Feature Article

2023 Has Been Front-Loaded With Amazing Games

The first half of the year has already been one of the best stretches in recent history, and we know very little about the holiday release calendar.

It's not your imagination: The first half of 2023 has been a remarkably great year for video games. In just over five months, we've gotten almost as many critically acclaimed games as we have over an entire calendar year in the past. And while the reasons for this are myriad--including the pandemic impacting game development and subsequent delays--the fact remains that this year is significant, and likely to be remembered as one of the best years in gaming history for some time to come.

Reviews certainly aren't the only measure of a game's quality, but it's a helpful metric for comparison. According to GameSpot sister site Metacritic, 2023 has already seen five games with an average Metacritic score of 90 or above. Those include, in order:

Please use a html5 video capable browser to watch videos.
This video has an invalid file format.
Sorry, but you can't access this content!
Please enter your date of birth to view this video

By clicking 'enter', you agree to GameSpot's
Terms of Use and Privacy Policy

Now Playing: The Legend Of Zelda: Tears Of The Kingdom Video Review

  1. The Legend Of Zelda: Tears of the Kingdom (95)
  2. Metroid Prime Remastered (94)
  3. Street Fighter 6 (93)
  4. Resident Evil 4 (93)
  5. Diablo 4 (92)

There are other critically acclaimed games that just barely missed the 90-or-above cut, like Dead Space and Hi-Fi Rush, at a Metacritic score of 89 each. This library of acclaimed games also notably runs the gamut--from open-world adventure to fighting to horror and more. (It is notable, however, that Hi-Fi Rush is the lone new franchise on the list. Sequels and remakes are doing very well, while new IP like Forspoken and Redfall have struggled. That justifiably raises concerns regarding freshness in the gaming industry, which is a related topic worth its own consideration.)

Compare this to prior years. 2022 only had six games with a Metacritic score of 90 or above release for the entire calendar year, and just one--Elden Ring--had been released by June. 2021 had seven such games launch in the entire year, and only two released by this time of year: Tony Hawk's Pro Skater 1+2 and Chicory: A Colorful Tale. 2020 had a larger number of highly-rated games at 10 in total, but again, only three had released by this point in the year: Persona 5 Royal, Half-Life Alyx, and Animal Crossing: New Horizons.

World events almost certainly played a role in this trend. The coronavirus pandemic massively disrupted the industry in 2020 and has had ripple effects in the years since. This likely slowed the pace of new releases behind the scenes, especially for large follow-ups to already major franchises, and led to delays, some of which were public knowledge. In fact, the top-rated game this year, Zelda: Tears of the Kingdom, had been slated for a 2022 release, before Nintendo delayed it for a year of polishing. Smaller teams tackling smaller games were able to more easily adapt, meaning many of the years in the pandemic so far have been defined by these smaller experiences. And even though some have reviewed quite well, these games just don't quite have audiences on par with their major AAA cousins. For example, Tunic is fantastic but Tears of the Kingdom it is not.

Even still, the pandemic didn't stop the world until March 2020. Plans to release games by June 2020 would have been set, and most of the year's top-rated games did not release by then. Publishers have usually saved most of their biggest games, the ones most primed for acclaim and Game of the Year consideration, for the end of the year. It's extremely unusual for so many to be coming this early in the year.

On top of that, we still have the rest of the year to consider. There are plenty of strong contenders left that may also gain critical acclaim: Final Fantasy XVI, Pikmin 4, Sea of Stars, Starfield, Assassin's Creed Mirage, Spider-Man 2, Alan Wake 2, Baldur's Gate 3, and more.

On top of those known quantities, there are the known-unknowns. We're approaching a month of press events and showcases--essentially E3 without E3--during which the biggest publishers will show off their upcoming release calendars. Those include events from Xbox, Ubisoft, the all-encompassing Summer Game Fest, and others like the Future Games Showcase and PC Gaming Show. Nintendo has said very little about its plans for the second half of the year, and while it hasn't announced a show yet, it will almost certainly hold a Nintendo Direct presentation. And there's always the chance that some unknown indie game will come along and sweep us off our feet, a la Vampire Survivors.

As unusual as it is to have this many games front-loaded to the first half of the year, it's just as abnormal to be this in-the-dark about the second half. The first-party slate from all three console platform-holders are largely mysterious--we know about Spider-Man and Starfield, but very little else. Nintendo already released one of the biggest games this year with Zelda, but it surely has something up its sleeve for the holiday season as well. More often publishers like Nintendo are choosing to play their cards close to the vest, saving announcements for shortly before release.

It's very possible that by the end of 2023, we'll have more critically acclaimed games than any year in recent memory. Whatever the case, the first half of this year has been unusually stacked with great games early in the year, across a wide variety of genres. That's something worth celebrating.

The products discussed here were independently chosen by our editors. GameSpot may get a share of the revenue if you buy anything featured on our site.


Steve Watts

Steve Watts has loved video games since that magical day he first saw Super Mario Bros. at his cousin's house. He's been writing about games as a passion project since creating his own GeoCities page, and has been reporting, reviewing, and interviewing in a professional capacity for 14 years. He is GameSpot's preeminent expert on Hearthstone, a title no one is particularly fighting him for, but he'll claim it anyway.

The Legend of Zelda: Tears of the Kingdom

The Legend of Zelda: Tears of the Kingdom

Back To Top