As the calendar turns to the fourth quarter, we’re slowly heading towards Game of the Year season. It’s time to reflect on the games that made 2022 so special for gamers and left the strongest impact with their creativity, clever ideas and, above all, their fantastic gameplay.
While there are clear contenders for the crown now, the holiday season is the best time to announce these latest titles that could earn gaming’s highest honor. With games like Bayonetta 3, Pokémon Scarlet and Violet, God of War: Ragnarök and The Callisto Protocol still to arrive, the Game of the Year race could really heat up over the course of the year.
Whether it heats up or not, though, we’ve still got plenty of games that have a strong shot at winning Game of the Year honors from gamers and stores across the board. Here are just 10 of the biggest and best games of the year that you can expect to strike some gold.
Adoration of the Lamb
A massive title from the single-digit developer team at Massive Monster, Cult of the Lamb has quickly captivated gamers on a much larger scale than any of the team’s other titles. In it, you play as a possessed lamb who is rescued by a deity known as “He Who Waits”, who forces the lamb to create his own cult to pay off his debts.
Based heavily on the roguelike genre, Cult of the Lamb also offers sim management gameplay in one of the most unique spins on the formula yet. It’s almost like Cult of the Lamb is the Hades of 2022. another clever take on a genre that’s received a lot of games recently. Even Twinfinite’s Andrew McMahon called it “an easy front-runner for Game of the Year” in his review of the game.
The third entry in Roll7’s OlliOlli series, OlliOlli World is the franchise’s finest hour. a game that successfully takes out everything difficult 900 and polishes things to the highest degree. With more of a 2.5D feel than previous entries, the door has been opened for even more skating opportunities.
What helps with this is the fantastic level design. Adding to the crazy themes of the game, the levels are so full of life compared to its predecessors and the hidden paths lead to an even greater sense of inventiveness to explore with your play style. It’s a wonderfully relaxing period that lifts every twist it can to make it the best entry in the series.
In a year of surprising, refreshing indie favorites, Citizen Sleeper has carved its own lane as an exciting journey into the corporate space. The text-based game inspires a lot of choices, navigating the game’s beautiful story centered around a human in a robot body trying to survive a dangerous, wasteland world.
It’s a dark, cyberpunk journey that asks you how you would handle life in this dreary world. Conform and work yourself to death? Or do you do everything in your power to get out? It’s a clever game that elevates its simplistic yet satisfying mechanics with fantastic world-building and characters. An underrated gem, Citizen Sleeper is now available on Xbox Game Pass if you want to give it a try.
Back to monkey island
Nostalgia can be a tricky thing to navigate when making a video game. As much as you want to appeal to old-school players, you don’t want to embrace nostalgia so strongly that you alienate newer players looking to jump into the series for the first time. It’s a tough tightrope to walk, but Return to Monkey Island does it with grace.
The game captures the essence and love of old-school point-and-click adventure games to serve as a sleazy adventure, but also makes nice changes that make sense in the modern age. The puzzles are no longer as soft as they once were, and the easier difficulty options help players enjoy the lovingly crafted story while being able to appreciate what made the genre special in the first place. It’s a throwback with a lot of love in it, but it’s a throwback that remembers what year it is. As a result, it sits comfortably alongside the best point-and-click adventure titles.
Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Shredder’s Revenge
Speaking of nostalgia, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Shredder’s Revenge has quietly built a compelling argument as one of the best games of the year. Not feeling the need to reinvent the beat ’em up wheel, Shredder’s Revenge instead chooses to be a loving homage to the old-school stylings of the franchise’s classic titles from the 1980s and 1990s.
With incredibly varied and fast-paced gameplay, a gorgeous pixel-art style, and plenty of fun throwbacks to the 1987 Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles series, Shredder’s Revenge hits all the right nostalgic notes. Like Monkey Island, however, it remembers what year it is and brings back that nostalgic style with more than enough modern touches to make for a satisfying return.
Looks like nostalgia was a big item on that list right now. Let’s talk about a game that sticks much harder to its old roots, though: Tunic. Borrowing heavily from the old-school game styles of The Legend of Zelda series, Tunic immerses its Dark Souls-like gameplay in a colorful world with a cartoon fox, forcing you to collect pieces of a manual to make sense of your next goal.
It’s a combination that really works, offering a classic-feeling gaming experience without diving too deep into old elements. It rewards a sense of discovery and its emphasis on exploration makes for a fantastic adventure worth living.
Horizon Forbidden West
Even with plenty of indie favorites making up the top contenders, that doesn’t mean AAA titles haven’t delivered the goods. Sony’s Horizon Forbidden West is a gem in the publisher’s high-quality catalog and a huge improvement over an already fantastic game.
Taking the fresh and inventive formula introduced in 2017’s Horizon Zero Dawn, Forbidden West offers another emotional story, even bigger combat, more stunning visuals and another masterclass in open-world gameplay. It expands on everything the first game did, but remembers that “bigger” doesn’t immediately mean “better” and improves on the original in almost every way. It’s another one of Sony’s best titles and would probably take the cake among open world games if another huge title hadn’t been released in the same week.
One of the most amazing (and underrated) games of the year, Neon White is a fresh new journey from original developer Angel Matrix. It’s an incredibly clever take on the ever-popular first-person shooter genre with a card-based system and great puzzle-platforming gameplay.
Even beyond the exciting parkour, anime aesthetic and wacky card combat, Neon White is purposefully designed for frantic speedrun-based gameplay that encourages you to complete levels as quickly as possible. It creates such an addictive gameplay loop that it turns it into one of the most amazing titles of the year. Hopefully it will be released on other platforms sooner rather than later.
Xenoblade Chronicles 3
There was a time when I felt like the original Xenoblade Chronicles was reaching a point where it would never be topped. It was such a crowning achievement that I felt no sequel would ever come close to its level. And then comes Xenoblade Chronicles 3 this year and has everyone rethinking that ideology.
Beyond the compelling story and beautiful visuals, the latest Xenoblade adventure makes significant improvements to the combat while providing plenty of content to keep you coming back for more. It’s by far one of the best Switch games available right now, and a masterpiece among Monolith Soft’s incredible library of titles. The franchise has come a long way and it’s great to see it finally take off after starting out as just a cult Wii game that took a fan campaign called Operation Rainfall to get it noticed.
You didn’t think we’d make it through the entire list without mentioning Elden Ring, did you? I mean, it’s pretty much the de facto “champion” among games here, and it may have already locked up a huge number of Game of the Year awards. Heck, given that Geoff Keighley has linked the Elden Ring to his brand enough with appearances on his shows, it might be the easiest choice for Game of the Year at The Game Awards 2022.
The truth, though, is that even when you put the hype aside, Elden Ring is a very special game. It manages to take the lessons learned from FromSoftware’s previous titles while creating a compelling open world that few games can match. It’s a testament to FromSoftware’s excellent library that a game as critically acclaimed as this might not even be considered the best to some (hello, Bloodborne). Even so, it’s another amazing RPG from a company that just can’t stop raising the bar, no matter how hard they try.
This is a small taste of some of the best games of 2022. We know there are more than a few other titles that sit alongside these 10, so what are some of your favorite games of 2022? Let us know in the comments!