What a year of incredible games 2022 has given us. In a time where pandemic-related delays are often the norm, somehow, this year has been one for the books — beginning with a bang and pulling us right to the finish line as the year closes in a few weeks.
The entire team got together to list anything that launched this year. Any video game that launched from January 2022 to December 2022 is eligible with consideration of December 15 being the cutoff. Anything released past this date is eligible for inclusion in our rankings next year.
Any sort of broad statements on Elden Ring feels redundant at this point. We’re months removed from the latest ambitious title made by From Software and yet players still sing its praises. From a personal level, I knew I’d enjoy the game. Though, I didn’t know how impactful it would be to me. Elden Ring revolutionizes the modern open-world genre. This game is as important and impactful to gaming as Ocarina of Time, Fallout3, and Breath of the Wild.
Elden Ring puts such an emphasis on exploration and mystery-solving, it’s almost unprecedented. In an age where guides and how-to’s flood the internet, Elden Ring brought me back to those mid-90s recess periods, unpacking a game with friends on the playgrounds. Adding to that, Elden Ring delivers punchy combat and a variety of enemies that keeps the game feeling fresh from start to finish. It’s also the first to bring in a brand-new audience. I’ve been able to share experiences with friends that have never been interested in Dark Souls, Bloodborne, etc. There’s no better feeling than finding a lasting community that adores sharing and celebrating a new game.
First things first, I adore it when a studio is able to garner the support to make an inspired passion project. Obsidian Entertainment seems like the studio that never sleeps. However, a small group of roughly 12 devs were able to gain not only internal support by external support all the way up to Microsoft to work on Pentiment.
Going back to their roots of impactful dialogue choices, Pentiment is set in the 16th century. While the game centers around a series of murders across 25 years, the who-dun-it mystery takes a back seat and lets the characters in Tassing take center stage. With visual stylings inspired by medieval manuscripts and fonts of the time, I was hooked by every interaction and their lasting effects. Relationships are formed and broken by dialogue choices, sometimes hours apart. It’s a passive experience and oftentimes dry. Though, the change in pace and scenery certainly left a lasting impression on me.
I had no clue what Immortality was before I clicked start on my Xbox. Flashforward 18 hours or so and Sam Barlow’s latest FMV game is one of the most innovative and surprising games I’ve played in many years. Telling the multi-decade story of fictional actress Marissa Marcel, players must parse through footage of her three “films.” I found myself meticulously scrubbing through each behind-the-scenes clip and produced shots of these films, dedicating myself to solving this mystery. Without being hyperbolic, there’s a spin on the gameplay that left my jaw on the floor. One that deserved to not be spoiled.
Beyond innovating on a well-trodden game genre, Barlow captured some of the best performances in video games. On a very meta level, Manon Gage plays Marcel, who is then playing multiple characters, all spanning footage nearly encompassing the run time of three full films. Adding to its impressive ambition is its RNG. By clicking an actor’s face or an object, players are taken to a scene in direct relation. This means that the way I was fed the story organically will be totally different from anyone else. It’s a progression system I’ve not quite seen in a game. Immortality is a gem. Though darker tones and subject matter persist throughout, it’s been the game I’ve most suggested people play in 2022.
Rogue Legacy 2
It shouldn’t come as a surprise that Rogue Legacy from Cellar Door Games is one of the best roguelikes of all time. It launched in 2013 to success and I don’t know anyone who wasn’t consumed by the easy-to-play but hard-to-master gameplay. Did I mention the unscrupulous deviation on each new run? The basis of Rogue Legacy was that each new run was a new descendant of your previous hero each with their own traits. One relative might have better strength or more magic, while others would have bad eyesight or Alzheimer’s meaning the screen is either blurry or the map is removed and you could only check progress at checkpoints.
Rogue Legacy 2 introduced a variety of classes, new biomes, and tons of new traits that make each run either rewarding or chaotic.
Fans of Disco Elysiumwill want to check out Citizen Sleeper as it clearly is inspired by ZA/UM’s massive hit RPG. The main goal is to survive as a Sleeper, each day you are transported into a robotic shell owned by the mega-corporation Essen-Arp. You owe a lot of money to the wrong people and each day you work on repaying that debt until one day you escape and set yourself on a new path.
In a twist, you’re stalked and hunted by bounty hunters looking to nab you. On Erlin’s Eye, you have the opportunity to take on jobs and survive your situation with each morning beginning with a roll of the dice dictating how successful your day will be.
One of the biggest reasons Citizen Sleeper resonates with a lot of people is how the story approaches everyday life and how sometimes we feel trapped by the issues we’re facing like the risk of private health care, affordable rent and mortgages, and having enough savings to enjoy life’s little pleasures.
Celebrate the small victories because you never know what life will throw your way next.
Coming out of the deep end of COVID-19, I finally got the chance to take an actual vacation. While I was largely disconnected from gaming on a beach in Jamaica, Marvel Snap continued to flood my social feeds. It wasn’t long until I had a spare 10 minutes and downloaded the game on my phone thinking, “What’s one or two games?” The next thing I know, this game had consumed countless hours of my time.
This is all coming from someone who largely avoids card battlers. However, it speaks to the game’s pacing and intelligent systems. Marvel Snap focuses on unique meta builds, and impressive strategy and presents it with additive game loops and lightning-fast pacing. I was hesitant to believe the hype. Though I now authentically believe Ben Brode and the minds behind Hearthstone have developed a worthy successor. Though I have reservations about its egregious Battle Pass system, the core gameplay experience and passive microtransaction more than make up for it.
I was obsessed with Downwell from Ojiro Fumoto. Then Poinpy launched via Netflix’s Games service and my new obsession materialized. See, Poinpy is wildly simplistic and reminds me of Doodle Jump while being impressively polished and hard to put down. It is basically an endless platformer where you collect fruit and continuously move upwards as a hungry green bird. If you have a Netflix subscription, you owe it to yourself to download this gem to your device.
Pokémon Legends: Arceus
For a franchise that has existed for nearly three decades, Pokémon was in sore need of change. The wild success the series has seen over nine generations of Pokémon is impressive but the formula was more or less been the same since the 1990s. Some fans may have been alright about this but I know I was keen on seeing change at least three generations back.
Enter Pokemon Legends: Arceus, Game Freak did something outrageous and delivered one of the best games in the series since Heart Gold/Soul Silver. Instead of being a present-day affair, players are given the chance to go back a hundred years and witness the earliest moments of the Sinnoh region.
By showing us how humans and Pokémon lived before they were locked away in Poké Balls, we saw how the general population reacted to these unruly creatures spread across the land. The twist presented as your playable character is sent from the present day to the past to learn and help guide the region to prosperity and while a bit of a stretch, the narrative featured some great moments.
I praised the changes made to the existing formula and wished Game Freak would utilize them in sequels going forward. Being able to capture wild Pokémon by tossing out a Poké Ball and sneaking up on a creature felt exciting, actively battling in the open world felt exotic, and witnessing some of the events unfold while assembling the first Pokédex left me feeling accomplished.
Signalisis one of those video games that came so far out of the left field that when it arrived, everyone was taken aback by how good it was. What’s even more amazing is that it was developed by two people.
Mixing elements of Resident Evil and Silent Hill, Signalis is set in the future where a Totalitarian government runs basically everything. The gameplay is a mix of third-person mixed with puzzle elements as Elster descends to a mining facility in space where her partner is missing. The events that transpire are filled with otherworldly horrors and traumatizing experiences that will leave you breathless.
Kirby and The Forgotten Land
Kirby made his debut thirty years ago and continues to be one of the best representations of Nintendo. I haven’t enjoyed every game Kirby has starred in but the latest one is easily one of the best we’ve seen and featured some incredible moments. If you haven’t played Kirby and the Forgotten Land, it is a simple platformer that is filled with some wonderful sights.
Building and restoring Waddle Dee Town to its former glory is as much fun as the main game itself. You can work with the Waddle Dee to restore the fishing pond, cafe, colosseum, and more to make the village feel like a home.
Kirby also meets companion Elfilin, a supporting character that is filled with energy and an untapped resource Kirby will use to help restore the world. Did I mention Kirby can swallow a car or become a walking staircase? Nintendo delivers one of the best platformers of the year and even if Kirby and The Forgotten Land is geared toward younger kids, it is an experience for everyone.
Cult of the Lamb
It is wild how many of these management sims have made an appearance this year but nothing stands out as boldly as Cult of the Lamb. Mixing several gameplay genres successfully, your task is to ensure the survival of your new family.
I’m barely scratching the surface of what Cult of the Lamb truly is as it infuses even more mechanics like base building into the mix to make this game one heck of an experience. I was taken aback by how well everything came together in the end. The fast pace of the dungeon-crawling elements pairs well with the roguelite elements and it is easy to dive in and spend several hours cultivating your flock.
Live A Live
Squaresoft’s Live A Live never left Japan but nearly 3 decades later, Nintendo said we’re going to help you bring this gem to the West. In July, the remake of Live A Live came to the Switch and was met with overwhelming positivity from players.
Live A Live is the perfect JRPG — it is short, comical, and full of well-written characters. The battle system is also a nice departure from the more action-oriented systems many other franchises have gravitated toward. Did I mention there is no overarching storyline and the main draw of Live A Live is how it tells eight vignette’s from across time? You have pre-historic cavemen, cowboys, the distant future, feudal China, and more locations to explore.
I don’t normally care for leaderboards. At a time when I was younger, I could say my favourite thing was besting strangers at the arcade and leaving my initials on the leaderboards. I moved on and forgot about ever really competing with that level of ferocity ever again. Then I played Neon White and all my bad habits came right back.
Developer Ben Esposito of Angel Matrix knew what he was doing when working on Neon White. By setting the entire experience in the afterlife, the rules of everyday life no longer apply. Now, as an assassin on a mission in Heaven, you’re free to move around in a snap while helping rid the area of demons.
The thing about Neon White that makes it so addicting is it is like a dance, you have this intoxicating soundtrack penetrating your ears and all you want to do is put a stop to the impeccably placed demons in each level. The goal is simple in Neon White, get to the end of the level as fast as possible while wiping all enemies off the map. By the time you’ve finished, your friends may have already bested your score. I know at launch I had this very problem and it was a frantic race to overcome my previous scores while also making sure I was beating my colleague’s score, too.
Andrew Shouldice revealed Tunic years ago and the project continually appeared on various industry shows teasing what players could expect when the game inevitably launched. Cut to 2022 and the Finji-published was met with critical acclaim and for good reason — Tunic was a beautiful experience that featured an anthropomorphized fox exploring a colourful and engaging world.
The thing about Tunic is how it pulls inspiration from other series including Legend of Zelda and Dark Souls. My favourite aspect is the in-game journal that made progress feel earned in a way so few games offer these days. At one point, I remember joining a Discord dedicated to said journal with everyone sharing their progress and tips to reach the end. By the end of Tunic, you’ll feel a sense of accomplishment, something few games offer these days thanks to how thoughtful the puzzles are in Tunic.
Beacon Pines fits perfectly into the “cozy game” category. As the player, you’re placed within the pages of a storybook, with calming music, an excellent art style, and one of the best voice-over and narration performances I’ve ever heard from Kirsten Mize.
Beacon Pines is essentially a point-and-click adventure. You live in a small rural town where a bigger and darker mystery is taking place right beneath your feet. The reasons why and how, and the ways they are revealed are what make this game so special. On top of that, there’s a clever and unique “choose-your-own-adventure” mechanic that comes into play, not only creating great story moments but also giving context to the story at hand.
Beacon Pines was one of the biggest surprises of the year for me and I can’t recommend it enough to anyone looking for a shorter story-driven title, especially during the chilly months of winter.
As Nobody (with a capital N), you’re tasked with shape-shifting into over a dozen characters and creatures that range from a rat to a bodybuilder; a magician, to a ranger; or from a slug to a mermaid. Each of the forms has its own passive and active abilities that can be upgraded and combined with other forms. The joy of the game comes from this core mechanic and how it works in each and every dungeon and on each and every quest.
Each one of these encounters and hordes of enemies forces you to change how you play and who you play as. This constantly keeps the game refreshing and never makes the shape-shifting and changing feel like a chore because each and every form is a ton of fun to play and wholly unique from any of the others.
With tons to do, lots of hilarious characters to meet, a fantastic cartoony art style, and tight and incredibly fun gameplay, Nobody Saves The World is a must-play for any 2D action-adventure fan.
Xenoblade Chronicles 3
Monolith Soft struck gold with Xenoblade Chronicles and it spawned two more games, creating a brilliant trilogy. This year marked the launch of Xenoblade Chronicles 3, one of the JRPGs to exist in years thanks to the daring storytelling, realized characters, imaginative world, and satisfying combat system. Previous entries had a lot of side content that was a slog to get through but the filler nature has been addressed. Xenoblade Chronicles 3is one of the best-looking games to land on the platform, too.
The series isn’t afraid to make grown men weep and there isn’t a more melancholy RPG out there that resonated with me as much as Xenoblade Chronicles 3 did. Noah and company’s journey across one of the most fascinating worlds to come out of the medium in some time on the Switch’s hardware no less, prove that Nintendo knows how to foster growth with its developers when it wants to.
This game is arguably the indie hit of 2022. Not only is it just a ton of fun to play, but it may also have spawned a whole genre. Vampire Survivors may not look like much on its surface: the style is not very flashy or eye-catching and the controls are very simple. But don’t let that deter you. If you’re still one of the 5 people that haven’t played this game this year, trust me there is far more than meets the eye.
The chore gameplay of walking around an endless map with weapons that fire automatically somehow works no matter what combination you have at your disposal. There are dozens of abilities, both active and passive, and many survivors to choose from, each with its own status and advantages. It’s something we’ve all experienced before, but not like this. This game is special in its own way and it scratches a rogue-like, action-adventure, collectathon, and retro game feel. That is something I argue no other game on this list can claim.
It’s honestly hard to put a finger on exactly why the simplicity of Vampire Survivors works so well and why it translates into so much fun, but it just does. It’s a game I and many others have sunk dozens of hours into, with each and every one of them being engaging and exciting no matter what.
Stranger of Paradise: Final Fantasy Origin
Square Enix invited Team Ninja to make one of the most chaotic Final Fantasy spin-offs we’ve ever seen. Set in an alternative universe and serving as a prequel to the first Final Fantasy,Stranger of Paradise: Final Fantasy Origin is what happens when you combine the lore and job system of Square Enix’s hit series with the gameplay players came to love in Nioh.
The pairing of difficult and strategic combat, a brilliant soundtrack and some out-there storytelling allowed the developers to spin a new tale without worrying too much about ruining the established canon. We hope to see more of these non-canon spin-offs in the future because it allows the developers to mix and match elements to tell new storylines and that’s a good enough reason to want more.
Horizon Forbidden West
The follow-up to Horizon Zero Dawn improved on almost every aspect and issue the new franchise had. Horizon Forbidden West is a bigger and better sequel with more ways to traverse the environment, there are more settlements and tribes to interact with, and the combat feels much better on this go-round with more tools and weapons to tackle the robots you’ll encounter.
The earliest moments are not the best but after a slow start, the stakes are fully displayed and Aloy and her team are tasked with stopping a new threat. Thankfully Aloy is also given new skills like swimming and gliding to deal with the vast wilderness in front of her.
The Legend of Heroes: Trails from Zero
After almost two-decade life for the franchise TheLegend of Heroes it is still putting out bangers by giving old and new fans the chance to dive right in with Trails from Zero. Until this year, Trails from Zero was only available in Japan on PSP and later PS Vita. It only took a decade but developer Nihon Falcom finally took the steps to bring the game to the West with more related games coming in 2023. Trails from Zero’s not just a cut-and-dry release either as it came with a bevy of modern enhancements, including improved visuals, UI, customization options, framerates, and more.
The best thing about the game is the story as The Legend of Heroes: Trails from Zero aged like fine wine in a well-paced detective story featuring a memorable cast of characters. The game puts you in the shoes of the police in a new department made of bright rookies that are so similar to the last arc’s Bracer Guild that it’s joked about constantly. While the idea of putting the police as the heroes could have come off as tone-deaf in our current climate of police brutality/corruption, Trails of Zero does a good job of avoiding this by recognizing the negative police as a story beat that actually drives the narrative forward.
So much so city-state of Crossbell at times felt like its own character while unexpectedly mirroring modern society, specifically the approach to Crossbell’s political landscape. I think overall if you had to pick one RPG to pick up this year, The Legend of Heroes: Trails from Zero is a good pick as it does a great job of hooking newer players into the world with some mild references to the previous games in the series that thankfully doesn’t linger too much. Avoid the PS4 version as it isn’t the definitive version and instead those looking to get the most out of their money are better off picking up Trails from Zero either on PC or Nintendo Switch.
Crisis Core: Final Fantasy VII Reunion
Having launched last week, Crisis Core:Final Fantasy VII Reunion is a hybrid remake/remaster of a PSP title from Square Enix. Originally launching in 2007, Crisis Core served as a prequel to the prime version of Final Fantasy VII. Catching players up to events that transpired and directly led to the Shrina Mako Reactor Bombings, Square sheds light on the life of Zack Fair, a mysterious character from protagonist Cloud Strife’s past.
Moving away from traditional RPG mechanics, Crisis Core utilized an action-based system and added the Digital Mind Wave (DMW) system to replace Limit Breaks. The entire structure of Crisis Core’s gameplay was developed with a handheld in mind and that shows when completing the in-game missions that last no more than a few minutes as Zack heads out and mops up enemies to earn materia, equipment, and items.
For those who have only played Final Fantasy VII Remake, Crisis Core is a crucial piece of lore as it gives you a lot of context on events that happened, introducing big names and big players that you would meet in Remake. By filling in the gaps in the timeline, we see how critical Zack’s role was in many of the events that transpired.
The Quarry is a fantastic, thrilling adventure that is the next evolution of Supermassive Games’ approach to choice base narrative games that just doesn’t just reach the highs of Until Dawn but at times even successfully surpasses it. If you’re someone who has been playing the developer’s yearly The Dark Pictures Anthology games and is a little disappointed in the consistency as of late then The Quarry will be a breath of fresh air. If you’re asking me why I say this well because it is the studio’s best narrative-driven game from Supermassive in years, bringing a star-studded cast into a harrowing summer camp setting. Plus, it’s just one of the best-looking games I’ve played this year, comes off more as a beautiful CG movie with the portrayals of Detective Pikachu’s Justice Smith and Miles Robbins coming into their own.
The approach to making all choices in the game matter The Quarry’s narrative was a welcome addition, especially in a genre where only big choices make or break the final outcome. While the lack of technical inclusions like a manual save option is disheartening, don’t let it deter you from experiencing one of the scariest games that launched this year. Thankfully the accessibility options make it a less frustrating experience. I’d recommend anyone who appreciates a good story to try The Quarry — I’m not someone who likes spooky games and even I was surprised by how much I ended up liking The Quarry.
The Stanley Parable: Ultra Deluxe
It’s honestly such a treat to talk about The Stanley Parable in 2022 as I never got to experience it in 2013, so getting into the quasi-expanded remake makes up for that missed opportunity with the additional content that studio, Crows Crows Crows delivered this year. The Stanley Parable: Ultra Deluxeis an immaculate game that showcases a deep understanding of narrative and character work carried by the performance of Kevan Brighting as the narrator that gets meta in the best ways possible.
Visually the game isn’t the most impressive but it thankfully doesn’t need to be because the one thing that needs to be done well is exceptional — the story. The narrative aspect alone presented in The Stanley Parable: Ultra Deluxe is so good and so easy to recommend to anyone who never picked up The Stanley Parable. For fans of the original, the new content also adds a ton of content that honours the legacy of the 2013 game while making it feel like a sequel making it want to warrant a revisit of this great game and go through the game’s many meta-ending.
God of War: Ragnarök
Santa Monica Studios had some big shoes to fill with a follow-up to 2018’s God of War after re-introducing the Ghost of Sparta as a sad dad. Four years later and God of War Ragnarök launches to universal acclaim and turns one of the most reviled characters in the medium into a character filled with emotional growth.
Ragnarök isn’t a new take on the wheel but an improved follow-up, one that iterates and improves on its predecessor by adding so much more to do. The sidequests are baked right into the narrative, helping flesh out the world and characters in a way that so few games have done before.
Kratos is a broken man in God of War, an emotionally distant and ill-tempered man who bonds with his son after the death of his wife. Ragnarök expands the cast by adding several new characters, most often in service of the God of War’s growth as a human. Seeing the man who once annihilated a pantheon of cruel gods in service of revenge begin to heal the emotional damage and bond with his son is some of the most emotional events this year. Together with his newfound allies, Kratos works with his son Atreus to stop the end of the world all while steeling himself to the inevitability of his death so his son can live in peace.
Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Shredder’s Revenge
Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Shredder’s Revenge lives up to the classic arcade games it was inspired by and then some by introducing April O’Neil and Splinter as playable characters. As a followup to the TMNT arcades game of our youth, Dotemu and Tribute Games deliver a chaotic and engaging beat ‘em up that feels familiar. Shredder’s Revenge is a beautiful throwback to when arcades reigned supreme and dropping your allowance on extra lives was the coolest thing you could do with your friends.
The campaign boasts some incredible fights and moments that are ripped right out of 1980s cartoons — it also helps the voice cast returns to make this project feel authentic and gnarly as ever.
Mario + Rabbids: Sparks of Hope
Mario + Rabbids: Sparks of Hope took the budding franchise to an even bigger stage than its predecessor. Not ignoring the elements that made it popular in the first place, Ubisoft decided to improve what people liked about Mario + Rabbids Kingdom Battle to make the sequel more fun to play. Honestly, I didn’t think it would have been possible to do better than Kingdom Battle and I mostly expected this one to be a simple sequel without too many improvements.
If you’ve never been introduced to turn-based strategy games then you probably won’t be disappointed with Mario + Rabbids Sparks of Hope. Its freedom of movement and the absence of linearity makes it an excellent 3D Mario title. The introduction of the Sparks brings a much-welcomed depth to the established gameplay.
Sifufollows a martial arts student who is on a mission to seek revenge for their fallen master. Where the story deviates into video game territory is the medallion the protagonist wears. Every time they die in-game they are resurrected looking and feeling older until they run out of chances to succeed or die of old age. Sloclap’s work with the combat system is some of the best this year. Fights are generally hard to finish and you require a semblance of patience if you wish to survive. Learning when to strike, parry or block is the only thing standing between you and death so ensuring your energy isn’t wasted by mindless throwing out attacks will go a long way.