The best games of 2023 — Windows Central Game Awards 2023

Windows Central Game Awards 2023
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Best Awards 2023

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As 2023 draws to a close, it's time we look back at a truly incredible year in gaming for a variety of reasons. Microsoft completed one of the biggest tech acquisitions of all time when it grabbed Activision-Blizzard, which will see oft-criticized Activision CEO Bobby Kotick finally retire from the industry. We had almost non-stop high-quality titles on a monthly basis all throughout 2023, in a year that was also accentuated by unprecedented layoffs as publishers bunker down for a post-pandemic economy. 

Following a year that navigated controversy at every turn, our gaming team here at Windows Central pooled our thoughts together and voted on our favorite gaming experiences of the year, across both Windows PC and Xbox consoles, and the wider Microsoft Gaming ecosystem. 

Best Xbox Game of 2023

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Hi-Fi Rush
Best Xbox Game of 2023

Hi-Fi Rush shadow dropped out of nowhere at the start of the year, and became one of Microsoft's most unexpected and unlikely wins of the year. Developed by a studio known previously almost entirely for horror, Hi-Fi Rush was a quirky, unique, and original take on a formula long traversed, showcasing nothing short of pure, unabashed creativity.

See at: Xbox | GreenManGaming (Steam)

Hi-Fi Rush
Best Xbox Game of 2023

Hi-Fi Rush shadow dropped out of nowhere at the start of the year, and became one of Microsoft's most unexpected and unlikely wins of the year. Developed by a studio known previously almost entirely for horror, Hi-Fi Rush was a quirky, unique, and original take on a formula long traversed, showcasing nothing short of pure, unabashed creativity.

See at: Xbox | GreenManGaming (Steam)

Best Windows PC Game

Windows Central Game Awards 2023

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Baldur's Gate 3

Baldur's Gate 3
Best PC Game of 2023

No surprises here. Baldur's Gate 3 is an absolutely staggering achievement and deserves every one of its various accolades it's sure to win this year. 

Our team lost hundreds, maybe thousands of hours of productivity to this instant-classic this past summer, in a game so vast and complex in its delivery it really needs to be seen to be believed.

See at: Xbox | Steam

Best Indie Game of 2023

Windows Central Game Awards 2023

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Dredge
Best Indie Game of 2023

Rising up from the deep to impress us, Dredge is equal parts chill fishing simulator and Lovecraftian horror story. The careful balance of gameplay elements and sheer variety in the number of creatures you can catch — or that can try to catch you — makes for an excellent experience as you're drawn further and further into the dark waters. 

This is a debut title that's easy to recommend no matter what games you like.

See at: Xbox | GreenManGaming (Steam)

Most Anticipated Game of 2023

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Frostpunk 2
Most Anticipated Game 

We had the opportunity to go hands-on with Frostpunk 2 at Gamescom 2023 this year, and it has easily swept our awards cycle as a result. Frostpunk was the ultimate survival simulation strategy game when it launched, tasking players to develop a thriving colony on the very edge of a climatological apocalypse. 

Frostpunk 2 looks ready to push that tradition even harder, doubling down on the franchise's gritty human elements that force players to make harrowing decisions.

See at: Steam

Best Expansion / DLC of 2023

Windows Central Game Awards 2023

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Cyberpunk 2077

Cyberpunk 2077
Best Expansion / DLC of 2023

Phantom Liberty brilliantly expands Night City with a stellar cast of characters and an intriguing plotline that'll have you questioning yourself every step of the way. The spy thriller-themed story could've been its own game, and this expansion caps off the work the developers have put in to rejuvenate this dark future.

See at: Xbox | Steam

Best Ongoing Game of 2023

Windows Central Game Awards 2023

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Halo Infinite

Halo Infinite
Best Ongoing Game of 2023

Halo Infinite really came into its own in 2023 following a year of struggles, delivering players three seasons full of excellent new maps and modes, tons of appreciated quality of life changes, important improvements to performance and anti-cheat security, and more. 

We've come a long way from the early days where only three multiplayer playlists were available and we didn't have Forge or Firefight, and I'm excited to see where Halo Infinite goes next.

See at: Best Buy | Xbox | GreenManGaming (Xbox) | Steam | Amazon | Walmart

Best Story Direction of 2023

Windows Central Game Awards 2023

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Baldur's Gate 3

Baldur's Gate 3
Best Story Direction of 2023

Baldur’s Gate 3 earns our accolade for Best Story Direction, and rightfully so, given its masterful execution of a branching narrative. The game's brilliance lies in the myriad paths your personal story can take. 

While the spotlight has often focused on the game's bold and eyebrow-raising romance scenes, beneath the buckets of Larian humor and charm, a tapestry of individual journeys unfolds and intertwines for you and each of your companions. You’ll laugh with them, cry with them, and sometimes want to kill them.

See at: Xbox | Steam

Best Game Pass Addition of 2023

Windows Central Game Awards 2023

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Lies of P

Lies of P
Best Game Pass Addition of 2023

Lies of P was one of the coolest games I played in 2023 and more than deserves the title of being the best Xbox Game Pass Addition of the year. It’s got an in-depth combat system, a rich variety of weapon customization options, tough as nails bosses to conquer. and an intriguing setting and narrative that twists the tale of Pinocchio into a grim Soulslike adventure.

See at: Amazon | Best Buy | Walmart | Xbox | GreenManGaming (Steam)

Best Art and Visuals of 2023

Windows Central Game Awards 2023

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Alan Wake 2

Alan Wake 2
Best Art and Visuals of 2023

Remedy Entertainment's Northlight tech is taken to new heights with Alan Wake 2. The gorgeous visual design details worlds that bleed together in the darkness, perfectly suited to the uncomfortable horror atmosphere in the paths of both protagonists. On PC, this is taken even further with stunning path-tracing that seriously has to be seen in order to be believed.

See at: Xbox | GreenManGaming (Epic Games Store)

Best Sound and Music of 2023

Windows Central Game Awards 2023

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Hi-Fi Rush
Best Sound and Music

In a surprising departure from Tango Gameworks' usual horror and thriller repertoire, Hi-Fi Rush emerges as a vibrant and fun-loving adventure centered around the transformative power of music. Beyond being a mere rhythm game, Hi-Fi Rush stands out as a sonic masterpiece, demonstrating how its carefully curated soundtrack, featuring iconic names like The Prodigy and Nine Inch Nails, enhances gameplay, storytelling, and emotional impact. Notably, Nine Inch Nails' music is employed poetically in a scene involving a cat hell-bent on revenge. It’s Guitar Hero meets Jet Set Radio, and it’s best enjoyed with the volume cranked up to 11.

See at: Xbox | GreenManGaming (Steam)

Hi-Fi Rush
Best Sound and Music

In a surprising departure from Tango Gameworks' usual horror and thriller repertoire, Hi-Fi Rush emerges as a vibrant and fun-loving adventure centered around the transformative power of music. Beyond being a mere rhythm game, Hi-Fi Rush stands out as a sonic masterpiece, demonstrating how its carefully curated soundtrack, featuring iconic names like The Prodigy and Nine Inch Nails, enhances gameplay, storytelling, and emotional impact. Notably, Nine Inch Nails' music is employed poetically in a scene involving a cat hell-bent on revenge. It’s Guitar Hero meets Jet Set Radio, and it’s best enjoyed with the volume cranked up to 11.

See at: Xbox | GreenManGaming (Steam)

Game Developer Excellence Award

Windows Central Game Awards 2023

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SC Gameworld (S.T.A.L.K.E.R. 2: Heart of Chornobyl)

SC Gameworld (S.T.A.L.K.E.R. 2: Heart of Chornobyl)
Game Developer Excellence Award

Since Russia's war of aggression in Ukraine began early last year, developers at GSC Game World have continued to build its long-awaited open world survival FPS STALKER 2 while contributing to the defense of their homeland, volunteering to aid those impacted by the conflict in their local communities, and recovering from a fire that broke out in its new Prague office in September. 

The studio and its people have displayed an incredible and inspiring resilience, continuing to push forward in the face of this adversity.

See at: Xbox | GreenManGaming (Steam)

And that's a wrap! 

2023 will be a truly memorable year in gaming history. The sheer volume of high-quality titles from games both big and small has been somewhat unprecedented, as the backlog created by the pandemic began to catch up. We saw games maligned at launch like Cyberpunk 2077 and Halo Infinite deliver on some of their early promise, and we saw old favorites like Alan Wake revived for a new generation. Newcomers like Hi-Fi Rush dazzled audiences, while games like Lies of P prove that some formulas are just kind of timeless. Many of the games that we shortlisted such as Diablo IV, Wo-Long, Starfield, and Sea of Stars all could have been game of the year contenders in less densely packed years. 

The industry itself faces a time of uncertainty, as the cost of building games becomes exponentially more expensive, and the competition for our free time becomes more intense than ever before. There's a truly huge amount of upcoming Xbox games and upcoming PC games to look forward to, and many that already look like award-winning contenders from their initial debut trailers. 

From all of us at Windows Central, congrats to the winners, and to all our readers, have an incredible 2024 and beyond! 

Jez Corden
Co-Managing Editor

Jez Corden a Managing Editor at Windows Central, focusing primarily on all things Xbox and gaming. Jez is known for breaking exclusive news and analysis as relates to the Microsoft ecosystem while being powered by caffeine. Follow on Twitter @JezCorden and listen to his Xbox Two podcast, all about, you guessed it, Xbox!

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