2022 was a cracker of a year for gaming. It was a year where we finally got to see the full capabilities of the PS5, with graphically gorgeous games like Horizon Forbidden West and Elden Ring. It was also a year I stopped needing to play Skyrim to get my open-world RPG fix.
Like most of my ‘best of’ lists, I don’t focus just on games that came out in 2022. So while there are new releases in this list, I play a broad variety of games through a year, and wanted to recommend you some new games, and some releases from the past few years. I play mostly on PS5 and PC, although with Microsoft’s takeover of Bethesda I’ll be forking out for an Xbox next year… Starfield something something…
While my tastes are wide, I always favour games with a strong narrative focus, original storytelling, experimentation in narrative design, solid combat mechanics, and a consistent aesthetic.
Oh, and occasionally I just like random simulator games. Here are the best games I played in 2022.
Horizon Forbidden West
If I had to pick my game of the year, it would be Horizon Forbidden West. Sure, there are other games that might be slightly stronger, but it’s a game which brought me to tears for the sheer beauty and detail of the creative work. Every element in Horizon Forbidden West seemed so lovingly made and curated that I couldn’t help but fall in love with the second instalment of Aloy’s journey. I felt the same emotions when I played Zelda for the first time.
Horizon Forbidden West took the combat elements from Zero Dawn and cranked it up to eleven. The dynamic combat system and balanced weapons made for challenging battles, without ever being so difficult as to be frustrating. The world itself was bigger and better, opening up the sea and sky for exploration.
But one thing I’m glad Guerrilla didn’t change from the first game: a dedication to complex friendships and characterisation. The writing in this game served Aloy’s character arc, recognising that she cannot go it alone. Friendship is vital to both survival and a wholistic life. It was a marker of quality game writing that the side-quests were a microcosm of the conflict that Aloy faces in the game. Some of these quests were so moving, especially in the search for lost loved ones, that they brought me to tears.
I loved it so much that I made an epic cosplay of Aloy’s Tenakth Skirmisher armour.
Read my full review
Another game where I ended up crying ugly tears was Stray. Geez, I sound like a big old sook, but try playing Stray without being emotionally invested in the journey of one ginger cat through a cyberpunk world to find his friends.
While Stray is a short game, it’s beautifully done. I’m not one for these complaints that “I paid this much money and only got a five-hour game”. Because what Stray does in five hours is more than many one-hundred hour games achieve.
The narrative follows a cat who is separated from his friends and falls into a closed off bunker. The environmental messaging is strong here: humans are long gone, and the only beings here are robots who have made their own civilisation based on what humans left behind. As with all cats, the unnamed stray journeys back to the surface by causing chaos and making friends along the way.
With stunning environmental design and an engaging narrative, Stray is absolute purrfection.
Read my full review where I interview my cat about Stray
Interlude: What about Elden Ring and God of War?
By this point, you might be asking yourself, “But what about Elden Ring and God of War?” The latter is a simple answer – I haven’t played God of War Ragnarok yet. I actually need to finish the first one before I play the second, but I’m perhaps not as engaged in the father/son journey as others are.
As for Elden Ring, well… I didn’t like it.
Controversial opinion, I know. I sunk about 40 hours into it, and while I think it’s a beautiful game to look at, I have several issues with the narrative design and combat system. And the grind. What’s fun about grinding? But that’s a whole other video. Before you at me, I live with the biggest FromSoft fanboy, so I’ve heard it all before…
Onto the games that weren’t released in 2022, but I really enjoyed playing.
I didn’t know what to make of Death Stranding at first. The promotions were weirdly mysterious, which I’ve since learned is a Kojima thing. And I hadn’t really got into Metal Gear Solid. So when I downloaded Death Stranding on the PlayStation subscription I was like, I’ll give it a go. I’m curious.
But damn, I loved Death Stranding. It’s the greatest weird-fiction Lovecraftian hiking simulator ever made. If left in any less brilliant hands, Death Stranding could have easily become Inventory Management: the Game. But the great acting, fascinating world, clever writing, and brilliant use of online connectivity to enhance the feeling of “stranding” between countries makes it a superlative experience.
In fact, Death Stranding 2 is one of my most hyped release for the next few years. It stood alongside Diablo IV as one of the most polished promos at the Game Awards. Bring on the BB.
Read my full review
Divinity Original Sin II
Divinity Original Sin II had been on my Steam wishlist since it came out, but I only recently picked up a copy on sale. I’m so glad I did. Isometric RPGs bring back wonderful memories of playing Baldur’s Gate as a teenager. Divinity Original Sin II gives me those feels, but with far more advanced combat mechanics.
Every time you walk into a new area in DOS2, it feels like a micro-D&D campaign within the greater story of pursuing godhood. And if you want to see how environmental surface effects should be done, play DOS2. The interactions between elements like rain, ice, fire, blood, poison and steam are second to none.
As someone who loves exploring open-world RPGs and seeing what happens next, DOS2 scratches an itch in me, while keeping me going with the entertaining dialogue and cast of characters. Plus, there’s enough snazzy armour, weapons, and spells to keep the inventory hoarders at bay.
Speaking of Baldur’s Gate, the developers of Divinity Original Sin II, Larian Studios, will bring out Baldur’s Gate 3 next year. It feels like it’s in safe hands.
And finally, the not-an-rpg game that I sunk over a hundred hours into.
Yep, House Flipper.
This was my chillout game. What started as somewhat cynical curiosity about how could a house flipping game be that interesting turned into a full-blown obsession. House Flipper provided me with a great way to relax after a stressful day. I stuck on my headphones, listened to audiobooks, and cleaned and renovated houses. I’m someone who constantly needs to do something with their hands, so this provided me with a low-effort way to read books and focus my energies on something chill.
And yes, House Flipper 2 is one game I’m very excited about in 2023. The trailer promises a serious upgrade to the existing game, with improved building features. I can’t wait.
Read my full review
So those are the top five games I played in 2022. After watching the promos at the Game Awards, I’m excited for 2023 in gaming. There are several huge releases coming out, including Starfield, Baldur’s Gate 3, and of course, House Flipper 2.
In the meantime, I’d love to know what your favourite games for 2022 were? Wanna tell me I’m wrong about Elden Ring? Hit me up in the comments below, and let me know what you’re looking forward to in 2023.