It’s been a truly incredible 12 months for gaming. You could even argue that 2023 deserves to rank alongside the likes of 2004 and 1998 as one of the strongest years for video games in history. This year has offered multiple memorable masterpieces in beloved franchises from The Legend of Zelda: Tears of the Kingdom to Baldur’s Gate 3 — and those are just the tip of the iceberg.
The Tom’s Guide staff has got together and through a fiercely contested round of voting, put together a list of our very favorite games of 2023. These are what we collectively consider the cream of the crop in a year that is sure to go down in the gaming history books. These picks cover games that are available across PS5, Nintendo Switch, Xbox Series X and PC, and if you missed any of them, now is the perfect time to circle back before the first new games of 2024 arrive.
Best action game
Marvel's Spider-Man 2
Talk about a super sequel. Insomniac’s follow-up builds upon the terrific foundations established in the original game and spin-off Marvel's Spider-Man Miles Morales, then hammers home the goods thanks to Spidey squirrel suits, an expanded NYC to explore and one of the best versions of the Venom/Symbiote storyline ever. Even though we rate this as the finest action game of the year, its plot is also the best we’ve seen told in 2023. It’s basically what Sam Raimi’s semi-disastrous Spider-Man 3 should have been.
Back on the action front, though, Marvel’s Spider-Man 2 is in a webbed world of its own. Swinging around Manhattan has never felt more empowering, combat sings once again and some of the setpieces on display give even Naughty Dog’s most exhilarating scenes a run for their money. The best PS5 game of the year… and it’s not all that close. — Dave Meikleham
Runners-up: The Legend of Zelda: Tears of the Kingdom, Lies of P
Baldur's Gate 3
Platforms: PC, PS5, Xbox Series X/S
Baldur’s Gate 3 is the best RPG of the year because of how gracefully it weaves compelling threads of narrative into a rich tapestry of high-flying adventure that’s a love letter to Dungeons & Dragons. You can try and untangle the various well-written plot threads however you please or just hack your way through them via the game’s engaging turn-based tactical combat system, with a motley crew of fully-voiced companions by your side.
Factor in the fact that you can create your own D&D character or pick a pre-made protagonist, then join your friends for some cooperative dungeon delving, and it’s easy to see why this is our favorite RPG of 2023. Developer Larian Studios spent years developing it in Early Access, and the final product is one of the best games of the year. — Alex Wawro
Runners-up: Cyberpunk 2077: Phantom Liberty, Final Fantasy XVI
Best racing/sports game
Forza Motorsport (2023)
Platforms: PC, Xbox Series X/S
A predictably classy driving sim from Turn 10 Studios, that in truth, had little competition this year. The Crew Motorfest is probably the sternest challenge Forza Motorsport has faced in 2023, and it still laps Ubisoft’s breezy sandbox racer with ease. Going back to traditional races without the constant open-world distractions of Forza Horizon 5 is refreshing, too.
This is a serious yet accessible racer that feels confident enough in its excellent driving model that it doesn’t feel the need to constantly reward you with unnecessary wads of XP every 30 seconds just to keep your dopamine levels up. And when it comes to being a technical showcase for Xbox Series X and a stellar poster child for console ray tracing, Forza Motorsport comfortably cruises to the top of the podium. — Dave Meikleham
Runners-up: F1 23, The Crew Motorfest
Best fighting game
Street Fighter 6
Platforms: PC, PS4, PS5, Xbox Series X/S
Street Fighter 6 takes everything we love about the classic fighting game and injects enough fresh elements to make it one of the most original entries yet. The biggest new addition is World Tour Mode, where you create your own street fighter and take them through a surprisingly engaging story mode. If you want the closest thing to a 3D Final Fight, World Tour mode is it. Of course, there’s the classic arcade, online, and practice modes for a traditional Street Fighter experience. You’ll get a robust character roster, each with distinctive moves and style. New characters like Kimberly, Manon and Marisa gell well with original world warriors like Ryu, Chun-LI and Guile. Street Fighter 6 is a true triumph and my favorite fighting game in years. — Tony Polanco
Runners-up: Mortal Kombat 1, Nickelodeon All-Star Brawl 2
Best strategy/simulation game
Persona 5: Tactica
Platforms: Nintendo Switch, PC, PS4, PS5, Xbox One, Xbox Series X/S
We should probably be getting a little sick of the Phantom Thieves at this point. After their own 100+ hour game (and its extended Royal edition) as well as multiple spin-offs, the cast of Persona 5 is very much a known quantity, but Persona 5 Tactica is a testament that sometimes you really can’t have too much of a good thing. Meshing the world of Persona with a tactical strategy game feels like a natural fit, and Persona 5 Tactica delivers an accessible experience that is ideally suited for newcomers to the genre. Persona 5’s trademark jazzy aesthetic is here in spades, with flashy attack animations and battle menus that ooze pure style. But, as is often the case with the Persona series, it’s the strength of the core cast that carries Persona 5 Tactica, and getting to spend another 30 hours with the Phantom Thieves is the real draw. — Rory Mellon
Runners-up: Cities Skyline 2, Pikmin 4
Metroid Prime: Remastered
Platforms: Nintendo Switch
A truly masterful… well, “remaster”. In fact, it could be argued this redux of Samus’ iconic GameCube adventure veers close to full-blown Resident Evil 4-style remake territory. Not only has every texture in the game been completely reworked, but controls have also been modernized to help the action feel more like a traditional first-person shooter. At heart, this is still a Metroidvania — a statement that’s beyond obvious, seeing as this series coined the phrase. But Samus’ battles against gangs of Space Pirates on Tallon IV are now far more responsive than they were on Nintendo’s little purple box back in 2002, which is why we’re classing Metroid Prime Remastered as the best shooter released this year. The fact it’s one of the best-looking games on Switch doesn’t hurt, either. — Dave Meikleham
Runners-up: RoboCop: Rogue City, Counter-Strike 2
Best family game
Super Mario Bros. Wonder
Platform: Nintendo Switch
This year Super Mario Bros. Wonder managed to do the impossible by breathing new life into Nintendo’s tried and true 2D Mario gameplay. All of the new animations, sound effects and upgraded visuals make the Flower Kingdom feel more alive while the talking flowers spread throughout each level add either a bit of comic relief or encouragement depending on the situation. The inclusion of local multiplayer and characters like Yoshi that don’t take damage make Super Mario Bros. Wonder the perfect game for families, while the new Dark Souls-inspired online multiplayer is a first for the series. Likewise, the new badge system changes how you play a 2D Mario game and the new power-ups are just as fun as the ones we’ve come to love over the years. — Anthony Spadafora
Runners-up: Pikmin 4, Tchia
Best VR game
Horizon: Call of the Mountain
Platform: PSVR 2
Horizon: Call of the Mountain pretty much had one job: To showcase the power and innovation of the PSVR 2 headset, and this PS5 exclusive achieved just that. The opening river ride sequences instantly immerse you in the picturesque but hostile world of Horizon, and within moments you’re escaping from robotic behemoths and scaling cliff faces using simple but enjoyable climbing mechanics. Call of the Moutain’s gameplay loop may be a little repetitive, and it’s not as open as some rival PSVR 2 games, but its blockbuster production values will thrill you from start to end. It’s almost one of the most graphically-impressive games on Sony’s second-generation VR headset. After two games spent adventuring with Aloy, stepping into the world of Horizon for ourselves was a genuine treat. — Rory Mellon
Runners-up: Assassin's Creed: Nexus, The Dark Pictures: Switchback
Best horror game
Alan Wake 2
Platforms: PC, PS5, Xbox Series X/S
Despite a year of incredible games, most especially witnessed in the horror section, Alan Wake 2 and its trip-fest of a horror survival experience remains in the spotlight. Its underlying premise steeped in layers upon layers of mystery juxtaposed with some of the most beautifully rendered levels (and yet still so horrifying sequences), help it stand out as the best horror game of the year. Returning after 13 long years away, players are welcomed back into the backward town of Bright Falls, wherein a series of grisly murders are taking place.
In the shoes of a new character, named Saga Anderson, players must solve a variety of puzzles and ward off shadowy creatures (yet again), all as the story unfolds with a backdrop that sees the titular Alan Wake scampering blindly through an otherworldly abyss called the Dark Place in a desperate escape attempt. For all its complexity, Alan Wake 2 remains as terrifying as ever and corrals some of the best video game writing since its predecessor. — Ryan Epps
Runners-up: Resident Evil 4, Dead Space
Marvel's Spider-Man 2
Marvel’s Spider-Man 2 packs one of the greatest spidey stories ever told, not just in the medium of video games but across movies, TV shows and comic books. That’s certainly high praise for Insomniac’s blockbuster sequel, but by crafting a story that includes elements from several of the wall-crawler’s greatest arcs, Spider-Man 2’s narrative excites and delights in spades.
The game gets great mileage out of Kraven the Hunter's arrival in New York on a quest for a worthy adversary, but it’s the fresh take on the iconic symbiote suit and Venom storylines that steal the show. And you can’t gloss over the inclusion of Miles Morales as a much-appreciated palate cleanser either. Marvel’s Spider-Man 2 ranks alongside Batman: Arkham City as the gold standard for superhero storytelling in video games and joins the ranks of the very best Spider-Man narratives ever spun. — Rory Mellon
Runners-up: Baldur's Gate 3, Alan Wake 2
Alan Wake 2
Platforms: PC, PS5, Xbox Series X/S
Remedy Entertainment has a long track record of pushing graphical limits, but with Alan Wake 2 the Finnish studio has crafted one of the most visually impressive games on current-gen console hardware. And on PC it’s among the most cutting-edge games to date, pushing ray tracing features forward in a way we’ve not seen since Cyberpunk: 2077.
Locations in the otherworldly Dark Place are the most visually striking, but the sinister beauty of this constantly shifting location is matched by the almost tangible realism of the town of Bright Falls and the surrounding Cauldron Lake. However, what’s even more impressive is that Alan Wake 2 doesn’t just look great in motion, it also experiments with its presentation by mixing in-engine cutscenes with live-action footage. This gives Alan Wake 2 a cinematic visual style that feels entirely on its own. In all aspects, Alan Wake 2 is a graphical stunner. — Rory Mellon
Runners-up: Forza Motorsport, Marvel's Spider-Man 2
Game of the year 2023
The Legend of Zelda: Tears of the Kingdom
Platform: Nintendo Switch
As a direct successor to the generation-defining Breath of the Wild, The Legend of Zelda: Tears of the Kingdom had a lot riding on it. To improve on what, arguably, was one of the best games of the last decade, Nintendo needed to go even bigger this time around. And they did. By adding the Depths and Sky Kingdom portions to the already-massive playable map from Breath of the Wild, Tears of the Kingdom encourages players to look high and low for Koroks, Shrines and the eponymous Tears that tell the compelling backstory of the founding of Hyrule.
In addition to the new storyline and sidequests, new powers like Ultrahand allow players to be more creative in their puzzle-solving, while Ascend and Autobuild remove any frustration we might’ve had with the new systems and locations the game introduces. That, in a nutshell, is why Tears of the Kingdom deserves to be Game of the Year: Nintendo didn’t just build a bigger Zelda game — it built the best Zelda game it possibly could with a control scheme, plotline and endlessly explorable map to match. — Nick Pino
Runners-up: Marvel's Spider-Man 2, Baldur's Gate 3
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Rory is an Entertainment Editor at Tom’s Guide based in the UK. He covers a wide range of topics but with a particular focus on gaming and streaming. When he’s not reviewing the latest games, searching for hidden gems on Netflix, or writing hot takes on new gaming hardware, TV shows and movies, he can be found attending music festivals and getting far too emotionally invested in his favorite football team.