Writing a GOTY 2022 list this year has been pretty easy for me. There have been a few that entered my list and fell away pretty quickly, but I feel like there has been such a tremendous mix of new, old, original, and clever games this year that it’s been harder to pick the games that miss out on a top ten, than the ones that actually get included. Last year I found solace in engaging experiences that played on old ideas, but also titles that were seriously long-awaited on my behalf. And while I didn’t get a new Mario or Zelda this year, I do think it’s been a cracker, and that when the big hitters slowed down, the indies picked up the slack.
On a personal note, it’s been a pretty tough year. A family health issue has meant that, frankly, games have been (as I said last year) a major respite, and it’s made me appreciate them more than ever. There are times where I’ve had to switch off and forget everything, not because I wanted to, but because I needed to. On that note, for those who’ve been there for me: thank you. I hope I never have to repay the favour, but I would do so in a second if needed.
GOTY 2022 Honourable mentions
Rainbow Six Extraction gave me the most enjoyable co-op shooting I’ve had in a long while, and kept me busy during the earliest and quietest start to the year. It’s under-rated, under-appreciated, and more people should play it: but only with like-minded friends.
Triangle Strategy should be on the list. It should be on everyone’s list, but it’s been such a good year it just didn’t make it. A gorgeous, great sounding, amazingly deep RPG that has some clever, cool ideas. Play it, for fuck sake.
Fire Emblem Warriors: Three Hopes got me playing a musou to completion. I hate that genre. Maybe I don’t any more? What a game.
Kirby and the Forgotten Land got me playing a Kirby game to completion. It was the first step on a ladder to madness this year. See above. Nintendo made the first good Kirby game. Amazing.
Splatoon 3 is the culmination of everything the series has learned so far, honed to feel like the ultimate version. What a great game, and a fun time this is, with so little barrier to entry.
I’m starting to think developer Drinkbox has signed some kind of deal with the Devil. To switch from the MetroidVania infused Beat ’em up series Guacamelee! to Nobody Saves the World would be, to most creative types, the thing of dreams; but crucially, financially terrifying. To go from a sure bet, to a different genre, shows courage and desire to make the game the team wants to make. Masters of art and audio, Drinkbox made a loot-based dungeon crawling RPG that incorporated co-op, lasted the exact right length, and was a magnificent example of design. Despite starting this pre-release in December of 2021, this is the game I started my list with for 2022, and the game that’s been there the longest. Any time I felt like it might drop out, I couldn’t do it.
9. Neon White
When it came to gaming this year, and indeed my GOTY 2022 list, I feel like I’ve definitely veered towards some big games, but also some bite-sized experiences that remind me of my arcade-based youth. Neon White nails speed-running for both actual speed-runners, but also for people who would never even consider trying it out. Sprinkle in a Persona-style JRPG story and character roster, and you’ve got a mega-responsive first-person platformer that makes Mirror’s Edge look like it’s never heard of parkour.
Despite feeling too long, Requiem is the right kind of sequel. One that learns, expands, and delivers on the story. Amicia and Hugo’s story may come to something of an end in Requiem, but there’s no doubt for me that developer Asobo has a franchise here that’s going to run for many years. Some of the best voice work and music of 2022 is in A Plague Tale: Requiem, and while there are moments of combat that the engine can’t quite support, if this wrapped up earlier, it’d also be higher on the list.
GOTY 2022 #7. Tinykin
A warm hug of a game. Moreish, frictionless; a joy to play from the moment you’re handed control until the end. When the largest complaint you have with a game is “maybe I would play more levels if you gave me them”, you know you’re onto a good thing. This is a game you’d swear was developed by Nintendo if you saw it or played it, but marrying so many great ideas together makes for a truly special experience that, sure, you might plough through in under a week, but you’ll remember it for a good long while.
There’s a reason why on this list, Xenoblade Chronicles 3 is one of the few to not be accompanied by a video review. That’s because I had COVID-19 in the middle of reviewing it. Despite having well over a month, even then I struggled to finish this monster of a game at around 65 hours. By the time it was done, I was a spent force, and there are parts of it that are a blur due to the virus, yet it sticks with me as a title that has so much warmth and heart to it. Even as someone who never finished the previous titles, this is just a magnificent RPG, and one of the most mechanically dense games I’ve ever played. Superb.
It’s been too long since I fell for a Pokemon game like I did with Arceus. A reminder of all of the ideas that made me fall for Pokemon in the first place, Legends: Arceus feels like someone finally took a look at the series and asked “How could we make it better?” and then actually went and did it. No barriers block you from exploring, catching them all, and everything feels interesting again. The simple tried and tested action of catching a pocket monster is properly fun for the very first time. Please, Pokemon Company, take notes from this: because this is the direction you need to be going in.
GOTY 2022 #4. Horizon Forbidden West
I respect anyone who thinks that Horizon Forbidden West is a bit long, but it felt a bit like how Assassin’s Creed 2 did to the original game for me. Honed ideas, with cool stuff thrown on top, perfected combat, and a massively improved melee option just made it impossible to put this one down. Aloy and her world is so fascinating to me, and the addition of things like the glider and other late game things I won’t spoil here make this feel like a developer standing proudly and saying “told you we could do it”. One of the most gorgeous open worlds I’ve ever played, roll on that DLC.
If you’d told me a Marvel game would be hitting the third spot in my top ten of an entire year, I’d have said “it’s probably made by a really ace developer though, right?” and indeed, Firaxis is what makes Midnight Suns so good. The tactics and card-based content takes care of itself thanks to the pedigree of the developer, but the “Abbey” based RPG stuff is the closest I’ve played to a BioWare relationship-based game since, well, Mass Effect 2 and 3. When I finally finished Midnight Suns I had some issues with the closing story beats, but it’s a testament to everything else that I considered going back in to max relationships out, and just keep doing additional missions. I can’t wait for the DLC characters, and it won’t be getting uninstalled any time soon.
2. Elden Ring
I know… I know. I’m well aware that Elden Ring will likely top most of the GOTY 2022 lists on the site, and I won’t even argue against it that hard on the podcast (I will, this is a lie). It’s a beautiful, rich world that feels like a culmination of all of the Souls-like games FromSoft has developed over the years. There are some bosses that will go down in legend as utter horse-shit (Fire Giant, and the dude on the horse who we cheesed), but that’s just that developer, isn’t it? I recognise issues or asset reuse, I accept that the sense of discovery is largely cribbed from Breath of the Wild and even slows down a bit after the first area, but… what a game this is. If FromSoft had put out single player DLC this year, I’d have topped 100 hours in the world of Elden Ring. A true masterpiece, and it doesn’t surprise me one bit that developer is seemingly letting it rest a bit, and moving to Armored Core instead.
The least surprising entry on the list, probably. After everything I said about it in 2018, the only shock to me is how good this ended up being. With emotive moments that left me borderline broken, Ragnarok did was the previous title did: for a while it left me unable to get back into anything else. I tried to just “keep playing it” but I wanted more and more. The story is one of the best I’ve seen in a game, with a redemption ark unlike anything that’s come before it, with moment after moment of well told, brilliant story beats.
But it’s the character development. The relationship between father and son: the moment a small child becomes someone you trust to have your back. Everything about God of War Ragnarok made me feel like the developer knew exactly what it was doing. This is another masterpiece of production, direction, writing, world building, design… I could lament the brilliance for a long time. It’s number one with a bullet, and I honestly think the only thing that could have prevented it from topping my list is if we got Tears of the Kingdom this year. Foreshadowing next year’s GOTY? We’ll see.
If you’ve made it this far and read my entire GOTY 2022 list, well done. I just wanted to add a small note of thanks on the last piece of content on the site for 2022. I cannot express how much gratitude I have to the people who support us via Patreon, a Twitter share, or just the odd watch, read, or listen. You’ve changed my life in a way I never thought imaginable. Thanks for being a friend of the site, however you interact with it.