It’s that time of year again!
2022 has been the year that games have gone from the trickle of the past two years to a full blown deluge this year, as games delayed by the pandemic all piled up at once. And as such, it’s been a hell of a year for notable games. So much so, that you might be looking back and wondering exactly which games are most worth going back and checking out, especially if you’ve got a lot of free time over Christmas.
That’s what this list is for! Just like previous years, this list has been compiled by pulling Metacritic scores, Google Trends data and gathering a bunch of year-end awards lists and averaging it all together into a ranking to determine which games were the best, the most talked about and the most interesting. So if you don’t like the order, take it up with the collective critical consensus of the internet.
Also, each of these games must be new games, released in the UK for the first time in 2022. Re-releases, ports, remasters and remakes with minimal changes aren’t eligible (sorry, The Last of Us Part I), nor are expansions (because it gets tiresome seeing Final Fantasy XIV and Destiny 2 on every end-of-year list). Games leaving Early Access are eligible, but only if they haven’t been featured before.
Should be noted that I personally haven’t played every single one of these games, and much of these write-ups are based on what critics and players have said about the games across the year. Unless I have played them, in which case I’m exercising the editorial right to add my opinions into the mix. If you want to know my personal list, then head over to my YouTube channel for my personal top 10.
And now, self-promotion out of the way, let’s get into this list.
50. The Case of the Golden Idol
Playstack, Color Gray Games | PC | October
We kick things off with a real hidden gem that only made it to the list because it kept showing up on critic year-end lists. The very definition of beloved yet overlooked.
It’s a point and click mystery game set in the 1700s, where a series of murders over a number of years have baffled investigators, all of them somehow connected by a mysterious golden idol. And now it’s up to you to look over these cases and discover the truth, usually by filling in blanks using clues and words found at the scenes.
It’s a devious little puzzle game that every Steam review seems to be comparing to Return of the Obra Dinn, which is high praise indeed. It’s the kind of detective game where you’re presented the information and you have to figure out where it all goes, even when it gets messy.
It’s not a game that was high on many people’s radars but seems to have latched itself onto everyone who did get on board.
49. OlliOlli World
Private Division, Roll7 | PC, PlayStation, Switch, Xbox | February
The OlliOlli series of games were tricky side scrollers where precision in skateboarding was key to racking up massive scores. In OlliOlli World the series has decided to take its autorunning extreme sports challenge and make it more accessible and user-friendly.
Upgrading its visuals from minimalist pixel art to a bold, vibrant cartoon style similar to the likes of Adventure Time, OlliOlli World offers up a welcoming experience that hides a depth of complexity under the cutesy exterior. Expect to play levels over and over, gradually mastering your control of the various tricks and grinds.
One of the year’s purest expressions of gameplay first design, OlliOlli World stands out as a brilliant little game that can be tackled in small bursts.
48. Trombone Champ
Holy Wow | PC | September
Every year needs a silly game. A game so absurd and goofy it can’t help but catch a ton of attention and become notable as the year’s class clown. And this year, that game was Trombone Champ, a rhythm game that dared to ask: what if someone made a trombone playing game with fully analogue controls?
That’s what Trombone Champ is – a game about playing the funniest instrument, the trombone. And its control scheme seemed very specifically designed to enhance the comedy, as unlike games like Guitar Hero and their specific buttons to press, Trombone Champ is built entirely on a sliding scale you control with your mouse.
The result is a goofy mess of a game that knows how much of a goofy mess it is. It’s unlikely you’ll hit most of the notes, and even more unlikely it’ll sound good even if you do. And for added comedy, it welcomes custom charts, leading to the likes of Final Fantasy VII’s One-Winged Angel and the screaming cowboy meme song from a few years ago to being just some of the songs you can happily parp along to.
47. Live a Live
Square Enix | Switch | July
Sure, it’s a joke game and it really is only that one joke, but it’s a joke that’s been expertly delivered and taken the internet by storm.
Live a Live was originally a JRPG released for the Super Famicom in 1994, which ordinarily would make it ineligible for this list. Except this is a remake by way of Octopath Traveler and also the first time the game has seen an official release outside of Japan, meaning that it is effectively a brand new game as far as Europe and America are concerned.
Live a Live is significant due to it being the directorial debut of Takashi Tokita, who would go on to direct Chrono Trigger and Parasite Eve, and the first RPG project for beloved composer Yoko Shimomura. It also turns out the Octopath style is appropriate for this game, as it also tells multiple stories with eight protagonists. Unlike Octopath, however, each of these stories is set in a different time period, and each story features unique gimmicks such as stealth sections or the use of telepathy.
It’s a great revival too, with a significant visual upgrade while the highly praised story and grid-based battle mechanics remain intact, with only a few adjustments due to localisation and bringing the game up to modern standards. The result is a solid JRPG experience finally brought out of obscurity and allowed to flourish on the Switch.
Kepler Interactive, Ebb Software | PC, Xbox Series X/S | October
Scorn caught attention immediately upon its initial reveal. A big part of this was down to its presentation, as the whole game appears to take place inside the collected works of H.R. Giger, all biological masses tangled with metal and wiring in a grotesque mockery of God’s works.
Scorn is a deliberately obtuse game, one that barely provides an explanation for what’s going on and eschews a lot of modern standards like quest markers. You’re dumped into a horrific world of psychosexual horror and told to figure it out yourself. At times it can be frustrating but for the most part it encourages curiosity in the player as they figure out how to get out of this hellscape.
Scorn is one of the strangest and more divisive games of the year, but one that you can’t deny has made an impression on those who’ve encountered it.
45. Nintendo Switch Sports
Nintendo | Switch | April
Back in 2006, the world went collectively insane for Wii Sports, the motion controlled sports game that even grandma could play. It was a significant factor in the Wii’s monster success and a clear mission statement for Nintendo with the console.
The Switch hasn’t really needed an equivalent because it’s a monster seller anyway, and yet, this year, Nintendo decided to return to it. Naturally renamed because we’ve left the Wii name behind long ago, Switch Sports is pretty much exactly what you’d expect. Bringing back two sports from the original game – tennis and bowling – and one from Wii Sports Resort – swordplay – Switch Sports also adds volleyball, badminton and football, with golf imminently on its way. All the sports are controlled in much the same way as the original games, replacing the Wii Remote with Joy-Cons.
It’s a simple game, designed once again for accessibility to all, but it’s one that gives the Switch yet another goofy party game that can get the family round the TV together. So for anyone who’s been missing that 2006 vibe, Nintendo Switch Sports is here, 16 years later, to bring that back.
44. Need for Speed Unbound
EA, Criterion | PC, PS5, Xbox Series X/S | December
Because EA have consistently failed to recognise the strengths of their devs over the years, Burnout and Need for Speed developer Criterion has spent the last few years toiling away in the Battlefield mines, far away from the genre they put their name to. This year, however, out of nowhere, Criterion returned with a new Need for Speed game, Unbound.
Instantly, it’s easy to see how this game intends to distinguish itself from other racing games on the market with its flashy presentation. While the environments and cars are realistic, they’re surrounded by a degree of cel-shading and graffiti-style artwork that flashes up on screen as you drift around. This street vibe is consistent throughout too, with a clothing line tied in with the game and appearances by rapper A$AP Rocky.
And it’s everything that Need for Speed and street racing fans have been crying out for the past few years. Arcade gameplay, a lot of customisation options and a ton of exciting game modes all make a brilliant racing experience.
Just a shame that EA continues to make terrible mistakes and simply chose not to market this game, leading to poor sales. Here’s hoping it can claw some of that back through word of mouth.
43. Weird West
Devolver Digital, WolfEye Studios | PC, PlayStation 4, Xbox One | March
WolfEye Studios are a brand new, fully remote development studio set up by former members of Arkane. If you’re expecting Weird West to resemble Arkane’s usual output, you may be a little disappointed at first as their first-person stealth expertise has now been applied to a top-down RPG about cowboys.
But delve into it enough and you’ll quickly find that Arkane’s penchant for giving players absurd numbers of ways to approach situations is alive and well in Weird West. Stealth, combat, diplomacy and more are all available options to you. You can distract enemies with elements of the environment or go in guns blazing in full twin-stick fashion. It’s all impressive stuff for a game that looks so basic on first glance.
It’s also got a fun setting where the Old West collides with the supernatural, much like its namesake genre, and a story where a range of characters all find themselves battling their way to survive in this harsh world. Even better, the writing staff included an Anishinaabe writer specifically to ensure the native tribes would be depicted with respect, avoiding stereotypes.
Weird West is a quirky little title with an unassuming face that hides a game that could easily challenge any of the bigger releases of the year for depth and storytelling.
42. Metal Hellsinger
Funcom, The Outsiders | PC, PlayStation 5, Xbox Series X/S | September
There have been a few attempts to blend music and first-person shooters of late, but none have been as bold and as triumphant as Metal Hellsinger.
You play as a lost soul seeking to regain her voice, stolen from her by demons. Naturally, she now has to fight through hell to face the Red Judge. Imagine the recent Doom games but this time, John, you truly are the demons.
Also, imagine that someone snuck Rock Band into the code of those recent Doom games too, as the game actively encourages every shot and every melee attack to be timed perfectly with its pumping metal soundtrack. It’s an impressive soundtrack too, pulling in vocalists from the likes of Trivium, Lamb of God, Refused, Arch Enemy and System of a Down, so metalheads will have an absolute blast.
Private Division, Roll7 | PC, PlayStation | August
Imagine if Jet Set Radio was set in a dystopian future imagined by filmmakers of the 1970s, designed by Moebius and replaced all the graffiti with guns. That’s Rollerdrome.
The second game on this list from Roll7, the speedy trickery of OlliOlli is alive and well in Rollerdrome, as you rollerskate around a series of arenas, blasting foes who try and stop you while doing some sweet tricks off every half pipe as you go. Killing foes nets you health boosts, while tricks net you ammo. All in the name of entertainment as the protagonist, Kara, tries to survive this deadly game show.
It’s a game that could have fallen apart if either the shooting or the skating were bad, but critics have been united in their feeling that the game manages to make both sides of its gameplay supremely fun.
Rollerdrome is pure style and non-stop action, and perfect for anyone who wishes that Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater had more slow-mo shooting segments.
40. Marvel’s Midnight Suns
2K Games, Firaxis Games | PC, PS5, Xbox Series X/S | December
So if you need any proof that I put this list together using actual data and not my personal opinion, here’s a game about superheroes, a genre I famously dislike.
However, one thing that’s especially notable about this particular Marvel game is that it’s made by Firaxis. You know, the people who make Civilization and XCOM. And that last game is basically what you can expect out of Midnight Suns.
And from all accounts, it’s pretty excellent at being XCOM with superheroes, even though that concept doesn’t sound like it would work at all. You take your customised superhero and team up with the likes of Wolverine, Spider-Man, Doctor Strange, Iron Man and a bunch of other be-spandexed fighty types as you go up against…uh…Lilith? Who’s apparently bad? Look, I freely acknowledge I know nothing here. Ask Keith who that is.
The game uses a turn-based strategy system like you’d see in XCOM but combines this with a card system because every strategy game needs that now apparently. And yet it works, providing a system that’s tactical and fun while also feeling a lot more dynamic than turn-based systems usually do.
The game is also a love letter to Marvel, so if you’re into that sort of thing you can expect tons of cameos and references designed to make you smile.
So a great game for Marvel fans and strategy fans? Ideally both of those at the same time? Yes!
39. Ghostwire Tokyo
Bethesda, Tango Gameworks | PC, PS5 | March
This is a difficult game to write about, because while it did catch a lot of positive attention (enough to make the list, obviously!), on a personal level this is my most disappointing game of the year. But I’m not going to go into my issues with the game, let’s focus on what put it here.
In Ghostwire Tokyo you play as a boy named Akito who gets knocked out during a traffic accident and possessed by a ghost who refers to himself only as KK (no, sadly, not that one). Then Tokyo is suddenly swept up in a creepy fog that turns the population into ghosts, and Akito, as the only one unaffected, sets out to save everyone using the new powers granted to him by his ghostly friend.
Ghostwire Tokyo is a painfully stylish game. With ghosts as its focus, it pulls from as much Japanese mythology around spirits as it possibly can, from Kappa that you can distract with cucumbers or wall spirits that have to be exorcised to access hidden doors. The antagonistic ghosts also feature brilliant designs, like the Slenderman-esque salarymen to the headless schoolgirls who skip about the streets. Even boss encounters are stunning, with one particular fight in an arena built out of bright neon signage where you have to out-stalk a cat-like enemy.
This spooky version of Tokyo is a lot of fun to explore, with hidden secrets everywhere, cats running convenience stores and side quests that completely bend the concepts of reality. Ghostwire Tokyo is a game that revels in its own premise at every turn.
However, a lot of this style is let down by some repetitive design and a story that doesn’t quite achieve what it sets out to do. But still, for a uniquely Japanese game about the spirit world taking over Tokyo, it does a fine job of immersing you into that world, and we can only hope that a sequel can build on its solid potential.
38. Triangle Strategy
Square Enix, Artdink | PC, Switch | March (NS), October (PC)
If Octopath Traveler was an attempt to modernise the traditional Final Fantasy formula while keeping a retro feel, Triangle Strategy is attempting to do the same with Final Fantasy Tactics.
Naturally, this means turn-based battles are at the core of Triangle Strategy, where you manage a squad of troops as they go toe-to-toe with a invading force. It’s pretty standard stuff, but one that’s been refined from years of genre experience. They didn’t just take Final Fantasy Tactics and give it pixel art.
What elevates Triangle Strategy, however, is its story and the mechanics related to it. The world of this story is complex, with no one really presented as good or evil, and characters constantly switching allegiances and motivations. At the heart of this is a complex decision system, where you have to convince your crowd of advisors to take a vote on heavy decisions. It’s a moral choice system where you have to convince others of the virtue of that choice before it can be made.
Triangle Strategy is a brilliant strategy RPG that’s going to keep fans of the genre entertained for hours.
Xbox Game Studios, Obsidian | PC, Xbox | September
While putting this list together, I was absolutely convinced that I’d added this to 2020’s list while it was in Early Access, but turns out I didn’t. And despite checking multiple times, I still couldn’t shake that feeling. Nevertheless, evidence suggests I didn’t, so it’s eligible for the list!
But because it wasn’t included, it’s safe to include it here, as it left Early Access and became a full game. This is Obsidian’s strange survival game that seems to exist simply to answer the question of what a Honey I Shrunk the Kids game would look like. You and your friends play as a group of teens who’ve discovered they’ve been shrunk to the size of ants and are now fighting for survival in someone’s back garden. There’s a lot of fighting bugs, harvesting what you can from trash and building equipment off the scraps you can find.
It’s definitely one of the more unique survival games out there, with a heavy late-80s/early-90s vibe and a slider to make the fights against giant spiders just a little less terrifying for those with arachnophobia.
36. Dying Light 2: Stay Human
Techland | PC, PlayStation, Xbox | February
Dying Light 2 was a game plagued by troubled development and delays for what felt like an absurd amount of time. And yet, against all odds, the sequel to Dying Light landed early this year.
From all accounts, it’s Dying Light but there’s a lot more of it. Everything that you come to expect from the original game is here. Hordes of aggressive zombies that increase in number after nightfall. A big open world to try and survive in. And, of course, a ton of parkour mechanics that allow you to traverse rooftops to avoid getting ripped apart by ghouls.
It’s had a bit of a mixed reaction, but not so mixed that it didn’t gain plenty of fans along the way. It may not be the ludicrous 500-hour game the developers claimed prior to launch, but there’s enough here in the game’s open world to keep you entertained for a while.
35. As Dusk Falls
Xbox Game Studios, Interior Night | PC, Xbox | July
As Dusk Falls is a narrative-driven adventure game that may appear a little slapdash from its limited animation, but this stylistic choice hides a complex narrative where choices can have significant consequences.
The premise involves a motel where three brothers committing a heist clash with a family just trying to go on a trip, and the interactions between the two can get heated. The story weaves a narrative of family struggles, tragedy and intrigue that spans decades, and this complex web can leave characters with mixed motivations. Every choice becomes difficult as no one is inherently in the wrong.
The game also offers an eight-player party mode, where everyone can gather round and vote on the outcome of the story, elevating the experience into something more.
Its unique style may put off some players, but its intriguing premise may prove to be one of the more interesting narrative games of the year.
34. Sonic Frontiers
Sega, Sonic Team | PC, PlayStation, Switch, Xbox | November
Sonic has had a rough few years as a franchise constantly marred by rushed releases, questionable ideas and a lack of general direction. After 2017’s disappointing Sonic Forces, upstaged by a side game made by fans (Sonic Mania), it’s clear that Sonic Team needed to rethink what they were doing with the blue blur.
The answer was Sonic Frontiers, which decided to put everyone’s favourite hedgehog into an open world game. A baffling concept on paper, but one that seemingly works well in practice, despite all expectations. While there are a lot of vast empty spaces, that’s a choice that works well for a character whose whole deal is running very fast, and the challenges dotted about combine some of the more enjoyable level elements from the series’ recent history.
It’s not exactly one of the greatest games made this year, but for Sonic fans it’s a pleasant return to form and one that may convince a few people who’ve fallen off the franchise since the Mega Drive era. It just remains to be seen if Sonic Team can learn from this with the next game and building on it instead of tossing it all out in favour of another Werehog or something.
33. Rogue Legacy 2
Cellar Door Games | PC, Switch, Xbox | April (PC, XB), November (NS)
Rogue Legacy was arguably one of the pioneers of the modern roguelike, that appeared during the genre’s rise to prominence in the indie scene and helped herald in a new age where everyone wanted to start doing randomisation and permadeath.
Rogue Legacy 2 is more of that, to the point where it’s argued that it feels unnecessary. But its simplicity in refinement seems to be more of a confident statement that they don’t need to change much, just come back and show everyone how it should be done. And it paid off, as its rave reviews suggest that massive changes weren’t needed after all.
For fans of roguelikes, Rogue Legacy 2 is likely to provide everything you need, and do it well.
32. PowerWash Simulator
Square Enix Collective, FuturLab | PC, Xbox | July
PowerWash Simulator is a game with a simple aim – it is here to simulate powerwashing, and that’s all it’s here to do.
Powerwash Simulator may not sound like much of a game, as it is quite literally a game about cleaning things. But it’s unlikely you’ll find a game this zen in any of the other 49 games in this article. No wait, come back, I’m being deadly serious here.
Gameplay is simple – you have a pressure washer, you use it on dirty things. But just like a real pressure washer, there’s a simple joy in scraping all the dirt and other assorted grime off items and see them gradually become pristine again. Especially if you’re drawing something rude in the process.
If the game did nothing but that, it would already be a triumph, but it also manages to take its concept into some silly places. You start out cleaning up your own company van and sorting out the world’s least hygienic playground, and eventually you’re cleaning entire subways and a fairytale shoe house in the woods, and then you’re being recruited by archaeologists to powerwash an ancient statue in the desert. It all gets much weirder than you’re expecting, and yet all the time you’re simply happy to take the job for the relaxing vibe.
PowerWash Simulator is the perfect example of how great a game can be by taking a simple idea and seeing it through as cleanly as possible. Pun 100% intended.
31. The Callisto Protocol
Krafton, Striking Distance Studios | PC, PlayStation, Xbox | December
After a decade of the Dead Space franchise lying dormant, suddenly we’re inundated with a wealth of space horror games. One of these even comes from Dead Space’s own producer, Glen Schofield, and boy does it show throughout The Callisto Protocol.
If you didn’t know any better, you’d be forgiven for thinking this literally was Dead Space 4. You have an awkward space everyman suddenly surrounded by deadly infected beings and using makeshift equipment to chop bits of them off while navigating a grimy industrial space environment in search of any clue on how to escape this hell.
The end result is mostly successful at bringing back the Dead Space formula, with the exception of some late game letdowns, and it subsequently is a solid start to the inevitable avalanche of big budget space horror we have waiting for us in 2023.
30. Citizen Sleeper
Fellow Traveller, Jump Over the Age | PC, Switch, Xbox | May
Cyberpunk stories are popular in the indie narrative game space right now. We’re increasingly seeing games that meditate on technology and how we can be considered human in an advanced society. Citizen Sleeper fits neatly into that genre with a simple set of mechanics that set out to tell a moody sci-fi story.
The player is put in the role of a “sleeper”, an android with the emulated consciousness of a living human. Think the replicants from Blade Runner crossed with the cookies from Black Mirror and you’re basically there. You wake up on a space station colony on the distances reaches of space with no knowledge of how you got there. All you know is that the evil space megacorp considers you their property and wants you retrieved, while raising questions about whether you’re a real person, and what your continued existence means for the person in stasis whose consciousness you’re copied from.
Citizen Sleeper plays a lot like a board game, with a set of dice that can be assigned to different actions, and turn clocks determining how long different tasks take to complete or when some dramatic event is set to happen. It’s fairly simple to get to grips with, but eventually management of where dice should be applied on each turn becomes a deep, compelling form of resource management.
It’s a superb little game with some brilliant writing and deceptively dense mechanics that didn’t quite get the full recognition it deserved this year.
Humble Games, Playism, rose-engine | PC, PlayStation 4, Switch, Xbox One | October
PS1 aesthetics have been creeping into horror extensively in the past few years, and while most of these projects remain as weird little projects hidden in the dark corners of itch.io, this year saw one of the genre’s more ambitious projects get some significant recognition.
Signalis is a sort-of top-down Resident Evil style horror game, where you have a collection of interconnecting rooms that need to be opened with strange keys and even more bizarre puzzles. There’s some Silent Hill style body horror too. And all of it wrapped up in a sci-fi aesthetic that swipes liberally from anime such as Ghost in the Shell and Neon Genesis Evangelion. And yet, despite all these influences staring out at you the whole time, Signalis manages to carve out an identity of its own.
You play as Elster, a Replika unit (basically a robot with a human consciousness uploaded into it) as she searches for her crewmate Ariane in a deserted colony on a distant ice planet. What follows is a psychological horror story where you’re never sure what’s real and what’s not, and how the glitchy aesthetics end up bleeding into the storytelling.
Signalis is one of my personal favourite games of the year, with its moody, glitchy atmosphere and intensely weird puzzles perfectly capturing the PS1 style of horror, while it constantly keeps you guessing with its story. It’s stylish as hell, and even more impressively, it was all made by just two people. Astounding work.
28. Lego Star Wars: The Skywalker Saga
Warner Bros, TT Games | PC, PlayStation, Switch, Xbox | April
The Lego games have been a go-to for families everywhere, and The Skywalker Saga is the ultimate culmination of what TT Games have been putting out for over a decade now. By returning to where it all began – Lego Star Wars – and completely redoing all of it in a flashy new compilation form, they have managed to create the ultimate Star Wars experience for families and fans of Lego everywhere.
Taking the player through all nine movies, there’s a clear reverence for the franchise, with lots of good-natured humour tossed in for good measure. But it’s also a massive evolution for the franchise, building a new experience out of all of what’s come before it. It does everything it can to cram as much meaningful content in as it possibly can.
In essence, this year has brought the world the ultimate Lego Star Wars game.
27. Bayonetta 3
Nintendo, Sega, Platinum Games | Switch | October
The Bayonetta series has a fascinating way of courting discourse online. Between the feminist debates surrounding the sexualised nature of the titular character with the first game or anger around the second game’s Wii U exclusivity, it’s perhaps not surprising that the third game caused a messy voice acting dispute and angry discussion around the protagonist’s sexuality (to clear things up for everyone, Bayonetta’s sexuality is “yes”).
And yet, the game itself is once again proof of why this is Platinum’s flagship franchise. A flashy, over-the-top combo-heavy action game where a sexy witch beats up demons and angels, and for this game, bioweapons that threaten the stability of the multiverse. Because, yes, this is the year of the multiverse, Bayo teams up with alternate universe versions of herself, along with a punk witch in training named Violet, in order to prevent reality itself from collapsing. And looking fabulous in the process, of course.
Essentially, this is more Bayonetta, only bigger, flashier and more convoluted than ever before. Exactly how we like it then.
26. Disney Dreamlight Valley
Gameloft | PC, PlayStation, Switch, Xbox | September (Early Access)
Disney Dreamlight Valley exists for one purpose – for Disney to have their own Animal Crossing. Much like Nintendo’s chill-em-up, the player is placed in a world full of cute anthropomorphic characters, saddled with debt with a cartoony capitalist and then left to go mine rocks and pick fruit for eternity. The key different, of course, is that the fellow villagers include Mickey Mouse and Goofy, and the capitalist siphoning debt out of you is, naturally, Scrooge McDuck.
The game also boasts a storyline that Animal Crossing could only dream of. It’s basic stuff, as the player has to clean up the magical Disney lands and bring joy to the valley again, but it provides structure and regular missions, most of which seem specifically designed to make hardcore Disney fans squeal with glee.
It’s only available in Early Access right now, and a free-to-play model for the final release next year does raise concerns, but right now, Disney Dreamlight Valley is one of the best Disney games on the market.
Warner Bros, Player First Games | PC, PlayStation, Xbox | July
Super Smash Bros has had many attempts to knock it from its lofty pillar over the years. From Ubisoft’s Brawlhalla to Sony’s PlayStation All-Stars Battle Royale, there have been many pretenders to the crown that have tried to repeat the “throw a bunch of recognisable characters into a game and have them fight each other” formula. Most of them do poorly, but this year, a serious contender emerged.
Multiversus is Warner Bros flexing their IP muscle in a way that feels mildly concerning from a media consolidation standpoint, but equally presents us with the concept of Bugs Bunny teaming up Ayra Stark from Game of Thrones to fire an ACME rocket at Batman and Shaggy from Scooby-Doo. At the time of writing, the roster is a bizarre mixture of Looney Tunes, DC superheroes, Cartoon Network and Hanna-Barbera favourites, Rick & Morty, Gremlins and actual human man LeBron James, but who knows who else might show up. The penguin from Happy Feet? Alex DeLarge? Sheldon from Big Bang Theory? It’s all horrifyingly possible!
The game launched in beta form earlier this year and continues to receive updates, but its initial launch saw a massive explosion in players, most likely due to its free-to-play nature giving people an excuse to check it out purely out of curiosity.
It’s definitely a game that feels like it needs work – collision detection is all over the place and its monetisation model is a bit too much on the predatory side – but there’s a clear level of passion here that makes it seem like it has a real chance to threaten Smash’s title.
24. Nobody Saves the World
DrinkBox Studios | PC, PlayStation, Switch, Xbox | January (PC, XB), April (PS, NS)
Drinkbox Studios made a name for themselves with Guacamelee, a goofy Metroidvania about a luchador that won critical and commercial acclaim. They returned this year with a game that drifted quite far from its predecessor, as Nobody Saves the World is a top-down action RPG. Think A Link to the Past but with memes.
The end result is a goofy little game with a lot of humour. You play as a character named Nobody, who is a hollow shell. After a chance encounter with a wizard, they discover they can change forms into anything they see fit. Switching between these forms is key to saving the world from a great evil.
Not all these forms are immediately obvious as combat characters. Sure, you get a knight and a magician, but there’s also a snail, an egg and a horse that seem less obviously useful in a combat situation. But playing around with these forms shows that almost every form has its uses, and this blend of standard and silly makes Nobody Saves the World so charming. Don’t see much horse romance in Zelda, after all.
I personally have only played a small portion of the game, but what I played showed a fun adventure game determined to give the player a good time, complete with brilliant cartoony animation.
Raw Fury, Geography of Robots | PC, PlayStation, Switch, Xbox | March (PC), November (consoles)
Norco is one of the major sleeper hits of the year, this year’s moody yet surreal musing on life and society following in the footsteps of Disco Elysium and Kentucky Route Zero. Largely flew under the radar for many, but those who did play it found an astoundingly deep and thoughtful adventure game that reflected on small town struggles and corporate greed.
You play as a girl named Kay who has left the small town of Norco in Louisiana and has found herself back home after her brother, Blake, has gone missing. The game is set somewhere in the near future, where the working class ennui experienced by the people of Norco blends with cyborgs and other advanced tech.
There’s also a degree of Lynchian weirdness about Norco too, with dream-like puzzle sequences and a narrative that flips back and forth between the past and the present. The art of Norco is absolutely gorgeous too, with incredibly detailed pixel art presenting a gritty world of crumbling strip malls and swamp waste.
Norco can be best described as the Great American Visual Novel, and if you care about games with excellent stories, you’d do well to give it a look.
22. The Quarry
2K Games, Supermassive Games | PC, PlayStation, Xbox | June
Supermassive Games have firmly established themselves as the studio you go to for horror games made with a narrative-driven focus. However, while Until Dawn knocked everyone’s socks off in 2015, they’ve not fully captured that magic with The Dark Pictures Anthology, which have had much more muted reactions. So muted, in fact, that it seems everyone ignored the latest entry, The Devil in Me, in favour of a completely separate release this year.
The Quarry is much more Until Dawn than The Dark Pictures. It still brings in some of the co-op party elements of the Anthology that allow players to experience the horrors as a collective, but for the most part, this is Until Dawn 2 through and through.
The premise is standard schlock horror fare – a bunch of camp counsellors find themselves stranded on site for longer than expected at the end of summer, and soon they find themselves stalked by a killer. Standard stuff, sure, but just like Until Dawn applied standard slasher tropes to great effect, it’s no surprise that the somewhat cliché setup is the perfect playground for Supermassive to play with the genre. There’s also a stellar cast. David Arquette, Lance Henriksen, Grace Zabriskie and Justice “Detective Pikachu” Smith are all here, among others, and all of them playing their roles to perfection.
The Quarry is not only a return to the quality of Until Dawn but it also managed to thoroughly overshadow Supermassive’s other game in the process. Which is impressive.
21. Return to Monkey Island
Devolver Digital, Terrible Toybox | PC, PlayStation, Switch, Xbox | September (PC, NS), November (PS, XB)
It’s been a long time since we last saw a Monkey Island game. But now with a licensing head at Disney who seemingly wants to throw every property they own at willing developers, original creators Ron Gilbert and Dave Grossman stepped up to bring the series back, entirely within their own vision.
The result is a triumphant return for a series beloved by many, acting like it never went away. Previous Guybrush Threepwood actor Dominic Armato is back in the role, and the writing is as sharp as ever. There have been concerns over the lack of Tim Schafer (who is admittedly too busy running Double Fine to get involved) and some didn’t like former Media Molecule developer Rex Crowle’s more unusual art style (none of you played Tearaway and it shows, philistines), but the end result has been a glorious return of the world’s favourite classic point and click adventure.
The puzzles are still as obtuse and silly as ever, but now there’s a clever hint book system that guides you towards the solution without ever outright telling you the answers. In addition, newcomers can happily set a more casual difficulty that simplifies some of the more extensive puzzles. It’s a game that’s both a nostalgia fest for veterans and a gentle introduction for newcomers.
Monkey Island is back, and it’s good to have our old friend back after all these years.
20. Total War: Warhammer 3
Sega, Creative Assembly | PC | February
The third collaboration between Creative Assembly and Games Workshop, Warhammer 3 is the finale to a trilogy of dense real-time strategy titles set in the grimdark lands of Warhammer.
With eight playable factions, all with their own unique strengths and weaknesses, the goal is to reach the Forge of Souls to take down a big bad housing a dying god who each faction has a different objective for. It’s all very much typical Warhammer silliness, but blended with Total War’s sandbox strategy trappings.
While it’s likely not going to win over those who aren’t already in either franchise, Warhammer 3 is a game that builds on and improves on everything its predecessors did and proves that both sides of this collaboration are still on the top of their game.
Still should have called it Total Warhammer though.
Sloclap | PC, PlayStation, Switch | February (PC, PS), November (NS)
The developers of Sifu saw the hallway scene in Oldboy and took it as a challenge. Inspired by probably every rad martial scene ever put to celluloid, Sifu places you on a kung fu revenge mission full of fluid combat mechanics and a roguelike style death system that oozes style from every pore.
At its core Sifu is a 3D beat-em-up where various martial arts mooks swarm you as you attempt to reach their masters and defeat them in stylish hand-to-hand combat. The combat is intricate, full of counters, positioning and flashy moves that are designed every step of the way to make you feel like Bruce Lee or Jackie Chan.
Sifu is one of the year’s more unique and more stylish games, perfect for anyone looking for some challenging but rewarding action.
Xbox Game Studios, Obsidian Entertainment | PC, Xbox | November
Pentiment is likely not what people were expecting when they heard a new game from RPG masters Obsidian was on the way. Instead of a Fallout New Vegas or a Pillars of Eternity, Pentiment is a mystery narrative framed like a medieval storybook.
And best of all, it’s excellent. A pleasant surprise rather than a disappointment. For what is effectively a filler game while the main developers at Obsidian piece together Avowed and Outer Worlds 2, a lot of love and care has been put into Pentiment.
The writing, from all accounts, is superb, as much of the game revolves around trying to solve a murder where every other character is potentially guilty. Every social interaction carries a tension where the wrong thing shuts down your whole investigation, and the true guilty party is trying to suss you out as much as you’re doing to them.
It sadly looks like it may have gotten left behind in the end of year rush, hidden behind major titles on other platforms and overlooked because it’s not a “true” Obsidian game by the Xbox crowd. And yet it seems this is one of the finest narrative games of the year and deserves a proper examination.
17. Gran Turismo 7
PlayStation Studios, Polyphony Digital | PlayStation | March
Gran Turismo is always a significant game for PlayStation. Not only is it Sony’s best-selling first-party franchise (it’s true, go check), but it also tends to stand out as a technical showcase of the latest machine. And naturally, with the PS5 now well and truly out in the wild, it’s time for a Gran Turismo to show off its complex rumble effects and raytracing.
Gran Turismo 7 is exactly what you’d expect from the series by now. A ludicrous roster of real-world cars, all lovingly modelled inside and out, all laid out for you to collect and race. Slightly pretentious presentation determined to make you know that cars are the single most important thing to happen to human progress and we must revere them while quaffing whiskey and listening to a jazz soundtrack. And, of course, all the tuning options to make any gearhead lose their minds.
The racing mechanics continue to be solid, and now progression is driven by the GT Café, a location which guides you towards completing specific challenges to earn cars. There’s also an extensive encyclopaedia of cars that fills up as you collect these vehicles, celebrating the history of motorsport. And there’s now the addition of Music Rally, a mode where GT7 attempts to turn its meticulous driving simulation into a rhythm game. And it somehow works?
GT7 was overshadowed on launch by a broken in-game currency system seemingly designed to shuffle players off to microtransactions, but looking past that, this is still the superb racer that audiences have come to expect from the series by this point.
16. Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Shredder’s Revenge
Dotemu, Tribute Games | PC, PlayStation, Switch, Xbox | June
Side-scrolling beat-em-ups are having a great time lately. Between the likes of Streets of Rage 4 and River City Girls, it’s clear there are passionate developers out there who recognise the appeal of the genre, and even better, know how to enhance it for the modern age. And now we can happily add Shredder’s Revenge to that list.
It’s a revival of the TMNT arcade games of the 80s and 90s, right down to using the style of the iconic cartoon from the time. In fact, the team at Tribute Games were so determined to evoke the feel of the show that they sought out the original voice cast and recruited Faith No More frontman Mike Patton to perform a full cover of the original theme tune. And yet it plays so much like the modern fleet of excellent side scrollers, with refined movement and more fluid combo mechanics, while the soundtrack brings the retro style on steroids that Sonic Mania composer Tee Lopes is best at.
Every aspect of this game has been meticulously crafted in the most efficient way to make you grin like you’re a little kid in the early 90s again. It is, quite frankly, super rad. It’s easily one of the most enjoyable games of the entire year, and it’s made someone like me who hasn’t engaged with anything Turtles related since I was about six suddenly care about the world’s most fearsome fighting team again.
15. A Plague Tale: Requiem
Focus Entertainment, Asobo Studio | PC, PlayStation 5, Switch, Xbox Series X/S | October
A Plague Tale: Innocence was a surprise hit back in 2019. A new game from a developer whose experience mostly lay in grunt work and licensed games, the idea that they were producing a medieval Last of Us on a mid-level budget seemed too ridiculous to ever be good. And yet, it ended up being a standout game for the year, featuring a genuine brother-sister relationship, engaging stealth and puzzle mechanics and astounding voice acting for its leads who’d never worked a professional acting role in their lives before.
This year saw Innocence gain a sequel, one that continued the story of Amicia and Hugo de Rune, two kids wrapped up in the horrors of the Hundred Years War and a magical fantasy version of the Black Death that featured significantly more flesh-ripping rats. And it managed to elevate everything that made the original game so excellent to new heights. More opportunities to experiment with different techniques to get the siblings out of trouble. Vastly improved visuals that often led me to stop and stare in awe at the Mediterranean scenery. A sarcastic amount of killer rats. And most importantly, a story that took the horrors of the first game and stopped to examine what effects all that would have on a teenage girl and her six-year-old brother.
A Plague Tale: Requiem is a game full of story moments that threaten to turn the series a bit silly – the rats are now capable of bizarre Eldritch powers that threaten to change the entire landscape of the planet – but everything holds together on the strength of its character dynamics. Amicia and Hugo are much closer as siblings now, and their bond drives everything, while side characters like Arnaud and Sophia are so charming in their interactions with the kids that you’re going to want them to stick around.
A Plague Tale: Requiem is a sequel which knew exactly what made the original great and focused entirely on doing more of that, making for one of the best narrative-driven games of the year.
14. Mario & Rabbids: Sparks of Hope
Ubisoft, Nintendo | Switch | October
Ubisoft are far from the top of their game these days. They’ve been putting out fewer games, and persistent accusations of atrocious work culture are causing them to lose staff and new applicants, worsening their prospects even further. So it’s telling that their most triumphant game in a while is one that’s largely driven by a different company’s characters.
Sparks of Hope is the sequel to 2017’s Kingdom Battle, a game that made absolutely no sense on paper – what if Nintendo’s beloved mascot teamed up with Ubisoft’s equivalent to the Minions and the gameplay was just cartoon XCOM – but ended up being brilliant despite expectations. This is more of the same, with more elements specifically swiped from Super Mario Galaxy and movement in battle being a little more freeroam instead of grid based.
This change completely changes the vibe of the game into one that feels a lot more fluid and fast-paced, even though fundamentally it’s still a turn-based strategy game. Players can string together a ton of abilities in a single turn that feels dynamic and exciting, and that works to make Sparks of Hope a much-improved sequel.
It’s strange that one of the year’s best Mario-based Switch exclusives came from anyone other than Nintendo, but here’s Sparks of Hope happily proving everyone wrong once again.
13. Kirby and the Forgotten Land
Nintendo, HAL Laboratory | Switch | March
Kirby is one of Nintendo’s stranger series. A game about an adorable pink ball of joy who horrifyingly devours his foes and steals their essence, these games are typically the cute, kid-friendly cousins of the Marios and the Zeldas that tend to quietly release in the tail end of a console’s life cycle, happily doing their thing.
Kirby and the Forgotten Land is the first game in a while that seems determined to draw attention to itself. For a start, it’s the first game to go full 3D, giving Kirby a greater range of movement than ever before. It’s also, strangely, set in a world more akin to The Last of Us, where malls, streets and houses stand long abandoned, its inhabitants nowhere to be seen, while vegetation gradually takes over. And yet the game isn’t a longing question of what happened to humanity, as it’s still the same goofy platforming action you’d expect from Kirby, only now with an extra dimension.
It also adds Mouthful Mode, an utterly bizarre ability where Kirby can put items too large for him in his mouth, leading to him being wrapped around said item allowing him to perform new abilities. This, of course, led to the internet falling in love with the Kirby car, which is just Kirby with an old, rusted hatchback jammed in his throat, allowing him to drive around. Hey, I told you this was a weird series.
Kirby and the Forgotten Land ended up being one of the year’s most charming games, and one of the best games for the Switch in a year already full of great Switch games.
12. Splatoon 3
Nintendo | Switch | September
Splatoon is an interesting series for Nintendo. An online multiplayer shooter from a company that normally doesn’t have an online focus, and originally released on one of the company’s worst performing consoles, there was no way it could possibly become one of their biggest IPs. And yet, seven years on in 2022, the third game in the series sold so absurdly well out the gate that it became the biggest domestic Japanese video game launch in history.
And as one of those people who helped elevate it to that status as I jumped in right away on the Wii U, I’m so happy this third entry exists as it’s easily one of the most joyful games of the year. I’m not a personal fan of a lot of multiplayer shooters, but Splatoon hits just right for me. Cute characters, a goofy sense of humour, a playfulness to its gameplay that lacks the aggressive meta that pervades other shooters, it all combines to make a great experience to jump in whenever and have a blast.
There’s also the fact that the gameplay involves kids who can morph into squids playing paintball with each other, battling to turn every arena into their team colour. There’s less emphasis on kill-death ratios and more on making good use of space.
Splatoon 3 isn’t a revolution, more an iteration of its predecessor, which also launched on the Switch. But the tweaks it’s made are so essential it’s hard to go back to the second game. An extensive reworked single player campaign, tweaks to stages and weapons to create a greater sense of balance, an actual physical lobby to hang out in between games, and even something as simple as being able to skip the regular news updates that pop up every few hours, all of it enhances the experience in significant ways.
One of the most enjoyable gaming experiences I’ve had all year, and a game that everyone with a Switch absolutely must play.
11. Cult of the Lamb
Devolver Digital, Massive Monster | PC, PlayStation, Switch, Xbox | August
Cult of the Lamb is a game of two halves – one half is a roguelike dungeon crawler, and the other half is a cult management sim where you must meet the needs of all your devoted followers.
The roguelike side plays a lot like The Binding of Isaac, albeit a little less punishing than other roguelikes on the market, while the cult management is exactly what you’d expect from something like The Sims mixed with Animal Crossing. You have to balance food supplies, keep the village clean and perform the occasional blood sacrifice. With all these needs met, you can then use the worship of your followers to strengthen yourself into a powerhouse for the dungeons.
It’s a bizarre mixture of genres that works incredibly well, all wrapped up in a silly sense of humour, where followers can be so inept that they may try and eat their own poop. It’s no wonder that it’s become one of the year’s biggest indie darlings.
Finji, Dicey | PC, PlayStation, Switch, Xbox | March (PC, XB), September (PS, NS)
Tunic is a throwback to the days where in order to make progress in a game, you had to keep extensive notes. It’s a game that’s fixated on secrets and exploration, designed to make you delve as deep as possible into its world and find ways to break it and turn it on its head.
It’s a superb piece of work, initially appearing to be a simple Zelda clone with a few basic Soulslike elements – you’re resurrected at a bonfire on death, stamina management, that sort of thing – but it hides so much more. Key to this is its manual, embedded within the game itself, but a throwback to the physical manuals of Nintendo and early PlayStation titles, marked with notes scrawled in a failing Biro by some unknown player who’d attempted to traverse this world before you. The manual not only guides you but also hides secrets and clues to puzzles, and it’s up to you to parse through its strange language to figure what’s important.
As I already stated on the podcast, Tunic is my favourite game of the year. It’s a superb little adventure that’s offers charm, a sense of accomplishment, one of the most chilled-out soundtracks of the year, and an adorable little fox buddy to explore with. It’s a game that refreshingly doesn’t hold your hand, but gently coaxes you to figure everything out yourself, and quite frankly we need more games like this. I wish I could place it right at the top, but sadly, there were nine other games that took the gaming world by storm a little more this year.
Half Mermaid, Sam Barlow | PC, Xbox Series X/S | August
Immortality is a weird one. It’s the latest Sam Barlow game and operates in much the same way as its predecessors Her Story and Telling Lies. But instead of scrubbing through video clips using a search bar, Immortality has you examining clips as if they’re playing on a reel-to-reel machine and clicking on items in the scenes unlock new scenes, slowly unravelling the story.
The clips are all from a trio of movies starring a mysterious actress named Marissa Marcel – a blasphemous religious movie from the 60s, a seedy detective movie from the 70s and a thriller from the late 90s. None of these movies ever released and Marissa herself has disappeared, and the goal of the game is to discover what the story behind all that is.
Immortality focuses its attention on meticulous period-accurate movie clips, often pulled from behind-the-scenes footage with crew on set, rehearsal footage and script read sessions all shuffled into the mix. The level of detail on show is impressive, and you’d believe all this genuinely came from the respective time periods instead of all filmed in the 2020s. But there’s also a more sinister hidden layer on play that turns Immortality into a secret horror game.
I will be honest – I did not click with Immortality personally. It’s a lot of clicking through random clips, sometimes stumbling on clips you’ve already seen, and while I appreciated the story and the effort taken to make the clips feel genuine, I often felt I had little actual control over proceedings. But it’s enthralled a lot of the industry this year, so it’s found its way onto this list, and I think that speaks to how well it sticks to its concept – if you get it, it hooks itself into you.
8. Pokémon Legends: Arceus
The Pokémon Company, Game Freak | Switch | January
This year saw the release of the newest generation of Pokémon games. Scarlet and Violet launched in November and immediately saw backlash as it became obvious that Game Freak really could do with more time for these games instead of working to absurdly short deadlines. Bugs, graphical issues, poor performance, you name it, Scarlet and Violet suffered it. What probably didn’t help matters was the fact that it wasn’t the only Pokémon game to launch from Game Freak in 2022.
Pokémon Legends: Arceus was supposed to be an experimental side game for the franchise. A game that takes the standard RPG structure, set it in a completely different time period and simplifying the capture mechanics. And yet, as the year comes to a close, it’s clear that this game is the obvious victor in which game is better. It ran better, its simplified mechanics trimmed a bunch of fat, and the historical setting, inspired by feudal Japan, gave a fresh perspective on the Pokémon world.
The sprawling open world helped give a sense of wonder to the game too, as did the lack of adherence to the established Pokedex, so players didn’t know what to expect and the experience felt closer to the little kids finding a Pikachu in Viridian Forest for the first time.
This experimental spin-off showed that there is still life in the Pokémon series, if only Game Freak are allowed to step outside of the usual boundaries that have existed since the Game Boy days. Between this and the critical panning Scarlet and Violet received, here’s hoping it allows time for The Pokémon Company to reflect on what happens next with the series.
7. Neon White
Annapurna Interactive, Angel Matrix | PC, Switch | June
In a year full of stellar indie titles, one name comes up frequently – Neon White. Built by the creator of Donut County but looking absolutely nothing like that, Neon White is a tale of assassins from hell attempting speedrun challenges in order to get into heaven.
It sounds bonkers, and based on every bit of gameplay footage I’ve seen, it absolutely is. It’s a game that combines first-person shooters, card battlers, Mirror’s Edge and the aesthetics of anime, Paradise Killer and Hades to make a game that has done everything it possibly can to stand out amongst the crowd this year.
The challenges are mostly focused on shooting up bad guys in stylish ways, but your abilities are decided by drawing cards. These abilities don’t just include your guns but also things like double jumps, dashes and grappling hooks, gifting you more ways to move around the level. However, much of the game is about managing these cards to get the best use out of them all in a complex puzzle game that moves at a blistering speed.
Neon White is an incredibly unique game that’s relentlessly come up time and time again in end of year discussions, cementing it as one of the year’s greater standouts.
6. Xenoblade Chronicles 3
Nintendo, Monolithsoft | Switch | July
Xenoblade is a Nintendo franchise that doesn’t feel like a Nintendo franchise. A far cry from the kid-friendly cutesy adventures the company is known for, Xenoblade is a dense, 100-hour anime-styled JRPG which dares to get weird and more than a little philosophical. And this year saw the release of the series’ third numbered entry, and with its bizarre worlds and aggressively British localisation, it became the first entry to be nominated for a Game of the Year Award from Geoff Keighley’s Carousel of Marketing (also known as The Game Awards).
It’s by many accounts the best in the series too, bringing together the best bits of the second game’s combat but mercifully aligning its story much closer to the first. It also drastically expands the combat by giving players a whopping six party members to work with in battle. It adds a ton of depth and excitement to battles and significantly opens up your options.
It’s also just a shocker that a game this technically intricate, this expansive in its world, this visually stunning and this…LONG can function as well as it does on the Switch hardware. It’s one that JRPG fans absolutely need to be playing.
5. Vampire Survivors
Poncle | PC, Xbox | October (PC), November (XB)
Every year needs that one indie title that seemingly comes out of nowhere and promptly sits itself down in front of everyone, demanding the attention of the industry at large. This year that game is Vampire Survivors, a game that slapped many critics round the face and made them seriously reconsider what the best game of the year truly was.
I am, admittedly, not amongst those critics, as I really don’t like its visual style and also it’s a roguelike and I’m violently allergic to those, but it’s received a ludicrous amount of praise from those who are fine with those things. Ryan’s been enjoying it too.
It’s a game where all you have to worry about is dodging, as attacking happens automatically. The game is about surviving hordes of enemies within half an hour of playtime, but the sheer number of enemies on screen makes this a much harder task than you’d initially expect. Oh, and none of them are vampires. I don’t know why.
Vampire Survivors is a bit of a niche interest, but if it’s able to sink its teeth into you, it’s likely to be one of the best games of the year for you.
Annapurrna Interactive, Blue Twelve | PC, PlayStation | July
Sometimes a game knows exactly what its audience wants, and what the audience for Stray wanted was a game where you play as a cat. And it achieves that goal successfully, with the ability to knock things off shelves, scratch up rugs and disrupt board games by jumping on the table they’re played on.
It’s clearly a game made by cat people too, as every quirk that you can expect from cats is present. He fusses when a little backpack is put on him by a robot, and you can decide to be a terror for a little while before being nice again. There’s also a meow button so you can insist on being the centre of attention.
But beneath the novelty of being an adorable feline menace, Stray offers up a surprisingly heartfelt post-apocalyptic story about what it means to be human. It’s a story that sees our protagonist aiding a bunch of humanoid robots who’ve formed their own underground society, one where they’ve been trapped inside a bunker wondering what happened to all the humans. It’s a triumph of worldbuilding, one where every aspect of the world is curated to expand on the story being told.
Stray is a simple little game, one that’s more about solving puzzles than fast-paced action, but it’s one of the more memorable and more emotional games of the year, one that I have on my own personal list of favourites.
3. Horizon Forbidden West
PlayStation Studios, Guerrilla Games | PlayStation | February
The Horizon series has developed an unfortunate habit of being overshadowed by another open world game with each entry that arrives. The original game, 2017’s Zero Dawn had the misfortune of releasing within a month of The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild, while this year’s Forbidden West ended up releasing a week before the most hyped release of the year, a game which we’ll get to shortly.
Which is a real shame because while Horizon Forbidden West may not be pushing the genre forward as much as its contemporaries, there is still an absolutely solid open world game here that takes the best of the genre and distils it into a superb sci-fi action adventure.
Horizon Forbidden West doesn’t advance much beyond Zero Dawn, but it doesn’t need to. It merely refines everything. Expands the world without making it feel hollow. Enhances the combat and adds even more layers of challenge and complexity that feel rewarding rather than frustrating. Vast improvements on character animation (Zero Dawn’s biggest downfall). And a story that goes beyond “how did this world come to be?” and moves more into “where does this world go from here?”
Also, allow me to point out that exploring and uncovering the secrets within the ruins of Las Vegas was one of the most glorious gaming moments of the year for me, personally. I will say no more. If you’ve played the game, you know what I’m talking about.
Horizon Forbidden West is one of my personal favourite games of the year. It’s expansive, engrossing and challenging in all the right ways, and deserves to be considered as more than just an also-ran to the two games above it in this list.
2. God of War: Ragnarök
PlayStation Studios, Sony Santa Monica Studio | PlayStation | November
God of War: Ragnarök was one of the most hyped games of the year prior to its release, to the point where people were prematurely calling it Game of the Year months before it came out. Fortunately for those people, it lived up to its hype in every way, crafting an experience that took the already excellent 2018 God of War and made everything…more.
Ragnarök is a Norse epic that sees Kratos return to his classic god-battling ways, going toe-to-toe with a more mythology-accurate Thor than Marvel has trained us to believe in. The world is bigger and more expansive, with more to do and more to see. And the writing has stepped up a notch, bringing a range of emotional depth to the whole cast.
Also internet goofball turned professional voice actor Sungwon Cho plays a talking squirrel with an eyepatch, and that’s me sold instantly.
I don’t really need to explain what makes God of War: Ragnarök great, and to be fair, I’d do a poor job since I haven’t played it myself yet (soon!). But with the entire industry singing its praises, and fan reception being just as fervently enthusiastic, it’s hard not to point to it as one of the shining stars of 2022.
1. Elden Ring
Bandai Namco, FromSoftware | PC, PlayStation, Xbox | February
In a year full of diverse major releases from all corners of the industry, it’s indisputable that one game stood above all of them in terms of sheer attention, critical acclaim and general fan discussion.
Elden Ring was one of the most hyped games in existence prior to its release. It’s the brutal action RPG style of FromSoft combined with the writing of George R.R. Martin and a vast open world. It was ambitious and promised a lot that a huge audience desperately wanted. It could have all gone wrong. And then it simply didn’t. Elden Ring delivered everything it promised in spectacular fashion.
Even I, as someone who struggles to get into FromSoft games, can recognise how important Elden Ring is and how much of an achievement it’s made. This is a game that took a recognised style of gameplay and opened it out in a way that enhanced it and improved it rather than bogging it down with filler. It’s expansive, it’s challenging, it’s engaging and it’s kept gamers talking all year. It’s the culmination of everything FromSoft have been working towards ever since Demon’s Souls in 2009.
Elden Ring was almost destined to be 2022’s Game of the Year, and here it is, exactly where it was set up to be. One of the highest rated games of the year on Metacritic, the highest trending game and the game that topped basically every awards list. There was no other choice for the number one slot. 2022 is Elden Ring’s year, every other game is just living in it.
And that’s all for 2022! The Gaming Roundup will return on 13th January 2023. See you then!