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Best Games of 2023
That Weren't
Licenses or Blockbusters
 

Each year those who write about video games like to collect together the best games they have played. These lists often contain the same games over and over, which got us wondering: what would a Game of the Year list look like without the Big Blockbuster, Licenced or Popular games included? Here's our alternative Game of the Year list without those games included.
 
This list includes 213 games from the last year, with 2,083 likes. They come from a range of different genres and play-styles and are all good games if you want to play the best games of 2023.

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We have 16 Award Winners lists of games, like these:
 

Venba

Venba is a narrative cooking game where you play an Indian mother who emigrated to Canada in the 1980s. You cook various traditional Indian dishes and restore lost recipes which were damaged in the move to Canada. As you cook, you talk to your family...

Storyteller

Storyteller is a puzzle game about building stories. You use a set of icons to match what is happening in each frame of the story. It's a simple challenge that gets the mind-stretching as you construct some of history’s greatest stories using building...

Tchia

Tchia is an adventure where you play a young girl (Tchia) who can climb, glide, swim, and sail around a beautiful archipelago. Along with the usual sandbox quests and play, the game offers an unusual ability to take control (and become) any animal or...

Season: A Letter to the Future

Season: A Letter to the Future is a narrative adventure about a young woman sent out from her secluded community to explore the world for the first time. She is tasked with documenting life in a local valley before a mysterious cataclysm washes...

Planet of Lana

Planet of Lana is an adventure where you play a young girl Lana and her loyal animal friend Mui, on a rescue mission. Set on a planet under siege by old machines and unfamiliar creatures. Rather than the war, though, this is a game about a vibrant...

Dordogne

Dordogne is a narrative adventure where you play as Mimi, a 32-year-old woman who returns to the house of her recently deceased grandmother. You explore the house and area to find letters and puzzles that bring back memories of the past.

Terra Nil

Terra Nil is a strategy game where you use clean technology to bring back life to a barren world. It's a city-building game where you aren't building a city at all, but a clean thriving ecology. It raises interesting themes of how humanity plays an...

Tren (Dreams)

Tren is a traversal-puzzle game set in a hand-crafted world as a wooden train, sailing boats and helicopters. You control points, shunt trucks around, operate cranes and generally move cargo from one location to the next. Like an escape room with toy...

Jusant

Jusant is a climbing traversal game where you take a challenging-yet-meditative climb to the top of a tall tower. You use the trigger buttons to hold on and the stick to jump and reach for the next position. In this way you methodically work your way up...

Goodbye Volcano High

Goodbye Volcano High is a high school coming-of-age adventure set in a world of anthropomorphic dinosaur characters. You play as band members, non-binary Fang and best friend Trish as they navigate the last days of high school. It's a mix of making...

Sea of Stars

Sea of Stars is an adventure role-play game about two children of the solstice. It combines turn-based combat, storytelling, exploration and interactions with the environment all in a pixel art style. Unusually for a role-play game, Sea of Stars also...

Skye Tales

Skye Tales is a gentle adventure about exploring a rich playground of floating islands as a dragon called Skye. Play involves traversing each chapter, meeting and interacting with different creatures and solving puzzles along the way. It's a game that...

Crime O'Clock

Crime O'Clock is a point-and-click crime-solving game where you explore a detailed map to piece together timelines that prove whodunnit. You zoom in and study the detailed map to find time markers and work out the culprit of hacking, murder and theft.

Shadows of Doubt

Shadows of Doubt is an open-world detective game set in a fully simulated city of crime and corruption. You explore the city to discover criminality, find clues, solve crimes and earn money to fund bringing a serial killer to justice. It stands out for...

Deceive Inc

Deceive Inc is an online stealth traversal game where you are a spy trying to get into the vault to steal an artefact. The twist is that everyone can disguise themselves as different agents to blend in with the computer-controlled characters. It stands...

Dredge

Dredge is a fishing adventure set in a remote archipelago called ‘The Marrows’ with a dark past. You explore the surrounding waters to fish for hundreds of different sea creatures and other resources. It stands out for the clever rhythm-based...

Dave the Diver

Dave the Diver is a simulation game where you manage a sushi bar by night and hunt for the fish to sell by day. You explore the depths of a lagoon, using your harpoon to catch fish and solve puzzles to unlock new areas. Then in the evening, prepare...

Chants of Sennaar

Chants of Sennaar is a traversal and translation puzzle where you play a traveller called to reunite the Peoples of the Tower who are unable to communicate with each other. Play involves exploring the cell-shaded world to decipher the glyph-based...

Hi-Fi Rush

Hi-Fi Rush is a rhythm fighting game where wannabe rockstar Chai uses the beat to fight an evil corporation. You play by exploring the world and fighting enemies. The twist is that everything moves to the beat, and you must attack in time to do the most...

Saltsea Chronicles

Saltsea Chronicles is a point-and-click adventure where you sail the sea to rescue your ship's captain. You explore the flooded world discovering islands, meeting characters, and managing the relationships between your crew. Unlike other sailing games,...

Thirsty Suitors

Thirsty Suitors is a narrative action game where you play Jala, back in her home town of Timber Hills to confront mistakes, make up with exes and reconcile cultural differences with her parents. Play involves talking to your parents and old friends,...

A Highland Song

A Highland Song is a narrative adventure where you explore a maze of crisscrossing routes through the hills of the Highlands. You are 15-year-old Moira who lives with her mum on the edge of the hills and receives a letter inviting her to come to the...

Station To Station

Station to Station is a railway-building puzzle game about connecting commerce and community to create a beautiful rail network. Play is about making connections between buildings to move materials and people around the world efficiently. It stands out...

Mars First Logistics

Mars First Logistics is a traversal game where you build robots to move awkwardly-shaped objects across the surface of Mars. It's a simple concept, but to contend with the cumbersome objects and rough terrain you need to use every tool at your disposal...

The Pale Beyond

The Pale Beyond is a narrative simulation game where you captain an exploration ship stranded in the frozen Antarctic waters. You carefully manage and gather resources and keep your crew in good health to hopefully survive until the summer. It stands...

A Tiny Sticker Tale

A Tiny Sticker Tale is an adventure where you change the cosy cartoon world with stickers. Play involves moving around and talking to the locals, then switching to sticker mode to use objects and complete quests. It stands out for the approachable play...

Humanity

Humanity is a puzzle-action game where you are a lone Shiba Inu dog shepherding a huge marching crowd of people to safety. You place commands to get your flock of humans to jump, turn, push, float, shoot, and climb their way to deal with the "others"...

King Of The Castle

King Of The Castle is a narrative strategy game where you play a monarch battling nobles for power in a kingdom. The twist is that the nobles are controlled by other players who also have their own factions and objectives. You play by making decisions...

Laya's Horizon

Laya's Horizon is a traversal and collection flying game where you plunge from mountains, weave through forests and glide down rivers to unlock new abilities and discover a huge tranquil world. Coming from the people behind Alto's Odyssey it's no...

Cassette Beasts

Cassette Beasts is a turn-based collecting and battling game where you use retro cassette tapes to transform your character into different creatures. It's similar to Pokemon. You explore the dense island and solve environmental puzzles, win turn-based...

Let's Revolution

Let's Revolution is a puzzle adventure where you work to stop a narcissistic King from ruining your world. Play is like Mine Sweeper where you get numerical clues on one tile about what's on its neighbours. Here though, you use this information for...

Loddlenaut

Loddlenaut is an ecological adventure where you are sent to clean up a polluted ocean planet. You explore the sea, cleaning up waste products and repurposing marine debris while taking care of friendly alien creatures. It stands out for its laid-back...

Barotrauma

Barotrauma is a cooperative space-submarine adventure set after humanity has fled to Jupiter's moon. You work with other players to steer your submarine, work the ageing machinery, fight monsters and fix the endless leaks. It's a game that revels in not...

En Garde

En Garde is a swashbuckling fighting game where the focus is on the poise and grace of fencing. You use your foil to parry, riposte and lunge through a world of enemies. It stands out not only for the unusual sporting sword fights but for how you must...

Sunshine Shuffle

Sunshine Shuffle is a narrative game where you play poker with talking animals who each have a criminal past. It's based around the group's regular Texas Hold 'Em poker game. It stands out for the endearing Robin Hood story and the unusual blend of...

Mosa Lina

Mosa Lina is a platform brain game where you are granted three random abilities to complete each self-contained level. You can always walk and jump around the level, but this is aided (and sometimes hindered) by the selected abilities at your disposal...

Shogun Showdown

Shogun Showdown is a tactical fighting game where you play a Japanese-inspired warrior batting to be ready to face the Shogun. Each run you choose a character and attack cards to work through a series of miniature turn-based battles.

Tape to Tape

Tape to Tape is a sports hockey game where you lead your team to victory in increasingly chaotic and over-the-top clashes. Bribe the referee and exploit powerful abilities to tilt the odds in your favour and continue your winning streak, then upgrade...

The Password Game

The Password Game is a brain game where you must create a password that obeys an increasingly complex set of rules. It starts like any other password request, needing a capital, number and symbol, but the criteria soon get more complex, demanding, and...

Puzzmo

Puzzmo is a newspaper-puzzle-page-style game collection where you take on daily puzzles based on logic, letters and lateral thinking. Play is different depending on which of the puzzles you attempt, but all involve clicking and typing to solve clues and...

The Lamplighters League

The Lamplighters League is a tactical strategy game where a team of cartoony misfits use their unique abilities to outwit enemies. Play mixes real-time infiltration and turn-based tactical combat where every character matters if you are going to come...

Party Animals

Party Animals is a fighting game where wobbly animal characters go toe-to-toe. Like Gang Beasts, the novelty is in the game physics that recreates realistic movement and impact with a cartoon rag-doll feel.

The Wreck

The Wreck is a narrative game where you play Junon, a mother at a crossroads. She's 36 but her career has stalled, she's emotionally numb, and her personal life is falling apart. It's not unfamiliar territory for a video game these days, but The Wreck...

Stray Gods: The Roleplaying Musical

Stray Gods: The Roleplaying Musical is a tongue-in-cheek narrative game set in a world where Greek Gods live among us. You play by talking to (and singing with) people and deciding who you can trust. It stands out not only for the branching narrative...

Cocoon

Cocoon is a puzzle adventure where you play a winged creature transporting orbs through a mysterious world. The twist is that placing orbs in a portal grants access to the worlds within worlds and creates a complex nested puzzle. It stands out for how...

Viewfinder

Viewfinder is a puzzle adventure game where your camera doesn't just take pictures but reshapes the fabric of reality around you. By taking and holding up pictures you create new ways to traverse the world and solve environmental puzzles.

Nour: Play With Your Food

Nour: Play With Your Food is an experimental music game where you create different dishes and plates of food. Unusually, the focus is on sound rather than just visuals. As you add ingredients and food elements they each add sounds.

Time Bandit

Time Bandit is a puzzle adventure where you spend your real-world time to earn money. Play is a mix of exploring the world, moving boxes and making decisions about your resources - all of which come at the cost of your time. It combines classic...

Mr Sun's Hatbox

Mr Sun's Hatbox is a slapstick running, jumping and shooting game about retrieving a stolen hatbox at any cost. Play is Spelunky-style platforming and shooting, but with characters who have problematic traits that must be offset with hat abilities. It...

Cursorblade

Cursorblade is a shooting game where you are a mouse cursor and use your mouse motion to move, attack and deftly dodge the deluge of bullets. Control is one-to-one with your mouse, in this way, you move through the anthropomorphized flora and fauna to...

Taming Gaming Book Written by parents for parents, the database complements the in-depth discussion about video game addiction, violence, spending and online safety in the Taming Gaming book. We are an editorially independent, free resource without adverts that is supported by partnerships.

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