Best Tabletop RPG
Tabletop games are in a great place right now, in no small part to crowdfunding sites like Kickstarter. Smaller publishers like Free League can put out games at a much lower financial risk. Pirate Borg is one of the games that I don't feel like would have ever made it to print if it hadn't been for crowdfunding, but I am so glad that it exists.
Based on the brutal, death-metal-inspired, OSR game MÖRK BORG, Pirate Borg is a rules-lite game where players take on the roles of pirates and other ne'er-do-wells and scallywags in a setting called the Dark Caribbean. It's basically Pirates of the Caribbean, but after a zombie apocalypse where there are necromancers and undead bodies are ground into dust and snorted as a drug. It's bananas.
But it's bananas in the best way possible. It's easy to learn and pick up because it's based on a d20 system with simple base rules, character creation takes under 10 minutes, and the options are so absurd that even if your character dies an early death (which is super likely), it's just as much fun to make a new one and see what kind of shenanigans you can get into before that one meets its end, too.
In the campaign I am currently GMing, a character was magically turned into a chicken because of a magic parrot, and then they breathed in necro-swine stink and imploded while another party member was carrying them around. For real. It's great. – BJ Keeton
Other game(s) nominated: Vassen, Dragonbane
Disclosure: The “Pirate Borg” link in this section is an affiliate link. Purchases made via that link earn us a small commission.
Best Spooky Game
Resident Evil 4
2005’s Resident Evil 4 was a game-changer for both horror and action games, and has held up remarkably well. The highest praise I can offer its 2023 remake is that it makes me feel like I am playing the seminal survival-horror classic for the first time. New mechanics, fleshed-out characters, and a handful of unexpected surprises make the remake of Resident Evil 4 absolutely shine. Grab your parrying knives and prepare for an intense (and intensely satisfying) action-horror experience! – Steve Wittkamp (aka “Mr Alarm”)
Other game(s) nominated: Bramble the Mountain King, Blasphemous 2, Gal Guardians Demon Purge
Best Cozy Game
Theatrhythm Final Bar Line
I’ve been a fan of developer indieszero’s Final Fantasy: Theatrhythm games since the original 3DS game’s release over a decade ago. I was skeptical that the series could transition from the handheld system’s touchscreen format to modern consoles’ controllers, but Theatrhythm Final Bar Line is hands-down the finest installment in the rhythm game series yet. The presentation is ridiculously adorable, and there is a wealth of content to keep any Final Fantasy fan busy for months. There’s even an enormous amount of DLC focused on other Square-Enix franchises, making Final Bar Line a celebration of the mammoth publisher’s efforts over the last 30+ years. – Steve Wittkamp (aka “Mr Alarm”)
Other game(s) nominated: Puzzling Places, Lil Gator Game, Suika Game
Best Map Game
Any Spider-Man game gets a leg up in the “Maps” category simply because swinging is the absolute most fun way to get around in an open-world. Spider-Man 2 builds on the design of both the first game and Miles Morales to create a world that's even bigger and packed with even more stuff. Throughout the game, you are constantly unlocking new side activities, from investigating the disappearances of bees to helping an old man say goodbye to his beloved pigeons.
What really makes this particular entry stand out is that each of these activities builds up to an extremely satisfying conclusion. It's easy to pop on any open-world game and just run around to markers on the map to check them off a list, but it's something special when you know the end of that checklist will have an interesting story beat as a reward (and probably a cool new suit, too)!
Oh, and that fast-travel is incredible! I didn't end up using it a ton because I never minded just swinging around, but its functionality is astounding. Basically, you can click on any point anywhere on the map, and the camera swings from the map view into a skeletal 3D model of the city, and then BAM Spider-Man swings into view as the city fills in and you are just there. It's breathtaking. – Troy Dunham (aka “TroytlePower”)
Other game(s) nominated: The Legend of Zelda Tears of the Kingdom
Best Multiplayer Game
Street Fighter 6
Success in Street Fighter is still all about putting in the hours, pounding the pavement, and failing over and over again until you fail slightly less often. But this latest installment eases the curve on all of these, making it easily the most welcoming entry there's ever been for new challengers. It's ingrained from tip to toe, from modes like its genre-busting single-player campaign to mechanics like the universal, robust Drive Impact and a simpler, modernized control schemes that raise the skill floor – and improves accessibility. It's hard not to give top prize to a game that does so much to make you want to get beaten down by strangers online. – David Erickson (aka “Data_Error”)
Other game(s) nominated: Baldur's Gate 3, F-Zero 99
Baldur's Gate 3
I thought the fuss about Baldur's Gate 3 was overblown and actually avoided playing it for a while. That was silly. It was not overblown. When I finally loaded the game up on my PS5, I was blown away immediately by the openness of the story and the branching narrative that genuinely changed based on my choices.
I would talk to friends about the game, and they had entirely different experiences, met different characters, and moved through situations in completely different ways than I had. It was like we were playing two different games.
There is a baseline, foundational narrative of the game that is incredibly well-written. But that's not the most engaging part of it. The characters you meet and the party members you recruit are really where the writing shines. Because of their interactions and your choices, the game can truly feel like an entirely different experience based solely on who is in your party.
For instance, my first playthrough, I was unable to recruit Karlach and Wyll because of my choices early on. I missed a lot of interactions and lore and side-stories that expanded much of the setting. In my second one, I was able to get them and leave behind other characters I had previously adventured with and just with those two characters in my party, the game feels new and fresh and I have totally different paths to explore.
No other game I've ever played has quite this level of narrative freedom or legitimate impact from my actions and choices as a player. This really is a new bar for video game storytelling, and I don't think many others will even come near it for years to come. -BJ Keeton
Other game(s) nominated: A Space for the Unbound, Spider-Man 2, Cyberpunk 2077 Phantom Liberty
Best Retro Throwback
Sea of Stars
Anyone with a fondness for SNES classic RPGs such as Secret of Mana or Chrono Trigger absolutely needs to take Sea of Stars for a spin. It features some of the most gorgeous pixel art we've ever seen and combat that puts a fresh spin on mechanics established in Chrono Trigger and Mario RPG. Then there's the icing on the cake a fantastic soundtrack that includes original pieces by Chrono Trigger composer, Yasunori Mitsuda! As an overall package, Sea of Stars is a retro throwback RPG that's not to be missed! – Jay Caplan (aka “Capsulejay”)
Other game(s) nominated: Sandy's Great Escape, Prison City, Gravity Circuit
With music at the core of this rhythm-based action game, there is no way a game like Hi-Fi Rush could get by with anything other than a rockin' soundtrack. Impressively, the game pulls this off twice: In the standard mode, it plays licensed rock hits that perfectly sync up with the action, and in streamer mode, it plays completely original rock songs that suit the game just as well. Either way, the soundtrack of Hi-Fi Rush never misses a beat! – Jay Caplan (aka “Capsulejay”)
Other game(s) nominated: Sea of Stars, Super Space Club
Jam of the Year
“Spaceship” from Super Space Club
Super Space Club was one of the best games I’ve played all year and is one of those small indie games that can very easily fly under the radar. Super Space Club is a modern take on the classic Astroids, but what elevates this game is the pure vibe. The art, the colors, the gameplay, and most importantly: the soundtrack. The shining jewel of the soundtrack has to be Spaceship. This song has entered my daily Spotify list, and I find myself humming it all the time (I don’t know French, so all I can do is hum). Months after playing the game, I am still in love.
Other pieces nominated: “Herald of Darkness” from Alan Wake 2, BGM from Suika Game
Game of the Year
Baldur's Gate 3
Around here at GtG, we tend to love RPGs. That's no surprise to anyone. However, when Baldur's Gate 3 won Game of the Year at The Game Awards, it really was a surprise. Because even though it is an amazingly stellar game, a turn-based CRPG does not often beat out megablockbusters like Spider-Man 2.
BG3, however, is just that good. Adapting the immensely popular Dungeons & Dragons 5e ruleset, the game is easy to pick up and has lots of options for robust combat. The narrative is strong and branching in ways that even hardcore RPG fanatics aren't used to, and the art direction and graphics are out of this world.
The characterization for companions and NPCs is unmatched, honestly, and the voice acting to go along with it is superb. It's easy to drop over 100 hours in a single playthrough and not see everything there is to see. In fact, it's impossible to see everything in a single playthrough because the branching story blocks characters and events based on player choices. – BJ Keeton
Other game(s) nominated: The Legend of Zelda Tears of the Kingdom
Overall, 2023 was a year of gaming surprises! Who would have guessed that a rock-solid Zelda game would only ever achieve runner-up status? Did anyone anticipate that Lovecraftian horror and fishing would make such a good combination!? It was an unpredictable year, to say the least, and we thank you for joining us through its twists and turns.
Best wishes for 2024 from all of us here at Geek to Geek Media!