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Game of the Year 2022

As my gaming year ends, I can’t help but think that despite a number of people I listen to in the industry telling me it was a dire year for gaming (admittedly this did seem to drop off towards the end of the year), I was almost continually enthralled and often overwhelmed trying to get to new games, while in quieter periods, getting to some older games that I’d been meaning to. The big thing for me this year with my top 10 was, could I put this down? The answer for most of these games was a big no, they were games I needed to get through and I’d often put aside other games and forms of entertainment to get through them.

Previous Year Lists: 2008 (Braid), 2009 (Dragon Age: Origins), 2010 (Mass Effect 2), 2011 (The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim), 2012 (Zero Escape: Virtues Last Reward), 2013 (The Last of Us), 2014 (Dark Souls II), 2015 (Bloodborne), 2016 (Inside), 2017 (NieR Automata), 2018 (Yakuza 6: The Song of Life), 2019 (Outer Wilds), 2020 (Final Fantasy VII Remake), 2021 (Psychonauts 2)

2021 Games – Because I only got a PS5 this year:

Returnal – I’d heard this was good but never really got the sense that I’d love it as much as I did, would have easily made my top 5 last year. I almost considered adding it to this year’s list given the new content but it wasn’t substantial enough…though it was really good.

Deathloop – After some of the mixed things I’d heard about this game, I wasn’t really sure how to feel about it and while I found myself sort of skimming over some of the deeper story elements, that Arkane gameplay is just too damn great. It’s no Prey, but that’s a high bar to clear, would have hovered around the bottom half of my top 10 last year.


Rollerdrome – Looking for something to play on my new PS5, I’d heard some good things about this from people I trust and other than the feel specifically focusing on my love for pre Star Wars 70s Science Fiction, the gameplay just did nothing for me and I quickly gave up.

Honourable Mentions:

God of War Ragnarok – This game nails the landing, almost to the point that I forgot how damn bumpy the ride was. While I can’t fault a lot of the game design and combat here (though I had my issues there) I just found myself largely unengaged through so much of this story, it wasn’t a ‘need to play it’ for me and I'd often find other things to do rather than play it.

Scorn – Oh Scorn, why did your combat infuriate me so? It says a lot about how much I generally liked this game that I’m even talking about it here. Hell, I got up to the “last boss” and realised I didn’t have a key weapon from earlier in the game…so I had to go back through some extremely frustrating sections of the game to get it. I still did it and in general, I still feel somewhat positive about the game despite all those frustrations.

AI: The Somnium Files The Nirvana Initiative – Tokiko Shigure, she’s the reason I’m even talking about this game. It’s so damn frustrating that the rest of this game is bland and cringe inducing because Tokiko Shigure as a character is an absolute triumph and the game knows that too. Because of her, it almost made the list.

Vampire Survivors – If I had a Steam Deck and a lot of time to kill, it might have made the list, but I don’t and didn’t really. I do like the depth but it’s now at the point where I know I need to set aside over 30 minutes to play the game and may have no success which killed the buzz a little.

The List:

10. Fire Emblem Warriors: Three Hopes

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Yeah...I know. I’ve never played a warriors game before and when this was announced, had little interest but a quick trailer with a demo announcement reminded me that I liked the universe this was set in. As soon as I fired up that demo, heard that music and reacquainted myself with some old friends, it didn’t take me long to pre-order. The wild thing was that while this was me getting back with some old friends, I decided to go a different path with a different house and boy that ended up being a good decision because I loved my new house members and not only that, a lot of my old friends from my previous house very quickly joined me along the way.

This is not a better game than God of War Ragnarok, I’ll just make that clear, the combat while often diverse in that you can take direct control of characters you only previously had tactical control over, is ultimately simple and the old Switch struggles here. I just had so much fun revisiting this world and generally enjoying both the larger story and all the small character moments in between. I kind of had to put it on my list also because throughout the back half of the year, I ended up asking myself with a lot of games, did I enjoy this more than Fire Emblem Three Houses? The 9 other games on my list, I did, anything that missed out, not so much.

9. Return to Monkey Island

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The first of three graphic adventures on my list was originally much higher, but then when I took a long view of everything, it just kept slipping, probably because I was reminded that the front half of the game is a bit on the weak side. That being said, it’s like that for a reason, but just because it has a justified reason, doesn’t mean it couldn’t have been stronger. With all that said, once I got to the back half of this game and started to see where things were going, I immediately started to feel what I expect the developers intended me to feel as a 41 year old man who first played a pirated copy of Monkey Island 2 in their teens and used to quote it with my friends in high school.

There are jokes, some even had me laughing audibly, but it was more than that, this was the first nostalgia play I’ve seen in a while where the original creator was not only able to come back in and get to the core of what made those original games so memorable, but was also able to examine the concept of nostalgia without necessarily passing too severe a judgement on those that are constantly searching for their own secret.

8. Signalis

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One of the traps I often find myself in with these game of the year lists (and I swear I mention this every year) is adding a game to the list without giving it the necessary time to rest, these being games that I play in the last week of the year, hell, there is one of those on this list but that isn’t Signalis. The reason I bring this up in the context of Signalis is that had this had been a game I played in the last week of the year, I may not have added it because I’d be worried it wouldn’t have legs in my memory. Well, I played Signalis months ago and I still think about the experience.

I only got into survival horror games last year with the release of Resident Evil Village and then went on to play the vast majority of single player entries in the series but ever since, nothing came close to scratching that itch till I played Signalis. It’s a game that knows exactly what it wants to be, while the story can be overwhelming, the general action is just perfect, the creep of the whole thing is perfectly balanced and the puzzles were great brain teasers. While I’m heaping on the praise, the sound and music in this game kills, the whole thing is such a great evolution of the classic survival horror formula and I just couldn’t stop playing it.

7. Immortality

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People who love Immortality all probably have a story on when they hit their moment, the moment where the game goes from scanning through some footage to something else entirely. I was sitting on the couch playing and my girlfriend was watching and something off colour was said by one of the characters which caused my girlfriend to leave the room, it actually perked my interest because I could have sworn I’d heard the line before, so I rewound then I sat there stunned and completely creeped out like I’d never before been in a game, like the game had just stared into my soul.

I enjoyed Her Story to the point that it made my game of the year list for the year it came out and leading up to Immortality I decided to give Telling Lies a try which I enjoyed fine but Immortality is something else entirely. While the back half of the game where you’re trying to get to credits can be frustrating and the third film is bland (which seems to be on purpose), there are so many incredible discoveries to find and so many core images that are burned into my brain that I now feel like I live in a world where this is all true. I’m not sure where the evolution of this formula goes from here, but I’m totally down for the next FMV experiment.

6. Norco

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A wave swept over me almost as soon as I started playing Norco, it’s hard to describe, it was like I’d discovered a game that was familiar to me, a game I had played or read about when I was younger that was a lot like the narrative adventure games I played at the time. In fact, it was almost like finding a secret lost third pre-FMV Tex Murphy adventure game. Continuing to play through it only reinforced that feeling, it was able to capture the world familiarity and narrative weirdness that I’d been so fond of in 90’s graphical adventures while also having a considered, modern approach to the subject matter.

I’m taking a bit of a jump with this one for a couple of reasons, first, I literally just finished playing it as I type this and therefore it not only could be a regret when I review this list in future for fear I might just forget about the game but also given how highly I’ve ranked the game in general. Second, I finished it in a day but, that goes back to a big theme of this list, every game on my top ten was a game I just didn’t want to put down and other than taking a 2 hour break to watch Glass Onion, this was one where I needed to get the whole story without sleeping on it. It's a perfectly engrossing experience that nails everything it is going for while staying true to the spirit of 90s adventure games.

5. Neon White

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A big theme of my list this year is games I just couldn’t put down and going into the top five, it’s probably more than that because we’re starting to get to games that had impacts on sleep schedules or made me late starting a workout etc. For Neon White, I decided to install this on my Switch just before going on a two week holiday to my old home town and in my mind, it’s nearly impossible to separate the two because I often had to drag myself away from the game to show my niece and nephew somewhere I used to go when my brother and I were growing up.

Weird confession, I didn’t mind the story of Neon White, sure it’s hardly the best story of the year and definitely not even close to the best story on this list, but I thought it was serviceable and I didn’t come close to skipping any of it as so many suggested I did, but that’s not what we want to talk about when discussing this game. This game is just a constant high, every level is a new puzzle box and for me at least, something that I needed to get perfect, I was never content with just getting through the level, I needed those platinums. The game just scratched an itch I needed for when it came out and finishing it 100% gave me such overwhelming satisfaction.

4. Grounded

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As I was wrapping up a few achievements in Grounded after I’d finished the main story, I decided to go for a bit of wander in the back yard for some areas I might have missed. I came across a rock acting as a grave stone for a hamster who only lived a year. That was pretty sad, then I ventured into a hole near this grave site and found the remains of said hamster and, poking around a little, found some gum. Strange place for gum I thought, then I realised that the gum was located in the remains of the hamster and immediately felt sorry for the possible Obsidian employee who accidently fed their hamster gum. I already knew that Grounded was going to be high on my game of the year list at this point, but this moment of environmental story telling really solidified it for me.

When I first played Grounded in 2020, I thought, this could be the early access game that gets me, I could see myself being a part of this community and helping to build this game. That didn’t happen but it speaks to how immediately this world and idea grabbed me. I’m not even that big a fan of Honey I Shrunk the Kids, I mean, I saw it at the cinema when I was younger, but it wasn’t one of my favourite films growing up. Obsidian just found my wavelength with this one and there was just so much to discover and fall in love with be it the diverse set of story dungeons or just the exhilaration of taking down your first Wolf Spider. Importantly though, and as is to be expected from Obsidian, there is a story that ended up being surprisingly touching, it’s not as in depth as some of their other works, but as I rolled credits on the game, I felt genuinely moved by what had occurred.

3. Pentiment

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In a year where a number narrative adventure games grabbed me, Pentiment was the one that has sat with me longest. When first seeing the art style of Pentiment, I was a little taken aback as I wasn’t expecting something so stylised and wasn’t completely sure if it would be for me, then I heard an interview where Josh Sawyer described the game as basically like Night in the Woods, a game I loved (6th on my 2017 list) which set me in the right headspace. This wasn’t going to be a game where I attempted to min max everything, I just needed to play it and live with my decisions. Coming out a week after God of War Ragnarok, I figured that I’d play through GOWR first then get to Pentiment but I decided to at least play the start just to get a feel for it…I didn’t play God of War for the next 10 days as I just didn’t want to leave the world of Pentiment.

The game is just so confident and intelligent never treating the player as an idiot but also never making you feel overwhelmed if there are gaps in your knowledge of the period. It’s not heavy handed in teaching you about its world either, you just naturally learn about it as you explore and interact with the residents of the town, That's basically all it is, the story of a small town that happens to be at this important point in history, your decisions wont change the world, they'll change the town though but as we learn, change is the natural order of things. As the story progressed through the chapters, I was just continually engrossed in each new wrinkle to the story and the fact that the game nails the landing the way it does makes you really feel like this passion project was something Josh Sawyer and his team needed to get out there.

2. Elden Ring

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Elden Ring is without a doubt the game of the year by every metric. I still remember being unable to beat Mohg, Lord of Blood on a week night with work the next day, it was getting to midnight. I decided to give up and go to bed, but I couldn’t really sleep, every time I shut my eyes I would envision my strategy of beating him so I woke up at 2:30am and set myself a 30 minute deadline. Almost on the dot of 3am, Mohg went down and I had a…not great night of sleep because of the adrenalin still coursing through me. Elden Ring is just a present to fans of the Dark Souls games that just never seems to stop unwrapping, even when you think you’ve discovered everything there is to discover, the game has so many ways of continuing to surprise you.

I don’t even need to get into how well this game plays, it plays like a souls game, if you go back and check my lists, you’ll find all From Software releases (barring Déraciné) high on my game of the year lists with both Dark Souls 2 and Bloodborne topping their years, Dark Souls also would have been top in 2011, but I didn’t actually play it till 2014. So I was in the bag for this game right? Not really, I was worried about what open world would do to the formula, one of the thing I love about Dark Souls is how perfectly contained that world is so the fact the open world in Elden Ring is so precisely constructed is a true testament to the years From has spent honing it’s craft. The fact they were able to take their formula and transport it to a vast and beautiful open world is a is a remarkable achievement and certainly should make this the game of the year…just not for me personally.

1. Xenoblade Chronicles 3

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About 10 hours into Xenoblade Chronicles 3, I knew it was going to be my game of the year. I was running through one of the game’s vast landscapes, taking in the magical environments that Monolith Soft are so great at creating, listening to the magical musical score and looking at 6 characters who I’d become pretty attached to. What I didn’t know is how strongly it would solidify its placement atop my list over the next 100 plus hours.

My first Xenoblade Chronicles was the second game which I loved to the point that I decided to play the first game in the series immediately after, I loved that too. This admiration continued through to the second games DLC, Torna: The Golden Country which I actually ranked 2nd on my 2018 game of the year list. When the third game was announced earlier this year, you might have figured that it was a lock but I did have my concerns, first being that I was worried how the Switch hardware would hold back the game, second, I really didn’t like the additional content for the definitive edition of the first game, Future Connected. All worries I had though quickly washed away as the game continued to build and build in ways that were exciting and often unexpected.

When you have me up past midnight on a cold Saturday night, clutching the controller during a long sequence of cut scenes, eyes wide open, you have me. The game was ultimately exactly what I wanted from this series and it delivered on a lot of the promise that had been built up since the first game that I’m genuinely excited to see where they go with these vast worlds and intricate stories they create next. While I only have about 5 solid years of experience with the JRPG genre, I’ve played a hell of a lot of them in that time and to me, Xenoblade Chronicles 3 is the pinnacle of the genre, sure, that might be hyperbole, but it's my game of the year for a reason, it beat out Elden Ring for a reason.

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