Despite all the talk of how many highly-anticipated titles were delayed out of 2022, the past 12 months have been pretty good for gaming. Fans may still be waiting for games like The Legend of Zelda: Tears of the Kingdom and Starfield, but there were plenty of exciting new releases — so many that you’ve likely forgotten about some of the games that, at one point, were considered critical darlings or fan favorites.
While a couple of games definitely dominated the conversation, they were far from the only ones to earn their time in the spotlight. 2022 saw plenty of sleeper hits, great games that were overshadowed by other great games, and titles that got their 15 minutes of fame before largely fading from the conversation.
In assembling this top 10, we took a lot of factors into account, from how critics and fans responded to a game to our personal preferences to how these titles fit into the larger conversation. No game is absolutely perfect (and rough, buggy launches were a pretty common theme even among some of 2022’s most popular games), but each of these games earned its spot on the list for moving the medium forward, shattering player expectations, and simply being enjoyable experiences that made a chaotic year even a little bit more bearable.
In a year with so many great video game releases from AAA and indie developers alike, it was hard to narrow the list down to just 10. The question of what video game is the best is, by nature, subjective, and everyone has their own personal favorites that may not have found critical acclaim or widespread appeal. There are also games like MultiVersus, which made a huge splash this summer with its Open Beta launch, and underrated indie point-and-click Norco, which flew under the radar but impressed those who played it with its compelling mystery and unique style.
To recognize the diverse set of interests and excellent games released in 2022, each of the editors have selected their own personal honorable mention that they think deserves some love despite not making the official list:
Julia Anderson: Indie game developer Magic Design Studios deserves recognition for creating the perfect merger of a roguelike with all the morbid fun and style of a Tim Burton classic in Have a Nice Death. Traversing the creative rooms of Death Incorporated as its burned-out CEO is already a blast in early access, creating high hopes for the game’s full release in April 2023.
Christopher Baggett: Though Gotham Knights has been surrounded by hype since its 2020 announcement, the experience ultimately let a lot of fans down. This is unfortunate as, while the game’s single-player can be a chore, it shines as a co-op experience. Clearing Gotham City as a crime-busting squad is a treat thanks to a large open-world players can explore together or independently. While not any kind of technical marvel, it sets a precedent for co-op comic book games that’s sure to be felt in the future.
Noelle Corbett: Fire Emblem Warriors: Three Hopes is a game fans couldn’t have predicted going into 2022, but it somehow makes perfect sense. An improvement upon 2017’s Fire Emblem Warriors set in Three Houses‘ world, the game trades turn-based tactics for hack-and-slash action. Set in an alternate timeline where Byleth never because a professor, new protagonist Shez joins Edelgard, Dimitri, or Claude in the fight to determine Fódlan’s future, giving players a new perspective on beloved characters.
Brad Lang: Vampire Survivors requires the player to practically do nothing, yet it managed to be one of the thought-consuming games of 2022. Allowing the player to become the bullet-Hell, this devilish roguelite offers up spades of content, juicy power curves, and a price that’s difficult to fault. Simplicity is the essence of genius, and Vampire Survivors the clearest example of that.
Jason Robbins: The Quarry is something of a spiritual successor to Supermassive’s breakout hit, Until Dawn. Once again featuring a fun group of young adults stuck in the middle of nowhere and facing supernatural threats, The Quarry took everything that gave Until Dawn such an enticingly retro slasher feel and doubled down on it. The result is another gory spook-fest that entices players with its choice-driven narrative and the possibility of losing any character at any time.
Cheyenne Wiseman: Mario + Rabbids Sparks of Hope combines its titular characters with turn-based combat, and the result is a light-hearted yet rewarding adventure with humor at every turn. Featuring nine playable characters, each with their own upgradeable specialties, Sparks of Hope offers fun, approachable battles that encourage experimentation. The game’s story may be absurd, but its colorful worlds, vibrant personalities, and addictive gameplay make it hard to put down.
10. Marvel Snap Is an Addictive Card Game With Endless Deckbuilding Potential
Marvel Snap‘s early release was bogged down by complaints over its high-priced microtransactions, but its global launch largely silenced them. Its addictive and unique gameplay caught gamers’ attentions, and it quickly became one of the most downloaded games on Android and Apple. Marvel has tried its hand at multiple mobile games over the years, including other failed card titles like Marvel Battle Lines, which it retired after a year. However, Marvel Snap stands out among the rest for surprisingly innovative gameplay — a common theme for this year’s selections.
The fast-paced strategy boasts impressively varied card abilities, making for nearly endless possibilities for building Marvel Snap decks of all kinds. Want to torment your opponent like a troll? Use cards like Green Goblin and Hobgoblin that move to the other side of the field and take chunks out of their totals with negative power. Want to be sneaky? Play a Move deck that keeps your opponent guessing which location you’re really focusing on. Marvel Snap suits multiple play styles, making it nearly impossible to grow bored. – JA
9. Return to Monkey Island Concludes Ron Gilbert’s Hilarious Saga on a High Note
Return to Monkey Island was always an unsafe bet when it came time to nominate titles for the 2022 Game of the Year award, despite the fact that it won PC Game of the Year at the Golden Joystick Awards. This is due to the fact that, sadly, it was unlikely that most people who hadn’t played at least the first two Monkey Island entries way back in the early ’90s would give the final chapter in Guybrush Threepwood’s swashbuckling saga a try, especially younger gamers.
The fact that Return to Monkey Island exists is a monumental achievement, as just about everyone had the franchise pegged as dead — and fewer expected series creator Ron Gilbert would develop a final game. Lo and behold, fans were treated to more pirate-ridden fun with Guybrush and the long-sought-after answer to the franchise’s biggest mystery: What is the secret of Monkey Island? The answer and the product itself provide one of the most satisfying and heartwarming conclusions to a beloved franchise in gaming history. – JR
8. Pokémon Legends: Arceus Gave Fans Fresh Games & a Hint Toward the Series’ Future
Just a month out from the release of Pokémon Scarlet and Violet, you’d be forgiven for forgetting about the series’ other major 2022 release. Pokémon Legends: Arceus is a huge departure for the franchise that features action elements, wide open areas to explore, a storyline set centuries before the events of the main series, and (of course) new Pokémon to catch and befriend. Players control a modern trainer who falls through a spacetime rift and ends up in Hisui, the region that becomes Sinnoh as they navigate a dangerous world where most people fear Pokémon.
Pokémon Legends: Arceus is a truly fresh experience for fans of the iconic franchise, emphasizing exploration and catching Pokémon over battling other trainers and becoming the very best (like no one ever was). By virtue of its setting, it also gave players a unique look at the series in-game history, which was a huge treat for Pokémon lore fanatics. Scarlet and Violet may ultimately be the games that serve as a template for the main series moving forward, but many of its best ideas and quality-of-life changes were done first (and arguably better) here. – NC
7. Tunic Updates the Zelda Formula with Dark Souls-Level Difficulty
Released in March, Tunic looks deceptively simple, partly due to its bright isometric art and cute fox protagonist. However, this is not a game to be taken lightly, as it boasts the difficulty of Dark Souls and does little to hold its players’ hands through an unforgiving world. Players are free to explore and encounter enemies, puzzles, and secrets at their own pace, collecting pages of an old-school instruction manual along the way. Written in a fictional language, these pages hold crucial clues to navigating Tunic‘s world and fighting its formidable foes. The game’s many mysteries reveal themselves slowly, offering players many avenues to explore when the going gets too tough.
Developed by Andrew Shouldice, Tunic is certainly an impressive feat for an indie game. It treats players to an immersive world made unforgettable by a faintly nostalgic and sometimes haunting soundtrack. While its difficult gameplay may not be for everyone, Tunic updates the classic Legend of Zelda formula in a way that’s refreshing and fitting for modern challenge seekers. – CW
6. Immortality Is a Game That Truly Has to Be Experienced
Where games like Her Story had a small yet devoted fanbase, Sam Barlow’s feature film thriller Immortality rightfully exploded and took over the mainstream conversation at a time when gamers were waiting for the next AAA experience. Following the tale of actress Marissa Marcel, players must solve the mystery of her disappearance by piecing together footage from Marcel’s career and the three unreleased films she made.
Perhaps Immortality‘s biggest flaw is to describe it would steal its mystique. What starts as an interesting exploration of filmmaking quickly turns into a haunting study of the surreptitious, with players finding private moments not meant to be filmed, hidden messages in rewound footage, and a bizarre tale of otherworldly beings. If you can make it to the game’s finale, you’ll find one of the most genuinely surreal and unsettling moments we’ve encountered in a game, but also one of the most rewarding and unforgettable stories of any generation. Immortality has to be experienced to truly get it, and you’re cheating yourself if you don’t play it now. – CB
5. Stray Purr-fectly Captures Cat Antics While Offering an Immersive World
Indie developer BlueTwelve Studio and publisher Annapurna Interactive’s Stray is 2022’s surprise hit. A cultural phenomenon when it launched in July, Stray had fans everywhere showing off their real-life cats’ reactions to its furry protagonist. Its success, including its Best Independent Game and Best Debut Indie wins at The Game Awards, proves that if there’s anything that can unite gamers and appeal to even those who don’t usually play games, it’s cats. Stray, at its core, is a cat exploration sim, allowing players to step into the paws of an adorable orange tabby and run around a post-human cyberpunk world.
While Stray‘s gameplay is simple and its rough edges sometimes detract from the experience, there’s an undeniable charm and sense of satisfaction that comes with leaping from rooftop to rooftop, scratching rugs, and knocking over anything and everything just for the sake of it. Stray also offers a surprisingly fleshed-out world, populated by robots who have inherited many of humanity’s behaviors and social problems. While not a flawless masterpiece, Stray is a comforting journey perfect for anyone who’s ever wondered what it’s like to see the world from a feline perspective. – CW
4. Horizon Forbidden West Expands Aloy’s Post-Apocalyptic World
Like its predecessor, which came out just a week before Breath of the Wild, Horizon Forbidden West fell victim to its release timing. Launching just a week before Elden Ring meant Aloy’s latest adventure was largely overshadowed, but that doesn’t mean the game isn’t worth celebrating in its own right. Horizon Zero Dawn was already a delight, and Forbidden West takes what worked and makes it bigger and better.
Not only does Aloy’s world get physically bigger as she explores the much larger wilds of the Forbidden West, but the story has her expanding her personal circle. Where Zero Dawn is largely a solitary adventure where Aloy must prove herself as a hero, Forbidden West forces this lone wolf to accept help and allow others to share her burden. It’s a tough lesson to learn, especially for someone who was born a Nora Outcast, but Aloy’s character growth is a treat for fans to watch and bodes well for the future of what is quickly becoming one of PlayStation’s staple first-party franchises. – NC
3. Elden Ring Is Exactly as Big as Everyone Expected
Elden Ring was so close to being a punchline. It felt like Hidetaka Miyazaki’s highly anticipated Soulsborne adventure would never release, with footage being years apart. All that hype crescendoed into a Feb. 2022 release that, as expected, blew up with critics and fans alike. Elden Ring was all the talk on social media and one of Twitch’s most streamed games. It received critical acclaim and even took home Game of the Year at The Game Awards (though that win is slightly marred by the absurdity following its on-stage speech).
It wasn’t long before the usual conversation set in, though. Defensive players vehemently argued in favor of its sharp difficulty curve and convoluted narrative, while more casual players frowned at the sometimes too-massive open world and punishing boss encounters. Elden Ring is easily the pinnacle of the Soulslike genre, but it seems like it left the cultural sphere almost as quickly as it arrived. Perhaps it is too big for players to truly dive into, or perhaps the bosses really did turn off too many players.
Regardless, with newly arriving DLC and more expected to be announced any day now, it’s hard to deny that Elden Ring has a long, bright future ahead of it, both as a continually expanding experience and as the measuring stick for another generation of clones and knock-offs. – CB
2. God of War Ragnarök Heartfelt Story Defies Sky-High Expectations
There were few games in 2022 more anticipated than the God of War sequel — it even earned a nomination for Most Anticipated Game at The Game Awards 2021 and landed on CBR’s list of the same. As 2022 went on and developer Santa Monica continued to hold out confirmation of its release date, fans of the series grew increasingly restless. With all that anticipation, God of War Ragnarök had a lot to live up to — and it managed to exceed expectations.
That it surpassed the hopes of its fanbase by such a degree almost earns it a spot on this alone, but that it did it so well while taking risks gives it a high ranking on this list. Ragnarök doubled down on the relationship between the series’ protagonist Kratos and his son, Atreus, providing some of the most beautiful storytelling in gaming all year. It also took a risk by having players take the role of Atreus on multiple occasions, who uses vastly different battle tactics than those that drew most players to the franchise with Kratos. God of War Ragnarök undoubtedly marked a significant achievement in video game storytelling with its heartfelt father-son tale. – JA
1. Marvel’s Midnight Suns Is 2022’s Biggest (and Best) Surprise
Marvel’s Midnight Suns had a pretty shaky start heading into its Dec. 2022 release. Not only was this a card-based tactical RPG focused on a new protagonist and lesser-known ’90s team, but many fans were underwhelmed by the game’s initial announcement, and it was hit by two delays. The extra time was definitely worthwhile, though, as Firaxis delivered a game that far exceeded expectations and even won over many of the naysayers.
On paper, a deckbuilding tactical social sim full of Marvel characters sounds like a lot of disparate ideas stuffed together, but Midnight Suns blends them together pretty brilliantly. Players who want to focus on the main story and combat can do so, but those who dive into everything the game has to offer — from exploring to Abbey and collecting tarot cards to spending time in Blade’s Book Club — are rewarded with additional cards and stronger bonds that improve the team’s effectiveness in battle.
It’s also worth noting how much of a treat the game is for longtime Marvel fans. Midnight Suns is packed with references to the comics, such as Agatha Harkness’ role in Wanda Maximoff’s life and the Abbey having a dry bar due to Tony Stark’s struggle with alcoholism. The long-underrated Nico Minoru also gets a chance to shine alongside iconic heroes like Captain America, Spider-Man, and Wolverine, which is a pretty great symbol of how much care went into making this incredible adventure. – NC