Art by Cole Williams

It says a lot about how good 2023 was for gaming that a game as excellent as The Legend of Zelda: Tears of the Kingdom (Nintendo Switch) has serious competition for the title of Game of the Year. Perhaps its biggest competition is Baldur’s Gate 3 (PC, PS5, mac0S, Xbox Series X|S). Taking the classic Dungeons and Dragons formula and wrapping it in a deep, branching story with memorable characters, Baldur’s Gate 3 is perfect for those wanting to get lost in a fantasy world alone or with friends. As for Zelda, if someone you know has a Switch and hasn’t played TotK, with its excellent combat and machine-building, it’s the perfect gift.

And even in its waning years, the Switch still delivered plenty of must-play games. After starring in one of the year’s biggest movies, Mario returned in Super Mario Wonder, bringing ever-changing gameplay to the series, making it a must-have for any fan of run-and-jump platformers. The Pikmin series also made a comeback. Pikmin 4 provided hours of fun for fans of raising armies of minuscule plant-people. Or, if someone you know wants something more strategic, there’s Fire Emblem Engage, with its grid-based map and permanent-death mechanics.

Nintendo even remade some old classics. There were wonderful remakes of Super Mario RPG, with its colorful old-school RPG gameplay, and Metroid Prime, with its mix of first-person shooting and exploring.


On the opposite end of Nintendo’s wealth of titles was Microsoft, whose Xbox series X and S got only a few exclusive games of note. Bethesda’s Starfield gave players a huge galaxy to explore, adding ship-building and space combat to the familiar exploring and shooting gameplay. Then there’s Forza Motorsports, which rebooted the series to focus on realistic racing and high-fidelity graphics.

But Nintendo wasn’t the only one revisiting the past. Capcom remade the best Resident Evil game, Resident Evil 4 (PS4, PS5, ioS, Xbox Series X|S), a guaranteed to sate action and horror fans alike. And speaking of horror, long-awaited sequel Alan Wake 2 (PS5, PC, Xbox Series X|S) returned to bring scares back with its horror-author protagonist.

The fighting fan in your life also has reason to celebrate. Street Fighter 6 (PS4, PS5, PC, Xbox Series X|S) delivers stylish and complex fighting, and Mortal Kombat 1 (PS5, PC, Switch, Xbox Series X|S) gives both a rebooted timeline and an interesting kameo-fighter mechanic.

It also says a lot about 2023 that a new numbered Final Fantasy game could come out and be considered overlooked. Final Fantasy XVI (PS5) gave the series an action-focused boost. On the other end of the fantasy spectrum was Hogwarts Legacy (PS4, PS5, PC, Switch, Xbox One, Xbox Series X|S), perfect for anyone who dreamed of attending the magical school.

And if the gamer in your life loves open worlds, they don’t come much more fun to traverse than by swinging around a virtual New York City in Marvel’s Spider-Man 2 (PS5), letting players swap between Peter Parker and Miles Morales. Or if your gamer prefers history and stealth, there’s Assassin’s Creed Mirage (PS4, PS5, PC, Xbox One, Series X|S), which brought the series back to its stealth roots in 9th-century Baghdad.

Your science-fiction loving gamer may prefer a lightsaber to a wrist-blade, though. For them, there’s Star Wars Jedi: Survivor (PS5, PC, Xbox Series X|S). Or they may prefer rooting through dungeons, in which case Diablo IV (PS4, PS5, PC, Xbox One, Xbox Series X|S) should work, with its endlessly replayable dungeons and multiple character classes.

Indie games more than helped make this year great as well. Dave the Diver (macOS, PC, Switch) took players by storm with its mix of deep-sea diving and sushi restaurant management, but if your player prefers scarier waters, the Lovecraftian horrors of Dredge (PS4, PS5, PC, Switch, Xbox One, Series X|S) might be more appropriate. Hi-Fi Rush (PC, Xbox Series X|S) proves a great gift for those who love flashy visuals mixed with rhythm-based combat. And for gamers yearning for the RPGs of yesteryear, Sea of Stars (PS4, PS5, PC, Switch, Xbox One, Series X|S) is sure to win the day.

There’s no doubt we left out a bunch, but with so many great titles to choose from, you probably can’t go wrong with whatever you select.

According to a certain blue monster, “C” is for “cookie,” and that’s good enough for him. For our Holidays Edition, “C” is for Cinema, Comedy, Community, and Concerts. Read more in Night & Day.