For a brief period in 2022, it looked like no-one would play (or talk about) anything other than Elden Ring ever again. Gamers around the world were hooked, with the title dominating online discourse for weeks on end. In reality, it was one blockbuster release amongst an overwhelming array of games covering a spectrum of styles, genres and studios.
This was also a year of big games business news, with Electronic Arts and FIFA parting ways after close on three decades, Microsoft attempting to buy Activision Blizzard – the acquisition is still up in the air – and Epic Games announcing a surprise purchase of Bandcamp. And at London’s Imperial War Museum, a new exhibition examined the relationship between video games and violence, through the lens of war games.
Virtual worlds also dominated the discourse for design studios, agencies and brands, many of whom became enamoured with the creative promise of the metaverse. But while the metaverse is still under construction, there’s plenty of other places to explore. Here’s ten of our favourite games from 2022.
Players take on the role of a space stowaway in this interactive sci-fi novel. The story takes place on The Eye – a bustling space station with shades of dystopian New York or LA – and follows the central character as they struggle to stay alive, build skills, and escape the clutches of their evil corporate overlords. It’s a clear parody of unscrupulous big business, but with a slick graphic style and a story that avoids feeling preachy or clichéd.
Developer: Jump Over The Age; Publisher: Fellow Traveller; Platform: Windows, Mac, Nintendo Switch, Xbox
The fiendishly difficult (for some, at least) Elden Ring takes place in a vast fantasy landscape, populated by monsters and steeped in complex lore. Like the rest of developer FromSoftware’s games it doesn’t go easy on the player, forcing them to take the time to understand the game’s rhythms and mechanics if they want to progress. The environments are beautiful, if bleak, with the game drawing particular praise for its compelling open world design.
Developer: FromSoftware; Publisher: Bandai Namco Entertainment; Platform: Windows, PlayStation, Xbox
The ‘cosy game’ movement continues apace, with this gentle point-and-click title by Bad Viking offering an enjoyably sedate experience. Players take charge of a plant store in the small town of Undermere, where they become immersed in local intrigue. Each level introduces a new puzzle, challenging players to collect and identify plants, and solve problems – with a focus on browsing books and poring over maps and bits of scrap paper.
Developer: Bad Viking; Publisher: Iceberg Interactive; Platform: Windows, Mac, Nintendo Switch
Fans of cheesy horror will love Supermassive Games’ The Quarry, which lets players experience every single scary movie stereotype firsthand. The story unfolds at Hackett’s Quarry, a summer camp with a dark secret (werewolves) and a cast of unsuspecting teenagers. Players don’t control the action per se, but a branching narrative means every single choice they make affects the ultimate outcome. The story rattles along, and even at its most hackneyed it’s hard not to enjoy the experience.
Developer: Supermassive Games; Publisher: 2k Games; Platform: Windows, PlayStation, Xbox
The medieval period is a rich source of inspiration for video games makers, with plenty of titles taking place in historic settings that hark back to the era. In murder mystery Pentiment, players get into the nitty gritty of medieval life, taking on the role of illuminated manuscript artist Andreas Maler. The game – one of the most visually striking of 2022 – has an accompanying graphic design story, with type foundry Lettermatic creating a toolkit of digital fonts to bring the historic period to life. Over 2,700 glyphs were inked by hand by the Lettermatic team.
Developer: Obsidian Entertainment; Publisher: Xbox Game Studios: Platform: Windows, Xbox
Kirby’s Dream Buffet
No end of year list would be complete without a Nintendo game, and Kirby’s Dream Buffet is the games company at its most charming. A multiplayer game in the vein of the extremely popular Fall Guys – although definitely more forgiving – Kirby’s Dream Buffet challenges players to race through food-themed levels, picking up strawberries, rolling across forks and jumping from biscuit to biscuit. It’s infuriating and addictive, as all the best Nintendo games are.
Developer: HAL Laboratory; Publisher: Nintendo; Platform: Nintendo Switch
Stray follows an intrepid cat as it navigates its way across a peril-filled subterranean city – apparently designed with Hong Kong’s Kowloon Walled City in mind. With only a helpful drone for company, players must climb, leap, and solve puzzles in order to find their way back to the surface. Aesthetically speaking the game is brilliant, offering a novel perspective on a world design that might otherwise feel tropey.
Developer: BlueTwelve Studio; Publisher: Annapurna Interactive; Platform: Windows, PlayStation
Cult of the Lamb
Cult of the Lamb might look cute, but its subject matter is far from it. The central character is a lamb who’s been challenged with building his own cult in order to appease a demonic god. Players must find followers, perform rituals, and decide whether or not to sacrifice cult members – all of which takes place in randomly generated environments. The graphics take the edge off the sinister narrative, with some likening Cult of the Lamb to a satanic version of the enormously popular Animal Crossing.
Developer: Massive Monster; Publisher: Devolver Digital; Platform: Windows, Mac, Nintendo Switch, PlayStation, Xbox
An influx of pixel art games have left the style feeling a little tired in recent years, but Norco is proof that there’s life in the old dog yet. The game transports players to an alternate universe version of Louisiana, following main character Kay as she returns to the town she grew up in. It’s an atmospheric experience, thanks in no small part to Norco’s detailed and evocative pixel illustrations.
Developer: Geography of Robots; Publisher: Raw Fury; Platform: Windows, Mac; Screengrab from game shown top
Powerwash Simulator is one of those Ronseal games where what you see is what you get – and that’s a whole load of power washing. Players can pick up their pressure jet and scrub everything from roofs and barbecues to garden gnomes and vintage cars, in a game experience that sounds ridiculous but is supremely satisfying. If there’s any doubt about the game’s subject matter, Reddit’s thriving community of ‘powerwashing porn’ fans should put those to rest.
Developer: FuturLab; Publisher: Square Enix Collective; Platform: Windows, Xbox