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The Verge’s 2023 in review

Time moves strangely nowadays. It can be tough to remember what happened last week, let alone 12 months ago. That’s part of what makes looking back so interesting. It can be hard to keep track of everything that went down in 2023, never mind when it actually occurred. Tears of the Kingdom feels like ages ago — and yet, the game only came out in May.

This collection of articles is meant to explore what 2023 was by doing two things. First, dig through the last 12 months and find the most important stories across all of our coverage areas — spanning technology and culture — and put them into context, while offering a glimpse at what’s ahead. It’s also meant to be a guide of sorts, looking at our favorite releases across the biggest gaming platforms and streaming services, and showcasing the best things to watch and play.

So sit back and enjoy a little reminiscing — you might be surprised at just how much happened this year.

  • Andrew Webster

    Dec 31, 2023

    Andrew Webster

    8 great Apple Arcade games for your iPhone or iPad

    Vector collage showing a still from Hello Kitty Island Adventure inside a video game controller.
    The Verge / Image courtesy of Sunblink

    Apple Arcade remains one of the best deals in gaming — even after getting a price bump. Since launch, the service has steadily grown with a mix of original mobile releases and App Store classics, none of which are burdened with the ads or in-app purchases that so often plague smartphone games. 2023 was a particularly strong year for new additions, with everything from daily word games for the Wordle-obsessed to cozy adventures to relax with. If you just picked up a new Apple device, or are using the subscription service for the very first time, here are some great places to start.

    Zach Gage and Jack Schlesinger have partnered on a number of great mobile puzzle games — including Good Sudoku and SpellTower, both of which are also available on Apple Arcade — but Knotwords might be my favorite. It combines the structure of a classic crossword puzzle with the guessing inherent in Wordle. You’re presented with a grid that looks like a crossword, but instead of clues, you’re given letters that can only be placed in certain squares. From there, you have to work out the words that fill up the puzzle. Knotwords has a huge number of puzzles, including daily ones that are a perfect companion to your morning coffee.

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  • Ash Parrish

    Dec 30, 2023

    Ash Parrish

    2023’s great games were overshadowed by a dark cloud of layoffs

    Vector collage showing two laid off workers in the shape of a video game controller.
    The Verge / Photos via Getty Images

    Layoffs are an unfortunate reality of any industry, but the scope and scale of video game layoffs in 2023 are far beyond a typical year. More than any specific video game or piece of news, layoffs defined the past 12 months. Companies large and small have felt their impact. Unofficial figures estimate 9,000 workers have been affected, and at the heart of it all are corporations that valued growth at all costs — including people.

    In September, Epic Games laid off 830 employees. In a statement, CEO Tim Sweeney wrote, “We’ve been spending way more money than we earn. [...] I had long been optimistic that we could power through this transition without layoffs, but in retrospect I see that this was unrealistic.” Some of that spending was on companies like SuperAwesome and Bandcamp which Epic bought in 2021 and 2022, respectively. Both companies were sold off shortly after Epic announced layoffs. 

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  • Alex Cranz

    Dec 29, 2023

    Alex Cranz

    The best shows on Apple TV Plus in 2023

    Vector collage featuring a still from Monarch: Legacy of Monsters inside a play button symbol.
    The Verge / Image courtesy of Apple TV

    We’re four years into the existence of Apple TV Plus, and the network still feels like it’s punching above its weight class. It doesn’t have nearly the expansive library of its competitors, but the shows (and occasional film) it does have are really, really good —usually.

    I’ve heard friends compare it to HBO in the 2000s, and that feels like an apt comparison. There are plenty of great movies, but there’s also an astonishingly well-programmed group of TV shows that seem to speak to a very wide audience, from its core group of science fiction shows like For All Mankind and Foundation to its more outlandish fair like Schmigadoon! and The Morning Show.

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  • Ash Parrish

    Dec 29, 2023

    Ash Parrish

    The best shows on Max in 2023

    Vector collage showing a still from Succession of Matthew Macfadyen in a play button symbol.
    The Verge / Photo courtesy of HBO

    The streaming service formerly known as HBO Max completed its magical girl transformation this year, dropping arguably the most recognizable part of its name to just become Max. The questionable rename came at the conclusion of the merger between WarnerMedia and Discovery and, according to WarnerDiscovery executives, was meant to signal to subscribers that the new Max has content for the whole family to enjoy.

    Immediately post-merger, Max lost 1.8 million subscribers (that WarnerMedia attributes to simple attrition). But the great mushing together of libraries means that highly polished dramas like The Sopranos and Oz appear alongside the highly popular (what’s a polite way to say ‘schlock’?) like 90 Day Fiance and Property Brothers that, in the long run, will appeal to prestige TV snobs and families alike.

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  • Ash Parrish

    Dec 28, 2023

    Ash Parrish

    The best PlayStation games from 2023

    Vector collage of a game controller shape with a still from Spiderman 2.
    The Verge / Photo Courtesy of Sony

    PlayStation’s had an interesting year. The company ricocheted between the highs of launching new technology like the PlayStation Portal and a new PS5 Slim (now with a detachable disk drive!) and the lows of layoffs, game cancellations, massive data leaks, and the end of CEO Jim Ryan’s 28-year tenure.

    And though 2023 was the year of the cross-platform blockbusters like Diablo IV and Baldur’s Gate 3, PlayStation still had a number of exclusives not to be missed. 

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  • Emma Roth

    Dec 28, 2023

    Emma Roth

    10 great shows from 2023 to stream on Amazon Prime Video

    Vector collage featuring art from Gen V inside a play button symbol.
    The Verge / Image courtesy of Amazon Prime

    Amazon Prime Video is the second-best perk that comes with a Prime subscription (aside from free two-day shipping, of course), and its library only continues to grow. While Prime Video is often overshadowed by the likes of Netflix and Max, it has surprising range, whether you’re looking for a lighthearted comedy, psychological thriller, or a thrilling animated series.

    With that out of the way, here’s our list of the best shows released on Amazon Prime Video this year.

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  • Jon Porter

    Dec 27, 2023

    Jon Porter

    10 great Windows PC games from 2023

    Vector collage featuring art from Baldur’s Gate 3 in the shape of a game controller.
    The Verge / Image courtesy of Larian Studios

    2023 is likely to go down in history as one of gaming’s greats, and at times it’s been challenging just to keep up. Baldur’s Gate 3 brought the 20-year-old PC franchise back with a bang, and smaller releases like Slay the Princess were a reminder of the important role PCs still hold for indie games.

    Given how cross-platform the vast majority of games are these days, we’re not going to primarily focus on PC exclusives. Instead, the aim is to highlight a great selection of games that show off PC gaming at its best in 2023. So alongside games like Slay the Princess, which are only available on computer platforms, there are also titles that work particularly well with a mouse and keyboard (Baldur’s Gate 3) or which offer interesting PC-exclusive graphics options (like Cyberpunk 2077: Phantom Liberty or Alan Wake 2’s ray tracing).

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  • Andrew Webster

    Dec 27, 2023

    Andrew Webster

    8 great series and movies to stream on Disney Plus

    Vector photo collage featuring a still from Loki starring Tom Hiddleston.
    The Verge / Photo courtesy of Disney

    Disney Plus is a service built primarily around the company’s core brands of Marvel, Star Wars, and Disney — and that hasn’t changed much this year. 2023’s new releases were still dominated by superheroes and Jedi, but there were some Na’vi and Time Lords thrown in for good measure. In fact, this year the service’s offerings were particularly solid for sci-fi fans, with stories spanning quite a few galaxies and timelines. If you’re new to Disney Plus, here are a few movies and shows to stream first.

    Since its first season, filled with branching timelines and retrofuturistic tech, Loki has carved out its own distinct space within the MCU while still connecting to (and influencing) the broader multiverse. It’s something you can enjoy on its own or as part of a bigger story. And that remains true in season 2, which continues the time-travel shenanigans with a new level of existential threats and some great new characters like OB (Ke Huy Quan). It doesn’t seem like we’ll be getting a third season any time soon (if ever), so now is a great time to catch up on the whole thing.

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  • Dan Seifert

    Dec 27, 2023

    Dan Seifert

    The Verge’s 2023 in review

    Vector photo collage featuring Hello Kitty Island Adventure, the Pixel 8, Apple earbuds, stills from Succession and Spider-Man 2
    The Verge

    What a year, huh?

    As 2023 draws to a close, it’s time to look back on the year that was. It was a great year for entertainment and a not-so-great year for the people who actually made that entertainment. It was the year Twitter died, and the year Matter mostly failed to launch. Gadgets got gadgety-er, photos got what-is-a-photo-ier, and generative AI was suddenly everywhere.

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  • Jay Peters

    Dec 26, 2023

    Jay Peters

    8 great games for your Switch from 2023

    Vector collage featuring Mario from Super Mario Wonder.
    The Verge / Image courtesy of Nintendo

    It’s been a fantastic year for the Nintendo Switch. We got new Super Mario games, some great remasters, ports of a few games that previously blew up on PC, and, of course, an absolutely massive sequel to The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild.

    Even though the Nintendo Switch’s successor is likely just around the corner, there’s no shortage of great games to play on the Switch you might already own. Nintendo can take all the time it needs to launch its next console; whenever that comes out, I’ll probably still be working through quests in Tears of the Kingdom.

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  • Alex Cranz

    Dec 26, 2023

    Alex Cranz

    The best shows on Paramount Plus in 2023

    Vector collage featuring an image from Star Trek: Strange New Worlds inside a play button.
    The Verge / Photo courtesy of Paramount Plus and IMDB

    I am a Paramount Plus apologist. I know — going by subscription numbers alone — that I have to be because people do not subscribe to the streaming service at the same rate as Netflix or Amazon Prime, but I spend more time in the Paramount Plus app than the other two. It’s got older shows like Star Trek, Frasier, and Avatar: The Last Airbender, and newer splashy shows like... everything Taylor Sheridan produces and Frasier. It has a whole mess of football (American) and football (the rest of the world), and while bigger brands like Netflix are only now experimenting with live TV, Paramount Plus has been doing it from the get-go and doing it really well.

    It is, I think, my desert island streaming service.

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  • Tom Warren

    Dec 25, 2023

    Tom Warren

    10 great Game Pass games for your Xbox

    Vector collage of an image from Starfield in the shape of a game controller.
    The Verge / Photo courtesy of Bethesda Game Studios

    Xbox Game Pass might have had a rather slow 2022, but its value has really paid off in 2023. There are more than 400 games to choose from, and I’ve honestly struggled to pick just 10 to recommend this year. For a monthly subscription fee of between $10.99 and $16.99, you get to play a wide range of games like Starfield, Sea of Stars, Tunic, and Inside.

    If you’ve just got an Xbox, here’s a list of 10 great Xbox Game Pass games that are well worth your time over the holidays.

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  • Emma Roth

    Dec 24, 2023

    Emma Roth

    10 great shows from 2023 to watch on Hulu

    Vector collage of a play icon containing an image from the show “Only Murders In The Building”.
    The Verge / Photo Courtesy of IMDB and Hulu

    Hulu got a big price hike this year, but it’s getting increasingly harder to cancel (at least for me) thanks to the overwhelming number of shows and movies to watch on the Disney-owned service. While those of us in the US can currently access Hulu separately from Disney Plus, things are about to change very soon.

    Disney is planning to launch a combined Hulu and Disney Plus app for users who subscribe to both services, and it’s set to come out next year after some initial testing. Keep in mind that this won’t change the content available on either service, just how you access it. For now, though, here are some of the best shows released on Hulu this year.

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  • 8 fantastic shows from 2023 to stream on Netflix

    Vector collage of a play button featuring an image from the show “Onimusha”.
    The Verge / Photo courtesy of Netflix and IMDB

    As brutal as the streaming wars have become, Netflix is still hanging in there and holding its own with a steady stream of original films and series tailor-made to keep us all entertained. While the content must flow, Netflix’s front page still only does a so-so job of actually letting you know about all the solid stuff the streamer has to offer. So we’ve put together a little list of some highlights that are worth checking out whenever, but especially during the holiday season when you’re at home and just looking for something to watch.

    Based on Capcom’s game series by the same name, studio Sublimation and director Shinya Sugai’s new Onimusha series follows a fictionalized version of legendary swordsman Musashi Miyamoto (Akio Otsuka) as he embarks on a journey across Edo-period Japan to rid the country of a growing demonic threat.

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  • Tom Warren

    Dec 22, 2023

    Tom Warren

    2024 in laptops: it’s shaping up to be a big year for Windows

    Vector photo collage of a new Windows laptop and other Microsoft imagery.
    The Verge / Photos courtesy of Microsoft and Getty Images

    2023 has been a fairly uneventful year for laptops. Apple continues to dominate in both performance and battery life, while Microsoft only had incremental upgrades for its Surface line, and Intel has waited until the very end of the year to try to respond to Apple’s dominance. But 2024 looks set to be one of the most interesting years for laptops since the Windows 8 days, thanks to a new version of Windows, a big AI push, and another attempt at making Windows on Arm a reality.

    Apple’s iPad pushed Microsoft into creating Windows on Arm more than 10 years ago, and laptop manufacturers followed with some weird and wonderful designs to match Windows 8. While I’m not expecting a big design overhaul for Windows 12 (or whatever Microsoft calls it), the changes in laptops in 2024 and beyond will be largely focused on the chip side for an era of AI.

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  • Amrita Khalid

    Dec 22, 2023

    Amrita Khalid

    Podcasts are in the middle of a numbers and people crisis

    Vector collage including images of a podcast microphone setup, the Spotify logo and the Apple Podcast logo.
    The Verge / Photo from Getty Images

    In the podcasting world, the year 2019 may seem like it happened in a parallel universe. Vulture’s Nicholas Quah deemed it the beginning of the “big podcasting era,” pointing to the millions of dollars that Spotify invested in building out its podcast operation — and the expected domino effect as other companies follow suit. “There was podcasting before 2019, and there will be podcasting after 2019. What podcasting will look like in 2024 remains very much up for grabs,” wrote Quah. 

    And although 2024’s outlook still isn’t entirely certain, it’s pretty obvious that the golden years are over. There were a staggering number of layoffs in podcasting and the audio world at large this year, hitting every entity from public radio to subscription-based outlets to corporate behemoths. Spotify went through three separate layoffs this year, laying off 2,300 people in total, including a sizable chunk of Spotify’s podcast workforce and executives. The company is now almost a third (27.5 percent) smaller than the 8,300-plus workforce it was only a year ago. The Swedish audio giant also killed off and absorbed the podcast companies it bought for nearly $400 million in 2019 (the podcast studios Gimlet and Parcast, and the hosting platform Anchor). SiriusXM laid off 475 employees across all divisions and sunset Stitcher, the podcast app it bought for $325 million in 2020. There were podcast job cuts at CNN, the Los Angeles Times, Malcolm Gladwell’s podcast studio Pushkin Industries, Vox Media (The Verge’s parent company), The Athletic, ESPN, TWiT, Sony Music, Barstool Sports, Futuro Media, Marvel Entertainment, PRX, iHeartMedia, and others. 

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  • Kevin Nguyen

    Dec 21, 2023

    Kevin Nguyen

    The year in arthouse movies

    Vector collage showing movie stills from The Eight Mountains, Stonewalling, and Godland.
    The Verge / Images Courtesy of Sideshow, KimStim, and Janus Films

    What is an “arthouse” movie in the age of streaming? The term’s origins define it by where it isn’t: showing at your mainstream cineplex. While (like “indie”) it’s just as often a marker of aesthetic or ambition, that pragmatic distinction has faded as more films get their first run online. But in a world where people lament the rise of monoculture and say things like “superhero fatigue” in casual conversation, the underlying division seems very much alive. In 2023, you could argue arthouse is the stuff that shows up not on Netflix and Max but on services like Criterion Channel and Mubi: decidedly niche movies from auteurs, with a strong emphasis on work from outside the US.

    It was a good year for big movies, but maybe an even better one for the small ones. And with the arthouse streamers picking up distribution, these films have never been more accessible, especially to people without a local indie theater.

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  • Chris Welch

    Dec 21, 2023

    Chris Welch

    2023 was business as usual in the headphone world

    Vector collage of various headphone brands.
    The Verge / Photos by Chris Welch

    A lot happened in the headphone world this year. 2023 gave us the usual serving of big new products, but it also continued that story of earbuds and headphones growing smarter and more advanced — while audio quality keeps reaching new heights. And for better or worse, the trend helped to strengthen ecosystem lock-in for brands like Apple, Samsung, and Google.

    Bose overhauled its hardware lineup and released the QuietComfort Ultra Earbuds and Headphones, which are the latest flexes of the company’s best-in-class active noise cancellation. Sony launched the hotly anticipated WF-1000XM5 earbuds. Jabra tried to keep pace with larger competitors with a pair of new premium earbuds, the Elite 10 and Elite 8 Active. Other companies produced buds with fantastic sound and unique features like, in the case of Panasonic’s Technics brand, three-way multipoint pairing. 

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  • Allison Johnson

    Dec 20, 2023

    Allison Johnson

    2023 in smartphones: it was the little things

    Vector photo collage of a new phones from 2023.
    The Verge / Photos by Allison Johnson and Amelia Holowaty Krales

    Smartphones — the gadgets I spend most of my waking hours thinking about, testing, and tinkering with — are generally considered a mature product category. This means that, in any of the previous, oh, five years, you’d struggle to find a big defining moment for the industry. Likewise, there was no “iPhone” moment in 2023, and I’ll bet you 20 bucks we won’t see one in 2024, either.

    But that’s not to say that it wasn’t an interesting year for mobile tech; far from it. We didn’t have a singular, spectacular innovation: just a bunch of smaller ones that, altogether, could make a big difference in the long run. 

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  • 2023 in the smart home: Matter’s broken promises

    Vector collage of a smart home containing a broken Matter logo.
    The Verge / Photos by Getty Images and Courtesy of CSA

    On Thanksgiving weekend, my husband and I finished a big bathroom remodel project we’d worked on for months. The final step was to replace our old toggle light switches with modern, paddle-style ones. As I sat on the bathroom floor with the four TP-Link Tapo Matter smart switches I had bought on a Black Friday deal, my husband eyed them suspiciously. “The first time these turn the lights off on me while I’m in the shower, I’m ripping them out,” he said. 

    His fear was not unfounded. My previous attempts to smarten our bathroom lighting using smart bulbs and motion sensors had not gone well. But this time would be different, I assured him — because of Matter. 

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  • David Pierce

    Dec 19, 2023

    David Pierce

    2023 in social media: the case for the fediverse

    Vector collage of a like button containing a screenshot of a variety of social apps.
    The Verge

    There’s this picture from more than a decade ago that still goes viral on the web every once in a while. You’ve probably seen it: it was created by the venture capitalist Andrew Parker, and it compares a few dozen startups with subsections of Craigslist. Back then, Craigslist was all things to all people online, and a generation of startups figured they could do part of the job a lot better.

    Some of those companies failed — sometimes because of Craigslist! — but some also became gigantically successful. Airbnb worked because it was more searchable, reliable, and trustworthy than a random Craigslist listing; StubHub sold you secondhand tickets without the 50 percent chance those tickets were fake; Etsy offered a much more fun shopping and discovery experience than a bunch of text listings and crappy photos.

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  • Barbara Krasnoff

    Dec 18, 2023

    Barbara Krasnoff

    The Verge’s favorite books from 2023

    Vector photo collage showing the book “Number Go Up” by Zeke Faux
    The Verge / Photo Courtesy of Apple Books

    There are podcasts, videos, games, live performances — and then there are books, one of the oldest and still most popular ways to learn something new or escape (at least temporarily) from today’s troubled world. We asked the staff of The Verge what their favorite reads were over the last year. Their answers ranged from science fiction novels to autobiographies to lessons on how to draw and an examination of the addiction of gambling.

    Read on, and see if there’s anything here that you may want to check out during the holidays.

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  • Victoria Song

    Dec 18, 2023

    Victoria Song

    2023 in smartwatches: the Googlefication of Fitbit

    Vector collage including a photo of a Fitbit Charge 6.
    The Verge / Photo by Amelia Holowaty Krales

    This year has been a relatively quiet one for smartwatches. It makes sense. The smartwatch renaissance of 2022 was always going to be a hard act to follow, let alone top. But among the slew of iterative updates, there was one thing that kept catching my eye: the messy Googlefication of Fitbit.

    Basically, Google, which owns Fitbit, spent this year taking two steps forward before shooting itself in the foot and taking a step back. Every time I felt encouraged by what I was seeing, unforced errors would leave me doubting again.

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