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Giant Bomb Moderators' Top 10 Games of 2023

The site's moderators have Voltron'd themselves together once again to create a list of the ten best games of the year.

After a one-year hiatus, guest lists are back and so is the Giant Bomb Moderator team. We started using cold, hard math to determine the Game of the Year long before the staff did, so it's good to see them come to the correct side of history!

We currently have twelve members on the mod team. Two of our #1 picks didn't even make into the top ten. And two of us didn't play anything new this year. So, as I (Marino) started tabulating the results over the course of several days, our list was briefly, very, very odd. In the end, I feel like it's a mostly normal list, but it came down to the wire. Our first and second place games were only separated by a single point. Anyway, let's get to the list!

10. Marvel's Spider-Man 2

From @marino (#5)

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Let's just be real for a minute. Insomniac is PlayStation's best studio. Not only are they putting out games quicker than the rest, but they're all stellar. Think about it. Against all odds... they made Kraven the Hunter an actually fearsome villain. For real, though, from start to finish, this game is an incredible ride. Traversing the city is more fun than ever thanks to the wing gliders. All of the collectible side quests have an interesting ending; many of which clearly have implications for future DLC or games. And I still love how Peter has a pre-existing history with many of the characters like Sandman and Mysterio. It makes the world feel more lived-in and real when they don't have to pretend like every interaction is the first time ever. I can't wait to see what Insomniac brings us in the future.

From @rmanthorp (#9)

More Marvel's Spider-Man.

9. Super Mario Bros. Wonder

From @rmanthorp (#5)

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Played it all co-op and with a massive smile on my face.

From @marino (#7)

I haven't finished Super Mario Bros. Wonder myself, but I spent an entire weekend playing it with my niece and nephews (5, 8, and 10). While the multiplayer mechanics can be frustrating at times (don't let the 5-year-old have the crown), we had a blast. The level-altering Wonder Flowers add an exciting element every 5-10 minutes, but I felt like the regular power-ups weren't all that great. When given the option, I usually just stuck with a Fire Flower. I did like the addition of the badges, though, and the fun arguments they caused between levels. Now, if my younger nephew and I could just convince the older one to slow down and look for secrets, we'd be golden.

8. Resident Evil 4

From @zombiepie (#3)

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Once again, Capcom proves that what was once old can always be reborn into something new. With new characterization that breathes new life into Leon Kennedy, Ashley Graham, and even the goddamn Merchant; the world of Resident Evil 4 is both a trip down memory lane AND a unique experience with plenty of surprises and tricks up its sleeve. I was initially skeptical of the inclusion of new core mechanics like a crafting system or weapon durability, but having now played the game, I realize that these assisted the current team at Capcom in striking a better balance between action combat and survival horror; a balancing act that the original occasionally, but not always, fumbled. The new parry system also leads to fewer frustrating moments where you get pinned into corners and feel like you have no outs, a common issue I had with Resident Evil 4 and 5. From top to bottom, you can more freely enjoy the atmosphere and interspersed character moments without weird gameplay hiccups or interruptions. It also seems entirely unfair to lop in DLC to a game's GOTY case, but Resident Evil 4's Separate Ways DLC is as incredible as the base game as it boils all of its exhilarating highs into a single package but in a bite-sized chunk with none of the lulls.

From @chaser324 (#4)

Capcom continues to be firing on all cylinders with this excellent reimagining of one of the greatest games of all time. While I do have some minor quibbles with some parts of the combat, in general, I think most of the changes here to things like level layout and boss fights are very well done and serve to enhance the experience. This remake can never eclipse the original in terms of how essential or important it is to the overall video game canon, but I do think it can stand on its own merits as a strong modern reinterpretation of the classic.

7. Alan Wake II

From @sgtsphynx (#1)

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I did not come to the Alan Wake games until after I beat CONTROL, a game that is a GOAT for me. Prior to CONTROL, the only Remedy games I had played was Max Payne and Max Payne 2. After CONTROL, I went back and played the first Alan Wake game and then American Nightmare. While the first game had a slow start, the setting and story did grab me. Hell, I even went and played Quantum Break, a great game. RIP Lance Reddick. All that is to say, I was really excited when Alan Wake 2 was announced.

I don't know if I can adequately describe the joy I felt playing the game. Every callback and easter egg brought a massive smile to my face. I don't think there is a single character that I felt wasn't fully realized. I suppose I should have seen it coming, but the ending caught me off guard. I cannot wait for the next game.

From @chaser324 (#6)

Control felt like a real turning point for Remedy where they really began to master their particular brand of narrative. While the first Alan Wake was good, it never really tipped over the edge for me into something great. However, in this post-Control era where Remedy has really hit its stride, Alan Wake II manages to hit a lot harder. This is genuinely one of the best looking games that I've ever played, from both a technical perspective and in terms of the aesthetic design, and the story and the way it's delivered feels unlike anything else I've played. That said, the part where you have to point your flashlight and shoot guns still doesn't feel that great to me, maybe better than the first Alan Wake but not as good as Control. It's also a little unfortunate that the PC version is locked up in Epic Games Store jail, but I can't hold that against Remedy - this was definitely an expensive game to make and you gotta do what you gotta do.

6. Pikmin 4

From @mento (#1)

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It's been said before in Grubbier parts of the internet but the loop of Pikmin 4—raising your eminently edible Pikmin, dragging all kinds of crap back to your ship until the sun goes down, checking in with your crew, pupgrading Oatchi, and getting back out there into the wild world of goggle-eyed dangers—is nothing short of sublime, and the game from its picturesque presentation down to its deeper strategic waters is powered by the same can-do charm that made previous Pikmins so endearing. I could point to the pooch-enriched enhancements to exploration or the paradigm-shifting new modes (that I'm honestly less warm about—tower defense? Really?) but the appeal of this series remains the satisfaction of having your team of underdogs triumphing over (often literally) crushing adversity: sometimes, life gives you lemons, and all you need is for ten or maybe twelve little guys to carry them off and have some clueless alien scientist dub them Audacious Zest Ellipsoids.

From @riostarwind (#1)

Pikmin 4 brings together mechanics and a fun world to explore. Adding in the best doggo Oatchi gave me ways to attack and protect Pikmin in an engaging way. While the many challenges and dungeons kept me captivated to collect all the things. Turning this into a game I didn't want to put down. Which is why it's my game of the year.

5. Sea of Stars

From @thatpinguino (#1)

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Sea of Stars is one of the latest attempts to recreate the magic of SNES era RPGs. It draws inspiration liberally from Super Mario RPG and Chrono Trigger. You can almost see the formula for Sea of Stars: a few team-up attacks here, a little timed attack bonuses there, and some Kickstarter staples (hello fishing minigame!). However, unlike so many of the games that have tried to carry on the legacy of those SNES gems, Sea of Stars actually manages to exceed the originals in some ways. The tweaks that the developers of Sea of Stars made to traditional turn-based combat manages to keep the game fresh for much of its 20-30 hour run time. The soundtrack is thick with bops, including a few from Chrono series veteran Yasunoru Mitsuda. And the story manages to deliver some very cool twists and turns without abandoning the familiar tropes that have defined the JRPG genre. If you would have told me that one of the best JRPG-style games of the last few years would come from the developers of The Messenger, I wouldn’t have believed you. Yet, here we are.

From @sgtsphynx (#2)

A throw back RPG with enjoyable character and a touching plot. Full disclosure, I did back this game and there is a statue of me in the crypt. With that out of the way, the characters are what mainly caught my attention. While I usually bounce between several games while playing before completing any, this game got me to focus on it and play it through to completion to get the true ending.

4. Paranormasight: The Seven Mysteries of Honjo

From @zombiepie (#1)

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Paranormasight appears to be nothing more than another exhibition of the visual novel medium honed to its most potent form, with memories of The House in Fata Morgana still fresh. However, Paranormasight knows the importance of making a solid first impression, especially with biases against the visual novel medium usually apt to suggest a lack of interactivity as an impediment to making truly memorable experiences. The VHS-like graphical filter is complimented by cinematic transitional scenes and wide-frame camera angles that make exploring environments incredibly dynamic, lending to the sense of uncovering and interacting with a grim mystery. On top of that, the game features possibly the most potent opening act in any game to grace 2023, with you falling deeper into a sordid adventure of magic, murder, and Japanese folk tales. Discovering what character deaths and mishaps it is willing to turn the odds in your favor is a puzzle that captivates you at every conceivable turn. Some parts of the story are variable, and others are very much not, but you need to find out what major events fall into each category. Does the game possibly "peak" during this opening act? Maybe, but the game forcing you to live with the consequences of your actions during its opening hours is part of what makes it so incredibly special.

From @mento (#2)

Paranormasight fell into my lap because I tend to go on regular visual novel kicks, such is my anime-addled mind, and I've found that the VNs I care the most about are those that can utilize the medium best by spinning yarns that can't be as effectively told any other way. In many cases, that involves narratives that mess around with causality loops and alternative timelines; taking the standard feature of a flowchart of event"nodes" that allows the player to view other story branches and exploiting the heck out of it, using information your characters shouldn't yet have to carve out your own path to a satisfying conclusion. Paranormasight's story can be reductively boiled down to "what if Death Note had a battle royale mode?", but beyond its'80s CRT/VHS vignetting (ooOOooh, outmoded tech), resourceful puzzle-solving, and a suspenseful"ghost problems more" potboiler narrative, what appealed to me the most was how it wasn't afraid to get deeply strange and meta with its approach. I certainly wouldn't be against Square Enix taking on more odd little projects like this in the future. That is, as long as they're "inventive" odd and not "mom's dead parkour" odd.

3. Hi-Fi Rush

From @rmanthorp (#2)

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An incredible surprise and a complete joy to play.

From @chaser324 (#3)

I know the writing didn't appeal to everyone, but Sunset Overdrive was really a standout game to me in the early Xbox One days, and returning to it later after its PC release, I still find it to be an excellent open-world experience. Nothing since then has really managed to capture the same bright optimistic hyper-punk vibe in the same way for me, until the surprise release of Hi-Fi Rush earlier this year. While aesthetically similar though, Hi-Fi Rush's rhythm-game infused action combat is something entirely unique, and I have to really credit Tango Gameworks for making a lot of smart decisions with the rhythm mechanics that help keep them fun rather than frustrating. And while the licensed soundtrack does feel like a random stack of CDs pulled from the trunk of a 2002 Honda Civic, it works surprisingly well, especially in the excellent final level - easily one of the best sequences in any game this year.

From @sgtsphynx (#3)

What a surprise this game was, shadow dropped out of nowhere from a developer known for survival horror games. Characters were fun and the soundtrack was great. And while I do play bass guitar, this game showed that I am not great with rhythm games.

2. Baldur's Gate 3

From @chaser324 (#1)

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Larian Studios is one several developers that have been leading the revitalization of the CRPG genre, alongside the likes of Owlcat's Pathfinder games, Obsidian's Pillars of Eternity, Shadowrun Returns from Harebrained Schemes, and many more. Baldur's Gate 3 feels like the ultimate culmination of this resurgence. Unlike Mass Effect and Dragon Age before it that came to eschew the deep lore and character building in favor of big budget spectacle, BG3 chooses to embrace the RPG minutiae while still applying a thick layer of high production values to help it grab the attention of a bigger crowd. Larian Studios has also really matured over the course of their two Divinity: Original Sin games to a point where they're now very capable of writing captivating characters and dialogue, and more than anything, it is that excellent writing that carries the experience and makes it difficult to resist replaying the game even after already spending 100+ hours on a single playthrough.

From @marino (#2)

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Every once in a while, a game hits me like an RKO outta nowhere. Deus Ex Human Revolution did it in 2011. Control did it 2019. Games and/or franchises that I've had no previous experience or even interest in suddenly become one of my favorite games of the year. The only Baldur's Gate game I've played before this was Dark Alliance and I have zero interest in playing tabletop D&D. But, I am neck-deep invested in Baldur's Gate 3 in a way that has only happened with one other game this year. This thing is dangerous. Like, "where did the last 5 hours go" dangerous. The rabbit holes you can go down often have OTHER RABBIT HOLES IN THEM. The density of things in this world and the way quests interact with each other hasn't been this good since The Witcher 3.

From @zombiepie (#4)

I had a rough go with Baldur's Gate 3 when I first had a crack at it. As someone who played it at launch, the game's third act was a complete and utter mess, with my characters occasionally spawning at my campsite nude or in their underwear, regardless of whether they were in inclement weather. I oscillate on how it railroads you into a few viable choices during its conclusion when, previously, it felt much more open to the player's interpretation. I also don't know how many more of these 50+ hour CRPG ensemble cast epics where every character has a personal trauma that needs uncovering through hours of brown-nosing I have in me anymore. Nonetheless, what Baldur's Gate 3 gets right, it gets incredibly right. There is no D&D-like out there with its production values, sense of scale, and narrative ambition. The characters you meet and even add to your party feel entirely genuine and the ways you can react to their traumas and backstories is a wild rollercoaster at times. It also does a masterful job of blending complex D&D into a game that still feels accessible to those with an introductory level of understanding with traditional CRPGs and table-top roleplaying games. It's an incredible intermediate step into a treasure trove of classic titles, and seeing Larian work in their lane but with a budget has sometimes warmed my heart. The sickos that started by making Divine Divinity and Ego Draconis have come a long way. Also, fuck Astarion. I backstabbed that asshole the minute I had a chance, and I don't regret it for a minute.

1. The Legend of Zelda: Tears of the Kingdom

From @marino (#1)

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Where do I even start with this game? They took one of my favorite games of all time and made it better in virtually every possible way. The story is better. The tools are better. The big temples are better. The boss fights are better. The shrines are better and more varied. The companions are better implemented. The villain is better. The crafting is better. The inventory/UI is better. You get the idea.

While I didn't personally get super creative by building tanks and helicopters, I still had a blast with fusing random things just to see what would happen. A rocket boomerang? What could go wrong? When you make something that doesn't work, it's often just as fun as when it does work.

On a personal level, I loved talking to my nephews about it as they made their way through the game at the same time. They played Breath of the Wild about a year after release and had already watched a billion videos about it on YouTube, so this was the first time they were adventuring on their own with no prior knowledge. That was fun to be a part of.

In a year full of amazing games, Tears of the Kingdom is the only one that had me truly obsessed. It's the kind of game you think about all day, coming up with things to try when you finally have time to turn on your Switch. After 152 shrines, 120 light roots, 45 battery upgrades, and...a bunch of koroks, I wish there were more.

From @rmanthorp (#1)

I can't think about this game for too long without getting emotional.

From @chaser324 (#2)

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The depth of creativity coming out of Nintendo continues to be staggering. After Breath of the Wild being such a fresh new take on the franchise, it's incredible that they've managed to make Tears of the Kingdom feel like yet another reinvention of what it means to be a Zelda game. The pre-release concerns of this being just an expansion pack reusing the same terrain couldn't be farther from the truth.

While I do think there is still juice to be squeezed from the classic "Get Weapon, Beat Dungeon, Repeat" cycle of the older games, there's no denying how refreshingly modern the new open world approach is. Nintendo looked at everything Ubisoft has been doing for the past 15 years, threw it in the bin, and said, "No, this is how you make an open world game." And once again, just like with Breath of the Wild, they continue to be proven right. There's just no other open world that pulls you in and begs to be explored like this. At any given time, there are at least half a dozen things in your field of view that you want to go investigate. The game is constantly pulling you along from one point of interest to the next, so there's no need for the chore of constantly checking a map for the next icon that most other games in this style couldn't function without.

Along with the impeccably designed open world, Ultrahand offers yet another layer of player freedom and creativity, and I'm just constantly in awe of the fact that this game isn't just constantly breaking because it feels like it absolutely should be. Delivering such an incredibly polished and novel experience like this is all the evidence you need of why Nintendo has so much staying power in this industry.

Individual Lists

If you'd like to see what each moderator put in their own personal list, here they are.

And here's a look at how we compiled the data.

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  • A total of 62 different things got votes.
  • 3 games got multiple first place votes.
  • 3 things got ONLY a first place votes.
  • 6 of us voted for Zelda and BG3.
  • The lowest games with multiple votes was Humanity and Little Goody Two Shoes with 6 points.
  • chaser324 got 7 games into the Top 10. He also had the most in 2021 with 6.