2023 could go down in history as the best year for gaming of all time. It’s up there, no one can deny that. But despite the fact that a lot of truly incredible games made their debut this year, only three (in my opinion) stand out and should be in the running for Game of the Year. You’ve heard their names all year, but if you need a reminder, they are The Legend of Zelda: Tears of the Kingdom, Baldur’s Gate III and Alan Wake 2.
Each of these three games, depending on who you talk to, can have very strong arguments as to why they should be rated just a little higher than the others. For me, it is Alan Wake 2 that should get that treatment, and let me explain my reasoning as to why.
The Legend of Zelda: Tears of the Kingdom is special, it really is. The efforts and improvements Nintendo has made with this sequel transform one of the best games of all time into a product that is even better. The building suite is simplistic but incredibly deep, the multi-level world creates an experience that is ridiculously large and full of intricate detail at every turn, and the story at the core of the game is really interesting to follow. These are all areas that Breath of the Wild lacked in, and that game stood out in 2017 for its genius anyway.
Baldur’s Gate III debuted in fact and pointed in the crosshairs of every major AAA developer in the industry. At a time when revenue generation, overused mechanics and soulless sequels seemed more common than ever, Larian gave us a game that was fresh, absurdly large and packed with content, supported deep and satisfying multiplayer, and was also backed by great post-launch improvements that fixed (and have continued to fix) all the problems the community reported. And all this while being a product you buy once and get unfettered access to… Baldur’s Gate III is, in fact, the gold standard of what a AAA RPG can and should be.
But while both games are excellent for a plethora of reasons, a huge list I barely delved into in my summaries above, neither game stands out for me the way Alan Wake 2 does. What Remedy has come up with with this game is unlike anything I’ve ever experienced before in a gaming sense. It is relentlessly weird, narratively perfected, refined to perfection, and has managed to bring an already fantastic and beloved game from 2010 into the modern era with a sequel that literally never misses a beat.
Alan Wake 2 is different from Baldur’s Gate III and Tears of the Kingdom because it’s special, because it’s unlike anything we’ve ever seen, and because it’s a hugely risky premise. Tears of the Kingdom was destined to be a success because of the critically acclaimed nature of Breath of the Wild, and Baldur’s Gate III has years of Early Access research and improvements to its credit, but Alan Wake 2 is just a strange, bizarre and hugely expensive game that, had it not landed with fans, could have gone down in history as one of the biggest failures in gaming history. But it didn’t.
To me, this is why Alan Wake 2 should be Game of the Year. We may never see a game like Alan Wake 2 debuted again, well… until Remedy releases its next title…. probably. But you can be damn sure that Link, Zelda and Hyrule will be back in the future, and we will also see other RPGs that blow us away, either from Larian again, or from Bethesda, CD Projekt Red, BioWare, the list goes on and on. I don’t want to generalize the sheer genius and excellence of Tears of the Kingdom and Baldur’s Gate III, but a title like Alan Wake 2 can only be made by the people at Remedy. This is a game that can and will only come from a team that is creatively expressive enough, has the talent to make sure it is offered at a very high caliber, and has the balls to pitch and then spend years developing it. There is only one Remedy Entertainment and so there can only be one Game of the Year candidate.