Well I’m once again breaking out the blog form to do my written follow-up of Make Me A Gamer’s 2022 Manatees podcast. While the podcast listed the top 5 in no particular order, here’s where I break down the top 10 in a specific order because I can! Let’s hop to it!
Honorable Mention #1: Persona 5 Royal
I’m breaking my usual tradition of keeping all my games on this list as games that only came from the current year to honorably mention Persona 5 Royal. The original Persona 5 was my game of the year of 2017 and five years later I’ve gotten around to playing the Royal version and it was worth the 110 hours I put into it.
There’s not a lot more I can say about Persona 5 that I didn’t already cover in my post on it in my top 100 games of all-time, but I will be clear: Royal is the definitive version. It adds new chapters and characters that expand upon the already excellent story. It adds new music that fits right into the masterpiece soundtrack that was already there. If you can only play Persona 5 one way, play Royal. It takes a ton of time but is worth it, in my opinion.
Honorable Mention #2: Cult of the Lamb
I saw about thirty minutes of gameplay of Cult of the Lamb on Twitch and knew I immediately had to have it. It combines Binding of Isaac-esque roguelike action gameplay with an Animal Crossing-esque cult simulator – except in Animal Crossing you don’t have to clean up your villagers’ poop. It’s dirty work, but somebody has to do it (and that somebody is you.)
I had an absolute blast playing this on my Switch while I was on a relaxing vacation. I named all my cultists after my friends and gave continuous updates of their shenanigans in Discord. My podcast partner was my first recruit and also my first dissenter – so I locked him up in stocks until he praised me again. As soon as I let him go, he keeled over and died of old age in front of everyone. It was tragic, so later I cast a ritual and brought him back to life, indoctrinated him and made him my yes-man.
The game is just teeming with build-your-own cult stories like that. The dungeoneering gameplay was a little bit of a letdown, which is why this is only an honorable mention, but the simulation part was absolutely fantastic and always kept a smile on my face.
10. Rogue Legacy 2
I tried to play the first Rogue Legacy and bounced off it pretty hard. I don’t know if I unlocked more than one or two characters, I didn’t understand the upgrade mechanics, and the platforming action just didn’t feel right to me. Fast forward to years later when I’ve spent way, way more time in the roguelike genre and Rogue Legacy 2 put its hooks in me and didn’t let go.
Like many roguelikes that are on the tough side, I haven’t beaten Rogue Legacy 2 yet. But I have progressed pretty far into its world and experimented with almost all the builds the game has to offer. The wackiness of the genetic traits each of your heroes can get really puts a spin on how you approach each run – from Synesthesia, a trait that makes you trail colors everywhere you go, to Colorblind, a trait that makes everything grayscale, to Panic Attacks, a trait that darkens the screen every time you get hit, each trait makes you really think about if you want that gold bonus associated with it. It’s a very unique take on the roguelike platformer and feels much better to play in its platforming than the original (in my humble opinion) so it made my top 10 for this year as my favorite roguelike experience of 2022.
9. Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Shredder’s Revenge
As my top 100 of all-time list showed, I’m a huge fan of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles beat ’em up games that populated the 90s. Shredder’s Revenge is a perfect recreation of all those games, filled with nostalgia bait and modern advances that make the game feel excellent to play either by yourself or with friends.
It still has all the weird trappings of beat-’em-ups – some of the bosses just feel unfair (I’m looking at you Groundchuck and Dirtbag) and some enemy hitboxes are wonky, but the sheer level of accessibility options they added really make up for it. The music is a perfect throwback (and the boss music is excellent) that all feels like it belongs back with the 90s chiptune excellence. All your favorite Turtle friends and enemies are either bosses or cameos in the game as well. I basically blasted through this entire game in two days by myself, then beat it again on a completely new system with a group of friends as well, and then made another group of friends play it with me too. It brought me back to the days of local multiplayer when we were kids in my basement, huddled around the CRT TV trying to beat Super Shredder. That’s what this game was going for and it succeeded on all counts.
8. Horizon: Forbidden West
As a huge, huge fan of Horizon: Zero Dawn, I’d say my hype level for Forbidden West was through the roof coming into February of this year. It had been the background on my PC and my phone for basically all of 2021. I was supremely ready for more of Aloy’s adventures – and maybe that exceedingly high hype was what took away from this experience.
The main story of Forbidden West was good, but couldn’t live up to Zero Dawn’s. The combat didn’t feel quite right this time around – enemies were a little too aggressive and only a few of the weapon types actually felt useful. The coolest new perk of the game – being able to hijack flying enemies and fly around the map – comes way too late in the game. But there were some great parts too – almost all of the sidequests actually feel like true quests to go on and not just experience point farms. I was more invested in these side stories and characters than any of Zero Dawn’s offerings.
I’m not saying I didn’t love this game – obviously it’s still #8 on my list and I did get the Platinum trophy for it – but it didn’t live up to what I was expected from a sequel to one of my favorite games on the PS4. A game I thought for sure was going to be top 3 not even making the top 5 is a bit sad for me.
7. Triangle Strategy
What I expected: a competent strategy game with a decent story.
What I got: a hella fun competent strategy game with a deep political Game of Thrones ass story with many twists and turns and one of the most fun branching path designs in any game ever
You have to be ready to read when you play this game, because it is dense as hell, but it is so worth it. If you’re down for reading a political fantasy novel interspersed with tactics combat, you have to play this game. The Scales of Conviction are unique – instead of choosing your own branching path, you have to convince the NPCs in your party to vote the way you want. And if you don’t convince them, they may vote the other way and you might have to progress the story against your wishes. It’s fantastic.
Gameplay wise, each character has their own set of abilities and brings different techniques to the battlefield. I personally loved Jens, a character that could place traps around the arena and send enemies flying down cliffs. This game is a must-play for tactics die-hards as long as you know it’s a slow but fascinating story.
6. Pokemon Violet
It’s hard for me to explain how much this new Pokemon game means to me. I usually play most Pokemon games and they’re basically popcorn entertainment to me – I like my time with them, I beat the elite 4 and catch a legendary, and then I’m done.
This one hit me on another level. The Team Star music is some of the best music that’s ever been in a Pokemon game (and any game, really): the main boss theme is great, but the final Team Star boss theme is on another level. I relished every second of the Team Star storyline not just for the music, but because I really enjoyed how Team Star was portrayed compared to the other Teams in Pokemon history. And then on the other side, the Titan storyline hit me very hard because I’m a new dog owner. Watching Arven trying to heal his best friend Mabosstiff back to full health with all the different herbs he collected and finally succeeding at the end made me cry, I’ll admit it. And then of course, the finale itself was wild. I didn’t quite expect it to go the way it did, and the final confrontation also made me cry.
It’s weird to say that the traditional elite 4, beat 8 gym leaders part of the game was actually probably the weakest part, but even that part had Larry who might be the best gym leader ever created. Honestly the only part that was bad about this game was the outdated slow battle progression and having to scroll through all the text – I know I’m being buffeted by a sandstorm! Stop it! You can do better Game Freak! The entire rest of the game shows it!
5. The Quarry
Three years in a row, Supermassive has snuck one of their games into my top 10. The Quarry is the first real successor to their breakout hit of Until Dawn, and it lives up to its standard and also surpasses it in a lot of ways. By now you know what a Supermassive game brings: horror, QTEs, and fun yelling at the TV screen with friends. So the reason this game is in my top 5 can pretty much be summed up by one quote:
“DYLAN! GET THE DAMN WEREWOLF OFF THE DAMN CAR!”
4. Marvel Snap
If you’d asked me if a mobile card game would be one of my favorite games of the year at the beginning of this year, I’d probably have laughed right in your face. But after many, many, many hours of Snap (and my phone reminded me shamefully of how much I’ve played it) I can safely say this is right up there with the rest of my favorites in terms of both enjoyment and time spent with it.
Now I’m not going to lie – this is a mobile-ass mobile game and it has a ton of predatory practices designed to keep people chasing a carrot and spend money on their game. I’m not fully free-to-play – I’ve dropped money on this game for sure. So I will say with a caveat that this game uses some of the worst mobile game practices to draw you in and then blue-ball your progress if you want to play it for more than 30 minutes or so a day. But this is truly one of the best card game battlers I’ve played in a long while – Gwent can suck it. It helps that the Marvel characters are recognizable, but some of my favorite cards are characters I’ve never heard of – Brood? Zabu? Sunspot? Yeah, they’re not your MCU big names but they are definitely big names in Snap.
It’s pretty easy to understand as a game: you have 6 turns and 3 locations, and you’re trying to have the most power at two of the locations by the end of turn 6. You have 12 cards in your deck and you get more energy each turn to play out your combos. It’s a simple premise with a near flawless execution that enables many different strategies. Except for Leader. Fuck Leader, all my best friends know Leader can die in a fire.
3. God of War: Ragnarok
Boy. Part Two.
Need I say more?
…okay I’ll say a little more this time.
Ragnarok is an excellent end to the God of War Norse duology. The combat is pitch-perfect and the evolution of Kratos and Atreus’ relationship is masterfully done. It’s hard to believe a decade ago this same character was basically known for ultraviolence and sex QTEs. It suffers a little from RPGification, which makes some of the harder battles annoying, but it wasn’t enough to detract from my experience. It perfectly balances a linear story path with giving you enough open world to explore and delve into without it being overwhelming or taking too much time.
But also, BOY.
2. Marvel’s Midnight Suns
Take 1 part Slay the Spire, 2 parts XCOM, 1 part Fire Emblem: Three Houses, and 1 part Mass Effect. Stir thoroughly, serve, and enjoy Marvel’s Midnight Suns.
Seriously though, in this game you can dress Doctor Strange up in bikini briefs, hang out with him while painting on a picturesque cliffside, and then suit up with Captain Marvel and Magik and go slam a lightpole on Venom’s head before opening a portal and throwing a Hydra goon through it into another goon. What isn’t appealing about that?
If you’ve ever wanted to just pal around with Tony Stark or watch Robbie Reyes and Peter Parker exude sexual tension at each other while working on cars (and other things), this game was made for you. And it also had a deeply fulfilling tactical layer to each of its combat encounters. The card decks are a feature, not a bug. You never feel like you’ve got a hand you can do nothing with – between the ability to discard, movement, extra items with one-time uses, and environmental attacks, there’s all sorts of options in each battle. Clearing a mission on the first turn unexpectedly was one of the many highlights of the strategical layer of this game.
I love this game to death – I’m not sure it has the replayability and make-your-own-story essence that makes XCOM great, but it sure as hell was my favorite strategy game of the year and I’d gladly spend more time and more sequels with the Midnight Suns if allowed.
1. Elden Ring
Previous years have sometimes had deeply personal and affecting games of the year – Disco Elysium and Endwalker come to mind. Other years have just been games that I never wanted to leave the world – see Persona 5 and Final Fantasy 7 Remake. And sometimes a quality game just lets me enact a deeply fulfilling fantasy life in video game form – like Marvel’s Spider-Man let me be Spider-Man. Elden Ring falls into the last category – sure it has complex lore, but the story itself is barely there. And I didn’t feel emotionally touched by any particular moment while playing this game.
But goddamn is it fun to run around in this world and be a Tarnished.
I don’t think there’s anything I can say about Elden Ring that hasn’t been said already – hell, I started typing this up and realized I was about to tell the same Wild West heist story that I mentioned in my top 100 games of all-time honorable mentions. This game just dominated popular gaming culture for months and I’m just as dominated as everyone else. It’s the most accessible a Souls-like game has been and it’s the most rewarding open world game I’ve played in the last decade.
Elden Ring is a once-in-a-generation game – it captured lightning in a bottle that I don’t think Elden Ring 2 even could whenever it happens (because you know it will). But even if it won’t have the same feeling, I’ll be waiting with bells on.
And a jar on my head.