2022 marked an interesting year for gaming. While there was certainly lots to play over the past 12 months, the industry as a whole was still seeing the long-lasting impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic, and it looks like several high-profile titles that might have originally been on the docket for 2022 have slipped into next year — The Legend of Zelda: Tears of the Kingdom, Hogwarts Legacy and Star Wars Jedi: Survivor instantly come to mind.
Still, regardless of any delays, 2022 saw the release of a number of standout games, including a few that have changed the landscape of gaming for some time to come. It wasn’t easy, but WGTC’s staff came up with ten picks that stood out from the pack. Needless to say, if you see a game listed below that you haven’t tried out for yourself, we highly recommend giving it a go.
One of my childhood classmates in middle school sometimes remarked, “Why don’t they make a game that lets you do anything?” It made sense at the time — who wouldn’t want a game where they could make their own fun by choosing to do anything they wanted? As I grew, I realized this suggestion made about as much sense as asking why we haven’t invented a machine that makes everyone immortal, but the point stands. Funnily enough, at the ripe age of 29, I am finally playing a game that’s about as close to this far-fetched remark as possible: Dwarf Fortress.
Elves came to my fort in late autumn to trade, bringing with them only naturally grown and cruelty-free goods. I tried to offer some wares, but they noticed that I had a few leather goods stashed in an adjacent bin. Disgusted, they refused to trade any longer. So I seized their entire stock — to which they offered no resistance before departing. Unsatisfied, I sent a squadron of three axe-wielding dwarves to slaughter them. Trying to make room for my new, ill-gotten goods, my dwarves dug into a brook by mistake, flooding the entire fortress. A three-year-old child was trapped in the garbage room by a door forced shut by the waves, eating vermin and drinking muddy outpourings before expiring five days later, haunted by the ghosts of the dwarves who drown one layer below.
This all unfolded over the course of about ten minutes and is one of the dozens of such tales Dwarf Fortress spins for the player willing to engage with its complexity and take their time exploring events that are largely represented through dialogue boxes. Playing it not only made me a more imaginative person but a more patient and organized one as well. It is, in my opinion, a perfect video game. — David Morgan
A lot of game developers have come to believe that creating an open-world experience will set their work apart from all their peers. But if anything, a string of shallow open-world titles has essentially proven that bigger is not always better, if not an outright waste of resources. Many would have wagered that Hidetaka Miyazaki’s Elden Ring is just following the curve of the trend in that regard, but they would also live to sorely regret that assumption. Because if it comes down to a matter of comparison, Elden Ring is much more in the vein of a game such as Breath of the Wild than the monotonous cash-grabs publishers like Ubisoft are churning out these days.
Elden Ring takes everything that worked in Dark Souls and Bloodborne and magnifies the scale of their ambition a hundredfold, building a world where every ruin, hillside, meadow, and dungeon has a story to tell. The infamous Soulslike difficulty has also been put aside in favor of a more lenient progressive system, which gives players a lot of wiggle room if they’re finding an area or its bosses particularly difficult. But whether you decide to cut corners or “git gud,” as the Soulsborne community is in the habit of vaunting – and a little too condescendingly, at that – Elden Ring can take you on a journey you will never forget. From the Royal Capital of Leyndell to the crumbling maze of Farum Azula, or the hauntingly beautiful Eternal City of Nokron to the unforgiving rot-ridden wasteland of Caelid, the Lands Between (co-developed by Miyazaki and Game of Thrones creator George R.R. Martin) is video game escapism at its finest. — Jonathan Wright
God of War Ragnarok
The sequel to 2018’s God of War was expected to blow audiences away as its predecessor did. Thankfully, it pulled that off. Santa Monica Studio’s God of War Ragnarök improves upon the combat of the first game and tells a satisfying story that’s well-paced and full of twists, letting it stand shoulder to shoulder, if not edge out the original game.
What makes God of War Ragnarök rise above all the rest, is that for what could be a 50-hour experience, there is little to no fluff. Every piece of story content from the main quest or side missions is well worth the time. Hunting down optional collectibles and bosses is addictive, and tougher foes offer a nice mix of challenge and satisfaction. You know that you enjoyed a game when the credits have rolled and you just want to go through the entire experience again, which is exactly what happened to me. — Tristyn Akbas
Marvel’s Midnight Suns
When Marvel’s Midnight Sun was first announced, nobody knew what to expect. Firaxis Games has a well-deserved reputation for turning out excellent strategy titles with the XCOM series, but translating that style to a licensed, demonically-themed comic-book brawler? Let’s just say we had questions.
But after spending 30 hours with the game, it’s rocketed straight into our Best of 2022 charts with a gamma-powered bang. If you’re a Marvel fan, the sheer amount of love shown toward the franchise is reason enough to buy. Every character is perfectly realized, from their fighting style to their dialogue to what makes them happy back at base. If you’re a strategy fan, Midnight Suns more than delivers with an easy-to-grasp but deep card-based combat system conveyed through killer animations.
Then there’s the base management, in which you must forge a cohesive superhero team out of this band of oddballs. Should you cheer Captain America up by taking him birdwatching, or would this be more Doctor Strange’s style?
Sure, there are a couple of graphical shortcomings here and there, but this game oozes personality and it’d take a truly hard-hearted gamer not to find something to like here. With DLC featuring Venom, Morbius, Deadpool, and Storm on the horizon, we’re hoping this game has a bright future. Whatever else happens, we can’t stop playing it and we desperately hope it finds the wide audience it deserves. — David James
No new release in 2022 made me suffer from the “just one more run” affliction more than Neon White, knowing full well that the clock is rapidly approaching 2 a.m. on a work night. Soaring through heaven while blasting your way through hordes of demons as quickly as you can make time slip by blisteringly fast. It’s all too easy to justify another run as you keep on that relentless pursuit of sticking the perfect landing or flawlessly flicking to that enemy hiding in a corner with the hopes of shaving off those last few milliseconds to get that coveted ace medal. Whether you love or hate the game’s graphic novel presentation or its campy story, developer Angel Matrix knocked it out of the park by creating a game that can make even newcomers to speedrunning feel like transcendent and unstoppable killing machines, leaving you wanting more after the credits roll. — Peter Kohnke
Pokémon Legends: Arceus
Pokémon Legends: Arceus made waves at the start of the year, breaking the mold and defying expectations of what a traditional Pokémon game should be by offering up an open world for players to explore independently. To recap, the main protagonist is sent back in time by Arceus, to a time when Sinnoh was called Hisui. From there, they’re tasked with “catching them all” while also dealing with other conflicts throughout the region. It may have been just a spin-off, but it won the hearts of fans, and there’s been plenty of wishful speculation about other timelines in other regions to explore, like the burning of the Brass Tower in Johto, or the war that unfolded in Kalos thousands of years ago. Legends: Arceus was praised by fans and critics alike, and it’s no surprise that some of its core mechanics, such as overworld spawns and item crafting, were included in Scarlet and Violet. — Erielle Sudario
Including Portal RTX on this list might be cheating, but there’s no denying the staying power of what is arguably one of Valve’s best games to date. Sure, the original version of Portal was released all the way back in 2007, but now, over 15 years later, NVIDIA Lightstudios has given it a complete graphical overhaul thanks to the inclusion of full path tracing, which drives all of the game’s direct and indirect lighting. The results are absolutely stunning, and when coupled with newer, high-res models and textures, make Portal RTX the definitive way to play through this seminal classic. — Shaan Joshi
Sonic Frontiers represented a seismic shift for Sonic the Hedgehog’s tried-and-true style, and it worked. All of it worked. This open-world game put exploration and mystery over speed and combat, but Frontiers still has plenty of the latter two, creating a memorable gaming experience worthy of recognition as one of the best of 2022.
It’s downright gorgeous, the controls and combat are both tight and fast-paced, and the story hits all the right notes, featuring both new and returning characters as part of the next chapter in the Sonic mythos. And it’s all set to an amazingly epic score that (and perhaps it’s just me) I found relaxing, even during the biggest Titan fights. I still spend hours just running around these islands collecting rings and fighting enemies as I seek out new locations, secrets, and more. Above all else, Sonic Frontiers is an extremely fun game — and it’s responsible for some of the best times I’ve had playing a game this year. — Jon Hueber
Taking the cake for the cutest game of the year is Tunic, from indie developer Andrew Shouldice. Don’t be fooled by its visuals alone — this adorable isometric 3D puzzler has a lot more going on than just a cute aesthetic.
With a mix of Zelda-like puzzles, dungeons to explore, a compelling world filled with secrets to uncover, and a mystery that is both gripping and elusive, Tunic has refreshed the topdown/isometric action-adventure/RPG for a more modern audience. While the gameplay is simple and nuanced, the world is filled with a hidden layer of complexity that will leave most scratching their heads. If you decide to give it a go, we recommend going in completely blind, letting the intuitive and natural-flowing narrative take you on a journey that feels both new and nostalgic. — Liv Harris
After a lengthy early access period, Vampire Survivors fully launched back in late October. On the surface, it’s a surprisingly simple game. You’re dropped into a massive open map and have to shoot through a never-ending horde of classic movie monsters, from pesky bats to murderous mummies, trying to survive until the timer hits zero.
However, while the central premise is straightforward, Vampire Survivors is perfectly tuned and incredibly addictive. The power-up system leads to plenty of fun and varied builds that encourage experimentation. Plus, the game’s difficulty curve finds the perfect sweet spot where you feel your character growing more powerful without ever feeling invincible, keeping you on the edge of your seat for the entire level. The top-down view and retro/pixel art allow for a hilarious amount of enemies to be thrown at you, with hordes quickly reaching the thousands.
Vampire Survivors is one of those games that’ll have you saying “just one more round,” over and over, until you suddenly realize it’s 3 a.m. And to top it all off, it boasts one of the year’s best soundtracks, featuring a load of catchy stage themes that will stick in your head long after your run ends. — Jonathon Greenall