Sandbox Games of the Year 2023

Sandbox Games of the Year 2023

2023 has been a historically packed year for video game releases, so as we enter December we asked the team to look back on our favorite games of the year.

Dan: Others have noted many of the incredible PC & console releases this year, so I’ll go a different direction and give a shoutout to my favorite mobile game of the year – Retro Bowl College. You take control of a college football team and play through seasons with classic Tecmo Bowl-style arcade football gameplay. There’s recruiting, roster management and wild off-the-field scenarios to govern, and before I knew it I had spent 100+ hours on the bus and subway lost in this game.

Elena: This year, two new titles entered my Top 10 most-played games of the last decade. One, Raft, has been around awhile, but after finding out how much content they’ve added, I finally revisited it and let me tell you, I lived on that raft for a few weeks. The second is a game I worked very closely with, so call me biased if you want, but Mr. Sun’s Hatbox is genuinely one of the most charming, delightful, time-evaporating games I’ve ever played. I have not been so obsessed with 100%-ing a game since the OG Spider-Man.

Marisa: This really has been a great year for gaming, with The Legend of Zelda: Tears of the Kingdom being the first big 2023 title for me that I spent a great deal of time with. Then there was Baldur’s Gate 3…which essentially ate up the rest of 2023 for me and is now up there as one of my all time favorites. I do want to give a shout-out to Cyberpunk 2077 and the Phantom Liberty DLC with all the great updates that made jumping back into Night City feel like I was playing for the first time again.

Pat: I’ll go with Alan Wake 2. Remedy’s latest is delightfully strange and undoubtedly one of the most entertaining games I’ve played in years. If the Old Gods of Asgard need any backup singers when they perform at The Game Awards, I’M READY.

Rob: Somehow half my year has been filled with Baldur’s Gate 3 and most of the other half Zelda. BG3 has been so much fun, with incredible depth and things to learn that always manages to top itself as you reach new heights. It’s got my vote GOTY.

Santos: Starts with B and ends with 3. 

Tim: You can finish Venba in under two hours. Thank you, Venba.

Tony: This has been quite the year for games – some extremely high quality games launched this year. For me – the best one has to have been Baldur’s Gate 3. It is a great game – and does a fantastic job at capturing the spirit of D&D.

Tyler: When people talk about 2023 being one of the most bonkers years for video game releases ever, they aren’t kidding! I tore through Diablo 4, Jedi Survivor, and Spider-Man 2 – and I still haven’t finished Tears of the Kingdom and Baldur’s Gate 3 (never mind even starting Mario Wonder or Fire Emblem Engage). In spite of all of that though – I think *shockingly* I have to give my favorite game of the year to the one-person project Lethal Company. Since discovering it at the start of November my group of friends and I have put in hours and keep coming back for more. With a simple and addicting gameplay loop, killer sound design and atmosphere, and absolutely tellerifying moments, Lethal Company is a real testament to the creativity of developers of all sizes. Can’t wait to see what 2024’s updates bring!

And since I’ve spent 10 hours of my last three days on it – I have to give a last minute shout out to Picayune Dreams. Vampire Survivors + Yume Nikki all rolled into one. Dang, indies are cool.

Val: This has been a phenomenal year for game releases, and while I would AGONIZE if I could only pick one game, I’m going to list a few of my favorites. Otherwise there would be a full page of me crying. To no surprise, The Legend of Zelda: Tears of the Kingdom is my top pick for the year (for my life???), and I plan to spend many more hours playing over the winter break. I’ve also loved Final Fantasy XVI, Spider-Man 2, Fae Farm, and Super Mario Bros. Wonder. And shout out to Halo Infinite for having a Halo 3 mode this year, making my college self THRIVE. I can’t wait to play all of these games even more this winter, where I will be hiding from the cold dark months.


That concludes the 2023 Sandboxer personal picks for games of the year. Best of luck to the Sandbox titles nominated at The Game Awards from Larian Studios, GameMill Entertainment and Focus Entertainment!

Baldur's Gate 3, Nickelodeon All-Star Brawl 2, and Chants of Sennaar

You can read our 2022 games of the year here and our most recent blog post here!

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