2021 felt like one of the quietest years in the video game industry in a while. The PS5 and Xbox Series had yet to hit their stride, with few blockbuster releases, though there were several, smaller titles that captured our attention during the dawn of a new console generation. 2022 felt like the first year in this next gen where we distanced ourselves from the lulls of both a new console generation, and the ramifications of Covid, which certainly made development much more tricky. Elden Ring captured everyone’s attention for most of the year, with big releases from Sony such as God of War and Horizon garnering acclaim (though I did not get a chance to play them unfortunately). I took a brief hiatus from reviewing and games in general since the end of last year, but I still wanted to share my (belated) picks for my favorite games of 2022. Enjoy.
10. Pokémon Violet
Pokémon Violet does a good job at scratching the “more Pokémon” itch that seems to never go away. The franchise's choice to embrace the open world in the main line game was overdue and a welcome addition. Exploring a vast region full of new Pokémon and new challenges was a necessary and welcome evolution of the classic Pokemon formula.
Unfortunately, Pokemon Violet misses in several key areas that hold it back from being higher on this list, or for me being able to recommend it in general. Pokémon Violet performs worse than most modern games to date, and while bugs and frame hiccups can be expected in a studios transition to projects of larger scope, there’s nothing here that warrants the game performing so poorly. I did enjoy my time with it, so it made it on the list, but the issues must be noted.
9. Crusader Kings III Expansion: Fate of Iberia
Crusader Kings III was one of my favorite games of 2020, and Paradox Interactive is making sure that like its predecessor, Crusader Kings III is slated to receive support well past its initial launch date. Fate of Iberia wasn’t a huge expansion, but it did add new mechanics to the Iberian Struggle, one of the most chaotic regions in medieval Europe, adding more mechanics and flavor for intercultural and interfaith relations. While there was nothing revolutionary in this DLC, I had to include CK3 on my list somewhere, just for the sheer amount of hours that this game consumed me in 2022. 9 feels like a good compromise.
8. TMNT Shredder’s Revenge
I don’t have much experience with the older TMNT beat-em-ups of yesteryear, but this game was just pure, arcadey fun. While I didn’t play this game for much more than a few hours, sometimes you don’t need anything more than some easy to digest couch co-op to hold you over before diving into another massive AAA game that demands a much larger time investment. Anyone who has enjoyed the retro beat-em-up genre in the past will find something to love here.
7. Citizen Sleeper
Citizen Sleeper isn’t a huge AAA game with a massive budget, but it’s very successful in what it sets out to do. Playing as an android trying to make their way in the world on the Eye, a seedy space station, Citizen Sleeper has you navigate several narrative threads, whether it be being chased by bounty hunters, navigating a criminal underworld, or just trying to survive and prevent your artificial body from breaking down.
Citizen Sleeper was one of the most interesting narratives from this year, but what keeps me from putting this higher is that I simply had more fun playing the other games below. While there are interactive elements, this is closer to a visual novel with some RNG elements than some of the more gameplay focused titles on this list. If that genre appeals to you, then you will definitely enjoy Citizen Sleeper.
6. Kirby and the Forgotten Land
I’ve played a handful of Kirby games in my day, but the Forgotten Land was probably my favorite of the bunch. The franchise’s transition from 2D to 3D was seamless, and a change I hope remains for at least a few more games. Ability upgrades were satisfying and kept gameplay fresh, and it was amusing watching Kirby’s transform into huge objects like cars and vending machines with the new mouthful mode. The addition of Waddle Dee town brought us some new minigames and trophies that were surprisingly fun to collect. The best platformer from this year.
5. Splatoon 3
Splatoon 3 was my biggest multiplayer sink from this year. While I’ve dabbled in this franchise since its inception, 3 was the first game where I really dove in deep into the competitive aspect. Splatfests are back from previous entries and while the implementation of the new Tri-color battles was rocky at first, once the issues were evened out in more recent updates, they became a hectic yet fun twist on the usual formula. While Splatoon doesn’t have the storied history of many of Nintento’s staple franchises, I hope they continue to invest in the series, and with improvements to Ninteno’s online infrastructure, I can only see the series getting better.
4. Nobody Saves the World
Nobody Saves the World features perhaps the most creative concept on this list. In this game you control Nobody, an unassuming character with a specific power, the ability to transform over a dozen unique forms, be it a bodybuilder, ghost, or necromancer, all each with their own abilities. As you level up through gameplay, you unlock both new characters, and new abilities, which you can mix-match on other characters. It was a blast creating a ghost that could turn invisible, while using zombie powers to resurrect minions to fight on my behalf. Nobody Saves the World was seriously slept on, and one of the best Game Pass games from last year.
3. Cult of the Lamb
I’m in love with the art direction and general vibe of Cult of the Lamb. A mix of cute and cuddly characters surrounded by foreboding, evil occult imagery should not work so well, but it does. On top of all that, Cult of the Lamb has an addicting gameplay loop, going off on roguelike inspired runs into the woods to slaughter heretics, then coming back to your cult and customizing your village like a town builder kept me engaged for hours and hours. I wasn’t sure how I felt about playing another roguelike this year, as the once niche genre has become incredibly mainstream, but Cult of the Lamb is unique enough in its own regard to take it to the top of my list.
2. Pokemon Legends: Arceus
Legends Arceus isn’t the best looking game. The story it tells is pretty rudimentary, aside from a few twists in the final hour. As an open world game, one could even argue that there was another Pokemon game released this year that did it better, though that game had a whole other host of issues.
But this was the Pokemon game I had been waiting for since I first picked up the gameboy game as a kid. The simple addition of being able to sneak up to pokemon, and aim, and throw a pokeball seems so simple and obvious, but it does wonders to shake up the formula. Legends Arceus is the first Pokemon game where wild Pokemon felt intimidating, especially the new “Alpha” Pokemon, which were several times larger and stronger than their ordinary counterparts. The new styles system adds a long awaited twist on the tried and true turn based gameplay. I desperately hope that Game Freak takes several lessons from Arceus, and doesn’t hesitate to experiment more with the series in the future. This experimental release proved to be one of their best.
1. Elden Ring
Everything that should be said about Elden Ring has been said at this point. From Software took everything great about the Dark Souls series and flawlessly transitioned into the open world genre. Not only is the open world one of the best done in ages, chock full of content while avoiding the bloat that some of its contemporaries suffer from, but it also hosts some of the series’ most bombastic and challenging fights to date.
I put over 100 hours into exploring Elden Ring, and feel like I could easily put another 50 into exploring everything else this game has to offer. This game stands as a testament to the talent at Front Software and the genius of Miyazaki. Elden Ring feels like the closest this new generation has come to a “Perfect 10”, and its inclusion at the top spot of this list was practically a formality.