Happy new year all! Before we get on with 12 months of new games, though, here’s a reminder of the games you loved in 2021! Thank you SO much for taking part in this, and have a lovely, safe 2023!
50. PowerWash Simulator
What we said: “This is not a game about rushing towards an end: this is a game about the sedate pleasures of repetitive work – a slower game about the satisfaction of a job well done. It’s relaxing and calming, and that’s a powerful quality.”
“I can’t even tell you how much I enjoyed this game,” says DrDrepper, before going on to do a pretty good job of telling us how much they enjoyed the game: “It’s simple and yet so well done and addictive.”
“The game I never knew I needed yet cannot put down,” says ukaskew37 who’s similarly taken with it all.
And finally here’s jabberwocky: “Good clean fun.” I see what you did there!
49. Aperture Desk Job
Aperture Desk Job was a small pack-in for Valve’s Steam Deck that crams in plenty of big ideas. Here’s what we said of Valve’s handheld PC: “From a hardware perspective, this handheld has genuinely exceeded expectations. There’ve been so many moments over the last few days that truly excited and delighted me: just how high could I push Doom Eternal until I started to drop frames? Do ultra settings work with dynamic resolution scaling? Yes! “
“A fun introduction to my absolute favourite piece of gaming hardware I’ve purchased certainly this year, and perhaps ever,” says xXtracr.
And here’s ukaskew37 again! “It’s both a wonderful introduction to the marvel that is the Steam Deck and a reminder that nobody makes games like Valve.”
What we said: “Norco is striking, surprising, novel. It’s darkly wary of a future that sits on a knife-edge, disdainful of the cynics, priest-like to the anxious. It’s nothing less than extraordinarily beautiful. And like the increasing number of games that want to go a little further than distracting us from these things and instead wrestle with them head-on, it is mesmerising.”
“A gritty, post-apocalyptic view of Louisiana, exploring a number of dark themes while maintaining a stream of unexpected hilarity,” says ComfyFeline. “This game stuck with me for a long time.”
47. Gotham Knights
What we said: “A strange unlikely charm underpins everything in Gotham Knights. And it tells me this: video games are huge undertakings, and when you’re dealing with a massive, billion dollar licence, maybe the people making the games don’t get to make all the decisions and set all the parameters. Maybe they don’t get the budget they need for a truly vibrant open-world. Maybe they don’t get the time to polish the combat and stop people slipping around on the floor. Maybe they have to trade the Batmobile for a bike. But they can add charm. They can throw in a joke here, a funny email there, and leave it all behind a concealed door and wait for you to discover it.”
“Batman is dead – yes REALLY!” says Grimmsqueaker. “Yeah this is no Arkham City but it captures Gotham perfectly with amazing traversal on ground or up on the rooftops. Gotham Knights tells a great story start to finish and it’s great to get a different take on what would happen to Gotham if Batman truly is gone.” But is he really dead, though?
46. Monster Hunter Rise: Sunbreak
What we said: “Here’s an expansion that is loosely in line with G-Rank or Ultimate editions of previous games, introducing new monsters, new locales and most importantly that all-important Master Rank that brings with it an all-new level of challenge. Thankfully Sunbreak has a little besides that makes it more palatable for those like myself who like a smoother ride.”
Modhabobo goes into plenty more detail: “I bounced off all Monster Hunters, including World, but it was Rise, with its bite sized play opportunities that made me finally understand the allure. Some people may think it is a relentless boss rush, but for me, the small self-contained worlds, with their various monsters, and the various levels of play available meant I could go down multiple rabbit holes. For me, Sunbreak was just more of my favourite meal.”
45. F1 22
What we said: “F1 22 is a remarkably broad game too – one that can be enjoyed by the growing audience the sport now enjoys. It’s a remarkably familiar one too, mind, that through no fault of its own never really feels like the measure of last year’s model – a predicament the sport finds itself in now, as it struggles to match the fireworks and fury of the classic that was the 2021 season. In that way, perhaps F1 22 is a little too authentic for its own good.”
A popular game, but not one which any of you commented on – perhaps because by this point in Codemasters’ reliably entertaining annual racer there’s not too much left to say.
44. High on Life
What we said: “Aside from a botched attempt to rebottle Rick and Morty as a first-person shooter, High on Life is a covert playable manifesto for games in general as callous, explicit and made up of false choices – incubation vats, in short, for cavalier dickheads. If it took itself seriously enough to make statements, it might offer itself as an expression of the artform at its worst. It doesn’t want to be finished though, really. Much like the bisected teddybear you find bleeding out in one particular canyon, High on Life just wants to be put out of its misery.”
“Somehow manages never to get stale and nails the gameplay mechanics for a fun shooter,” says PrincessEntrapta, who’s definitely a bigger fan of the game than we were. “Possibly the AA hit of the year. Vibrant art style, superb voice acting, funny writing, likeable characters, and so many little extras to find.”
43. Hardspace: Shipbreaker
What we said: “Hardspace is valuable for the emphasis it puts on discovering how a thing was made and who made use of it, even as you’re obliged to melt it down into currency. Cultural production under capitalism generally seeks to hide the circumstances of an artefact’s creation: the hope is always to present the commodity as if it came from nowhere and no-one. Dissecting these lovingly assembled vessels isn’t just an engrossing zero-G physics puzzle, though if that’s all you want from the game, it amply delivers. It’s an act of appreciation, heightened by an awareness of the developer’s previous projects, that can’t help but restore a little of the humanity corporations deny.”
A bunch of anonymous comments on this little gem, and some marvels amidst them.
“There’s a whole article that could be written about the alternate FPS (Pokemon Snap and PowerWash simulator would be there too), but Hardspace crowns them all. Being your own foible, setting your heart racing as a miss timed arc of laser slits through a fuel pipe and starts a grand metal whack of pipe on a cataclysmic chain reaction that ends in nuclear catastrophe… It’s brimming with the classic stuff that only videogames can do, making stories and memories of your own play and thoughts.”
42. Neon White
What we said: Neon White has some of the best level design I’ve ever played in an arcade-style game. Levels are deceptively simple at first glance, at least the early ones. For the most part, levels are short but layered playgrounds that beg you to figure out how to get across them as fast as you can. The more I played, the more I started to really understand the true fluidity of it all, and know when best to use a particular power or weapon.”
“I don’t normally make an effort to 100% complete games,” says 09philj. “With Neon White it’s not an effort, it’s a joy.”
“My word this game is so much fun!” writes Azquelt. “Neon White gives the impression that it’s going to be incredibly hard and unforgiving but I’ve never played a game that wanted you to finish it more. Each level leads you by the hand through the tricks and tools it’s giving you and teaches by example how to find and use shortcuts. I rate this game the most fun to move around in since the original Mirror’s Edge.”
41. Lego Star Wars: The Skywalker Saga
What we said: “For the most part, the game’s film retellings are humourous if simple fun – there’s nothing here you can’t button mash or Lego brick smash through – and I particularly enjoyed Rise of Skywalker, where that film’s often-daft script is well sent-up. After a quick tour, however, the game’s open worlds held less pull. TT Games, maybe don’t kill the past – and return to those linear levels if you fancy adapting The Mandalorian.”
“Best Lego game in years,” says says Curt580, who keeps it brief and to the point.
“A refreshing, all encompassing collection for fans of the movies young and old,” adds xXtractr. “Easy, yet still fun. Reliving epic moments from the movies was what I loved about the original Lego Star Wars, and that is still the greatest feat of this game, all these years later.”
40. Mario + Rabbids Sparks of Hope
What we said: “Well, this turns out to be brilliant fun, tactical and knockabout, exactly as you’d expect if you combined Mario and XCOM. The roster of characters is colourful and quirky, encouraging experimentation, and alongside equipping items and sparks, each character has a handful of skill trees to plug points into as they level. (Characters also auto-level off the battlefield.) Throw in bosses, inventive victory conditions, deep cuts from Mario universe and clever battlefield design and you’ve got something pretty special..”
simplymod has some thoughts. “Is it dramatically new? No. Does it add many improvements over Kingdom Battle? No. Does it make for fun and combine XCOMesque tactics, charming Nintendo characters and Rabbids’ wackiness? Oh yes yes yes.”
“The sequel to the game nobody thought they wanted shows that it wasn’t a fluke, the combination of Mario and XCom really is magic,” says SomethingOriginal. “With some interesting new twists on the original’s already sublime gameplay, the biggest surprise remains the fact that the Rabbids don’t detract, and arguably improve, the formula even the second time around.”
What we said: “Dorfromantik is sunshine on the screen. To spend an afternoon in its company, unhurriedly placing tiles down with a soft “plonk!”, while the gentle sounds of a countryside chirrup around you, is to be filled with calm. That a game this approachable can, behind that exterior, also provide such a deep and prolonged challenge is a marvel to me. It is elegance manifested. Dorfromantik is a joy.”
“Of course this year’s GOTY is Elden Ring,” says twonha. OMG, spoilers! “But from the select few 2022 titles I’ve played, I enjoyed Dorfromantik so much more. Place a tile, grow your little town, bring a smile to everyone’s face. It never once tried to stab, beat, poison, throw or simply murder me to death.”
“This is such a nice relaxing game that lets me progress through at my own pace and I have a lovely countryside at the end.” Well isnt’t that just lovely, Shrui.
And finally here’s fkratke. “As a time-strapped gaming dad in an idyllic German town, this is the most grounded, bite-sized God fantasy available.”
38. Cuphead: The Delicious Last Course
What we said: “For the most part, though, The Delicious Last Course is more of the same. More of the sumptuous visuals and wonderful jazz score. More of the high difficulty, with bosses taunting you every time you lose. More of that succulent satisfaction when you finally hit the knockout.”
The 4000th Larry loved it, fwiw: “I am continually in awe with what Studio HDR are able to achieve. Compared to the main game these boss fights are even more full of lavish artistic detail and technical depth, and playing as Chalice was a great way to shake-up the experience. I also suspect that this may be the low key most graphically impressive game on Switch, it looks phenomenal in handheld on my OLED.”
“Absolutely nothing wrong with more Cuphead and this selection of new bosses trumps all the bosses from the base game,” says retr0gamer. Agreed! “It’s pretty much essential if you loved the original.”
37. As Dusk Falls
What we said: “As Dusk Falls represents a bold new future for interactive movie games – a future where games can do away with the supernatural spectacle and thrillery whodunnits to rely on human drama to entertain us instead. And OK, this does occasionally veer into soap opera, but at other times it’s gentle and deep and dark, even profound. It shows how well games can handle stories and themes like these when done with care and understanding, and how well it can pull us into the lives of others and invest us in the decisions they have to make. And that’s what really stays with me about the game: stories – human stories. They are the troubled, awkward and beautiful stories I can see in the world around me, that I can relate to myself. This is a game that reflects, in many ways, our own lives. Silly as it sometimes can be, As Dusk Falls feels real, and I can’t think of a higher compliment to give it.”
“Never really enjoyed a ‘game’ like this in the way that I did,” says Chriskay. “The vivid artistic presentation left gaps to be filled, the voice acting cast did a good job and the story always left me at a crossroads where the decision was either difficult or emphatic.”
hazywaze was equally impressed. “A cracking story with the choose your own adventure gameplay of Life is Strange and the Quantic Dreams games, but presented in a unique and surprisingly engaging art style with outstanding production values. I was really invested in the characters and choices.”
36. Splatoon 3
What we said: “It’s more Splatoon, and I understand if for many that’s not quite enough. But also: it is more Splatoon, and is a generous new outing for one of the most polished, playable and impeccably executed series from within Nintendo’s group of first-party developers. It’s lacking the shock of the new, but with Splatoon 3 you’re getting the sense of a special series that’s really hitting its stride.”
Azquelt’s a fan of this freshest of shooters. “It’s more Splatoon and I thought the single-player was a step up from the previous iteration – more in line with the Octo-expansion but not quite as demanding.”
“There seems to be many shooter fans who don’t realise how good this is,” says ppenguin. Ain’t that the truth.
35. Pokémon Legends: Arceus
What we said: “There’s an overpowering sense of novelty to Pokémon Legends: Arceus. This is something new, and it’s also Pokémon, a decades-old series, in its purest essence. Battle, trade, collect. Even then there’s a fraction of the trainer battles, nothing online, an option but no more necessity to trade. Is it overzealous budget cuts or pure, minimalist design? Is it empty, or is it filled with newfound nimbleness, of the kind that inspires all that wonder and awe precisely because so much of it has been chipped away? Either way, this is a game crafted by subtractive sculpture. And how weirdly refreshing that is, compared to our artform’s current, insatiable appetite for only adding more and more. Pokémon Legends: Arceus is either this series’ bare minimum, or its purest form. I think it’s both at once.”
“A fresh take on Pokémon without sacrificing the series itself,” writes simplymod, who gets extra points for including the accent over the e. “That’s basically the heart of Legends Arceus. It has a world that’s fun to explore, a change of mechanics that feels tickling at the start and satisfying at the end.”
“I hope there’s another game in the style of Arceus,” says indevelopment, another reader who knows the keyboard shortcuts for that accent. Good work all round. “Researching the Pokédex via battling, evolving and capturing many many ‘mons was the breath of fresh air the series needed.”
34. Moss Book 2
What we said: “Moss: Book 2 is without a doubt a game that deserves to be played, especially if you fell in love with the original. Its staggering beauty is reason enough to dust off your PSVR for one last adventure before the PSVR 2 comes out, even if I wouldn’t blame you for holding out in the hope of a PC VR or Quest release – or some kind of bundle for the launch PSVR 2. Both Moss games are as short and sweet as their mousey protagonist, but I feel like Quill is worthy and capable of going on an even more epic adventure.”
You VR fans are a quiet bunch, aren’t you? There were plenty of votes for Moss but not a single comment.
33. Cult of the Lamb
What we said: “Being a cult leader in this funny old game is a little bit like being a game designer, I imagine. It’s complex on certain levels, and to use the lovely vivid cliche, you’re herding cats quite a lot. But really you’re trying to arrange happiness for people. The only difference is that as a cult leader, if they don’t become happy on cue, you can cook them and eat them.”
Sheikah is on board with this. “I enjoyed my time with Cult of the Lamb. Don’t go in expecting a long roguelite akin to Binding of Isaac and you won’t be disappointed. Where else can you force feed your cult members bowls of poop?” It’s a valid question.
“Fantastic blend of dark humour, roguelite gameplay and village management,” says Bushmonkey. “Nothing else like it and a treat to play. It is full of bugs but that did not distract me enough from what I consider one of the top games of the year.”
32. Pokémon Scarlet and Violet
What we said: “I like the open-world gameplay, especially the level scaling, and new Pokémon, but they’re entangled with a region which, despite its size, always feels slightly empty, and they’re presented in graphics we know are beneath the Nintendo Switch’s top performance. If more time and polish had been applied to Scarlet and Violet, then they could have lived up to their ambition and been the expansive world many fans, myself included, have dreamed of. Yet the Pokémon series has a schedule to follow and it waits for no Slowpoke.”
“A glitchy and buggy mess? Yes,” says Cydonia88. Oh wait, there’s more! “The most fun a Pokémon game has ever been? Absolutely! If this is the template for future Pokemon games, I can’t wait to see how the series evolves, lets just hope the next Nintendo console has the power to realise its full potential.”
31. Forza Horizon 5: Hot Wheels
- Developer: Playground Games
What we said: We didn’t review it!
Mr.Snowy was very happy: “I spend a stupid amount of time playing Forza, their dopamine-heavy game with the rewind function and just the right level of handling feel does it for me.”
30. Need for Speed Unbound
What we said: “Here’s hoping EA’s bizarre handling of this fantastic game doesn’t dent its chances, and that Criterion gets to build upon its brilliant work for a sequel. Because then we really could have a Forza Horizon beater on our hands.”
“looking very good Criterion, now can we get a new Burnout please?”
Well put, MrUkraider. I think we can leave it at that.
29. Marvel’s Midnight Suns
What we said: “This is a great tactical and strategic game, in other words, a game in which everything does something useful somewhere else in the stats table. But it’s also a great game in general because it is in love with its surface interactions, its friendships and movie nights and sudden blow-ups. It makes this stuff more than superficial due to the love and craft with which it’s all handled. That abbey! You go back to the doll’s house after each mission to become a better soldier, but also because the doll’s house is a lovely, fascinating thing, and because it is uplifting, in some ways, to play with dolls, even digital ones. It gets you out of yourself slightly.”
Udat: “I wasn’t sure how the XCOM formula would translate to superhero based shenanigans, but it works brilliantly. A fantastic tactical treat, with a good story and interesting characters holding it all together.”
28. Destiny 2: The Witch Queen
What we said: “The Witch Queen not only delivers an astonishing cliffhanger as we step into the final episode of Destiny 2’s Light and Darkness saga, but it pulls together several of those confusing loose ends to weave a stunning – and satisfying – tapestry of death, decay, and deception. It somehow fuses both old and new, Destiny 1 and Destiny 2, in ways that should feel fresh and thrilling. We revisit places we last saw five years ago. There are callbacks to story threads that started seven years ago. While I hope this latest expansion is appealing enough to tempt new players into the fold, I suspect the real payoff is for long-time fans who’ve been here, trudging to Crota’s End and battling through King’s Fall, since the beginning. For them, and for me, The Witch Queen is the glorious crescendo Guardians have longed for.”
Malek86 tells us what’s on their mind. “It’s a good thing Bungie makes great campaigns, because the seasonal model is starting to wear thin. Did I mention, though, what a great campaign they made this time around?”
Shit_Pistol was equally satisfied: “Shouldn’t have come out so close to Elden Ring. Otherwise a great expansion. Gunplay still unmatched.”
27. Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2
What we said: “This is an extraordinarily good-looking game at times, and one that, in its relentlessly compelling, lager-and-crisps multiplayer, aims to command your attention for the next full year. But it’s also one that’s terrified of you looking too closely at it.”
“The online 6v6 is excellent as is the gunplay. DMZ though is a real gem,” says Gizzaciggy.
“Back to basics, some good ol fashion multiplayer,” says Engelzman.
26. Kirby and the Forgotten Land
What we said: “Like its predecessors, Kirby and the Forgotten Land’s an open-armed thing, and now more than ever before it’s a game that’s for absolutely everyone, the move to 3D platforming perhaps the most significant step forward in the series’ history. This is an absolute hug of a game, and quite likely Kirby’s best outing yet.”
“Sometimes, Kirby is new, sometimes Kirby is tradition, but Kirby is always loveable,” says Simplymod. “And if Kirby does something new, without too much sacrificing what is tradition, and if this game is polished and rich, then you cannot argue against Kirby and the Forgotten Land being top game of the year 2022.”
“You can turn into a Kirby car,” says Retr0gamer.
25. OlliOlli World
What we said: “And that’s it: I love this game because it’s about learning and trying things out. And maybe learning never has to end, and maybe we can try new things out forever.”
Larry4000: “I loved how this brought together the demanding technical execution of OlliOlli with a bright, colourful and welcoming style. The DLC packs were great too, and coming back to it throughout the year has kept it fresh in my mind as a real highlight of 2022.”
24. Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Shredder’s Revenge
What we said: “At one point, playing as Leonardo, I fell down a manhole and was greeted with a speech bubble: “Gotta be careful!” Such a tiny little thing, but I’ll remember it for quite a while.”
“A fantastic Arcade classic brought back to life for 2022, great 4 player chaos, just like the old days,” says Episode 13.
Britesparc has cracked it. “One of those “retro” games that instead of delivering something like what you played thirty years ago, it gives you what you remember from thirty years ago. A really tight, replayable, gorgeous slice of nostalgia, filled with references to a cartoon I only half-remember but just immense fun to play. The short levels are perfect for just taking a breather from a longer game, or even a heavy-duty TV series, or the kids, or anything.”
“Made me remember why I used to love beat-em-ups. Plug in your arcade stick and party like it’s 1992,” says CalamityJames.
What we said: “Barlow has succeeded, in a way, in cutting me free and letting me find a thread of my own through his remarkably networked world. But upon reaching the other side I’m not entirely sure he wanted to. I think I’ve been freer than I was meant to be. I think I still have too many dangling threads. And this is why, when I think about Immortality, I can’t escape the plight of poor Christopher Nolan, who once asked why so many audiences tried to “solve” his films, instead of simply letting the films wash over them. I’m loath to explain filmmaking to anyone, let alone him, but I do think I know the answer, and it’s the same dilemma that stops me really falling for Immortality. People try to solve his films because he doesn’t really make films. He makes puzzles. Immortality, I feel, is a puzzle. An immaculately conceived puzzle, built with superlative skill – and genuinely thrilling in its own right. But it’s hard for a puzzle to feel profound.”
Who wants a nice cool DrDrepper? “It just took me by surprise and I couldn’t play or think about anything else for a whole week, it was amazing, fascinating and truly beautiful too.” Lovely stuff.
Modhabobo next. (Not from the Connecticut Modhabobos?) “There is nothing in design so perfect as to make a person feel like they are the only one who saw something. Immortality is the perfect example of this, where the joy of discovery and puzzles lines up with the mechanical design.” Cor.
What we said: “Through its formidable scares Signalis lets light into the wounds of a horrifying existence. This is a game about more than overcoming living nightmares. It is about choosing to persist in the face of an uncaring universe, about continuing to stand when your identity and your body is dehumanised. Science fiction and survival horror that uses the past to craft something thoroughly modern. Like a dying star, Signalis burns bright: beautiful, terrifying and unmissable.”
“Despite hitting a dead end on my first playthrough, I couldn’t progress as I had missed a key, I really enjoyed the atmosphere and nostalgia of Signalis. That and there isn’t another game there I’d vote for,” says Gordomos Prime. We’re just glad you’re here mate.
Axiom was impressed. “Big surprise this year. Stylish, tense and clever.”
21. Mount & Blade 2: Bannerlord
- Developer: TaleWorlds Entertainment
What we said: “We didn’t review it!”
“There’s some strange alchemy at work here. Something that I can’t put my finger on just keeps bringing me back. Maybe it’s because it just lets you get on with it. Here’s a world, a bunch of cultures and some underlying imbalances that mean stasis is never an option. Go and mess with it.” That’s eze2g.
“Very close to Warband (which is not necessarily a bad thing) and pure epicness in enormous proportions. it is second to none in terms of scale while leading your army against the opponent’s one or storming some castle walls. A bit like playing Crusader Kings 2 from third person.” That’s Longbraz.
20. Metal Hellsinger
What we said: “Hellsinger is a light-feeling game compared to most, relatively short, although extended somewhat by side challenges and indefinitely by its leaderboards, with a campy, kill-the-devil story of fallen angels and giant skeletons that plays out like a moving Iron Maiden album cover. But all of this folds into a kind of irresistibly earnest spirit, a sense of total, shameless, cringeless, full-hearted sincerity. And so as much as it feels like an ode to the genre, Metal: Hellsinger also feels like an outpouring of emotion, as though the game itself is also a different, more personal kind of gestalt. The kind that makes heavy metal the marvel that it is, that’s required to enter the fabled state of flow – or that compels even mild-mannered people to headbang in front of their TV.”
Longbraz sums it up: “The best metal game ever made probably. Amazing soundtrack, amazing first-person rhythm game and tons of fun to be had while banging one’s head!” It really is special!
Now it’s Daigohji’s turn: “Proving (as if proof were needed) that a game doesn’t need 50 hours of copy-pasted map markers to be good value, this defiantly old-school rhythm shooter is the best FPS I’ve played since Doom 2016.” TESTIFY!
19. Bayonetta 3
What we said: “What a mess it is, though. Bayonetta 3 might not be as consistently brilliant as its predecessors, but when it’s good it’s next to godly; playing as Bayonetta with her entire suite of toys unlocked is as electrifying as it’s ever been, a spectacle of sinewy combat and S and M excess that’s uniquely, defiantly video games. It’s so over-the-top that trying to make sense of it would be a mistake, and while the rough edges are a disappointment if you embrace the chaos there’s a lot to love here. Bayonetta 3 is overstated, in parts underbaked – but it’s rarely less than a thrill.”
2much: tell us what you reckon. “A lot rougher than the other two games in the series, but combat in this series has never felt better. The demon slave mechanic is a triumph and there are so many fun setpieces and ideas. I’m also one of the few people who actually appreciated the steps the story took for how bold and unexpected they were.”
18. Mario Strikers: Battle League Football
What we said: “And that’s how Battle League is – at launch, anyway. This Strikers installment is not without character – every so often I’ll see Wario determinedly carrying around the football under arm like the big cheat he is, or watch another celebration dance from the truly weird Waluigi, and be left with a chuckle. The ability to just pull off a Hyper Strike as an opponent slides in to stop you is immensely satisfying. And already, there’s suggestion the game will receive a roster of post-launch updates with more characters to follow. But even with these, and even if the weekly Strikers Club ends up taking off, it’s hard to look at the slim package of modes on offer right now compared to something like Rocket League, that other non-football football game, then factor in Nintendo’s typical boxed Switch game RRP, and still be able to recommend Battle League for a quick kickabout.”
You loved this, but nobody left a comment explaining why.
17. Not for Broadcast
What we said: We didn’t review it!
And nobody left any comments about it! Maybe it speaks for itself.
16. Gran Turismo 7
What we said: “Half-met promises and some missing features feels like part of the modern Gran Turismo experience expected by fans, but for the first time in several ages this feels like a Gran Turismo that’s worthy of being a modern blockbuster, its appeal breaking out well beyond cultish car nerds like myself. It’s a sumptuous, arrestingly gorgeous thing that most importantly retains its enthusiast’s heart under the graphical showcase, and that does its level best to make a car enthusiast out of anyone in its orbit. Is it the king of driving games once more? The genre’s now too broad and too varied to make such a statement, though Gran Turismo finds itself a neat slot alongside the likes of Assetto Corsa and iRacing, presenting accessible driving that looks simply staggering. Is it the best Gran Turismo to date? Of that there’s no real doubt.”
“Car physics and quality of the driving is in its own league,” says THE-M-SHOW12020 “Game as a whole is up to the standards of what a GT should be. Except maybe for the roulette prize thing, really annoying. Game sometimes feels like it’s trying too hard to get some MTs out of you.
Still unrivalled in the sim/cade genre though.”
“The only game this year I’ve sunk 40+ hours into this year. Such a refinement over the last few entries and no other competition to bat against (Forza, u ok Hun?) that it has easily been a time sink this year when nothing else has captured my attention. It’s the little thing that matter sometimes, menus, navigation and the HUD, not to mention the actual driving experience, combine it all and it’s in a class of its own. Top stuff Yamauchi.” Thanks for that, Mondpix.
15. Citizen Sleeper
What we said: “There is real anguish and intimacy here, real experience, real softness, pensiveness, complexity of thought, from the deeply clever, immaculately balanced systems to its extraordinarily well-realised art, static drawings of those characters that each feel like a glossy, coffee table magazine cover of their own, such is the incredible texture, colour, posture, pain behind the eyes. Citizen Sleeper is speaking to you, but in this case I really recommend you simply listen – not least because there’s depth to be found in your own silence, and because the things it does have to say are absolutely worth hearing.”
“I think about this game all the time. Great story telling.” That’s Shit_Pistol. We think all the time about the fact they’re called Shit_Pistol.
ComfyFeline: “An eye-opening, gripping look at life in the ruins of late stage capitalism. Compelling from start to finish, and more relevant than ever.”
What we said: “Five minutes in I was wading through a tense disagreement on Martin Luther and wondering if this game was for me, but Obsidian draws you into this world by making it human, and by making it funny and kind and surprising and awful. And more: while I played Pentiment, the richest man in the world was muddling about at Twitter like a bored cat with a ball of crumpled paper, and this 16th century narrative of who gets to decide what is history, of who controls the flow of information, seemed surprisingly timely.
Carlos100 says: “I never expected to enjoy a game told exclusively in period style medieval speech presented in a medieval art style with limited actual gameplay.” Oh, yes? “But it was great, the story was engaging, I cared about the characters and loved getting familair with the setting over decades of in game time. I hope MS free up more of their teams to work on passion projects like this as the love really shines through.” We hope so too! What a game! And if you liked this, do read the book that inspired it. (It’s called Who Moved My Cheese?)
13. Xenoblade Chronicles 3
What we said: “It feeds into the incredible sense of adventure that makes Xenoblade Chronicles 3 truly soar as a JRPG. Perhaps more than any game before it in the series this gets the balance between systems and story down perfectly – even better, it manages to entwine the two in an adventure that infuses each of your footsteps with a sense of purpose. It might not quite be the revelation the original was back in 2010, but Xenoblade Chronicles 3 is most definitely another JRPG masterpiece from Monolith Soft.”
“Xenoblade does open areas right. They’re a decent size, not huge, but packed with detail and secrets around most corners you care to look at. Coupled with the fact that this was attached to a really good game and a great story, with a great cast, and soundtrack, I had a great time with this. Picking out all the little references to XC1 and XC2 was a joy in and of itself. I will look forward to revisiting this world in the upcoming story DLC.” That’s The12thMonkey.
And here’s Plunkbat Oranges: “Following in the footsteps of the Burnout, Ape Escape and Metal Gear Solid legacies, Xenoblade Chronicles proved once again that the third time’s a charm. This ruddy little cartridge had me gripping my Switch for 160 hours like my sparking life depended on it. As much as I enjoyed the combat, story and characters on offer, the true genius of X3 is the English voice cast. The glory of hearing Welsh, Scottish and fake Australian accents was absolutely glorious, and really stepped it up from previous titles. What other game lets you witness its cast call people muppets, dags and drongos? In the immortal words of Eunie, ‘Too right you picked mine!'”
What we said: “Here’s another mangled quote: they say that only a bad poet hates the rules. This is because a good poet thrives with restrictions, with established expectations that can be twisted, subverted, inverted. They find limitations and traditions propulsive, accelerative. This is Tunic to its core.”
Groovychainsaw here: “A lovely homage to Zelda and game manuals, with some of the neatest puzzles, secrets and easter eggs hidden away in it. Maybe ever so slightly abstruse, and possibly slightly too hard for what it’s trying to evoke but one of the most memorable titles of the year.”
“The most gorgeous game of the year. Really good, responsive combat and controls plus a mesmerising world to explore. Pity I’m shit at it really but I still enjoy it.” says Britesparc. “Few games honour the player’s intelligence and reward their curiosity more than Tunic.” That’s Ben Reilly on the subject.
11. Ghostwire: Tokyo
What we said: “And oh, did I mention that your magic motorbike runs on fragrant underworld oil?”
Hey! It’s Nussferatu! “Unremarkable gameplay design … but the sense of place is amazing. Either a disappointing and subpar action adventure or the best walking simulator of the year. First lockdown night walks – the Game. Big plus: talking animals, charismatic yokai and the most detailed disabled toilets in video game history.” This actually makes it sound brilliant?
What we said: “Prodeus is the most impressive retro-shooter since 2018’s Dusk, and probably the best shooter outright since Doom Eternal launched in 2020. While not as subversive as Dusk, Prodeus makes up for its less radical approach with its superior shooting and infusions of modernity. And if you found Doom Eternal too didactic in its design, Prodeus can conjure similarly intense encounters without being overly pushy. Prodeus deftly rides the line between the two, and watching it walk the temporal tightrope is never anything less than thrilling.”
We had to get the Ben Reilly verdict here. “It’s a delight to play! The visuals manage to feel simultaneously high-res and retro. When we can generate 4K textures and models with many thousands of triangles and render them all at 120 FPS, who on earth would willingly pick low-res models that can be viewed from only a few fixed angles and animated at frame rates barely reaching the double digits? These brave, brilliant souls.”
What we said: “It’s by doing this – looking at the world through feline eyes – that Stray creates a journey filled with such a sense of exploration, on top of the chance to indulge in as much cat-truction as you like. While doing so, though, it also crafts a touching story about the human desires of those who, at a glance, lack humanity – be it to reunite with a loved one, protect a community or reach the outside world. The result is a wonderful mix: a game about the longing for freedom, clever climbing mechanics, and every cat’s eternal desire to knock items off shelves.”
“Premium catting!” says Zombie-Hamster.
“This was the year of the animal games. I voted on a fox game, a goat game and this shall always be known as the cat game. And it’s a pretty good cat game.” That’s NabNab, spotting the trends, as ever.
Darren: “I am not a cat lover, I prefer dogs, but this was a game I was very curious about since its trailer showing at the PS5 reveal, just because it looked so different from anything else. Despite its short length and lack of real puzzles, I found the game engaging and charming, even sad at times, and more importantly it was a memorable game. It also looked very nice visually.”
8. Vampire Survivors
What we said: “I think about what I’m going to unlock next, which evolution I’m aiming for, where the next treasure chest and coin boost is coming from. I think about garlic, my favourite attack, which creates a little circle of damage around you so you can just nudge yourself against enemies the way a cat nudges you with its head when it wants fuss. I think about popcorn, which is what Vampire Survivors sounds like, each monster death sounding like another bit of corn popping in the microwave until the whole thing reaches a buttery crescendo.”
Sing to me, O Finkmachine: “A complete surprise but a great idea, brilliantly executed.”
Trashidawa? “The ultimate Steam Deck game.” Someone’s doing alright. “It’s one of those magical, mesmerizing games where you can never put your finger on why it’s so compelling (just kidding, it’s actually quite simple: the constant explosion of tens of thousands of mobs in each session).
I read Franz Mesmer’s main book this year, incidentally. It was shit.
7. A Plague Tale: Requiem
What we said: “A game that stands comfortably shoulder to shoulder with gaming’s other giants of cinematic spectacle. Requiem, simply put, is one of the finest adventures around.”
TheMonkAmbrosio is on this one: “It’s not the most inventive game of the year in terms of its raw gameplay, but the whole experience leaves a lasting impression. The setting of medieval Europe is refreshing but as you progress, the world becomes increasingly warped and strange. Great performances and excellent pacing, too.”
Now King_of_Shovels: “An absolutely miserable journey from start to finish, but an incredible one.” Sensational!
What we said: “It could take itself a bit less seriously. Certain terrain kills and crowd control sequences recall Jackie Chan’s action comedies and sillier beat ’em ups from the PS2 era, but Sloclap never delivers on this comic potential. The story is ponderous and mechanical, more suffocated than energised by the familiar theme of hatred consuming the hater. A less reverent approach might also have helped the game untangle its own Orientalist worldview and perceive itself not as a solemn curator of East Asian culture but an appreciative tourist, galloping around with a camera. Where Sifu most earns its seriousness, for me, is in that largely unspoken marriage of combos and counters with questions of perception and synchronicity. This is a game about the punch-drunk unevenness of time, and the way that unevenness depends on the mind you bring to bear.”
Eze2g has this one: “All good combat games are essentially about rhythm not reflexes. Like learning a song on an instrument, it’s not about how fast your hands can move but getting the timing of the notes right. After enough practice you stop having to think about it and you just flow. In Sifu, each level is a song, you start at the beginning and work your way through, bar by bar, until you can put the whole thing together…. By it’s nature it can’t be for everyone – although credit to SloClap for trying – but man I love this game. And in a year where From Software released their magnum opus, the fact that this is my game of the year is a testament just how much I love this bloody game.”
“A game that actually makes me feel like I can fight!” McShefferty! Glad to be here for this moment.
And, as Disintegration7 adds: “Hard as nails, but totally satisfying beat-em-up, breathing life into a dust-covered genre. Really nails the whole kung-fu movie vibe.”
5. Horizon Forbidden West
What we said: “While it’s undoubtedly another accomplished game in terms of technical achievement and sheer visual spectacle – I’m reminded again of those incredible faces, and one particularly outstanding underwater level – I’ve enjoyed Forbidden West less than Zero Dawn. The main story has major issues, and the level design made it difficult for me to play the way I had previously enjoyed, while making a lot of the newer systems feel redundant. Beyond that, the sense is of a game where Guerrilla has cobbled together RPG building blocks often without making them work within the context of its own game, and in some cases actively worsening Horizon Forbidden West as a result. I don’t expect groundbreaking innovation, but with using well-established elements there’s always the danger of them having been done better elsewhere. Unfortunately, with Horizon Forbidden West that’s often the case.”
MortenGamst first: “An engrossing game and spectacular to the eyes. Not quite the sense of wonder of the first game but a very enjoyable gameplay experience.”
“The best open world in the business,” says Doctor_Hellsturm. “There are so many sights where you just put down the controller and admire the vista. Not a perfect game, but it is damn good, and Aloy and the rest of the cast in HFW is still a breath of fresh air from the myriads of gruff male characters with father-son issues.” Dunno what you’re talking about m8.
4. Return to Monkey Island
What we said: “Reader: it works. There are moments of nostalgia here that properly moved me, and one towards the end which made me want to phone a schoolfriend I hadn’t spoken to in thirty years just to tell them about it. The office, 9am on a Monday, the switchboard puts through a name you can only dimly remember: You will not believe what happened in Monkey Island last night.”
“Plain pure nostalgia,” says Thwidra
What say you, Carlos100? “It does what it says on the tin, it is more Monkey Island.
I have enjoyed working through this with my two children who I introduced to the rest of the series last year, they are suprisingly good at coming up with solutions to puzzles, definitely a game for a hive mind to work through!”
3. Evil Dead: The Game
What we said: “And it’s given me a fresh insight into what I love about these movies. When I think about the Evil Dead, sure I think about Ash and chainsaws and cabins. But what I really think is Sam Raimi, and about how much fun directing a horror movie must be, just lobbing endless cobbled-together horrors at a brilliant, charming, physical performer like Bruce Campbell and watching the results. Evil Dead: The Game works best when it allows you to be the demon, which also means allowing you to be the director. Gimme some sugar, baby.”
Firstly: Shop Smart, shop S Mart.
Only one comment on this one. Bring it, Hazquatch: “Whacky multiplayer roles with a Sam Raimi IP that suits my desire to play smaller multiplayer experiences with a lot of personality.”
Can’t argue with that.
2. God of War Ragnarok
What we said: “Above all, though, Ragnarök’s dramatic might comes from its unique access to a sense of scale, a sense that was so sorely missed in the previous game and remedied with conviction here at last. You will fight some big, ugly monsters in God of War: Ragnarök, you will climb on their backs, lash at them with your blades, bellow defiance up to them from below. You’ll stand silhouetted, jagged, cartoonishly angular in front of them. Finally, deep into this game, you will get a bit of the old Kratos back, a bit of PS2 excess will break free of its self-conscious cage. It takes a long time to get there, but this is a series that’s needed to do a little soul-searching, to work through its own awkward teenage phase and wince at its old regrets. Its own heroes prove to be just the tonic.”
No chance we wouldn’t ask for the Zombie-Hamster take: “It’s a mark of how far God Of War has matured as a franchise (not just in terms of Kratos’ age!) that in the opening 30 minutes I was welling up on two separate occasions (curse you dying animals!).” We hear you! “Beyond that it perhaps hasn’t moved on so much from the previous God of War in terms of how it plays but when that was such a spectacular game that’s no bad thing. I think it’s the world building that impresses me the most, each realm is well realised and the characters are all superbly played, a genuine triumph of a game.”
“Simply awesome,” says Mha71.
Over to you, Cuttlefishjones. “Boy! Though Kratos has some weird ass stary eyes (seriously just stare at them for a while, they are freaky) this follow up knocked the ball out of the park. The story, the acting, the everything just made it so totally engrossing. And again they got the balance right on the effortreward scale. It makes you want to play just to see the next big event. And what and ending. Seriously spectacular. I was hoping someone would get Kratos an eye bath though, maybe some optrex(tm)…” Other eye baths are available.
1. Elden Ring
What we said: “Elden Ring remains a glorious game, one that established fans are going to savour for some time to come, and one that may just welcome new fans into the FromSoft fold. Sumptuous visual design, dark and detailed lore and a vast-but-intricate open world are reason enough to venture out into the Lands Between. Add to that FromSoftware’s unforgiving and unforgettable gameplay loop and this is something truly special.”
“No content this year. Simply epic.” Axiom’s verdict is hard to argue with.
“A game hasn’t given me such a feeling of sweep, scale, adventure, and limitlessness since I first played Ocarina of Time at age seven,” adds Freemboy.
SomethingOriginal: “So much has been written about Elden Ring that I can’t really add anything other than to say all the positive stuff said about this game is right. Probably. Either that or I’m a video game masochist.”
AmorousBadger brings us home: “I spent six months. SIX months. SIX MONTHS. playing through this and I still don’t think I saw all this game’s stories, secrets, nuances, horrors and delights. It does everything you want a FromSoft game to and then lets you play through how you want to. An all-time classic.”
Wonderful stuff! All done! Happy new year everyone! Let’s do this all over again in 2023!