Our individual Game of the Year articles allow our lovely team of writers to share their own personal PS5 and PS4 picks for 2023. Today, it's the turn of editor Sammy Barker.
To be fair, PSVR2 had a strong end to the year, but the headset undoubtedly lulled following its exceptional launch. I’m not really sure what Sony’s plan is for the peripheral, but it did blow me away on day one. Horizon Call of the Mountain, alongside Polyphony Digital’s excellent free Gran Turismo 7 update, truly helped demonstrate the capabilities of the device at launch. This game, with its emphasis on rock climbing and outrageous scale, had my jaw on the floor at times – and while I don’t necessarily think it’s the best title in an unprecedentedly strong year, paired with the power of PlayStation’s new headset, I think it helps serve as a reminder of what’s possible with virtual reality when the investment is there.
I like that we’re getting to a point where developers aren’t afraid to share their culture. There are multiple titles this year that are indicative of a time and place, like the wonderful Tchia for example – but A Space for the Unbound just so happens to be the one that I managed to squeeze into my busy schedule. Set in Indonesia during the 1990s, this slower-paced action adventure is both magical and poignant – and while I would have preferred a truly grounded story, I think it manages to blend its superpowers with a relatable plot that doesn’t pull any punches. Pair all that with pitch-perfect pixel art, and you have a game that truly elevates itself above its peers in an increasingly crowded indie space.
While I enjoyed the first few Harry Potter games on PS1 and PS2, I always felt the franchise was ripe for a big budget open world adaptation. Hogwarts Legacy, for the longest time, seemed too good to be true, then – but impressively, the final product didn’t fall short of my expectations. While I was hoping for a little less combat and a little more Bully, the end product genuinely delighted me from start to finish. The star of the show is the eponymous school, of course, but I loved exploring the surrounding areas as well – including the iconic Hogsmeade and beyond. The story genuinely gripped me, and I even found the copious collectibles quite moreish to track down. I think a sequel could certainly refine a lot of the release’s rougher aspects, but this is undoubtedly one of my personal favourites of the generation thus far.
I’m not good at Street Fighter 6 – or any of its forebears – but I am a big fan. I’ve practically played every game in the series, including the stinking Street Fighter 5 – which, admittedly, recovered from its barebones launch thanks to great support. This latest iteration has been outstanding since day dot, though: superb artwork, a fantastic combat system, and more content than I have time to consume. I absolutely love the interactive lobby system, which captures the essence of hazy old arcades – and even the single player story mode, daft and dumb as it is, has gobbled up the better part of my year. Capcom has been riding high for a while now, and I genuinely believe this is the best Street Fighter has ever been. Come at me!
I actually got my first taste of Honkai: Star Rail around this time last year, when I identified it could catch on and promptly signed up for the beta; I’ve been playing non-stop pretty much ever since. This is a game I play every day, and while my PS5 may tell you I’ve put in 500 hours since its console launch, my iPhone’s burnt-out battery will speak of hundreds more. I love the turn-based combat, and the regular in-game events. I love the character designs, and the outstanding sci-fi soundtrack. I even love the gacha system; the sense of stakes and luck and risk. The writing is overwrought and I understand the daily grind is not for everyone, but for better or worse, this game has taken over my life. I simply couldn’t vote for anything else!
What do you think of Sammy's personal Game of the Year picks? Feel free to agree wholeheartedly, or berate relentlessly in the comments section below.