1. Elden Ring – When I was becoming fatigued of open world games, Elden Ring somehow managed to refresh the genre. I haven’t felt this much freedom in a game where my path and interpretation of the story was completely different from everyone else who played. It improved the Souls formula by a tenfold while creating an expansive environment where every inch felt like a painting and every sound evoked an emotion, without spouting a single word. This took the crown as my favorite game of all time. – 5/5
2. God of War Ragnarök – Kratos Saga has become an incredibly emotional experience that tugs at my heart strings by developing a character I’ve been familiar with for about 17 years. I was constantly laughing and crying in this game. It’s a premium title that checks all of the boxes with top tier combat, graphics, story, characters, beautiful environments and impactful music. My only issue is that it feels extremely formulaic next to other Sony first party titles and I really need a break from it. It’s one of the best in its class but it is held back my unnecessary RPG mechanics and lack of innovation. I still absolutely adore it though. – 4.75/5
3. Sifu – This game surprised me! Not only did it innovate with its implementation of an age system upon death but it also redefined the beat em up formula, and became my favorite beat em ups of all time. The combat is so fun and challenging. It’s pulls direct influence from martial arts which really enhanced combat, but made the story a bit too surface level. The art design is top tier and coupled with some amazing music. This game is special and I wish it was nominated for GOTY 2022. – 4.5/5
4. Cult of the Lamb – This game was an immediate buy just due to aesthetics. What’s not to love about cute little animals that are part of a satanic cult? What I didn’t know is the gameplay loop would innovate so hard and make me addicted. It’s basically Animal Crossing for dark minds by melding roguelike dungeon crawling with farm sim elements. This is one of those stay up until 3am mindlessly playing as if I was under the spell of this cute ass satanic cult. – 4/5
5. Stray – I love cats so I’m biased but cats are statistically one of the most entertaining creatures to watch. Like a cat, you use your agility to traverse a post-post-apocalyptic Cyberpunk-like city and do cat shit like knocking down things or scratching on rugs. It’s so frikkin’ cute but it also had some emotional story moments, though some story threads left a lot to be desired. It also had some interesting puzzles that forced you to think like a cat, and the gameplay loop introduces different mechanics that don’t overstay their welcome, providing some excellent pacing. Plus, the graphics are really amazing, the environments are super detailed and the music is a bop. I can stare at my cat do nothing all day and be entertained so this game was an extra treat. – 4/5
Honorable Mentions: A Plague Tale: Requiem, Horizon Forbidden West, TMNT Shredder’s Revenge, Vampire Survivors.
Happy End of the Year times, people! I apologize for how brief some of my input might be, but I’m feeling a bit under the weather. I still wanted to chime in with what we think are the Best Games of 2022, though…
1. Marvel’s Midnight Suns – What I expected was simple — X COM with Marvel characters. That’s honestly all Firaxis had to do and I would’ve been happy. What I got was an innovative roguelike card strategy game that’s nothing like X COM‘s combat, and highly addictive. Mixed in is a sprawling, surprisingly story-heavy epic that mixes in relationship-building mechanics akin to Mass Effect and Fire Emblem: Three Houses (though people’s enjoyment of this has been divisive, I’ll admit). As a bonus to long-time Firaxis fans, you can see the X COM DNA baked into a lot of the Abbey’s (HQ) upgrade systems. – 5/5
2. Triangle Strategy – A lot of people still won’t shut up about Final Fantasy Tactics. And I get it. It was amazing. I loved it too. But a lot of them also haven’t played this. It’s time to move on. – 4.5/5
3. Nobody Saves The World – Fantastic humor and next to Darksiders 1 and 2, it’s one of the best Zelda games ever made not developed by Nintendo. Do with that comment what you will. – 4.5/5
4. Elden Ring – I’m not a Soulesbourne guy. Hell, the gatekeepy surge of “nO! dOn’T uSe SuMmOnS! oNlY uSe BiG sWoRdS” of veteran fans made me even less interested in that whole scene. But something about Elden Ring just reels you in. It’s vast, brutal, engrossing, draining, and deserves to be on all the GOTY lists. – 4.25/5
5. Vampire Survivors – If your first reaction when you saw footage of this game was “really? This is what people won’t shut up about?”, then you’re not alone. Then you decide to give it a shot and realize 4 hours have gone by. It’s crack. Digital crack. For like 5 bucks! – 4.25/5
Honorable Mentions: Horizon Forbidden West, Pentiment, As Dusk Falls.
1. Tunic – The story drops you right into the world with no exposition. The main character is an adorable little fox in a green tunic with no weapons or items. The only help you have is an instruction book that you can refer to at the click of a button. The catch is that the instruction book is in a different language (one that you can translate yourself if you want to put in the time) with a few English words scattered here or there for context clues. The manual is missing a lot of pages, and these are hidden all over the world. The book is very reminiscent of the manuals in the NES and SNES Legend of Zelda games. The manual is something they created in real life and scanned to put into the game—it even has coffee stains and handwritten notes in it!
Literally, all of the progression in the game is reliant on the player’s ability to parse context clues and explore. It will probably get a lot easier if one is intimately familiar with retro gaming and basic game design. The gameplay is a mixture of top-down action adventure like A Link to the Past, mixed with the dodge/roll mechanics of a Dark Souls game — and, yes, it can be quite difficult, especially with boss fights. The graphics and music are absolutely fantastic, as I played it on PS5 so it ran at 60fps and had gorgeous lighting. The amount of secrets in this game is ridiculous, there are super ambiguous puzzles like Fez, hidden fairies to find, a language entirely comprised of music (!), and another separate written language that can be translated by the player. – 5/5
2. Elden Ring – Hard as nails, obscure, soul-crushing, maidenless, I was equally frustrated and amazed playing my first FromSoft game. Once I figured out the flow thanks to some help from the fan community, I was obsessed. The world is haunting and an exercise in extremes. One can wander in an ethereal underground galaxy and then find themselves in hell on earth surrounded by poisonous swamps and abominations. I would love to see a few QoL improvements like a damn quest log, but outside of a few technical issues, this is gaming in its purest form. – 5/5
3. The Stanley Parable: Ultra Deluxe – I have always wanted to play this now console port (Switch), and it comes complete with a bunch of new material! The story follows Stanley, an office worker who is surprised to learn while he was typing away on his computer that all of his coworkers have disappeared. Luckily, there’s a disembodied narrator who will tell him everything he needs to do to escape! You don’t have to do whatever he says though, and when you go “off-script” and make your own decisions it gets…weird. The writing is hilarious, and the game is fantastic at switching from humor to existential horror at any time. Runs fine on the Switch too. Pretty short, it took me around four hours to see all the endings and branches (there are around 20 endings). THE END IS NEVER THE END IS NEVER THE END IS NEVER THE END IS NEVER THE END IS NEVER THE END. – 4.5/5
4. Stray – The basic premise is you play as a cat in a post-apocalyptic city where all humanity has died out and there’s nothing left but robots. You gain the companionship of B12, a little flying drone robot that is trying to recover its memories from the past. At 5-6 hours, Stray is packed with a whole lot of detail, endearing characters, and a fully realized environment, and it will make you want to look around to find hidden areas! The graphics are gorgeous on PS5 and it runs at 60fps with very few dips. I found the story to be quite touching and may have shed a few tears at the end. Great game for casual gamers too, I would recommend this to anyone just for the story alone. – 4/5
5. Infernax – This is one of the best retro-inspired indie games I have played in a long time! Fantastic from start to finish. It’s a super brutal and gory combo of Castlevania II and The Adventure of Link. You play as Alcedor, a knight who has returned from the Crusades to discover that his homeland has been infested with demons and evil magic. I love evil routes in games and you can be absolutely HIDEOUS in this one, it’s very well implemented! Lots of hilarious Easter Eggs for other NES-era games are hidden around and the music is hot fire. The controls are tight (I found the jump to be a touch floaty personally, but it’s easy to get used to it). – 4/5
1. Elden Ring – Take the tried-and-true Souls formula, mix in a vast almost-endless open world, and you have an amazing experience from start to finish. No matter how much or little you put into Elden Ring, you will find a rewarding Souls experience. Want to just play it linear like Souls? Enjoy! Spend hours exploring? Go for it! Just a magical game. – 5/5
2. Sifu – Roguelike beat ’em up? Bringing some unique mechanics to the table, where your character ages as you play, and some smooth as butter controls. What was produced is just a joy to behold and play, where you just want to keep doing one more run, to get further, or pass stages younger. Do not miss this underrated gem! – 5/5
3. Chained Echoes – One of the two games that came out of left field for me this year and completely engrossed my life for days on end. My biggest passion in games still is turn based Japanese RPGs and what Chained Echoes does is simply outstanding, giving us one of the deepest and just sheer fun turn-based combat systems in a while. And I can’t leave without mentioning the beautiful pixel art and one of the best stories I’ve played through in years. – 5/5
4. Infernax – Do you like Simon’s Quest? Do you like Faxanadu? If you answered “yes” to either of those, or both, you owe it to yourself to look into Infernax. Written like a love letter to Simon’s Quest, it exceeds that masterpiece in every single way imaginable, producing one of the best retro style games I’ve played in ages. It may be a horrible night for a curse, but it is a great day to own this game. – 4.75/5
5. Cult of the Lamb – The other game to come out of left field and take me by surprise. Take smooth combat from some of the best action roguelikes like Hades, mix in some city building, some Animal Crossing, and you have a weird mix of perfection. Held down by some bugs, if you can overlook them the game is almost perfection. – 4.5/5
Note: I have not finished God of War Ragnarök nor Horizon Forbidden West, not going to include, obviously, games I have not played or games I have gotten less than halfway through.
Honorable Mentions: Xenoblade Chronicles 3, High on Life, Ghostwire: Tokyo, Kaiju Wars, Vampire Survivors.