After revealing our awards during the past several days, the biggest day of them all has finally come. That’s right, it’s the end of the road folks and time for us to award our greatest honor: Game of the Year. Both the nominees and winner were not taken lightly, having to exemplify the best of gaming to be named. It was a hard-fought battle, but without further adieu, here’s our top 10 games of 2022.
A dark reimagining of the chaotic events of the original Final Fantasy, Stranger of Paradise: Final Fantasy Origin is one of the stranger games released this year. The turn-based combat that’s associated with Final Fantasy has instead been replaced by chaos-filled real-time action. Fans weren’t initially sure what to make of Stranger of Paradise amidst all the chaos, but ultimately this proved to be quite the enjoyable title in spite of itself. It might not be the action RPG remake of Final Fantasy people had hoped, but its alternate story does prove to be interesting, even if it’s a convoluted chaos riddled journey to get to the payoff. Stranger of Paradise features extremely challenging combat and a well-developed job system that encourages experimentation to create a character that withstands any chaos they may encounter. It may not have received the warmest critical reception, but the fact that almost a year later people are still working on and sharing their nearly invincible builds shows it did something right. Destroying Chaos is a daunting task that might be appealing for everyone, but those who have walked in Jack Garland’s shoes know how rewarding fighting Chaos can be.
Monolith Soft was the best representation of the Japanese RPG genre in 2022, releasing their best, most original game in over a decade. This is a beloved franchise that spans nearly twenty-five years that, like Final Fantasy, delve into similar elements, but tell drastically different stories. With the third iteration into the Xenoblade subseries (fourth if you count Chronicles X), Monolith Soft brings their A game, returning to their roots and creating a story of great intrigue. Having political warring factions with a mysterious force and council looming over the world, we’re put through an adventure that has us traversing a mature and surprisingly dark story. This also introduces an open world ripe for exploration, even getting the player into trouble by allowing access to overpowered parts of the world, ensuring they’ll never get bored. Xenoblade Chronicles 3 is not only one the best Nintendo Switch game of the year, but it’s also one of the best JRPGs of 2022 as well. If you’re looking for a 100-hour anime adventure that will have you enthralled throughout, you’ve found it right here.
Donut County creator Ben Esposito decided to follow up his simple little puzzle game with a title that’s equal parts shooter, platformer, puzzler, visual novel, dating sim, parkour simulator, speedrunner…there are probably a few other things we could add as well, but the point is that in many ways, Neon White almost seems like an insane game to even try and attempt to make. And yet, this bizarre mixture easily ended up making for one of the year’s best games. In fact, reflecting upon it, the insanity of being able to go from from a successful attempt at eliminating hordes of demons with a rifle that lets you air dash to a segment where an angel taking the form of a cartoon cat tries to get you some liquor is why it would up here. Neon White just knows how to mold this insanity into such a tightly-designed package filled with some of the year’s best, most fast-paced action, and that’s more than enough to earn it top honors.
Taking control of a tiny, anthropomorphised fox in a low-poly, isometric world was appealing enough on its own when it was first unveiled years back, but developer Andrew Shouldice’s Tunic was more than a pleasant array of voxels and vibrant colors alike. Balancing the nostalgia for gaming’s simpler yet imaginative past, with an acknowledgement that audiences still crave challenge and trial-and-error progression on top, Tunic’s bright, soft-edged exterior never felt like a distraction or compensation. Evident its references and call-backs may be — not-so-subtle green clothing and all — Tunic’s joy owed much to its purest form of exploration and inevitable conquest. Assembling and decoding its cryptic in-game manual with its own internal language. Being left to figure things out for one’s self. Battling through the myriad of dungeons and the pride felt in dealing with another troublesome mob of foes. Eye-catching its aesthetic may have been, Tunic’s greatest strength was the confidence held in its own shrouded mystery. More so, that players would be (and most certainly found themselves) compelled to seek answers above all else. Trust in itself, but trust too in its own player’s willingness more so, Tunic’s confidence in its craft is commendable and well-justified on top.
Obsidian swung for the fences and decided to step out of their comfort zone a bit with Grounded, a survival title where you can craft massive forts, battle or evade countless deadly insects, and even discover landmarks such as the baseball that was likely used to swing for the aforementioned fences. Grounded not only turns the average suburban backyard of the late ’80s into a massive world full of danger, intrigue and impressive sights, but they even used it to tell the tragic tale of the scientist that lived there with his family, proving that the developers haven’t lost their knack when it comes to impressive storytelling as well. Whether you’re hunting down fire ants to help craft top-grade armor or just searching around for various treasures, upgrades or secrets that reveal more of the narrative, there’s something for everyone here in what is easily the year’s best survival game.
Pokémon Legends: Arceus was not only one of the biggest surprises, but one of our favorite titles of 2022 that won’t soon be forgotten. It turned the series people have known and loved for over twenty years on its head with wildly new and engaging gameplay from being able to freely throw Pokéballs to dodging wild Pokémon attacks and facing them in arena battles. It was a risky new idea that ultimately paid off as a title full of so many new and creative ideas that it’s no wonder it managed to stand out so much. While we still saw the traditional turn-based combat that Pokémon is well known for, the parts that managed to shine was the ability to make it feel like a hybrid action adventure that emphasized actual exploration with a new mix of crafting to make the world feel like an organic working entity instead of a means to an end. This is Pokémon at the best its been in years which is why it’s one of our favorite titles to release in 2022.
In a lot of ways 2022 seemed like a return to the 1980s. Master of Puppets was on everyone’s playlist, Top Gun was the hot summer movie and Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Shredder’s Revenge brought back arcade-style beat ’em up action. The heroes in a half have not had a great game in a long time until Shredder’s Revenge. Based off the original animated series and the early ’90s arcade, Shredder’s Revenge is the shell-kicking adventure TMNT fans have been waiting for. It doesn’t do anything terribly innovative, simply incorporating all the best elements of the TMNT arcade games and expanding them. Numerous visual gags like Foot Soldiers doing office work and making characters like April O’Neil and Splinter playable only sweetened the deal. TMNT: Shredders Revenge is a radical homage to the arcade classics while feeling contemporary. Shredder’s Revenge supports local and online multiplayer, making it the perfect game to get some friends together, order pizzas and party like it’s 1989.
It was a tough battle for the top honors this year, but rest assured, the amazement that was Stray’s kitty hero being able to operate a vending machine was enough to warm our hearts, blow our minds and still guarantee it a high spot on our list of the year’s best games, with the bar set astoundingly high for all of 2023’s games to deliver such wonder as well (oh, and we suppose that the game’s astonishing graphics, captivating and unique post-apocalyptic world, impressive story, and gameplay that allows for perfectly-replicated feline movements also played a part in making Stray a GOTY candidate as well, but let’s be honest, it’s all about the kitty being able to operate a vending machine).
There’s no game like Elden Ring, plain and simple. FromSoftware has created one of the most memorable and unique games of the year, focusing on the player’s exploration while not burning them out with an overwhelming number of quests and content that will sidetrack from the core experience at one given time. It’s perfectly executed through and through, giving the player so many options in not only how they want to approach progression through the story, but progression of their character that can be molded how they see fit. Do you want to play a tank and shrug off most damage with poise? Do you want to put all your points into magic and do as much damage while potentially getting killed in a single strike? It’s up the player to decide. On top of that, Elden Ring fully immerses the player in an intriguing story that, like other Soulsborne games, focuses more on the lore and world building than it does anything else. This is yet another game that you can fill textbooks worth of information with and still barely scratch the surface of the interconnected web of mysteries. Elden Ring is just a magical experience that’s like nothing else this year.
2022 was an interesting year for video games as it continues to recover from the pandemic. Despite a promising list of releases at the start, that list slowly dwindled as surefire Game of the Year contenders were delayed to 2023. Eventually, it got to the point where there were two obvious contenders: God of War Ragnarök and Elden Ring. Both are exemplary video games capable of engrossing players for hours with their takes on storytelling, worldbuilding, gameplay and presentation. There can be only one Game of the Year, however, and while Elden Ring was close, it’s God of War Ragnarök that won us over to take the top honor.
God of War Ragnarök is a masterful triumph that delivers across all categories. As a story, God of War Ragnarök ties up Kratos and Atreus’ arc in an emotionally-satisfying way. Beautifully written and well told thanks to great performances from the cast, it’s a story that’ll make you laugh, give you feels and provide satisfaction as it moves towards the cataclysmic finale. The action is top-notch with Santa Monica Studios managing to further perfect the already satisfying and rewarding gameplay loop from God of War 2018 thanks to improved enemy variety, an increase in quality boss fights, a variety of high-quality side quests and all nine realms to explore. It’s all wrapped together in a beautiful visual and auditory presentation that truly brings the world of Ragnarök to life. God of War Ragnarök is an achievement every way you look at it. It’s fun to play, delivers a satisfying conclusion to the Norse story and it looks good while playing. For all these reasons, God of War Ragnarök is Hardcore Gamer’s 2022 Game of the Year