Baldur’s Gate 3, Lego Fortnite, and 7 other games that defined 2023

A screenshot from Spider-Man 2 showing protagonists Peter Parker and Miles Morales sitting on a balcony. They're both wearing their figure-hugging Spidey Suit costumes, but neither is wearing a mask. Peter's suit is mostly red, with thin black lines suggesting a spider's web. It also has blue panels on the biceps, triceps and flanks of his torso. A large, white, spider decal is printed on his chest, its legs extending to the edges of the suit. Peter is white, with fairly short, neatly cropped hair. Mile's suit has a similar design but is mainly black, with red panelling, web lines and spider decal. He's a young black man with short, afro-style hair style in locs. Both look out over New York contemplatively.
Image caption,Spider-Man 2 lets you play as two different versions of Spider-Man, Peter Parker and Miles Morales

By Tom Richardson & Tom Gerken

BBC News

Gamers have been spoiled for choice in 2023.

The past 12 months have produced so many hits you’d have struggled to complete half of them, let alone all of them.

That did not necessarily mean a good year across the whole industry: thousands of staff in hundreds of companies lost their jobs, and we also witnessed the permanent end of E3, the massive conference that was once the biggest event in the gaming calendar.

In such an eventful year it is easy to lose track – so here are some of the biggest games of 2023.

Baldur’s Gate 3

A man with white hair, pointed ears and unusually pale skin puts his hand to his chin, apparently deep in thought. He wears a high-necked, elaborate green jacket, with golden patterning on the shoulders. The Medieval garment has deep purple sleeves. He's in what appears to be a forested area. It's night-time, and two flaming torches attached to rocks in the background illuminate the scene

This role-playing game stunned players and critics with its depth – many players easily racked up 100-plus hours in the Forgotten Realms, the Dungeons & Dragons-based setting for the game.

The level of detail, vast customisation options, and flexible story impressed critics most: Belgian developer Larian made it possible to experience a completely different set of characters and choices each time you play.

  • Read more: What was it like to act in Baldur’s Gate 3?

Few were surprised when, in December, it picked up Game of the Year at the gaming industry’s biggest awards ceremony – but it wasn’t an outcome many would have foreseen at the start of the year.

“Baldur’s Gate 3 was an unexpected success that took the world by storm,” said gaming journalist Helen Ashcroft.

“There’s a strong narrative, choices that matter, a beautiful open world, an incredible score and voice acting, interesting and varied quests, and so many different ways to play and story threads to explore.”

The Legend of Zelda: Tears of the Kingdom

Link, on his horse, pulls a carriage full of villagers along a dirt path. A green glow emanates from the carriage's wheels - showing the player that they have been attached by using the game's new Ultrahand ability
Image caption,The introduction of a crafting mechanic to Zelda proved a big hit

When the rest of the world said that Nintendo’s handheld console, the Switch, was too old to impress, the Japanese company said: “Just watch this.”

Tears of the Kingdom is a direct sequel to Breath of the Wild, which is considered one of the best games of all time. This new game took the original’s vast open world and added the ability – called ultrahand – to craft contraptions by fusing together pretty much anything you can find.

That sort of freedom usually terrifies developers because it creates so much room for things to go wrong. But it worked, despite the ageing Switch hardware.

“Ultrahand is one of the best additions to the series and the things we can make with it are hilarious and useful,” says Scottish Twitch streamer Argick.

“There’s so much to do in the game and you can do it in pretty much any order you want without the game trying to push you elsewhere – I’ve still got to explore the rest of the depths.”

Alan Wake 2

A computer-generated image of a forest made up of gnarled trees, shed of their leaves, and bathed in a menacing red light. A translucent image of Alan Wake, a bearded man with chin-length, straggly hair and wearing a grey suit, is imposed over the top. In the lower part of the image a female wearing a blue jacket with FBI written on the back in yellow letters, looks over her shoulder as she cautiously enters the scene

Just when we thought triple-A games were becoming safe and stale, along comes Alan Wake 2.

It is a bit like Finnish studio Remedy’s previous leftfield works, but with an extra layer of weirdness splodged on top.

The supernatural horror narrative, told through the eyes of two main characters, made a lasting impression. The sumptuous presentation, mix of gameplay and live action, and wider themes made it feel like one of a kind.

  • Read more: How one of gaming’s lost sequels finally got made

And one memorable musical sequence – featuring the fictional band Old Gods of Asgard – became one of the most-talked about gaming moments of the year.

“That is one of the best set pieces of 2023 for me,” said Argick. “The song and the way it’s all intertwined in the game world.

“It just makes that entire moment something special.”

Spider-Man 2

An action shot from Spider-Man 2 of the superhero flying through the air, kicking an enemy to the ground. Spider-Man has articulated spider legs emerging from his back, and the enemy, wearing a light brown jacket with dark brown arms, has his arms up over his head as he falls to the ground.

Spider-Man 2 had a huge weight resting on its shoulders.

The current release slate for Sony – which makes the PlayStation 5 console – is thin and so it needed a win from Spider-Man 2, a game developed by PlayStation studio Insomniac.

Thankfully, it got it. This tightly crafted adventure landed exclusively on the PlayStation 5 to excellent reviews and became the fastest-selling PlayStation Studios game ever.

It was a cinematic, technical showcase. Plus, players enjoyed the diverse cast of characters and moving story, even if the gameplay wasn’t a huge departure from other Spider-Man games.

Some players griped about the relatively short playtime, but the developers insisted it was worth the price of entry.

Insomniac ended the year as the victim of a huge ransomware attack, but until then, most of the discussion about the studio was people praising its latest, greatest title.

Lego Fortnite

A lego character with a smiling, cocky expression stands between a bright pink Lego bear and yellow, humanoid banana - the three are modelled on player characters from Fortnite. They're in a brightly coloured field, and the scene stretches out behind them, featuring Lego sheep grazing on grass, and structures including a church, castle and log cabin are visible. There's lots of activity going on - we can see characters chopping down trees and milling around the village in the distance.

Fortnite, the last-player standing shooting game, has more than 400 million registered players, but its makers aren’t shy about wanting more.

That’s probably even more true after its maker, Epic Games, laid off 800 staff earlier this year.

One big bid to draw in new users was its high-profile collaboration with Lego for a new mode called Lego Fortnite. Twitch streamer Dando said the mode – which replaces Fortnite’s existing crafting materials with the famous bricks – was “amazing”.

“It brings in that element of crafting, building and gathering resources – it’s just one of those games you can turn on, switch off, and just be in another world.”

Lego Fortnite launched alongside Rocket Racing and Fortnite Festival – two other modes designed to attract more people.

Dando said: “Eventually you’ll just launch Fortnite and if you’re feeling a certain genre, you don’t need to leave the game.”

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