2022 was a good year for me overall, which is nice. Even though I feel like I didn't get to be very creative, I got to travel a lot, see online friends for the first time ever after knowing them for years, and am on track to complete my Graduate Degree.
2022 was a good year for games too, in my opinion! So much so that for the first time ever, I've got some honorable mentions going. Sure, there weren't many BIG BUDGET, AAA, WORLD PREMIERE titles this year, but those usually aren't that great anyways. Instead, room got left over for smaller titles that deserve a chance in the spotlight.
So let me tell you all about games I liked this year! And special thanks to @pocketghosts for this year's art!
I have not cared about or finished a Pokemon game since Pokemon Gold in - checks notes - 2000...God...
That's not to say I don't like Pokemon or anything - it's just always been too slow for my brain to enjoy it for what it is. I did not understand why I never clicked with it until my ADHD diagnosis.
So a weird way to describe it: Pokemon Legends: Arceus is for pokemon fans with ADHD. By this I mean, you never have to wait for a damn thing playing this game. Much can be said about its open-world structure, better battle mechanics, and interesting plot, but it's the sprightly nature that's stuck with me this year. Catching, battling, and moving through the world are all seamless and quick. Because of that I finished the game, the first I've done this with a mainline title in 22 years. That's about the highest praise I can give it.
Strangers of Paradise
I always knew.
While the haters were hating and the doubters were doubting, I knew. When everyone was meming about chaos, I knew. The creators of Nioh hadn't let me down yet, and they continue their perfect streak with Strangers of Paradise.
I knew this game was going to be a mechanical delight. What I wasn't expecting was for it to tell a pretty damn good story on top of that. Jack "Skip Cutscene" Garland is a character with more depth and a significantly more compelling character arc than the memes would lead you to believe. A pleasant surprise, to say the least.
Strangers of Paradise doesn't just feel fantastic to play, it's also stuffed to the brim with content, with one more potentially mind-boggling expansion on the horizon of 2023. If you haven't picked this up yet and you're even a bit of a Final Fantasy fan, I implore you - do it. It's the crossover of your favorite aspects of the series that Kingdom Hearts used to be. I'm dying for a sequel.
I doubt that Ghostwire Tokyo will be on many people's lists this year, but that's fine - I'm built differently. That's disappointing though, because it's fun! It's not the greatest game I played this year, but it's kind of funny that it got dinged for being "a generic open-world game." That doesn't feel very fair to me, because I can't think of many other open-world games that let you walk through the streets of an abandoned Tokyo.
And therein lies the star of the show: Ghostwire's setting made me nostalgic, dying to grab another ticket and return to Japan. It captures the feeling of Tokyo perfectly, from its side-streets to its shrines to its parks. To put it another way, it's one of the only games I spent so much time walking instead of running, just because of how well-done the setting is. This is coupled with an interesting look at the various myths and folklore from Japan's history. It reminded me of Okami in many ways, which isn't too surprising given the pedigree.
The plot also hit me a lot harder than I was expecting. I've been struggling with the concept of mortality salience, probably way too much for someone my age. Ghostwire delves into that topic much more than I would have expected, but in a way that actually made me feel a little better. It's good! Go play it!
Kirby and the Forgotten Land
There are no bad Kirby games - only good ones or fantastic ones.
Kirby & The Forgotten Land is a fantastic game. The added third dimension allowed for all sorts of new mechanics to truly shine. It's a graphical delight, and, possibly most important - it's cute. I spend a lot of time with my nephews nowadays, and because of that I spend a lot of time thinking about what I can play with them. They're 9 and 5, and given that I spend most of my time playing stuff that's rated T or higher, my options are, uh, limited to say the least.
But playing Kirby & The Forgotten Land with them was one of those things that I hope will be a core memory for them. Seeing their excitement and how they caught details even I didn't notice gave me a newfound appreciation for the game, and Kirby as a series. Say what you will about Nintendo - God knows I have! - but they're still unbeatable when it comes to quality games for kids.
Xenoblade Chronicles 3
I honestly don't feel like I need to say anything about Xenoblade Chronicles 3, given how I never shut the fuck up about it pretty much from the moment it was released. It's a monumental achievement. Mitsuda came back and reminded everyone who the GOAT was. Tetsuya Takahashi finally got to fully realize one of his sci-fi epics, something he's wanted to do since he created Xenogears many moons ago.
And most importantly for me: the game is goopy as fuck.
The previous Xenoblade games always were thiiiiiis close to hitting the mark, but ended up missing it in some way. XC2, for example, had the annoying gacha elements and the affinity system. But XC3 is where the series finally felt like a harmonious whole, providing everything I love about a game with good mechanics. By this I mean every single damn thing you do with Noah and pals contributes some sort of benefit to the player. Whether it's building out classes (yes, there's a class system!!!), doing side-quests (yes, they're meaningful now!!!), or just chilling at camp, you always feel like you're doing something worthwhile. Couple that with another banger of a plot and a cast of characters that I simply adored, and you have something you can sink your teeth into for more than 100 hours without realizing where the time went.
I never rank my GOTY lists. But if I did, I wouldn't be surprised if Xenoblade Chronicles 3 topped it.
Soul Hackers 2
If I had a nickel for every time Atlus pushed a fantastic game out with barely any marketing and let it die in the market, well. I'd have a few nickles at least.
Is Soul Hackers 2 perfect? No. Should it have been called Soul Hackers 2? Probably not. Is it even for everyone? I don't know!
What I do know is that Soul Hackers 2 is what I've wanted from Persona as a series ever since I stopped having shit taste - a Persona game for and about adults.
Ringo is the best protagonist an SMT game has had in like, a decade at least. I didn't expect to be so smitten with her, but she's written so intelligently it felt like a slap in the face as far as JRPGs go. And the same goes for the rest of the party too. Their conversations are interesting, engaging, and mature.
That last line can really sum up Soul Hackers 2: it's mature. There's no transphobia. No one spouts some awful shit about gay people. Nary a gross scene sexualizing a teenager in sight. You'd think that'd just be the standard, but the bar for JRPGs is beneath the earth's core. Soul Hackers 2 doesn't just clear that bar - it double front tuck gainer 900s over it.
Oh and it's fun to play too.
NO MORE COMPROMISE
THIS IS DO OR DIE
AND NOW YOU'VE CROSSED THE LI-
My favorite part about Sonic Frontiers isn't the godlike soundtrack. It's not the fact that my ADHD-addled brain can constantly find something interesting to run over to in its - let's face it - ugly open world. It's not even the fact that the characters are the best written they've ever been in video game form.
No, it's the fact that a pretty good Sonic game's existence broke a lot of people's brains.
The amount of anger I've seen about Sonic fans being happy with a Sonic game has been hilarious to witness. Every variation of "this is still a 6/10 game!!!" I saw on Twitter made me laugh harder and harder.
Sonic Frontiers gets to be on this list not just because I enjoyed it, but because people are coping, seething and malding that Sonic fans are enjoying themselves. Nice work Blue Blur!
God of War: Ragnarök
I didn't care that much about Dad of War: The First when it released. But I've said before that as far as "Prestige AAA Third-Person Action-Adventure Games Published by Sony" go - and yes that is its own genre - it was probably the best I've played. Given that I really dislike them most of the time, this is high praise.
But I actively, genuinely, had a wonderful time with God of War Ragnarök. Unshackled by the boring and predictable father & son plot from the first game, GoW:R has much more entertaining questions to ask: how do we forgive ourselves and each other? Is everything preordained, or can we change ourselves and our fates? What's the cost of keeping a secret?
A larger cast, somehow even tighter mechanical depth, and a sick new weapon all allowed me to have a blast playing through Dad of War 2: Electric Boogaloo. Probably my biggest surprise enjoyment of the year.
This game kinda runs like dog-shit and is missing features that should proooobably have been there on release. But I am giving it a pass because when Darktide works, it works.
This is the closest to match the Left-4-Dead experience for me. Getting to hang with my buddies and cut through hordes of monsters in grimey, desolate city ruins that look right out of a BLAME! panel is something that I look forward to doing for hundreds of hours. The satisfaction of each melee swing and magic head-pop is unmatched as far as first-person combat goes. The fact that it's on GamePass makes it a pretty easy onboarding to get your own homies in on the action too.
And don't be surprised if this game doesn't show up on the list next year either: if FatShark is good at one thing, it's continuing to polish a game until it's at the peak of its quality. They did it Vermintide, and I can tell they're going to do it again here.
Marvel's Midnight Suns
I do not care about Marvel, so it's pretty wild that not one, but two Marvel games are on the list this year. But I'd be lying to you and myself if I didn't put Midnight Suns on this list. Hell, I spent 10 hours straight playing it on my first go.
I've seen many a comment about being tired of card-based combat. Feel free to shoot those titles my way then because I can't get enough. Midnight Suns' systems in particular are addictive. Each hero on your team has a potential number of cards to create builds out of, with new cards that can be upgraded by hanging out with said heroes at your home base.
The loop of learning about my homies Blade and Captain America, increasing my options to make them more powerful in the game's encounters is so addictive. The combat itself is snappy, impactful, and most importantly, makes you feel like a badass. It'd take too long to explain in this singular post, but figuring out the best way to take out 5 or 10 baddies in one go never stopped getting old.
I'm super excited for the upcoming characters and content that are coming to Midnight Suns - I could easily see myself putting in dozens of hours playing this game.
Another game that squeaked through near the very end of the year to be on this list. There are many a game that claim to be inspired by SNES-era JRPGs that either never reach said era's heights, or replicate its pitfalls for no reason other than nostalgia.
Chained Echoes does neither of those things. A 7-year long creative endeavor, it is very clearly a labor of love, an amalgamation of everything its developer appreciated about games like Chrono Trigger and Final Fantasy VI. It feels modern and nostalgic at the same time, familiar but with the quality of life updates you'd expect from a game released in 2022. The combat is great, the characters are all quite likable, and it has a plot that genuinely had me surprised and guessing throughout its playtime. It's also very effectively paced - unlike many a JRPG, the game never feels like it's meandering or putting me to sleep. I'm very excited to see what Matthias Linda makes next.
River City Girls 2
I don't really do TCGs. I had a collection of Pokemon Cards but didn't actually know how to use them, but that's about it. Stuff like Magic the Gathering was significantly outside of my pay grade and level of patience growing up as well - why spend money on complicated chance when a video game or toy is a sure bet?
Marvel Snap broke the streak for me with its simple to learn, easy to master nature. The goal is to take at least 2 out of 3 of the available "lanes," each with various modifiers, by getting the most points in each of those lanes. How you do that is where things get interesting. There are tons of cards based on all sorts of aspects of Marvel lore which can be used to create synergized decks to get those lanes. If you feel confident about a W, you can "snap" at your opponent to bet more points that increase your rank.
Besides the simplicity, what I love about Snap is the quickness. There are 6 rounds with a time limit of 1 minute each round, making it remarkably easy to pick up and play wherever you are. You also only have 12 cards in a deck, making experimenting with deck compositions fast and simple.
That's pretty much Marvel Snap in a nutshell: fast and simple. I've spent a ton of time with it these past few months, and while I have a few issues with it (like the Battle Pass speed), I've loved it - even if I'm hard stuck at the beginning Silver ranks, lol.
Also, while it's free to play, money can only be spent on variants of cards. I haven't felt compelled to spend a single cent, other than buying the Black Panther battle pass, because I'm easy.
It's a lot of fun, but not GOTY material by any means. Also I didn't finish it yet lol.
Star Ocean 6 or whatever
It would be rude if I called this a GOTY-worthy game because it's not, even if I enjoyed it in the end. A 6/10 is an 11/10 for Tri-Ace you know.
Rune Factory 5
I'm just happy this exists, even if I don't like it as much as RF4.
This would be on the list if I finished it, but I haven't. I don't know if it'll get worse near the end, so I'm holding off.
Little Noah: Scion of Paradise
I adored it but there was a lot of good games this year and I didn't wanna have to write a retrospective on this one lol. But go play it!
This would be on the list if it didn't require a Netflix account to be playable. :/ Hopefully it shows up elsewhere soon.
That's it, we did it! 2897 words about video games. Next year looks to be popping off even harder, so I'm looking forward to it.
As for you, dear reader: tell me about your favorite games this year! You can leave a comment below, or ping me on Cohost!
May 2023 be a good year for us all! (Except for Elon Musk)