Game of the Year 2023 – Best Gameplay

GOTY 2023 Best Gameplay – Hi-Fi Rush

I think almost every gamer would agree that how a game feels to play is absolutely the most important factor in whether it’s fun or not. Given how many fan-created ‘demakes’ there are of contemporary blockbusters, the proliferation of pixel art (which while it can be pretty is hardly pushing graphical limits), and hilariously shonky nonsense of a game like Vampire Survivors, it’s pretty clear that gameplay is king.

So… which games felt the best and most fun for us in 2023?

GOTY 2023 Best Gameplay award

Given how much time many of us spend with earbuds shoved down ear canals these days, I’m sure many people can relate and appreciate how and why Chai taps, clicks and bops along to the music that fills his world.

Music is everything to Hi-Fi Rush, bleeding into the Devil May Cry or Bayonetta style hack-and-slash action by making all of Chai’s attacks now stick rigidly to the beat. You can dish out extra damage by timing your button taps to hit the beat as well in rhythm game style, and there’s a musical twist to the timing of certain combo attack patterns and mini-games dotted throughout the game world.

Most importantly, people without a rhythmic bone in their body (or with TVs that don’t have a decent low latency game mode) can still happily play along. There’s still all of the fun Saturday morning cartoon visuals, with the world bopping along to the beat around you, and various on screen assists to try and help you with your timing, but if you don’t get things perfectly on the beat, all you’re missing out on is some bonus damage and a lower rating at the end of a fight. It’s way more satisfying to lean into the music, but there’s a fun beat ’em up here with tons of style regardless.

– Stefan L

Street Fighter 6 – Runner Up

Street Fighter 6 brings the classic series up to date with a huge amount of style, and while the multiplayer side of things is definitely worth shouting about, and we have, just the pure gameplay experience is worth mentioning. Aside from the sheer feeling of fluidity the combat gives, there’s also the awesome single-player mode.

It’s nice to play Street Fighter in a way that feels like a fully-modernized beat ’em up, and meeting all of your favourite characters in that mode and learning their moves is cool on its own, but gets far better when you mix and match them for your very own personal fighter of the streets. It’s also the most newcomer-friendly the series has been, with some really great tutorials and a control scheme designed to let you pull off cool combos without memorizing all the inputs.

– Jason C

Dave the Diver – Runner Up

Dave the Diver is a bit like Mega Drive classic Ecco the Dolphin, with a stunning and relaxing 2D rendition of the world beneath the waves. You even have to help out the occasional dolphin too, saving them from pirates and getting caught in fisherman’s nets, but pretty much everything else is on the table. Literally, because you’re having to help supply the local sushi restaurant!

Variety is everything in Dave the Diver, and the myriad array of gameplay systems that Mintrocket has layered one on top of the other is spectacular and consistently surprising in equal measure. You catch fish with your harpoon gun, which is itself an exercise in timing, hammering at your buttons or waggling analogue sticks to reel the more difficult catches in, and once you’ve filled your pockets with fish you have to make your way back up to your boat.

Things don’t end there, and you find yourself the operator of the local sushi restaurant, a task that’s as thoroughly involving and enjoyable as the water-based action. You’ll choose your menu, with dishes rated by their cost and their tastiness, with the option to upgrade these meals for even greater reward. You have to think about social media, hiring the best staff, and then working the floor yourself, managing your stamina as you rush over to a customer who’s about to leave you a bad review for the service.

Add in upgrading your equipment, collecting craftable items, cataloguing the creatures in the ocean, and various other diversions, including an overarching narrative, and you discover that Dave the Diver is one of the most diverse experiences of the year.

– Dom L

Honourable Mentions (in alphabetical order)

Which games stood out for you with their fundamental gameplay this year? Let us know in the comments and keep locked to TSA for more Game of the Year 2023 awards through the rest of December!