Elden Ring took home the top honor last week at The Game Awards, but that doesn’t mean there weren’t plenty of games released in 2022 deserving of attention and praise. Let’s read on to find out what AIPT’s choices for 2022’s game of the year are.
Alex Schlesinger: As someone who considers themselves more of a comic book nerd than a video game nerd, I often prioritize my time reading old and new comics, while saving game playing for when I am not in the mood to dive into written stories. However, one game pretty much took over my life in the later half of 2022 and made me rethink my identity as a strict comic book obsessive. Marvel Snap is an impressively designed, user-friendly, and fast-paced mobile game that shocked me with how playable and exciting it was. While I have played other top games of 2022, like Stray, I have been surprised by how quickly I have been drawn into the world of Snap, and I think much of it is because the game seems designed for hardcore comic book lovers and fans who hunt for deep-cut character references and cleverly articulated card abilities.
Marvel Snap is not only incredibly easy to get into — no need to pay for upgrades if you play consistently and think strategically — but the designers at Nuverse and Second Dinner Studios clearly spent a lot of time thinking intentionally about the card designs, how they could be used in “circuits,” and how to make the gameplay easy to acclimate to. In many ways, I would say Snap is too addictive, as it has actually ruined my ability to get work done, and I find myself forgetting to eat during my lunch break because I am so focused on how to pair Iron Fist with Multiple Man to demolish my opponent. Not only is Marvel Snap the only card-based mobile game I have ever played for more than a day, I know I will continue to return to the game for months to come. Without a doubt the very best mobile game of 2022!
Jules Cabot: After over a decade-long hiatus from playing video games, interactive games like Until Dawn helped me to fall back in love with video games. Of all the interactive story games I’ve played, the 2015 horror release by Supermassive Games stands out as one of the best. I’ve followed along with everything Supermassive has put out — I’ve played all of The Dark Pictures Anthology, too. While those are great, it felt like Supermassive returned to the things that made Until Dawn so great with 2022’s The Quarry.
Taking place over one night at a summer camp called Hackett’s Quarry, The Quarry puts the player — or players — in control of nine teenage camp counselors as they try to survive the night. With angry locals and possible supernatural creatures lurking, the game keeps up suspense through each chapter. As an avid fan of horror movies, few things in movies ever actually scare me or make me jump, and The Quarry succeeded here where many games and movies have failed. While it’s not exactly scary, it is both suspenseful and fun, and definitely got a few good jump scares out of me. With over 168 different endings, The Quarry lends itself to being played multiple times, and I look forward to playing through again.
Colin Reed Moon: Though I spent an impossible two hundred hours in the Lands Between, making Elden Ring the undeniable gaming force of the year, it was a smaller, quieter afternoon with another game that felt more singularly touching to me.
I did not anticipate upon loading up Citizen Sleeper to lose track of myself so radically, so completely. Assuming the role of a Sleeper — an echo of recorded humanity trapped in a decaying manufactured, corporate-owned robot body — I was plunged into an introspective, post-capitalist sci-fi nightmare. Under threat of crushing debt and Blade Runner-like hitmen, I found myself falling in love with the ever-spreading web of delightful NPCs. Every further exploration of the game’s space station led me to more and more examples of my own core humanity, my spiritual selfhood reflected in the domestic turmoil surrounding me.
Awash in synths and implied neon, Sleeper is a game more reliant on prosody than action, on emotional integrity than gameplay mechanics. Based loosely on Powered by the Apocalypse-style, rules-light tabletop gaming, the game removes layers of gaming artifice to provide a succinct, novel-like narrative. It’s a life-affirming exploration for those with literary souls.
Dave Brooke: I’m a picky gamer and only play through one or two games a year, mostly dropping games if I’m not invested or don’t have time to grind. This year there were only two games that were must buy for me, and no, The Quarry was not one of them, although I did beat it. My picks are Marvel Snap and Stray, a close second.
Briefly, I’ll say Stray is a must-play game, as it’s not too hard, doesn’t overstay its welcome, and immensely watchable by spectators on the couch with you. It’s an experience that feels rewarding and as compelling as stories come in a simple way.
Marvel Snap, on the other hand, is my new obsession. Incredibly deep, yet a low buy-in to jump into a few games on your lunch break, the game is a great card game in its own right. Layered on top of that great game is a lot of great thinking surrounding Marvel characters and the powers they could have in a simple one-power-per card way. It’s everything a hardcore comics fan could want with nods to rather obscure characters, and major favorites depicted well too. Dare I say the game is too addictive for its own good, as you’ll find yourself logging in to play at least once a day if not more.
Patrick Ross: 2018’s God of War was my introduction to Sony’s flagship franchise, and it immediately made me want to experience everything the nine realms had to offer. I knew I had to stick with Sony in the upcoming new console generation, and had to get my hands on the sequel day one.
That day finally came last month, and it was worth the wait: God of War Ragnarök doesn’t radically change the original’s formula, but it improves on almost every aspect of it. Combat is more responsive and smoother. Graphics and the pure scope of the world are incredible. Boss battles are challenging but fair, and exploration is rewarding.
Most importantly in this game, though, is the story: We’re dealing with literal gods of creation and ancient mythology here, but at its core, 2018’s God of War was a story of a boy, his well-meaning but emotionally stunted father, and their mission to honor the memory of the boy’s mother. Ragnarök expands the story in massive, sometimes overwhelming ways, but the sheer scale makes it such a joy to get completely lost in any of the realms. Santa Monica Studio has something truly special on their hands with this franchise.
Crooker: Though there’s a couple good ones to choose from, my favorite game this year would have to be Sonic Frontiers. My bias may be showing as the resident Sonic comics reviewer, but as a lifelong fan of the blue blur, Frontiers was exactly the breath of fresh air I’ve wanted for over a decade. Sonic’s been trapped in the “boost era” of gameplay for far too long, and a shakeup was needed. Frontiers was exactly that. With tight and responsive controls that feel like the best of both “Adventure” and “Boost,” this is one of the most satisfying 3D Sonics I’ve ever played.
The choice to bring on fan favorite comic writer Ian Flynn to handle the writing was icing on the cake. Flynn’s expert character work helped weave a plot that’s accessible and easy to understand, yet dense with lore new and old for the diehards to go crazy over. The characters feel so true to themselves for the first time in ages, and we have tons of the shonen-inspired spectacle that the Sonic of yesteryear was known for. Truly, in terms of gameplay AND story, this game is the best Sonic has been in a good long time.
Sonic’s back baby, and he’s here to remind you that he’s still WAY past cool.
Jay Barrett: We are living in a renaissance of indie games and Signalis is destined to be a work that is studied as an inspiration for years to come. Two-person developer rose-engine, with nothing but a modest production budget and late SNES era 16-bit graphics, successfully created one of the most moody, somber, dark, heart wrenching, and legitimately scary games I have ever played since Resident Evil 2.
The game tells the story of Elster, a Replika woman, who has crash landed on a desolate ice planet and is searching for her partner/lover Ariane but has lost her memories. A survivor horror-game ensues that involves Elster encountering mutated Replikas she must contend against, unravel a mystery as to why the Replikas are mutated and what happened to the planet, deal with an all-knowing but mad central antagonist, and regain her memories to find her lost love. She traverses dimly light corridors and mazes filled with jump scares while only being able to carry six items. rose-engine use the visual grittiness of 16-bit graphics to create a beautiful but visceral game that makes the horror and the darkness shine. After all, the most ominous monstrosities are the ones you can never see and, of course, you never have enough ammo to best all of them.
So, yes, you may have heard this story before, but what elevates Signalis is how it gracefully uses its technical limitations to its advantage and tell a powerful story. The power of the narrative comes in how it parallels Elster’s emotional journey of learning how to grieve and how to let things end. Signalis is a trippy, fever-dream nightmare that you will never forget.
Nathaniel Muir: According to Sony, the game I played most this year was Crusader Kings III. This surprised me, because I do not remember spending that much time on it at all. But when I look back, I played that game every chance I had for weeks. It takes up all of your time without feeling like it.
During my playthroughs I started as a petty king in Dublin before taking over all of Ireland and proclaiming myself the High King. (It was not long before England and Scotland formed an alliance and knocked me off my pedestal.) I began in a small duchy in Bohemia before winning a Crusade and taking over Jerusalem. I broke off from the Greek Orthodox Church and began my own coven of witches, and I have battled with El Cid and William the Conqueror. I have made my bloodline so pure even a Habsburg would turn green with envy.
The idea of choice-based narratives fill with consequences is a popular buzz phrase in gaming, but no game implements those choices and consequences like Crusader Kings III. This is a game where you can restore the Holy Roman Empire or become a cannibal and devour the Pope. You can literally rewrite world history. There are no wrong (or arguably, right) decisions, and the only goal is to keep your family line going. It takes a while to get used to all the systems, tool tips and nuances, but once you do, you will be hooked.
Austin Manchester: For most of 2022, up until God of War Ragnarök launched, Elden Ring looked like a shoo-in to be 2022’s game of the year. It released in February to critical acclaim across the board, completing FromSoftware’s journey from niche developer to mainstream powerhouse. As someone who’s been into soulslike games for a few years, I was actually kind of surprised by the popularity of Elden Ring. It’s amazing – don’t get me wrong – but it’s as unrelenting as all of From’s previous games, and typically the genre’s difficulty is what turns people away. So to see such a large swath of gamers flock to Elden Ring, play the hell out of it, and love the hell out of it was pretty awesome to see.
And I was certainly one of those gamers! While I played and enjoyed other Game of the Year contenders – like Tunic and Stray – my gaming year was mostly dominated by Elden Ring, into which I poured over 100 hours from its launch until I got a Switch in June. The game is simply incredible – if you haven’t read about how amazing it is yet, then I’m not sure what video game coverage you’re reading. I covered most of my thoughts on the game back in March when I had 30 hours played, and since then nothing has really changed for me except that I’ve only grown to love Elden Ring more. Its world is a joy to explore, its challenging combat is a blast, and its abundance of meaningful content means it’ll never grow dull. We’re still early in the current console cycle, yet Elden Ring may go down as one of the greats of this generation – and perhaps one of the greatest games of all time.
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