I had a really great year in 2022. I also played fewer games in 2022 than maybe any year previous. I don’t necessarily want to think about what that might mean, thank you very much.
2022 was a year in which I formally left the games industry (I now work in climate which is super cool if often mildly depressing). It’s also, conversely, a year in which I learned more about game development than possibly ever before, due to my ongoing work on my game engine project, Growl.
I did play 25 games for the first time this year. As ever, this list doesn’t include anything I bounced off immediately or played for less than an hour or so (unless it was short). It also doesn’t include anything I had already started playing prior to 2022, though for this year I’ve opted to put a little ‘honourable mentions’ bit at the end, just because.
You can see my lists from previous years here:
The games of 2022 were as follows.
Steins;Gate (PS Vita)
I’m still not 100% sold on Steins;Gate. I watched the anime a while back but didn’t make it to the end - the plot is really compelling but some of the character work really did not do it for me.
I’m delighted(?) to report, then, that the anime is in fact an extremely faithful adaptation of the source material. The visual novel format does somehow make the writing’s worst excesses more bearable, so I’ve got a bit further through it this time around.
Psychonauts 2 (Xbox)
Psychonauts 2 is the perfect way to do a sequel to a game that came out nearly 20 years ago. It looks like you remember Psychonauts looking, but with all the bells and whistles our modern GPUs can produce. The movement is snappy, the humour is the same blend of irreverent and sincere that so endeared me to the original, and the level design is extraordinary. I haven’t finished it yet but I really do intend to.
Guardians of the Galaxy (Xbox)
This game is pretty badly in need of a patch. Audio cutouts are extremely frequent, and I’d have missed huge portions of the game’s dialog if I wasn’t one of those dreadful people who insist on having subtitles on at all times.
Nevertheless, this game features the most likeable rendition of these characters I’ve seen on screen. The combat is snappy if not particularly original, but the story is genuinely a really fun adventure. If you’re a Marvel type you should check this out. If like me you aren’t a Marvel type, it might still be worth a look.
Horizon Forbidden West (PS5)
I played Horizon Zero Dawn very slowly over a period of several years, and the game was somehow stronger for it. HZD was a very typical open-world game that launched alongside a game that upended the whole notion of open-world, but it was one with fairly interesting worldbuilding, a compelling mystery to unravel, and was refreshingly free of bloat.
Horizon Forbidden West, unfortunately, shares few of these qualities - the one mystery the game does set up gets unraveled very quickly and is obvious from the outset, there’s far more Ubisoft-style map clutter than I’d prefer and Aloy is so unlikeable as a character that I can’t tell if it’s deliberate or just bad writing. Don’t even get me started on the union-busting quest in the first area.
With that being said, credit where credit is due to Guerilla’s engineering team, who have absolutely knocked it out of the park with a stunning technical achievement. I spent a good couple of hours at the start just wandering around, looking.
Destiny 2: The Witch Queen (PC)
I’ll just say the same thing I always tell people when they ask about Destiny: the game is probably the best it’s ever been, the storytelling is fantastic, I love that they roll the story out in little weekly bursts now so there’s always something to log in for - it’s also totally impenetrable to a newcomer in plot terms, requiring spending probably days trawling through lore videos on YouTube in order to fully appreciate what’s happening in-game.
Bungie have gone all-in on rewarding their most dedicated players, and to folks like me that’s wonderful, but it’s a very hard game to recommend.
The Witch Queen is one of the best FPS campaigns I’ve played since Titanfall 2.
Elden Ring (PS5)
Look, you’ve heard all about Elden Ring. You’ve probably heard that it’s From Software’s most essential game, a game that exceeded even the massive expectations put upon it, a work of tremendous maximalism and, paradoxically, restraint. All of this is true.
Elden Ring is, for me, the game that learned the right lessons from Breath of the Wild, in the same way as Hollow Knight learned the right lessons from Dark Souls a few years previously. The two games couldn’t be more different in tone, setting, even mechanics, but that sense of adventure they grant is unlike anything else. It would have been my game of the year if not for a tiny lil fox guy.
Tunic is, at first glance, a very pretty isometric tribute to the 2D Zelda games. If you were to engage with it purely on these terms I think you’d have a really great time. The combat is snappy and satisfyingly challenging, the world is a joy to explore and the plot, mostly hinted at, is compelling.
However, it’s the addition of the layer of puzzle mechanics on top of all this that solidifies Tunic as my game of the year. It’s hard to talk about without spoiling it, but essentially you are collecting pages of the game’s manual - rendered in loving detail and looking very much like real scans - through which additional mechanics, puzzle solutions and one huge overarching puzzle are hinted at. There’s a moment where something clicks and your whole perception of the game world changes, and that’s a rare and wonderful thing.
Pokémon Gold (GBC)
I probably spent more time with the Analogue Pocket this year than I did the Switch; it really is a wonderful machine. I had some fun going into CeX stores to buy and repair old Game Boy games, and Pokémon Gold was one of my first victims.
I played Silver a very long time ago, long enough that I didn’t remember much at all. Recent Pokémon games have failed to really capture my attention, largely due to a perceived sameyness and the relative lack of difficulty. Perhaps it’s just because I’m older, I thought.
Pokémon Gold is tough as nails. I’ve wiped out several times in the 10 or so hours I’ve played. Pokémon was as tough as we remember it being, the games have genuinely got easier.
The Wordle bug came for me this year just as much as anyone else, to the point where only once a day was just not enough. Enter the brilliantly-timed Knotwords, a game by Zach Gage and Jack Schlesigner, designers of the wonderful Good Sudoku.
Knotwords combines the best bits of Wordle with the best bits of crosswords and the wonderful design language of the creators’ previous game. I think you can play it for free, too. No reason not to give it a shot.
Ghostwire Tokyo (PS5)
I feel like Ghostwire Tokyo got massively overshadowed by the stuff it launched alongside, and that’s not necessarily unfair. However, it is a decent open world action game with a super cool setting and lovely visuals, and it’s worth looking at even if it appeals as nothing more than a super-detailed Tokyo to run around in.
OlliOlli World (Xbox)
I’d not played the other games in this series but after seeing rave reviews I was encouraged to give the latest entry a try. I’m glad I did - OlliOlli World is joyous. I’m not anywhere close to finishing it, but it’s a fantastic thing to dip into when I’m tired or a bit down.
The Looker (PC)
The Looker is a skewering of The Witness, a game I really like made by a person I don’t. The Looker separates itself from the dross of other ‘parody’ games by being actually quite a good puzzle game in its own right, and by being really, genuinely funny.
I played Stray with my partner, who is very much not into video games (we’re working on it) and we both had a great time. You get to be a cat! There’s a button just for going meow! You can knock things of ledges to be an utter bastard just like a real cat!
There’s a plot here which is quite nice if largely ignorable - the real joy is in being a cat (as mentioned) and exploring the detailed and often beautiful world the developers have created.
Xenoblade Chronicles (Wii/3DS)
I’d wanted to check this one out for many years, and the release of the very well-regarded Xenoblade Chronicles 3 gave me the push I needed to go back to the original.
I tried this out on the Wii first, and found it very engaging but just couldn’t get over the extremely awkward camera controls. I don’t play a lot of Wii these days but I don’t remember being desperate for a second analog stick when I did.
I managed to snag a copy of the 3DS edition of the game in CeX, and found it a bit easier to play, but the huge world and cluttered UI don’t lend themselves to the 3DS’s wee screen. The ‘definitive edition’ on Switch doesn’t appeal either, as the art style has changed to more closely match the later games’ anime-adjacent visuals, rather than the Vagrant Story look of the original.
I may load this one up on a 3DS emulator to get the best of both worlds.
Link’s Awakening (Game Boy)
I played the Switch version of Link’s Awakening when it launched and very much enjoyed it - there’s a playfulness to it that really holds up. The original Game Boy release has all of this - it really is just the same game. Even the Goombas.
Wonder Boy 3 (Master System)
OK there’s definitely a theme for this year, and it’s “going back to originals having played remasters and discovering how good the originals were in the first place”.
This is absolutely the case with Wonder Boy 3, which was remade into The Dragon’s Trap, which I adored. The tough-as-nails platforming, the intricate world and even the music were all present in the original (though I will say that I prefer the remastered audio, please don’t shout at me retro nerd guys).
Papers, Please (PC)
The issue with Lucas Pope games is that every time I sit down to play one I get inspired within about ten minutes and go off to do some game development. So it is with Papers, Please, which is a fantastic game I haven’t put nearly enough time into to form a coherent opinion.
XCOM 2 (PC)
I really enjoy turn-based tactics games but somehow never had got to the supposed king of this genre. I like it! I did all the XCOM things, like get too attached to a soldier then immediately get them horribly murdered with my stupidity, or get angry at the hit probabilities for clearly being a liar.
I also didn’t finish it, like every other turn based tactics game.
Vampire Survivors (PC)
Vampire Survivors looks like a Gamer Maker 6 demo project but it plays like an absolute dream. It is crack. I heard somewhere that the developer used to design gambling machines and I have no idea if that is true but it is also definitely true.
God of War: Ragnarok (PS5)
I liked Dad of Boy quite a bit when it launched on the PS4, and Dad of Boy 2 (or…5? I’ve lost track) is more of the same, and that’s fine. The performances are excellent, the combat is entertaining and I like that we’re getting to see more of the Realms.
I never really played Vermintide, but I joined up with my pals who did to get into Darktide right as the pre-order beta went live. It’s great fun. My guy is called Dorsworth and he’s a prick. His best friend is called Crump and he has a tense rivalry with Gideon and Rossell. I couldn’t tell you any more about the plot or whatever, Warhammer is not my area, but the little character stories that get generated through normal play are enough on their own.
The Excavation of Hob’s Barrow (PC)
Hob’s Barrow is a point-and-click adventure game with some really excellent voice acting and a compelling plot. It avoids a lot of the more tedious tropes of the genre and zips along at a lovely pace. It’s great. No spoilers please, I haven’t finished it yet.
Signalis is a game that lots of cool people have opinions about. I’ve only played the first few hours, so I don’t have many opinions yet, but it’s a game that almost demands discussion.
I only played a little of this, but it’s a lovely tactile toylike thing.
Golden Sun (GBA)
I’d played the start of Golden Sun several times on various emulators over the years, but I finally got a proper GBA copy of it this year and I’ve been playing in earnest.
Golden Sun is an incredible technical accomplishment for the system it was made for, with a huge amount of dynamism in its systems outside combat that make it feel more like an adventure game than a by-the-numbers JRPG.
Something that really struck me was the use of colour - Golden Sun launched two years prior to the GBA SP, so its colour palette is chosen around the muddy screen of the original model. Thankfully the Analogue Pocket has display modes that let you simulate the various models, but playing this on an emulator is going to look garishly oversaturated.
It’s a bit unfortunate we only write these sorts of lists at the end of the year, isn’t it? Had I started it earlier than yesterday, I might have a lot more to say about Chicory. It captures that same uncynical glee that Wandersong did so well. I love it so far, even though I can’t draw.
I played quite a lot of nonsense anime game Scarlet Nexus this year. I am not recommending you play it. The combat is engaging, but the writing is truly awful. Character motivations make zero sense; someone might be doing their utmost to see you dead and then invite you out for tea and a chat about gardening. It’s bizarre - and yet, there’s something about the game I find utterly compelling. It’s like a horrible, disgusting junk food that I can’t stop eating. Scarlet Nexus is the cheesy gravy chips of video games.
After some encouragement from good pal Ally Glennie I finally, finally got around to finishing Breath of the Wild. I really went for it, too - I finished the DLC and cleared every shrine. BOTW might be the best game ever made, and that is in no way an original take but I think it works.
Deathloop is real good.
Have a lovely 2023. Be kind to yourself. I really hope Tears of the Kingdom is good.