I’ve had trouble getting into games this year during my spare time, meaning the likes of God of War Ragnarok and Marvel’s Midnight Suns are sadly absent from my list, while indie gems Potionomics, Tinykin, and Neon White just miss out on a spot. 2022 has once again been wrought with high profile delays and disappointments, but a few absolute bangers and a healthy stream of smaller darlings have kept me enthralled even as the hobby threatens to pull itself away.
This list is a mixture of pure fun, undiluted feelings, and meaningful steps forward for the medium. I love experiences that make me question what games are capable of, pushing forward the concept of empathy we might have towards stories and characters while their mechanics not only reinforce these strengths, but actively redefine them. With that being said, let’s jump right into things.
10 – Rogue Legacy 2
I’ve always struggled with this genre. The Binding of Isaac has often proven too difficult, while Spelunky’s unrelenting mixture of mechanics and meta tactics make it impossible to get into as a newcomer. I’m into Hades more for the sexy characters and storytelling than the run-based combat and exploration. So it’s rare when a rogue-lite pushes my buttons. Rogue Legacy is different, and its long-awaited sequel only serves to deliver more of the good stuff. Every step forward feels like its own reward, fallen enemies dropping all manner of spoils as you burn through several generations of flawed heroes to reach your final destination. Heavy wears the gamer crown.
9 – Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Shredder’s Revenge
I was too young for turtle fever as a kid, and have never been enamoured with the franchise much. But Shredder’s Revenge doesn’t require that nostalgic connection for one to connect with its incredible combat, diverse range of characters, and killer soundtrack. This sits right next to Streets of Rage 4 and River City Girls as one of the finest brawlers of modern times.
8 – Cult of the Lamb
I’ve never been in a cult. I’m not ready for that kind of commitment. If I was though, what better deity to worship than an adorable little lamb who sees to our every whim. He’ll make us a steaming bowl of shit if we’re hungry, and even bury us in comfy yet shallow graves if we ever step out of line. Nobody will play Cult of the Lamb in quite the same way as their personality reflects on their leadership style. Some will spare followers while others punish them, relishing in their saccharinesweetness being torn limb from limb by forces beyond our comprehension. I loved giving them funny names and indulging in cannibalism.
7 – Xenoblade Chronicles 3
Xenoblade Chronicles 3 feels like the trilogy coming full circle. It has cute Welsh cat girls and far less weeaboo fanservice, while also managing to tell a compelling, unexpected story that brings ten years of world building. Sure it goes on a bit too long and has a few difficulty spikes, but its big emotional moments land like no other JRPG in recent memory, and that alone makes it essential. I just want Noah and Mio to grow up and have a very cute, very Welsh family together.
6 – Marvel Snap
Card games are for nerds! But little did I know that all this time I’ve been one of them. Marvel Snap does away with 99 percent of the bullshit that ruins the genre for casual players. No more booster packs. No more complicated mechanics. No matches that last forever and emphasis ranked play even for the casuals among us. Second Dinner has created a fast, satisfying, and unpredictable card game packed with so much depth. I hope others in the space take notice, because there is a very bright future ahead for games like this.
5 – Citizen Sleeper
I always try to do the right thing, and Citizen Sleeper questioned that personal philosophy more than most. A fading android aboard a troubled space station, I’ve been left for dead with no purpose in life except to survive. Even that ultimatum is questioned with my own lack of humanity. False memories and societal rejection make everything a lost cause, so I search for something to hold onto. I’m encouraged to escape, but with each disparate soul I meet and befriend, the reasons to make this place my home in spite of its many dangers keep on mounting up. I helped out struggling fathers, grew close with sassy barkeeps, and pieced together tragedies on the edge of space where grief is lost among the stars. When all was said and done, I left feeling human – the android body didn’t matter anymore.
4 – Signalis
There is an existential dread to Signalis that buries deep beneath your skin. Channelling a morbid mixture of Neon Genesis Evangelion and Elfen Lied, you play as an android with one goal – searching for the girl she loves most in a world surrendered to purgatory. With androids bound to servitude based on personalities of very real people, these machines begin to develop personalities, fall in love, and seek an escape. When a colony is left behind and the androids are without purpose, a virus falls upon them that turns many into raving zombies, while others try to escape. Tense, evocative, heartbreaking, and unpredictable – Signalis is everything modern survival horror should be.
3 – Butterfly Soup 2
Brianna Lei once again depicts a queer upbringing I wish I had as a teenager with her visual novel sequel, all while delving into familial problems and generational trauma that so many queer and immigrant millenials suffer from. I’ve always admired games that make me feel, or question my own place in this world and the person I want to be, even if it evokes bittersweet memories and past failures I’m yet to rectify. Butterfly Soup 2 nails that and so much more.
2 – Elden Ring
Few open world games make me stop and stare, pondering my next move amidst a place so vast that even one step forward can prove overwhelming. Elden Ring is a triumph in myriad ways, somehow taking the nuanced combat and world building of Dark Souls and combining it with a landscape that evolves what it means to explore a fictional environment. Even after dozens of hours combing The Lands Between, I’m still unearthing countless new secrets.
1 – I Was A Teenage Exocolonist
I’m not saying games are better if they make me cry a lot, but my tear count for I Was A Teenage Exocolonist was easily in the double digits. As a child raised in the first intergalactic human colony, you go from adolescence to adulthood making friends, falling in love, and finding the person you want to be in a small world doomed to repeat past mistakes if we don’t learn from them.
My first playthrough saw both my parents die as I became a timid scientist unwilling to question our draconian overlords, while my second had me joining the military ranks as I hoped to take down its dated systems from the inside. Each adventure is filled with new discoveries not just about this world and its wonderful characters, but yourself and how you’d react to love, loss, and hard decisions nobody should ever be forced to make. Despite taking us far beyond the stars and away from what we know, no game has felt more real this year.
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