We’re wrapping up a pretty eventful year for sure, albeit the gaming discourse has been largely dominated by events outside of the actual games we played – such as the thunderstorm or GTA VI leaks or the Activision talks. Still, a handful of highly anticipated AAA games arrived, some wowing us from the start and others taking some time and updates to get to an optimal state. Much to my pleasure and my tastes, it’s been a good year for racing games as well, but perhaps even importantly we had multiple indie titles provide legitimate shocks and awe. In a year I tried probably about 200 games released this calendar year, with many I still want to tackle in the future, here’s my current top 10 of games released in 2022.
Now here’s a game that failed to make a splash in 2022, and not for a lack of quality or style. As mentioned in my review back in July, it’s a highly addictive and fast-paced co-op looter shooter with cool visuals, a banging soundtrack and excellent co-op and cross-play options while also being extremely enjoyable and balanced for single player usage. So… what happened? A lack of marketing, a segmented launch that had the title launch early on PlayStation, then land without much fanfare on Xbox and Epic Game Store on PC – and at the end of the day, it feels like few gave IllFonic’s latest fatigue a fair shot. I still warmly recommend giving this one a go, either solo or with your friends, even despite some repetition and matches that can get pretty lengthy.
Certainly a divisive game, and to be fair I find myself less attracted to it in hindsight, but what this long-awaited indie accomplishes makes it a more than worthy addition to my personal top 10 of 2022. What may initially appear as a highly charming adventure game inspired by the classic The Legend of Zelda games, except with a cute little humanoid fox protagonist, soon descends into one of the most esoteric and meta gameplay loops in recent days. The actual combat could be better, but a mix of soulslike elements and a ridiculously complex and rewarding second half of the game makes Tunic one of the most intriguing mysteries of the year, one that needs to be tried to be believed.
8) The Stanley Parable: Ultra Deluxe
Is it a sequel or a re-edition of the game? How about both? The original was an absolutely trippy and memorable “walking simulator”, with the game constantly breaking the fourth wall and offering a gazillion routes and endings based on player choice. The Stanley Parable: Ultra Deluxe cranks it up even further, inserting all sort of metacommentary about the game itself, the videogame industry, the pressure of making a sequel and so much more. This is one of those games that needs to be experienced to be properly understood, and I encourage playing it regardless of whether you played the original game or not. And if you somehow feel the need to know more, our Jon had a great review for it earlier this year.
7) GRID Legends
Another one I reviewed myself, I’ve been cautiously optimistic about the new direction for Codemasters’ long-running racing franchise, and I was pleasantly surprised by the sheer quality of the whole package. Building on the back of the strong core of the 2019 installment, Legends brought a highly cinematic story with some pretty interesting twists and turns in a brand new single player mode, alongside a huge variety of racing series and styles and highly customizable events both online and offline. Plus the post-launch DLCs and updates were pretty good, too, and you can now play the title as part of EA Play and Game Pass Ultimate. And it’s not even the most refreshing triple-A racing game to hit our consoles this year…
6) Call Of Duty Warzone 2.0
Our Jon liked the campaign, I personally had a good time with the multiplayer, the brand new DMZ mode is alright if a bit undercooked, but this year’s real winner is the battle royale mode, Warzone 2.0. Putting aside the technical nightmare that was the previous Warzone, this new installment looks crisp, feels buttersmooth to play, the balancing feels way more satisfying and the new Al Mazrah map has tons of cool points of interest. And with this part of the game being free-to-play and available on almost any platform (Xbox One, Xbox Series X|S, PlayStation 5, PlayStation 4, PC even on Steam) and with complete cross-play there’s little reason to sleep on this one, unless you grew an allergy to the battle royale formula.
You can read our review, but against our interest, maybe don’t. This is a thought-provoking, bold, 4th-wall-shattering, unique and hihgly emotional FMV game with a very peculiar game mechanic, as the player tries to piece together the life and works of a famous (fictional) actress throughout recordings of her movies, interviews, behind the scenes footage and more. It’s a harsh commentary on stardom, on the objectification of actors, on their legacy, on producers’ behaviour and much more, and it’s a game that keeps evolving in front of the players’ eyes. Given its esoteric nature, progression can sometimes be a bit sluggish, but that shouldn’t stop you from trying one what is probably the most daring game of 2022. At the time of this writing it’s even on Game Pass!
4) Need For Speed Unbound
We finally did it – a Need For Speed game that truly hits pretty much all the right notes. For the last decade or so, we kept getting solid episodes, but each seemed to have some enormous flaw or shortcoming. Heat in 2019 introduced a cool day/night system that would raise the stakes in events, as during the night the players could lose everything they earned in that session if busted by cops. Despite a developer change from Ghost Games to Criterion of Burnout fame, Unbound evolves on that game’s idea and delivers a much more robust and customizeable driving, a meatier open world, a very stylish injection of anime-esque particle effects, a blasting soundtrack and much more. Need For Speed is back, and it’s found its identity once again.
3) Rogue Legacy 2
One of the games that popularized the roguelike (or roguelite) genre, Rogue Legacy also happened to be one of the most addictive and replayable indie games in the distant 2013. After a long Early Access on PC, the full version of the sequel finally arrived, and as our Jesse put it in our review for the game, it is “excellent in every conceivable metric“. It’s tight, it’s bigger and more varied than its predecessor, the artstyle has been refined a lot, the game mechanics have been expanded upon greatly, and there’s even a myriad of accessibility options. It’s a mighty difficult yet insanely satisfying and rewarding ride, one that stood in my Quick Resume for most of the year even after the end credits.
2) Elden Ring
As someone with limited appreciation of the entire soulslike genre, Elden Ring absolutely floored me. Despite a rough initial hours in which the path towards improving gear wasn’t all that obvious, the dark beauty of the lands and the mysterious creatures lurking on it had me gripped from the start. A much tighter gameplay than found in the Dark Souls games, an eery soundtrack and some of the most awe-inducing boss designs and architectures in a videogame really elevate From Software’s latest work into a true work of art. I’d argue the second half of the game is not as impressive or well-designed as the first for the most part, but even that only makes it so that Elden Ring loses out to a single game this year. If you know me, you already know what’s coming up…
1) Vampire Survivors
I mean, what else? This ridiculously cheap, yet astonishingly deep and addictive little indie gem has shaped my gaming habits all year. Several dozens of hours on the Steam version, more hours at a later date when it arrived to Game Pass PC, I’m playing it again on Xbox as it finally released there as well. And it doesn’t end there, as by now I tried over fifty different clones throughout the various platforms. This “bullet heaven” formula is, to me, the most addictive new indie game formula since the times tower defense maps became obscenely popular in the WarCraft 3 custom map scene. And Poncle’s game that inspired this phenomenon happens to be one with tons of content, brilliant strategic variety, great sense of humor and an epic soundtrack. It’s on Game Pass, and otherwise it costs less than a hamburger. And unlike said hamburger, Vampire Survivors will satisfy you for a long, long time…