Should Starfield be a 2023 Game of the Year nominee?

Bethesda /

When The Game Awards revealed the nominees for the 2023 Game of the Year award, many were surprised to see the absence of one of this year’s biggest games: Starfield. Xbox’s highly anticipated title launched in September and since then millions have enjoyed the open-world RPG.

One would think that a game as massive as Starfield, which received generally favorable scores from critics would be included in the Game of the Year nominations. But as it turns out, the game was snubbed. Instead, the six nominees are:

  • Alan Wake II (Remedy Entertainment / Epic Games)
  • Baldur’s Gate 3 (Larian Studios)
  • The Legend of Zelda: Tears of the Kingdom (Nintendo)
  • Marvel’s Spider-Man 2 (Sony)
  • Resident Evil 4 (Capcom)
  • Super Mario Bros. Wonder (Nintendo)

There’s no denying that all of the games on this list deserve consideration to be GOTY, but it came at the expense of Starfield’s nomination. It begs the question, should Starfield have been considered for Game of the Year or was it snubbed?

High expectations may have hurt the game’s reception

As Bethesda’s first new IP in 25 years, Starfield launched with incredibly high expectations. And ultimately, these expectations may have hurt the overall reception of the game.

As it currently stands, Starfield sits at 83 Metascore on review aggregator Metacritic. It’s got an average user score of just 7.0.

These aren’t bad scores, per se, but they are also much lower than the six GOTY nominees. The lowest Metacritic score of the six games is Alan Wake 2, which sits at 88. The other five games are all at least 90.

Based on review scores alone, it’s understandable why Starfield didn’t make the cut.

Should we consider more than just a score?

When thinking about the Game of the Year, should we take more than just a game’s score into account? Should we consider what it meant to the gaming industry as a whole?

Starfield had a massive scope. The ability to explore over a thousand planets. Decisions that impact how your journey through the stars unfolds. A unique and intriguing New Game Plus system.

Starfield wasn’t perfect, but it aimed for the stars. It may have fallen short in some areas, but there’s no denying it was a monumental game that was enjoyed by millions.

Should remakes be included?

If I had to pick one major sticking point in the current nominations, it would be Resident Evil 4. I have nothing against the game — it’s incredible. But it’s also a remake of a game that came out in 2005.

Should the Game of the Year category be reserved for new releases? Is it fair to include games that are mere remakes of already critically acclaimed titles from years past?

I personally feel that Starfield should have taken the place of Resident Evil 4. Starfield may not have been as polished of a game, but there’s an argument to be made that we should be rewarding new ideas and new IPs — especially as more and more remakes and reboots are getting greenlit.

We should reward taking risks, innovation and uniqueness, while also taking into account the overall product of the release. I’m not saying Resident Evil 4 is a bad game, undeserving of critics’ recognition, but it’s far different to remake an already existing game than to come up with something brand new from scratch.

Starfield wasn’t perfect, but it was a bold idea and a massive scope. That should count for something.

The fallout

As a result of Starfield’s exclusion from the 2023 GOTY nominees, social media lit up with accusations that The Game Awards, Geoff Keighley, and the media as a whole is “anti Xbox.” This stems from the fact that no Xbox game has ever won Game of the Year and in the show’s 10 years existence, only one Xbox Games Studio has been up for nomination. This has been dubbed the “Xbox tax.”

As a member of the media — although one who does not get a vote in The Game Awards nominations — I don’t personally feel there’s anti-Xbox sentiment. I just think there’s been a lack of truly great Xbox exclusives. Hopefully that changes as Microsoft continues to acquire studios.