2022 Is Finally Another Good Year For GOTY!

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daavpuke

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Edited By daavpuke

At some point, I need to call it, when it comes to playing cool games in 2022. I've used December to hold a mad dash of releases I hadn't played, to potentially put on a list. In just these few weeks, I've played Super Kiwi 64, Immortality, 13 Sentinels: Aegis Rim, Triangle Strategy, Eiyuden Chronicle: Rising and Marvel Snap. That's what I could afford, at least. Except for Triangle Strategy, which skyrocketed to the sole winner of biggest disappointment, most of these games have flirted with being on the final list. Like I said when I trimmed the shortlist here, 2022 has been a really strong year.

In particular, I really appreciate the variety of quality we've received. In most years, a lot of lists tend to homogenize, which makes my choices look like outliers. This year, there are many more genres with stellar drops than ever before. From the spectacle of God of War, to the haunting vibe of Signalis, to the gripping story of Norco. Every creation has a shot of making it on any list.

That's why I'll now present you with the most accurate, objective list of the 10 best games of 2022, curated to perfection. Video games are back, baby!

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10. Fortnite:

Though this is more of a mandatory inclusion, from playing 700 hours in five months, the convergence of interest in Fortnite has been a thrilling experience. The Rocket League update broke the game, as that awful game would do, so my enjoyment has taken a steep downturn since then. Still, it's hard to be disappointed by any state of Fortnite. It may not work now, but in three or four months, we'll get another whole game anyway. Nothing in this content machine is permanent, not even the bad times.

When it was functional and fun, however, it was hard for me to put the game down at all. Who knew that the one thing this game needed was to remove the building? That's like this battle royale's entire hook! Following that up with additions from Dragon Ball is, if nothing else, expert marketing. You could shoot a Kamehameha from your hands, complete with sound effects. That's an extremely satisfying feeling.

The groundswell was so enormous that I even managed to squad up with someone; something I hadn't done in years. It turns out that your fun is exponential when you play together, cementing its place on this list. Fortnite: it's not just for kids.

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9. Arcade Paradise

I'm surprised that this game didn't get more attention, in a year where "simulator" games are so popular. We need to come back to what the term even means anymore, at some point, but that's for another day.

In Arcade Paradise, you manage a business that also has arcade machines with facsimiles of classics. In between your playtime, you'll be tending to maintenance and trying to collect funds, with the goal of getting even more games. There's a subversive angle, as these sims tend to have, but the real power is in the loop. Play a game, do some laundry, play another game, clean up and so on. There's a ticking clock that caps how much you can achieve, which means that you'll often find yourself lost in the moment, while trying to get a high score. Arcade Paradise recreates a microcosm of being enamored with video games and forgetting the world exists. The game creates nostalgia without actually using it, as much. It helps that the scrappy arcade machines it offers are mostly good.

Jan was right; put that on the back of the box
Jan was right; put that on the back of the box

8. 13 Sentinels: Aegis Rim

I know that Giant Bomb has ridiculously arbitrary reasons to what can make a list, but the game was added on Nintendo Switch this year, which is significant enough to me. While daunting, this game has consistently impressed me. How do you even describe this beast? It's an open-ended, narrative driven, whodunnit, tower defense, score attack, role-playing, visual novel game.

After a lengthy prologue, 13 Sentinels drops you into the deep end. There are three sections; one story, one combat and one reference material. The eventual goal is to uncover how the story of 13 Sentinels came to be and it's going to be a wild ride to get there. If only this game had fewer off-putting anime tropes, it would've shot up the list, but the game is such an impressive feat that I was able to look past it. The interlocking systems are a game design masterpiece, even though I've mostly just been getting my mind blown by the story twists. Mark 13 Sentinels down as the most mind-blowing game of 2022. I have no idea how they pulled this one off.

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7. Shin-chan: Me and the Professor on Summer Vacation – The Endless Seven-Day Journey

I trust that most people are, by now, familiar with the season-length videos of Tim Rogers. The creator's latest delves, better than I ever could, into Boku no Natsuyasumi. The game exists in the popular Japanese concept of summer vacations. One of my favorite games is the Nintendo 3DS gem, Attack of the Friday Monsters: A Tokyo Tale.

All that preamble is there to say that this Shin-chan release follows in those footsteps. These slice of life features are hard to mess up, as your main goal is to exist in them. You do morning fitness with your family, eat a nice meal, go out to explore the space around you and go bug hunting. You're just a kid in one of their formative years. Even a little stinker like Shin-chan manages to be endearing in this framing. Once again, this is a game that uses a nostalgic pretense, for something you've never experienced. It's just a nice time.

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6. Stranger of Paradise: Final Fantasy Origin

From one extreme to the other, Stranger of Paradise is the shit-heel of the year. To me, Final Fantasy is a 90s franchise and this game is as reminiscent of this era as it gets. Every aspect of this action role-playing game (RPG) is over the top; filled with attitude, violent outbursts and flashing lights. At the same time, it's clear that the game where you can wear a combat fedora doesn't take itself seriously. You're here to mindlessly enjoy the slop.

On the flipside, they do a good job of retaining the Final Fantasy building blocks of dungeons, jobs and character building. I played the first Final Fantasy this year and, while I liked it, I wished that it hadn't aged so poorly. Stranger of Paradise manages to bridge that gap between eras perfectly. Just like being an angsty teen, it feels like no one understood what this game was aiming for.

It's just one of those days, where you wanna kill chaos!

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5. Atari 50: The Anniversary Celebration

When I first reviewed this collection, I wasn't expecting it to be as memorable as I feel about it now. Every time I think back on it, I appreciate Atari 50 just a little bit more. It feels weird even mentioning it, because the commending aspect of this release isn't the game part; it's the finite, but incredibly stimulating documentation around it. I've seen every scrap of info that developer Digital Eclipse put in there and I would still see more of it.

Every tiny piece of the game's historic timeline builds to a growing appreciation, not just for video games, but the creative process behind it. It feels like you become a better person for having internalized this release, which is a unique feat to achieve for any game. As an Atari fan, I've also gotten a good kick out of playing its library, both good and bad. It has been said before, but: Every collection needs to be this lovingly curated from now on. Atari 50 is a new standard. Accept nothing less.

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4. Dwarf Fortress

I have never played Dwarf Fortress. It's unlikely that I will, ever, play this behemoth. Yet, I've consumed hours of this release, without ever touching it. I'll watch videos of people getting pushed into the deep end. I devour every social media thread with stories from people's colonies. I haven't found a bad story yet. Dwarf Fortress is, detached from its systems, just a writing prompt. It's a way to get people to talk about their experiences with the creations they've nurtured.

Part of why this game is endlessly interesting to vicariously live through is, of course, the scope. Dwarf Fortress is an island; deeper than any other thing ever created. If you can think of it, there's likely a system for it. The living society behind this pack of dwarves rarely ever unfolds in the same way twice, meaning that you'll never relive the same thing as someone else. Basically, what I'm saying is that this is what it would be like if No Man's Sky was an actual good game.

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3. Harvestella

If your only exposure to Harvestella is the Giant Bomb Quick Look, then you likely haven't gotten a complete picture. Sometimes, that happens, but it hurts when it's a game quite as special as this. Yes, Harvestella is a farming sim, in a year where a lot of them were released. However, I think that shoving it in that box is a little short-sighted.

The biggest strength of this game is that all of its systems feel equally implemented. In a lot of these sims, there are always one or two elements that feel forceful, as farming games need to have certain checkboxes they need to tick. In Harvestella, you wake up and tend to the farm, then it's time for chores or a town visit. After that, it's likely the afternoon and you'll need to eat the food you've prepared to regain your energy, before it's time to go deepen the paths in the dungeon you're exploring. That Etrian Odyssey-esque model will yield the resources that you'll bring back to build a better self tomorrow. It's rare for days in games to feel this harmoniously filled, as they would in real life. Harvestella nails it. It's not so much a farming sim with RPG systems, as it is the coziest RPG in quite some time.

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2. Kirby and the Forgotten Land

I feel bad for Kirby games. Not only do people chronically underestimate this franchise, but they also frequently release when no one will remember them. Kirby is this year's biggest victim of recency bias.

Watch the opening to Kirby and the Forgotten Land and you'll understand why this game rules. This explorative platform game is all about a jubilant love of video games. Kirby is here to make you feel good with their mouth. Sucking up giant objects, to transform you into the next little gameplay section, offers such a quirky way to experience moment-to-moment vignettes. The obvious comparison here is Super Mario Odyssey, even if I feel that's kind of reductive. Kirby plays second fiddle to no plumber.

At the end of the rope, Kirby and the Forgotten Land will also reward you with a crazy storyline. What other game will hit you with an opening and ending song, like an anime episode? This is just a wholly euphoric thing; enjoy it.

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1. Vampire Survivors

We did it, baby! We finally agreed on a game being good! A lot of years, my choices have been deemed eclectic, if not contrarian. Therefore, I'm extra relieved to see Vampire Survivors being able to maintain its momentum until the end of the year. Once again, this speaks to the quality from the breadth of games we've had this year.

The moment I put my hands on Vampire Survivors, I knew it was going to be the one. Until then, there was just nothing else like it. Since then, a hundred clones have tried to, unsuccessfully, replicate its success. That's how you know you've made something impactful. It's so plain to see why, as well. Vampire Survivors is the same immediate dopamine avalanche of mobile games, but without the dark patterns. Shit is just popping off all the time because it's cool. That's exactly how video games should be. You need minimal effort, but you get maximum enjoyment, free of charge. The action is so captivating that I lived through the awful web version for ages, before the mobile version was released. Killing monsters by the hundreds just feels that great. No part of this game sucks; it's all good shit. Vampire Survivors is the undeniable game of the year.

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Thank you for the accurate, objective list. I'm very surprised to see Shin-chan on it. Mostly because I forget that people outside of Japan have heard of it before. I guess I unfairly judged this game as another "cheap anime license cash grab" and didn't look into it further and that's my failing as a person. What brought that game to your attention if you don't mind my asking?

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daavpuke

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@chamurai: FWIW I also played the freemium Shin-chan endless runner this year. That's more of the licensed cash grab (though I enjoyed some of it).

Good question. I think it was briefly shown in a Nintendo Direct? I don't think it got that much marketing, as I remember it releasing with literally no fanfare at all.

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Great list, reminded me I need to get around to Attack of the Friday Monsters :D

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#4 chaser324  Moderator

Great list and glad you found a good reason to include 13 Sentinels because it's still an incredible game.

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Undeadpool

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13 Sentinels just kept on dropping my jaw. Over and over again, every time I thought "Ah, so THAT'S what's going on!" I was proven wrong hours later. So delightfully wrong.

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daavpuke

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@undeadpool: @chaser324: The story is absolutely incredible. I think the first Tomi moment when you see her hanging in a lab is when I went: "Okay, clearly I don't know shit about shit and I need to just settle in for the ride here." Not that the tower defense is not engaging, I'm enjoying that for the most part too.

@mikachops: Yes, please. PLEASE. It's a 2 hour game and it's just a nice story.

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@daavpuke: The part where they get to the edge of the city and it's LITERALLY the edge of everything was one of my favorite "we've started playing a NEW game, haven't we?" moments.

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#8  Edited By Manburger

Great list! For my shame I have not yet played Kirby. Hope I will be spared their eldritch wrath. You reminded me of Attack! as well, should perhaps check that out if it is fiercely pleasant & concise as it seems.

I feel the same way about Dwarf Fortress. I think my favourite tale might be The Basement of Curiosity by Nate Crowley. A tour de force of cataclysmic avian cruelty!