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Predictions for the 2023 Game Awards

Kaitlyn Close

At noon on Monday Nov. 13, Game Awards host Geoff Keighley hosted a livestream to announce the nominees for all 30 categories of the 2023 annual Game Awards. In just 10 minutes, gaming fans across the world were either ecstatic about their favorite games being nominated or saddened by their favorites being snubbed from the nominations. The winners in each category will be revealed on Dec. 7, but until then, here’s what this reviewer thinks deserves to win for each category at this year’s Game Awards.

Best Adaptation nominees:

  • “Castlevania: Nocturne” – from Powerhouse Animation / Netflix
  • “Gran Turismo” – from PlayStation Productions / Sony Pictures
  • “The Last of Us” – from PlayStation Productions / HBO
  • “The Super Mario Bros. Movie” – from Illumination / Nintendo / Universal Pictures
  • “Twisted Metal” – from PlayStation Productions / Peacock

What will win – “The Super Mario Bros. Movie”

What should win – “The Last of Us”

Biggest snub – “Five Nights at Freddy’s”

The past five years have seen a massive turn in the quality of video game adaptations. Before we had the original “Super Mario Bros.” live action film, films such as “Detective Pikachu” and the first “Sonic the Hedgehog” film started to fix the curse that had been associated with video game movies for so long. Now, there’s even a category for video game adaptations to the Hollywood screen, and this year’s lineup is stacked.

For many people, “The Super Mario Bros. Movie” seems to be a shoo in for this award, given how the film made over $1 billion at the box office and how well it adapted the beloved franchise to the big screen, especially compared to the previous live action movie from decades ago. Despite that, HBO’s “The Last of Us” is more deserving of the win for this category, not only because of how well it adapts the source material to the cinematic realm, but also for the fact that it adds additional context to the story that enhances the source material. “The Last of Us” has been hailed as one of the best stories ever told in the realm of video games, and HBO’s adaptation of that story has managed to both retain and enhance that quality.

Though despite how well received many of these nominees have been, there is one movie that has been conspicuously left out of the conversation: “Five Nights at Freddy’s.” The FNAF movie has been in production hell for the past eight years, and after several script and director changes, the movie finally made its way to the big screen, to the delight of fans and the detriment of critics. Even if the movie itself isn’t great by regular movie standards, the impact of this movie on the video game online space cannot be overstated. The fact it wasn’t even nominated for this category is a disservice to all the blood, sweat and tears put into its production over the past decade.


Best Score & Music nominees:

  • “Alan Wake 2” – from Composer Petri Alanko
  • “Baldur’s Gate 3” – from Composer Borislav Slavov
  • “Final Fantasy XVI” – from Composer Masayoshi Soken
  • “Hi-Fi Rush” – from Audio Director Shuichi Kobori
  • “The Legend of Zelda: Tears of the Kingdom” – composed by Nintendo Sound Team

What will win – “Final Fantasy XVI”

What should win – “Baldur’s Gate 3”

Biggest snub – “Octopath Traveler 2”

Music is one of the most important elements when it comes to any form of entertainment, and video games are no exception to this rule. Whether someone plays a game for five hours or 500 hours, they are going to be hearing the game’s soundtrack the whole time. Ensuring a game’s soundtrack is good is one of the most important parts of game development.

Since the release of “Final Fantasy VII” on the original Playstation, the “Final Fantasy” series has been hailed as one of the juggernauts of video game soundtracks throughout the industry. Each entry brings new soundtracks with incredible action tracks and somber melancholy tracks that instill strong emotions into many of its players. While “Final Fantasy XVI” does that and then some, “Baldur’s Gate 3” manages to do a lot more with a lot less. 

Despite Larian Studios having a much smaller development team than the entirety of Square Enix, the way Borislav Slavov managed to create tracks that capture important character moments perfectly while also keeping them consistent with the fantasy tone of the game is absolutely incredible.

With all that being said, neither of those two games can hold a candle to the soundtrack of Square Enix’s other masterpiece that came out this year: “Octopath Traveler 2.”

Despite having some of the best review scores for any game this year, “Octopath 2” did not receive a single nomination for any category at this year’s Game Awards, which is a shame. All of the main character themes, the boss themes and especially the reprisals of some of the first game’s incredible tracks, all combine to make one of the best video game soundtracks in Square Enix’s history. “Octopath Traveler 2” will be the biggest snub for several of these categories, and for good reason, because it’s frankly criminal that it wasn’t nominated at all.


Best Performance nominees:

  • Ben Starr – “Final Fantasy XVI”
  • Cameron Monaghan – “Star War Jedi: Survivor”
  • Idris Elba – “Cyberpunk 2077: Phantom Liberty”
  • Melanie Liburd – “Alan Wake 2”
  • Neil Newbon – “Baldur’s Gate 3”
  • Yuri Lowenthal – “Marvel’s Spider Man 2”

Who will win – Neil Newbon as Astarion in “Baldur’s Gate 3”

Who should win – Neil Newbon as Astarion in “Baldur’s Gate 3”

Biggest snub – Harry McEntire as N in “Xenoblade Chronicles 3: Future Redeemed”

With games becoming more cinematic as time goes on, especially with larger budgets, having incredible acting performances is a must for any game to draw the player into a full immersive experience. Since 2013’s “The Last of Us” revolutionized the concept of cinematic storytelling through the medium of video games, these kinds of performances have become an integral part of the modern gaming experience.

It is impossible to overstate the impact that Neil Newbon’s performance as the suave vampire Astarion has had on both “Baldur’s Gate 3” and on the wider internet community. Astarion is one of, if not the most, complex character in “Baldur’s Gate 3,” with some of the best character moments throughout his questline. Newbon’s vocal performance in every single scene heightens his complexity even further. Given that Newbon already won best supporting performer at the Golden Joystick Awards only a few days before the Game Awards nominees were announced, it is highly likely that Newbon will take another victory in December.

Putting aside the incredible vocal performances from games this year, there is one saddening omission that is an unfortunate repeat from the 2022 Game Awards. One of the nominees for Game of the Year in 2022 was “Xenoblade Chronicles 3,” which aside from having some of the most incredible content in video game history, also had several memorable vocal performances, with Harry McEntire’s performance as Noah and N being the clear highlight. Despite his impressive performance, McEntire didn’t receive a nomination last year, and the same is unfortunately true this year, as his reprisal of N in “Xenoblade Chronicles 3: Future Redeemed” has been overlooked.


Best Independent Game nominees:

  • “Cocoon” – from Geometric Interactive / Annapurna Interactive
  • “Dave the Diver” – from MINTROCKET
  • “Dredge” – from Black Salt Games / Team 17
  • “Sea of Stars” – from Sabotage Studio
  • “Viewfinder” – from Sad Owl Studios / Thunderful Publishing

What will win – “Sea of Stars”

What should win – “Sea of Stars”

Biggest snub – “Killer Frequency” from Team 17

Despite most AAA games having immense budgets and even higher sales, many indie games have managed to climb their way up to stand alongside them at the Game Awards in previous years, with 2017’s “Celeste” and 2020’s “Hades” being standout examples. Although 2023’s Game Awards did not nominate any indie games for the coveted Game of the Year award, that does not mean the indie games that came out this year were any lower in terms of quality. The year 2023 has been one of the best years for indie games in a long time.

The pinnacle of the high standard for indie games this year has to be Sabotage Studio’s “Sea of Stars,” which takes much inspiration from classic Super Nintendo role playing games like “Chrono Trigger” and “Final Fantasy VI,” and refines them to their absolute peak. With a beautiful pixel art style, incredible soundtrack and thrilling yet strategic combat system, “Sea of Stars” is the clear standout hit for indie games in 2023.

While indie games in 2023 have been of extremely high quality, that doesn’t mean they’ve been without controversy. Upon the announcement of the nominees for this category, people online were quick to point out that “Dave the Diver” should not count as an indie game, as it was produced by MINTROCKET, which is a subsidiary of Nexxon, a multi-billion dollar company. This completely defeats the purpose of “indie” as a label. It’s also a shame when genuine indie games like “Killer Frequency” and “Pizza Tower” lose out on a nomination due to this.

Between those two, “Killer Frequency” is definitely the biggest snub both in terms of the awards show and in terms of the wider gaming community failing to recognize it as a whole. The concept of solving a murder mystery from the seat of a radio host, alongside the incredible voice acting, definitely deserved some sort of acknowledgement from the Game Awards.


Best Multiplayer nominees:

  • “Baldur’s Gate 3” – from Larian Studios
  • “Diablo IV” – from Blizzard Entertainment
  • “Party Animals” – from Recreate Games
  • “Street Fighter 6” – from Capcom
  • “Super Mario Bros. Wonder” – from Nintendo EPD / Nintendo

What will win – “Super Mario Bros. Wonder”

What should win – “Super Mario Bros. Wonder”

Biggest snub – “Jackbox Party Pack 10”

As the gaming community has expanded significantly over the past few decades, many players choose to play games specifically for their multiplayer modes, especially for gamers who are more casual when it comes to what kinds of games they play. 

Despite how good games like “Baldur’s Gate 3” and “Diablo IV” are, it’s hard to deny just how whimsical and genuinely fun the multiplayer in “Super Mario Bros. Wonder” is. Rather than using the chaotic multiplayer system from the “New Super Mario Bros.” series, “Wonder” instead opts to use more of a passive multiplayer system. This system allows players to complete stages alongside friends, and even assist them in certain areas such as giving them items and reviving players upon death, essentially keeping the benefits of the system from the “new” games without any of the drawbacks. The subtle relationships that form between players struggling on the same stage, constantly reviving each other as they get further into the level bit by bit, is an incredible experience that’s better than any other multiplayer experience I’ve had this year.

Though of course, one shouldn’t overlook the king of modern multiplayer games, the “Jackbox Games” series, with their new release of “Party Pack 10” earlier this year. Jackbox is a game that anyone with a phone can play with friends, and every single time,  players will have an absolute blast while trying to make each other laugh. It’s definitely not the typical kind of multiplayer seen in the other nominees for this year, but it’s still an experience of comradery that few other games can emulate.


Most Anticipated Game nominees:

  • “Final Fantasy VII Rebirth” – from Square Enix
  • “Hades II” – from Supergiant Games
  • “Yakuza Like A Dragon: Infinite Wealth” – from Ryu Ga Gotoku Studio / Sega
  • “Star Wars Outlaws” – from Massive Entertainment / Ubisoft
  • “Tekken 8” – from Bandai Namco / Arika

What will win – “Final Fantasy VII Rebirth”

What should win – “Final Fantasy VII Rebirth”

Biggest snub – “Paper Mario: The Thousand Year Door” remake

One of the most important parts of the modern gaming landscape surprisingly doesn’t have to do with the actual games themselves, but rather the marketing and the leadup to their release. There’s a reason many people who watch the Game Awards every year care more about the trailers and reveals for games than the actual awards themselves. Hype culture surrounding upcoming releases is a key part of what makes gaming on the internet such a collective experience. Acknowledging that culture through this award is both an important thing to do for the developers and a nice nod to the communities who often have to wait years for these games to release.

The clear standout from this list of nominees in terms of hype for its release is easily “Final Fantasy VII Rebirth.” With the incredibly large following that the original “Final Fantasy VII” has developed since its original release on the PS1, and with how well received the first “Final Fantasy VII Remake” was back in 2020 – even being nominated for Game of the Year that year – the anticipation for how Rebirth would both continue and change the ongoing story of the “Final Fantasy VII” universe, along with the thrilling gameplay that is sure to come with it, has been a hype train that millions of gamers have been riding since the pandemic, and will continue to ride until its release next year.

As hyped as many people are for every nominee present in this year’s lineup, there’s one particular game coming out early next year that’s conspicuously absent from this list: the highly anticipated remake of “Paper Mario: The Thousand Year Door.” With many “Paper Mario” fans being dissatisfied with the turn that the franchise has taken over the past decade, seeing a remake of what many consider to be the crown jewel of the franchise come out of nowhere in September’s Nintendo Direct was a breath of fresh air. Depending on how well received the final release is, it could end up outselling some of the nominees on this list by the end of next year.


Best Art Direction nominees:

  • “Alan Wake 2” – from Remedy Entertainment / Epic Games Publishing
  • “Hi-Fi Rush” – from Tango Gameworks / Bethesda Softworks
  • “Lies of P” – from Round8 Studio / Neowiz Games
  • “Super Mario Bros. Wonder” – Nintendo EPD / Nintendo
  • “The Legend of Zelda: Tears of the Kingdom” – from Nintendo EPD / Nintendo

What will win – “Super Mario Bros. Wonder”

What should win – “Hi-Fi Rush”

Biggest snub – “Octopath Traveler 2”

While graphics aren’t the end-all-be-all when it comes to the quality of a game, the caliber of the art direction in many games can be a deciding factor for many people. Games like “Persona 5,” “Neon White” and several others are quality games on their own, but their art direction truly boosts those types of games to another level, which illustrates why this award is so important for the games industry as a whole.

This year’s nominees for best art direction is a stacked list, with Nintendo in particular coming in with two heavy hitters:“Super Mario Bros. Wonder” and “The Legend of Zelda: Tears of the Kingdom.” Between the two, “Mario Wonder” definitely takes more leaps in terms of its art direction, and with the budget of Nintendo behind it, it’s likely the strongest contender for the award this year. However, taking a single look at the gameplay from “Hi-Fi Rush” shows how incredible art direction can be when it’s not limited to the standard of a franchise like “Mario” or “Zelda.” “Hi-Fi Rush” looks like the cartoons that people in Gen Z grew up watching on Cartoon Network. That aesthetic is very hard to emulate, and even harder to emulate well, so the fact that “Hi-Fi Rush” was able to successfully do so to such an incredible degree deserves to be honored and appreciated.

When it comes to the conversation of art direction, one art style that has been prevalent over the past few years is conspicuously absent from this year’s nominees. The HD-2D art style popularized by the original “Octopath Traveler” in 2017 was perfected in this year’s “Octopath Traveler 2.” The HD-2D style perfectly blends together modern lighting technologies seen in high budget games today while retaining a nostalgic pixel art style. The way subtle movements are able to convey so much emotion in this art style shows how expressive it truly is, and it’s a shame that “Octopath Traveler 2” was not able to represent the peak of this art style on the big stage.


Best Narrative nominees:

  • “Alan Wake 2” – from Remedy Entertainment /  Epic Games Publishing
  • “Baldur’s Gate 3” – from Larian Studios
  • “Cyberpunk 2077: Phantom Liberty” – from CD Projekt Red
  • “Final Fantasy XVI” – from Square Enix
  • “Marvel’s Spider-Man 2” – from Insomniac Games / SIE

What will win – “Alan Wake 2”

What should win – “Cyberpunk 2077: Phantom Liberty”

Biggest snub – “Octopath Traveler 2”

Games have become an extremely well-articulated medium for telling stories over the past few decades, with many incredibly impactful stories originating from video game concepts, as seen in the HBO’s adaptation of “The Last of Us.” As the cinematic nature of games has improved over the years, so too has the capacity for engrossing storytelling through the medium, to the point that many people play games specifically for their stories.

In recent years, many of the winners for best narrative at the Game Awards have been games that were released very close to the date of their show, with 2018’s “Red Dead Redemption 2,” 2020’s “The Last of Us Part 2” and 2022’s “God of War Ragnarok” being key examples of this. That isn’t meant to discredit the stories of those games, as they are all incredible in their own ways, but it does lend credence to the idea that “Alan Wake 2” will likely win best narrative for 2023.

With how much praise “Alan Wake 2” has gotten since its release at the end of October, there’s been a lot of time for praise, but not enough for proper  critique, which is part of the reason why recency bias does tend to seep into this category more than any other. Putting aside the idea of recency bias, the game that deserves this award more than any other would have to be “Cyberpunk 2077: Phantom Liberty,” both for how it expands the world of “Cyberpunk 2077,” but also for how it represents the turnaround “Cyberpunk 2077” has experienced since its release. Upon its release in late 2020, “Cyberpunk 2077” was universally panned for its horribly buggy and unoptimized state at release, and over the past three years since its release, the team at CD Projekt RED have put time and effort into improving the state of the game, all of which culminated in the release of “Phantom Liberty” earlier this year. Even if some of the other nominees may have had better stories overall, “Cyberpunk 2077’s” development story deserves to be honored in some way, shape or form.

Putting aside the narratives that were nominated, once again “Octopath Traveler 2” was left out. The way in which “Octopath 2” tells eight different stories that all manage to be satisfying in their own right, and then proceeds to have them all come together in a way that ties up every loose end is an incredible feat, and it’s extremely unfortunate that the biggest game award show of the year has failed to recognize “Octopath 2’s” excellence on so many levels.


Best Game Direction nominees:

  • “Alan Wake 2” – from Remedy Entertainment / Epic Games Publishing
  • “Baldur’s Gate 3” – from Larian Studios
  • “Marvel’s Spider-Man 2” – from insomniac Games / SIE
  • “Super Mario Bros. Wonder” – from Nintendo EPD / Nintendo
  • “The Legend of Zelda: Tears of the Kingdom” – from Nintendo EPD / Nintendo

What will win – “Baldur’s Gate 3”

What should win – “Super Mario Bros. Wonder”

Biggest snub – “Dead Space” remake from Motive Studio / EA

In five out of the seven years in which Best Game Direction has been a category for the Game Awards, the winner of this category has gone on to win the coveted Game of the Year award. Directing a game can be a monumental undertaking, especially when the standards for video games in the modern day are so high, but each team working on these games has managed to push through and create something incredibly special and worthy of commendation.

Going based on precedent, it seems incredibly likely that “Baldur’s Gate 3” will likely take home the award for best game direction, and then subsequently go on to win Game of the Year for 2023. “Baldur’s Gate 3” did just that at the Golden Joystick awards recently. In many ways, the team at Larian Studios absolutely deserve it for the sheer amount of content present in the game at such a high level of quality. However, for as high quality as “Baldur’s Gate 3” is, “Super Mario Bros. Wonder” had a better sense of game direction when looking at the game as a whole. Being the first fully new 2D Mario game since 2014, and the first completely original 2D Mario game since “New Super Mario Bros.” on the Nintendo DS in 2006, the team at Nintendo decided to make this entry in the “Mario” series one to remember. The fact that almost every single level in “Mario Wonder” has a unique gimmick thanks to the wonder flowers, is absolutely incredible, and each one is as bizarre as it is fun across over one hundred levels present in the game. Nintendo’s creativity truly knows no bounds, and “Super Mario Bros. Wonder” is a true testament to that.

If there was one more game that could have and should have been nominated for this category, even if it wouldn’t be likely to win against such heavy hitters, it would have to be Motive Studio’s remake of the survival horror classic “Dead Space.” Everything about this remake oozes dread from every air vent present on the USG Ishimura. From the sound design to the atmosphere and the gameplay to the horror aspects, everything is top notch. It’s unfortunate “Dead Space” was only nominated for a single category, Best Audio Design, when it had so much more on display.


Game of the Year nominees:

  • “Alan Wake 2” – from Remedy Entertainment / Epic Games Publishing
  • “Baldur’s Gate 3” – from Larian Studios
  • “Marvel’s Spider-Man 2” – from Insomniac Games / SIE
  • “Resident Evil 4 Remake” – from Capcom
  • “Super Mario Bros. Wonder” – from Nintendo EPD / Nintendo
  • “The Legend of Zelda: Tears of the Kingdom” – from Nintendo EPD / Nintendo

What will win – “Baldur’s Gate 3”

What should win – “Baldur’s Gate 3”

Biggest snub – “Final Fantasy XVI”

Now for the main event, the most coveted award that every game developer dreams of winning one day, the Game of the Year award. Any game nominated for this category is one that excels across the board, manages to outperform the competition in almost every other category, and is truly an achievement not only in game design, but in media as a whole. 

Before stating which game will likely win this award, it is important to address one that was left out, much to the dismay of fans: “Final Fantasy XVI.” Looking at the lists of nominees for each of the categories, “Final Fantasy XVI” was nominated for a good number of awards, some of which many of the other Game of the Year nominees weren’t even nominated for, yet it was just shy of the mark for being nominated for the highest award. With an incredible soundtrack, gameplay and story, “Final Fantasy XVI” absolutely deserves to be considered one of the best games released in 2023, even if it wasn’t nominated for Game of the Year.

Every nominee present on the list for 2023 absolutely deserves to be on there, but at the end of the day, there can only be one winner. In all likelihood, the winner is going to be “Baldur’s Gate 3.” The vocal performances, the impactful and tear jerking narrative, the amazing soundtrack and all of the incredible effort put into this game both before and after release make “Baldur’s Gate 3” one of the most deserving games for this award in the history of the awards show.

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About the Contributors
Thomas Turner, Reporter
Thomas Turner (He/Him/His) is a 19 year old junior at App State, majoring in journalism with a minor in English. This is his second semester working with The Appalachian.
Kaitlyn Close, Graphics Editor
Kaitlyn Close (she/her) is a senior Graphic Design major and Digital Marketing minor. This is her second year with The Appalachian.
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    AndrewDec 5, 2023 at 9:19 am

    very nice