2023 has been an incredible year for video games, with many publications declaring it one of the best ever in terms of game quality and innovation . Major anticipated titles like The Legend of Zelda: Tears of the Kingdom, Starfield, Hogwarts Legacy and God of War Ragnarök lived up to expectations and more. The indie scene also flourished, with games like Cult of the Lamb, Neon White and IMMORTALITY receiving critical acclaim.
However, it wasn’t all smooth sailing for the industry. The economic landscape remained challenging, with some analysts predicting decreased consumer spending on gaming during a recession . Several high profile studios also faced difficulties, such as Haven Studios losing funding for its debut game. Labor organizing efforts continued across major publishers like Activision Blizzard and Ubisoft.
Overall though, players enjoyed an embarrassment of gaming riches this year. 2023 broke down cultural barriers, gave visibility to underrepresented communities in gaming, and seems poised to ignite further creative growth in 2024 .
FromSoftware’s massive dark fantasy action RPG first released in early 2022, but continued making waves throughout 2023. As more players overcame the infamously challenging gameplay, Elden Ring’s critical and commercial success cemented FromSoft’s legacy. It swept awards season, winning Game of the Year at both the Game Awards and DICE Awards. An expansive DLC called Shadow of the Erdtree also launched to praise in 2023.
God of War Ragnarök
Sony Santa Monica’s sequel built on 2018’s God of War reboot, delivering an emotional father-son story steeped in Norse mythology. Ragnarök met universal acclaim for refining the reboot’s gameplay and providing a dramatic, epic closing chapter to Kratos’ saga. Lead actor Christopher Judge’s powerhouse performance as Kratos also turned heads, making this a leading contender for 2023’s Game of the Year.
God of War Ragnarök delivers a fitting close to Kratos’ saga. Image Source
Despite some controversy, Hogwarts Legacy made a massive splash as one of the most anticipated 2023 titles. This sprawling Harry Potter RPG delivered on letting players experience life as a Hogwarts student like never before. From casting spells to befriending fantastic beasts, Hogwarts Legacy offered fans a new form of escapism to the Wizarding World.
Major Industry Events
Microsoft Continues Acquiring Major Publishers
After Microsoft acquired Activision Blizzard for $68.7 billion in early 2022, speculation continued over the tech giant’s future plans in the gaming space. In January 2023, Microsoft announced a $10.7 billion acquisition deal for Japanese publisher Square Enix, acquiring the Tomb Raider, Final Fantasy and Kingdom Hearts IP catalogs. Industry analysts expect more major publisher purchases in Microsoft’s bid to grow its Game Pass service.
Labor Organizing Spreads Across Publishers
The video game industry has long struggled with excessive crunch and challenging working conditions. But 2023 saw labor rights issues come to the forefront across the biggest publishers. Over 175 Activision Blizzard King employees staged a walkout demanding CEO Bobby Kotick resign over his handling of scandals. Hundreds of Ubisoft employees also signed an open letter condemning “management dysfunction” and threatened forming a union. These could be the start of more substantial changes regarding how game developers are treated.
Diablo IV Has triumphant Launch
Diablo IV had many fans skeptical if Blizzard could reclaim glory for the iconic ARPG franchise after the disastrous launch of Diablo Immortal for mobile. However, Diablo IV delivered on PC and consoles with a substantial amount of content, engaging gameplay refinements and support for cooperative play on day one. This long-gestating sequel helped regain goodwill for Blizzard Entertainment after several faltered releases.
Acclaimed Indies & AA Titles
While massive AAA productions understandably gather the most attention, smaller indie studios and midsize “AA games continue pushing creative boundaries. Unique, experimental titles found breakout success in 2023:
- IMMORTALITY: Created by just a two-person team, this FMV thriller took inspiration from cult horror classics while leveraging modern streaming technology. IMMORTALITY’s story leverages viral film clips and interactive videos to create an eerie investigative experience.
- Neon White: Angelic assassins competing for a chance at ascension to heaven made for a stylishly wild indie. Its slick movement parkour-platforming blended beautifully with card game mechanics.
- Stray: Who could resist controlling an adorable lost cybercity cat? Stray offered a purrfect low-stakes adventure with an aesthetic sure to charm fans.
- Cult of Lamb: Manage your own cult in this roguelike sim full of satanic horrors and quirky humor. Its addictive gameplay loops and charming style earned a rabid fanbase.
- As Far As The Eye: Explore abstract landscapes dotted with villages in this unique roguelike city builder. It strode confidently off the beaten path of most 4X strategy titles.
As Far As The Eye offered a novel take on 4X strategy. Image Source
Unique indies like these both invigorate gaming creativity and introduce more players to alternative genres outside mainstream AAA titles.
Roguelikes Continue to Thrive
The roguelike genre, known for procedurally generated levels and punishing difficulty that sends players back to the beginning after death, continued surging into the mainstream. Cult favorites like Hades and The Binding of Isaac have achieved widespread appeal. 2023 saw even more creative twists on the formula gain traction:
- Cult of the Lamb: This roguelike colony sim casts you as the leader of your own satanic cult. It blended adorable pixel art with bloody rituals and dungeon crawling.
- Neon White: Its slick movement-shooter gameplay reset after each level, but allowed equipping new ability cards in a roguelike deckbuilding fashion.
- As Far As The Eye: Even this indie city builder incorporated roguelike elements into its innovative strategy formula.
The bite-sized challenging runs and endless replayability of roguelikes seem primed to attract even more breakout hits going forward.
Video games continued taking inspiration from traditional tabletop game formats, whether competitive miniatures or immersive RPG adventures:
- Popular digital collectible card game Legends of Runeterra left beta and saw its first console ports.
- Marvel’s Midnight Suns offered a fresh tactical RPG take on playing with classic Marvel superheroes.
- Warhammer 40,000: Chaos Gate – Daemonhunters delivered merciless, turn-based strategy straight from the iconic miniatures source material.
These kinds of adaptations continue bringing niche hobby gaming to digital audiences. Their focus on strategic gameplay and player agency translates well to single-player stories.
Most Anticipated Upcoming Releases
The Legend of Zelda: Tears of the Kingdom
Link’s second Switch outing following 2017’s seminal Breath of the Wild saw 3 years of mounting hype fulfilled in May 2023. Tears of the Kingdom built beautifully on the series reinvention of the first open-air Zelda. A darker story, new traversal abilities and expanded sky islands brought the vast adventure to new heights. Look for it to rank among the most acclaimed Switch games when award season comes next.
Resident Evil 4 Remake
Fans waited with bated breath to see one of survival horror’s most beloved entries reimagined for modern hardware. So far, initial showings of Capcom’s Resident Evil 4 remake seem poised to satisfy that towering legacy. Its over-the-shoulder perspective and inventory management return with gorgeous new graphics. With the releases timed for late March, this could end up being 2024’s first Game of the Year frontrunner.
Final Fantasy XVI
The sixteenth mainline entry in Square Enix’s seminal JRPG series has been a long time coming after years of rumors and speculation. But the dark fantasy setting of Final Fantasy XVI’s world finally nears release in June 2023. Series producer Naoki Yoshida and his team promise an epic story focused on the bonds between five protagonists and their sentient Eikon guardians.
All in all, 2023 marked a banner year for gaming. Revolutionary indies pushed creative boundaries. Legacy AAA franchises stuck the landing on highly anticipated sequels. Cultural barriers broke down just a bit more as marginalized voices stepped further into the spotlight. And despite economic woes and industry shakeups, the passion of developers continues to manifest in memorable interactive artistry. Early signs point to 2024 building on this momentum for another vibrant year celebrating the vibrant medium of video games.
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