This year’s game of the year conversation was over before it could even begin. That’s not because 2022 wasn’t an exceptional year filled with left-field surprises. It’s simply that players were already anticipating what the year’s two biggest games would be: God of War Ragnarok and Elden Ring. Though those two games were indeed two of 2022’s most dominant AAA titles, the “foregone conclusion” attitude ultimately did this year a disservice.
As people anticipated the ensuing war between those two giants, much smaller projects like Vampire Survivors and Immortality were pushing the idea of what a modern game looks like. Nintendo was raising the bar for family games with its strongest lineup since the Switch’s launch in 2017, while lesser-celebrated platforms like mobile and VR delivered some of the year’s most memorable moments. Sure, Elden Ring and God of War Ragnarok’s dominance was inevitable, but they were far from the only games worth discussing in 2022.
To honor another standout year for the industry, the Digital Trends team put a lot of careful thought into this year’s big top 10 list. Hundreds of games were evaluated and around 30 were considered for the final list, from heavy hitters to out-of-nowhere indies. Both of those worlds are represented equally on our list this year, serving as a reminder that video games at all levels deserve a chance — not just the ones with the biggest marketing budgets.
Though, of course, that doesn’t mean the power players didn’t make the cut. Here are our 10 favorite video games of 2022.
When you hear the word “blockbuster,” your mind may immediately go to Hollywood. That instinct might change for good when you play Bayonetta 3. Almost playing like a parody of Marvel movies, PlatinumGames’ long-awaited Switch exclusive delivers a deliriously entertaining gauntlet of multiverse thrills. What it lacks in narrative, it makes up for with over-the-top action set pieces — including spy movie send-ups and full-on kaiju battles. Bayonetta 3 could have easily repeated the formula of its previous installments and called it a day, but its inventive streak makes for an unpredictable adventure that’s confident in its goofiness. Bring on the popcorn. ~ Giovanni Colantonio
Vampire Survivors is one of those games that you really need to play to understand. At a passing glance, its retro visuals and one-stick control format may make it seem like a shallow throwback. That’s about as far from reality as you can get, though. Instead, Vampire Survivors is one of 2022’s most engaging and creative action games. It takes elements from the roguelike genre and blends in ideas that you might find in an idle game and a bombastic Musou. That results in a wildly addictive wave defense game that lets players focus their attention on impactful upgrade decisions rather than complicated button inputs. Nothing in gaming feels better this year than locking into a good run and watching your tiny character wipe out thousands of monsters without you even touching the controller. ~ Giovanni Colantonio
Before Stray launched, it gained a reductive reputation as “that cat meme game.” That was due to its unique feline hero, which had some players enamored with the idea before they even saw a hint of gameplay footage. The triumph of Stray, though, is that it is much more than its gimmick. Published by Annapurna Interactive, it successfully turns annoying cat behaviors (like scratching everything in sight or knocking objects over) into clever adventure game ideas. Though its hero has gained the majority of players’ adoration, there’s much more to Stray than its central premise. It tells a thoughtful science fiction story that examines the intersection between man and machine. The quiet narrative challenges players to aim their frustrations about tech at the humans abusing it. ~ Giovanni Colantonio
Mobile games wouldn’t have such a bad rap if they were all like Marvel Snap: easy (and free) to pick up and play consistently, quick to experience, and extremely difficult to put down. Developed by former Hearthstone team members, Marvel Snap is the best collectible card game in years. Its fast-paced matches that see opponents playing cards at the same time across three locations are easy to understand, but stay fresh after dozens of hours thanks to deep deck-building strategies and a layer of randomness that comes with locations and card abilities. Marvel Snap continues to evolve with updates that make the game even better, so this is a mobile game that we’ll definitely not be putting down for a while. ~ Tomas Franzese
If you haven’t played The Stanley Parable: Ultra Deluxe, you might be baffled as to its inclusion here. If you’re asking yourself, “Why is a rerelease of an old indie game taking a spot that should go to something entirely new?” right now, I’m guessing you haven’t played it yet. Ultra Deluxe isn’t a port packed with some extra content, but rather a secret sequel contained entirely within the original Stanley Parable. What’s more astonishing, though, is that Ultra Deluxe actually outdoes its predecessor in just about every way. Rather than waxing philosophical about free will, it focuses its attention on the current media era to create a wildly funny and often harrowing satire about our constant need for content. Though its biggest question is much simpler: Is this a bucket? ~ Giovanni Colantonio
God of War Ragnarok lives up to the expectations that come with being a sequel to one of the best games of the last decade. It’s bigger and more bombastic than its predecessor in almost every way, featuring better visuals, more characters, a grander narrative, and improved combat with a variety of new weapons and playable characters. While God of War Ragnarok certainly flaunts all of that pomp, it still tells a deeply relatable and emotional story about a father and son who are trying to stick together as they grow apart, all of which is held up by an all-time great performance from Christopher Judge. God of War Ragnarok is one of the most refined AAA gaming experiences ever, making it a must-play for anyone looking for the gaming spectacle of 2022. ~ Tomas Franzese
For RPG fans, the Xenoblade series has been overlooked for too long. Despite containing some of the richest stories, worlds, and systems in the genre today, it just couldn’t get the recognition it deserved outside of niche circles. Xenoblade Chronicles 3 was the mainstream moment fans had always hoped for, and it was completely earned. The Switch exclusive offers a rich story about soldiers coming to terms with who their true enemies are: the oppressive powers that see them as pawns in a conflict they don’t need to die for. With stunning landscapes, fully realized character arcs, and excellent MMO-like combat, Xenoblade Chronicles 3 made sure that no one passes over the series again. ~ Giovanni Colantonio
Some games feature deep, complex stories and wildly innovative gameplay that will redefine the industry. Others are just a whole lot of fun. Kirby and the Forgotten Land is this long-running Nintendo series’ first full foray into a 3D game of this scope, and the developers of Hal Laboratories knocked it out of the park. Kirby’s approachable platforming and copy ability moves are enhanced by excellent level design that creates a ton of memorable vistas for Kirby to venture through. In a year when some Nintendo Switch games are starting to show their age, Kirby and the Forgotten Land looks fantastic, and you can share the whole experience with a friend. Also, Mouthful Mode; need I say more? ~ Tomas Franzese
Every year, an indie darling is able to stand in the face of AAA behemoths and become one of the best games of the year. In 2022, that game is Immortality, an innovative video game where players must scrub through production footage of three unreleased films to discover what happened to missing film star Marissa Marcel. Its gameplay mechanics might seem familiar to anyone who has interacted with a video file before, but its match-cut system lets players jump between various clips by clicking on a character or object in a scene. Immortality is a hard game to discuss without spoilers, so we’ll just say that it features one of the year’s best narratives as it grapples with why people create art and what they suffer through to make it. Immortality is a master class in nonlinear video game narratives, features outstanding production values, and redefines its narrative and gameplay mechanics multiple times throughout its runtime. Equal part unsettling and captivating, Immortality is a must-play. ~ Tomas Franzese
Elden Ring is the kind of behemoth that’s simply hard to argue against, try as we did during our end-of-year discussions. No matter how many ways you try to pick at its various flaws, the breathtaking experience of riding around The Lands Between is simply unmatched this year. By applying open-world design to the standard Dark Souls formula, FromSoftware creates a more approachable Soulslike that gives players the freedom to tackle its challenges at their own pace. The seemingly limitless exploration and experimentation potential made the game a social hit when it launched, proving that FromSoftware’s games weren’t simply a niche experience for die-hards; they’re for anyone brave enough to step outside of their comfort zone and dive into its enticingly twisted worlds. ~ Giovanni Colantonio
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