Wow, it’s the end of 2022 already? Maybe this is always the case, but the first half of the year felt so slow, it felt like this year would never end.. However, once August rolled around, I swear I blinked and it was December. Where’d the time go? Anyway, in these last 12 months, despite worrying that I haven’t played enough AAA games or underrated indies out there, I got to experience some excellent games worth checking out. From emotional narrative adventures to dope extreme sports simulators, this year was filled with games that captured my attention and held it long after the credits rolled.
So, with that, here are my top nine games of 2022:
Elden Ring, FromSoftware’s magnum opus that catapulted the studio to mainstream stardom and critical acclaim. The game that won the Japanese developer a Game of the Year trophy at this year’s Keighley Awards ceremony. The project that captivated players and streamers the world over, and one I can’t stop thinking about despite not finishing it after over 100 hours exploring Limgrave and the surrounding regions. This is a difficult game, one hellbent on kicking your ass back to the nearest Site of Grace without batting an eye. But even though there’s frustration that comes with the defeat, there are no real limitations in the game on how you can tackle any given challenge. Getting stomped by the Tree Sentinel in the fields of Limegrave? You can discover totally new mysteries, level up, and come back later. Worried about the Starscourge Radahn fight? Don’t be because it’s not even required to beat the game. Hell, there are entire areas, like the Inverted Carion Study Hall hidden within Liurnia of the Lakes or the Deeprooth Depths guarded by two Gargoyles, you can stumble upon by hopping on your trusty stead Torrent and just going.
Elden Ring is full of optional journeying like this. It’s the rare open-world game that, like The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild before it, truly gives you the freedom to explore when something becomes too challenging or tedious. It goes beyond the”you can go there” ideology games continually aspire to, and takes it a step further: places you never imagined reaching, places you couldn’t even perceive at first, were actually discoverable all along. 2022 was the Year of Elden Ring, and I believe this game will influence others to come.
Now here was a surprise. Flying Wild Hog, the studio behind the bonkers Shadow Warrior reboot and the excellent Trek to Yomi, came out fists swinging and guns slinging with an alternate reality Western shooter combining the best elements of Devil May Cry and The Order: 1886 into a solid vampire-hunting package. Evil West is definitely a throwback to PS2-era action games, but don’t take that as a dig against its design philosophy. It’s pretty much all action and no brakes as protagonist Jesse Rentier rips and tears his way through one monstrosity after the next with some of the crunchiest and most satisfying combat I’ve played in a minute. The story might be throwaway fluff about a disgruntled father and an even-more-disgruntled son trying to keep their monster-slaying business afloat in the midst of worldwide turmoil, but despite the game’s predictable narrative, Evil West is one helluva rootin’-tootin’-shootin’ time.
Perfect Tides, a point-and-click adventure by graphic artist and indie developer Meredith Gran, is a sleeper hit. A story about a teenager going through the throes of adolescence and heartbreak, this game crushed me at launch. That’s a positive thing since it’s an experience that’s stuck with me long after I rolled the credits. Its writing is earnest and relatable, its characterization is believable and honest, and its narrative is affecting and intimate especially for ‘90s kids who grew up with the then-nascent internet. Meredith has a captivating way of transporting you to protagonist Mara Whitefish’s remote island of Perfect Tides, an idyllic archipelago surrounded by sands and water, a perfect summery resort with fuck-all to do. Although it’s an entirely fictional setting, the familiarity of the residents and the situations everyone finds themselves in are plausible—almost as if Meredith has lived my exact life. Don’t miss out on this one.
If you know anything about me, then you know a skateboarding game has to make my end-of-the-year list. There weren’t too many that dropped in 2022 and while Crea-ture Studios’ Session: Skate Sim has technically been out since 2019, the hardcore skateboarding game left its long early access period this past September with a complete (albeit simplistic) narrative, experimental gameplay elements (like physics sliders to fine-tune game feel), and playable pro shredders from the enigmatic Ribsman to the stylish Nora Vasconcellos. It’s hard to master but fun to play, embodying the best elements skateboarding has to offer while filling the void EA’s Skate franchise has left. Skate is coming back (at some point here, I promise), but until that day comes, Session is one of the best skateboarding sims available right now.
Skateboarding and snowboarding kinda-sorta go hand-in-hand. My thinking has always been: if you can skate, you can snowboard. And while the activities are a bit different, the muscle memory between them is about the same, which is why I enjoyed FoamPunch’s Shredders so damn much. A modern take on arcade-y snowboarders like 1080 and SSX, Shredders is to the snowboarding genre what EA’s Skate was to skateboarding games. Basically, it’s a hardcore extreme sports sim that prioritizes precision board control over huge tricks—and it rules! Sure, the voice acting’s pretty wack and the narrative is bereft of depth, but the writing is goofy and the gameplay is fluid and honestly, those two aspects are all that matters in a snowboarding game. And once you do get the hang of the game’s controls, Shredders does give you plenty of opportunities to catch some serious air and carve down the slopes at breakneck speeds. It’s a dope snowboarder that’s made all the more fun with a buddy.
Roguelikes get on my nerves. Dying and losing all progression doesn’t give me any sense of pride and accomplishment, no matter the lessons I take away from said death. But Sloclap’s Sifu clicked with me in a way most other roguelikes haven’t before. A martial arts brawler about a student enacting revenge on his master’s killers, Sifu is the kind of game that combines a sparse narrative, tight controls, and roguelike design with brutal combat to create a captivating experience that can be completed in roughly 20 minutes (if you’re good) or about 20 hours (if you’re exploring everything). It’s got some problematic elements, especially concerning cultural appropriation, but I appreciate the depth and complexity of the game’s mechanics. Sloclap are masters of martial arts games, and Sifu is another shining example of its pedigree.
The Super Smash Bros. series has been near-and-dear to my heart ever since It was first introduced in 1999. A mash-up brawler featuring iconic Nintendo characters and mascots that’s since gone on to include third-party IP like Metal Gear Solid and Tekken, Super Smash Bros. Ultimate is the final culmination of the franchise’s entire history. “Everyone is here” was the tagline Nintendo used when marketing the latest entry, and it couldn’t be more apt. More than that, though, Ultimate takes everything the series has done up to this point and refines it all to make a challenging yet satisfying fighter casuals and pros can enjoy. This game is one of the few I repeatedly return to, either through actually playing the game or watching any of the myriad Video Game Boot Camp tournaments that run. It’s called “ultimate” for a reason, and I can’t get enough.
Beat-’em-ups can occasionally be mindless affairs. In their worst forms, they are button-mashy romps that lack depth and variety. Nothing more than junk food in video game form. That’s not true of Tribute Games’ TMNT: Shredder’s Revenge. A side-scrolling brawler starring the titular turtles and friends—April O’Neil, Master Splinter, and the vigilante Casey Jones—Shredder’s Revenge is a fun and enjoyable experience. There are unlockable combos for each character, some challenging boss fights that require dexterity and skill, and a host of stages harkening back to TMNT’s past games like Konami’s 1991 entry, Turtles In Time. Plus there’s couch co-op, a facet of game design that’s slowly dying with the advent of always-online games. Shredder’s Revenge is relatively short, taking all of maybe three hours to beat if you’re rushing, but there’s enough depth and variety here to extend that upwards of 18 hours. It’s the kind of game you can enjoy by yourself but made better with a buddy in tow.
We Are OFK, an interactive narrative music video by Team OFK about a group of “super gay” L.A. friends, hit me like a truck. I mean, fuck…this game made me tear up on several occasions, whether it was the lyrics in the songs that played at the end of each episode or the character interactions between the four protagonists. While the structure of the game is a bit weird—it’s one part point-and-click adventure, another part playable album—the storytelling and themes of We Are OFK are gut-wrenchingly relatable. From the desire to live your authentic truth under the crushing weight of capitalism to maintaining friendships while chasing after your creative aspirations, We Are OFK asks you to sit with the protagonists as they figure their shit out—just like we all are. This is a game that demands attention and requires patience, especially after completing each roughly one-hour episode. There’s a lot to chew on with this one.
That’s a wrap. Another year has ended and while 2022 saw some big disappointments and huge delays, there were still plenty of stellar games worth playing. 2023 is looking stacked, though, so I’m stoked to see what the next year has in store. Thank you, dear readers, for another solid year at Kotaku.
See y’all in 2023.