2023 was a stellar year for video games

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It’s been a terrific year for video games. Developers hit their stride on the PlayStation 5 and Xbox X/S consoles, unleashing massive adventures big enough to satisfy gamers for weeks. The Switch is at the end of its lifespan, but Nintendo debuted two spectacular games on its way out. And indie studios held up their end, delivering distinctive takes on classic genres.

Here are the top 10 games of 2023, as chosen by Associated Press writer Lou Kesten.

Role-playing games were particularly ambitious this year, and none was more rewarding than this epic from Belgium’s Larian Studios. The main plot — you have a deadly parasite in your brain, and you need to get it out — is compelling enough, but your trek through the Forgotten Realms introduces a lively cast of characters and a cornucopia of fascinating side missions. It’s as close to the Dungeons & Dragons tabletop game as you can get digitally, and it’s a blast.

  • 2. The Legend of Zelda: Tears of the Kingdom

Nearly 40 years in, Nintendo keeps finding new ways to present the heroic Link and his eternal battle against evil. His most powerful new skill this time is Ultrahand, which allows him to build a seemingly endless variety of outlandish vehicles to traverse the sprawling land of Hyrule. Add in the usual assortment of devilish dungeons and brain-busting puzzles, and you can spend 100-some hours just goofing around before tackling its emotionally moving climax.

Feel like you’re carrying the weight of the world? That’s literally the burden of the beetle at the center of this masterpiece from Annapurna Interactive. Thing is, each of those spheres gives you a special power, and you can jump inside each world and explore. By the time you’re moving worlds within worlds, your mind’s fully blown. Designer Jeppe Carlsen is known for the bleak cult classics Inside and Limbo, and while he’s in a more forgiving mood here, Cocoon is just as thought-provoking.

  • 4. Cyberpunk 2077: Phantom Liberty

The 2020 release of Cyberpunk was, frankly, a mess, but Poland’s CD Projekt Red has devoted an extraordinary amount of effort to turning it into the game fans had hoped for. This year’s expansion makes it all worthwhile. It begins as an “Escape from New York” riff — the president’s plane crashes in an urban hellhole — and evolves into a brutal take on technology, global politics and corporate voracity. Yes, Keanu Reeves is back — and you get to hang out with Idris Elba too!

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