2022 was a pretty grand year for games with plenty of big-budget heavy hitters and even more absurdly ambitious and creative indies. Here are Darcy’s top picks of the year.
10. Kirby and the Forgotten Land
The plethora of Yoshi/Kirby + material games have never managed to hold my attention but Kirby’s 2022 escapade changed all of that. This game is now definitely in the conversation of the best-looking games on Switch and features platforming that has more in common with a 3D Mario game than previous Yoshi or Kirby adventures.
A surprisingly robust soundtrack (seriously listen to this banger), a simple but fun town-building mechanic, and an extensive end-game make this a must-play for Switch owners.
9. Vampire Survivors
So simple you’d be forgiven for thinking it was a throwaway mobile game. Vampire Survivors’ basic, somewhat ugly exterior hides a deep progression system, chaotic action, and enticing secrets. A standard run lasts about 30 minutes, so it never demands too much of your time, although leaving it at one run per session is easier said than done.
Silly, rewarding, and addictive, it’s the perfect companion to all the heavy-duty 50+ hour games on this list.
8. Xenoblade Chronicles 3
A course correction for the Xenoblade series that I couldn’t be more relieved about. The annoying gacha mechanics and dodgy character designs of 2 are significantly pared back and the script is far more grounded. Xenoblade is known for its amazing cutscenes and rewarding exploration and this third entry brings its a game with both. Probably one of the best soundtracks of the year too.
The latter third really brings the whole experience down as it rushes towards its climax, but the cast and their journey more than make it worthy of this list.
7. Chained Echoes
An extremely late entry to the list, with the game only having just released on December 8th, but it has very quickly earned its place here. A throwback to SNES JRPGs with gorgeous art, a surprising story, and engaging combat, Chained Echoes has seemingly come out of nowhere to remind the industry there’s still more room for innovation in the genre.
A 30-40 hour JRPG that stays engaging the whole way through.
6. Citizen Sleeper
A game whose world lives an expansive life mostly in your mind. Simple graphics and dice roll gameplay belie a rich sci-fi adventure with evocative writing, believable characters, and a huge heart.
Part visual novel, part roleplaying board game, Citizen Sleeper is Cyberpunk done right.
Tunic is a solid isometric platformer with a great soundtrack that scratches the same itch that 2D Zelda games do. The visual aesthetic is gorgeous and the combat is challenging with some relatively forgiving Souls elements to keep you on your toes.
What elevates Tunic quite so high on this list however is its very meta manual mechanic. The less said about it the better, but rest assured it turns this homage into a masterpiece.
4. God of War Ragnarok
The game is obviously fantastic, and yet shortly after completing it and writing up my review, Ragnarok has almost entirely left my brain. It’s jam-packed with new stories, characters, realms, combat mechanics, and more, and yet at its core, it feels like more of the same.
The graphics are out of this world and the performances are some of the best in the industry, but it seems almost undeniable that its cultural impact isn’t anywhere near that of God of War 2018.
Bold, genre-defying work from one of the most interesting indie studios out there. Scoring a 10/10 in my review, IMMORTALITY features incredible costumes and set design, an absurd commitment to the various time periods it depicts, and some phenomenal performances.
By spooling through clips of three mysterious, never-released films, you slowly piece together what happened to Marissa Marcel. There’s more to this game than it first seems; the first time a certain character appeared I felt like I’d been dumped in cold water.
An utterly unique Southern Gothic point-and-click adventure whose confidence in its setting, themes, and aesthetic oozes out of every aspect of its design. Your brother Blake has gone missing in the aftermath of your mother’s death and you must explore abandoned malls, a refinery guarded by robots, and the bayous to uncover the shocking truth.
Norco is one of those rare, ambitious games that seeks (and succeeds) to elevate the medium.
1. Elden Ring
What more can one say about Elden Ring? It’s the culmination of the design philosophy that put FromSoftware on the map. Elden Ring offers a totally engrossing world with a near-endless supply of challenge, exploration, wonder, and despair. It’s not often that a game renders me speechless, and Elden Ring did so several times.
Stumbling across a stone elevator in a forest and descending for minutes into an enormous cavern lit with stars. Opening a chest and being teleported to some hellish place filled with horrible monsters. Looking at the map in disbelief every time I gained a new fragment wondering how much bigger this game could possibly get.
Elden Ring is an intoxicating, unforgettable experience.
While they may lack that extra special something, these games are all phenomenal and well worth checking out.
You are cat. Scratch things, meow, balance. Good game.
Live A Live
SNES-era JRPGs are like wrapping up with a warm blanket and some buttery raisin toast on a rainy day and Live A Live delivers exactly that but with dressed-up modern visuals.
Another great indie game in a year of great indie games. Card Shark delivers satisfying, deceptively simple gameplay that makes you feel like a genius.
Like Banjo-Kazooie meets Pikmin. One of the biggest surprises of the year; a modern 3D platformer collectathon that any fan of the genre owes it to themselves to check out.
Old school survival horror meets Neon Genesis Evangelion.