9. As Dusk Falls
7. V Rising
6. Bear & Breakfast
5. Vampire Survivors
4. PowerWash Simulator
3. Dome Keeper
1. Citizen Sleeper
Tactics Ogre: Reborn
Tiny Tina’s Wonderlands
10. Vampire Survivors
9. Rogue Legacy 2
8. V Rising
7. Escape Academy
6. Elden Ring
5. Cult of the Lamb
3. Marvel Snap
2. God of War Ragnarök
1. Neon White
3. Outer Wilds
2. Super Hot
1. Ghost of Tsushima
4. Splatoon 3
3. Dragon Quest: Treasures
2. Kirby & the Forgotten Land
1. Trombone Champ
4. Saints Row
3. We Were Here Forever
2. Return to Monkey Island
1. Touken Ranbu Musou
5. Citizen Sleeper
4. Against the Storm
3. Stanley Parable: Ultra Deluxe
1. Hardspace: Shipbreaker
Last Call BBS
Kingdom of the Dead
5. Expeditions: Rome
4. Steam Deck & GeForce Now
1. Elden Ring
5. Mini Motorways
4. Vampire Survivors
3. Pokémon Legends: Arceus
2. Little Noah: Scion of Paradise
1. Gaming with Kids: Myst
Walkabout Minigolf DLCs: Labyrinth & Myst
10. ANNO: Mutationem
ANNO: Mutationem is a game I barely scratched the surface on, but boy am I clamoring to dig back in. With wildly compelling platforming/side-scrolling combat mechanics overlayed on top of a more narrative, exploration focused, cyberpunk noir adventure, this is a game with wide mechanics. What makes it exceptional is that, despite how wide a net it casts, the mechanics are deep and satisfying.
Look, you get to play as a cat. Need I say more?
Yeah, okay. Stray is an innovative adventure game and one of the few video games where the protagonist literally has no idea what they are doing and accomplishing. Moving through the post-human world as a cat was an absolute delight, and for a game focused on a cat and featuring mostly robots, it was a pleasant surprise at just how human it felt.
8. Tiny Folks
Vampire Survivors will (rightfully) get a lot of attention this year as a the sleeper indie that came out of nowhere, but for my money Tiny Folks deserves to be in that conversation. Elegant mechanics combined with a runtime that doesn't overstay its welcome and smartly designed gameboy-esque graphics make this one of the most charming titles of the year.
The fact that Rollerdrome hooked me so hard is a huge testament to the game—this is not a genre I traditionally respond to. I still boot it up from time to time because it does such an excellent job making the player feel incredibly cool. The character designs are epic, and underneath all the flashy style is a surprising amount of thematic substance.
6. Gordian Quest
Gordian Quest is an EA success story and easily one of the best card-based RPGs out there. The game features a meaty campaign, seemingly endless party variation and character build combos, and an absolute treasure trove of cool mechanics, interesting mini-games that add rather than detract, and an appealing visual style.
5. The Excavation of Hob's Barrow
Adventure games are rad, but it is a genre that can sometimes inadvertently show its age as it transitions from what it was to what it could be. Hob's Barrow is an exciting peak at the potential of adventure games. With a crackerjack team of voice artists and a unique story, it effortlessly reinvents the genre and sets an incredible standard.
Pentiment is such a specific game, quite simply there is nothing else quite like it. If I squint, I could see how it is derived from Obsidian's RPG lineage or has a foot in Night in the Woods, but it’s so wholly singular in its vision that it’s near impossible to compare it. Pentiment is a great example of a title that just nails everything it sets out to do. The visuals, the writing, and storytelling, and the cohesion of the whole game is breathtaking.
3. Tactics Ogre: Reborn
My end of 2022 superstar, Tactics Ogre ate my life. It is hard to believe this is an old game, given how expertly tuned the mechanics are and how innovative the combat feels. I love the way Tactics Ogre reimagines the battlefield experience, making fights feel like hard fought tugs of war with uncertain victory even in the midst of them. A rare turn-based game that captures the chaotic feel of battle, the only thing I can ding it on is that it doesn't include a "classic" mode for those that wanted the nostalgia injected directly into their veins.
2. Elden Ring
Lots of ink has been spilled on Elden Ring already, so let me be brief and just say that it represents a tectonic shift in what an open world game can and should be. The next few years, we're going to see a whole bunch of games inspired by and/or reacting to Elden Ring, and I for one can't wait.
Immortality feels like a game that was made specifically for me. With crackerjack performances all around, including an unforgettable debut from Manon Gage, this represents the culmination of Sam Barlow's evolution as a designer and an artist. It is the only game I can imagine with the capacity to oust a game as tectonically influential as Elden Ring off the top spot of my GOTY list. Terrifying, moving, intriguing, mysterious, and endlessly imaginative, Immortality is an artistic triumph.
Return to Monkey Island
I’ll start with the usual caveat that I barely played 10 games from 2022 in 2022. Instead of playing new games to generate content, like a proper columnist, I lost 3 months diving back into Metal Gear Solid V. It holds up, but you’ve heard about it before. So I outsourced some of my list to the real hardcore gamer in my household: my son, age 9, who has beaten Elden Ring 3 times (which is 3 times more than me). See if you can spot his entry.
There’s an overall theme of highly-anticipated games vs surprise packages here.
I’m only early in, but am appreciating it already. It harks back to an old-school style of action game but reproduces familiar elements with fresh ingredients, like the in-game manual that fills out as you go. It’s a kind of new-nostalgic, like Stranger Things, which recreates the 1980s with more modern tropes mixed in.
9. Gwent: Rogue Mage
That other collectible card game that everyone’s talking about. This expansion added a rogue-like mode and new energy and curse systems that switch it up, but still keep it familiar. What can I say? I just love Gwent.
8. Cult of the Lamb
I loved the art style. The boss fights were well-designed: the bosses looked cool, with cool attacks, and they were hard but not too hard, so you could beat them with skill. I liked how you could eat poop. There’s a mechanic where you can make meals and you could cook yourself poop and eat it, which is funny, but I never tried it.
In some ways this was my training for Elden Ring. It’s a game with 5 levels, where trying and dying again and again was baked into the progression system. I liked that it embraced the repetition. When you’re on a roll, taking out punks with combos, parries, sticks, thrown bottles, and whatnot, you feel like Jet Li. For anyone who was put off by its initial lack of difficulty settings, a lot more accessibility features have since been patched in.
6. Return to Monkey Island
I’ve mostly moved on from adventure games, but it was a joy to come back to this series. My nostalgia goggles are so thick with Monkey Island, it’s hard to judge it objectively. This was a fun time and it introduced the kids to Monkey Island, who then went on to play the originals, which is nice.
5. Horizon Forbidden West
For a blockbuster series, Horizon is unlucky in some ways. Both entries have been overshadowed by a generation-defining game that moved the design needle. It's made the Horizon games look stale by comparison. Many folks like to point to its rote open world features, like the icon fatigue, collect-a-thoning, and quest structure. But the core experience—hunting mechanical beasts and systematically dismantling them with different weapons and ammo—is quite distinctive, and I love the freedom and variety it offers. The game is gorgeous, the voice acting is top notch (even if everyone maybe talks a little too much), and the story is deep and layered and way more coherent than all that wacky Assassin’s Creed metalore. I thoroughly enjoyed my time with it.
4. Marvel’s Midnight Suns
This was my most-looked-forward-to game of 2022. The final product wasn’t what I expected, but I came to love it anyway. The card battle system is so engrossing that at first, I was annoyed that it was wedged in between all the compulsory hangout time. However, Book Club won me over and I relaxed into the daily rhythm of training-mission-hangout. It’s a solid template, and I would love to see them iterate upon it in DLC and maybe future games. But first I want XCOM 3.
3. Pathfinder: Wrath of the Righteous
This came out on console in 2022, which is when I started playing it. Chunky, party-based CRPGs like this are a foundational part of my gaming history. We’ve come a long way since the Gold Box games, and this is an exceptionally crunchy, fiddly, and just plain huge party-based CRPG. I love games where levelling up is a big deal and you can spend an hour considering your choices, only to go back and respec anyway. Also, I’ve never deliberately killed so many of my own party members as I have in this game. Baldur’s Gate 3, the gauntlet has been thrown.
2. God of War: Ragnarok (or How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love The Boy)
One advantage of doing the GOTY list late is that it gave me some critical distance from this game. Had I done this list around Christmas, it would be number 1. I played it until my thumbs got sore and enjoyed every second, even the Boy sections. It’s the only game I’ve Platinumed, licking the bowl clean. It represents the perfect arc of satisfaction at every stage of the anticipation-delivery-memory cycle of getting hype for games. There is only a sliver of distance between this and my number 1.
1. Elden Ring
It always had to be Elden Ring. God of War, prestige as it is, is a game-ass game, constantly holding your hand to guide you through and make sure you don’t miss anything. Elden Ring just dunks you in the middle of town and leaves you to find your way, like that Japanese show. It makes everything feel more earned, even if you got there with help from strangers, be it from messages, summons, or wikis. I appreciated it all the more for winning me over after I bounced hard off of Souls games in the past, even if it feels like the last third of the game is not as well-tuned as the earlier portions. Now, I just need to beat that final boss (I did beat Malenia though).
Games that I loved to hear people talk about in 2022, but didn't actually play: Immortality, Pentiment
Games that I didn't get to in 2022, but are top of my wishlist for 2023: Citizen Sleeper, Case of the Golden Idol, Rollerdrome, I Was A Teenage Exocolonist