Beyond’s Best PlayStation Game of 2023
6 mins read

Beyond’s Best PlayStation Game of 2023


If you haven’t heard, Baldur’s Gate 3 is a really, really good game. Just, so good. When the semi-regular cast of Beyond was asked to decide our best PlayStation game of 2023, several of us immediately blurted out Baldur’s Gate 3, and no one else had any objections. So, there are plenty of write-ups on IGN and elsewhere about why it’s so great, but I wanted to reflect a little on how it seemingly came out of nowhere. Make no mistake, this game is 100% Game of the Year material. It almost was IGN’s overall pick, losing to Zelda by a handful of votes. That said, it seems like a miracle that such a dense, unabashedly technical entry in a 23-years-dormant franchise would have such widespread appeal.

When the first two Baldur’s Gate games were released, I was a prepubescent middle schooler who was way more interested in the slick, stylized JRPGs on PlayStation about guys with cool hair than I was in a text-heavy isometric PC game about subject matter that would be at home airbrushed on the side of a van in the late 70s. A few decades later, the third Baldur’s Gate was revealed with a slick launch trailer as part of some Stadia presentation. A handful of Elder Nerds around the IGN office were ecstatic, but despite having dabbled in analog Dungeons & Dragon, it didn’t really move the needle for me.

Somewhere along the line, a friend convinced me to check out Divinity: Original Sin 2 by saying you can play as a skeleton who talks to dogs and picks locks with his bony little skeleton fingers, and also you can also turn people into chickens. On one particularly seasonally depressed weekend I threw it on, and got completely sucked in. My wife went out and came home 10 hours later to find me in the same position, bleary eyed, still playing. She asked if I was okay, and I said, “I am better than okay. I am a skeleton who talks to dogs and I can pick locks with my bony little fingers.”

Upon connecting the dots that Larian Studios, the team behind the Divinity series, was also handling Baldur’s Gate 3, my interest level in the game went from a faint hum in the background to a blaring siren, and it skyrocketed toward the top of my mental list of games in the distant future I should be keeping an eye out for. Of course, at this point, it was probably in Early Access, so if I’d been really impatient I could’ve just played it, but I decided to hold off until it was fully baked.

What I adore about Baldur’s Gate 3 is how unabashedly it’s willing to be itself

Way back in February of this year, Baldur’s Gate 3 got another trailer during a PlayStation State of Play. Along with a release date, there was a bunch of gameplay and the revelation that the cast would feature the dulcet tones of famed Hollywood actor J.K. Simmons in the role of General Ketheric Thorn. I love J.K. Simmons, and I’ve been a fan since he played a neo-nazi gang leader and child psychologist on Law & Order. That was uh, two different roles, mind you. Hearing he was joining Baldur’s Gate 3 was cool, I guess, but it didn’t exactly turn heads like Keanu Reeves popping up in Night City.

At the time, I had a hunch Baldur’s Gate 3 was going to be massive, but I don’t think that trailer got the attention of too many people who weren’t already aware of the game – it just kind of looked like another fantasy RPG. I didn’t know who General Ketheric Thorn was, and while it was nice to see some more of Baldur’s Gate 3 in action, it’s hard to make turn-based gameplay sexy.

The thing that eventually got more people talking, of course, was the revelation that you could have sex with a bear. (In the game, I mean. You can do it in real life, but please don’t.) Anyway, technically, in the game it’s not really a bear, but a wood elf who’d used druid magic to transform into a bear. Arcade technicalities notwithstanding, for a lot of people, this was the “you can be a skeleton who talks to dogs” moment. Not just because they were huge perverts, but because this was a glimpse of how much humor, depth, player freedom and weirdness was in store. But also: a lot of people are huge perverts, so probably that too.

What I adore about Baldur’s Gate 3 is how unabashedly it’s willing to be itself. Unlike so many other digital RPGs, it doesn’t try to hide its dice. Instead, it literally rattles them in your face. It is a crunchy, systems-heavy game with a fairly steep learning curve. It’s also a very human game in the best ways possible; it’s silly, weird, occasionally hard to figure out, and yes, sometimes it’s pretty horny. But none of that is readily apparent.

A lot of games feel like theme park attractions: they’re loud and colorful and you can see from a distance what makes them exciting. Playing Baldur’s Gate 3 is more like a cross between getting lost in a good book and hanging out with a group of weird friends (so basically, playing D&D in real life) but the appeal of those things is tricky to market. Far too often, creative projects get streamlined, dumbed down, or have all their rough edges sanded down to make them fit the mold of something with mainstream appeal, whatever the hell that means. The team at Larian Studios made an uncompromisingly nerdy game and clearly poured their hearts and souls into it, and I’m so happy it paid off.



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