I’ll save you the time, there’s no Elden Ring here. I’m one of the few freaks who never got around to playing it this year, mainly because I was too busy catching up on all the games I was meant to play in 2021. I’m pretty surprised I even played enough games to participate this year, and they still let me make a list! I love my job.
So, if you were dying to find out what the Game of the Year is to someone who avoided all the obvious games of the year, then you’re in luck. Here are my favourite games I played in between trying to complete Outer Wilds and starting my seventh Dragon Age: Origins playthrough.
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While it probably flew under most radars in favour of Sonic Frontiers, Sonic Origins unexpectedly came along and showed the older games the most love they’ve seen since the release of Mania. While this compilation title should have gone a lot further, it still packages the best versions of four classic Sonic games, tying them together with adorable animated shorts. It may be a bit too simple, and it had some ridiculous, inexcusable DLC, but it’s the new best way to play older Sonic games. Hopefully, the rest of the series will be given the same attention soon.
While not as engaging as Smash Bros. Ultimate, MultiVersus brings enough to the genre on its own that it doesn’t have to live up to that inevitable comparison. It’s fun, it’s full of charm, and it was well-supported after launch. It understands what a platform fighter should be, and areas where the genre can be improved. While it was never my main game to focus on, it’s clear that the future's looking bright for MultiVersus.
I wish I could put this higher, I really do. Overwatch 2 is the most fun I’ve had in an already fantastic team-based shooter in years. The new characters, 5v5, the fine-tuning – it’s all perfect. But I cannot justify praising the game any more than this when its terrible monetization actively ruins your experience with the gameplay. As it stands, it is mechanically some of the most fun I’ve had this year, it could have just been so much more.
Pokemon Legends: Arceus
Nothing pushes the limits of how far you can get by on fun alone than Pokemon Legends: Arceus. With one of the most satisfying game loops of any title on this list, there’s nothing better than booting up Legends: Arceus to mindlessly catch a bunch of ‘mons I’ve already got 20 times before – and still get rewarded for it. Legends: Arceus proves that Game Freak should be brave. The games that stray from the traditional Pokemon formula are the ones winning players over in recent years – look at Unite and New Snap – and Legends: Arceus proves that Pokemon can be up there with other RPG series.
Scorn is a frustrating, agonizingly slow endurance test of a game, and I am so glad it exists. It’s not fun, it’s not marketable, and it will probably be a huge flop. But goddamn, do I feel better for playing it. The entire world feels alive, vile, but strangely inviting. The invisible direction of the game almost effortlessly guides you around the world without the need for a map or any obvious directions, barring its incredibly weak opening. When Scorn finds its footing though, you’re treated to some of the most interesting and refreshingly unique game design choices out there, and I’d take that over formulaic franchise hits any day.
Metal: Hellsinger combined two genres and executes them both with ease, being among the greats in both categories. Throughout your short jaunt through hell, you follow the titular Hellsinger and her Troy Baker-voiced companion, blasting your way through levels that look straight out of Doom. Unlike Doom, however, there’s nothing more important than keeping the beat, which is complemented by one of the best soundtracks we’ve heard in a game this year. There may not be too much beneath the surface with Metal: Hellsinger, but it’s a treat to see every aspect of a video game working in perfect synergy like this.
Sonic, my sweet, misunderstood, bullied blue baby. You did it. You did a video game. And by God, Frontiers is the most video game-y video game in existence. You run around an invisible walled map to collect items, then collect more items to unlock minigames that help you collect the items you actually need. There are also some other items that can make getting the main item a bit easier. There’s no arrogance in Sonic Frontiers, just an understanding that Sonic running fast should be fun. It’s a bold first step into something new for the series, while still feeling uniquely ‘Sonic’ in a way other open worlds can’t manage.
Obsidian is just showing off now. Pentiment is like nothing the studio has done before, but it shows how effortlessly its writing can fit other genres, diving into the culture and society of a small medieval town with grace, and far more depth than any of us expected. It's a true testament to Obsidian’s writing that some of the tensest moments this year came from Pentiment, as I discussed the ideas of Martin Luther in the company of monks. Even without any voiced dialogue, you can feel the hatred and fear in the air. Better yet, even with a somewhat linear premise, every playthrough feels unique, as you soak up the world of Pentiment in the way that you want to.
Gerda: A Flame In Winter
Don’t let the visuals fool you, Gerda: A Flame in Winter is one of the most brutal games of the year. There is no winning, only survival. There is no strategizing, only hope and luck. Taking place in a German-occupied village in Denmark, you play as the titular heroine, Gerda, tasked with surviving and protecting your loved ones. There’s no combat because this is not a game about empowering you to live out a hero fantasy. The gameplay actively disempowers you, in fact. If you want Gerda to use a stat in conversation, you lose a point. She is an ordinary human being and will exert herself. She’s not made for this. Gerda might survive the trials she’s put through, but it’s up to you to see if her conscience will. Or if your values will make it through unscathed, for that matter.
I feel like a better person for playing Citizen Sleeper. It is the perfect balance of hope and hopelessness, and a story about humanity in a world that feels hellbent on snuffing out any trace of compassion. Less than an hour into his wonderfully crafted text-based RPG, I knew it would have to be my pick for Game of the Year. In its remarkably simple gameplay, you wake up every day and roll the dice, quite literally. Each roll determines how many tasks you can complete, and how difficult survival will be that day. With all the different ways gaming has tried to portray the horrors of capitalism, there’s something beautiful about seeing it explored so simply, but also with so much care. Citizen Sleeper’s themes, story, and mechanics flow together seamlessly, telling a story that will stick with you long after you put it down, making it the best game that 2022 had to offer.
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