Well, for the most part.
There have been stellar years in gaming (1998, 2007), and while 2022 doesn’t match the pure epicness of the aforementioned, it managed to carve its self a very prominent position as one of the best years gaming has seen for a while. Even with a lull here and there in which no bangers were released, 2022 has provided a multitude of games that were very much worth your time.
We’re going to take a look at, and celebrate, these fantastic releases throughout 2022 – a year that outside of gaming, didn’t seem particularly the best. Thankfully there were quite a few games that were captivating enough to help transport my mind into its world, and thoroughly enjoy my stay there.
Games released January 1st of this year, up until the final week of 2022, are all candidates in this list, unlike some other places that have magical cutoff times around the middle of November. Had I parroted that nonsense, a few notable titles wouldn’t even have made it onto this list (and the thought of a mid November 2022 release qualifying for a 2023 Game of the Year celebration is beyond preposterous).
As with every year, there are way more games to play, than there is time to play them. Here’s a list of some of the bigger named released of 2022 that I either had no desire to touch, didn’t have the time to play, have very little playtime with, or I just felt weren’t my cup of tea:
Lost Ark – was never a fan of Korean MMO’s, and this didn’t change my opinions on them
The King of Fighters XV – I had intended on purchasing this at a later date, but after watching a number of streams and gameplay videos, and learning how easy it was to abuse certain tactics (and losing 85% of your health because you had the slimmest of moments where you gave your opponent the opportunity to counterattack is not well-made gameplay), I decided to completely skip it
Horizon: Forbidden West – the first game was an absolute slog to get through, where I had basically stopped playing at the halfway point. Absolutely zero desire to ever play this
Dying Light 2 -the first Dying Light was one of the few zombie related video games that didn’t feel like yet another turd pushed out of the over-saturated rectum of gaming fads. The second game starts well enough, but as soon as I reached the much larger portion of the game world, I couldn’t find any incentive to bother with it any further
Gran Turismo 7 – I only ever liked the second title, easy skip for me
WWE 2K22 – bought it, played an hour of it, did like 4 hours of sim matches, dropped it after (somehow my Xbox year end summary said I had over 60 hours in it – likely all trying to get the user creations area to actually work)
Ghostwire Tokyo – early previews made this seem so unappealing. After watching some streams of it, I really wanted to give it a go, but decided to just wait until the one year exclusivity was over and just play it on Game Pass
Tiny Tina’s Wonderland – I had no idea what to make of this on previews. Decided to give it a shot and…it’s pretty mid? Weapons feel incredibly weak and feeble, skills weren’t very appealing either. Shelved it after a couple of days
Eiyuden Chronicle: Rising – I tried to get into it, but just couldn’t with how utterly slow the intro was. Definitely not something that will tide me over til their grand RPG release (I will give it another try soon though)
Evil Dead: The Game – I’m a huge Army of Darkness fan, and actually did order the game off Amazon. This was one of several games that Amazon magically couldn’t get to me on release date (even with a warehouse more or less right near me), so I canceled the order. I’m not a big fan of playing asymmetrical games either, so I guess this was money well saved?
Diablo Immortal – lol
Mario Strikers: Battle League – perhaps the most disappointing game I’ve played all year, and maybe over the last several years. The original game was an all-time favorite, and this, as highly anticipated as it was for me, just fell flat. Super striker animations you can’t skip dragged the pacing down tremendously, and the inclusion of “gear” felt superfluous. It’s not a bad game, but it’s woefully disappointing and pointless in its existence
Fire Emblem Warriors: Three Hopes – given the fact that I’m not even close to beating Three Houses, this was an easy pass
Stray – started it, forgot I started it. What I had played was charming enough to go back to eventually
Live A Live – Maybe it was playing the prehistoric section first, but I was pretty quickly turned off to the game. Gave it another chance, got through several other story arcs, then played the ninja portion and grew bored
Digimon Survive – nearly purchased it since it looked like a pretty slick SRPG, but then it came out that it was more of a visual novel than anything else, and lol nope (nothing wrong with visual novels at all, just not my cup of tea)
Saints Row – boy did I dodge a bullet there. After I saw a preview of the game in action, something told me that I really need to skip this. Good thing I did, since it seems to be a broken, bland mess
Soul Hackers 2 – I bought it, and the first 90 minutes are so heavy handed on exposition (incredibly boring exposition) that I was completely turned off and shelved it immediately
The Last of Us Part 1 – the game that didn’t need to exist. I already played through it on the PS3. Absolutely top tier storyline, with hilariously bad, generic and ridiculous gameplay
Splatoon 3 – not my cup of tea
Metal: Hellsinger – didn’t really think much of it after the first stage and stopped playing
Midnight Fight: Express – I liked the first 5 minutes, but I just couldn’t get into it beyond that
DioField Chronicle – I felt that the gameplay loop was thrilling, but this was when the onslaught of games and lessening of free time developed, so it’s on a temporary hold
Valkyrie Elysium – having only scantly played the franchise previously, I didn’t know how I’d fare with this. Given the fact that it plays almost nothing like the older games, I still found it to be passable. I kinda put it on hold after beating the first portion
Overwatch 2 – lol
Bayonetta 3 – I’ve actually never played any of the Bayonetta games. I’ve never really cared much for games that are over-the-top with its gameplay (Devil Mary Cry, God of War PS2). I’m sure it’s probably fun, but it would be a disservice to the franchise to pick up the third game without having played the previous two. That and there’s just so few hours in a day
Mario + Rabbids: Sparks of Hope – I made the decision to wait on this until there’s a sale on it. Being that it’s an Ubisoft made game, it’s all but guaranteed to be at least $40 by Black Friday (and it was, and will probably be again for Christmas). Also, it was a time investment that I had no time for, but would love to play it soon
Gotham Knights – this was a last second decision to cancel my order on it. With how little time I had with all I had to play, and the fact that I can guarantee you that this will be between $40 and $50 by Black Friday (it was actually cheaper than that), it was probably for the best that I waited on this
Star Ocean: The Divine Force – I’m sorta regretting this purchase. It isn’t awful by any means, but the gameplay loop is very bland, and it didn’t feel as thrilling as say, Star Ocean The Second Story on the PS1. Shelved it for now, maybe forever
Call of Duty: Modern Warfare II – if I wanted to play a Call of Duty game, I could just pick up a copy on 360 and basically it will play exactly the same (yes I know that isn’t true, but the CoD formula is so banal, there’s really no need to ever play a “new” one every year)
Atari 50: The Anniversary Celebration – this is a case of me wishing I had more time to dedicate to games, as I know this would have been something I would have genuinely appreciated. I also read that it’s also an interactive museum of sorts, and that Digital Eclipse did a magnificent job in creating something special with this package. Guaranteed purchase, just not sure when
Tactics Ogre Reborn – I actually did try to play through it, but hit a wall with something that required me to backtrack and grind probably for a few hours to catch up, and I immediately shelved it. Excellent game, but I don’t have the time or patience to be doing what was needed of me because of one little oversight
Front Mission 1st: Remake – another incredibly involving game in a genre I adore, released in such a bad time
The Callisto Protocol – I had only barely touched Dead Space previous to this game, and it’s basically the spiritual successor to that franchise. Maybe one day, but $70 right now for something I have the vaguest of interests in, seems pretty stupid
Dragon Quest Treasures – I thought there would be time for this one, but there really wasn’t. What little I managed to play so far, it’s charming and really enjoyable thus far, and I can see myself enjoying the playthrough if I stick with it
Crisis Core: Final Fantasy VII Reunion – played through it from start to finish, woefully disappointed with how most of the mechanics were ported without adjustments. This might have worked on the PSP 15+ years ago, but a near straight port onto current consoles absolutely does not work for something like this. That ending though, god damn brutal…
Sports Story – surprise launch so late into the year for a game that’s likely going to have a little bit of length to it, but I do want to recognize its existence, and that I will be playing it
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Honorable Mentions (includes unbeaten titles)
Triangle Strategy (Switch)
This was something that was immensely disappointing to me on release. After hyping it up in my head for months before its release, thinking it was going to be the second coming of SRPG in the vein of Final Fantasy Tactics, what ended up happening was Triangle Strategy veered towards heavy story emphasis and less freedom in character customization. Now don’t get me wrong – the story is very well done, very gripping throughout, but the thing that bummed me out was the fact that there wasn’t a system in which you could change a characters class, learn new skills in such a manner, etc. Everyone is locked into the class they started as, and the amount of skills gained are so meager. I was so turned off by this, that I shelved the game for roughly six months.
I decided to give it another chance recently, mostly just to have something to pass the time for me until God of War Ragnarok came out. On my second attempt to play through Triangle Strategy, I found myself much more invested than I was before. Suddenly the shortcomings in customization weren’t as egregious as they were on the first go around. The story was still fascinating to follow (although that voice acting is some of the most uneven delivery that I’ve heard in any game), and everything just started clicking for me. While I do wish there was a better sense of customization to each character, I was content with everything offered. While I would recommend most any other story heavy experience ahead of Triangle Strategy, it’s still worth checking out sometime down the line.
Pokemon Legends: Arceus (Switch)
Pokemon Legends: Arceus felt like the very first attempt to truly evolve the tired and true formula of the franchise. In truth, this was basically a test run for Pokemon Scarlet and the gameplay innovations and adjustments that it received. The story was flimsy, but the core loop of filling out your Pokedex felt much more addicting this go around. Having the freedom to attempt to capture a Pokemon without battling it, the open world areas players are given to explore, all translated into a Pokemon experience that commands your attention throughout. Had the game world not have looked so visually plain Jane, it’s possible that Pokemon Legends: Arceus would have ended up in my top five this year, but nonetheless, it’s a title that pushes the Pokemon gaming universe forward, and is worth your time, even with Scarlet being released 10 months after the fact.
For me, Sifu is what I had wanted Fighting Force to be 25 years ago – a deep and evolving combat system, mixed with background elements that play into your battles. It’s a tough as balls game that feels immensely gratifying once you get the hang of each enemy that comes your way, as well as taking down each boss. If you enjoy roguelite games, the elements of that genre can be felt in Sifu (starting over on a game over, using points gained on upgrades to your combat skills and other augmentations to use on future attempts, etc). An intelligently crafted experience that feels familiar enough, but had enough aspects to the gameplay to present a refreshing take on the 3D beat en up genre.
Lego Star Wars: The Skywalker Saga (XSX)
The last Lego Star Wars game I played, I can’t even remember the title of it, but it was one of the earlier Xbox 360 Lego entries. The Skywalker Saga manages to deliver the definitive Lego video game experience, putting every other Lego Star Wars game to shame, and just completely overshadowing every other release. The addition of much larger, mostly open world-like planets to explore really gives players a much wider scope of exploration. A must play for fans of the Lego franchise, as well as Star Wars lovers.
A good 3D Sonic game? Shut the front door! For the most part, Sonic Frontiers delivers a solid experience. These open world hubs offer stretches of land to cover, speed through, grind around and just explore. The gameplay structure can lead to a bit of repetitiveness hours into the experience, even with the traditional kinds of Sonic stages appearing as a vessel to help further the storyline, but there’s something about Frontiers that’s endearing. While it does have a number of shortcomings, this is an excellent blueprint to worth with and expand from in what I hope becomes the new Sonic 3D franchise for years to come.
Strangers of Paradise: Final Fantasy Origins (XSX)
Strangers of Paradise: Final Fantasy Origins is an anomaly. It’s the kind of game that defies conventional logic. You have graphics straight of of the PlayStation 3, with a storyline that’s so incredibly tacky and hilariously bad that it’s charming, mixed together with an ARPG loot loop with some similarities to Diablo, combined with a near Souls-like difficulty at times. For any other game, this is a recipe for disaster, but Team Ninja and Square Enix managed to defy the odds and create a game that, while wholly flawed, was difficult to put down.
Kirby & The Forgotten Land
Kirby’s first true foray into the third dimension manages to retain the franchise’s charm, as well as offer a game world that’s a blast to play in. Forgotten Land also does a commendable job for providing content for the more casual/younger players (the main game), as well as the older, more hardcore fans (the time trials). Each stage is a treat to play through, with plenty of hidden bits peppered throughout. Though I rarely ever lost a life during the main game, that didn’t mean that the lax difficulty detracted from both the experience and my enjoyment with the game. Sometimes you need games like these to comfort you after playing some of the more brutally difficult titles out there (especially two games on this list).
TMNT: Shredder’s Revenge (XSX)
Shredder’s Revenge is everything you could hope for when it comes to reviving the Turtles beat em up series – excellent audio, gorgeous visuals, addictive gameplay that becomes exponentially more fun with friends, and so on. With six playable characters out of the game (and a seventh unlocked after completing the game), each with their own distinct ways they play, it’s a thrill with whoever you play as, without feeling like there’s too much added to the gameplay. I’m not shocked that Shredder’s Revenge ended up being phenomenal, but the fact that it turned into one of my all-time favorite beat em up games.
God of War Ragnarok (PS5)
While I am no where near the end of the game, I still have to recognize God of War Ragnarok as a game that would have likely been on this top five list, possibly at number one. It’s a bigger, more impactful title than the first God of War from 2018, with a journey that, thus far, is one that will stick with me for a very long time. I just wish I was able to sit down with it uninterrupted, because it’s so blatantly obvious how much of a connection I will have with it once the final credits begin to roll. I really wish I had gotten through this in its entirety before the year ended.
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5. (tied) Pokemon Scarlet (Switch)
I’m not sure if I’m just lucky, or the people sharing clips of the bugs and loading issues are being disingenuous and using an unpatched game and passing it off as a present build, but my time with Pokemon Scarlet has been devoid of major oddities. Sure, I have the odd classmate animating at 6 frames per second next to another student animating at close to 30, and a couple of spots in the world there’s a lot of slowdown going on, but I haven’t run into any of those egregious load issues or personally witnessed any bugs. This is good, because my experience on the whole has been incredibly pleasant.
The open world setting allows for a level of freedom at a much grander scope than Pokemon Shield, allowing you to tackle any gym in any order, other side missions in any order, etc. While the thrill of the hunt wasn’t as fulfilling as Pokemon Arceus released earlier this year, the overall package is just a hair more enjoyable overall.
My first true Pokemon playthrough was on the 3DS’ Pokemon Moon. Since then, I’ve really become addicted to the gameplay loop. The frame rate isn’t the best, and even in docked mode it occasionally feels like I’m playing a game in 540p, but the actual gameplay, exploration and experience of Pokemon Scarlet was well done, perhaps better than even Shield was for me. Hopefully we’ll see some DLC extensions of the experience coming out over the next year or two.
5. (tied) Xenoblade Chronicles 3 (Switch)
After Xenoblade Chronicles 2, my confidence for the franchise had plummeted. With how brilliant the first game was, as well as the scope of X, it felt like Monolith Soft could do no wrong, but unfortunately, XB2 suffered from a wholly unlikable cast of characters, and gameplay that just didn’t feel as profound. Xenoblade Chronicles 3 though, remedied each of the previous games ailments, offering instantly likable protagonists in a gripping storyline, with an excellent battle system.
As with XC1 and X, XC3 is a massive beast, both in the size of the world and the amount of content there is to digest. Throughout the journey though, none of it feels overbearing. If anything, like some of the greatest RPG’s of all time, it was a pleasure to learn more about each character. The combat felt much more impactful than the previous game, to the point where I sought out battles, just to constantly feel the thrill of battle. That soundtrack slaps all sorts – those boss battles become epic affairs when the music comes into play.
Xenoblade Chronicles 3 is another game where if it were released on most any other year, it would easily have been a game of the year. As it stands, it’s another piece of 2022’s quality gaming year. It offers everything an RPG fan could ever want, and excels at every aspect.
4. Final Fantasy VI Pixel Remaster (PC)
Yes, this is a remaster of a thirty year old game, but that thirty year old game is in my top five games of all-time. I was looking forward to this ever since Square Enix announced that they were doing pixel remasters of the first six Final Fantasy titles.
What blew me away more than the beautiful pixel remastered visuals, was the remixed soundtrack. Touching anything on a soundtrack that’s one of the greatest ever in gaming, is a massive gamble. You could end up like the Secret of Mana remake, which has one of the absolute worst remixed soundtracks ever (which you can thankfully change back to the immaculate original OST). In one of the most baffling instances I can ever think on, FF6PR manages to supersede the original soundtrack. They managed to make something that was as close to perfect, even closer to perfect.
Beyond that though, it’s one of the greatest RPG’s ever released, with much prettier visuals, and some other QoL improvements. While I wish Square Enix would port these to home consoles (especially for the Switch), I am glad that it exists in the first place. In a year featuring a high volume of RPG’s and story heavy experiences, Final Fantasy VI Pixel Remaster still stands above the pack as a must play, whether you’ve play the game to death, or have never experienced one of the most memorable journeys ever. I could easily put this as the best game I’ve played this year and not have any second thoughts about it, but there are other titles that deserve their day in the sun.
3. Pathfinder: Wrath of the Righteous (XSX)
While Pathfinder: Wrath of the Righteous was released last year on PC, it only just came out on consoles a few months ago. Boasting a massive amount of content, highly in-depth character customization, a gripping storyline and excellent gameplay, Wrath of the Righteous ended up being not only one of the best games of 2022, but one of my all-time favorite CRPG’s.
One of the worries I had with purchasing and investing any time into it, was the prospects of a bug ridden experience, much like Pathfinder: Kingmaker was on release (and still is). Thankfully, developer Owlcat Games managed to present an experience that’s stable. The only quirk I experienced was some off camera bug that came and went and never appeared again.
In a year featuring Elden Ring and Marvel’s Midnight Suns, Pathfinder: Wrath of the Righteous’ console release gets outshined somewhat. Had these two games not been released in 2022, I really do feel that this would be the best game of 2022. As it stands, it’s one of the best of the year, and an essential play for fans of the genre, especially those that want an involving, gripping storyline to follow along with.
2. Elden Ring (PS5)
Before Elden Ring, the only Souls-like games I could ever stomach were both the PS3 release and the PS5 remake of Demon Souls, as well as Nioh. I was in the camp where making games obnoxiously difficult was the opposite of fun. Even though I did enjoy the aforementioned titles, I never got too deep into them. But something was different about Elden Ring. I had started to heavily anticipate it, even though the Souls formula was something that grew nauseating. Something just felt different about it anytime I had previews on it, or watched some gameplay videos.
Then it was released, and instantly it redefined what a Souls game should be.
Gaining NPC summons that you can use in battle to help even the odds, presented the kind of wrinkle to the gameplay that the genre desperately needed to bridge the gap between those either intimidated by the difficulty, or completely turned off with how heavy handed the challenges were. Having a completely optional summon that can help stabilize spikes in difficulty (to a degree) was a game changer – not only in easing newer players in, but helping to slowly build confidence in them to try taking on some battles without them. And even if someone chooses to heavily utilize this mechanic, who cares? It’s still a challenge, and they aren’t any less of a gamer than those abstaining from their use.
The game world is another selling point to Elden Ring. The game is absolutely massive, with hidden dungeons sprinkled all around each section, with each new area having a distinct and varied look to it. Discovering new areas never got old, and the grandeur of the game world has rarely felt as impressive, and more importantly, filled with so much wonder either hidden, or in plain sight.
It’s such an involving and broadened scope of a game, that I’m still not near the end, from what I can tell. But that’s fine – I will happily take my time and enjoy its brilliance for however long it takes to reach the credits. Credit to FromSoftware for figuring out how to bridge that gap, without sacrificing the integrity of the gameplay that millions have loved for years.
1. Marvel’s Midnight Suns (XSX)
Rating: 9.7 (stream rating rounded up to 10)
I had been anticipating Marvel’s Midnight Suns for a long time. I remember first seeing early info on it, and how it made the game seem like it was going to be a sort of card-based roguelite with a storyline to it. That was fascinating enough to think about, but as time passed, I didn’t see too much info about the game its self. I discovered an official YouTube channel for the game, and that just intensified my hype for this. After an agonizing wait, I finally got it in my possession. Midnight Suns is so freakin’ good, that it actually got me to start streaming on Twitch again after about a ten month absence, because I wanted to share this playthrough with everyone.
The strategic gameplay based around drawing cards, on paper, sounds like something you really shouldn’t be doing with a Marvel property, however Firaxis would be the only dev team that could make it work. Not only make it work, but create such an engrossing gameplay experience that you’ll be looking forward to any opportunity you can get to play another mission.
On the other hand, Firaxis also managed to craft a storyline and game world that also makes you look forward to the next bit of exposition. At times it can be long-winded, but it’s all so fascinating. Perhaps the most fascinating part of the story isn’t the main story at all, but the side stories with groups of heroes. The Emo Kids stortyline helped shine a light on the Hunter’s past, but also gave you a reason to enjoy the company of those around you. The Book Club was a fantastic sub-story about a handful of heroes in a book club, discussing the books they read. I know reading that last sentence may make that come off as some of the most boring things to put in a video game, but it works. You learn more about these heroes, and it humanizes these super powered beings, giving them so many more layers of character.
It took me 50+ hours to complete Marvel’s Midnight Suns, and by the end, I was gutted. For the third year in a row, following 2020’s Yakuza Like a Dragon and 20201’s Marvel’s Guardians of the Galaxy, it was heartbreaking to say goodbye to these friends that I made as the Hunter in my journey through the game. Firaxis managed to weave together some of the best and addicting gameplay I’ve ever encountered, together with a phenomenal, multi-layered storyline that, as with the aforementioned, I will never forget, and truly treasure for the rest of my life. While Elden Ring provided one of the greatest game worlds ever crafted, one that gave a sense of wonder and trepidation like no other game before it, Marvel’s Midnight Suns provided a wondrous story, mind-bending and immensely satisfying gameplay, and an experience that, while very much different from Elden Ring, resonated with me on a much deeper level.
In a year filled to the brim with some absolutely magnificent video games throughout every single genre, Marvel’s Midnight Suns stands tall atop that mountain as something truly special, and has likely earned a spot in my all-time favorite games list.