2023 has been a remarkably successful year for video games. We have had some stunning achievements to enjoy, and have been spoilt for choice by the high standard of what we have been offered.
It’s also a year where the industry has come down hard on itself with masses of layoffs across the board. It’s quite difficult to see things the way they are right now, another year like 2023 for the foreseeable future.
People still talk about 2007 as the last time gaming had a year as good as this, so if we are seeing the start of something like a 15-year cycle, it might be worth booking some time off work in 2038 to play whatever great titles are coming your way then.
So we tip our hats to all the people at the studios who have made this such a great year, especially those who have lost their jobs by the end of it. As gamers we have not had it so good for a long time, so let’s have a look at the games we went out and bought in 2023.
The best-selling games of 2023 in the US
We start with a caveat here. This is not as simple as it once was – best-selling does certainly not mean most-played. Game Pass and the like have muddied the waters. You can play a big game like Starfield without ever purchasing it, as long as you have a subscription to Microsoft’s library service.
We, (with stats from research company Circana) formulate this list with data up until the end of November 2023. We will finalize the list and make appropriate changes, once December’s data is finalized in early January.
YTD ending November 2023 Top 20 Best-Selling Premium Games – U.S. (Dollar Sales, Excludes add-on content) pic.twitter.com/XKp7H0JStA
— Mat Piscatella (@MatPiscatella) December 13, 2023
So for now, this is a best guess using the data available. It won’t be far off the mark and all the games listed here have performed remarkably well. So let’s start at number 10 to help keep the suspense building.
An Xbox / PC exclusive due to Microsoft owning Bethesda means no PlayStation sales here. Also, a Day One Game Pass arrival means that anybody with a Game Pass sub didn’t need to buy the game people had been waiting for years. Disappointing reviews and all the above don’t seem to have overly damaged things so Microsoft will be happy. It’s also likely Starfield will be around for a good deal of time yet if Bethesda’s Skyrim is anything to go by.
#9 Mortal Kombat 1
Another September release like Starfield, the return of the gory fighting franchise reignited fans of the original games, at least those who weren’t confused by the slightly odd naming convention. It is, of course, not Mortal Kombat 1, that came out in the 1990s, and this is not a remake. It’s already got a healthy discount in the Epic Game Store Holiday sale which might well pep its number up for December by the time it all shakes out for the full year.
#8 Star Wars: Jedi Survivor
One from earlier in the year, April’s Jedi Survivor was hotly anticipated and sold in decent numbers, despite perhaps not quite living up to expectations. Star Wars games based around Jedis traditionally do very well though, so it is no surprise to see this in the top 10- for the year.
#7 Call of Duty Modern Warfare II
Not to be confused with the most recent CoD that came out later in the year, this is the CoD that arrived in November 2022. Call of Duty games always sell well throughout the first part of the year and after Christmas when a host of new consoles find happy new forever homes to go to. Helped by the fact it reviewed, and played, very well, Modern Warfare II is the second of two Call of Duty games to hold a position in the Top 10.
#6 – Diablo IV
Released in the middle of the year but had been flirting with open betas to get people interested for a couple of months before, Diablo IV was a big return for Activision Blizzard (who are also now part of the Microsoft family). People had been craving a return to form for Diablo and they backed this latest incarnation in big numbers.
#5 Madden NFL 24
While the new EAFC 24 ruled sports games in Europe (it finished 12th in this list), Madden 24 sold by the bucketload for EA sports in the US. There is no sign of the Madden train stopping any time time with its annual reincarnations a regular occurrence in any top 10 list come the end of the year.
#4 Marvel’s Spider-Man 2
If Starfield and Microsoft can be pleased with a top 10 appearance despite console exclusivity, Insomniac Games and Sony will be delighted with the sales of Spider-Man 2 on the PlayStation 5. Building on a solid platform of the first game, the second wasn’t too far away from being the Game of the Year at the Game Awards in December.
#3 The Legend of Zelda – Tears of the Kingdom
What a game at number three. The follow-up to Breath of the Wild was everything Nintendo Switch owners wanted and more, and surely the majority of owners picked it up. Epic in every sense of the word, TotK captivated players and reviewers alike and deserves its place in the top 3.
#2 Call of Duty Modern Warfare III
It’s only been out for a month and a half but the CoD hype train keeps on running. This latest version wasn’t even particularly well received but Activision’s cash cow continues to blow away everything in front of it. Almost.
#1 Hogwarts Legacy
We covered the story in December that maybe, just maybe, a 15-year run of the best-selling game of the year being with Call of Duty or something by Rockstar might be about to end with the success story that is Avalanche’s Hogwarts Legacy. The final data is not in yet, but it’s hard to imagine Hogwarts, certainly on the Switch, not picking up decent December sales as people hunt for presents.
So there you have it. You might be wondering where the likes of Alan Wake 2 and Baldur’s Gate 3 are – two games that went neck and neck for the Game of the Year. Circana, who provides the data, does have a disclaimer that says, “Inclusion of digital sales date in the best-selling title charts is done at the discretion of the participating publisher.
You could therefore choose to assume that if the figures were transparent for all, those two games would indeed feature in the Top 10. That’s games publishers though – they like to keep us guessing.