Which Games Defined 2023?

2023 has been a big year for gaming, as I’m sure you’ve heard a thousand times by now. It’s easy though when we look back to see 2023 as one giant entity, not as a series of games that eventually built into something mighty. As 2023 draws to a close, we look back on the year to see which 12 games defined the last 12 months.



These aren’t the best 12 games of the year (check out our GOTY list for the top ten), nor the best in each month. Instead, they’re the 12 games that best define each of the past 12 months.


In-game still of Frey practising spells

January is usually a quiet time for game releases, coming down from the Christmas rush and before titles are rushed out to beat the first financial quarter. It’s often a sign of a publisher’s lack of faith in a game, hoping that the limited competition can help a title that might have otherwise floundered. In many ways, that made Forspoken a textbook January release, but the plan backfired. Forspoken was bad-to-okay, sure, but it probably received a harsher spotlight due to there being nothing else to talk about at the time.


Ancient Robot Perched On a Cliff With Tentacle Outstretched in Horizon Call of the Mountain.

February isn’t too different to January in this sense, although towards the latter stages we’re out of that ‘bumped from last year’ territory and into the first real fresh meat. Some of the more experimental games that aren’t aiming for summer or Christmas, but still expect to make a splash, often see February as good ground to land in, and that’s what the PS VR2 plumbed for, with Horizon: Call of the Mountain its big launch title. Unfortunately the price tag meant it was met with a bumpy landing. A wizard game was also released in February.

Hi-Fi Rush feels like a classic February game, and I even thought it was a February game, but it actually released in the back end of January. Time flies when you’re gaming.


Resident Evil 4 Remake - Ada Wong holding a key

March is where things get a little more serious, although Final Fantasy 7 Rebirth and Yakuza: Infinite Wealth will both have arrived before March ’24 kicks off. It’s when we’re finally used to living in whatever year it is, and when talk turns once more to Game of the Year. Resident Evil 4 Remake, which went on to be nominated for Game of the Year at The Game Awards (as well as placing fourth in our list, a far more prestigious achievement) typifies the early March frontrunner.


A race kart speeding toward a big burst of the Fire ability.

April was a month of disappointments. Minecraft Legends, Afterimage, The Last Case of Benedict Fox, Cassette Beasts, and The Mageseeker all failed to live up to their potential sleeper hit billing, while even the month’s biggest hit, Star Wars Jedi: Survivor, was buggy on launch and fizzled in the end of year awards. If we look at April on the whole, it’s a bit of a letdown, and that’s why it has to go to Disney Speedstorm.


Tears Of The Kingdom flying device situated on a sky island near Valor Island

In some ways, May was a continuation of April, with Redfall and Gollum both arriving with a splat. However, there is a clear stand-out for the definitive game of May – Tears of the Kingdom. Looking back, 2023 might have had some good games early on, but it didn’t truly enter the ‘best year ever’ conversations until Zelda arrived. After that, the hits just kept on coming.


Street Fighter 6, Juri Guide, Juri being super sadistic during her level 3 super

June might be best defined by divisive sequels. Diablo 4 garnered a new wave of fans for its greater focus on narrative direction, but squandered its base with its rocky endgame and seasonal updates. Then there was Final Fantasy 16, which many will tell you is nothing like a Final Fantasy game, and many others will tell you is the best Final Fantasy game ever to exist. But in this year of surprise smash hits, June belonged to Street Fighter 6, which took the series from the wilderness of 5 to the top of the fighting game tree once again, appeasing its hardcore followers while taking newcomers along for the ride too.


Mika from Pikmin 4

July was a month that kept things ticking over. Zelda and June’s releases left us all with quite the backlog, and so July offered a breather before August (and every month after) solidified 2023 as an all-timer. With the likes of Disney Illusion Island and Viewfinder, it was a month to take stock of the year while squeezing in some less intense offerings. For that reason, it is a Pikmin 4 of a month through and through.


Baldur's Gate 3 Karlach in her original armor

Much like May was Zelda’s, August opened up with Baldur’s Gate 3, and from there the year never looked back. Armored Core 6, Sea of Stars, and Videoverse all underlined that 2023 was bangers all the way down, but Baldur’s Gate 3 is the game that best represents 2023 as a whole, and easily the standout in its own month.


Close up of an astronaut from Starfield with a spaceship flying in the background

Baldur’s Gate 3 had such a long tail that really, it’s also the definitive game of September, especially as the PS5 launch brought a new section of fans with it. However, Starfield defines September even as a handful of other great games (Cocoon, My Time at Sandrock, Lies of P) launched just because it is impossible to talk about 2023 without mentioning the game that was probably the biggest loser of the calendar. 2023 is being talked about as the best year ever, and rarely is Starfield mentioned – and it’s no Xbox Tax, because Hi-Fi Rush is part of 2023’s greatness. Starfield was kicked out of paradise in September, drifting aimlessly through space.


Alan Wake dancing for the Herald of Darkness music video.

October saw Spider-Man 2 and Super Mario Bros. Wonder go head to head on the same release date, as 2023 continued to underline its strength in depth. However, when it comes to the game of the spooky season, it has to be Alan Wake 2. The fact it managed to reach such a broad audience while staying very true to its unique vision is another signifier of just why 2023 has been such a mammoth year for gaming.


The cast of Super Mario RPG surrounds the titular character

November can be a big month, but when three GOTY contenders hit at the end of October, you might expect a quieter time. Not so in 2023. While some, like Persona 5 Tactica and Like A Dragon Gaiden, went under the radar, remakes stole the show. Star Ocean The Second Story R and Jurassic Park Classic Games Collection both made a late dart for 2023’s hall of fame, but the pick of the bunch was undoubtedly Super Mario RPG.


Avatar: Frontiers Of Pandora - Na'Vi Sky Warriors Assaulting An RDA Gunship

December is like a practice January. While we occasionally get a December game that arrives after being delayed out of October and November to make sure it doesn’t arrive broken (a plan that failed with Cyberpunk 2077), mostly it’s for games where the publisher lacks some belief. The Game Awards eligibility is closed, the GOTY lists are picked, the Christmas money is spent. It’s January without the safety net of lack of competition. It’s a burial ground. And this year’s biggest victim, deserved or not, is Avatar: Frontiers of Pandora.


TheGamer Staff’s Most Anticipated RPGs Of 2024

We can’t wait to sink our time into these RPGs!

Leave a Comment