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My wallet doesn’t appreciate just how many games I’ve bought this year alone, but I’ve never been more satisfied.

2023 is one of the best years for video game releases in a long time. From Hi-Fi Rush to Alan Wake 2, this year was filled to the brim with games that are worthy of the title of the best game in the year, but unfortunately there isn’t enough room for everyone.

I decided to make a poll for the OU Gaming Club to determine the best games of 2023 in thirteen different categories plus an additional category for the most anticipated game of 2024. 

Some of these results shocked me, but no game swept each award (with a few notable cases). I was very proud of the club’s involvement in this poll, and the results reflect that.

Without further ado, here are the results of the OU Gaming Club’s game awards of 2023!

Best Narrative

Alan Wake 2

Baldur's Gate 3

Star Wars: Jedi Survivor

Spider-Man 2

Narrative is one of the most important aspects in modern video games, and many studios pride themselves in crafting rich, story-driven experiences. The boundaries of storytelling have been pushed hard this year, whether it is from more player choice in Baldur’s Gate 3 or multi-medium experiences in Alan Wake 2.

However, Baldur’s Gate 3 took the award for Best Narrative! The sheer volume of player choice in the story allows for endless possibilities and no playthrough of the game is the same. I’m very happy about this one, since it’s one of my favorite games of the year.

Best Soundtrack

Armored Core IV: Fires of Rubicon

Bomb Rush Cyberfunk

Final Fantasy XVI

Legend of Zelda: Tears of the Kingdom

Good music can set the vibe for any video game and make even the most heartless of gamers shed a tear or two. The right song might make you jam so hard you lose focus and die. Armored Core VI has one of the most beautiful soundtracks of the year and some of the best boss fights in my opinion, but that doesn’t mean many people share it with me. 

The Legend of Zelda: Tears of the Kingdom is the winner of Best Soundtrack! That doesn’t surprise me considering how emotionally rewarding the soundtrack is at the most important moments in the game. 

Best Art Direction

Alan Wake 2

Atomic Heart

Bomb Rush Cyberfunk

Hi-Fi Rush

Legend of Zelda: Tears of the Kingdom

Visual art is sacred to entertainment. If a video game I buy doesn’t have strong visuals, it definitely won’t be memorable when I think back on my time with it. Thankfully in 2023, there is something for everybody. Hi-Fi Rush shows off the power of saturated, comic book-styled art, while Alan Wake 2 drips with a delightfully dark and fully realized atmosphere.

The winner of Best Art Direction goes to The Legend of Zelda: Tears of the Kingdom. The cel shading art style was popularized by The Legend of Zelda: Wind Waker and brought back for Breath of the Wild, but Tears of the Kingdom pushes the boundaries of its unique style thanks to the golden heavens of the Sky Islands and the dank, hellish Depths.

Best Performance by a Voice Actor

Yuri Lowenthal as Peter Parker

Cameron Monaghan as Cal Kestis

Minji Change as Songbird

Neil Newbon as Astarion

What is a game’s story without its voice actors? These people breathe life into our favorite characters and make them lovable and memorable. Yuri Lowenthal never fails to deliver an emotional yet grounded performance as Peter Parker in Marvel’s Spider-Man 2, while Neil Newbon turns Astarion into an antihero you love to hate (or hate to love in my case!).

Every voice actor on this list has won my heart, but Yuri Lownethal is the winner of Best Performance by a Voice Actor! Peter Parker is one of the most well-known superheroes on the planet. Lowenthal plays our favorite web-slinging hero in a grounded way few people can accomplish.

Best Indie Game

Bomb Rush Cyberfunk

Dredge

Sea of Stars

Talos Principle 2

Wizard with a Gun

Independent games have taken more and more of the spotlight in recent years, because they aren’t afraid to push the boundaries of different aspects of gameplay. There is an indie game for everybody no matter how niche the interest. Bomb Rush Cyberfunk offers a nostalgic experience akin to Jet Set Radio that blew my mind when I tried it. Games like Dredge and Wizard with a Gun, meanwhile, let players try out concepts and worlds never imagined before.

Dredge took the game for indie game of the year. Made by newcomer Black Salt Games, this dark fishing game came out of nowhere to delight players with a creepy atmosphere and creatures of the deep.

Best Action Game

Armored Core IV: Fires of Rubicon

Dead Island 2

Dead Space

Hi-Fi Rush

Spider-Man 2

Star Wars Jedi: Survivor

Pulse-pounding. Blood-pumping. These games are perfect for adrenaline junkies. 2023 provided a slew of intense, action-packed experiences for every kind of player. Armored Core VI (the writer’s favorite game of 2023) is a brutal but rewarding gauntlet of mech combat that never lets up. Hi-Fi Rush takes you on a robot-smashing trip through a soulless corporation to fight for freedom. 

Spider-Man 2 took the award for Best Action Game! It is easy to see why, since this game pushed the boundaries of the original and expanded upon most of the systems that were introduced. This game has gone above and beyond expectations in its journey to “Be Greater.”

I can accept that it beat Armored Core VI, I suppose.

Best Role-Playing Game

Baldur's Gate 3

Diablo IV

Final Fantasy XVI

Octopath Traveler 2

Starfield

What would an RPG be without fulfilling the player’s fantasy? These epic games are created to let each player carve their own path, whether that be through a character’s build or the way they experience the story. Starfield provided a sandbox-like experience in the vast playground of space that let a player specialize their character in any way they could imagine. Baldur’s Gate 3, meanwhile, allowed players to shape a rich narrative to their whims. 

The strongest player choice makes for the strongest game, though. Baldur’s Gate 3 won Best Role-Playing Game. It certainly deserves it due to its sheer popularity and polish.

Best Fighting Game

Mortal Kombat 1

Fraymakers

NARAKA: BLADEPOINT

Street Fighter 6

It must be a primal need for gamers to beat each other up in a virtual space. I’ve never vibed well with this genre, mostly because I’m awful at it. There are still plenty of new titles to enjoy in 2023 though, such as the highly anticipated releases of Mortal Kombat 1 and Street Fighter 6.

These two games even managed to tie! Mortal Kombat 1 and Street Fighter 6 received an equal amount of votes, so they both won Best Fighting Game. Both were such anticipated releases that lived up to the hype. This result almost convinced me to try them out.

Almost. 

Best Sports/Racing Game

The Crew: Motorfest

F1 2023

Hot Wheeels Unleashed 2: Turbocharged

Madden NFL 24

NBA 2k24

I would rather be behind a wheel than in the middle of a sports match. I’ve always loved racing games, and this year there was no shortage of them or the usual suspects of sports games. 

Madden and NBA released new titles this year as expected to further the trend of a new sports game every year. Diehard football and basketball fans get what they want.

The Crew: Motorfest was a surprising but welcome addition to the series set in beautiful Hawaii. Hot Wheels Unleashed 2: Turbocharged, meanwhile, gave gamers a sequel to an addictive arcade racer and expanded on it in every way.

There is something for everyone this year, but Hot Wheels Unleashed 2 takes the award for Best Sports/Racing Game! It’s hard to beat driving in your favorite diecast car on that classic orange track.

Best Esports Game

Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3

Counter Strike 2

F1 2023

Overwatch 2

Street Fighter 6

This wouldn’t be a proper GOTY article for OU Esports without a section dedicated to the esports games that have been released lately. Street Fighter 6 makes a return in this list along with a huge competitive audience, while Counter Strike 2 was a fresh upgrade for the series. 

Counter Strike 2 won Best Esports Game! It is one of the main teams here at OU Esports, and our team is incredibly talented and dedicated. I am glad this game won and was supported by the amazing members of this club.

Best Family Game

Hot Wheels Unleashed 2: Turbocharged

Pikmin 4

Sonic Superstars

Super Mario Bros. Wonder

Whether it is collecting Pikmin or blitzing through a stage as Sonic the Hedgehog, family games come in a wide variety of styles. Nintendo was the powerhouse of the year when it came to family games, whether it was a new addition to the Mario franchise or Tears of the Kingdom. It’s hard not to own a Switch these days.

Out of all the games, Super Mario Bros. Wonder won Best Family Game. It may have just been released, but it raised the bar for creativity in 2D platformers immensely. I enjoyed my time with it, and I’m glad a new generation of gamers can experience a new Mario game.

Game of the Year

Alan Wake 2

Baldur's Gate 3

Final Fantasy XVI

Legend of Zelda: Tears of the Kingdom

Spider-Man 2

Star Wars Jedi: Survivor

Super Mario Bros. Wonder

This is what everyone has been waiting for. There were so many possible choices for the Game of the Year that they couldn’t all fit on this list. I doubt we’ll see a year filled with this many major releases in a long time.

Spider-Man 2 and Super Mario Bros. Wonder just released, but they have captured the attention and hearts of many with polished systems and fun gameplay loops. 

Alan Wake 2 showed the possibilities of multimedia gaming experiences. The Legend of Zelda: Tears of the Kingdom and Baldur’s Gate 3 gave players more freedom than they would know what to do with. 

But only one game must be crowned. And that game is…

Baldur’s Gate 3! With its impressive story, player choice, lovable characters, and a deep combat system based on the most popular tabletop game, it’s no wonder Baldur’s Gate would win. With such passionate developers who care about the game and their audience, I could not think of a better winner!

News and Media Choice

Alan Wake 2

Armored Core VI: Fires of Rubicon

Baldur's Gate 3

Legend of Zelda: Tears of the Kingdom

Pikmin 4

Super Mario Bros. Wonder

I thought it would be fun to ask the Media & News members what their favorite games of 2023 were and then make a poll question to determine which of them is the best of the year. Each of these choices deserves a spot as the game of the year, and they have all been featured in previous polls. 

I had hoped despite the odds that Armored Core VI might win this one, because it still deserves the Game of the Year spot in my eyes, but it sadly didn’t win. Perhaps my love of mechs will win the day in the future.

Editor’s Note: Hi! It’s Cooper here. It was tough to pick one game to put on this list, but while I thought the new Zelda would be my favorite this year, Pikmin 4 completely stole my heart! It got a few votes, but definitely not enough to win.

The Legend of Zelda: Tears of the Kingdom won the award for Media & News’s Choice! It’s hard to deny just how fun it is to travel around Hyrule with any kind of contraption you can dream up. The pairing of fun gameplay and an emotional story makes for one of the most solid and memorable experiences of 2023.

Most Anticipated Game

Black Myth: Wu Kong

Final Fantasy VII: Rebirth

Paper Mario: The Thousand Year Door

Star Wars: Outlaws

2023 may have been an incredible year for gaming, but there is plenty to look forward to in the future. There are many exciting games that have been announced for 2024, and many more that we don’t know about yet. 

Final Fantasy VII: Rebirth is slated for February 29th, and it is the follow-up to Final Fantasy VII: Remake. It is going to expand Cloud’s journey past Midgar and delve into a story that isn’t quite the same as the original game. 

Star Wars: Outlaws has teased an open-world experience that won’t follow the story of any Jedi or force user, but a smuggler who wants to make a name for herself. Star Wars game releases are usually solid, and this might be another winner for the franchise.

OU Esports has decided that Paper Mario: The Thousand-Year Door is the Most Anticipated Game of 2024! This remaster of the original Gamecube title will release on the Switch sometime next year, and it looks to be a wonderful port of the original. I adored the original game and still own it, but it’ll be amazing to play the game in handheld mode.

Thank you so much for reading through! It was a blast to put this on, and I want to thank everyone who participated! What a great year of gaming, and here’s to more great games to come.

Will Edmonds

Will Edmonds is a junior who loves single-player video games, playing the saxophone, and creative writing. He is majoring in professional writing and a part of the one of the jazz bands at the Catlett Music Center. He plans to become an editor after graduating college and hopes to publish his own book.