Biggest Surprises of 2023

Prepare to be Surprised

We’re gamers. We’re used to surprises. Sometimes these are negative, like leaks, hacks, delayed games, and layoffs. Often though, we’re surprised by something good, like an unexpectedly great game or a game that defies the odds and evolves from terrible to awesome. Here are just a few of 2023’s happy surprises.

10. Metroid Prime Remastered

One of gaming’s most beloved titles, Metroid Prime got a bright, shiny remaster thanks to the folks at Retro Studios. Game technology has moved far beyond the capabilities of the Game Cube. Metroid Prime Remastered was released for the Nintendo Switch last February and in addition to seriously upgraded graphics, the Remaster also brought the controls up to modern standards and added some fun Easter eggs.

9. Super Mario Bros. Movie

Here’s a real surprise. The track record of films based on games has been spotty, at best. The live-action Mario movie from 1993 is hot garbage. So no one really expected the 2023 Super Mario Bros. Movie to be anything more than an hours-long Nintendo commercial. Despite a paper-thin plot, the Super Mario Bros. Movie had great animation and colorful visuals, with voice acting from pros like Jack Black, Keegan-Michael Key, Charlie Day, and Chris Pratt. Sure, it was still an ad for Nintendo, but an entertaining one.

8. Sea of Stars

Sometimes Indie games go for style over substance. Sometimes they have great art but poor gameplay or a warehouse full of tech issues. Now and then, though, an indie game hits on all cylinders. At first glance, Sea of Stars is a pretty standard pixel art style action RPG. Some of that’s true, but what’s also true is that Sea of Stars has an excellent plot, great characters, engaging mechanics, and a refined visual style. The surprise here is how much life is left in a familiar genre, if in the right hands.

7. Dave the Diver

Speaking of hit Indie games, Dave the Diver was one of the year’s most original releases and it has found a surprisingly large fan base. Part action adventure, part economic sim, and part pixel-art RPG, Dave the Diver is also partly based on a real-life person.

6. Cyberpunk 2077 and Phantom Liberty DLC

Few games disappointed people as much as CD Projekt Red’s Cyberpunk 2077. Following The Witcher 3’s mammoth success, Cyberpunk’s massive number of technical issues and unfinished content left gamers pretty angry at the developer. Three years later, Cyberpunk 2077 is now one of the best action games on the market. Constant updates, technical and narrative improvements, and the new Phantom Liberty DLC have made Cyberpunk 2077 2.0 a must-play RPG.

5. Lethal Company

Sometimes games are more than the sum of their parts. Not only is Lethal Company still in early access, it has relatively primitive, stylized graphics and still-missing content. This survival horror game is surprising for the loyal and energized fan base it has spawned, and for its addictive gameplay that’s tense, challenging, and fun.

4. Hogwarts Legacy

Sure, the films are beloved and the books are a cultural phenomenon, but let’s be honest, video games based on the Wizarding World franchise have all pretty much sucked. While it’s no surprise that the release of Hogwarts Legacy was a bit tainted by the controversy around author J.K. Rowling’s transphobic comments, it is surprising that Hogwarts Legacy overcame the, well, legacy of bad Harry Potter games to be an excellent action RPG.

3. Hi-Fi Rush

Infused with rhythm and music, Hi-Fi Rush has a colorful, lively art style and animation, incredible action, and a baller soundtrack full of licensed songs and original music. Addictive gameplay and finely tuned mechanics made Hi-Fi Rush a hit. Maybe the biggest surprise is how much gamers realized they missed playing a simple action game that was just lots of fun.

2. Lies of P

For anyone seriously addicted to Soulslikes, there was no game more surprising this year than Lies of P. Gorgeous to look at, mechanically sophisticated, and polished to a sheen, Lies of P was an homage to FromSoftware to the extreme. I mean, many gamers thought it was a worthy stand-in for Bloodborne 2.0 or the next Sekiro game. There were many, many Soulslikes released in 2023. None were better than Lies of P.

1. Baldur’s Gate 3

No one even remotely familiar with Larian Studios should have been surprised by Baldur’s Gate 3. Not to mention it had been cooking in early access for a long time. Great acting, great gameplay, great visuals, and music: Baldur’s Gate 3 has all of them, taken to a surprisingly high new standard. So what’s the surprise? Baldur’s Gate 3 seemed like it was poised for greatness.  But lots of games show promise, only to face plant on release day. Not so Baldur’s Gate 3. It surprised us by being everything we thought it could be.

Thank you for keeping it locked on COGconnected.

  • For amazing videos, head over to our YouTube page HERE.
  • Follow us on Twitter HERE.
  • Our Facebook page HERE.
  • Our Instagram page HERE.
  • Listen to our podcast on Spotify or anywhere you listen to podcasts.
  • If you are a fan of cosplay, check out more of our cosplay features HERE