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Aftermath’s 2023 Game Of The Year Has Finally Been Decided

You demanded blood, and the Arena has provided

You might be thinking, wow, Aftermath, you guys sure are late naming your Game Of The Year for 2023. It's almost February 2024! To which we would say, yes, but also, we weren't just picking games we liked. We were pitting them against each other in successive evenings of bloodsport for your entertainment. That takes time.

We're finally here, though, for the final three bouts. Leading tonight's card will be the semi-finals, which see Dredge take on Lies of P in one match, while Armored Core VI is up against The Man Who Erased His Name in the other. Straight after that will be the final, because these characters don't need rest, they're not real!

In case you need a recap, here's how it all works (and in case you want to catch up, you can check out every previous match here). Last month there was a list of 16 games in the mix for Game of the Year 2023. We're pitting them against each other in a knockout tournament, and are now down to four. But we're not pitting the games themselves against each other; instead, we're selecting a Champion from in or around each game and having them duke it out in the arena of fiction in hand-to-hand (or weapon-to-weapon, or hand-to-weapon) combat. The winner, decided via a schoolyard "would Batman beat Superman" style debate, moves on. The loser does not. Here's how things stand going into the semis:

Let's get into it! First up will be Dredge (represented by The Little Boat From Dredge) taking on Lies Of P (represented by P), followed by Armored Core VI (Balteus) going up against Yakuza (Kazuma Kiryu/Joryu).

DREDGE vs LIES OF P

Riley: I'm sticking with Team Boat through the end of this honestly, due to my allegiance to the sea, a backstory that will make a very good blog one day once I figure out if that blog would be admitting to crimes

Chris: The Puppet floats and also has a hook shot.

Luke: I'm voting for P just so the boat can sink and we can force Riley into writing his incriminating blog.

Chris: P's arm can shoot fire.

Riley: The boat can just boat away! P can't swim forever. You could argue boating away isn't "winning," per se, but technicality!

Luke: You leave the arena it's a TKO.

Riley: The arena moves with the boat! The boat is the arena!

Luke: No the ocean is the arena. The boat is ON the arena.

Chris: What if the boat is on dry land?

Riley: Right! How much bigger than P is the boat? The boat looks pretty small in the game, but it might just be perspective

Chris: Lies of P is getting nautical themed DLC, which makes sense given Pinocchio's story.

Chris: Pinocchio can survive a whale, why would a boat give him issues?

Nathan: Yeah, Pinocchio makes short work of a boat, for plot reasons. He must get eaten by the whale, therefore any boat he is on is forfeit.

WINNER: LIES OF P


ARMORED CORE VI vs LIKE A DRAGON GAIDEN: THE MAN WHO ERASED HIS NAME

Luke: Every knockout tournament has a matchup like this. A pairing that, thanks to the inherent randomness and cruelty of the format, means THIS should really be considered the final.

Chris: On paper this matchup favors the giant war machine the size of the building, but I do not see the Dragon of Dojima losing here on principle.

Luke: Yeah, you would THINK the huge combat mech would crush Kiryu as thoroughly as it crushed everyone else. But then you'd get the Yakuza cutscene text pop up, and Kiryu would rip off his shirt, and you'd think, ah shit, this is only going to go one way.

Riley: I could see it!

Chris: Can a mech sing Baka Mitai? No.

Luke: I think if Balteus unleashed a missile barrage like the one that obliterated the Terf our hero Kiryu would, via a series of taxing QTE button presses, simply skip across each missile until he reached the mech and kicked it in the face real hard.

Chris: I think this matchup favors him in the same way it would favor Raiden in Revengence. Imagine how cool it would be to see him run up that thing's arm.

Nathan: The mech crumples into a towering heap of smoking parts and spurting oil. Even thoroughly dismantled, it's an awe-inspiring sight. Nobody dares go near it. It is then revealed that for Kiryu, this has all been part of one of those challenges where he has to beat up a lot of guys in the underground coliseum. This barely even rises to the level of substory for him. He's just killing time because he doesn't feel like wrapping up the main quest yet.

Luke: SUB STORY: PASSED

WINNER: LIKE A DRAGON GAIDEN: THE MAN WHO ERASED HIS NAME


THE FINAL

LIES OF P vs LIKE A DRAGON GAIDEN: THE MAN WHO ERASED HIS NAME

Luke: Wow I did not see this coming. OK not entirely true, I saw Kazuma Kiryu making the final, but P? A little wooden Timothy Chalamet? Coming out of this field? Incredible scenes. Blockbuster stuff. This is what people love about video games, this is what people love about sport.

Riley: Yeah, this is definitely not where I saw this going either!

Nathan: My feeling is that Kiryu takes this, but I do not know how. Chris, how does P battle a fighter as versatile and noble as Kiryu?

Chris: I’m torn but I can’t imagine Kiryu being bested by a puppet. It just isn’t gonna happen.

Riley: Yeah I would agree with this one. Kiryu has the vulnerability of being made of meat, but I still think he takes this.

Chris: I think Kiryu would be a better father figure than Geppetto.

Gita: I am team puppet. He simply has too many kinds of swords, plus being made of enchanted wood must be functional immortality.

I understand that Kiryu would usually take this one, but Pinnocchio has been through some SHIT. Mans got eaten by a whale. That puppet is a killing machine.

Chris: I think that's in the upcoming DLC, but I am counting it.

Riley: I think Kiryu could survive getting eaten by a whale, though. Humans have survived whale eatings, such as in the Bible, so there's precedent.

Chris: Yeah, P has experienced a lot of trauma. But so has Kiryu. I do not know how Kiryu would react to an acid infused axe made of the dead bodies of puppets. I think think P could also have his head smashed in with a traffic cone.

Tossup for me.

Luke: I can see this taking place on top of a burning office building. Both of them with their shirts off. A battle rages for hours, P using every weird and cursed weapon available to him, Kiryu chugging Tauriner and throwing leather couches at the puppet. Finally, after what feels like forever, Kiryu lands a jaw-shattering kick to P's face, he splinters, staggers and falls to his knees. Then just...starts crying. Tells Kiryu all he ever wanted to be was a real boy, that it was unfair the world was standing in his way, that everyone out to stop him had it coming. And Kiryu, after staring solemnly at P for a good two minutes, just walks over to him, helps him up, looks him in the eye and...hugs him. Tells him it's OK. He knows what it's like to be on the streets of Kamurocho, brawling thugs trying to prove he's a real boy, encountering severe and debilitating daddy issues of his own. They continue embracing as P starts to sob, and the camera fades to black...and after the credits we switch to a sunny Okinawan beach, at the Morning Glory orphanage, as kids run around the place playing baseball, colouring with crayons and cooking. And there, in the corner, reading a fairytale story to a small group of captivated children, is P. Wearing a tropical shirt and flipflops.

Gita: Luke that’s so beautiful??? Maybe it’s a draw so they can be friends. Let Kiryu adopt his puppet son.

Riley: I am going to say that I don't think our GOTY Deathmatch can be a draw, as beautiful as the image is.

Luke: I think Kiryu wins Aftermath's GOTY Deathmatch because he won the fight. But both of them are winners in the deathmatch of life.

Nathan: Now Kiryu can finally resume the main quest. Just in time for Infinite Wealth to come out in a few days. I promise we didn't do this on purpose.

WINNER: LIKE A DRAGON GAIDEN: THE MAN WHO ERASED HIS NAME

And there you have it, bloodsports fans! We have our inaugural winner! Congratulations are in order for the Dragon of Dojima, and Like A Dragon Gaiden: The Man Who Erased His Name by extension, but also to P for defying the odds in making it this far and making it one hell of a final.

We hope you enjoyed this year's tournament, and thank you for your continued support!

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