PC games of the year 2023: PCGamesN’s top ten picks

2023 has been generous when it comes to exceptional new PC games, and the expert PCGamesN staff have rounded up the ten best of the bunch.

PC games of the year 2023: Baldur's Gate 3's Astarion deep in thought.

2023 has been an exceptional year for new games, so much so that over 50 releases were considered for a place on this top ten list of the best PC games of 2023. Outside of the sheer quality of the year’s lineup, we must also celebrate the variety on offer, from sprawling turn-based RPGs and life-devouring live-service action games to comedy-horror shenanigans with friends.

Five independently produced games made it into our top ten this year, with every passing month bringing something fresh and exciting to consider. It was the year we finally saw the launch of three of the most highly anticipated games of the past decade: Diablo 4, Baldur’s Gate 3, and Starfield. 2023 was also filled with consistent surprise hits, from Dave the Diver to Lethal Company. I wonder which – if any – made the cut.

Yes, it was a banner year for new PC games, but it was a challenging one too when looking at the broader picture, with numerous shocking studio closures and countless layoffs affecting all corners of the game industry. When we look back on 2023 in the months and years to come, we will remember it as a time of tremendous creative output yet severe instability. This list is a celebration of the former.

PCGN GOTY voting methodology

Our methodology for determining our top ten picks is as follows: every PCGN staffer ranks their top ten games, with their number one pick receiving ten points through to their number ten pick receiving one point. We then tally up the points for every submitted game, which presents us with the winners in ranked order. While we did have some extremely close competitions in the middle section of our top ten, there was one clear frontrunner whose final score was miles ahead of the runner-up. Can you guess the game? Read on to find out.

The top ten best PC games of 2023

Here are the best PC games of 2023, as decided by PCGamesN.

PC games of the year 2023: Artwork of two primary Sea of Stars characters, one a blue-haired woman and the other a blonde-haired man.

10. Sea of Stars

At first glance, Sea of Stars has it all. Beautiful pixel visuals, charming animation, a truly lovable cast of characters who have each others’ backs during the toughest trials, and a spectacular soundtrack that competes with all-time greats like Chrono Trigger and Final Fantasy 6. It won me over the instant its first enemy jumped out and the jaunty exploration theme broke into a pulse-pounding battle medley – its first of many to follow.

But look beyond that stunning veneer and you’ll find a masterclass of game design. Every single building block that makes up Sea of Stars feels lovingly chosen. Each mechanic has been carefully thought through and honed for maximum effect. Developer Sabotage Studio takes a lot of inspiration from other games in the genre, but it isn’t afraid to eschew RPG game tradition in smart ways, and it makes every element of the game’s combat feel useful and worthwhile.

That ethos extends to the exploration, too – its wonderful islands are a delight to explore, with just enough secrets to tantalize without ever feeling like you’re roaming aimlessly. A feature as simple as climbing ledges above head height is such a smart change from the norm, and emblematic of Sabotage’s thoughtful design philosophy.

Sea of Stars is a game that’s simple enough for anyone to pick up and play but offers enough nuance and character to make it special to genre veterans. Every moment I’ve spent with it has been an absolute joy to experience, and I wholeheartedly recommend taking the journey for yourself.

Ken Allsop

PC games of the year 2023: Dead Space protagonist Isaac shooting his plasma cutter at an incoming necromorph in an eerily lit, confined space.

9. Dead Space

When I think back to the original Dead Space, I most vividly recall the sounds. The screeching of the metal doors as they jerk open to reveal some fresh horror, the primal, guttural wails and retches of the necromorphs, and the squelch of a heavy boot crushing bone and flesh underfoot. The Dead Space remake, like many of the best remakes, knows what made the original work and endeavors to accentuate those qualities. Motive Studio’s latest looks like Dead Space, exudes its aura, and uses its modern technologies sensitively and smartly to bring one of the best horror games of all time into 2023 as if it always belonged here.

It’s a testament to the 2008 release’s slick and refined action that its gameplay fundamentals remain largely intact. The sprawling hellscape of the Ishimura is more imposing than ever as one giant, seamless space, while the gunplay – and most notably Isaac’s arsenal – benefits from a new layer of creativity thanks to the revamped secondary weapon functions. Even the addition of several game-spanning side quests and an alternative ending don’t detract from the classic’s tight, gnarly vision. The foundations laid here give me hope that Dead Space will rise again, and next time as a wholly new nightmare.

Cameron Bald

PC games of the year 2023: a small fishing boat sitting in the water looking out over a lighthouse above.

8. Dredge

This has been a strong year for horror and indie games, but Dredge emerges victorious from the watery depths to earn a respectable place among the best of 2023. Dredge excels by being many things; a fishing game, a story game, a horror, but never spreads itself too thin by somehow managing to be both relaxing and terrifying.

You begin your journey in a small fishing village in a mysterious archipelago. The modest boat you start with can be upgraded and improved by dredging for parts or catching fish to trade with the local fisherman. Though your day is taken up by these simple tasks, as the sun dips beneath the horizon, there’s plenty to fear in the spectral apparitions that haunt the waters and the deadly beasts lurking just beneath the surface. Dredge’s secrets slowly unravel as you open up more of the island and complete different quests set by the locals. Dredge also only takes about ten hours to complete and is a top Steam Deck game, so for those looking for a slice of relaxing horror this holiday, Dredge is for you.

Gina Lees

PC games of the year 2023: An insect standing on a ship looking over a vast sci-fi structure.

7. Cocoon

Cocoon is a three-hour game where your primary input is a single button. The game’s short length and streamlined setup don’t hinder its impact, though – they liberate it. The puzzle game is akin to Portal in so many ways: there are immaculately clean visuals, a refined central mechanic explored to the fullest, and a sense of ingenuity that very few games ever manage to master.

Through its world-hopping puzzle gameplay, Cocoon manages to impart so many lessons without ever making it feel like you’re being taught. There are no words, yet Geometric Interactive communicates every single lesson with such a clear-cut approach that it all comes so naturally. Cocoon’s design offers up a flow state it refuses to break, and being able to complete it in one sitting – experiencing the mind-bending story, and entire narrative journey of every puzzle – brings it all together beautifully.

Cocoon isn’t brilliant because it only uses one button, it’s brilliant because you forget it only has one.

Will Nelson

PC games of the year 2023: a Lethal Company character in an orange suit and black helmet creeping around a station.

6. Lethal Company

Lethal Company shot to the top of the Steam charts weeks after its launch thanks to its many ridiculously chaotic clips spreading around social media. This led to it temporarily boasting more viewers on Twitch than the likes of Modern Warfare 3, Minecraft, and League of Legends.

Lethal Company is a co-op horror exploration game that tasks you with gathering enough scrap to appease your mysterious, tentacle-clad employer without dying. A host of giant beasties present additional challenges – beware the huge spiders who will eat you alive if you so much as touch their web, or maybe it’ll be the snare flea that drops down from the rafters to smother you to death. You see, this job is unlike any other.

Hilarity ensues almost instantly when playing with friends. With Lethal Company mods supporting up to 32 players in a lobby, you’ll be less terrified in numbers but much more likely to witness a friend tumbling into a ravine or getting ravaged by the creature at the scrap depositing counter. Even after death, you can spectate your clueless teammates, who may not even realize you’ve perished, for further amusement.

Cheri Faulkner

PC games of the year 2023: Lilith bowing down to the player character after battle.

5. Diablo 4

I spent four years waiting for Diablo 4 hoping, begging, to catch a glimpse of Lilith, the Daughter of Hatred; my Blessed Mother. As my 10/10 Diablo 4 review states, the latest installment in Sanctuary’s saga of woe is the pinnacle of what makes Diablo Diablo, fusing fast-paced, bloody combat with a painful narrative infused with strife, desperation, and pure, unadulterated evil. Diablo 4 takes the darkness of 2 and the speed of 3 and combines them into a monstrous yet flawless ARPG chimera.

While Season 1 didn’t get off to the best start, the ongoing Season of Blood is the perfect time to dive back in – there are vampires, maniacal goats dressed as Santa, and the all-new Abattoir of Zir, whose inhabitants are out to tear you limb from limb. If you’re looking for something a little darker this holiday season, then break the chains, and be beautiful in sin – let Diablo 4 call you home.

Lauren Bergin

PC games of the year 2023: first-person perspective of Amnesia The Bunker's protagonist wandering through a darkly lit tunnel with bolt cutters in hand.

4. Amnesia: The Bunker

Amnesia The Bunker is the meeting point of allegory and realism, a grim miasma of trench warfare in which the visceral reality of WW1 poetry is made manifest as a first-person horror game. The titular bunker is a non-linear maze that takes Frictional’s long-established approach to horror – forcing players to marinate in the tension of hiding from a hostile force – and imbues it with the most terrifying element of all: agency.

The goal to escape the bunker is simple, but every choice invokes a delicious agony of progression and consequence. I’m handed a service pistol, but I expend its scant ammunition on solving environmental puzzles rather than warding off any threats. Exploration is a cautious and carefully planned venture, hastened by ever-dwindling supplies and hindered by traps and trench rats. There are no orchestrated jumpscares or elaborate set pieces in Amnesia The Bunker. There’s only you.

Nat Smith

PC games of the year 2023: Resident Evil 4's iconic village battle scene, with Leon firing his pistol at incoming enemies.

3. Resident Evil 4

Capcom’s Resident Evil 4 remake did the impossible in somehow matching and updating the excellence of the original, making for an essential survival horror experience. It reinvisions the 2005 classic’s creepy visuals, intense gameplay, and iconic set pieces (who can forget the first time visiting the village square?). It’s also brave enough to rework some of the original’s sequences, even introducing new sections emphasizing horror over action. Sure, some will miss the QTEs, but the updated bosses and new modes, such as the Merchant’s shooting gallery, more than make up for it in my eyes.

Later in the year, we got the Separate Ways DLC, which adds back the missing boss from Leon’s story and introduces some set pieces to help keep the expansion fresh. Capcom also ensured that support for Mercenaries was beyond what we expected, making this perhaps the best iteration of the survival mode. While PCGN staffer Ed Smith’s Resident Evil 4 review laments Capcom’s continued struggles to do Ashley’s character justice, he concludes that the remake “improves on the visuals, mechanics, and moment-to-moment experience of one of the best games ever made.”

Dave Irwin

PC games of the year 2023: Saga Anderson lighting a flair while exploring a taken-filled theme park.

2. Alan Wake 2

When the mainstream is increasingly dominated by simplified, thematically neutral, and design-by-committee live-service games, and it feels like most everything triple-A has to be a 100-hour open-world epic, Alan Wake 2 becomes a minor miracle. While Remedy borrows heavily from movies, TV, and its own previous games, there remains throughout Alan Wake 2 a distinct and always detectable authorial presence – it’s one of the few large-budget videogames of recent years that feels written by a person, with ideas and visions that are inspired from within, rather than by the realpolitik obligations of the market.

The fact that this is enough to make Alan Wake 2 notable – that I feel so grateful for something that’s purposeful and subjective, and has a few esotericisms – perhaps says more about triple-A mainstream games generally than it does about Sam Lake and Remedy as artists. Nevertheless, Alan Wake 2 is funny, tense, dramatic, and boasts a collection of small and large moments that stand out in the recent history of gaming. A shootout in an old people’s home? You don’t get that anywhere else.

Ed Smith

PC games of the year 2023: a custom Baldur's Gate 3 character and his party confronting another ground.

1. Baldur’s Gate 3

Testing your luck on a spin-the-wheel fair attraction, you notice that things may not be totally above board. You spin again and lose again. Something isn’t quite right. Questioning the proprietor, you’re met with aggression and incredulity. You drive home your point about them being a cheat and are transformed into a rather smelly wheel of cheese. Lovely day for it, really.

In Baldur’s Gate 3, you and any companions you may meet along the way are on a mission to fish a nasty parasite out of your head, lest you be turned into a Cthulu-like monstrosity. This may sound like the most pressing thing to happen to you today, but it’s only the beginning. Baldur’s Gate 3 is an RPG that has scale, depth, and a handcrafted feel that boggles the mind if given more than a passing thought. It is a source of endless surprises, as it presents almost unprecedented levels of player-driven choice and consequence. Clear your schedule, set everything to Do Not Disturb, and play this game right now. It’s sure to go down as one of the best PC games of all time.

Paul Kelly