The games I played in 2022
Ok lets just get Game of the Year out of the way right now, not even gonna do an intro, uh, it’s
What a surprise right? I mean, FromSoft’s been knocking out banger after banger for over a decade now, and Elden Ring feels like both the culmination of all of that effort, yet also the start of something new. It’s an incredibly ambitious title that took a lot of risks, had an insane amount of hype, and actually managed to somehow surpass that hype. The first 2/3rds of the game is pretty much the best game content ever made. The map hiding its true size is just genius. Margit is such a good first boss, hard enough to be a crazy wall if you run straight towards him, basically begging you to go explore and do other stuff first instead of trying to brute force through him right away. It’s that classic FromSoft difficulty gating, but feels far more realized and purposeful in an open world format than it does in their more restricted games. It slows down a bit towards the end, once you run out of stuff to explore and just have the last couple bosses to take care of, but like… that part is still good, as a whole the game is still a 10/10. Elden Ring *feels* like a game that took 10 years to make, and in a way it kind of did. What an insane achievement.
Ok, gonna cover the rest in chronological order of when I played them
Look, wordle is ultra simple, not entirely original, and achieved viral success mainly due to the pretty smart way it let people share results without spoiling the solution to the once-per-day puzzle it offered. For whatever reason though this damn game nerd-sniped me into trying to solve it programmatically. And I’m not the only one this happened to either… though I did end up writing one of the first articles about doing that so I keep getting cited in news articles about “the best wordle starting words” which I find kind of funny.
SUPRALAND SIX INCHES UNDER
Like the first game in the series, Supraland Six Inches Under feels simultaneously really amateur yet oddly high quality. The game itself is solid enough, it scratches an itch that other indie devs are not really covering right now (3D puzzle metroidvania), even if the puzzles feel a bit clunky and the vibe amateur. There was a kind of overarching plot about a greedy businessman stealing people’s money who was clearly meant to look like trump and it was like, trying to do some kind of political commentary but ended up basically saying nothing in the end, sort of felt like an alien’s interpretation of politics.
POKEMON LEGENDS: ARCEUS
This game should not have been good. It had everything going against it right from the start, it looked ugly, the last couple of pokemon games were also a bit of a disaster, it was a side project being made internally at Game Freak (who seem notoriously under-staffed these days), and on top of that the game starts off with an hours worth of text boxes and tutorials before you can actually start playing the game. And yet… the game was fun. It felt fresh, and ended up being the first (and only) pokemon game that I ever ended up “catching them all”. Game Freak really needs to get the technical side of their games in order though… or get Nintendo to help.
I don’t really know what to think about Vampire Survivors. The reasons why it’s popular are clear: it’s pure addiction loop, and extremely cheap. It has a lot of the DNA of an idle or clicker game, while having just barely enough “real gameplay” to lift it above that. It’s addicting, and really good at being addicting. It’s not much more than that though.
KIRBY AND THE FORGOTTON LAND
Confession: Never really been a huge fan of Kirby games. Always respected them, but they’ve always just been kind of, far too easy to really be enjoyable to adult me. But the new one manages to strike a much better balance of difficulty than past ones have IMO. The platforming is still pretty trivial, but the bosses in this game have some actual meat to them, especially the harder versions of them you fight later on. And the optional time trial mini challenges as well. The vibe is really… weird… kirby in a semi-realistic post apocalyptic world is… just… odd, but in a good way I think? Probably the best kirby game overall. The Switch is a bit of a beast of a console… feels like the Switch entry in all of nintendo’s franchises is the best or second best in the series.
Recursive Sokoban! Simple concept, decent puzzles, solid game. I do think that some of the puzzles tended to rely a bit much on some of the more fiddly implementation details of the mechanics, priority and stuff (which box gets pushed into the other when you push 2 open faces together, boxes always entering the exact middle when getting pushed into another box [except if they’re connected], etc). It’s hard to avoid *having* priority issues like that in a puzzle game, but I do feel a lot like indie puzzle game devs fucking love building puzzles *based around* those oddities and specifics, and I feel like that’s a bit of a trap. You should avoid drawing attention to the ambiguities! But its still really cool and quite mind bending overall.
I think if I *had* to pick an indie game of the year it’s probably Tunic. It’s definitely the meatiest indie game of the year, its big and cohesive and mostly pretty well made. It’s very *very* reminiscent of Fez, full of meta secrets that required taking physical notes and manipulating sreenshots around in photoshop and stuff. And it has a really pleasant art style. It’s pretty good overall. I had a bit of issue with the controls though, a lot of nitpicks, made all the more frustrating since its clear that they were getting in the way of an otherwise great game for me. The main issue was there was a lack of input buffering for the game’s dodge roll, so if you pressed dodge at the end of your attack animation, it would just eat the input and not dodge. This compounded with the excessive hitstun on everything which made timing dodges even more annoying.
ROGUE LEGACY 2
Rogue Legacy 2 is Rogue Legacy but more. Rogue Legacy has a lot of issues, and its sequel… doesn’t really fix any of them. The best roguelike games are infinitely replayable because every run feels different and unique, and you want to keep playing cause you want to see what crazy wacky shit happens on the next run. That ain’t the case with Rogue Legacy 2. It’s replayability comes from an almost idle-game-esque upgrade loop. You aren’t doing another run because you want to see new shit, you do the same run again because you need to farm enough gold to get 2 armor points so you have a slightly increased chance of beating the next boss on the next next run. There aren’t a lot of items and relics to actually make runs different from each other, so it just feels like pure grind.
I do think that Geoguessr is probably one of the greatest games of all time. It’s explainable in 2 seconds, to literally anyone, even if they don’t play video games, and endlessly interesting and fun to actually play. Duels is a variation of that that pits you 1v1 against someone else racing against each other to see who can make the better guess. It’s pretty fun. I played it a little bit. Not much else to say.
I loved The Witness. I think I gave my GOTY to it back in 2016 (over Dark Souls 3(!!!)). The Looker is a direct parody of The Witness that came out 6 years later. Exactly on time. Direct parody games like this are extremely rare for some reason, so it’s always nice to see something like this pop up. The Looker is actually legitimately funny though, It knows what made The Witness good, and knows how to poke fun of it in a way that feels respectful instead of cruel. Excellent game. Also it’s free.
At some point this year I was like “What if I just randomly got really good at chess”. So I started playing some online games of chess.
I am not good at chess.
LAST CALL BBS
Zachtronics’ Swan Song. The last game they’ll ever make (allegedly). It’s a collection of 6 smaller games unified via a fictional retro desktop computer. I love Zachtronics style games and frequently put them towards the top of my end of the year list, they really know how to do programming games in a way nobody else does. Last Call BBS contains *2* of their signature style of programming game (3 if you count the alien evolution one), and a couple of other puzzles and solitaire things. And a plastic model construction kit sim. And like… they’re fine. Like, they’re minigames so none of them individually are anywhere near as interesting as say, opus magnum or shenzhen IO or even TIS-100. And unfortunately, the collection doesn’t really add up to more than the sum of its parts. It’s just a bunch of separate minigames. The space restrictions on both of the construction puzzles were super tight so it rarely felt like there was room for alternate solutions that could be optimized better, and that was always my favorite part of their other games.
CULT OF THE LAMB
It’s cute, the art style is wonderful, and it has a great vibe to it. That said, the base building part of the game and the dungeon crawling part of the game don’t really synergize well together, and each of those halves of the game feel like they lacked the depth needed to be interesting on their own. The cult management half feels like needless trivial busywork most of the time, and the dungeon crawling lacked that roguelike variety you expect out of something like this, with most of the upgrades being simple stat boosts instead of unique run-defining skills. After 11 hours I beat the final boss, and just had zero desire to keep playing after. It sold like bonkers though, so it’s almost guaranteed to get some expansions, and maybe they’ll fill it out more there? There’s a good skeleton here, it just needs meat.
It’s a game that is clearly heavily inspired by The Witness… and like… that’s it. Its inspiration is just The Witness. It’s good, like its good at being like the witness, minus the cool environmental puzzles of The Witness that were kind of the thing that pulled the whole game together, the thing the game mechanics led you to the whole time and the reason for the game to exist. Taiji is kind of just puzzles. And it does that The Witness thing where you learn what the symbols mean through experimentation, and that’s cool and all. It’s good at doing that. It’s a good game. I wish it would have done more to distinguish itself. Mix and match your inspirations! Don’t just pull from only one thing!
FREEDOM PLANET 2
Now this is what I mean by distinguish yourself. Freedom Planet 1 started life as a Sonic fan game but swapped the characters out so they could sell it commercially. Its sequel (8 years later) still maintains some of that clear 2D Sonic inspiration, but they really put in the work this time to be their own thing now instead of just being a sonic fangame. Pretty good game, a lot of distinct levels with interesting themes and gimmicks, but had some wonky difficulty spikes with some of the bosses (the game expects you to buy powerups and upgrades throughout the game but its mostly pretty easy so I didn’t bother, but then it throws you into a boss fight that is very difficult without those powerups, with no option to go back and buy them before you beat the boss, because this particular one blocks your progress until you beat it).
I bought it because I was super curious about it cause it looked very weird and somehow got a very positive reception. I refunded it after an hour. It is baffling to me how it got such a positive reception… I didn’t play it for long before refunding it so I don’t want to shit on it too much less the “uh actually it gets good after 5 hours” responses come in. I wasn’t having fun, and didn’t want to keep playing. It felt exceedingly mediocre to me. Which I guess makes it a 10/10 when grading it relative to the other recent 3D sonic games.
Ok I played rain world before, back in 2017. I did not get very far before giving up. It was extremely interesting, but very tough to get into, felt like the game was actively trying to prevent you from experiencing it. But I always wanted to, so I gave it another try this year. This time I streamed it on twitch and told people they could help me, and I think that was very useful for figuring out some of the more obscure unexplained parts of the game and guiding me in the right direction (I actually beat it this time). Rain world is a fascinating, amazing game, but with a couple of odd design decisions that work against what it wants its experience to be. The stuff that is within the game’s world is fine. It’s meant to be an ecosystem simulator, you are the bottom of the food chain and the game wants you to feel what that means (and boy do you feel it).
The parts that work against this are mostly nondiegetic mechanics that are floated on top of this. The camera not scrolling limiting visibility at the borders of the screen results in some pretty unfair deaths. It’s something there for only me, the player, and not something the slugcat would be experiencing. The karma system kind of sucks, like I don’t mind that the game kills you in unfair unpredictable ways sometime, that fits with what the game is going for. But the karma system punishes you super hard for dying, and that feels like it goes against the “death is part of nature” aspect of the game. If you’re making a game that is intentionally unfair so as to mimic the inherent unfairness of nature, then you really need to be careful *where* that unfairness comes from. If it feels like it comes from nondiegetic systems floating on top of the fantasy of the game then it is a lot harder to give them a pass.
Rain world is still kind of a crazy game though, and the parts of it that are good are really fucking good. There isn’t really any other game out there that gives you this kind of experience, it’s entirely unique. And I respect that.
Marvel Snap is actually a legitimately good, well designed card game. You wouldn’t expect that out of a free to play mobile game licensing a huge IP. That being said, it really is hampered a ton by being a free to play mobile game. Its not unfair with monetization, there really isn’t a way to pay to speed up the progression at all, so there’s no actual incentive to spend money (other than to get one battlepass-only card) but the progression systems in it still feel like they were designed to make you want to pay to speed it up (which you can’t), cause god damn does it slow down like crazy after you get the first 2 pools of cards. The game itself is fun though. Short games with small decks yet still having quite a lot of room for strategy (on both the deckbuilding and piloting side of things).
CALL OF DUTY WARZONE 2
Games a fucking mess lmao. I don’t understand how a company worth 50 billion dollars can release a game with as many bugs and crashes as this, and one of the worst UIs ever. It’s a chore just figuring out how to party up with friends and start a game in the right mode. I like most of the gameplay changes they made compared to the first game, but god damn is everything surrounding that core gameplay a mess.
It needed to be delayed like 3 months to fix bugs and performance issues before its release. I get that Game Freak cannot do that, because they need to sync its release up with movies and toys and cards and anime and everything. It’s a bit of a shame, since I think Pokemon Scarlett/Violet are actually like, the best mainline pokemon games since gen 5 (barring the tech issues). It’s fully open world pokemon! You can go anywhere and do things in any order! I wandered into a gym where everything was 15+ levels higher than me, got my ass handed to me, and was like uh… this is actually difficult! I need to go do other stuff and come back later. That is an experience that just doesn’t happen in other pokemon games. I don’t care that there was no level scaling, it was fun to come back and crush the beginner gym I missed with a team 40 levels higher, the same way it was fun to wander into higher level areas and actually be at risk of losing. It’s good that the game doesn’t beat you over the head with endless story cutscenes and textboxes the way past games have. And the last part of the main storyline is just an undeniably great sequence. Let’s just hope game freak gets some actual help on the tech side of things for the next one…
Also, Palafin is my favorite of the new pokemon they added.
What’s there even to say about Dwarf Fortress lmao. What CAN’T you say about it. This game is everything. I played it a bit years ago back when you needed to install multiple mods and tilesets to make it even remotely playable. The steam version is much improved from that and playable standalone now. The UI is still a huge mess despite the improvements in the steam version, and has some issues with responsiveness that make it a chore to use. The new graphics in it are really nice, and being able to see multiple layers at once is amazing for comprehending what’s actually going on.
It’s hard to overstate just how influential Dwarf Fortress is. So many games (including the most popular game of all time) pull influence directly from Dwarf Fortress. None of them do everything DF does. None of them even do a fraction of what DF does. If you drop a dwarf into lava it models what happens to the fat layer in between their skin and their muscle. You can read the thoughts of the animals that live nearby. The sheer depth of what it simulates makes it the most interesting story generator in gaming. It’s also notoriously inscrutable as a result. The steam version is a step in the right direction of making it more scrutable, but there’s still quite a ways to go. Everyone deserves to experience this game and I hope they can pull that off eventually.