Game of the Year 2023 – Best Single Player Game

GOTY 2023 Single player header

As big as online gaming has become, 2023 has shown that single player games are absolutely thriving. Whether it’s a sequel that takes what its forebears did and refines or expands the experience further, a game that takes a genre and wrings every ounce of creativity and ingenuity out of it with new ideas, this year has been absolutely fantastic for gamers that like to be left alone in front of the screen.

GOTY 2023 Single player award

Baldur’s Gate 3 is one of the big surprising success stories of the year, though not for the usual reasons. Everyone knew it was coming and, given Larian’s history, even expected it to be great, but given the genre, even Larian themselves were shocked by the amount of attention the game got around release.

Presumably that is why Larian went above and beyond, and Baldur’s Gate 3 is a frankly astonishing achievement. It’s not just the deep and involved story that changes based on your decisions and actions, or characters who are surprisingly relateable despite their absurdly dark back stories. It isn’t just the astonishing graphics, or the fully voice and motion captured performances for every single character in the game. It’s not even the depth to the combat from the D&D 5e ruleset, or the sheer wealth of options available to you at any given time, or the many possible class and skill options. What it is, is that Baldur’s Gate 3 let’s you do things.

Tabletop RPGs are strange games, where strange people do strange things while the Dungeon Master has to adapt. As a DM in digital form, Baldur’s Gate 3 welcomes that oddness with open arms, trying to “yes, and…” at every turn. Not only is there stuff everywhere, there are options everywhere, too, and they’re all compounded by the rolls of your dice. When you have the option to do something really surprising, Baldur’s Gate 3 will be there spurring you on. It’ll say “Sure, interrupt the bugbear and the troll having sex, why not?” or “You want to become the avatar of an evil god? Okay!” The kind of things games generally shy away from because they’re too powerful or too…weird, are always on the table here.

This applies in combat too, where it quickly became clear that you can fling characters off ledges and into the abyss. It’s unpredictable and surprising at every turn and very replayable as a result. So whilst Baldur’s Gate 3 has got great combat, graphics, story, characters, music, and voice performances, what really makes it great is that you can pick up and angry hyena and throw it at an enemy’s face.

– Gareth C

Alan Wake 2 – Runner Up

I haven’t played a survival horror game in a long time that repeatedly made me jump out of my skin as much as Alan Wake 2 did, but truthfully that’s just the tip of the iceberg of what you’ll experience during the wild ride that the game takes you on.

Picking up the Alan Wake story well over a decade since the end of the original game, Remedy take the sequel in some intriguing and distinctive new directions. In particular, Alan is just one half of the tale and you don’t even see the titular star before spending a good long portion of time with FBI profiler Saga Anderson, using her powers of deduction to draw evidence into her mind palace and piece together the puzzles that confront her. When you do discover where Alan has been all of this time, there’s a twist on this idea as you both play with using sources of light within the Dark Place and Alan’s ability to reshape the narrative to alter the world around him.

Bringing all of this together, Alan Wake 2 really feels like something uniquely beautiful.

– Nick P

Marvel’s Spider-Man 2 – Runner Up

Sequels are tough, particularly if their predecessor was a landmark, genre-defining release featuring Marvel’s most recognisable and popular superhero. Spider-Man 2 ascribes to the bigger-is-better school of sequels, with a huge map, updated gameplay for both Peter and Miles, and cast of antagonists that include Spider-Man’s arch-nemesis Venom and the most well-realised rendition of Kraven the Hunter in any format.

With yet another fantastic single player game, Insomniac has truly established themselves as the most reliably excellent first party studios of the PlayStation 5 generation.

– Dom L

Honourable Mentions (in alphabetical order)

Which single player games and adventures have really spoken to you over the past twelve months?