Well it’s happened again. GOTY 2022 is here, meaning another year of video games is over, and it’s been a wild one. Whether you enjoy AAA open world epics or indie platformers, there’s likely been plenty to keep you busy for the last twelve months. I’ve definitely not had a lot of time to breathe between releases this time around, and not just because the bossman rains review codes down on me like rice at a wedding.
I do think this year I’ve managed to keep up with the big releases better than ever. Of course there have been games I’ve missed though. It’s with regret that I say goodbye to 2022 with Pentiment and Citizen Sleeper downloaded but untouched, and please don’t mention Xenoblade Chronicles 3. It’s hard to feel too down though when you’ve spent countless hours playing the best of the best, so I guess we should get talking about those wondrous titles and give them the respect they deserve.
GOTY 2022: Honourable Mentions
Jack Move: I couldn’t write a GOTY 2022 list without giving a shoutout to the game that took everything I love about classic JRPGs and rolled it up into a snappy six hour package. If you love the genre but don’t have the time you used to, then this cyberpunk adventure is the perfect way to jump back into a world of turn-based battles. Hell it’s worth playing Jack Move for the funky electronic soundtrack alone!
The Quarry: Ever since Until Dawn, I’ve been desperate for Supermassive Games to create another schlocky teen horror game that recaptured that magic. With The Quarry they did just that, and in a year of epic storylines this morish B movie plot was instantly refreshing. There are very few games I played through more than once this year, but I just couldn’t stop myself from going back to summer camp one more time and seeing how much the story changed by making different choices.
10. Hell Pie
2022 was a great year for fans of the 3D platformer, and for me this all started with Hell Pie. There has never been another game in the genre with as satisfying movement as here, and that’s because of the grappling hook mechanic. By swinging off your angelic companion Nugget you can reach all sorts of heights, and once you’ve grabbed a few upgrades you’ll barely touch the floor. Alongside some incredibly inventive levels and a whole lot of crude humour, Hell Pie stood out from the pack and gave me a platforming experience I’m not likely to forget any time soon, and is a worth number 10 on my GOTY 2022 list.
GOTY 2022 #9. Triangle Strategy
I’ve loved tactics games ever since gorging on Final Fantasy Tactics Advance as a wee nipper, and Triangle Strategy has pretty much everything I’d want from one of these strategic experiences. The combat is polished to perfection, with each member of your party equipped with a selection of unique abilities. It also features one of my favourite stories of the year. The fantasy setting of Norzelia is made up of three factions who live in constant turmoil, and the twists and turns of their conflict is reminiscent of something like Game of Thrones. If you fancy placing something strategic before the big releases start next year then there’s not a single game I’d recommend more.
8. Ghost Song
It’s fair to say that this year was dominated by Elden Ring discussion, and I’ll admit I felt a bit left out. Until Ghost Song came along I just never clicked with the Soulslike genre, but by mixing in a hefty dose of Metroid this game stole my heart. The lonely alien world is a beautiful and oppressive setting, packed full of genuinely terrifying enemies. Fighting back these horrific monsters requires a lot of effort, but with a blend of melee combat and gunplay you might just survive long enough to meet some of the charming (if a little unusual) NPCs. Ghost Song is a game that isn’t for the faint of heart, but your bravery and skills will be rewarded with a wonderful out of this world experience.
7. Cult of the Lamb
What do you get when you blend Animal Crossing and Hades with a sinister cult theme? You get Cult of the Lamb of course. As the titular adorable lamb it’s your job to manage your flock by building them beds, cooking them food and cleaning up their poop, all between going out into the wilderness on roguelike runs. The way the two gameplay types blend together is just fantastic, with materials you collect in the dungeons used to improve your home base and combat upgrades unlocked using your followers’ loyalty. The cult theme isn’t just for show either, with plenty of doctrines to pick from that will change up how your followers are controlled. Whether you want to lock anyone who doubts you in the stocks or make conditions nice enough that nobody wants to leave, you’ll have a great time leading all the gullible animals to worship you.
GOTY 2022 #6. Arcade Spirits: The New Challengers
In a world that often feels full of hate and intolerance, the pure positivity of a game like Arcade Spirits: The New Challengers just fills me with happiness. This incredibly inclusive visual novel is set in an alternate reality where the arcade crash never happened, and tells the story of your custom character’s journey to eSports stardom. It soon becomes apparent that our protagonist’s self worth is tied almost entirely to how well they perform in the competitive game they play, and this toxic relationship will probably be somewhat relatable. Fortunately the gaming buddies you meet along the way are there to help, with the opportunity for romance if you want it or friendship for all my fellow aces. Other visual novels just can’t compare with the charm and positivity of Arcade Spirits: The New Challengers, and it really brightened my year.
5. Shovel Knight Dig
More than any other game I played this year, the more Shovel Knight Dig I played the more I enjoyed it. Well after my review went live, I just kept playing this relatively simple but incredibly morish roguelike. Combining that sensational Shovel Knight platforming with one of my favourite genres just really worked for me, and for the first time since the original Spelunky I even managed to see the true ending of a roguelike. What’s so special about Shovel Knight Dig is how accessible they make this often impenetrable genre. The items you collect have simple but powerful effects, and you’ll always be told exactly what they do. Without fail, any time I had half an hour to spare this year I started a run of Shovel Knight Dig and had an absolute blast digging away.
4. Cuphead – The Delicious Last Course
When Cuphead released in 2017 it immediately became one of my favourite games of all time. I devoured every minute of that boss rushing masterpiece, and have been waiting for more Cuphead and Mugman ever since. Finally in June The Delicious Last Course came along, and it brought with it the best Cuphead content so far. The extra island was full of exquisite new boss fights to master, and the addition of Ms. Chalice made for a new way to play even the original game thanks to her unique parrying powers. I didn’t expect this DLC to surpass this original game, but in every way other than total playtime it absolutely does.
3. Neon White
It’s rare for a first person shooter to place particularly highly on the lists I write, but Neon White isn’t like other first person shooters. With tiny stages that have an emphasis on speed running, you have to kill all the demons before reaching the goal by using weapons that are also cards. The way in which the developers make speed running feel accessible is just magical, with unlockable ghosts and shortcut reveals on every level to help you to get the best time possible. When you aren’t running and gunning through levels you can talk to your Neon peers about why you’re stuck in heaven working for asshole angels, and try to uncover all the secrets of this corrupt afterlife. Oh, and the soundtrack is absolutely banging too! Neon White is the total package, and any other year it could’ve made it to the top spot on this list.
GOTY 2022 #2. Tinykin
The king of cosy gaming this year is without a doubt Tinykin. As a little 2d spaceman shrunken down in a normal home, it’s up to you to use the little critters called Tinykin to help you explore each of the sprawling rooms for machine parts. So many other 3d platformers have overwhelming stages to explore, but the real world home setting means you can almost always see every bit of the level regardless of where you stand. It feels so satisfying to climb up each item of furniture one at a time collecting shiny shit, and it’s made even better thanks to your soap skateboard and the abilities of the Tinykin. The titular creatures can be used to carry items around, blow up walls, and even make handy ladders to get around easier. I’m not sure I’d have realised that the combination of Pikmin and platforming would be such a delight, but I collected every collectable morsel in this game and would do it all again in a heartbeat.
1. Chained Echoes
Going into December I thought I had my game of the year list all figured out, then Chained Echoes came along and flipped it upside down. Developer Matthias Linda has created an almost flawless turn based RPG, with constantly evolving combat, wonderful environments you’re incentivised to explore and an epic story full of drama and betrayal. Perhaps the thing that makes Chained Echoes most special though is the pacing. From your brisk movement speed to how quickly every ability is performed in battle, this game knows your time is precious and doesn’t waste a second of it. It never feels like you’re grinding away when fighting enemies either, because every single fight starts with fully healed characters ready to unleash all their best moves and because of that the enemies never have to let up. In a year in which I finally completed Persona 5 Royal for the first time, Chained Echoes was easily the best RPG I played. It’s a shame it released too late in the year to snatch up many GOTY 2022 awards, because as far as I’m concerned it’s far and away the best game that came out this year.