With 2022 coming to a close, and Christmas just around the corner, most game companies have taken the next few weeks off.
“OH MY GOD?! IT’S ALMOST CHRISTMAS!!!! What do I do? My kid/wife/husband/secret santa wanted some game about…I don’t know, an old man’s ring, or a splatter house, or Thor’s hammer, or maybe something that had all three. Do those exist? If they don’t exist what can I get?? HELP ME!”
Okay, okay, stop fretting, I got you covered. I will be giving you a buyer’s guide for each month with my top picks in BOLD. What were the best games to come out; which ones sucked, and which ones flew under the radar and deserve your attention? Get ready to find out!
Since this guide tends to be on the long side, and in the interest of keeping your attention, I will be splitting it into two parts; January to June and July to December. Get your pencils ready folks, the games are coming and you better be taking notes.
- Best – As Dusk Falls, Azure Striker Gunvolt 3, Digimon Survive, Live A Live, MultiVersus, Octopath Traveler: Champions Of The Continent, River City Saga: Three Kingdoms, Stray, Xenoblade Chronicles 3, Yurukill: The Calumniation Games
- Avoid – DC League of Super Pets: The Adventures of Krypto and Ace
- Hidden Gem – Escape Academy
I don’t know what it is about Summer and RPGs, but they seem to come out in force in June and July (maybe all that free time the kids have is the perfect opportunity to grind levels). For July’s top game we are going with Xenoblade Chronicles 3, the latest entry in Monolith Soft’s epic series about young people who live on the backs of giant robot gods, or something. What makes part 3 shine over its previous entries are its quality of life improvements, including having a much larger party on field (seven in total), as well as a pathway on the ground that will show you exactly how to reach a quest marker. I can’t tell you how many times I ran to a marker in the first Xenoblade Chronicles only to be stopped by a giant cliff wall, then having to figure out how to get around it. With the largest map in the series, and the most quests, Xenoblade Chronicles 3 will consume your life for weeks on end, but it’s such a good game that you might not even notice.
June wasn’t a bad way to start the Summer but it felt more like a jog, July was a sprint. RPGs ruled July with not just Xenoblade, but also three more titles. Digimon Survive is a tactical RPG that continues to fly just under the radar, and I give it high props for sticking around. Of course Square Enix had the other two RPGs, one was the mobile exclusive Octopath Traveler: Champions Of The Continent which is very similar to its console predecessor, just with F2P elements. The second RPG from Square Enix was Live A Live, a remake of the Japan only SNES game, marking the first time the title has come West. Live A Live is absolutely stunning and one of my personal favorites of this entire year. In the “RPG adjacent” category, we have the brawler River City Saga: Three Kingdoms, the latest entry in the long running Kunio series, which takes place during the time of the classic Chinese tale, Romance of the Three Kingdoms (better known to gamers as also being the setting for the Dynasty Warriors games). If you’re a fan of visuals novels and shoot em’ ups then you should check out Yurukill: The Calumniation Games, which deftly combines the two genres into one of the weirdest games in a while. Speaking of interactive dramas, As Dusk Falls is a new game from the studio Interior Night, a company founded by former employees of Quantic Dream. For indie/retro players there was Azure Striker Gunvolt 3, and last, but not least, we have Stray. After an impressive trailer at a PlayStation event in 2020, Stray finally hit digital stores in July of 2022. Stray is a platforming puzzle game with point & click adventure elements, all combining into a satisfying, yet very short, experience. If Stray had a bit more meat on its bones (no pun intended) I would have held it in higher regard. As it is, Stray is “just fine”, if only to partake of its gorgeous visuals and cute protagonist.
July didn’t really seem to have any major stinkers or undercooked games so this one to avoid is mostly just because it’s a licensed title, DC League of Super Pets: The Adventures of Krypto and Ace. The film is awful and the game doesn’t look much better. If you need to get a game for your kids there are far better options out there, like our next hidden gem, Escape Academy. In this delight game, players find themselves locked in an escape room filled with clues and objects that they must use in order to find the key that gets them out. While the first puzzle appears to be just your standard leisure escape room, it turns out that it was a test to help find the next recruits to undertake espionage style missions. From there, players must solve escape room challenge after escape room challenge, working their way through the academy and uncovering a dark secret. This game is a fantastic couch co-op experience as well, I highly recommend playing it with someone else.
- Best – Cult of the Lamb, Destroy All Humans 2: Reprobed, Kirby’s Dream Buffet, Madden NFL 23, Pac-Man World Re-PAC, Soul Hackers 2, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: The Cowabunga Collection, Two Point Campus, We Are OFK
- Avoid – Saints Row
- Hidden Gem – Cursed to Golf
Devolver Digital is well known for their off the wall games, indie sensibility, and passion for well made, fun games. It should come as no surprise, then, that Cult of the Lamb is heralded as one of the best indies of the year. Nominated alongside other indie darlings like Stray, Tunic, Neon White, and Sifu, Cult of the Lamb is likely to go on and be recognized year after year as one of those games that “you gotta play, man”. Cult of the Lamb is a top down rogue-like where players must travel to different areas of the forest and convert the animals there to your religion (cult). The gameplay is separated into two categories; first is action, where players will fight against rival cultists and non-believers as they try and recruit followers. The second gameplay type is a kind of simulation game where you take care of your cult’s camp and the people who live there. You must give sermons to keep them indoctrinated, feed them, house them and, occasionally, sacrifice them. Don’t be fooled by Cult of the Lamb’s cute façade, because underneath the surface is some pretty dark stuff.
Things typically slow down in August as kids start to go back to school and the dog days of Summer start to wind down. Still, plenty of great games came out in August, starting with one of the best game collections on the market Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: The Cowabunga Collection. Featuring every Ninja Turtle video game ever made (or at least close to it), The Cowabunga Collection is a must buy for retro gaming fans. Speaking of re-releases, Pac-Man World Re-Pac hit game consoles this month, an HD remaster of the 1999 PlayStation platforming game. There was also Destroy All Humans 2: Reprobed, a complete remake of the 2006 PS2 action game. It wasn’t all remakes and re-releases though, Nintendo put out a new, digital-only Kirby game, Kirby’s Dream Buffet, a party game where players must eat as much food as possible. A new entry in the Shin Megami Tensei series came out in August, Soul Hackers 2, a sequel to the Sega Saturn/3DS game Devil Summoner: Soul Hackers. Of course we also got the new Madden game, hooray, as well as Two Point Campus the sequel to Two Point Hospital, with players building and maintaining their own college campus. Finally, on the indie side, we got We Are OFK, another interactive narrative, this time chronicling the rise of virtual pop group OFK, told over five episodes.
August’s game to avoid is the highly disappointing Saints Row. Initially seen as a highlight of 2022, this reboot felt like it was stuck in the past, pulling out gameplay elements and tropes that were played out ten years ago. There were, of course, major issues with the game at launch, bugs and crashes that made the game near unplayable. However, since this is 2022 and you can’t just not like something, pretty much any critic who gave a bad score had to underline that it wasn’t because of so-called “woke” additions to the game, they scored it low due to various gameplay issues. This still didn’t stop the “go woke, get broke” crowd who touted it as a victory over “wokness” or whatever. I’m so tired. Moving on to things that don’t make me want tear my hair out in frustration, the game Cursed To Golf is one of 2022’s best games that you probably aren’t playing. Trapped in a golfer’s purgatory, players must complete 18 randomly generated holes of golf in order to escape. The trick, though, is that players only have a specific number of strokes they can take, only gaining more strokes by smashing specific statues. The courses are also unlike any other golf game, as Cursed To Golf is played in a side scrolling fashion, making it a bit of a puzzle platformer. The game can be brutally difficult at times, with the randomness of the holes playing a big part in your success. Still, I had so much fun playing this game, even when it got frustrating.
- Best – Deathverse: Let It Die, The DioField Chronicle, FIFA 23, JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure All Star Battle R, The Last of Us Part I, The Legend of Heroes: Trails from Zero, Metal: Hellsinger, NBA 2K23, Return to Monkey Island, Shovel Knight Dig, Splatoon 3, Taiko no Tatsujin: Rhythm Festival, Valkyrie Elysium, Voice of Cards: The Beasts of Burden
- Avoid – Various Daylife
- Hidden Gem – Fallout 76: The Pitt
Since its debut in 2015, Splatoon has skyrocketed in popularity, easily placing the squid kids in the pantheon of all-time great Nintendo characters/franchises. For its third entry, Splatoon 3, Nintendo didn’t really break the mold much, keeping the gameplay nearly identical with only a few new weapon types to play with. In the end, though, Splatoon 3, like Call of Duty, isn’t about innovation, necessarily, as it is primarily created to allow players to jump into a familiar experience that allows them to blow off some steam and hang out with their friends. Sometimes, that’s all a game needs to be.
The floodgates opened wide in September, with a massive amount of titles coming out, both large and small. Thankfully, a lot of them were really, really good, like Ron Gilbert’s Return To Monkey Island, a point & click adventure that feels just like those old LucasArts games we all played in the 90’s. Square Enix had its biggest month of releases since March, putting out three games in September; the tactical RPG The DioField Chronicle, the action RPG Valkyrie Elysium, and the second Voice of Cards game of 2022, The Beasts of Burden. For you F2P fans out there, the action game Deathverse: Let It Die came out, a spin-off, battle royale game, of the Suda 51 produced Let It Die. Do you like sports games? No, well too bad, because other people do, so NBA 2K23 and FIFA 23 both came out so that your cousin has something to play. I do know what you really like, RPGs and indies, right? Well then check out Legend of Heroes: Trails From Zero, releasing for the first time in the West after being a Japn-only exclusive. Plus we had the long awaited Shovel Knight Dig, and the rhythm based FPS game Metal: Hellsinger. Speaking of rhythm games, Taiko no Tatsujin: Rhythm Festival hit Switch this month, boasting one of the largest music libraries in the entire franchise. Lastly, we have two remakes/re-releases. First is JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure All Star Battle R, a fighting game that originally released on the PS3 in 2013/2014. Second was The Last of Us Part I, which was also originally on the PS3 (and PS4). This new version of the game runs in the same engine as The Last of Us Part II which makes the game look gorgeous and also incorporates the new gameplay elements.
Okay, I need to make a correction, September is the month that had the MOST Square Enix releases with four, but this last one is so bad that you may as well not even count it, the utterly unplayable Various Daylife. This garbage heap of a game comes from the same team’s that made Braveley Default, Octopath Traveller, and Triangle Strategy, but you wouldn’t know it. Various Daylife is wholly unfun and is an affront to every video game that has ever been released; stay away. This month’s hidden gem is a game that I told you to stay away from back in 2018, Fallout 76. Why the change of tune now? Well, because it’s finally a fun and rewarding game to play. I decided to finally give this game a try after finding a copy for less than five dollars at a local used game store and because the latest expansion, The Pitt, was being released. Man, am I glad I did. Fallout 76 is 100% a Fallout game. If you’ve played any of Bethesda’s Fallout titles then you’re going to feel right at home here. There’s a massive map to explore, a gaggle of NPCs to meet and get quests from, and lots of the humor and quirkiness you’ve come to expect. Fallout 76 is finally worth your time and money, it only took four years.
- Best – Batman: Gotham Knights, Bayonetta 3, Call of Duty: Modern Warfare II, Dragon Ball: The Breakers, Ghostbusters: Spirits Unleashed, The Jackbox Party Pack 9, NHL 23, Mario + Rabbids: Sparks of Hope, Mount & Blade II: Bannerlord, New Tales from the Borderlands, PGA Tour 2K23, A Plague Tale: Requiem, Scorn, Star Ocean: The Divine Force, Vampire Survivors
- Avoid – Overwatch 2
- Hidden Gem – Sega Genesis Mini 2
In the weeks leading up to the launch of Bayonetta 3 a bombshell was dropped. The game’s former lead voice actress, Hellena Taylor, dropped a bombshell that she had been offered a paltry sum of money to return to the series that she promptly rejected, causing developer Platinum Games to replace her with another actress, Jennifer Hale. Taylor would blast Platinum on Twitter in a series of videos, urging fans to boycott the game. In the days that followed it would slowly come to light that Taylor had misled the public regarding the amount of money she was offered for the role. While it was still less than was probably deserved, it left people with a sour taste in their mouth. All in all, it didn’t do much to sway the public one way or another on Bayonetta 3, a decent, but divisive, action game.
Some of the biggest games of the year dropped in October, giving developers a precious extra few weeks to sell it at full price before the Black Friday discounts would hit in November. Batman: Gotham Knights, Call of Duty: Modern Warfare II, Mario + Rabbids: Sparks of Hope and A Plague Tale: Requiem were the biggest games to arrive this month, with Gotham Knights now circling the bargain bin drain. If you’re a fan of online, asymmetrical games then you had two choices, Dragon Ball: The Breakers and Ghostbusters: Spirits Unleashed. There continues to be sports games for some reason, like, I guess sports are popular so maybe check out NHL 23 and PGA Tour 2K23. What else, what else, oh, New Tales From The Borderlands came out, a sequel to the Telltale adventure game from 2014; that game Scorn came out, remember Scorn? Ah, you didn’t think Square Enix would let a month slip by without releasing something did you? Why not check out the RPG Star Ocean: The Divine Force, you know, after you finish the other 45 games they released this year. Finally, a big hit with gamers this year was the out of left field, free to play retro shooter, Vampire Survivors. Honestly, this thing just came out of nowhere and took the gaming world by storm. If you haven’t played it by this point then you might be the only one.
Remember when I mentioned that Fallout 76 was one of the games to avoid in 2018, here’s what I wrote about it:
“…companies are more concerned about meeting a release date than they are shipping a finished product. Fallout 76 is, unfortunately, both the present and the future of games (i.e. bug filled messes that will be patched up and finally ready 6 months after release)“.
This not only describes our next title to avoid, Overwatch 2, but many (MANY) of the games I’ve recommended avoiding this year, plus more than a few of the games considered to be the top releases of the month. Now, in regards to Overwatch 2, I won’t lie, I actually had a lot of fun with this game when it came out, though I was unable to play it for at least five days after it released due to server crashes and a convoluted account sign up that required you to give your personal phone number in order to be verified. Then, after finally getting in, I had to play several bot matches and practice games before even got to the actual game. Then it became a slog of trying to unlock new characters, however, when you do unlock some of them, they tell you that you must pay to access that character OR wait even longer to finally get them free of charge. Long time players seem to have much more negative thoughts about Overwatch 2 than new players, and I can see why. It took their fun, competitive game and filled it with free to play bullshit that dilutes the experience just so Activision Blizzard King can make more money. Good luck with that, you parasites. What should you be playing instead? Well, if you can find one, I strongly recommend the Sega Genesis Mini 2. Retro gaming hit an all time during the pandemic as bored millennials started pulling out their old Super Nintendo’s and PlayStation 2’s while in lockdown. While Sega is generally pretty good about keeping their titles available on modern consoles, they don’t put everything out, especially third party titles. With the Genesis Mini 2, they not only filled it with oddball third party titles from EA, but they also added a handful of Sega CD games, including the two most popular releases, Night Trap and Sewer Shark. Granted, those games are pretty bad, but having them easily accessible is a win for retro game fans.
- Best – Atari 50: The Anniversary Celebration, The Dark Pictures Anthology: The Devil in Me, Evil West, Front Mission 1: Remake, Goat Simulator 3, God of War Ragnarok, Gungrave G.O.R.E., Harvestella, Just Dance 2023 Edition, Need For Speed Unbound, Somerville, Sonic Frontiers, Tactics Ogre Reborn, Warhammer 40k: Darktide
- Avoid – Pokémon Scarlet/Violet
- Hidden Gem – Pentiment
Four and a half years after it’s 2018 predecessor, God of War Ragnarok hit store shelves and became an instant hit. Like Elden Ring, I would wager that a good number of you reading this right now have played GoW Ragnarok, and are enjoying the heck out of it. Well, to those who haven’t played it yet, what are you waiting for? Kratos, once again, heads out on a crazy journey with son in tow. The relationship between father and son is deeply explored and is the emotional crux of this recent series. Still, it’s not all emotional outbursts and “hugging it out”, Kratos is the god of war and he makes his power known to anyone or anything that gets in his way. Fluid, satisfying combat makes God of War Ragnarok a joy to play. Check out this one (and the first if you haven’t played it), you probably won’t be disappointed.
As for everything else, well, the big stuff just kept on coming. There was Sega’s Sonic Frontiers, a serviceable, yet uninspired entry in the long running series. A new Need For Speed game came out, Unbound, as well as a new Dark Pictures Anthology title, The Devil In Me. Speaking of devils and spooky things, the Western themed horror game Evil West hit consoles and PC this month, bringing the gore to the holiday season. Oh, speaking of gore, Gungrave G.O.R.E. released as well, also bringing with it a ton of gory goodness. We had Goat Simulator 3, hoping to cash in on the joke it started back in 2014 (also, don’t bother looking for Goat Simulator 2, it doesn’t exist). Oh, how could I forget Just Dance 2023 Edition, I mean, I guess everyone did because Ubisoft immediately dropped the price to below $20 (they make money on the subscription service you sign up for). If you thought Square Enix was going to skip November then you’d be a fool, as they released three games. A new IP game, Harvestella, and then two remakes, Tactics Ogre Reborn and Front Mission 1: Remake (lots of tactical RPGs in 2022, I’m not complaining). What’s left, um, Atari 50: The Anniversary Celebration might be one of the greatest retro collections ever released, Warhammer 40k: Darktide came out and all my Warhammer buddies are playing it on Steam, and finally we got Somerville, a new adventure game from one of the creators of Limbo and Inside. The developer said the gameplay is so unique and new that there aren’t even words invented to describe it; lol, okay, it’s exactly like Limbo and Inside.
Initially I didn’t plan on calling Pokémon Scarlet/Violet the game to avoid because, well, it’s Pokémon. Not only that, but it is the biggest launch EVER for a Nintendo game, meaning that most, if not all, of you have probably already bought it (I know I did). Typically Nintendo are pretty strict when it comes to quality in their games and don’t often release anything that is absolutely broken, though they do sometimes put out games that are barebones, but not broken. What people began to notice after the release of Pokémon Scarlet/Violet was that the game suffered from horrible frame rate issues and was near unplayable in handheld mode. Not only that, but the game removed some quality of life upgrades that Arceus had, making this feel like a step backwards. Now there are workarounds with the game’s memory leak problem and Game Freak has put out a patch that is supposed to address the issues and, presumably, Nintendo must be pretty furious at how badly this launch has gone (aside from the fact that they made MILLIONS of dollars on it already). Alright, so just avoid Scarlet/Violet for a few more months and pick it up once the bugs have been worked out. I’m sure you still need to finish one of the older titles anyway (I’m currently neck deep in Brilliant Diamond). Instead of pocket monsters, check out this game that also has a title that’s a weird “P” word, Pentiment. Set over a 25 year period, players will investigate a murder for which their friend has been accused. Believing that your friend is innocent, you will need to speak with townsfolk and following leads. However, there is a strict time limit in each time period, meaning you’ll never get all the answers you’re looking for. Pentiment is a brilliant game that everyone should try out.
- Best – Crisis Core: Final Fantasy 7 – Reunion, Dragon Quest Treasures, Hello Neighbor 2, Marvel’s Midnight Suns, River City Girls 2, Romancing SaGa: Minstrel Song – Remastered
- Avoid – The Callisto Protocol
- Hidden Gem – Super Kiwi 64
December is always the hardest month to write about in this guide because, one, December isn’t over, and two, I really haven’t played any of these games. That being said, I can’t imagine a more high profile game to call the top release than Crisis Core: Final Fantasy 7 – Reunion (that’s a mouthful). Not only is it a new Final Fantasy (despite being a remake), it’s also put out by Square Enix who were, by far, the most prolific publisher of 2022. It wasn’t even like they put out crap this year, either, almost all of it was really, really good, and I hope that Crisis Core ends their year with a bang. That’s all I’ve got, it’s currently sitting on my coffee table in the shrink wrap waiting to be played, I’m so excited!
Crisis Core wasn’t the only Square Enix title in December, they also put out Dragon Quest Treasures, a Pokémon-esque RPG where players explore a strange land collecting treasures and using famous Dragon Quest monsters to aid them in battle. Believe it or not, Square Enix put out ANOTHER game in December as well, Romancing SaGa: Minstrel Song – Remastered, an HD version of the 2005 PS2 release which was itself a remake of the Japan-only SNES game from 1992. Hello Neighbor 2 left early access to average reviews, though I’m sure your kid is dying to play it. River City Girls 2 FINALLY came out, and there was a tactical action game from Firaxis using Marvel characters called Midnight Suns. All in all, a pretty good December, looking forward to playing just about all of these.
Do you have any guesses why you need to avoid The Calisto Protocol this month? Was your guess “it was released in a broken state with numerous bugs and glitches” then you’re correct! I’m sure it’ll be playable by next Black Friday when you can get it for $4.99 at Walmart. Again, it’s December and I haven’t played these, buuuuuut, I’m going out on a limb here and suggesting everyone check out Super Kiwi 64. Reviews aren’t stellar or anything, but it does have a “Very Positive” rating on Steam from users, and they’re never wrong. With an indie like Super Kiwi 64 you go in knowing what you’re going to get; a kind of janky experience, but ultimately rewarding. Plus, the game is super short, meaning you can quickly discard it when its done and move on with your life.
Oh boy, we did it! That’s all twelve months recapped and dissected. I hope you were able to discover a few titles you missed over the year, and I also hope that I’ve steered you clear of a few of the stinkers. As 2022 comes to a close I am again reminded by how much I enjoy writing these columns every week and seeing all of your wonderful, happy avatars in the comments. That’ll do it for the buyer’s guide, but special coverage will continue this coming Tuesday with Notable Events From 10, 20, 30 & 40 Years Ago. See you next week!
One more Smashing Pumpkins song before we hit the road…