I truly believe that 2023 is among the best ever years for video game releases, if not the best ever! Following three years of near constant delays and buggy launches, even the very beginning of this year hit the ground running with big release after big release. It has often been difficult to keep up with all the games I wanted to play, and I’m very sure 2023 has been the year I have played the most new games released ever.

The lower entries in my top five have been getting constantly switched around or removed from the ranking entirely only to be re-added later upon another session with them. Firstly, an honourable mention to Horizon Burning Shores for making me like Horizon Forbidden West again; the game might have one of the weakest sequel hooks in history but I’m along for the ride!

Without further ado, let’s get into my final ranking of favourite games for 2023!

5) Dead Space Remake

You know how I just said games this year were getting constantly moved around from my ranking? Until November, Dead Space had spent months in the number three spot, but after piling more and more dozens of hours into later games it’s slid down to 5th. Make no mistake however, this is still a 10 / 10 game.

I said in my review posted at launch that I’ve never had such an amazing time being absolutely terrified, and I still fully stand by that. The atmosphere and sound design in the Dead Space remake are like nothing I’ve ever experienced before, and attempting to play this game wearing the Pulse 3D headset I bought since originally playing nearly made my heart explode from terror.

The gruesome combat is another reason I cherish the experience I had with this game, as the remake’s addition of the ‘Peeling system’ (which yes, is as gross as it sounds) empowered me to savagely kill everything that came close to me, provided it could be killed. Unabashed cowardice aside, this game is masterpiece of deep horror design that I emphatically recommend to any fans of the genre, and even to those who just want to spend a bit of time out of their comfort zone. You’ve got this! Maybe play with the lights on though..

4) Bus Simulator 21

I wish I could say I was joking, but this game actually wound up being my most played of the year according to my PlayStation Wrap Up. Why? Because somehow this janky, ugly, repetitive game managed to worm its way into my brain and keep me addicted to it for weeks through the summer. I would sometimes find myself daydreaming about new optimal routes I’d commit brain cells to remembering to implement later. After a long day at my real world job there was nothing I found more relaxing than settling in for an hour long route through cities, countryside and calm coastal beaches (appreciated from the road of course).

The best part of my 85 hours accumulated is that I didn’t really spend a penny for any of them, as Bus Simulator 21 is included in the Extra tier of PlayStation Plus, meaning I was free to abandon it guilt free at any moment. The Platinum grind was pretty egregious and took a tonne of grinding (driving the bus a lot), but unlock it I did, and continue playing regardless.

Despite the ’21’ at the end of its name, Bus Simulator 21 released on PlayStation 5 in May 2023, meaning I can include it in this ranking. If you look at this game and think it looks bland, you’re right, but somehow it got its hooks into me, and I don’t regret a single hour spent with it.

3) Assassin’s Creed: Mirage

I didn’t expect to get as hooked on Mirage as I did, but what can I say, I’m a sucker for a beautiful open world. I never finished Assassin’s Creed: Valhalla as the combat grew way too tiresome for me, with no end in sight despite 30 hours of gameplay. Mirage fixes this issue by being incredibly short by comparison, with a gorgeous and varied map to explore in the form of 9th century Baghdad.

I know that Ubisoft try to make the setting of their Assassin’s Creed games as close to reality as possible so this allowed me to while away hours roaming the streets picking every pocket I came across. I travelled the dunes and criss-crossed through the southern marshes hunting for treasure, and enjoyed spending time fully immersed in Mirage’s world.

I found myself liking the protagonist, Basim, significantly more than I did when he appeared in Valhalla, and while the story ending did lose me a little, I still thoroughly enjoyed my time with the game.

To anyone planning on starting Mirage, I will forewarn you that the game doesn’t actually get good until you reach Baghdad, so don’t be disheartened if your first hour or so proves underwhelming. I didn’t think I’d play much passed reaching Baghdad, but the quality climbs significantly as soon as you do, so don’t let the opening slog put you off.

2) Final Fantasy XVI

Within Final Fantasy XVI’s opening minute my jaw was hanging slack off my dumbfounded face through the scale and spectacle immediately on display. The first and last third of this game have secured it within one playthrough as my second favourite Final Fantasy of all time (there’s no beating XV), and I cannot wait to start a new playthrough of it.

I believed in my first dozen hours with the game that it would surely be my favourite game of the year, but annoyingly the middle third resorts to repetitive fetch quests and cutscene heavy sessions that are simply not acceptable. The fact this game is still second place after such a jam packed year for game releases is testament to how absolutely mind-blowing the combat is, a fact which is complemented by an incredible cast and one of my favourite video game protagonists of all time: Clive, superbly portrayed by charismatic stallion, Ben Starr.

Final Fantasy XVI is the first game I can name who actually delivers on the concept of making boss fights feel as spectacular as cutscenes, with the bar being raised again and again throughout its entire runtime. I say that with no exaggeration whatsoever.

Game of the Year 2023: Hogwarts Legacy

It didn’t take long playing Hogwarts Legacy back in February to know this game would be nearly impossible to topple from being my favourite of the year. Within an hour of playing I was sorted into my House, Slytherin, and felt like I was living my nine year old self’s fantasy. I still vividly recall the absolute thrill of being told I had magic lessons to attend like Charms and Defence Against the Dark Arts, but the true excitement from Hogwarts Legacy stemmed from being free and able to explore every nook and cranny of Hogwarts castle and the neighbouring hamlet of Hogsmeade.

The wand based combat is addictive and deeply satisfying, with the ability to flip an opponent into the air, set them on fire then send them spinning helplessly into their friends never ceasing to be amusing. Mounting a broom or a Thestral and flying through the picturesque landscape surrounding Hogwarts provided a relaxing break from combat, and when all else started to lose its lustre I could always return to the castle to wander around just looking at everything.

I can confidently name Hogwarts Legacy as my favourite game of 2023, and I’m going to start my second playthrough over the Christmas break, with many more to follow I’m sure!

Those are my choices for my favourite games of 2023. Let me know your game of the year in the comments, and thanks for reading. Happy Holidays!

Written and edited by Alexx.