10 Best Video Games of 2022, Ranked
Perhaps you feel that 2022 was, generally speaking, kind of a rough year. Fortunately, it was an all-time best year in at least two areas: anime (read that list here) and video games. The pandemic pushed release dates back on a whole legion of titles, and 2022 felt like the year when the floodgates burst open. Between long-awaited sequels and surprising dark horses, 2022 delivered so many incredible games that it was often impossible to keep up. And though that often felt frustrating—especially as a game reporter—when you step back, that’s a pretty great problem to have.
So many brilliant games were released this year that any top 10 list will inevitably leave out some truly remarkable titles. Any other year, and these games would’ve been shoo-ins. As it is, an “honorable mentions” section is absolutely required. So shout out to: Neon White, Triangle Strategy, Norco, Citizen Sleeper, Splatoon 3, Mario + Rabbids: Sparks Of Hope, Pentiment, Tunic, Marvel Snap, and probably 259 more incredible games. These are the best video games of 2022, ranked.
10. God Of War: Ragnarök
Look, this is blindingly uncool in a gaming list such as this, but I’ll make a confession: I haven’t played God Of War: Ragnarök. I am one person, with one person’s limited amounts of time and money. If a certain studio is seeing this article and would like to help me change this, please be my guest. But that’s why it’s low on the list.
However, enough friends and colleagues whom I deeply respect have gushed about the merits of this game that having a list without it feels downright negligent. Whether it surpasses God Of War (2018), which is deemed by many as one of the best games ever made, is more of an object of contention. Still, if you can make a sequel under such pressure that delivers an emotional story and fun combat while holding its own against such a hallowed predecessor, that seems like a hell of an accomplishment to me.
9. Trombone Champ
When poking around other Best of 2022 articles, I did not see a single list which graced itself with Trombone Champ, and I think that’s a goddamn shame. Trombone Champ is as fun to play as it is to watch videos of. In fact, it’s a rare moment when something made by one person gives the internet so much joy. Trombone Champ accomplished this feat. The game simply oozes humor and charm. Never has failing in a rhythm game been this much fun, or this funny. Plus, the game has updated itself to allow you to make and share custom songs, which is a stroke of genius. I never knew seeing the “Sephiroth” theme played on MIDI trombone would make me this happy. It makes the cut because of the joy it has brought to all of us.
8. Vampire Survivors
I can’t name another game like Vampire Survivors, where so much happens while you, the player, physically do so little. It has all the growth-and-grind aspects of a roguelike (think Hades) while having all the chill “sit back and see what happens” vibes of a wind-up toy you just watch go across your floor—but for half an hour. And it does all this while being addictive as hell. To know someone who’s into Vampire Survivors is to know someone who sat down on their couch for one round and didn’t get up again for another three to five hours. What I’m trying to say is, it’s innovative as hell.
7. Cuphead: The Delicious Last Course
Five years after the notoriously difficult platformer’s original release, Cuphead fans had a hell of a year. For one, we got the premiere of The Cuphead Show! on Netflix, which is actually pretty good! But more preciously, we finally got the release of Cuphead‘s long-awaited DLC, The Delicious Last Course (get it?). Turns out, Cuphead is still really hard! The Delicious Last Course thrives because it delivers everything we loved about the original game, just more of it, and with enough freshness (MISS CHALICE!) to keep it feeling exciting and new.
6. Xenoblade Chronicles 3
The Xenoblade Chronicles series continues to feel like this somewhat-hidden gem, continually obscured in large-scale gaming discussions by the God Of Wars and Elden Rings and even the Persona 5s of the world. But a gem it remains. If you want to explore a beautiful, sprawling, well-thought-out world under a glorious digital sun, all while digging into a story whose darkness will break your heart, Xenoblade Chronicles 3 is for you. The combat is interesting, as well—it strikes a middle ground between a turn-based RPG and a hands-on action game. Don’t worry about playing 1 and 2. While there are details and characters that players of previous installments will recognize and enjoy, 3 can be enjoyed in its own right.
Related: Top 5 best N64 games of all time, ranked on Destructoid
5. Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Shredder’s Revenge
If you are of a certain age, or close enough to a certain age that you have osmosis’d pop culture loves from your friends, you likely have a soft spot for Turtles in Time. Turtles in Time was an NES and regular-ol’ arcade game from the early ’90s, and the cabinets remained hallowed ground at any arcade throughout the decade. You picked your favorite Ninja Turtle and battled through beat ’em up levels to stop Shredder’s evil plans. It was a joy. It was a staple. It was something I never thought I would experience a fresh version of—until Shredder’s Revenge released.
Shredder’s Revenge packs in all the nostalgic points while still feeling fresh. You don’t have to have ever set eyes on Turtles in Time, or even know anything about TMNT, in order to understand the delights of Shredder’s Revenge. It’s the best possible version of a ’90s-callback beat ’em up. You can team up with so many friends. You can make the combat as simple or as intricate and combo-heavy as you’d like. You can play as April. Cowabunga, indeed.
4. The Case of the Golden Idol
To intrigue those who might not otherwise play The Case of the Golden Idol, it’s often compared to another indie mystery-solving darling, The Curse of the Obra Dinn. I greedily devoured The Case of the Golden Idol in two sittings, and I will tell you it’s one of the most unique and striking gaming experiences I’ve ever had. You’re given a freeze frame (more or less) of a moment in time and asked to piece together what happened. The mysteries get steadily harder and more complicated, with even some code work involved. But cracking each puzzle makes you feel like a genius, and watching the threads of the story slowly weave together is incredibly satisfying. If you like a puzzle game and/or a mystery, you should absolutely play this game.
Hot tip: this is a fun game to play co-op with one other person. I think three would devolve into “too many cooks” territory, but having someone to bounce theories off of in the real world is a delight.
3. Pokémon Legends: Arceus
As someone who has been a Pokémon fan more-or-less since Gen 1 (I took a break as a “Cool Teenager”), I was part of an ever-growing chorus which was begging Game Freak to change up the tried-and-true formula a bit. Legends: Arceus was the first time in 25 years where Game Freak really shook things up, and the result is one of the best Pokémon games ever made.
For me, part of the reason Scarlet and Violet was a disappointment at launch (other than the glitches) was that it did not build on the best innovations Legends: Arceus crafted. We were finally allowed to catch a Pokémon by simply sneaking up and throwing a Poké Ball at it. We were introduced to a reinvented perspective of Pokémon Trainer-dom which made the average player actually want to catch multiples of the same species and made poking around feel less tedious. And for the first time ever, there was the possibility for wild Pokémon to hurt you, because they are wild freaking animals. This latter innovation was a brilliant extension upon Legends: Arceus‘s notably darker tone, which had a stink of intentionally uncomfortable colonialism to it. Hell, this game even has a robust ecosystem of fun side-quests.
No, Legends: Arceus isn’t technically a true open world game like Scarlet and Violet are, but that didn’t keep me from feeling a greater sense of adventure than I have felt in a Pokémon game since maybe Gen 2 or 3. Compared with Scarlet and Violet, I now wonder if “survey games” are going to be my most anticipated Pokémon releases from now on, should they choose to continue this route. And I hope they do. Just … add a Hard Mode, please.
Even before Stray released, it was already an internet phenomenon. “CAT GAME!” we all screamed. “IT’S CAT GAME! CAT GAME BRINGS JOY.”
Indie developer BlueTwelve Studio had the brilliant idea of creating an entire game around a cat strolling around dystopian underground cyber-cities—ones that often reminded me of Final Fantasy VII. As an excellent flourish, these cities would be inhabited by cute, quirky robots with faces like old, old Macintoshes. But as with all brilliant ideas, this one would be hard to pull off. What makes Stray so special is that it pulls it off. Beautifully.
Yes, Stray has a dedicated “meow” button, and that is incredibly joyful and important. But what makes it so impressive is that you’re wandering around these landscapes doing normal cat shit—scratching walls, leaping into boxes, knocking everything over—and that progresses you through the game. There’s a suspension of disbelief needed for whether a cat would do these things in such a calculated manner, but Stray managed to truly capture the feeling of embodying a cat. And they proceeded to build an emotional, engaging game around that cat. That is a feat.
1. Elden Ring
I know it’s entirely unoriginal to say Elden Ring is the best game of the year. But the reason everyone and their cool grandmas are putting Elden Ring at the top of their lists is because, quite simply, it’s one of the greatest games ever made. Even I, someone who got 150 hours in and threw in the towel (for now), have to admit that.
FromSoft found a way to make their notoriously hard games work for everyone: by giving you a world big enough so that when you hit a wall, there’s always something else to do. This works brilliantly because the sense of wonder this game gives you is only rivaled by Breath of the Wild, in my opinion. Everywhere you go is distinct and wondrous. You want to poke around everywhere. Though I’d argue, perhaps to a chorus of boos from the internet, that Elden Ring is maybe too big.
There’s a whole laundry list of brilliant touches that make Elden Ring work like a goddamn miracle. Counterbalancing a very dark, grim world and ambient storytelling with the likes of giant Turtle Popes and warrior jars is the kind of absurdism I love unendingly. Allowing players to build a sense of community through in-game messages was genius enough, but then we also got memorable moments like Let Me Solo Her, which united us all.
I miss my Tarnished and her Wolverine claws. Elden Ring‘s gravity is impossible to deny.
(featured image: Annapurna Interactive)
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