With 2023 looming large on the horizon, it can only be time for one thing. It's time for websites about videogames to start their yearly, mostly-futile attempts to bring order to the chaos, and rank the best games that came out in this calendar year.
We all love a good list! But rather than get bogged down in whether this game or that game deserves slot #5 rather than slot #6, we take a slightly different approach: We just ask everyone to write about one or two games that meant a lot to them this year, and why. No numbered ranking, and no need for it to be 'critically acclaimed' or anything like that. What follows, then, is just a celebration - of all the titles that made the last twelve months into an unmissable year for games. Without further ado, let's meet the class of 2022...
God of War Ragnarök
I don’t know how, but Santa Monica Studio did it. They managed to top God of War (2018), in pretty much every aspect, with Ragnarök.
They certainly had a lot to live up to, with everything they built in the previous game, and having recently completed this new one, I think they have done so brilliantly. Sure, the gameplay is mostly the same (with a few minor improvements) but this was one area that didn’t really need tweaking too much as it was already near-perfect. The game also takes place in familiar locations from the first game, but makes them fun to explore again, and then we also get to see new areas that were previously inaccessible, like Asgard and Jotunheim, which makes the whole world feel much bigger.
But the reason this rates so highly is the story, and how that story is told. I was engaged in the plot from start to finish, and never felt there were any low points. To talk about it in more depth would potentially spoil it for you, but from the opening section that sees Kratos fight Thor, right up until the end credits – it’s absolutely epic. This is peak fiction.
What a gem this is! Based on old-school Zelda games, Tunic drops you in the middle of a beautiful world as a little fox. You have no weapons, no idea why you're there, or what you're doing, and soon find that you can't even read the language of this world. While this may sound frustrating, it is actually the start of an ingenious puzzle that ties everything in the game together for an experience like no other.
As you explore, you find little hints to the world and narrative, slowly filling in your understanding, and an in-game guide in the form of a little instruction booklet, which you piece together page by page. As you figure out hidden areas, mechanics and plots, you feel a sense of wonder like no other. I still can't say I fully understand the plot, but the atmosphere, music and mechanics have left me feeling like I've really experienced a little fox's adventure as my own.
I suppose I should have expected it, but for some reason I had never considered the possibility that one day, my favourite game of the year would be a casual, free to play mobile game. It has come to pass. Step aside, AAA blockbusters. Move along, charming indie games. That's right: I'm a casual gamer now. I play games while waiting for the kettle to boil. I open the app daily to get my free credits. My phone battery is ravaged.
It's all thanks to Marvel Snap, a game which takes the addictive nature of card collecting, mixes it with one of the most popular entertainment franchises in human history, and then, as if by magic, builds the world's best battle game around the cards, which is so exhilarating and moreish that it should probably be illegal. Any one of these three elements could have made this a successful game by itself. The combination of all of them together is incredibly compelling.
Unlike many card-based games, Snap is fun in short bursts as well as long ones - mostly thanks to rapid-fire matchups that reward on-the-fly creativity and adaptability more than the careful, sometimes-tedious planning that other deckbuilders are known for. There's several counters to every move your opponent makes, and against any move you could make. Sometimes, the game counters your opponents for you, or makes your life way harder, thanks to random effects that affect the match halfway through your fight. All told, it creates an extraordinary amount of gameplay variety. Just when you think you've seen it all, a new card or ability comes along and upends everything you thought you knew about the best way to win.
Layered onto that is the Snap mechanic - a way of doubling the stakes (or quadrupling them, if your opponent is also feeling confident). It adds a Poker-esque layer of bluffing potential, as well as a way to increase the risk and reward on any match to push the tension (and the euphoric feeling of winning) to new heights. It's honestly stunning just how much every aspect of this game works. It's put together with such care and thoughtfulness. Each individual piece of the puzzle is a noteworthy achievement in game design by itself.
With a game this well-made, it would have been very easy for the developers at Second Dinner to monetise the hell out of it. It's so good, it would be worth paying a lot of money for, and if they had made it necessary to pay to keep up with your opponents, I'd be a poor man. Instead, the free-to-play mechanics are precisely engineered to ensure that nobody can pay to win. You can only really pay to get cool collectible artwork. I've still not spent a single penny on this thing, although I surely will at some point, and plenty have, enough to make the game a huge financial success. Perhaps the most miraculous feat of all, among the many things Marvel Snap manages to pull off, is that it is a free-to-play mobile experience which truly respects the average consumer. It feels historic. It's pitch perfect game design, unparalleled addictiveness, and inexplicably good value for customers. It's the best game that came out this year.
Sometimes a game feels like it has been made for you. This is the case with Stray, a game that feels tailor-made for me, and for players like me around the world. You play as a cat. What more could you want?
The game allows you to roam a spooky, futuristic city, with all the grace and agility that a cat would. So there's no danger of falling from dangerous heights. And as you discover the non-lit world from the height of your four paws, and scamper across rooftops, there are creepy monsters and bad corporations to stay away from to keep things interesting. There's also a great cast of friendly (mostly!) robot folk, and you make a few friends along the way. Will you ever reunite with your kitten siblings? It's a joy to explore and find out. An absolute 10/10.
Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2
This year's Call of Duty is one for all the original Modern Warfare fans, and boy oh boy does it live up to the name... That means no more jetpacks, and no more flying, and no more running-on-walls Matrix malarkey. This new iteration brings the Modern Warfare series back to its roots: ghillie suits, toxic multiplayer lobbies (and hilarious proximity chat), and fierce battles set in the very near future.
The gameplay is the most important part of any CoD title, and in this one, it's enough to make you say "ufff" [Editor's note: No, I have no idea what this means either...]. It runs at a silky smooth 120hz on PS5, and the visuals are out of this world. It really takes me back to my school days, jumping on every night to play an FPS which feels truly AAA.
The storyline brings back the GOAT (greatest of all time) squadmates from the older Modern Warfare games, so you cant help but feel a bit familiar with the team, and it's not a case of being dumped in with loads of overwhelming brand new characters. As you'd expect, the multiplayer has a massive variety of gametypes, perfect for extended play sessions. There's plenty of modes to suit casual players, or you can go ranked and play with the "tryhards". And as if that wasn't enough, you can jump into the AC130 and drop into Warzone 2.0, with up to 3 buddies, and take on 156 players in a Battle Royale. If PVP isn't your thing, Spec Ops is a whole separate co-op campaign that you can take on with a friend.
The Call of Duty team have really outdone themselves this time round, and they've got me hooked yet again, with tonnes of more content coming soon. You definitely need this game on the shelf.
If you'd told me at the start of the year that my favourite game of 2022 was going to be a game where you power wash dirty locations, I don't think I would've believed you. However, PowerWash Simulator from FuturLab is absolutely fantastic. It is incredibly satisfying, very relaxing, and an awful lot of fun.
I often found myself finishing cleaning a location, and then thinking to myself "Well, I'll just start one more job, do a little bit then go to bed". However, the completionist in me meant that whenever I accidentally sprayed another area a tiny bit, I naturally had to finish cleaning it there and then - all of a sudden, it's then the early hours of the morning. The game also has fantastic locations for you to clean, and great narrative throughout. Without spoiling what it is, many were left feeling incredibly emotional at the end of the game. If you haven't yet, I'd recommend checking it out.
It feels like a lifetime ago already, but OlliOlli World by UK developer Roll7 was released back in February on PC and all major consoles. It's a refreshing change of scenery compared to many of this years releases, with a colourful stylised aesthetic and fast, satisfying, "easy to grasp, hard to master" gameplay, that falls somewhere between Alto's Adventure and a Tony Hawk game.
With a compelling progression, plenty of customisation options, and cracking soundtrack, OlliOlli World is deserving of it's 87 metacritic score on PC, and has proved to be a hit with both indie game fans and wider gamer audiences. The multi-platform release also had some entertaining marketing, with Danny Trejo (also an in game character) driving around, asking skateboarders to see a kickflip, which made for a good launch, followed up with several DLC expansions throughout the year.
If you're looking for a casual, pick up and play, skateboarding game, I'd highly recommend this one.
Dan's Special Mention: Satisfactory
Not something released this year, as it's still in early access, but it is new to me, is Coffee Stain's Satisfactory. As the title would imply, it's a satisfying factory building game. I'm upset I slept on this one for so long, having had it recommended to me numerous times in the past, but having finally checked it out recently, it's already my most played game of the year. Whilst it is still in early access, the game is very near complete, so we can expect a full release sometime soon. It's hard to describe what makes it such a great game, as any attempts I make to describe it, do not do it justice. Just take my word for it and go treat yourself to a copy. When you're done let me know and I'll come visit your epic creations. And if you get in quick, you can enjoy the fun festivities of the in-game Christmas celebrations, which are a charming live service addition.
Marvel's Midnight Suns
As a fan of XCOM and Slay The Spire, I had some pretty high expectations for Midnight Suns. Turn-based combat and deck-building? Yes please! I'm less keen on Marvel however, so I wasn't entirely sure what to expect. Some people want to hang out with Wolverine and have a nice long conversation. Not me. I just want action.
It turns out that having lengthy chats, and building relationships with the characters, does form a large part of the game. So it’s testament to just how good the gameplay loop, connected systems and combat are, that I’m utterly hooked! Well done Firaxis for taking some well-worn genres and making them feel fresh with interesting new twists. I think I’ll be playing this one for a long time!
Okay, this one is coming in pretty hot. Because it just came out. But one of the most intriguing games of this year has to be Pentiment.
It's an engrossing murder-mystery, set in Renaissance Bavaria. And if that wasn't already unique enough, it's brought to life in an illustrative style that immediately evokes the setting and the time period, carefully crafted like a mix of medieval tapestry, manuscript, and the scratching of inked quills. The mechanics may be simple, and the story quaint, but this game is a real example of what it looks like when developers pour every ounce of passion they have into a project - a real victory for a small team within Obsidian.
The best games of any year often come with great new mechanics, which go on to influence the entire genre of that game moving forward. But sometimes, just sometimes, the very best games seem to define a whole new genre unto themselves. Step forward, Vampire Survivors.
This year, Poncle have managed to carve out a whole new industry niche. I still don't know if we're calling this new genre 'reverse bullet-hell', or 'horde survival', or something else entirely. I don't even know where the lineage of these mechanics really starts, in terms of who deserves credit for inventing it. But what I do know is, VS is the defining title of this new category of games.
It doesn't look like much. It doesn't cost much (£3.99 on Steam, free on mobile). You don't control the character much. And yet, somehow, when the swarms of skeletons come for you, the satisfaction is... Well, it's very much. That's the best way to describe it. It's pure power fantasy. You've probably never played as a videogame character as strong as you can become in this. The low-fi graphics are a necessity, to ensure that your gaming device doesn't melt when it has to render you SLAYING A THOUSAND BONE DEMONS PER SECOND WITH THE SWORD OF HEAVEN.
Each run starts with you being fairly weak, and the only thing you do is choose where to walk. Over time you collect weapons, but all of the weapons fire automatically. Walk some more. Choose some more weapons. Walk some more. Choose which weapons to level up. Before long, the enemies are coming thicker and faster than you can walk away from, but if your luck with the random weapons is right, and you've invested wisely in levelling up, you won't need to run away any more. You'll be causing devastating damage on any enemy that gets near you, and as they keep coming, you keep levelling up.
Eventually, of course, the fun has to end. In a typical run, Death himself shows up after half an hour and puts and end to your run. Ah well, that was fun- NEVERMIND I JUST GOT SO STRONG THAT I STOPPED TIME AND KILLED DEATH ITSELF. I AM THE MOST POWERFUL BEING THAT HAS EVER EXISTED IN ANY UNIVERSE. Ahem. Killing Death (and then unlocking him as a playable character) is just one of the many, many secrets you can find Vampire Survivors. In fact, there are so many secret weapons, secret characters, and secret levels layered into this thing, it's like a Secret Lasagne. The more you dig, the more there is. And it's all delicious. If you've ever got a spare half an hour, there aren't many better ways to use it than diving back into this.
There were a lot of big releases this year, and I feel there were some great games that were a bit overshadowed. For me, none more so than Triangle Strategy on the Nintendo Switch. It’s a turn-based strategy RPG, and a love letter to fans of classics like Tactics Ogre and Final Fantasy Tactics.
It boasts amazing HD-2D graphics, where 2D sprites are placed in a 3D world, with the aim of recreating classic SNES-era graphics but in high definition. The game has a deep story, including well thought-out political schemes between three warring kingdoms. You take control of Serenoa, of House Wolfort, as he’s thrust into a new position as the head of House Wolfort after his father’s untimely death. The plot plays out based on the choices you make and how you interact with the characters, and every choice has consequences. Making one group of characters happy, might result in falling out with another. Choosing to save one faction, might mean going to war with their enemies.
In terms of gameplay, it balances the difficulty incredibly well – it’s challenging but it never feels unfair. It really requires you to think and plan how you approach each battle – almost like a game of chess, and it's extremely satisfying when you emerge victorious after coming up with an elaborate strategy. I definitely plan on doing another playthrough to see how the story plays out when I make different choices. It’s an absolute gem of a game, and I recommend it to anyone who likes strategic RPGs.
Cult of the Lamb
Do you think lambs are cute? Because this one certainly is. It also happens to the leader of a cult, and it has a lot of enemies to defeat. Luckily, your followers are there to help.
Most of the game is spent building your cutesy cult-munnity, to help your followers survive the elements. And then, when you get bored of playing house, you can go on missions to defeat heretics and discover more of the richly realised world. It's adorable, casual fun, and it's just what I need after a long stressful day. Other games may be technically better, but this definitely one of the most fun. It's also the one I kept coming back to, and the game I played the most this year.
I Was a Teenage Exocolonist
Sometimes a game comes out that doesn't just feel made for you, but that you also kinda wish you had made yourself - that is Exocolonist for me. This indie delight is a combination of visual novel, poker-based card game, RPG and speculative science fiction all rolled into a "perfect game for Taya" package that I absolutely adored this year.
It initially attracted me with it's pastel, spacey visuals and futuristic character designs, and the promise of a narrative which is shaped by decisions. Usually this is an empty promise, but in Exocolonist, decisions have real weight - people die, communities get torn apart and entire habitats get destroyed by certain decisions you make. The best part of the game, and it's main premise, is a time-travelling mechanic that let's you go back to the start of the game, armed with the knowledge your character has learned through each lifetime, to try and save lives and ensure the longevity of your exocolony. The writing and narrative are impeccable. There were tears!
Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Shredder's Revenge
Everyone loves an old school, arcade style, button bashing beat 'em up, right? When I picked up TMNT Shredder's Revenge, I was immediately taken back to my childhood, not only because of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles IP, but also because of the style of game I was playing. It's so much fun, more so when playing with some friends. It's fast paced, funny, and full of nostalgia.
In each level, you pick your favourite hero in a hard shell, and battle your way through cool locations - fighting ninjas, hoverboarding down roads, teaming up to take down bosses, and of course pulling out sweet, sweet taunts. Developed by Tribute Games and published by Dotemu, this has definitely been one of the most fun games I've played this year. It also led to one of my favourite Etch Play live show moments of the year too!
Whilst not originally released this year, an upgraded PS5 edition of Cyberpunk did come out in 2022. Plus, this is the year the game started... Y'know, working. And now that it does mostly work, what a showcase for the console’s capabilities it is!
Whilst the game itself doesn’t do anything particularly new in my opinion, the visuals, world and story are all incredible. It's probably the closest I've felt to feeling like I was exploring an actual, alive city (albeit a futuristic sci-fi one), more so than any other game that I’ve played. Alongside that, the main storyline is engaging, and the side quests are weird and wonderful enough to never become a grind. It was definitely worth the wait. Plus: Keanu! All hail Keanu.
It's been another fascinating year for videogames. Many brilliant titles didn't even make our list. But these are the games we think sum up this calendar year, each of them unique, boundary-pushing, or otherwise good for gaming as a whole in their own right.
Did your favourite make the list? Have you played these fantastic games? And where the #$@&%*! is Elden Ring? For all those discussions, and more, hit us up on LinkedIn and Twitter. We'd love to hear your thoughts.