The Pits

The Pits: Best in Video Games 2022

Editor’s Note: Feel free to post as big or as small of a list as you would like below but please keep your lists contained to these posts and do not make your own post or fill up the OT with them. The winners will be announced alongside the other winners of The Pits the week of 12/27 and will be calculated by adding up your lists (10 points for first, 9 for second, etc. with 5 per awarded for unranked Top 10 lists). The preference is for ranked lists to aid in determining a winner, but you are not required to rank them.

Welcome to the voting thread for the 2022 Pits’ best in video games! Like last year, you’ll be voting on two awards: the Brenda Romero Award, for the best video game released this year, i.e. between January 1st, 2022 and now; and the John Romero Award, for the best video game released last year, i.e. between January 1st, 2021 and December 31st, 2021. I’m not going to be ultra-strict about this, but as a general rule, you should go by release date in whichever country you live in. For instance, that would make Monark eligible for the Brenda Romero Award for our North American ‘Cados, but eligible for the John Romero Award for our Japanese Guacs. You can vote for remasters or re-releases; just be aware that those have historically not garnered a lot of votes.

Feel free to get creative with your submissions. You can merely post your top 10 lists, you can pen a little blurb for each entry, or you can post a screenshot and an essay for each one. It’s really up to you. Whatever you choose, just make sure to get it done by noon EST on December 27th so I have time to count it.

Below, I’ve included my own submissions for the Brenda and John Romero Awards. I should emphasize: this is not The Avocado’s official top 10. The Avocado’s official game of the year is chosen by you, the community, through this voting process. Consider my post inspiration for your submissions, an invitation for discussion, and a celebration of some of the best the industry had to offer in 2022.

The Brenda Romero Award: Top 10 of 2022

All screenshots are my own.

10. Platformer Toolkit

The first entry on this list is arguably not even a video game; it’s billed as an “interactive video essay” by Mark Brown, the UK-based creator of the popular YouTube channel Game Maker’s Toolkit. Platformer Toolkit is designed to teach players about the elements that go into creating the “game feel” of a 2D platformer. By showing what happens when one adjusts variables like jump height, air brake, and coyote time, Brown gives players a sense of the amount of nuance there is in how a player character controls and leaves them with a deeper appreciation of game design.

9. The Last Cube

In a way, The Last Cube is really a game about inventory management. Your player character is — what else? — a cube, and each of the powers you can acquire to help you get through the game’s puzzles must occupy one of its six faces. It’s your job to assign the right power to the right face so that you can get from point A to point B. Simple though it may sound, Finnish studio Improx Games does a wonderful job crafting clever conundrums for players to puzzle their way past. Additionally, the art direction is inspired, evoking a feeling of alien wonder, and the environments convey a truly massive sense of scale. But it’s not until the game’s last couple of hours that it becomes truly special. At that time, it introduces a new mechanic that much like Portal 2‘s conversion gel, engenders in the player a sense of giddy naughtiness, as if they’re breaking the game in ways the developers never intended, introducing chaos into the game’s carefully constructed puzzle boxes. Not bad for a game about inventory management, eh?

8. Lost in Play

Israeli studio Happy Juice Games wears their inspirations on their sleeve. Lost in Play looks and feels like Over the Garden Wall, even down to echoing its plot, and it plays like a cross between the wordless anarchy of Chuchel and the complex, multi-part puzzles of a classic LucasArts title. But for all that it borrows from its predecessors, Lost in Play is simply bounding in creativity, perfectly depicting the imagination of childhood, when jungle gyms were perilous peaks and the sand below them bubbling seas of lava, when crossing the street was like pole vaulting over a moat full of crocodiles, and when wonder and possibility lurked inside every crevice of the world around you. All of this is gorgeously animated and rendered in sumptuous detail. Lost in Play is one of the most visually stunning games of the year, and it’s also a rollicking good time.

7. Frog Detective 3: Corruption at Cowboy County

I promise this is a compliment: Frog Detective 3 is a deeply silly game. It has no pretence towards gravitas or importance. It’s just a cozy, low-stakes narrative adventure with gently goofy humour that lets you do sicknasty scooter tricks for some reason. The aforementioned low stakes give Aussie game dev duo Grace Bruxner and Thomas Bowker the space to really get you acquainted with the game’s characters and explore new dimensions of social awkwardness. After all, when urgency is removed from the the equation, there’s a lot more room for left-field gags and bizarre exchanges of dialogue, and there’s an emotional honesty to these that I find refreshing; not everything is a matter of life or death, and it’s reassuring to be reminded of that from time to time. Frog Detective 3 is the ludic equivalent of initiating a high-five with a friend but getting pulled into hug: sure, it’s awkward, but it’s also comforting in a way that I didn’t even know I wanted.

6. ANNO: Mutationem

The first thing one notices when firing up ANNO: Mutationem is its striking art style, with its blocky voxels echoing the digital future of the game’s cyberpunk setting just as strongly as the neon lights in its nighttime cityscapes. But beneath the game’s appealingly chunky visuals lies a surprisingly hefty 2.5D action RPG. Its combat system combines balletic movement with weighty attacks, allowing it to cover the entire kinematic gamut. Its sprawling levels featuring platforming challenges and secret treasures galore, rewarding and encouraging exploration. Its narrative is exactly the kind of twisty, meaty affair one would expect from its bigger-budget brethren. In short, ANNO: Mutationem might look like a small-scale indie title, but it feels like anything but. What the Beijing-based ThinkingStars have crafted here is a game that punches — and slashes and kicks and fires and explodes — far above its weight.

5. Kirby and the Forgotten Land

With Kirby and the Forgotten Land, Tokyo studio HAL Laboratory’s irrepressibly ebullient pink puffball finally makes the leap1 into full 3D. The extra dimension not only gives players a more expressive gameplay palette, but also affords the game’s developers a wider range of design possibilities. And boy do they take advantage of it: one level sees Kirby travelling alongside and dodging a never-ending parade; another sends him inside the cheesy haunted house at a third-tier theme park, complete with splashes of virtual glow-in-the-dark paint. HAL also seizes the opportunity to lean into Kirby’s inherent absurdity with Mouthful Mode, a mechanic that sees the titular character inhaling objects multiple times his size, contorting his body around them to absorb their powers. It’s equal parts cute, gruesome, hilarious, and inspired. Forgotten Land sets a new bar for the series going forward, and I can’t wait to see how HAL rises to the challenge.

4. Xenoblade Chronicles 3

The notion of legacy permeates the entirety of the narrative of the Tokyo-based Monolith Soft’s latest massive JRPG. The six central characters that make up the player’s party are preoccupied with the mark they’ll leave behind when their brief ten-year lifespans are up. They vow to free the world from the endless cycle of conflict and exploitation architected by villains whose pursuit of immortality seeks to render the concept of legacy moot, which sets them off on a journey through an expansive science-fantasy world, rich in alien life and otherworldly landscapes. There is always a new chest to unlock, a new character to meet, or a new secret to uncover. This is the kind of game where one can easily discover a whole new mechanic 200 hours in. As the party travels from colony to colony, liberating combatants from the world’s endless war, they realize that conflict doesn’t end just because people laid down their arms. Man vs. man gives way to man vs. nature, and survival remains at the forefront of the emancipated soldiers’ minds. Thus begins the task of creating a kinder, more cooperative, more sustainable society to fill the void left by war, one that treats its people’s lives with respect rather than as fodder for the powerful. Xenoblade Chronicles 3 demonstrates that legacy isn’t just about the things you tear down, but also the things you build up in their stead.


Playing NORCO feels like drowning, like sinking deep into the murk of the bayou of the game’s setting, looking up as the light above recedes into a pinhole. Like all the best Southern Gothic fiction, NORCO‘s story is multilayered, with each new layer seeming darker and more confounding than the last. What appears at first glance to be nothing more than a cautionary tale about the environmental devastation and urban blight wrought by the New Orleans petroleum refining industry, relayed to the player as a simple point-and-click adventure, eventually turns into something altogether weirder and more profound. Hiding behind the game’s evocative prose and cyberpunk trappings is a wickedly funny absurdist streak, one that only enhances that oh-so-sweet drowning sensation. After all, what could be more dreadful than something you can observe but never truly comprehend? With their debut game, the Louisiana-based Geography of Robots have cemented themselves as developers to keep an eye on.

2. Neon White

Like most action games, California-based Angel Matrix’s debut game aims to create a sense of flow, where the player is so dialled in to the game that they’re not fully conscious of the individual gameplay decisions they’re making. It’s kind of like riding a bicycle or speaking one’s first language. Neon White achieves this with eye-catching and easily legible visual design, exceptionally tight controls, bite-sized levels, and the most badass techno soundtrack this side of Hot Topic, courtesy of Machine Girl. Playing this demon-slaying parkour FPS feels amazing. But flow still wouldn’t be achieved without the game’s smart approach to teaching the player its visual and mechanical language: each new element or “word” is introduced in isolation, used in increasingly complex situations or “sentences,” and then finally combined with other elements to create deliciously elaborate “paragraphs” of murder and mayhem. By the game’s final levels, the player is so proficient in its language that executing speedrun strats becomes second nature.2 Neon White makes me want to update my résumé: “Fluent in English, French,3 and Demon Slaying.”

1. Pentiment

The title of Obsidian Entertainment’s Renaissance-set point-and-click adventure alludes to the idea that history is a palimpsest, a parchment from which earlier words can be discerned simply by examining the impressions left by a quill. But perhaps a more apt analogy would be a boulder rolling downhill. Once set it motion, it accretes new layers as it rolls, growing in size and leaving a trail of destruction behind it. After the dust has settled and the boulder has come to a stop, the only way to understand what truly happened is to chisel away at the dirt and debris that make up its layers, and that’s a difficult job with potentially devastating effects. Wouldn’t it be easier if we just left the boulder alone?

Pentiment is a game about chiselling away at that boulder, prying out arrowheads and potsherds, and figuring out what they could have meant. It’s a game about taking those fragments of past lives and trying to rearrange them into a coherent narrative. It’s about how those narratives launch boulders of their own, leaving the landscape of our collective knowledge scarred by channels and landslides. Being a historian, Pentiment argues, is not a vocation without consequence.

And how beautifully that argument is presented, with its environments and characters rendered in the style of 16th century woodcut prints and animated with limited frames to create the impression of a diorama in motion. Dialogue is displayed in array of different styles of print and calligraphy, each one representing a character’s education and background.4 Music is used sparingly, but it boasts period-accurate tonality and instrumentation. This attention to detail evinces a deep appreciation for the history of the period. The credits even include a bibliography, listing the scholarly texts consulted in the process of developing the game. Josh Sawyer and his Irvine, California team have crafted a true labour of love in Pentiment, one that deserves to be acknowledged as the best game of 2022.

Honourable mentions: The Centennial Case: A Shijima Story; Wordle spinoffs5; AI: The Somnium Files – nirvanA Initiative; The Entropy Centre; Golf Gang; Gibbon: Beyond the Trees

The John Romero Award: Revisiting 2021

I mostly played new games in 2022, but I still managed to shift this list around a bit.

  1. Golf Club Wasteland
  2. The Forgotten City
  3. Wordle
  4. Marvel’s Guardians of the Galaxy
  5. Halo Infinite
  6. It Takes Two
  7. Psychonauts 2
  8. Adios
  9. Hitman 3
  10. OPUS: Echo of Starsong

And now, dear community, I turn it over to you: What were your favourite games of 2022 and 2021?