Top 8 games (that I played) in 2022
Turns out I couldn't just pick a "top 5" like I normally do (2018, 2019, 2020, 2021) this year. I have things I wanna say about at least EIGHT games I played this year, so by golly I'm gonna say 'em.
I mentioned last year that I mostly pursue games that I can play in short bursts (under 30 mins preferably) and feel like I make meaningful progress. That hasn't changed! Even with all-star AAA Elden Ring I can make a boss attempt or plunder a dungeon in around 15-30 minutes. It's rare for a game to sneak into my routine that demands full attention and focus for longer periods of time, but I just like having the ability to put it down exactly where I was and pick up again later.
Early in 2022 I blasted my way through 5 or 6 games almost all at once. I think I did it because I was in my feels a lot thanks to wintertime and some personal life disruptions and I was seeking some distraction, but the influx of games kinda broke me a bit. I finished a few of those games (Titan Souls, Unpacking, Before Your Eyes), but sadly Wildermyth and Kena: Bridge of Spirits got put to the side indefinitely. Add 'em to the Someday Pile.
That experience made me feel like I ought to stick with one or two games at a time to focus my free time and get the most out of my games. This is usually what I do, but I was taking more of a stance this time. So, what did I do first? Decide to get in on Pokémon Legends: Arceus. Sorry, I gotta get this one off my chest; I am a huge Pokéfan, but this game sadly did not do it for me. I wanted to love it despite the off-putting visuals and laborious tutorials, but I just couldn't get past the first few hours of gameplay. This deflating encounter led me to the conclusion to award Legends Arceus "Most disappointing full price ($60) game I've ever purchased." And it feels BAD! And it increased my suspicions around Pokemon Scarlet and Violet to the point that I still haven't grabbed those ones and probably won't at this stage.
So I'm not usually a full price game guy—I tend to stick to a confined budget year-to-year. This has led me to pick up mostly indie games and commit time to maybe one full price ($60) game once a year. That being said, it surprised me just how much Elden Ring drew me in and made me break from that tradition and buy another $60 title just 2 months later. And, as you might imagine, I did not regret that decision one bit. In fact, I wish I could refund Legends Arceus and pay double for Elden Ring.
Elden Ring ended up being my big AAA and probably the most time I've spent with a AAA game in years. But I mainly stuck to My Brand and played a lot of indie titles and went back to play games I'd been meaning to get around to in the ole mental log, which was great!
I think what I enjoyed most about this year in games is that despite not playing many multiplayer games, I really drilled down on a few single player games alongside one or two friends who were also dedicated to the same game. The experience of sharing discoveries, victories, challenges, etc. with a friend is something I cherish even more than playing a game on my own just for me and not feeling the need to share that with others. Maybe that is more revealing about what kind of person I am than I'm willing to confront right here and now, but it's a feeling that is pretty consistent for me from year-to-year and I feel it's good to identify those things.
Anyhow, 2022 was a great year for games. I'm excited to dig in, so let's gooo.
Runners up for 2022:
If I had more time with this one it might've snuck onto the list despite my usual avoidance of games heavier on reading than gameplay (in Fire Escape terminology "less read-y more do-y"). This game is stylish and by far the best writing in a game I experienced all year. Treat it like a fun tabletop game spread over a few sessions and you're set for a great time (if you like crying over fictional characters).
Titanfall 2 campaign
Finally! I have been meaning to get around to this one for years thanks to the constant praise for its campaign (largely from Jeff Gerstmann and Danny O'Dwyer). It's one of those that, at this point, still totally lives up to the hype and then some. Comparisons to Half-Life 2 and other great FPS campaigns are all earned and deserved. It's a fun romp and responsible for why Apex Legends is as awesome a game as it became.
Goofy, fun, and competent online Smash-like. I will probably go back to this on and off for a while as they add more characters. It's not as polished as Smash in some ways, but it plays similarly and has infinitely better online matchmaking which fills a need I've got to play online with friends.
Finally! Thanks to the 3DS and Wii U eShop shutdown, I panic-bought this game and this game alone for my 3DS. Drew Scanlon and Dan Ryckert did the Quick Look the year it came out in 2016 and ever since I've been like, "I'll totally play that someday." Well, unlike other games that I can easily get my hands on or even emulate, I knew this would be a more difficult thing to track down and play as intended if I passed. So I picked it up and boy am I glad I did. It is a chaotic mess to play and explain, but once you understand the core concepts it becomes rather fun and addicting.
I was driven to play this after enjoying Death's Door so much and I can definitely say I am an AcidNerve fan now. This was such a fun look into the past for the devs behind my favorite game of last year. I had always meant to get around to Titan Souls, but was a little scared off by the promise of difficulty. It turned out to be sort of a boss rush/puzzler game that is really unique. Only game in recent memory I can compare it to is Furi, but I feel it's a pretty apt comparison. If you liked Death's Door or Furi, this game is worth a look.
Perhaps the most unique title I played this year due to how you control the game—with your eyes! I loved its overall style and presentation, which will hit just a bit different for every player. Scenes will last longer depending on how long you can go without blinking, which leads to some really powerful moments where you want to hang on to a vision of a memory for a little longer, but your eyes betray you. It's super memorable and I hope more games like this come in the future and aren't used as like spyware or something which was unfortunately my first thought when I was prompted to give the game access to my camera. 😬
Someone at Netflix is making good decisions with their mobile game division right now. I don't know how or why, but I am still stunned at the quality I feel I was offered as a free-loading Netflix user.
For me, Poinpy occupied the same space as Cult of the Lamb this year as a good game to complete with good challenge and offers enough variables to switch up gameplay that combats its repetitive nature. And then when it's done, it's kinda done! Unless you feel like replaying it with different powerups/abilities just to see how the gameplay feels different.
This is the same dev as Downwell, which I desperately wanted to enjoy, but sucked at too much. Poinpy instead has you going up rather than down and the gameplay is remarkably similar. So I was pleased when, after figuring out what the game actually wanted me to do, I didn't suck at it!! It took some practice and precision, but I eventually got to the end and completed the main campaign of levels in one go, which is the primary goal. I still wanted more, so I joyfully completed all of the puzzle levels as well.
Poinpy is exactly what it looks like and it does all of it so well. Plus it's so CUTE. Listen, if you've got Netflix, go play it. You won't regret it.
7. Cult of the Lamb
On paper, this game is PERFECT for me. In practice? Well it's pretty great!
A dungeon crawler + colony simulator mashup is a match made in... heck? But in a good way (cause cults and demons and stuff ya know?)! This game doesn't try to be anything more than what it says on the box, and it does those things real well. I get to be a cute lamb who hacks and slashes through randomized dungeons? Check. I get to make decisions like sacrificing/marrying/jailing my followers depending on mood or if they ask me nicely? Check. Art is unique and music slaps? Check check!
That's really what I feel like I can say about this game. It's just a great collection of mechanics that are all mushed together in a mostly cohesive kinda way. I did find that sometimes I was not so happy with the pressure of time, but often because of that light pressure, I found this to be a game I could just lose myself in for hours. It's a great mental distraction game if you let the mechanics worm into your brainspace and take over.
There is no real replayability factor for me despite feeling like it has potential to be that kind of game, but I also appreciate it for that and feel good about moving on from it. I certainly could start another, harder game to challenge myself and make totally different decisions from my first run, which would be fun to see how things play out. But I'd almost rather watch a stream or vod of someone I enjoy playing to see how their decisions play out without having to do the work myself. Plus I hear the Twitch integration is great!
I do want to tell one quick story that came from this game's emergent gameplay. As I mentioned, you can marry your cult members (like any good cult leader would). I married a cute little green deer cultist at the start of my game and soon after found a little gift on one of my dungeon runs that, once gifted, allowed my new in-game spouse extended lifespan. Because of the death rate of the cultists, I thought my first spouse would die fairly early on, but they ended up outlasting the next two spouses I married (look, they asked nicely okay?) and were easily the highest-level member of the cult. I buried them near the temple in a place of honor.
6. Vampire Survivors
I played this game as it was barely starting to pick up steam in the larger gaming community around January. I discovered it through streamer Day who just did some of the most wholesome/joyful content with it. That dude normally has an infectious laugh, but this dude was just cackling with joy at Vampire Survivors and all the while proclaiming how cheap it was at $2.99. So it was an obvious get for me.
I really enjoyed my time with it from the get go and it certainly sucked me into its INSANEO STYLE gameplay. But I thought, "I'll wait til this game gets a full release to really enjoy it." Then I started hearing about it a little here, a little more there, and then it was all people were talking about. I think in the gaming circles I follow online, this game got as much buzz as Elden Ring. Which is crazy. This game is $5 (they increased the price later)!!
All this to be said, I actually haven't finished this game, but that's because I wanted to give it some breathing room when I eventually get back to it. In my first round with it I unlocked a few characters and levels and learned about item fusions, but based on what I understand I've just scratched the surface. And now there's DLC! I will definitely be jumping back into Vampire Survivors this winter. It is exactly the mindless fun I need sometimes with some moments that make you feel like a galaxy-brained-mega-god. Play Vampire Survivors—it's only $5!
TUNIC JOURNAL ENTRY #1 - IMMEDIATELY POST-CREDITS
This game seemed like a slam dunk hit for me, personally. And as I was initially playing, it lived up to that hype and more. The music is awesome (done by Lifeformed, one of the greats), the visuals are stunning, the mechanics are super interesting, and frickin' secrets live around every corner. We're talkin' as many secrets as there is visible world to explore. It's nuts.
But by the end of my experience I had more problems with it than I expected. Overall a very fun time, but you simply must be in the mood for cryptic puzzle solving when playing. Which I think I was burned out on from playing Elden Ring? Maybe? Honestly, aside from a few BS puzzles, the combat not always feeling great (Death's Door, a similar game combat-wise, does that better), and one BS HP-draining mechanic, I think this game was masterfully made.
TUNIC JOURNAL ENTRY #2 - A FEW MONTHS LATER
Future Logan here. I definitely wrote the above when I was in the throes of a foggy brain after playing TUNIC and Elden Ring back to back to back. Both games require a lot of mental effort (for video games) and that effort is certainly rewarded most of the time. Looking back, this game definitely captured me in a big way, but I think I just let the negative aspects (for me) get in the way of my overall enjoyment. After all, I am the one who decided to basically shotgun this game over the course of two weeks so I could get back to Elden Ring. This game would have probably been better served if I played it at a slower pace and allowed myself more time to think and breathe between sessions. TUNIC is a master stroke and should be recognized as such!!
TUNIC JOURNAL ENTRY #3 - GOTY CLOSING THOUGHTS
I think it says a lot that I felt the need to write down my thoughts as they evolved on TUNIC throughout the year. As I was playing, even when I was frustrated, I was like, "this game will be on my list of best games of the year." Like, this game burrowed into my brain like a video game version of an earworm and just... never left. The wonder and discovery are palpable from the start and the game is just constantly egging you on to figure it all out.
I had a tough time during some portions of the game to the point that I almost put it down entirely, but it truly is a gift that keeps giving if you keep at it. TUNIC rules.
4. Into the Breach: Advanced Edition
HEY GUYS THEY PUT INTO THE BREACH ON PHONES AND THEY ADDED CONTENT IN AN ADVANCED EDITION IT'S ALL I EVER WANTED GAHHHHH!!!!!!!!!
This was basically my gut reaction when they made this announcement earlier this year. Heck, I was playing Into the Breach on breaks at work through a Chrome remote desktop app with my home PC on my phone because I wanted to keep playing so bad that year. I played the heck outta Into the Breach in 2018 and it made my top 5 then as well! I consider myself a huge Subset Games fan and gave this game a lot of accolades back then, but I've got even more to say now.
But, if I'm being honest... I never actually finished everything I intended to finish on my original playthrough on Steam. I loved what I played, but I just couldn't nail down some of the achievements and got a little frustrated and moved on after a while. So to have gotten the opportunity to play it all again - on my phone - with new content and it was "free" with a Netflix login? Don't hafta ask me twice. Have I mentioned that someone at Netflix knows wussup? Cause they locked down a killer app for their exclusive games. In my eyes this was another huge W for them.
The best part is that I got to play the whole game with its new content alongside a friend that I introduced to the game a couple years after I bounced off it. He had completed more of the base game than I did and knew way more than I did going back in. But soon enough I picked things back up and for a few weeks we were sharing screenshots of sick plays and achievement gets.
Advanced Edition, as Subset did with FTL, is an elegant modification to Into the Breach that just fits like a glove. It genuinely just feels like a bunch of official "mods" to the game that enhance and layer on the strategy that was already so pitch perfect.
Best tiles of 2022? Definitely. Of all time? Maybe!
3. Marvel Snap
Finally, a trading card game (TCG) that I can get into that doesn't require me to spend arms and legs to stay competitive nor wastes my time. These matches truly are a *snap* to complete one after the other. If Elden Ring was a 5-course meal and Neon White was a series of gourmet tapas, Marvel Snap would be a giant vat of kettle corn that I am just cronching on every opportunity I get. It's fresh, quick, and satisfying whether I get a few bites or just go to town on the whole vat.
This game just released in 1.0 in October and it took over my little moments of free time in a *snap.* Waiting for the oven to preheat? Snap. Poopin'? Snap. In the car on a boring stretch of road? Sn- I mean NO! I'm kidding. But did I think about doing it? YEAH. I DID.
I will say this is not the first time I've been here with a TCG on my phone. I am still a recovering Hearthstone addict and I've been clean a few years and I've gotten some bumps from single player experiences like Slay the Spire, Inscryption, and Nowhere Prophet. And heck, this is made by some of the original minds behind Hearthstone! So they know what they're doing. I know that I'm smack in the middle of the honeymoon period with this game, but that doesn't stop me from saying it is so smart and so complex for a game who's matches only last 5 minutes. The mechanics are so solid and new synergies are being found all the time as they release new cards and locations. Maybe someday it'll go stale, but for now it feels like there is a long road ahead for variety and I am fully here for the ride.
Despite multiplayer being limited to random opponents only at the moment, they are promising a friendly match mode which has me pumped because I currently text match highlights and new card variants with a couple friends that I'd love the chance to actually play against in the near future. I will definitely be playing Marvel Snap in 2023.
2. Neon White
Hey, turns out speedrunning is fun and I like it? Neon White combines accessible speedrunning mechanics and super visible friendly leaderboards into a mixture that is downright delicious. I ate this game up day and night for weeks over the summer and nearly every second, millisecond, microsecond, and nanosecond spent with this game ruled.
To touch on the single player experience, the story was saccharin anime tropey nonsense, but A) that matters little to me when the gameplay/art/music is this good and B) Noclip's Developer Breakdown with Ben Esposito gave me the context I needed to appreciate their direction. Still could go without some of the tropes personally, but I now have a much greater appreciation for their willingness to go for it with a classic story that just breaks up the main game and helps pace the player in a healthy kinda way. Thanks to Jesse Guarascia at Noclip for putting that together!
Eternalizing that one time I had a faster time than @Guarascia in Neon White. 🤍 pic.twitter.com/lAvY9Cue1F— Logan J (@_hellogan) July 15, 2022
And speaking of Jesse… boy the multiplayer component of this game is absolutely what ranks it so high on my list and kept me going in this game. It is always more fun to play games with or alongside friends and share the discoveries and unique moments together. "Multiplayer" isn't really the right word for it, because functionality between players is ultimately just a shared leaderboard with your friends. Beating each other's times is such a rush - especially if someone points out how much better they did than you, only for you to beat them by another hair on your next attempt.
Leaderboards are nothing new to games, but this is certainly the first game that I took leaderboards seriously in a decade or more. I would be talkin' smack with Jesse and my friend Zack on the daily for a while there. Every time I got done with a first pass at a level I'd feel great, but realize Jesse had me by over 10 seconds and I'd be like, "Dang, what shortcut did he find??" Then I'd spend the next few minutes figuring out a shortcut or two and refine my approach over and over until I either beat him or got close enough for the developer (dev) time. By the end of my playthrough I tallied up all my wins over Jesse and Zack just to rub it in their faces (even if Jesse still has me beat on like 85% of the levels 👉👈).
And that's what's so ingenious about this game. Even if you don't have friendlies go compare scores with, the built in ranking system that judges your time has that dev time award given beyond the typical top rank you need to achieve to make progress in the game. It's like you get to play against the dev team! And I love that. But even if you don't go for that, the ranking system (bronze, silver, gold, ace) incentivizes you on each level to get better and better by unlocking gifts within levels, global leaderboard stats, and even hints for shortcuts to take. So even without friends playing alongside to compare, you've got yourself to compete against and they lay it out in such an approachable way. I mean, I still swore under my breath more than a few times, but overall it drove me forward and made me clutch to the flame of my own ambition.
Neon White is a masterpiece in more than a few ways. And if you've got at least one friend to play alongside, this game will easily dissolve that friendship until there's nothing le- I mean it'll make your bond that much stronger... yeah...
1. Elden Ring
As I said, the thing that I've noticed this year that remains consistent with previous years is that I have a tendency to only make real time for one (1) AAA title each year. One year it was Super Smash Bros. Ultimate, another it was Control, but no matter what the last 5 years or so I only feel like I can dedicate time to one big, flashy, over-the-top experience for the sake of budget and frankly variety. But if there's one thing that Elden Ring does not lack it is variety. There is so much to do in the Lands Between.
First of all, Elden Ring is HUGE. And I mean that in every possible way. People have made comparisons to Breath of the Wild in terms of scope and interactivity of the world, but the way Elden Ring wipes the floor with Zelda and other open world predecessors is, well, unprecedented. The world is huge, the map of said world: huge. The systems are huge, the variety of weapons and their movesets are huge. The boss count is huge. This is a game that, once I grasped some basic concepts and started to understand something, that something would start growing new appendages and complexities (not unlike our grafted friends at Godrick's Big House) and I'd be in awe of the depth this game throws you into time and again.
The only game series I can compare this experience to is the Monster Hunter series, which got its hooks in me with Monster Hunter: World. I think Elden Ring and MH: World can actually be compared in this way to some extent. Both games offered more user-friendly options than the series ever had and therefore appealed to the masses as a result. I love that I got to experience that feeling of everything finally clicking about why people love a particular series. Obviously there are blatant differences between Elden Ring and the rest of the Soulsborne games, but I am now bought in to the style of gameplay those games introduced. I plan to get to Bloodborne and maybe some of the other Souls games now and that has me really jazzed.
Funnily enough, I realized it's the same friend that encouraged me to get into both the Monster Hunter series and Elden Ring. Thanks duder, ya know who you are. I also played Elden Ring with this friend and a couple others, which was as frustrating at times as it was insanely fun. Anyone who's messed with the multiplayer knows it can be a hit or miss experience in terms of summoning, getting invaded, dying prematurely, etc. But I guess that's just sorta on brand for Elden Ring. Reminding you constantly that this world is cruel and trying to thwart your progress despite your best efforts (even the user interface!). However, it really is an incredible co-op experience to help a friend take down a boss or dungeon they're struggling with or receive that same help in return. I cherish my time playing with pals in this game.
It's also worth noting how endlessly replayable this game is. You can do any number of new game plus (NG+) runs ad nauseam, start fresh files to challenge yourself to try new builds, and just play the online multiplayer in coliseums or with friends. I haven't gone back after beating the full game (and 150+ hours), but I intend to start a NG+ run as a totally different build to my original dual scythe, black flame paladin build.
Elden Ring is an all-timer right out the gate for me. Right up there with the best of them. It impressed me beyond belief and I'm certain I'll be thinking about and playing this game for years to come.