Splash Damage’s Game of the Year – 2023
December 21, 2023
As has become tradition, it’s time for the Splash Damage Game Of The Year list for 2023!
We’ve spent the last couple of weeks collecting this year’s entries and, boy, did they deliver! As well as the big-hitters you’d expect, there are some surprises in store.
Without further ado, let’s jump straight in…
Egas, Lead UI Programmer – Age of Wonders 4
This year was great for games; a bunch of really high-quality RPGs came out. I love the genre and, even though most might not agree, the game that impacted me the most this year was Age of Wonders 4. There’s something about creating your own races and pantheon of gods that really spoke to me.
Sarah, Community & Social Media Manager – Baldur’s Gate 3
I only vaguely followed Baldur’s Gate 3 throughout its Early Access period, but soon after its full PC launch, I realised that I had to play it when it launched on PS5 a month later.
I was instantly taken over and proceeded to put almost 100 hours into a single playthrough. Even then, I realise that I’ve barely scratched the surface of what the game has to offer and I can’t wait to get stuck into a Dark Urge run over the Christmas break.
It’s an absolute masterpiece of a game; Larian deserves every single one of the many, many awards being heaped on them.
Galen, Associate Audio Programmer – Beyond All Reason
I’m so glad that I found this gem during its massive popularity spike earlier in the year. RTS has always been one of my favourite genres, but few of them have managed to properly grip me. The sheer scale of BAR creates some incredible visual moments, making it my most memorable game this year!
It’s still technically in a pre-release state, but that doesn’t detract from how well-polished the core game is. It even introduces some features that I think should be the baseline across all RTS in the future. This all leads to a fantastic online experience with its loyal (and generally helpful) player base. This will be my go-to RTS for a while!
Phil, Senior Talent Partner – Chants of Senaar
This is a wonderfully charming and unique puzzle point-and-click game, inspired by the tower of Babel. The world’s inhabitants speak various ancient languages, and it’s up to you to decipher texts and conversations based on context clues. The satisfaction comes in floods as you learn what these glyphs mean and progress through the engaging narrative. It also looks like an absolute picture. A must-play for fans of Return of the Obra Dinn and Case of the Golden Idol!
Tom, Production Tester – Final Fantasy XIV
A complete return to form for single-player-focused Final Fantasy! The world-building is some of the best I have seen in the series, with a darker tone than usual. The cast and voice acting are phenomenal and, as always for Final Fantasy, the score utterly knocks it out of the park.
The epic kaiju-like set-piece boss battles were highlights and showcased what the Playstation 5 is capable of. However, this doesn’t take away from the equally fantastic combat that borrows from Devil May Cry’s book. By using the ‘eikons’, there’s great depth which encourages you to use your head and find the best combos for maximum damage. Bring on the DLC and I hope it gets its own sequel spin-off like X and XIII!
Mato, Senior UI Engineer & Spencer, Associate Video Editor – Hi-Fi Rush
Mato – My game of the year is Hi-Fi Rush: it’s a gem from start to finish and I was smiling the whole way through.
The way that everything is combined with the beat of the amazing soundtrack is fantastic. That’s the animations, the environment, the platforming and, most importantly, the hack-and-slash combat. I also love the visual style and characters in the game; I enjoyed the morning cartoon style and humour that reminded me of the first Ratchet & Clank games.
Spencer – Hi-Fi Rush might be a bit under-represented for lists like this, as it came out so early in the year. But the buzz about it is absolutely the real deal. It’s got charming and stylish visuals in both 3D and 2D, cute voice acting. Plus the gameplay loop is really enjoyable with great details that made even the non-combat moments fun. Plus, it featured a Fiona Apple track for one of its boss fights! Their taste is unparalleled!
Dominic, Lead Character Artist – Hogwarts Legacy
Hogwarts Legacy captured the ‘magic’ of exploring the Hogwarts grounds perfectly. I was looking through every corridor and every corner of the castle to unlock its secrets. The combat was fun as well, having a back-and-forth that was well-balanced between the early and later movies. For me, it was the standout game of the year. It was a unique story within beautifully crafted environments, and featuring characters that have depth and life to them.
Matt, Tech Artist – Jagged Alliance 3
There’s no other game that I fell in love with more this year than Jagged Alliance 3. It takes a high-difficulty approach to the tactics genre and mixes in RPG elements. The gameplay is fun and engaging and varies as you play through the game.
The game’s comedy/satire is great too, with references to basically every type of media out there. There are even some very unexpected references, like Courage the Cowardly Dog!
Kane, Associate Programmer, Jeffrey, Principal Technical Artist & Alex, QA Manager – The Legend of Zelda: Tears of the Kingdom
Kane – Nintendo perfected perfection with the sequel to Breath of the Wild. I’ve spent 200+ hours on the game so far, and I could easily spend another 200. With the addition of the Depths and the Sky Islands, it felt massive and there’s always something to do. The addition of the Zonai devices and new abilities made this game a true sandbox. As well as puzzles having multiple ways of solving them, they still kept that Zelda feeling.
Jeffrey – My AAA pick of this year takes the good stuff from BotW and improves on it. I always found BotW’s story quite lacking, and Ganon especially felt the least interesting he’s ever been. But, in TotK he’s Ganondorf again with all the evil you’d expect.
Alex – Even though it uses the same Hyrule as BotW, Tears of the Kingdom feels infinitely larger in scope. It massively expands the ‘Sky Islands’ concept from Skyward Sword. Plus there are countless caves to explore and a whole other world underneath. I regularly found myself exploring and forgetting about the main missions for hours. Then there is Ultrahand – a nod back to one of Nintendo’s toys from the 1960s that lets you go to town with your creativity. There was so much fun to be had and it saw the return of Ganondorf. I don’t know how Nintendo will top this one.
Giovane, Senior Audio Designer – Marvel’s Spider-Man 2
Spider-Man 2 builds upon the solid foundation of the first but introduces new mechanics and expands on existing ones. The traversal system is exhilarating; fast-travelling anywhere in the giant and vibrant New York City is very cool. The combat system offers more depth and variety with the introduction of symbiote powers and other skills. There are also some cool interactions like battling with Miles, and then Peter appearing “out of nowhere” to help. I also liked that the story delves deeper into the relationships between Peter, Miles, and the other characters around them. The introduction of Venom brings a compelling antagonist to the table – as well as a new way to play. The game’s visuals are absurdly stunning, and there’s endless replayability after completing the main story. I had a lot of fun with it! In fact, after completing everything on the map I still wanted more and had a feeling of “Oh no, what am I going to play now?”
Kat, Growth Manager – Starfield
Starfield was my bestie and my queen this year. It has its faults and a lot of things frustrated me, but that’s okay! It let me go bouncing around random planets and feel like a proper explorer!
Alex, Gameplay Engineer – Street Fighter 6
For me it’s Street Fighter 6! I’ve enjoyed it so much, I haven’t had time for the many other blockbuster titles this year. I love the mechanics and the art style, and I’m excited for the future of the game too. It’s not without its flaws, sure, but I can’t put it down.
Ciaran, IT Support Associate – Xenoblade Chronicles: Future Redeemed
My pick is Xenoblade Chronicles 3 DLC: Future Redeemed. This expansion is a fan-service-filled climax to the series. It pays homage to Tetsuya Takahashi’s previous works and paves the way for the series’ future. It continues on the series’ incredible immersive worlds, stunning music, and dense, emotional, and definitely-not confusing-story. Without spoiling anything: it was like Christmas for fans of the series.
New for 2023, we’ve also got a quickfire bonus round!
- Jonny, Director of Live Operations – Counter Strike 2
- Alan, Product Manager – Dredge
- Katherine, Level Designer – Payday 3
- Darren, Senior Level Designer & Mustafa, Senior Systems Programmer – Alan Wake 2
- Doug, Principal Infrastructure Engineer – World of Warcraft: Dragonflight (even if it did come out in 2022!)
- Megan, Lead UI Artist – Talos Principle 2
- Alessandro, UI Engineer – Super Mario Bros. Wonder, Resident Evil 4 Remake, Blasphemous 2 and Octopath Traveler 2
Those are our picks for the best games of 2023!
That’s all for 2023; we’ll see you in 2024!