It is impossible to find a common tissue that connects my 10 favorite games over the past year. It’s like trying to draw parallels between Immanuel Kant and Vanilla Ice, or Hawkins Cheezies and steel i-beams. The best I can do is note that they’re games (though in the case of Stray even that’s debatable) and they’re viewed on screens.
And that’s all the preamble you get. These are my top 10 favorite games for 2022.
10. Marvel’s Midnight Suns (PlayStation 4 and 5, Xbox One and Series S/X, Windows, Switch)
At first glance, Firaxis’ turn-based superhero strategy game comes off as woefully dated for a $90 release designed for the latest consoles. Its simple environment and stiff characters seem lifted from a decade-old title. But as I played I realized the thoughtful and often funny depictions of the game’s roster of beloved characters combine with clever, gratifyingly challenging card-based combat to overcome any graphical shortcomings. It may just win you over, as it did me.
9. A Plague Tale: Requiem, PlayStation 5, Xbox S/X Switch Windows
If you don’t like rats, best avoid this sequel to French game maker Asobo Studio’s 2019 surprise hit A Plague Tale: The Innocence. Rodents are once again a pestilence upon the 14th century French countryside, and they are still somehow linked to Hugo, little brother to primary protagonist Amicia, a teen who simply wants to keep what’s left of her family alive amid political strife and rampant disease. It’s a dark, beautifully realized tale filled with tragedy and terror that’s unlike anything else you might have played this year.
8. Stray (PlayStation 4 & 5, Windows)
BlueTwelve Studios’ Stray This is an example of a trip that is more important than its purpose. The serene simulation of a cat is set in a futuristic future where robots live in our ruins. As stray cats, we are thrown into the rubble as a lost feline. There’s a progression and a completion, but the real joy is in our four-legged avatar, who’s modeling, animation, behavior, and hijinks simply are amazing — and the reason why this game spawned a meme that saw people filming real-world cats intensely watching and reacting to the game’s furry protagonist. Stray It’s short and sweet and shows how games offer so much more than guns and gore.
7. Nobody Saves the World (PlayStation 4/5 and Xbox One Series S/X, Windows, Switch and Xbox One Series S/X)
Toronto-based Drinkbox’s No one saves the world This is the kind of game that will make you smile from beginning to end with its charm, humor and visual panache. It’s a top-down, dungeon-crawling action RPG. The titular star is a shapeshifting hero who can assume many guises — Necromancer, slug and mermaid, as well as monk and dragon, are just a few of the many possibilities. — Each of these abilities and powers have their own unique uses and synergies. There’s almost no end to its well of creativity, which brings welcome new life to a genre now nearly 40 years old.
6. The Callisto Protocol, PlayStation 5, Xbox Series S/X Windows
This sci-fi horror game is almost criminally derivative, but when you’re deriving from sources as great as Dead Space Aliens — Glenn Schofield, Striking Distance creative director, produced the former — The end result is likely to be scary good fun. It’s also perhaps the prettiest game of the year, giving us a darkly beautiful Jovian moon to explore and some truly scary monsters that do a fine job of ripping our hero apart in all manner of imaginatively gory ways. Except for a few painful boss fights that were poorly planned near the end, it was a great game.
5. Cult of the Lamb (Switch and Xbox One and Series X/S. PlayStation 4 and 5, Windows.
This hilariously odd little indie loves cults, and also makes them fun. Your second coming places you in the role of leader of a fledgling religious sect, as a lamb who was saved by an elder god. You conduct dark rituals to build your community. — Sacrifice is a must! — They will be sheepishly obedient and occasionally sneak into random dungeons in order to take on strange cthululike beasties. Think about it Isaac Binding with a little construction/community management simulation thrown in.
4. Mario + Rabbids Sparks of Hope – Swaitch
Mario + Rabbids was an original game that provided a breather for turn-based strategy fans. The cute and childish Mario + Rabbids disguised some complex and innovative strategy mechanics. Ubisoft Milan/Paris’ follow-up refines the experience, giving us larger, Super Mario Galaxy-inspired overworlds to explore that are filled with quick but satisfying bite-sized battles punctuated by the occasional epic, white-knuckled megabrawl. Do yourself a favor and choose the most difficult difficulty. The easier settings are for children.
3. God of War Ragnarok, PlayStation 5)
A treasure trove of characters, both old and new (Angrboda!) and featuring absolutely top notch world-building that sees the environment and dialogue working together to create a deeply convincing sense of place, Sony Santa Monica’s latest chapter in Kratos’ epic story is a treat. It doesn’t stray too far from its immediate predecessor’s formula in terms of action, puzzles, or exploration, but it hardly needs to, given it was also one of the best we’ve seen in recent years.
2. Elden Ring (Xbox One, Series X/S. PlayStation 4 and 5. Windows).
If there’s an afterlife and I’m called before whatever deity runs it to defend the choices I made while in corporeal form, I’m pretty sure I’ll be asked to justify the amount of time I spent in 2022 playing FromSoftware’s sprawling fantasy masterpiece. My answer would be simple: I’m a hedonist who revels in the masochistic joy of fighting an endless procession of brutally hard enemies scattered across a wondrously weird world. There are no regrets.
1. Horizon Forbidden West (PlayStation 5)
The follow-up to Guerrilla Games’ speculative fiction triumph builds upon the original’s gripping far future tale in which humanity first succumbs to and then is reborn from its technological hubris, and ends with a cliffhanger for the ages that left me drooling for the series’ third (perhaps concluding?) chapter. The cherry on top is the heart-pounding combat. It is equal parts satisfying strategy and deft coordination, as well as cinematic spectacle. I wasn’t bored for a single minute.
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