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Shack Chat: What is your personal game of the year?

The year is quickly approaching its end, and that means it’s almost time for Shacknews to list its Game of the Year. Before we do that, though, we each sat down and wrote about our personal Game of the Year for 2023. Check out our picks below, then leave your own choice in the Chatty comments.

What is your Game of the Year for 2023?

Without further delay, here are our choices for Game of the Year 2023. Now, give us your picks in the Chatty comments below.

The Legend of Zelda: Tears of the Kingdom – Ozzie Mejia, Senior Editor

For as whimsical as I found Super Mario Bros. Wonder and as much of a rush as I got out of the action and story of Marvel’s Spider-Man 2, The Legend of Zelda: Tears of the Kingdom stood out as one of Nintendo’s most impressive titles. It’s a game that takes everything from Breath of the Wild and not only expands on it (to the point where the world almost feels too big) but also gives players a new way to experience it.

It can’t be stated enough what Ultrahand and Fuse do for this game and for this series. There are games that people pick up and play and that dominate the internet conversation for weeks at a time. We saw it last year with Elden Ring and we saw it in 2020 with Animal Crossing: New Horizons, just to name some examples. Tears of the Kingdom had that buzz and it earned it. Whether I was dominating bosses with a giant contraption or having it explode in my face as I fell down a sky island like Wile E. Coyote, I don’t think I experienced a better game this year and it might be one of my favorite Zelda games ever.

The Legend of Zelda: Tears of the Kingdom – TJ Denzer, King of the Lynels

There generally seems to be two types of people in the world of Tears of the Kingdom players: People who liked the Depths and those who didn’t. I didn’t just like the Depths. It was my favorite part of the game. In truth, I love the synergy of all three overarching layers of Tears of the Kingdom: The surface of Hyrule, the Sky Islands, and the Depths. But I absolutely loved the sheer challenge and exploratory spelunking nature of the depths (as an aside I love Spelunkey for a few of the same reasons).

The idea of this place that is shrouded in darkness and mystery and will slay you quickly if you don’t bring the right tools and stay on your toes was fascinating to me. I loved making discoveries down there and bringing back a wealth of weapons and treasure I could then use to power my adventures through the main quest. Because of my affinity for the Depths, I never felt under-armed (it is the best source of uncorrupted weapons and bomb flowers).

More than that, I loved the quests that took me to all three layers of Tears of the Kingdom. Solving a puzzle on the surface, rising to a new puzzle in the sky, and then diving straight into the Depths below was a blast, and I always felt in awe of the discoveries I found, the means I created to keep exploring deeper, and the treasures I brought back from down there. It truly made Tears of the Kingdom a game I was excited to go back and explore more and more throughout the year.

F-Zero 99 – Asif Khan, Shacknews CEO/EIC/EIEIO

F-Zero 99 is not just my favorite game to be released in 2023, it’s my favorite game. I still can’t really believe that it exists. I have had to play a lot of other games this year, but the one that I keep coming back to each day is F-Zero 99. It’s the definition of one more game: the game with a gameplay loop that is only a couple of minutes long but usually yields multi-hour play sessions. F-Zero 99 is my game of the year, and it’s existence proves that anything is possible.

Baldur’s Gate 3 – Bill Lavoy, Resident of Great Bear Island

My favorite game this year is Remnant 2, and it’s not particularly close. That being said, I think it’s important to be able to differentiate between your favorite and the best. It’s hard to argue against Baldur’s Gate 3 being the best game of the year given what Larian Studios was able to pull off. The fact that the game doesn’t fall apart 15 times every play session as it tries to adjust to your decisions and the quests branching all over the place is a miracle.

During our deliberations, every time we’d talk about Baldur’s Gate 3, someone who has sunk a great deal of time into that game would learn something they didn’t know. It’s hard to imagine that everything has been found, and I suspect we’ll be learning more about it over the next several years.

Baldur’s Gate 3 is mindblowing on so many different levels and there was no way I could pass it up as my Game of the Year for 2023.

Baldur’s Gate 3 – Sam Chandler, Paladin at Heart

Larian Studios bet on itself and won. Baldur’s Gate 3 has been a triumphant success, smashing expectations and appealing to a wider audience than what many likely believed was possible. I myself am astonished by how much I enjoyed BG3. I went in, completely unenthused about turn-based combat, and after an hour, I was hooked.

I was hooked not just because of the chess-like strategy required of me when facing down foes, but also because of the rich and interwoven narrative. I adore the story that Larian Studios has crafted within the Dungeons & Dragons universe. Each hour I advanced along the plot brought me new and exciting revelations as well as newfound emotional impact from my traveling companions.

To make the experience even better, I was able to play it entirely cooperatively with my wife. We deliberated over combat tactics, discussed and considered the outcomes of conversations, and worked together to reach a conclusion we both were happy to achieve.

Not many developers have managed to do what Larion Studios has done with Baldur’s Gate 3 this year. I played a ton of excellent titles in 2023, but BG3 stands tall as the best one.

Resident Evil 4 – Dennis White Jr., Community Manager

Baldur’s Gate 3 – Donovan Erskine, Has Illithid Powers

I put about twenty hours into Baldur’s Gate 3 when it launched in early access back in 2021. I thought it was fine. Never could I have imagined how astonishingly brilliant the final product would be. Larian Studios took audience feedback to heart in a way I never have, delivering one of the greatest gaming experiences I’ve had in recent years.

From a combat perspective, Baldur’s Gate 3 is everything I want from a turn-based RPG. There’s deep strategy in character building and party construction, with a wide range of enemies that pack their own surprises. It feels like there’s a million parts moving at once, and every round of combat felt like a puzzle to be unraveled, but there were always an infinite number of solutions.

Narratively, Baldur’s Gate 3 has revolutionized the concept of branching storylines. There are countless decisions, both direct and indirect, that strongly influence the trajectory of the story. Everything you do matters. Everything you say to people matters. Even the seemingly insignificant decisions manage to pay off 15 hours later. I’d argue it’s nigh impossible for two different people to have identical playthroughs from the opening to the credits.

Baldur’s Gate 3 is simply a triumph, and it’s hard to overstate what Larian Studios has achieved here. They’ve managed to adapt Dungeons & Dragons into a video game in a way that many have tried and failed. In what has to be the greatest year in gaming that I’ve witnessed, BG3 confidently stands atop the hill.

Legend of Zelda: Tears of the Kingdom – Steve Tyminski, I’m Stevetendo

What is my game of the year? There were so many great games that came out this year so this is going to be a difficult question to answer. The Super Mario RPG remake came out this year and that was something I never thought we would ever see because of the relationship between Nintendo and Square. Since they buried the hatchet, this improbable project could be made. Super Mario Bros. Wonder was another game that came out this year and it changed what we all expect from 2D platforming Super Mario games. New sounds, new music, and new power-ups are just a few of the new inclusions in this great game. There was a dungeon explorer RPG, Silent Hope, that I loved. Customize seven playable characters with different weapons, items, and skills. Then jump into the Abyss and fight monsters and complete different challenges.

That being said, my game of the year has to be the Legend of Zelda: Tears of the Kingdom. This game just checks all the right boxes for me. When the game first came out, my brother and I were playing our copies together and it was fun to see what we would do differently. For example, there is a shrine where you have a baseball bat like machine and hit a ball into a target. It was fascinating to see how we both achieved the same goal by different means. Also, he found a secret and mentioned it to me, I had no idea what he was talking about. The massive world of Hyrule is so big that even if you think you found everything, you didn’t’. Breath of the Wild was a great game but I feel like I had a better time playing through Tears of the Kingdom. One of my main issues with Breath of the Wild was the so called dungeons and Tears fixed that by giving you temples, caves, the sky, and the depths to explore. There were so many great games that came out in 2023 but the winner has to be the Legend of Zelda: Tears of the Kingdom!

Those are our picks for Game of the Year 2023. One last time, don’t forget to let us know your pick in the Chatty comments below.

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