As much fun as our less conventional awards are, we know what the people like: GOTY picks. Even though every outlet, personality, and houseplant is posting its winner(s) for 2023, it never hurts to add to the conversation. For us at Game Sandwich, rather than try and consolidate all our picks into a single winner, we’ve decided each choose our own game of 2023 — whichever title made the largest impact on us and why. We don’t believe any one game can really be considered the overall “Game of the Year” because every person, and every game, is different. Plus, this allows us to celebrate a wider range of titles than just highlighting one. That’s what Game Sandwich is all about, after all. We want to celebrate the entire industry from as many angles and perspectives as possible.
With that pretentious little ramble out of the way, let’s give our fond farewell to 2023 by running through each of the Game Sandwich staff’s picks for the game that had the biggest impact on us all year.
Our Games of the Year
Aden Carter: Lies of P
Lies of P brought back my love of Soulslike games after the hype of Elden Ring died down and I needed a new fix. With excellent level design, bosses that will test your patience and problem-solving, and a compelling take on the classic Pinocchio story, there is nothing to dislike about Lies of P. From the moment I stepped off the train and began exploring Krat, I knew that Lies of P would be a game that I would remember for years to come. Multiple playthroughs in and it is still as good as the first run.
John Hansen: Legend of Zelda: Tears of The Kingdom
Being a big Zelda fan, I was incredibly excited for Tears of the Kingdom. That said, I didn’t expect the game to take all of what I loved about Breath of the Wild and make that game feel like a prototype. The new building and fuse mechanics make it stand out from its predecessor by giving the player a near-limitless number of ways to approach combat and puzzles. I was a little let down by the (lack of) story, but the game’s freedom of adventure reached a whole new level that I didn’t think possible after Breath of the Wild. Tears of the Kingdom gets every little bit of wonder out of this version of Hyrule as possible and leaves me anxiously waiting for what comes next.
Mackenzie Hornick: Honkai: Star Rail
Even though I thoroughly enjoy Baldur’s Gate 3, and I think it’s well deserving of the many 2023 Game of the Year awards it has received, my personal choice would have to be Honkai: Star Rail. Released just three days after my birthday, this newest release from miHoYo ended up being my most-played game of 2023. It features a satisfying turn-based combat system, many humorous dialogue options (like, laugh-out-loud funny), and an assortment of beautifully designed, enjoyable characters. I was never a fan of Genshin Impact, so I admit to being more than a little skeptical about Honkai: Star Rail — but this game surprised me! I’m looking forward to exploring the new updates and story additions coming in 2024.
Mitch Hudson: Legend of Zelda: Tears of The Kingdom
If you had asked me in April of this year to list my top 3 Zelda games, I would have said: Twilight Princess, Breath of the Wild, and Majora’s Mask. I’ve been playing Zelda games since I was old enough to tie my own shoes, and my favorites tend to be the ones with weird mechanics and darker storylines. Now, after sinking 175 hours into Tears of the Kingdom, I’d swiftly remove Breath of the Wild and replace it with Link’s latest adventure. Tears improves on Breath in almost every way, with unique mechanics and heavier thematic elements that give weight to Link’s main quest. I don’t generally play Zelda games for their stories, but the finale of Tears was my favorite end sequence of the year and is to blame for my countless repeat listens of “The Final Fall” on YouTube. Outside of its story, Tears offers endless creativity with its fuse mechanic that had me reloading saves just to try new ways of approaching monster hordes or mini-bosses. If you played Breath of the Wild, Tears of the Kingdom does everything a sequel should do: it expands and refines everything good about the first one. If you never played the first one, I’d recommend starting with Tears. If you only have time for one open-world Zelda adventure, make sure you dive into this one.
Jesse Lennox: Alan Wake 2
After decades of gaming both casually and professionally, it takes something special to make a game stand out to me. I’ll always love being a superhero, soldier, or some anthropomorphic animal on an adventure built more around the mechanics than trying to deliver a message or push me to think in a unique way, but they don’t stick with me. This year was filled with both types of experiences, but none ran me through quite as many emotional ups and downs as Alan Wake 2.
This game pushes all the right buttons. It is a crooked look through a cracked mirror of reality, bending media and mechanics that couldn’t be done in anything but a game. This is a game where you can feel Sam Lake’s hand in every line, scene, and character (literally and figuratively in this case). It is by no means a perfect game — I even find things like The Mind Place to be a letdown compared to what it could have been — but a game that doesn’t take risks will never be great. Alan Wake 2 is a risky game, but one I’m glad Remedy bet on.
Kevin Lopez: Sons of The Forest
When I think about my personal game of the year, many titles stand out in my mind. When pressed to narrow my decision to one game, a rather unlikely choice stood out from the rest: Sons Of The Forest. What I look for in games is an experience that constantly changes and offers multiple ways to play. Being a fan of the original The Forest, this follow-up took everything the original introduced and expanded on it even further. The building mechanics, the various enemy types, and the ever-so-intricate crafting system on display here really stand out in the saturated survival genre. This is all while injecting a healthy dose of horror into your adventures not only above land but in the dark and spooky caves below!
Steph Roehler: Diablo IV
If we’re not talking about video game artistry, but instead focusing on what game impacted us the most in 2023, that title goes to none other than Diablo IV for me. Other than a few kiddie titles like Jumpstart, Cluemasters, or Putt Putt Saves the Zoo, Diablo II was my first proper video game. I started playing by watching intently on my dad’s lap, then upgraded to playing multiplayer with him and cheering when we demolished the cow level. It’s entirely Diablo II’s fault I love horror, monsters, mythos, and video games.
While I have dozens of qualms with Blizzard as a company, when I downloaded and opened Diablo IV earlier this year, I felt this rush of childlike excitement to see the dark and gritty world of Sanctuary appear on my screen again. I’d returned to my favorite childhood video game in a much more adult way, with better graphics, more refined skill trees, and a more powerful sorceress than ever. As a kid, I was too scared to get much farther than Lut Gholein without my dad’s help. Now, I finished the entire game on my own, victoriously. Diablo IV is hardly perfect, but this franchise is such a formative part of my video game journey that returning to it was effortlessly satisfying. It was made all the more satisfying that it came out the same year as we began Game Sandwich. A young gamer’s story come full circle.
Also, Lilith’s hot. What more could you ask for?
Scott “Dorian” Roepel: Baldur’s Gate 3
It doesn’t take a critical success in Perception to see why Baldur’s Gate 3 is at the top of many Game of the Year lists for 2023. When it was released into Early Access in 2020, I knew it had the potential to be fantastic and a worthy contender for Game of the Year — I just didn’t know what year that would be. After a couple hundred hours into its full release, I can say without a doubt I’ll never stop adventuring. The main story is great, but it’s your companions that really make the game compelling. I’ve always wanted to explore a world as my TTRPG character and this fulfills that desire on every level. As someone who has played both the tabletop game and prior entries in the series, I’ve been looking forward to the third for quite some time. Like a long-running homebrew campaign, it’s a world I never want to leave.
2023: A Year in Gaming
2023 has been an outstanding year in video game excellence. By themselves, Baldur’s Gate 3 and Tears of the Kingdom could be the subject of several master classes in exceptional video game development and design. Gamers are living their best lives right now with such art at their fingertips. But the actual best part about being a gamer in 2023 has been the breadth of good games. Whether you love psychological thrillers, platformers, indie games, RPGs, MMOs — whatever gets your love of games going — this year has offered dozens of stellar experiences. It isn’t just one genre thriving and giving us its best work. It’s all of them. While the gaming industry still has a long way to go to treat its creators and communities better, the games themselves? They are innovative, creative, evocative, and have something for everyone. Just like our staff is a beautiful hodge-podge of voices and opinions, so is the video game world. So, that’s why we wanted to celebrate the many games of the year that delighted and inspired us as we look forward to even greater video games in 2024.