The P2 Awards 2023 – Biggest Surprise

The P2 Awards 2023 - Biggest Surprise

It is that time of year folks, the time when the P2 crew sit down around a fire, roasting chestnuts, drinking a nice beverage before arguing excessively about the best games of the year. There is no doubt that 2023 had some absolute bangers to share with players and here, the P2 team have listed their favourites. First up is 2023’s biggest surprise. 

Paul James - The Lord of the Rings: Gollum

I knew to expect this game to be bad. Nothing in the pre-release marketing cycle did anything to give anyone any reason to believe that Lord Of The Rings: Gollum was going to be at the very least good. The game was not only not good though, but I was surprised by how abysmal it was. From disgustingly bad visuals to a gameplay loop that was awful from the get-go, and aged even more poorly, and technical flaws that brought the game completely to its knees (when it wasn’t crashing the game entirely), I was shocked by just how awful this game was. I’m sorry, I could’ve been more positive with this post, but I needed to get this shit out of my system one more time.

Jason Hawkins - Baldur's Gate 3

I kept tiptoeing around thinking I was going to vote Lethal Company (honourable mentions!), but I kept thinking back to the fever dream that was when an RPG, of all things (outside of Persona) took hold of everyone’s heart and was a lot of what the internet was talking about. Sex% speedruns, bear scenes, best girl/guy discussions, the huge difference in outcomes people were having when playing the game; all of it made for the most excitement this year around any game. I wanted to avoid the meme and not vote for Baldur’s Gate 3, but sometimes you have to trust your instincts.

Tim Henderson - Hi-Fi Rush

Somehow, my standout surprise for the year comes in the form of a game that I have yet to play. There are reasons for this – mostly in my lacking a current Xbox console or, for that matter, a vaguely up-to-date graphics card in my PC. I will likely be forced to fix one of those two issues over the next couple of years.

Hi-Fi Rush nonetheless gets the nod because it still represents a lot of things that I like, or at least approve of. For one thing, it was actually a surprise for basically everyone when it shadow-dropped near the beginning of the year, and it actually ended up doing very well for itself. It represented a noteworthy style shift for Tango Gameworks, showing that the studio had other talent in the bunker and that it needn’t be pigeon-holed into one type of thing. It’s also colourful and vibrant as all get out, introduces a rhythm mechanic and in general really mixed things up from the typical flavour of game associated with Microsoft. Oh, and as a Bethesda release it will, long term, very likely outshine Starfield. I really, really enjoy that particular thought. 

Sarah Ellen - Super Mario Wonder

While the collective internet generated a small war chest of Pirahna propaganda to salute our new musical overlords, Super Mario Wonder’s surprise could have just been due to its announcement and release in 2023. Instead, Nintendo provided us with a new 2D Mario platformer with formula-breaking challenges, new collectibles, and introduced one of our favourite princesses to the franchise of Mario platformers.

Sure, Princess Daisy may have received regular invitations to Mario’s side-hustles and monthly potluck dinners in the Mushroom Kingdom, but the ruler of Sarasaland has been stuck across the border. It was always Mario, Luigi and a gaggle of Toads routinely saving the Mushroom Kingdom from reptilian chaos – even Princess Peach has lent a hand and inspired Toadette’s superhero persona Peachette.

Now it is Daisy’s turn to shine, and the only way to play this game is with my favourite tomboy princess.

Stephen del Prado - Bomb Rush Cyberfunk

Bomb Rush Cyberfunk is exactly what I wanted it to be, which is partially why I don’t think it was perfect for everyone – a throwback to the Dreamcast era that captures for good and for worse the feeling of playing Jet Set Radio albeit with some slight improvements. Recent news that Sega themselves are resurrecting the JSR franchise might put BRC on unsteady footing, but I hope Team Reptile aren’t discouraged – they’ve managed to recreate what was, now I’d like them to jump ahead twenty-odd years and show me what Jet Set could be!

Rob Caporetto - Robocop: Rogue City

As an older games player, I remember the dark days of movie-based tie-ins with a vague sense of dread, as most of them ended up being horrible, horrible messes released to coincide with a movie release, instead of being developed to their own pace.

So I expect I wasn’t alone in not even having RoboCop: Rogue City on my radar, at least not until its demo launched and offered a solid slice of the game to enjoy. Obviously, blasting crims is a large part of that, and the way in which this is presented offers that feeling of being a walking brick down to a tee.

What truly makes it special though is just how well the team at Teyon have brought the rest of its world to life. Moments like doing errands in the police station between missions, or exploring your patrol areas for all the smaller incidents.

Most importantly though are the moments that explore Robo’s humanity, which is often left behind in most of his cinematic appearances, so seeing it touched upon here adds a dimension to the proceedings.

Though it only saw release relatively late in the year, RoboCop: Rogue City shows that tie-in games can offer something more than a flat retelling of a property, and instead allow players to dive deep into a world they appreciate.

Shaun Nicholls - Armored Core VI

Having only been announced in December last year, the quick release in comparison to the traditional release cycle had me wondering just what this game would be like. Big mechs, big weapons and fast combat were promised and by god did the team at FromSoft deliver. I had a blast laying waste to all enemies I came across in my custom AC and while life has prevented me from completing Raven’s journey, I plan to get back to Rubicon soon to finish my mission. 

Jess Zammit - WarioWare Move It

WarioWare games have always been a ‘solid, but mid-tier’ kind of affair. They’re fun for a while but are easy to leave behind once the initial sheen wears off. Move It, however, surprised me with how forcefully it pulled me in. Each new round gave me an adrenaline rush, and when playing with others, there wasn’t a single person who wasn’t filled with hype when they picked it up. This game is absurd, surprising, and way more fun than it has any right to be. 

Matt Hewson - Remnant II

Well who would have seen this coming, a Souls-like that grabbed me, a noted Souls-like disliker, and never let me go? Remnant 2 was the game that did exactly that. After a solid first game, Remnant II really evolved the genre to utilise ranged weaponry in a way that no other game does. 

Tight shooting mechanics, amazing weapons, challenging yet fair combat and some truly wonderful enemy designs make Remnant II an amazing experience and had it released in any other year than 2023 it would very much be in contention for my my GOTY. Don’t pass this one by folks. 

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