The Game Awards 2023 nominees have finally been revealed, and they are…pretty standard, honestly. Obviously, people had personal Game of the Year favorites that didn’t get a nod, but most of the major games of 2023 are represented in the places you’d expect to see them represented.
Of course, this is an awards show, and it’s not an awards show without some nominee controversies. These are a few of the more notable snubs and surprises from this year’s Game Awards nominees:
Hogwarts Legacy Doesn’t Get Any Nominations
Despite receiving (mostly) strong reviews and setting some sales records, Hogwarts Legacy did not receive a single Game Awards 2023 nomination.
For me, that falls somewhere between a snub and a surprise. Given the numerous controversies surrounding Hogwarts Legacy’s release and general existence, it was fairly easy to predict that the game wouldn’t be a widespread hit with the nominating committee. Between those who are protesting the game, those who simply don’t like it, and those who are tired of discussing it, Hogwarts Legacy was probably never going to get the support needed to put it over the top in a generally tough year for nominations.
At the very least, though, it certainly feels notable that one of the bigger games of the year did not receive a single nomination in any category. While I don’t feel that Hogwarts Legacy was obviously snubbed for any specific award, it was a seemingly notable candidate in several major categories. I thought there was a decent chance it could break through into one of them. In any case, the discourse obviously won’t end here.
Starfield Only Gets One Nomination
Heading into this year’s Game Awards, I felt there was a very good chance that Starfield could actually snag a Game of the Year nomination. At the very least, I suspected that the game would be a strong contender in several major categories.
Instead, Starfield earned just one nomination for an award (Best RPG) that it almost certainly has no chance of winning. Mind you, Starfield doesn’t have the same baggage surrounding it that something like Hogwarts Legacy does. It was definitely divisive, but seemingly no more divisive than games like Final Fantasy 16 and Diablo 4 (which each received multiple nominations).
That said, I actually think that was the right call. This is just another case where I’m simply more surprised that such a major game didn’t get more nominations. Starfield fans won’t be thrilled about this, but I honestly think that this represents an encouraging step forward for the way The Game Awards handles its nominations. This wasn’t a case where the “obvious” nominee was treated as the inevitable nominee.
Octopath Traveller 2 Is Completely Ignored
Though I’m not really surprised that Octopath Traveller 2 didn’t get any nominations, I’m certainly disappointed that Square Enix’s best RPG of the year didn’t get a little more love. It honestly feels like one of the biggest victims of a year filled with too many great games to keep track of.
Regardless, Octopath Traveller 2 is a truly special role-playing experience. More than just a clear improvement over the previous game in every measurable category, it is a masterful blend of deep old-school role-playing mechanics and modern design concepts. It’s that rare kind of game that feels like an all-time favorite you somehow get to play for the first time again.
At the very least, Octopath Traveller 2 deserved a Best Narrative nomination. However, there are really three or four categories it arguably deserved a nomination in (including Best RPG). At the very least, I think it deserved to take Lies of P’s nomination in that category on the basis of genre criteria alone.
Viewfinder Gets A Best Independent Game Nomination
To be clear, I have nothing against Viewfinder getting a Best Independent Game nomination. It’s a fun and creative puzzle game with a neat central gimmick. Developer Sad Owl Studios deserves a lot of love for their efforts and the creativity on display in that game.
Having said that, this is still a surprising nomination. While Best Independent Game was one of this year’s toughest categories, I haven’t really seen Viewfinder pop up in as many discussions as some of the other games there were seemingly contending for those final couple of spots (such as Pizza Tower and Humanity). It’s just interesting to see that Viewfinder was the game that seemingly survived an almost assuredly contentious “canceling out” voting process.
Phantom Liberty and Cyberpunk 2077’s Various Nominations
Though I actually think this is ultimately a good surprise, I’m nonetheless surprised that Cyberpunk 2077: Phantom Liberty received two nominations (Best Narrative and Best Performance).
Going into the Game Awards 2023, I wasn’t sure if Phantom Liberty would even be eligible for an award. While I couldn’t find a strict rule against DLC/expansions being nominated, there also wasn’t much precedent for such nominations in recent years. Furthermore, I wasn’t really sure if the voters would have “forgiven” Cyberpunk 2077 enough to recognize that Phantom Liberty is an exceptional experience in its own right. Honestly, I think Phantom Liberty should have secured a Best RPG nomination as well, but that was always going to be a tough pitch.
What’s probably going to be a little more contentious is the fact that Cyberpunk 2077 received nominations in both the Best Ongoing Game and Best Community Support categories. While the Cyberpunk 2077 2.0 update (which was released for free to everyone who owns eligible editions of the base game) was significant and impressive, I’m still a little surprised that the game’s redemption arc was seemingly acknowledged enough for it to receive those particular nominations. As we’ve previously discussed, there is certainly a debate worth having regarding whether or not Cyberpunk 2077 deserves to be in competition with the other games in those particular categories.