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Whenever I had a conversation about this year’s slate of games with a friend, colleague, or someone in the gaming industry, I usually heard one thing: I haven’t gotten to it yet. Those talks went something like this: How about Diablo IV ? Not yet. Starfield? Saving it for Thanksgiving week. OK, well, you’ve probably chipped away at Tears of the Kingdom, right? Downloaded it for later, because I’m *only* 30 hours into Baldur’s Gate 3. Sigh.

In the gaming world, you take the good (so much to play!) with the bad (not enough time to game). But we intrepid gamers here at Esquire tried our damnedest to get through as much as we could. This includes, but certainly isn’t limited to: Choosing our own genitals in Baldur’s Gate 3, letting our love for Madden‘s franchise mode become our toxic trait, whipping around like Ricky Bobby in Gran Turismo 7 VR, and trying desperately to get some exercise while playing the Cyberpunk 2077: Phantom Liberty DLC.

Time is short when you haven’t started Alan Wake 2 (if that’s the case, reader, what are you doing?!), so let’s get to it—starting with (and most importantly) Esquire’s games of the year, and ending with our favorite accessories, devices, and everything else we loved in 2023.

Games of The Year

Esquire’s Game of The Year

Alan Wake 2

Alan Wake 2

Pardon me if you’re an Alan Wake superfan, but I’m going to recap its Rudy-esque ascent to the top of this list. In 2010, Remedy debuted Alan Wake: A horror game about a famous, yet notoriously moody detective novelist whose life takes a supernatural turn (think: haunted by the lore of Stephen King) while on a getaway trip. His superpower? Writing. His weapons? A gun and a flashlight. The man isn’t exactly Solid Snake. Leaning on a brilliant, twist-turning, meticulously written story, Alan Wake was instantly memorable—but not commercially successful enough to nab a sequel. It receded into the memories of nerds like me, who worried that the days of major gaming studios making something that weird and brilliant and fun were coming to a close.

You know where I’m going with this. In 2021, Remedy announced Alan Wake 2. And it’s fucking great. Really, I can only think of a handful of video games that have made me more excited about the future of storytelling in the medium.

Let’s try this without delving into spoiler territory: Alan Wake 2 follows Wake and an FBI agent named Saga Anderson. Their stories intertwine in a genuinely surprising and downright novelistic way—and I’m not sure if a game has ever nailed the interiority of its heroes quite like Alan Wake 2 does. The world of the game is a living, breathing hellscape, which is a given. But what’s a little more unnerving is when a musical erupts in the middle of the narrative, or even when you start the damn thing playing as a mysterious naked man, shuffling through the woods. Did I mention there’s a ton of live-action scenes in here? The way Alan Wake 2 mixes and matches mediums is worth its own essay. It’s weird, wild, and a story that will stick with you far longer than you’re comfortable with. —Brady Langmann

No. 2

Nintendo The Legend of Zelda™: Tears of the Kingdom

The Legend of Zelda™: Tears of the Kingdom

In this year’s Game of the Year race, The Legend of Zelda: Tears of the Kingdom—which practically debuted eons ago, in May—is almost like the Academy Awards film that released earlier than its peers, so it doesn’t look like the shiny new toy in comparison. (Check out the other four games on this list—Tears of the Kingdom debuted at least three months before the others.)

So let’s give Tears of the Kingdom its bouquet of sundelions, shall we? We’ve written about its masterpiece-making breakthroughs, including the addition of the Sky Islands and the Depths, which make its predecessor’s (Breath of the Wild) massive world downright gargantuan. We’ve given love to the fact that Nintendo dared to introduce engineering to the mix—Tears of the Kingdom introduces planes, land vehicles, and more, all of which added a brilliant flair to Breath of the Wild‘s DIY fun. What we haven’t said—and what propelled Tears of the Kingdom to this spot like a supercharged Zonai fan? Tears of the Kingdom managed to recreate Breath of the Wild‘s sense of childlike joy: Limitless, pure-hearted, and fun. It’s rare to accomplish that in a sequel—or any game for that matter. There’s nothing in Nintendo’s latest portrait of Hyrule that you can’t do. For that alone, we’ll never forget our time exploring every damn inch of it. —B.L.

Baldur's Gate 3

As someone with absolutely zero Dungeons & Dragons experience, a month ago I couldn’t tell you a single thing about necrotic damage, githyanki, or spell slots. Then, I cleared my schedule to tackle one of the year’s juggernauts: Baldur’s Gate 3. Throwing myself into the fire, I quickly learned the dice-rolling rules and conquered the goblin camps—even with some of the most elaborate menus I’ve ever seen. But within Baldur’s Gate’s complex turn-based combat and custom-tailored character progression system is a world of exciting decisions that actually matter. In a world where most games have entirely predetermined storytelling, choosing to help a town fight against an enemy or raze it to the ground will have real consequences moving forward. I can fully guarantee that if two people play this game, they’ll have vastly different experiences. It’s the kind of true choose-your-own-adventure gameplay all video games promise, but only Baldur’s Gate 3 has delivered.

Everyone you talk to in the game is superbly voiced, from your main companions down to random villagers. Hell, even the animals! It’s another rarity in the video-game world, where unimportant passersby endlessly repeat the same benign phrases. Neil Newbon, who voices a rogue vampire named Astarion, turns in one of the greatest performances in a video game I’ve ever heard. Plus, Baldur’s Gate 3 lets me use druid magic to turn myself into a big ol’ bear. Can’t beat that.—Josh Rosenberg

No. 4

Nintendo Super Mario Bros.™ Wonder

Super Mario Bros.™ Wonder

Out of all the great video games that came out this year, Super Mario Bros. Wonder is the one I’d recommend to younger audiences as their first video game. The idea of a beginner game is something Nintendo excels at—and Mario games are the blueprint for simple, clean level design. He runs and jumps! Plays sports and drives a go-kart! Easy enough. But Nintendo wouldn’t be a legendary company if they just had Mario walk from one side of the screen to the other. There’s a little bit more going on than that.

The Super Mario Bros. Wonder team reportedly held several meetings during the game’s creation, looking for ways to remix and update Mario’s classic side-scroller feel. Nintendo walked away with dozens of ideas—and they all made it in the game through a new “Wonder Flower” power-up. Grab one of these items in a level and the stage morphs into something else. The green pipes move about like inchworms, the piranha plants sing, and Mario turns into an elephant. It’s a celebration of Mario’s lasting legacy—a game that figured out that every norm had to be broken to create something fresh and exciting. That’s magic. —J.R.


When you’re born as a little insect in the world of Cocoon, there isn’t a single dialogue box to tell you what to do next. It’s your curiosity alone that helps you progress through the game’s inventive puzzles—without a single word spoken. Mistakes lead to answers, studying your environment unlocks paths forward, and completing the game’s trials will test your brain is ways that make you feel like the smartest person in the world. Created by an independent Danish studio named Geometric Interactive, Cocoon proves that it doesn’t take a 100-plus hour massive open world to create a truly great video game.

As our little insect friend, the player mostly hops in and out of worlds within worlds through little orbs. What you do in one world can help you in the other. Plus, Cocoon‘s abstract design is remarkably colorful and expressive, which is great for when you need to remember exactly which orb you need to jump into next. It’s the rare game that you can finish in just one sitting, yet it that stands just as tall as the rest of the titles on the list. Even when you play as just a little bug. What more can you ask for? —J.R.

Best Consoles and Devices

Best Remote Console

PlayStation Portal

Unlike the Nintendo Switch or the Steam Deck—which are bonafide standalone consoles—the PlayStation Portal is unusable unless you own a PlayStation console. It also only works with a Wi-Fi signal. (Sorry, bluetooth.) You need to know those cons first, because this isn’t a $200 portable PlayStation. But if you’re a PlayStation owner and have the cash to spare, you should absolutely pick up the PlayStation Portal—because there’s never been a better way to share the TV with your housemates. Does your roommate or significant other have a problem with you hogging the screen for 10-plus hours a week? This is your solution. It might not be a device for everyone, but the PlayStation Portal will save relationships. —J.R.

Best PC Handheld


For everyone who’s not a PlayStation gamer, Razer came through. Look, is it the revolution Razer promised? No. But is it a huge step in mobile gaming? Absolutely. Like a regular PC, you can load and stream whatever you want from Steam. But if you’re like myself and already rock Xbox Game Pass, you can just think of this as your own version of that PlayStation Portal. It’s a console on the go. The AMOLED screen is lovely, and the Qualcomm Snapdragon chip is—despite a minor rollout scandal—powerful enough to run big titles. It’s a great handheld entry, and a canary for how big the handheld industry will become. Read our full review here. —Luke Guillory

Best Budget Gaming Laptop

Victus 16

This isn’t really news: HP’s Victus series has been everyone’s favorite budget-friendly laptop for years now. What we’re rewarding is HP’s enduring commitment to offering a solid gaming laptop at a fair price. You can pick up a base model for under $1,000—and that will handle 75 percent of the games you want to play for the next five years. If you want to play AAA games on a laptop, the pre-configured “Esports Pro” build is capable of running big titles on their max settings, and it only costs $1,200. PC gaming is intimidating to anyone who’s not already into it, but HP has continued to offer it up to the masses. —L.G.

Best VR Headset

PlayStation VR2

Yes, the Sony PlayStation VR2 is an unholy $549. And yes, you don’t want to pay that amount money to strap a fancy doohickey to your face. This is the Gaming Awards, though, and the PlayStation VR2 is the best option out there. I can only describe the image quality as: That’s the tall lady from Resident Evil Village and I just pissed my pants. The PlayStation VR2 also sports a built-in front-facing camera, which means that you can actually see what’s in front of you when you’re getting situated. As for the games? Between Resident Evil Village VR and (my personal favorite) Gran Turismo 7 VR, you have two genuine showstoppers. Sony! Just knock a little bit off the price tag and we’ll never take the thing off.—B.L.

Best Projector

The Freestyle 2nd Gen with Gaming Hub
Samsung The Freestyle 2nd Gen with Gaming Hub

Now 25% Off

In last year’s Gaming Awards, we christened Xbox Game Pass the best deal in gaming—because you get a massive library of old (and new!) titles with one monthly payment. If you have Game Pass Ultimate, you don’t even need a console, because Samsung’s gaming hub—pre-downloaded on new monitors and TVs—can stream Xbox games directly from the cloud. Given the Freestyle 2 is small enough to fit on a carry-on, it’s practically a pocket-sized console. The device isn’t without its faults; you can only use it in lower light settings. Still, it’s a massive leap forward for cloud-based console gaming.—L.G.

Best Gaming Accessories

Best Gaming Chair

Titan Evo

The SecretLab Titan Evo was our Best Gaming Chair last year—and they’re back here again with an even more comfortable model. Their new SoftWeave Plus fabric is soft, breathable, and, supportive. Rep all your favorite competitive video game characters and anime, too including design collaborations with Overwatch, Jujutsu Kaisen, Demons Slayer, Fortnite, and more. The Titan Evo can also look just like an office chair, balancing the needs for those who turn their work desks into gaming setup at night. Or, for those who stay up so late toiling away in Spider-Man 2 that their gaming chair becomes their work chair by default.—J.R.

Best Gaming Headset

Astro A50 X

The most maddening aspect of gaming headsets is the fact that they aren’t cross-compatible between consoles. (Xbox and PC bluetooth connections are different from PlayStation, etc.) If you play across multiple devices, you might have to own three separate headsets. Logitech G has ended this dilemma with its newest Astro model. The A50 X uses a proprietary adapter box, which allows you to route your console or PC through the box and to your monitor. That box uses its own bluetooth connection—and lets you connect your headphones to three devices at once. Simply switch channels when you’re playing on a different device. It’s insane that this has never been done before, and if you have multiple consoles and headsets, this is the only way you can consolidate.—L.G.

Best Wireless Controller


It’s been a long time since I’ve seen a truly innovative controller. Not since the Nintendo Wii’s nunchuk, at least. Sure, the next-gen controllers feature haptic rumbling and a speaker, but they mostly still function just the same as their predecessors. The coolest part about PowerA’s new controller? The button section detaches from the controller, becoming an even smaller handheld device for those on the go. It’s as if PowerA designed it for the player who thinks, Forget all that fancy shit and just give me the damn buttons! Frankly, that guy is me. I’m glad this exists. —J.R.

The Device of the Future

 XR/AR Glasses

VR, AR, and now XR? I can already project Pokémon onto my front lawn and put on a headset that transports me into virtual worlds. Where-R we possibly going next? (Sorry.) Well, XR superimposes a screen over whatever you’re looking at. Need to game but don’t have a monitor? Put on these glasses and the screen will appear on the wall in front of you. Want to lie down and watch TV while looking up at your ceiling? The XR glasses work for that, too. Eventually, this will likely be possible via a microchip in our brains. For now, we have fun glasses! —J.R.

Best Wireless Keyboard

Pro X TKL Lightspeed
Logitech G Pro X TKL Lightspeed

Ever tried explaining keyboards to someone who doesn’t really get it? Excruciating. Key wobble? Sound test? Latency? A normal person would look at you like you’re from one of those dumb duplicate planets at the end of the Starfield universe. But! For anyone who cares—or is just beginning to care, really—listen up. Logitech G released its first new keyboard in quite some time, the Pro X TKL Lightspeed, and it’s an out-of-the-box masterpiece. It’s reasonably priced, easy to connect, RGB-capable, and it sounds (and feels) amazing. It’s not a beautiful, custom, perfectly lubricated keyboard. But as far as an easy-to-use and reliable big-brand option you can buy on Amazon, it’s a real triumph. —L.G.

Everything Else We Loved This Year

The Voice of Cross-Platform


Nearly every online multiplayer game has gone cross-platform, meaning Xbox, PlayStation, and PC gamers can play on the same servers. We needed a cross-platform communication service. Enter Discord—everyone’s de facto option. The instant messaging-slash-party voice chat platform is the online gathering place for gamers, niche Internet communities, and at-home day-trader types. In regards to gaming, the only stress point was the lack of on-platform console apps. Xbox and PlayStation players had to use a separate device to join parties and send messages. In 2022, it launched on Xbox, and earlier this year, Discord finally landed on PlayStation. The Big Three gaming platforms are now connected in-game and on voice chat. It’s been the biggest leap in cross-platform gaming since… the debut of cross-platform gaming.—L.G.

My Gaming Hamster Wheel


OK, sure, this isn’t a gaming-specific product. This is actually an under-desk bike that’s technically designed for real nine-to-five work, but I use it as my gaming hamster wheel. Instead of slumping on my couch playing through the Cyberpunk 2077: Phantom Liberty DLC for five hours on a Tuesday night, I sit in this thing—getting a pretty major quad workout. Plus! The Ampera generates power. I charge my phone on it. My laptop, too. Once or twice, I’ve plugged my Xbox controller into it, so that I can only continue playing if I’m pedaling, too. I’m not exaggerating when I say it’s the most genius thing I’ve ever done. —L.G.

The Immortality of Franchise Mode

On Sale

Madden NFL 24

Before I could walk, talk, or wipe my own ass, I was tooling around in Madden‘s franchise mode. It’s the ultimate sedative for a lazy Sunday. Why scrub the mildew from your shower floor when you can spend 10 (virtual years) retooling the New York Jets? Quality time with your significant other? Ppphh! I’m trying to trade three sixth-round draft picks for a 2028 fifth. This is my drug. Like clockwork, though, many a Madden fan bemoans the mode every year, accusing EA of copy-pasting the prior year’s version into the next. Whatever. If you ask this amateur GM, Madden’s franchise mode is—brace yourself for an obnoxious and slightly misplaced Taylor Swift reference—the Mr. Perfectly Fine of video game experiences. Don’t fix what ain’t broken.—B.L.

The Year of the 100-Hour Game

On Sale

Starfield: Standard Edition - Xbox Series X

Bethesda Starfield: Standard Edition – Xbox Series X

Now 46% Off

Reader, gamer, whatever you are: Welcome to the Year of the 100-Hour Game. Whatever the reason—technological advances, the evolution of the medium, more ambitious storytelling, or all of the above—2023 was the year that video games truly demanded all of your time, for better or worse. It takes almost 40 hours to watch the entirety of Succession—and an estimated 104 hours to 100 percent (read: beat, complete, and finish everything) in Baldur’s Gate 3. Add behemoths such as Hogwarts: Legacy, Cyberpunk 2077, and Tears of the Kingdom to the mix, and I can confidently tell you that it’s officially impossible to keep up with the industry past the age of 14. Sorry, olds.—B.L.

Peak Character Creation

Baldur's Gate 3

2023 was the year video games finally delivered truly unhinged character creation systems. Street Fighter 6 lets me be a guy with toothpick legs and massive arms. It also allows the reverse: a T-Rex of a man with unusable arms and thighs. Starfield has so many facial texture sliders that my jaw can extend past my nose. NBA 2K24 has LeBron James looking so real that you can convince someone they’re watching a real Lakers game. The same goes for Baldur’s Gate 3, where you’re presented with multiple options for your genitalia. I’m not kidding. I haven’t decided if we’ve collectively taken this too far—or still not far enough. Having to choose between four different kinds of penises will do that to a guy. —J.R.

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