It’s that time of the year again when we tell you all which of the games that have come out in the last 12 months we like the most. It’s my turn, and I hope you weren’t expecting a choice from left field; an artsy indie game you’ve never heard of that I’ll try to convince you to be the game of the year 2022.
Unfortunately I’m not. Someone with more culture will probably have more interesting choices, but I am a man of simple pleasures. And so, without further ado, here are all my Game of the Year picks for 2022 – starting with the game that secured its spot way back in February.
Elden Ring PC
There was little chance that Elden Ring wouldn’t become one of my favorite games in whatever year it was released. I love FromSoftware’s work so much that they have ruined most other games for me.
The idea of ’Dark Souls with a horse’ was appealing, but I worried that my favorite studio would go down the dark path that ruined many others. I was worried we’d get a huge game that offers multiples of the first ten hours, one with more map than you could ever explore, and icon barf to make sure you never run out of things to do without it being something compelling feels.
Elden Ring ended up having none of those problems, and it’s all down to two guiding principles. Elden Ring is an open world game that justifies openness. You’re free to go anywhere, and the game even plays with you, sending you to areas you won’t visit organically a dozen hours later – teasing you with what’s to come.
That freedom is consistently rewarded, if only by increasing your strength. Elden Ring does this by constantly showing you things on the horizon that are sure to catch your eye and entice you to go after them. Even if you ignore that appeal, you’ll soon discover that going off the beaten track has other obvious benefits.
The other thing that makes Elden Ring’s open world so compelling is that for all the work it does to make you want to explore it, it’s okay if you miss a lot of it. You may fail and get stuck. Elden Ring is fine with you getting lost, as it trusts you to find your way eventually.
Most open-world games are so afraid of players missing out on content that they completely undermine any discoveries from their vast playgrounds. And for that, Elden Ring deserves my admiration.
I’ve often talked about feeling cool in a video game. For me, that is almost always achieved through mechanics. If a game lets me do something cool and gives me as much choice as possible within the framework to do more cool things, I’ll be pleased.
So it’s no surprise that Sifu was one of my favorite games of 2022. Sifu is the type of action game that romanticizes – almost fetishizes – a real practice that you and I will never be good at in the real world. In this case it is Kung Fu.
Nothing beats mastering a game’s mechanics, but it’s especially satisfying when your moves are rooted in tangible martial arts. You feel like you’ve transcended the medium, enough to keep you in that trance until you turn off the game.
Marvel Snap – iOS
Okay, look. I’m not a card player. In fact, I’d say adding maps to something is a surefire way to significantly diminish my interest in it. But as I found out this year, that rule isn’t as hard or fast as I once thought.
I started playing Marvel Snap on a whim, because if you cover video games for a living, you’re more open to checking out popular games, even if you’re not interested in them yourself.
I figured once I got Snap’s schtick I’d be done with it in a day or two. But here I am weeks later still playing it daily. Snap is the perfect phone game. It doesn’t try to emulate the visuals or gameplay of big boy console games. Its success is partly in brilliant use of the device it was designed for, but also in how it plays within player expectations of what games can and should be on those devices.
There’s a time and place for games that push those boundaries, but I’m rarely interested in playing them on a phone. The thing that makes Snap so easy to get back to is that you trust it won’t waste your time or suddenly become so complex that you should pay more attention to it than a phone game.