Best of 2022
Twenty twenty-two. In terms of games, not a stellar year if you ask me. There was certainly some good stuff out there, but the big tentpole releases were few and far between. Admittedly, some of this could be a "me problem". I've been in a funk since at least last year where it seems difficult to get excited about or motivated enough to play much of anything.
Once again, I found myself playing "comfort food" games at various points of the year, which means I probably missed out on some new stuff. I'm hoping to break out of it in 2023 because it seems like next year is going to be stacked, and I wanna be there for it.
With all that said, at long last, here are my top ten games of 2022 along with some honorable and dishonorable mentions. And, as always, all these screenshots are by me.
[OBLIGATORY SPOILER WARNING]
I have no real affinity for Atari. I'm old enough, but we had a TI-99/4A until the NES. Even so, this compilation/museum is so damn well put together, I had to at least acknowledge it here. It's incredible.
I gave it a shot when the PS5 version hit in January. It's...fine. Bugs and glitches aside, it's just not actually a very fun game. And the world is weirdly both dense and empty at the same time.
It was like $4 or something this past summer, so I figured why not? I finished it, but I'm not sure I understand the hype and love people have for it. Climbing on stuff is cool I guess. And that story gets fucking bonkers at the end. But, it otherwise feels super generic. Maybe you just had to be there and I'm 10 years too late.
I don't like Souls games. But, I decided I'd give this one a shot. I still don't like Souls games.
Sometimes it's the summer, you're sad and alone, and despite a mountain of a backlog of games, nothing seems like it'd be fun to do. So, you replay Skyrim again. And you get the platinum trophy. It happens.
This battle royale is very well made and quite fun. But, I usually get a couple matches in and then remember that I don't like playing games with people.
What a bummer. Damn. The main reason I waited so long to do my list is because I was sure this would land in my top 5. Golf Story was great. Well, they clearly bit off more than they could chew here by trying to add so many other sports. They should've just stuck with golf and maybe tennis. The charm and humor is nowhere near the level of the first game, and most of the new sports are half-baked or barely even there. There's literally only one 3-minute side mission where you hit baseballs.
And to cap it all off, the final event in the game, the "Decasportsathon", has you "compete" in all the sports, but it consists entirely of hitting other sports' balls with a golf club at targets. You don't even see any other competitors during this whole event. It's a perfect wet fart of an ending for such a disappointing sequel.
I feel like these HD-2D games are quite good, but I always fall off about halfway through. They get kinda tedious at some point and I just lose interest.
I ended my year by revisiting White Orchard and Velen in a new coat of paint. And, yeah...it feels good.
I was one of the lucky ones who got my Playdate in the first wave. And while there's no individual game that I felt strongly enough about to put on my list, the cumulative first season of 24 games will take my #10 spot. They're obviously not all home runs, but the standouts to me were Hyper Meteor, Ratcheteer, Zipper, and of course Crankin. I still haven't gotten around to side loading some stuff, but it looks super easy and there's some cool stuff out there. So, maybe it's a cop out to put this on my list, but hey...fuck you. It's my list. And, as I stated earlier, there wasn't much out there that clicked with me this year anyway.
For twenty years, Chrono Cross has been at the top of my Pile of Shame list. I got it for Christmas in 1999, but I never finished it. So, here comes a remaster. The perfect opportunity to fix that situation, right? Well... I still didn't finish it. I made it farther than last time though! And I liked it still! Maybe it's just not meant to be. I'll try again in another twenty years.
I remember enjoying Crisis Core on PSP. It was a time when Final Fantasy spin-offs weren't yet a dime a dozen. And, after Dirge of Cerberus, it was refreshing to have something that was actually fun to play. The graphical improvements here are nice, but they understandably didn't redo the cutscenes, so they look super grimy in comparison. More importantly though, the combat is a lot smoother than in the past thanks to how the slot machine thing works. Excuse me, the DIGITAL MIND WAVE SYSTEM™. It's funny to realize how much the game was designed around being on a portable system with its bite-sized side-missions. But, just kinda zoning out and churning through side quests by smashing some stuff is necessary on some days.
Gran Turismo exists in its own little bubble that's cut off from the rest of the world. While that's frustrating on some level, especially when it comes to quality of life design decisions, I feel like it HAS to be this way. Somehow it just feels right.
These clinically sterile menus. The mind-numbingly precise license tests. The ridiculous concept of hanging out in a coffee shop with car nuts to get missions. The completely unhinged loading screens that try to teach you about world history. It all feels like it's from an alternate universe at this point.
But, you know what? The driving is still real good. Polyphony has been doing it for 25 years and it shows. And, yeah, the microtransaction/currency debacle is a shame, but I just ignored it completely and had fun with the cars that I had available in the myriad of missions that the game presents. I wasn't concerned with collecting everything.
I don't really have much to say here. They nailed it. It's exactly what you want from a modern beat 'em up while also paying homage to the classics we all know and love. And it let me introduce these kinds of games to my nephews.
What a wonderfully weird, dumb game. As preposterous as the protagonist is and as ridiculous as most of the armor/outfits are, playing Stranger of Paradise is actually quite fun. The combat was engaging enough to pull me through the entirety of this bizarre reimagining of the lore behind the original Final Fantasy. Much of it is like a fever dream of design decisions that make no sense. They immediately give you five job types and only give you two slots to use them. They drop a metric fuck-ton of loot on you, and 90% of it is entirely superfluous. There's a crafting system that is entirely a waste of time. And some characters are immediately recognizable as if there was a magic button that converted 35-year-old sprites into modern polygonal characters while others seem to be inexplicably redesigned from scratch.
Despite all of this, it's still an enjoyable experience somehow. Honestly, I barely believe it myself. But, if they want to apply this formula of retelling FF games from a villain's perspective (or even some random side character), I'm all for it at this point.
I will not apologize for liking cats. Do you need to be a "cat person" to enjoy this game? No. Does it help? Yeah. If you're not, you definitely won't laugh as much as I did when the cat gets a backpack for the first time and does that crouched crawl thing cats do when something's stuck to them.
Regardless, I truly enjoyed exploring this weird, very French, cyberpunk world and solving its satisfying, little puzzles. Does it make sense that the cat can understand any of what's going on? No, but who cares? It's an intriguing story about companionship and loss that's told in a way that no game ever has before.
And that secret where you can "scratch" the record at the bar with the fake Daft Punk crew is one of my favorite moments in games this year.
It ain't easy watching this game get shit on repeatedly around here. Horizon Forbidden West is an amazing game with grand adventure, rewarding exploration, excellent characters, intense and fun combat, and all set in a beautiful post-post-apocalyptic world. It's stunningly gorgeous at every turn. That whole Las Vegas area specifically... holy shit that was cool. Call me crazy, but I still haven't found myself getting tired of aimless wandering around open-world games and doing every possible task. Was every single one of those question marks great? No. Of course not. But, I would've done even more of them if they were there. I love how every tallneck you find has a different method of fixing it. The one where you have to build it first it especially cool.
My only real gripe about the game is the ending. Setting up the future of the series by introducing a giant, red, AI blob called "Nemesis" that's coming to destroy the planet is just kinda... ugh. Like, that's what we're going with here? I dunno. I'm gonna give them the benefit of the doubt for now. I will still be there on Day 1 for the next installment. Just maybe don't release it the same week as a genre defining game of the generation, please.
God of War was my #1 game of 2018 and the sequel is equally excellent in many ways. The combat is stellar especially with the new spear that you get about halfway through, and the world had me exploring little crevice and scouring every visible angle for runes just like the 2018 game. Where it falters a bit for me is the story. While there are many memorable moments and legitimately emotional scenes, there are quite a few logic leaps that don't make much sense at all. I was just left asking "But why?" more times than I'd like. I guess that's the risk of writing a story based on fate and prophecy. But, I feel like they tried to cram too much into one game, which resulted in many of the characters not having time to develop properly.
I still grin like an idiot every time they drop even the tiniest mention about the old games. The attention to detail and reverence for those games makes everything seem grander. Like, if we're acknowledging that whole history, what else is out there? While they dropped some heavy hints in 2018 about that, they did less of it here and the ending doesn't really allude to what's next at all. Even the tiniest morsel of a hint about the future would've gone a long way.
And can we just talk about Heimdall for a moment? What an incredible piece of shit villain he is. He immediately feels like he was ripped out of the old games thanks to his over-the-top complete asshole god persona.
I've been seeing this game in various stages of development since PAX West 2016. Then, they released a demo last year and I didn't like it that much. It felt like it had drifted too far into Souls-y territory for my taste compared to what I'd seen and played previously. Luckily, while there are certainly still some Souls-ian elements in there, it seems like they course corrected a bit on that because Tunic is my favorite game of 2022. Make no mistake, Tunic is still challenging in terms of combat, but not in a bone-crushingly punishing way.
Tunic captures that sense of wonder and mystery that most current games could only dream of. The music is a major part of that as well. And explaining the instruction manual feature makes it sound like a gimmick, but it's so masterfully woven into every element of the game, you just have to play it to believe it. Deciphering the clues within it produces countless "Ohhhhhhhhh!" moments. The kind that simultaneously make you feel like a genius for spotting something and an idiot for not realizing it was in front of your dumb face the whole time.
Tunic is the kind of game I immediately wish I could forget that I ever played it so that I could play it again.