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Our personal top-five games of 2023

Cyberpunk! Thirsty Suitors! Venba! More!

The young hero grips handholds on a rock wall on a sunny day in Jusant. Up ahead there are signs that the wall has been built upon.
Image credit: Don't Nod

You've probably already seen Eurogamer's top 50 games of 2023, but we didn't leave our end of year thoughts there. Big lists can sometimes feel impersonal, and as you know, individual tastes in games are anything but. So, we wanted to cobble together our collected thoughts on the games we felt shaped 2023.

This brief series of articles will, then, collect the top fives of a handful of different Eurogamer writers each day, and run for four days. The top fives aren't ordered because ordering is not what's important here - it's seeing which games were special to people this year, and hearing about why. And please, feel free to share yours.


Baldur's Gate 3

Gale, Lae'zel, Wyll, and Shadowheart looking over the edge of a cliff ion Baldur's Gate 3 with a tree to the left and a waterfall in the distance.
Baldur's Gate 3. | Image credit: Larian Studios

Baldur's Gate 3 is a phenomenon, and my nerdy RPG-loving heart is all the more fuller when I see just how passionately other people have taken to it - and how could they not? It feels like so many games have promised us deep choice consequences over the years, but then inevitably trick us with the illusion of choice, whereas Baldur's Gate 3 is choice - it's D&D. Romance, story, playstyle, personality, looks, morality - it's all up to you. It's also incredibly funny and charming, and just a complete delight to immerse yourself in. Baldur's Gate 3 is a forever game.

Cyberpunk 2077: Phantom Liberty

A screenshot from Cyberpunk 2077's Phantom Liberty expansion showing the player racing through the city streets on a red motorcycle while an armoured vehicle opens fire up ahead.
Cyberpunk 2077: Phantom Liberty. | Image credit: CD Projekt

I played Cyberpunk 2077 when it originally released and liked it despite the many technical issues trying their best to stop me. However, my biggest issue has always been its attitude. Everything seemed designed around this faux scale of ‘cool', and boy did I hate V. Phantom Liberty is something completely different. Billed as a spy-thriller, it actually delivers on this Bond-like promise while telling a story without that ‘cool' attitude ruining everything. Turning the focus to new characters - Songbird, Reed, and Alex - acts as a reset button, and although the story can be bleak at times, it's one that slowly grows on you and might just be one of my favourites now. Finishing Phantom Liberty was bittersweet, but I'm now very excited for the future of Cyberpunk.


Screenshot from Cocoon showing a new boss rising above a green orb as the insectoid protagonist looks on
Cocoon. | Image credit: Geometric

Cocoon's remarkably clever design means some of the most mind-bending solutions in gaming can be described as just solving puzzles by using orbs to travel between worlds. It's so simple to play, but when you stop to think about how far you've come since the beginning, and how many worlds within worlds you've travelled to, you begin to see just how intricate Cocoon really is. Despite how trippy some of the puzzles are, solutions never feel out-of-reach, and the fact you just learn everything naturally on your own with no tutorials shows just how sneakily smart Cocoon really is.

Honkai: Star Rail

splash art of dr ratio character, who is a short blue haired man resembling an ancient greek man, wearing a loose white top resembling a toga and blue trousers
Honkai: Star Rail. | Image credit: HoYoverse

At first, Honkai: Star Rail looked like a smaller scale sci-fi version of Genshin Impact with a mercifully simplified way to farm for gear and character materials. That would have been just fine, but Star Rail excels by differentiating itself from Genshin in lots of little ways. And in one big way: it's goofy. It knows that its lore is complicated and silly so it plays on it, and it also sprinkles in the strangest interactions that still surprise me, even after all this time. Why of course I'll help that depressed robot-mushroom, and yes I will search every bin in Belobog because my character has an obsession with rubbish. It also happens to have one of the best modern turn-based combat systems out there. Eight months after release and I still play Star Rail daily. It's pretty good.

Stray Gods: The Roleplaying Musical

Grace makes dialogue choices with Freddie in Stray Gods
Stray Gods: The Roleplaying Musical. | Image credit: Summerfall Studios

Its promise of roleplaying is a little misleading, but Stray Gods is certainly a musical, and goes one step further by letting you shape the tone of its soundtrack. Depending on what option you pick during key moments of a song - charming, kickass, or clever - you get a completely different performance, and often a different story outcome too. There's a murder-mystery to solve, gods to romance, and a charming atmosphere held together by its incredible voice cast: Laura Bailey, Troy Baker, Janina Gavankar, Anthony Rapp, Ashley Johnson, and more! Although Stray Gods' individual songs might not be standalone hits, its entire package is a commendable attempt at merging the worlds of video games, theatre, and Greek mythology.


Thirsty Suitors

Screenshot from Thirsty Suitors, showing a fight between Jala and a random suitor.
Thirsty Suitors. | Image credit: Annapurna Interactive/Eurogamer.

As the famous meme goes: If I had a nickel for every time a game ostensibly about cooking south-Asian food made me cry in 2023, I'd have two nickels. Which isn't a lot, but it's weird that it happened twice. A funky, relatable, and heartbreaking elucidation of cultural, familial, and relationship-driven trauma, Thirsty Suitors had me salivating over the food it let me cook and weeping over how well it captures the complexities of human relationships. As someone with no interest in rhythm games (he says, with three games that incorporate rhythm elements on this list) or skateboarding, to wrap those in a short, sharp RPG that perfectly captures the joy and trauma of community and keeps me engaged is tremendous. Also, you can skateboard as the dog.


A screenshot from Dredge's The Pale Reach expansion showing a fishing boat approaching a ramshackle jetty and hut built on the edge of an iceberg.
Dredge. | Image credit: Black Salt Games/Team17

I don't relate to many video game characters. Yet, in Dredge's lighthouse keeper - who thinks maybe we shouldn't poke the preternatural sea or the monsters that lurk therein - Dredge gives me a character to which I can only aspire. Paired with a dreary yet beautiful fishing simulator laced with cosmic horror that is equal parts Lovecraft (the few good parts) and the few good parts of Moby Dick (plus the grid inventory from Resident Evil 4 that's just as fun as the actual game), Dredge - weighing in at around 9 hours – is a reminder that a game doesn't need to be big to be fun.

The Legend of Zelda: Tears of the Kingdom

Link crouches on a glider in the sky in The Legend of Zelda: Tears of the Kingdom
The Legend of Zelda: Tears of the Kingdom. | Image credit: Nintendo

That said, Tears of the Kingdom is big. So big I'll never finish it – not truly finish it, anyway; its scope is too grand. That's okay, though. As someone who has spent years feeling guilty over the games I'm not playing, to the point of affecting how I feel about those I do, Tears of the Kingdom's multiple definitions of completion taught me the value that can be found in what we leave unfinished (sorry Persona 3). In the process, it changed my relationship with my backlog forever. It's a remarkable game for so many reasons, but in a year replete with amazing games I'll never play, it became for me more of a public service.


Tchia smiling on diving challenge near Mwaken Village
Tchia. | Image credit: Awaceb/Kepler Interactive

"Ö ngo eka? / Me tuneka? / Tro'ni a tro Tuneka?" John Robert Matz's remarkable soundscape has lived in my head all year. A musical style so patently Tchia's and yet spectacularly evocative of the New Caledonia Awaceb creates in the game. Tchia may owe much to Breath of the Wild – though, that's not a bad template to follow at all – but its beautiful rendition of childhood adventure wrapped in a story that makes me want to learn more about New Caledonia, and in a rare manageable open world (albeit with wickedly hard rhythm sections), was a much-needed reminder of how fun games are supposed to be.

A Highland Song

A Highland Song screenshot showing Moira chasing a deer to musical jump prompts
A Highland Song. | Image credit: Inkle / Eurogamer.

I have shallow roots owing to a need to keep moving, something drastically mitigated by a disability that keeps me inert. Perhaps that's why games that evoke a strong sense of place were so important to me in 2023. I wrote earlier in the year how Season: A Letter to the Future evoked a visceral memory of cycling, but A Highland Song reminds me what it was like to hike – one more love lost to disability. In its beautiful, undemanding meditation on Scotland, as the player climbs, runs, and jumps across mountains, A Highland Song offered some much needed late-year solace in a 2023 in which we lost so much. I'm a simple man though, so A Highland Song would have been on the list just for being about walking and including Talisk in its soundtrack.


Super Mario Wonder

super mario wonder key art
Super Mario Bros. Wonder. | Image credit: Nintendo

I played Wonder with my two children, and oh what a hoot we had! Honestly, the decibel levels must have been off the charts. When we all turned into elephants, my children cheered. When a Wonder Seed caused our world to turn on its head in any myriad of ways, they were basically rolling on the floor with full, uncontrollable, belly laughs. This game brought us all so much delight time and time again. It is chaotic, it is eclectic and it is, quite honestly, a wonder.

Marvel's Spider-Man 2

Miles Morales as Spider-Man in Marvel's Spider-Man 2 using his aerial combat skills to take down one of Kraven's hunters
Marvel's Spider-Man 2. | Image credit: Insomniac

It is not often that I complete a game in one weekend, but I did that with Marvel's Spider-Man 2. While I don't feel the game did anything particularly revolutionary, I just had so much damn fun playing it.

A lot of my pleasure came from the game's traversal. Soaring through New York as both Spider-Men felt so slick, and even when I had the option to fast travel to places, I still chose to get there through a combination of web slinging and gliding. This world became my playground. I would flip and spin my way through Brooklyn, grinning away like a small child. I really felt like I was Spider-Man in those moments. It was smooth and effortless. While in reality I am quite prone to tripping, in Marvel's Spider-Man 2 I was an agile superhero, and I really couldn't have asked for a better way to explore New York City.

Alan Wake 2

Sam Lake in Alan Wake 2, wearing a suit and tie while pulling funny faces at the camera
Alan Wake 2. | Image credit: Remedy/Eurogamer

I always knew I was going to enjoy Alan Wake 2, having been a Remedy fan since the original game. But what truly elevated the sequel above other games this year for me was its musical number, Herald of Darkness. This moment was completely unexpected and unlike anything I had ever experienced in a video game before. "I didn't see that coming," the titular Alan Wake remarks at one point. Nor did I, Alan. Nor did I.

The way the music merged flawlessly with gameplay; the way the actors appeared to be having the time of their lives (despite the shadowy entities coming for me) - it left me with a smile plastered across my face. Even after I'd completed the section, I turned to YouTube so I could watch it again.

What really topped this section off for me, though, was the small smile actor Ilkka Villi gave as Alan Wake right at the end of the song. Just before taking a sip of coffee and collapsing onto the sofa, Wake looks back towards the singing and dancing and, in a slightly bemused way, smiles. He might be going through hell in the Dark Place, but there is a glimmer of joy both the player and our fictional writer. It's wonderful.


Screenshot from Cocoon showing the game's architecture which is both powerful yet delicate
Cocoon. | Image credit: Geometric/Eurogamer

"There's this beautiful tension between the natural rock and then the artificial involvement of the human hand." This quote from Cocoon's art director Erwin Kho has stayed with me ever since I spoke with him earlier in the year. He is talking about Petra in Jordan, and how this structure influenced the world he created for Cocoon.

Cocoon's world marries together an organic and almost visceral environment with high-tech concepts. This synthesising of two opposing ideas works so well together, and makes for a fascinating world to puzzle your way through. Cocoon as a whole is so meticulously executed, with no filler or needless padding to bulk it up. But it is Cocoon's world that really made the game stand out for me this year.


Venba combs her hair in the mirror looking content in Venba
Venba. | Image credit: Visai Games, Valve

This evening, I sat with my daughter as we looked through a Christmas cookbook. She wants to make peppermint creams with me so she can give them to her friends. I didn't let on to her but this request brought tears to my eyes. Why? Because when I was younger, I used to make peppermint creams with my mother. It brought back some very happy memories.

Cooking and the memories made in the kitchen - be it the smells, sounds or taste - have always been incredibly important to me. Many dishes I make today tell a story from different points in my life. When I was unwell in my early twenties, I would often read cookery books for comfort and, when I felt up to it, I would make treats for my now husband. I will never forget his face when I got up the strength to give him a jar of homemade lemon curd. Now, whenever I make lemon curd, I remember that smile.

And then there are the recipes and books which have been left to me by those no longer with us. Notes from my grandmother lay scribbled in the margins of an old Be-Ro Flour recipe book that is held together with old bits of thread. I have added some of my own notes as well, and my newer books also feature a variety of amendments scattered here and there. For me, food is more than just sustenance. It is a way I can show those I love how much I care about them.

This is why Venba is my game of the year. When I played Venba, I cried several times over. I cried for the family trying to fit in, I cried for the mother wanting to connect with her child, I cried for the loved ones gone too soon. And then, I cried again, because of the way the food in Venba's household could bridge the gap between generations and relationships. When her child is sick, Venba makes him soup. When her husband needs to leave for work, she packs him a lunch. When she is expecting a visit from someone special, she prepares a feast. There is so much love and meaning behind each meal, and that is a really beautiful thing.


Hi-Fi Rush

Hi-Fi RUSH, Chai is dressed as a shark and is standing on the raised walkway in track four
Hi-Fi Rush. | Image credit: Tango Gameworks/Bethesda Softworks

Hi-Fi Rush is like an ear-worm in video game form. A good song, played in a pair of headphones that drowns out basically everything, always makes me subconsciously move to the music, forcing me to step on the beat or unironically contemplate my life. Hi-Fi Rush takes that basic human instinct and injects it into an ultra-stylish action game where everything (everything!) moves to the beat - a factory's machinery, your character's footsteps, every single attack. Even the seemingly unimportant details crescendo into a game that teaches you how to move musically, and then brags about how joyful and stylish doing so can be.

A Space For The Unbound

A Space for the Unbound review - Atma and Reya sit next to each other in the movie theatre and awkwardly touch hands
A Space for the Unbound. | Image credit: Mojiken

On the surface, A Space For The Unbound is a classic adventure game bursting with lush skyscapes, coming-of-age teens, pet-able pixel cats, and a summery Indonesian village. But just like the Shinkai films that inspired it, the game's dreamy coating hides some massive emotional gut punches.

A Space For The Unbound follows a teen couple, Atma and Raya, in their last year of high school, when supernaturally funky stuff starts threatening reality. The sky cracks, cinema-goers act like cat people, and the community seemingly can't see any of the strange shenanigans. This is when our teens get Psychonauts-like powers to dive into people's minds, leading to surreal puzzles and sensitive stories where, ultimately, fixing the world starts with fixing those closest to you.

Sandtrix (originally released as Setris)

Tetris has been the game of the year every year since the evergreen puzzler's debut, partly because wrangling shapes until it becomes muscle memory is just that entrancing, but mainly because there've been so many (almost-as-great) Tetris remixes over the last 40 years.

2023's most unique and fun rejig is Sandtrix - aka Tetris with sand - a free browser-based game in which you guide familiar, coloured blocks in pursuit of ever-increasing high scores. Sandtrix's endlessly moreish twist is that the blocks dissolve into coloured sand when hitting the grid's floor, forcing you to think more diagonally as the terrain forms kaleidoscopic peaks, hills, and crevices. (Danger ahead for procrastinators.)

Thirsty Suitors

Screenshot from Thirsty Suitors of a graphic introducing Irfan.
Thirsty Suitors. | Image credit: Annapurna Interactive/Eurogamer.

I already talked about how I enjoyed this unapologetically chaotic mix of skateboarding, turn-based combat, and sexually emotionally tense reconciliations with ex-lovers when I reviewed Thirsty Suitors at launch. Having sat with Horny Persona for a few months, I'm now in love.

Thirsty Suitors sees protagonist Jala return to her hometown - desperate to fix relationships with her messy, hard-not-to-love family and the game's titular, even more messy suitors, - following an abrupt departure that left broken hearts in her wake. The end result shows that, ideally, self-healing comes from healing links to your community - from your actively aggressive nan to the bear cult hiding out in the local skating park.


Our young hero hangs, one-handed above a drop on a high section of wall in Jusant. Up ahead the cliff has horizontal ridges set into it.
Jusant. | Image credit: Don't Nod

Video games from the Big Big Studios in 2023 have all the subtlety of a bulldozer ramming through abandoned concrete. That makes Jusant - the contemplative climbing game from the studio behind Life is Strange - a roaring blast of fresh air.

Jusant has you scale up a towering natural structure that literally stretches into the clouds and also happens to house the ruins of a past/passed civilisation. The central rocky pillar is an awesome sight, and every pull, swing, and jump up its sides gives way to tactile problem solving. But my favourite thing about Jusant is how it encouraged me to sit in the moment and appreciate what's been left behind. The rock crabs, empty huts, jagged terrain, and the silence.

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