6 titles completely absent from The Game Awards 2023 that are still worth playing
With The Game Awards 2023 upon us, we thought there was no better time to shout out some of 2023’s unsung heroes in the industry. We’ve put together a list of six games that didn’t make the cut, but are still worth a playthrough.
The Game Awards festivities are in full swing and there’s a host of deserving nominees in a bunch of respectable categories. From obvious but necessary inclusions like Baldur’s Gate 3’s eight nominations to a contentious singular showing for Starfield.
However, if you’ve read the title, you’re probably not here to read about games that are included in this year’s nominations. We’ve already discussed how The Game Awards 2023 are “defined by their omissions”. So let’s talk about some.
In a year stacked with some absolute bangers, some games will inevitably miss out on a Game Awards nomination. Below is a list of eight games released in 2023 that are not present in a single award category, but can still offer a good time.
Lords of the Fallen
If I didn’t smack a Soulslike right at the start of this list, I’d never forgive myself. For a bit of context, the battle for my personal Game of the Year was a hard-fought slog between Armored Core 6 and Lies of P. Lords of the Fallen was certainly in conversations for other categories though.
Like a few games in this list, Lords of the Fallen did launch with some performance issues and when you’re emulating a series known for its polish, that’ll lose you some points. Fortunately, several patches informed by a close-knit relationship between Hexworks and the game’s community have it in much better shape today.
What’s there now is a game that borrows a lot from earlier FromSoftware titles but in a confident and competent manner that adds its own unique ideas to the formula. Combat is tight, build crafting is varied, and while the bosses can sometimes fail to offer the same challenge as its contemporaries, the spectacle is there.
The premise of weaving between realities during exploration and combat is interesting, its story makes good use of the concept, and a simpler co-op system than the genre is known for means you can experience it with a friend (now that it works).
Way back in February, before we were bombarded with hit after hit, Hogwarts Legacy seemed like a surefire contender for a Best Action/Adventure Game nomination. Doing massive numbers off the back of some controversy-fuelled free marketing, the game is a stunning love letter to even the most conflicted Harry Potter fans.
There’s some debate as to the replayability of the game but as a standalone, single-player experience, it has a lot to offer. There’s an interesting story with a fresh take on the Harry Potter universe, strategic combat that feels better than it looks, and an immersive recreation of Hogwarts (and beyond) to explore.
The ability to use its expansive character creation suite to project your own avatar into the wizarding world is almost enough to sell the title on its own. When you add the ability to fly around on brooms or Hippogriffs, that’ll get most over the line.
While the game didn’t have as much staying power as other titles released this year, a trip to Hogwarts is worthwhile for fans of the franchise. I do recommend playing on a console or PC however, as the Nintendo Switch version is extremely watered down.
Wo Long: Fallen Dynasty
Back to Soulslikes (sort of), where Lords of the Fallen pays homage to Dark Souls and Lies of P borrows from Bloodborne, Wo Long: Fallen Dynasty wears its Sekiro influence on its sleeve. No, I’m not making a monolith of Asian cultures. I’m talking about the meticulously thought-out clash of steel that comprises the game’s combat.
Doing battle in Wo Long: Fallen Dynasty is a lightning-fast exercise in risk and reward that is punishing but fair. It relies on a blinding display of deflection and posture-breaking but with a greater allowance for build and playstyle variety than Sekiro.
Wo Long: Fallen Dynasty does fall a little short in the story department unless you played a bunch of Dynasty Warriors and decided to google Three Kingdoms history (like I did). For those that didn’t, its thrilling combat more than makes up for it.
As with other titles on the list, Wo Long launched with considerable performance issues and an abysmal PC port which wouldn’t help consideration for The Game Awards 2023. Like those other titles, the devs at Koei Tecmo have also put some effort into fixing those, and the game runs properly now.
Octopath Traveler 2
How Octopath Traveler 2 didn’t wind up in a single category for The Game Awards 2023, I’ll never know. Its charming blend of 3D backdrops and 2D pixel art makes it a visual feast worthy of a Best Art Direction nod at the very least. Or it would if we didn’t see it first in 2018.
Still, the game is a brilliant tribute to the classics of the JRPG genre that builds on its predecessor’s solid framework in every conceivable way. Its fantastic characters, multi-layered plots, and brilliantly designed turn-based combat are a joy to experience.
In true JRPG fashion, Octopath Traveler 2 is loaded with content that can keep players busy for over 100 hours. The staggering options in its multi-class job system make building for endgame super bosses incredibly rewarding.
The game is available on PC, PS4/5, Xbox One, Xbox Series S/X, and the Nintendo Switch. While the game is worthwhile on any platform, it shines as a portable experience on a Switch or Steam Deck.
Bomb Rush Cyberfunk
I’ll be the first to admit that I don’t play enough indie games but when I first got wind of Bomb Rush Cyberfunk, it rocketed to the top of my list of must-plays. The game is a stated spiritual successor to the legendary, if a little niche, Jet Set Radio games.
Bomb Rush Cyberfunk does a masterful job of capturing the vibes and aesthetic of the games it’s paying homage to. Its tale of anti-establishment rebellion through extreme sports, graffiti, and breakdancing is the most mid-2000s premise ever, and if you’re old enough to have been marketed to in that fashion as a kid, the nostalgia is delicious.
The gameplay premise is pretty simple, you strap into your rollerblades, hop on your skateboard, or straddle your BMX bike to move through a vibrant city as stylishly as possible. Along the way, you cause as much mayhem as possible by tagging up a storm and avoiding the police in a (usually) well-paced game of cat and mouse.
There’s a story here, but the true joy is in its bop-laden soundtrack and the game’s fantastic traversal which has a mercifully modern take on the classic controls of Jet Set Radio. Fortunately, every version of the game runs smoothly, so platform is down to preference for this one.
I seriously debated putting Wild Hearts on this list, but as one of my most played games of 2023, I had to. With the major caveat that while other games on this list have made strides with their initially poor performance, Wild Hearts has made less.
The PS5 and Xbox Series X versions run perfectly well, but the Series S and PC ports are decidedly volatile. If you do have access to a PS5, Series X, or a lottery winner’s luck and a capable PC, Wild Hearts is not an experience to miss.
While it’s easy to dismiss the game as Koei Tecmo and EA’s attempt at a Monster Hunter clone, Wild Hearts is far more than that. An ingenious suite of easy-to-learn, hard-to-master weapons, well-crafted encounters, and the intriguing Karakuri building mechanics give the game a skill ceiling that would make the Sistine Chapel jealous.
The true shame of Wild Hearts is that it’s the first among a series of attempts to capture the magic of Capcom’s Monster Hunter games that actually comes close. Unfortunately, EA and Koei Tecmo have abandoned plans for future content but the game still offers hundreds of potential hours of gameplay and is well worth the time.
So there you have it, a whole host of games from 2023 that may not have been award-worthy but can still offer an enjoyable experience. Some may be dependent on my admittedly niche interests but hopefully, those are varied enough that everyone finds something that tickles their fancy.
For those readers keen on seeing all the games that weren’t mentioned here get their roses, check out all the info we have on how you can watch The Game Awards 2023.