It’s that time of year; time to feel like a disappointment because I couldn’t play every new release this year. I’d share what I missed, but I carry enough shame. To be fair, I did my best, considering I’m playing several live service games – Destiny 2 got its hooks back into me – and a never-ending Minecraft mod pack. 2022 was a year for Game Pass and indie games, and I got my fill, stopping occasionally to take in the ‘must-play’ blockbusters.
10. OlliOlli World
Halfway through OlliOlli World I started to think, ‘this must be what it's like to master those finger skateboards’. It’s ludicrous joy, completely arcade in its sensibilities. It helps that the visuals are bold and colourful – it feels like playing a Saturday morning cartoon come to life – and the cast are a bunch of wonderful misfits. As such a departure from the preceding OlliOlli games, I wasn’t sure this would work at first, but after a couple of hours I couldn’t put it down.
9. Dreamlight Valley
When I interviewed to work at TheGamer, I made the bold claim that I preferred Dreamlight Valley to Animal Crossing. I stand by it. As a Disney nerd who feels as if Disneyland is his second home, it’s great to work away on the character’s plotlines and unlock lovely furniture and clothing. It became a comfort game, something I can escape to, slowly work away on, collecting items or crafting ingredients. I could check in once a day, chat to everyone, or just gather resources. The valley became a safe space. I do hate Goofy though, and his neediness.
I wouldn’t have played this underrated gem were it not for Game Pass. Friends sang its praises, but it looked like a Pikmin ripoff. I’m glad I decided to give it a try because, while it holds some similarities to Pikmin, this stands out for its platforming. To be honest, I can always be swayed by playing as a tiny character in a giant human world. A personal highlight was exploring a vast bathroom, jumping on bars of soap that floated in the bathtub, hopping across the shower curtain for collectibles, and gliding through the air to reach new sections.
7. God Of War Ragnarok
Ragnarok is on this list though because of the growth that Kratos goes through on his journey. As a parent, I’ve always leaned towards narratives that explore how these complex relationships grow and evolve over time. Kratos is such an unlikely father, and we can see his struggles through the brilliant use of motion capture and in Christopher Judge’s sublime dialogue delivery. I’m not ashamed to say that there were several moments where I blubbed like a baby at subtle glances, pained expressions, and Kratos’ unsurety.
6. Ghostwire: Tokyo
Nowadays I tend to shun open-world adventures, mostly due to the time commitment. When Ghostwire: Tokyo started doing the rounds, I was drawn in by this version of Tokyo and the faceless enemies who prowled the streets. As soon as I started playing, I wanted to see everything; every alley, every monster, item and shrine. The movement abilities feel so smooth, the combat is a visual cacophony that makes the PS5 sing. Grappling and gliding made it simple to capture every spirit and collectible above the rooftops in this rain-soaked Tokyo.
5. Midnight Suns
The soap opera strands Midnight Suns creates by trying to get you into everyone’s good books is just as compelling as the card-based battling. Nothing caps off a hard-won fight with Hydra goons than chilling out on the sofa and watching a movie with Ghost Rider. The idea of using cards in battle is genius, merging XCOM, Slay the Spire, and Marvel trading card collecting. It also helps because I’m useless at XCOM, yet I love the genre. Midnight Suns is a bit more forgiving, which is a relief.
Rollerdrome is gorgeous. The cel-shaded graphics makes the game feel like a Moebius comic bursting to life. It’s a bold look for a quasi-sports title, but as a mish-mash of rollerskating and gun-toting action, it fits. Each time I drop into a map, prepping myself to pull off ludicrous stunts and blast bad guys, I’m reminded of how good The Running Man is. It’s such a thrill ride, particularly when everything slows down with a bullettime style, allowing me to pick my shots. It makes me feel like a badass, which is surely the point of most video games?
3. Neon White
One of my top five games of all time is Mirror’s Edge, and Neon White emulates the feeling of that parkour classic. Each level of this platformer is an adrenaline-filled rush. Linking together movement abilities felt like such an achievement, each dash, slam or leap pumped my brain full of serotonin. I’d reach the end of a level and know I can go one better. The loop of restarting to achieve better times and performances makes this title stand out. Kudos to the banging soundtrack and the awesome character design, too.
2. Vampire Survivors
This game scratches an itch I didn’t know I had. I wasn’t aware I needed a one stick shooter, which verges on idle game. I also wasn’t prepared for how good the brain scratch feels when there are hundreds of enemies on my screen being wiped out and dropping XP gems. No game of Vampire Survivors runs over 30 mins, so it’s a perfect game for my Steam Deck, too. After pumping in over 30 hours, I’m still unlocking things, which keeps me playing even more. Much like Dreamlight Valley, this game has become a comfort play.
Immortality quickly snagged the top spot on my list. The newest Sam Barlow enigma is a masterpiece in storytelling. Each movie clip is under a few minutes and there’s always a drive to watch ‘just one more’ in order to uncover some truths, as I play the role of editor to this faux documentary. Suddenly, the curtain dropped and I got another view of the story. A picture that felt unsettling and dark. Everything shifted into Twin Peaks-esque levels of creepy, making the whole journey even more compelling. After a time, Marisa became dear to my heart, as I watched this innocent woman become churned up by the film industry. It helps that Manon Gage’s portrayal is flawless and we, as voyeurs, get to watch this brilliant actress play a multifaceted role.
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