I feel incredibly blessed this year. Finally, I have a job within my line of studies, got a nice apartment, and my daily life is pretty much what I want it to be! Despite that I am not sure what the future holds and still wish I had a cat, I can certainly say that things are moving forward and I happily still get time to relax with gaming! Although, 2022 has been insane and might have had the most amount of titles that I needed to cut from the list, which is both heartbreaking and a wonderful thing!
However, before I get on with these entries, I merely want to quickly glance over the repeated rules for my favourite games of the year lists. At this point, I feel this is as much of a tradition to me as Christmas itself.
- This is only my top 12 games of 2022. I am really interested in hearing what other gems I might have missed out on this year, so think of this list as more of a conversation starter than anything else.
- While some remakes are impressive, unless they have something that makes them completely different overall from their original versions, they will not be on this list.
- If I have not fully invested my time in a game, despite how much I enjoyed it, I do not feel compelled to put it on the list or even really talk about it.
We good? If you read on, I suppose we are.
#12 Lost in Play
Childlike wonders are one of the best things you can put into any media, as it leaves room for creating surreal worlds filled with creativity and charm. This little indie title is a clear example of that, with an outstanding focus on narration by letting the visuals speak volumes, with entertaining moments such as helping frogs in the forest take down a monster or playing cards with goblins. Having it all coated in a gorgeous style inspired by other imaginative projects like Gravity Falls, Hilda, and Over the Garden Wall, further makes this ride thrilling.
Yet, what might be the most impressive element that I see few talking about, is how this bizarre universe lends itself to puzzles. By giving a logical sense within its own universe, Lost in Play makes sure every single problem is comprehensible and always gives subtle hints on how to solve them, thus making me completely entranced by them! There are certainly some bumps on this journey, but I cannot act like I was not engaged throughout and had my noggin continuously tested!
#11 Grapple Dog
I adore how this mascot platformer oozes the 90s through the aesthetics of a GBA title. Everything here is brimming with colours, cute characters, and a superb soundtrack that has great kicks to it. Although, the gameplay is definitely its selling point and after a couple of introduction levels, it goes hard and expects the player to get to grips with both their abilities and the various environmental pieces, such as wall jumping between crumbling blocks. It is quite remarkable in this regard, as each area introduces something new and creative to keep your attention!
However, the main gimmick is of course the grappling hook for swinging off specific surfaces, and it feels incredible to use for quick and tricky manoeuvres. This is where Grapple Dog shines, as even after finishing the diverse stages, they are still exhilarating to both speedrun through and find all the hidden collectables they hold, making both the fast-paced acrobatics and exploration captivating! With more extra content that sweetens the deal and will test you to your limits, it is tough to not fall in love with this retro product. Yet, the best part is that you can pet Pablo, which you should for giving you such a fun adventure!
A common occurrence in the indie market is to celebrate cherished entries in a series, such as the original The Legend of Zelda or Harvest Moon: Friends of Mineral Town. While I admire these, I am always more fascinated by projects that try to fix one of the more controversial instalments from the past. It is here that Infernax steps in with clear influences from Simon’s Quest of all things, but it truly excels in every way! There are multiple towns to visit for gaining info and missions, alternate pathways offering different rewards and playstyles, and all abilities are important for platforming and/or combat!
Everything is reminiscent of classic Castlevania without being a copy. Though it is far from perfect, it features tense level design that forces you to be on your toes, a life system that matters, exciting exploration, and an assortment of monsters to take down! It should also be noted that the brutal gore with gruesome cutscenes, the disturbing designs of the foul creatures, and the insane soundtrack should make any veteran vampire hunter satisfied. Combine this with a ton of extra content that includes numerous endings and the Konami code, and it becomes clear who should step into the shadows of the hell house.
Games driven primarily by their narratives can be a difficult pill for me to swallow since they often become linear experiences that are so void of interactivity, that I wonder why they were not just made into movies. Luckily, the developers behind Stray made sure that you will actually become immersed in its universe through its diverse assessments. As a little kitty, you will be able to claw objects, knock stuff down, and sleep for hours, which are admittedly cute additions. However, I was also surprised by how engaging the simple platforming could be, as it emphasised exploration and puzzle solving, with some chase sequences put in for a bit of variety.
By making you uncover each new area you visit, it also helps paint a picture of this underground civilisation where you met computer people who are honestly memorable! With this and all the visual details, the worldbuilding and lore became quickly fascinating. Yet, it never overshadowed the adorable aspect of taking on the role of the tiny furball. This I am frankly a bit biased on, as the avatar looks similar to my sister’s sweet companion, but it does not change that this was undoubtedly a great journey that could not have worked as well in any other media.
#8 Card Shark
Playing a round of cards might not be anything new, but how about a game all about cheating in such matches? From the creators of Reigns, it is fitting that they took a new twist on this genre, where you have to perform specific actions while remembering who has what. Maybe you need to pour someone a drink and peek carefully at what they have or you might need to make certain that your associate gets the best hand when stocking all 52? Card Shark goes further with this, to the point that there can be quite the demanding tricks to pull off, all without getting caught!
Even if it follows a formulaic setup, it is still captivating and held up by what an immersive experience it brings. You as a protagonist without a voice, are dragged into this sly world through unfortunate events that lead to a grander mystery, all presented through gorgeously handpainted visuals and symphonic scores that simply enhance the mood. With such a beautiful style complimenting the entertaining mechanics, thievery has rarely been executed with this much class.
Visual novels being a part of the interactive media is always a difficult subject, but there are those that make sure dialogue options have an impact on your journey or even incorporate elements of traditional roleplaying. Case in point, Roadwarden recreates such tabletop inclusions within a classic text game, making your decisions based on resource management, abilities, and how you wish to portray yourself. You could be kind to a nervous survivor and offer food, threaten an innkeeper for information or solely be passive.
What this means, is that this title provides what honestly most others with choices do lack; consequences. All of your steps here do matter, you have to stick with them, and be clever with your next one. Onwards, this project understands how to stand out and not merely replicate a paperback book in digital form. Be it its phenomenal audio to convey the surroundings, subtle unveiling of what you see around you, or even a deaf mode to give you more reading materials for immersion, this is storytelling at its best with every line being of a remarkable DM.
#6 Weird West
Making an RPG where your actions carry weight and various approaches are valuable, is not an easy task and can effortlessly result in creating a messy product with no focus. However, ex-developers from Arkane Studios made a fantastic take on spaghetti western that contains surreal horror and a gritty tone. Here, you play as five different characters in each’s own chapter and follow their strange stories that unfold into something grander in the end, with your decisions having clear impacts on their journeys. You could always try to be diplomatic, maybe steal from someone or go in all guns blazing! It is all up to you, but someone might desire to take a vendetta against you or repay your kindness by supporting you in shootouts.
This is just a small part of the adventure though, as exploration is heavily encouraged with tools like shovels coming in handy, upgradable arsenals to stay alive, and a giant world map where encounters within new sceneries are common! I could go on with how killed people stay dead or that you can meet previous heroes, but it should also be noted that the combat is exhilarating, with myriad firearms for diverse situations, cover mechanics, and skills that are unique to each protagonist like laying traps or charging opponents! With the overhead style, two helpful NPCs, and bullet time sweetening the deal, there is a ton to sink your teeth into in this bizarre west.
#5 TMNT: Shredder’s Revenge
You bet I was all over this game after the developers showcased their amazing capabilities with Streets of Rage 4. With plenty of beat’em ups already being classics, this latest instalment surpasses all of its previous entries with multiple moves, characters with defined stats, and even a super meter that you can fill up by either dealing damage or taunting the enemies! Furthermore, there is an insane amount of foes to take on, all being wonderful challenges to fight alone or with up to five other friends!
Not only this, but Shredder’s Revenge is simply a gorgeous nostalgic trip that contains various contraptions and a memorable cast where even April is a playable hero! All of this is coated in beautiful pixel art with an incredible soundtrack that even includes a legitimately great ninja rap! There is also worthwhile replay value with different tasks, minor RPG elements, and just the pure entertainment that solely beating up baddies can give!
#4 Shadow Warrior 3
After the terribly dull second instalment, I had no intention of returning to the Shadow Warrior series for their next one. However, after getting intrigued by the looks of it and ditching the bland multiplayer, I was astonished to find out that Flying Wild Hog took notes from Doom Eternal and made a twist on this setup to make it their own! This is a tense and frantic shooter where each upgradable weapon is unique and useful for different situations, with glory kills now offering special abilities for continuing the carnage like freezing opponents! Additionally enhancing the massacre is the number of choices on how to take on the monsters, such as grappling yourself to an enemy for quick sword attacks before using chi on others to push them into spiked walls.
Combine this with how shots are rewarded with health back and slashes of your katana with ammo, and you are encouraged to experiment with all the tools you got in each fight! It is all fantastic with diverse foes and beautiful gore, with the areas themselves having tons of set pieces that are useful for fast traversal like running on walls or swinging around. Even better is that these battles are broken up with enjoyable platforming that provides exploration and a humorous story that does not take itself too seriously. This entry is so amazing, that I am now actually excited about the possibility of a fourth one.
#3 A little to the Left
Puzzle games with simplistic ideas have become one of my biggest weaknesses due to how creative they can be, and this little indie project stole my heart with ease. Being all about organising various objects in a satisfying manner offers a lot of imaginative layouts, like putting books in a preferable order or cleaning up a kitchen cabinet. All have a logical solution that is only visually hinted at to give excellent challenges, with a cute furball occasionally making a mess for the fun of it.
Yet, what surprised me the most was how A Little to the Left taught me about the importance of different perspectives. This comes from how some of the missions have multiple solutions that are equally correct, requiring me to take in a new way of thinking. I cherish this, as it never comes off as one idea being more valid than the other ones, but just as valuable. With how all of this is coated in a presentation that is minimalistic and engrossing, it is the perfect title to make you calm and desire a cup of tea.
#2 Live A Live
What an insane rush! This is basically a compilation of short RPG stories that have each their own setting, gameplay quirks, and tone, with all of them being exhilarating! Be it sneaking through a Japanese castle as a shinobi, going hunting as a caveman, or running away from a giant monster on an alien spaceship, there is always something fresh to each scenario! This is also strengthened by its tile-based combat where everyone has unique abilities, such as the fighter from modern days learning new moves by having them inflicted on him!
However, this remake is also on this list because of its enhancements! You can actually see the active time bar for whose turn it will be or how long a power attack takes, making it more comprehensible! Furthermore, the overall presentation is outstanding, with incredible voice acting and dialogues that kinder to each’s diverse style, gorgeous renditions of already marvellous tracks, and visuals that are to die for! All of these come together to an ending that made me appreciate every single moment it offered. Triangle Strategy was certainly great too, but this is pure entertainment!
Perhaps it is a good thing that Breath of the Wild made me step away from its series, as it has helped me discover a lot of other entries that scratch my itch for a traditional action-adventure game. Yet, I had no idea how important Tunic would become to me, as it is just magnificent. You are never told where to go, but always subtly hinted at what you might want to investigate on in this mysterious land, forcing you to be clever with your exploration and tools with varied functions.
It is a beautiful journey that uses nostalgia in fantastic ways, to the point of including scattered pages of a manual to allude you to the secrets its world holds. You might find ways to upgrade your little fox, essential details about your dodging or even how items have multiple purposes. However, it also expects the player to learn from their observations and experimentations. Every monster, puzzle, and revelation has something to make them deep despite their simple setups, making me realise how tightly this indie project is structured. Through all of this, this title has not just become one of my favourites of this year, but is now sharing the spot with my favourite Zelda instalment.
I am incredibly thankful for all these outstanding games I have gotten to play through, though I would like to give honourable mentions to some other wonderful ones from this year; Return to Monkey Island, Railbound, High on life, Paradise Marsh, Kirby and the Forgotten Land, Grounded, Brok: The Investigator, Scorn, Bear and Breakfast, Sonic Frontier, Destroy All Humans 2: Reprobed, Fashion Police Squad, TinyKin and Forgive me, Father.
With this out of the way; happy 2023 everybody! I cannot way to see what it has to offer ❤