What a year in gaming it’s been, with players on PS5, Xbox, and more eating good across the board. While The Game Awards 2023 may have crowned its winners, there are plenty of other games that have dominated discussion throughout the year. The most Googled game of 2023 is a testament to this, though it’s most likely for the wrong reasons.
Many were quick to forget Hogwarts Legacy ever arrived after the months of pointed discourse surrounding J.K. Rowling’s ghoulish comments towards the trans community that led up to it. However, controversy sells, and 20 million copies later the game which was touted as the quintessential Potter experience has done very well for itself commercially, while also becoming the most Googled game of the year. With that said, it hasn’t quite made the cut for our best open world games list.
“While exploring the confines of the iconic castle, Hogwarts Legacy is a marvel,” Kyle writes in our Hogwarts Legacy review. “Outside of it, things are a little less straightforward. While there is some excellent world-building and combat here, Hogwarts Legacy is let down by a questionable narrative and some unnecessary open world baggage.”
Next up we have The Last of Us. While we don’t think this had much to do with the excellent Part 1 remake – more on that in our The Last of Us Part 1 remake review – it definitely had a lot to do with the brilliant HBO TV adaptation that dropped at the height of Pedro Pascal being everyone’s DILF of the month (he still is to us). Joel and Ellie’s adventure on the silver screen is currently sitting on a very respectable 8.8 on IMDB, with our friends over at The Digital Fix scoring it a 4/5 in their The Last of Us TV Series review.
Next up we have Connections, which is the next big NYT Games hit after Wordle’s time in the sun finally ended. The word association game requires you to group seemingly random words based on shared categories, which makes for a perfect bit of light brain training to kick off your morning (or mid-afternoon if that’s when you function best.)
Following on we have Battlegrounds Mobile India, which is incredibly impressive considering it only covers a single region. PUBG Mobile has remained popular despite the declining interest in its non-mobile counterpart, and the fact that BGMI has accrued over 100 million downloads on the Google Play Store alone is a testament to that.
Starfield may have bombed at The Game Awards this year, but fans can at least take heart in knowing that it beat Baldur’s Gate 3 at something, securing the fifth spot on the list. As one of the best RPG games to have been released this year, the recent addition to the list of Xbox exclusives is still a very enjoyable experience. In our Starfield review Jamie calls it “an excellent RPG experience”, noting that “Bethesda has once again mastered the things it built its reputation on.”
Speaking of Baldur’s Gate 3, Larion’s masterpiece not only got the gong for game of the year at TGA 2023, but it’s also widely considered to be one of the best games of all time. In its Baldur’s Gate 3 review, PCGamesN says that its world is “beautiful, layered, and complex, and challenges you to attack it how you want.” Meanwhile, “the story is compelling, giving your decisions a weight rarely seen in games of this scope.”
Shifting away from the best PS5 games and best Xbox games we have Suika Game, aka. The Watermelon Game. Though it arrived in its native Japan back in 2021, it only reached western shores back in October to mass success. The simple physics-based puzzler has exploded in popularity after being featured on Twitch streams, and right now if you ask someone if they have games on their phone it’s probably this – it’s certainly our answer.
Heading towards the bottom of our list we’re venturing into the pits of Hell – or at least Sanctuary. That’s right, Diablo 4’s next, and we’re not surprised to see Blizzard’s latest addition to the long-running dungeon-crawler has had you Googling away. Not only is it incredibly expansive, but it’s also a bit of a banger.
When our friends at PCGamesN got a hold of it for their 10/10 Diablo 4 review they had nothing but praise for it, stating that it “embodies the essence of what makes Diablo so great, taking the best elements of its predecessors and sewing them together to create an ever-changing, ever-evolving chimera that we can’t wait to play for years to come.”
The penultimate entry in the list belongs to Atomic Heart – a case study for over-promising and under-delivering. While we hoped that Mundfish would deliver one of the best FPS games of the year, our 4/10 Atomic Heart review slates it for being “a poor imitation of other AAA games”, citing “terrible dialogue, clunky gameplay, and an unnecessary open world.” But at least it’s got a Mick Gordon OST, so swings and roundabouts.
Finishing off our list is one of the best survival games out there in Sons of the Forest. Endnight Games’ latest addition to The Forest series may only be in Early Access right now but it’s already making waves, meriting a 9/10 in PCGN’s Sons of the Forest review. Our sister site calls it “as twisted as its predecessor, with solid survival mechanics and gory gameplay” which makes it “essential for horror and survival fans alike.”
2023 has certainly been a mixed bag on the gaming trends front, which covers everything from indie Switch games to mobile esports titans, AAA bangers to AAA flops. Hogwarts Legacy may not have gotten a whiff of silverware at this year’s TGA, but it’s certainly won the participation prize in the year’s gaming discourse.