Staff votes have all been collected, and we have decided on our top three story & narrative games of 2023. These shouldn’t be too much of a shocker if you have been following our reviews, but paying credit to the best of the best in 2023 is still very important.
For many players, the story of a game is just as important as the gameplay, if not more important, so we wanted to look back and the best this year had to offer.
2nd Runner-Up: Marvel’s Spider-Man 2
Writer Nick Rivera: At this point, it’s no secret that Spider-Man 2 was nominated for seven Game Awards and didn’t win a single one. In a year of 100+ hour campaigns, Spider-Man 2’s was certainly concise, but it hit many of the points many players were hoping it would.
Spider-Man 2 had a lot of new content being incorporated to keep it fresh, but it was also serving as a sequel for two separate games. While Miles Morales was shorter than the initial Spider-Man game, it felt like Spider-Man 2 could have benefited from being longer and further fleshing out more of the characters from both entries and letting the story flow a bit more naturally.
Insomniac pulled from a wide array of Spider-Man content, and they did a tasteful job of keeping things fresh while also maintaining the familiarity that makes the audience love these stories in the first place. The story felt like a true-to-heart Spider-Man game, but it’s in two different niches, which are both what keeps it so celebrated while keeping it from being greater.
At its core, Spider-Man 2 is a comic book title, which can be enough to deter players who simply aren’t interested, not to mention being a sequel. On top of that, it’s a PS5 exclusive, immediately leaving out players on other platforms and PS4. Compare that to games like Alan Wake 2 and Baldur’s Gate 3, and it becomes clear that it just didn’t have the chops to stand up in a year full of heavyweights.
Runner-Up: Alan Wake 2
Writer Cameron Waldrop: The first Alan Wake was released 13 years ago, and in that time period, Remedy Entertainment truly honed its craft. The games that followed Alan Wake built upon its core ideas, offering well-crafted characters and paranormal intrigue. The Alan Wake character even surfaced in Control to give fans a taste of where the character has been after sinking into the Dark Place.
All of this combined into making Alan Wake 2 almost like meeting an old friend again after a long time. The first moment Saga Anderson picks up a Manuscript Page and Alan Wake narrates feels so familiar that you’re hooked on the mystery of the story before you know it. Experiencing the story from two different points of view allows it to breathe and keep you on your toes.
Though there is a clear delineation between what is the real world and the Dark Place, watching things mix and turn puts everything upside down for probably the best horror story that 2023 had to offer. Plus, the game knows when to break the narrative and let you run around an actual concert, and that’s extremely commendable.
Winner: Baldur’s Gate 3
Writer Jake Su: When it comes to storytelling via the medium of video games, there isn’t really a set way to go about things. There’s always the hero’s journey, an obvious penchant for evil, or usually, somewhere in between. For Larian Studios’ Baldur’s Gate 3, players are given the option to go where their heart desires, with no restrictions on the scale of morality, while the narrative evolves and works with your decisions. Lesser games have buckled under that promise, but not Baldur’s Gate 3.
All of it is only enhanced by some of the best-written characters in gaming history, period. More than just vessels that enable your own adventures, these are individuals with their own feelings, agendas, and motivations, making them unique and memorable right down to the very end. More importantly, they will grow alongside the player, reflecting the values that you hold dear, and making sure the world sees it clearly while either joining the cause or staying out of the way.
This is a role-playing experience that lives up to the name, where the story takes you from ridiculous to awesome across hours and hours spent in this rich world, brought to life with excellent writing and even better characters. The breadth of adventures and storytelling on show are astounding, filled with decisions big and small that could very well have major ramifications down the line, or not. Such as in life, you never know where a choice will lead, and that is a brilliant concept realized in BG3 over and over again, making it a tale that is truly your own.
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