As we all know, this has not been a massive year for AAA game releases on the Xbox platform. I have not really been affected by this as I prefer Indie and AA titles. There has been an abundance of quality releases in this field during the last twelve months and many of them have been available on Game Pass. Here are my picks for the games of the year.
10. You Suck at Parking
Developer: Happy Volcano
Who would have thought that a game based around parking cars in allocated spaces would be so interesting? Presenting players with an array of challenges spread across multiple islands this is possibly the year’s winner when it comes to having ‘just one more go.’ Mixing up stunningly inventive level designs, time limits, the lack of a reverse gear and a limited amount of fuel, this is a truly unique title in the racing genre. With new content just released and much more promised in the future, this is a game to keep an eye on.
Exploring a giant house as a miniaturised astronaut is much more fun than it has any right to be. After collecting set amounts of mysterious creatures called Tinykins, players can manipulate them into becoming ladders, bridges and more (did I mention the explosive tendencies of some of them?) to access areas that were previously out of reach. Sliding around using a giant bar of soap as a surfboard is also very entertaining and worth the price of admission alone. Releasing with very little fanfare Tinykin has proved to be one of those games that sucks players in unexpectedly and is popular among the XboxEra community.
8. Far: Changing Tides
The follow-up to 2018’s Indie gem FAR: Lone Sails took already established intuitive micromanagement mechanics to a new level. Based in the same world as its predecessor, a different protagonist makes their way to an unknown location in a massive vehicle. Resources have to be scavenged and puzzles solved to attain upgrades and remove environmental obstacles. Based both on the surface of the sea and deep beneath it, Changing Tides is different enough to feel like a standalone title and not just a DLC. Having a much lower level of external threat than the first game this is a nice, chilled gaming experience.
7. The Quarry
Developer: Supermassive Games
A bigger budget offering from the makers of ‘The Dark Pictures Anthology’ presents a cast of Hollywood regulars in a ‘Survival horror interactive drama’ where every decision made can have unforeseen and potentially deadly consequences. Set within a summer camp straight out of the ‘Friday the Thirteenth’ series of films, transportation issues occur when the camp counsellors attempt to return home at season’s end and they find themselves stuck there for one more night, which also happens to be a full moon. A complete horror masterclass in game form, The Quarry is such a tribute to the genre that it even contains rules that (if you bother to learn them) may help the characters to survive until the sun comes up.
6. AI The Somnium Files: Nirvana Initiative
Developer: Spike Chunsoft Co., Ltd.
Another follow-up, this time to AI: The Somnium Files which itself only made it to the Xbox last year. The protagonist may have changed to a new character but this game is even better than its predecessor. Having the ability to turn down the difficulty and increase the time limit of the ‘Somnium puzzles’ which were ridiculously hard within the first game, makes Nirvana Initiative far more enticing to casual players. The central plot is rather complicated which will come as no surprise to players of the original title but everything ties up satisfyingly at the story’s conclusion. This is a really wild ride that is well worth twenty-four hours of anyone’s gaming time.
Developer: Half Mermaid Productions
Immortality was a real surprise. The latest interactive trilogy from Sam Barlow may seem at first glance to be just more of the same, but that impression could not be more wrong. Using an unusual yet intuitive control scheme, players are required to search through unreleased footage from three different unreleased films to try and solve a mystery regarding the disappearance of the lead actress. Jumping between out-of-sequence and separated by many years footage very quickly becomes like second nature and makes for a particularly intriguing experience. Not only is each film fully realised (including behind-the-scenes script meetings and off-camera interactions) but there is also another plot hidden beneath the surface that can be easily missed (I only discovered it towards the end of my playthrough) that puts a completely different slant on the whole narrative.
4. Road 96
Developer: DigixArt Entertainment
In Road 96 players take on the role of several ‘missing teens’ trying to escape a fascist state. A constant stream of choices has to be made in order to try and guide them safely to the legendary Road 96 and across the border. There are potentially thousands of different journeys available thanks to some inventive game design, which means that no two players will experience exactly the same version of events during a playthrough. Spending some time on Road 96 will make players consider their views on ‘Border Politics’, puts them in the shoes of a refugee and gives them an idea of how far they would be willing to go in that situation. This unusual offering is well worth checking out.
3. Dark Pictures Anthology: The Devil In Me
Developer: SUPERMASSIVE GAMES
By far the best offering from the great Dark Pictures Anthology. Placing a documentary crew within the confines of a Murder Castle is the perfect setup for one of these games and it delivers everything fans of the series would expect. I do not think that the acting, visual detail, sound design and writing could be bettered. Series gameplay mechanics have been improved and extended to deliver an extra layer of depth and help to create a very unsettling experience for players. Featuring a truly terrifying villain who seems omnipresent, the tension ratchets up to eleven and stays there, in a horror classic that will keep players on the edge of their seats for hours.
2. Sniper Elite 5
After what feels like an eternity the new generation of Sniper Elite finally arrived and boy was it worth the wait. Offering greater immersion than ever before and delivering outstanding visuals due to the use of ‘Photogrammetry’ to recreate real-world locations, the game is fantastic. Large maps can be leisurely explored to discover hidden side missions while main objectives can generally be attempted in a couple of different ways and in any order to give players options. With cinematic cutscenes and an enhanced Kill Cam, this is the highest-quality entry in the series. If you like playing as a sniper this is the game for you. I have already got sixty hours of play under my belt and I am nowhere near tired of this game.
1. Death Loop
Developer: Arkane Lyon
What else could I choose as my game of the year? Arkane titles are always an experience but this is next level. The premise of an anti-hero existing in a time loop that can only be broken by killing eight people in one day before midnight was intriguing and looked impossible at the start of my playthrough. After gaining experience within the different locations and periods things looked a lot more logical and once my weapons and skill set had been upgraded (through the completion of side quests) everything made perfect sense. The writing and game design are impeccable as was the ending I encountered. As a reviewer I consider a ten rating to be virtually impossible to get as that implies perfection. If it had not been for a few issues I experienced with Death Loop crashing, this is the closest that any game has ever gotten to getting that score from me. Enough said…..Play it!
There you have it. The ten games that I consider to be the best games of 2022 on Xbox. It is not only about AAA bangers as a lot of high-quality games have been released in the AA and indie game field this year. Six of these games are currently available on Game Pass, so if I have managed to pique your interest it will cost nothing extra to check them out.