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This year was a busy one for me. In contrast to the first couple of years of the pandemic, I was able to get out more and travel and take on a lot of work organizing conferences. That inevitably led to less gaming for me.
This year, gaming was less of an escape from our pandemic reality, and, as things opened up, there was more competition for my time. I played a crazy amount of time with Gameloft’s simple Idle Siege mobile game while traveling on the road to distant locations.
So rather than try to play everything, I circled back to playing only the games that really captured my attention. I came back to these games again and again during the year, and I also played titles like It Takes Two (with my kid) from last year and enjoyed running through the remake of The Last of Us Part I on the new consoles — all in the name of playing what I liked, rather than what I was obligated to play. I also devoted time to game-related shows like Mythic Quest, The Witcher and Cyberpunk: Edgerunners.
I was disappointed to see delays in games like Starfield, Redfall, Company of Heroes 3 and more. But I know that 2023 will be a pretty awesome year for games, and we were lucky to get titles like God of War: Ragnarok and Elden Ring as teams labored under the newfound difficulties of remote game development.
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I hope you are staying safe during the holidays with your family and friends, and let’s hope you can find the game to play and celebrate your gaming passions. And so here are my favorite games of 2022.
For comparison, here are my favorites from 2021, 2020, 2019, 2018, 2017, 2016, 2015, 2014, 2013, 2012, and 2011. In each story below, the links go to our full reviews or major stories about the games. And be sure to check out the GamesBeat staff’s votes for Game of the Year and best individual favorites soon. (Note: This story has some minor spoilers.) Here’s the list in reverse order. (1/12/23: I’ve updated this with Pentiment as my final favorite game of 2022).
Developer: Obsidian Entertainment
Publisher: Microsoft Xbox Game Studios
Platforms: PC, Xbox, Xbox Cloud Gaming
I never expected to see a game like Pentiment in the era of modern gaming. It’s a 2D text-based game in an era of heavy-duty 3D graphics. The game has music and motion graphics that help make the experience more immersive, but you spend most of your time clicking on dialogue boxes with pretty medieval script. But it’s a compelling murder mystery that takes place in an abbey in Bavaria in the 16th century, around the time of Martin Luther’s Protestant Reformation. Your job is to solve a murder and accuse a suspect of the crime, based on incomplete information under time pressure. It turns out the story was compelling enough to keep me interested in a text-based game and the mystery went into unexpected places where the protagonist has deep conversations about the nature of history, religious faith, and the consequences of investigations based on inconclusive evidence. I marveled at the creativity and narrative possibilities in what seemed like the restrictive format of a text role-playing adventure game.
8) Idle Siege
Platforms: iOS, Android
This is surely a silly choice but I happened to invest a ton of time into this game in 2022. Idle Siege is one of those idle management games where you tap your finger on things that need to get done or collected. This one is set in a medieval fantasy world where you train your armies and champions and send them at a big fortress, eventually overcoming it. It also added a multiplayer element where you battle another player with your top champions and troops. It turned out that I invested enough time in it while traveling in places like Hawaii and Germany that I was able to get competitive in multiplayer tournaments. In multiplayer, you have to outsmart the other player in how you deploy your forces. I play it at the gym or while on walks and my fingers never get tired. I spent about $10 on it to get a couple of champions for multiplayer and I’ve also watched a ton of ads. But for some reason it keeps me entertained in an effortless and mindless way. It’s like playing with toy soldiers again.
7) The Quarry
Developer: Supermassive Games
Platforms: PC, PlayStation, Xbox
Sometimes a game lands squarely in the middle of a bunch of tropes and yet it’s an enjoyable experience. The Quarry is another one of those wonderful interactive movie horror games from Supermassive that drives you crazy with bad choices as you try to make the right decisions to save a group of teenagers at a summer camp. It’s reminiscent of Until Dawn from 2015, yet with a more refined game engine. Sometimes there is no good choice, with the outcome affected by a random “butterfly effect.” At other times, you have to make a moral decision about who to save or let die. One of the improvements is a “death rewind,” where, instead of starting the game over, you rewind to the point where you made a fateful decision that doomed a character. As with the Life is Strange games, you have more freedom deciding who should hook up with each other. The human faces look awesome and the movement isn’t so clunky. And the story about a creepy old legend that haunts a summer camp drew me into the game.
Developer: Blue Twelve Studio
Publisher: Annapurna Interactive
Platforms: PlayStation, PC
As Rachel Kaser said in her review, Stray caught everyone’s attention as you play an adorable cat on an adventure in a city inhabited only by robots.
The imagery of the cyberpunk world is beautiful, and the cat has to navigate various puzzles to unravel a mystery about the outside world and the departed humans. You get some company from the drone robot B-12, who releases memories for the cat. As the cat, you have to be quite clever and resourceful in getting around obstacles, sneak by guards on a stealthy path, and solving puzzles.
The cat doesn’t talk, at least not in a human way. But that doesn’t mean there’s no emotion in the game. The cat gets separated from loved ones and the city is quite forlorn, with the unhappy robots imparting the history of the humans who have left the city.
It’s not a long experience, and that’s a hint that some of the gameplay does get a bit tiring, as there is only so much you can do with a cat wandering around in a big city. But Stray is a memorable story of a cat that seems all too real.
5) Call of Duty: Warzone 2
Developer: Infinity Ward/Raven Software
Platforms: PC, PlayStation, Xbox
I put a lot of hours into the original Warzone that launched just before the pandemic lockdown in 2020. During that time, the game was my excuse to gather with friends or strangers and enjoy a battle royale match where we could chatter while trying to avoid getting shot. When the game switched to WWII guns with the Caldera map in the Pacific, it wasn’t quite as fun.
But with the upgraded modern weapons of Call of Duty: Modern Warfare II this fall, Warzone 2 is bringing back the fun. My friends continue to be better than me and carry me to victories, but I’ll take it. I occasionally make myself useful with a sniper rifle, but the gunfights remind me of Wild West duels where the fastest and smartest player comes out on top.
I still chat with friends via Discord for better audio, and there are challenges a plenty with the new game. I miss the lifetime stats, and it’s hard to figure out exactly where to land now. But Warzone 2 still delivers a great Call of Duty experience and leaves plenty of room for players to show off their gameplay skills and cleverness.
The joy of Warzone 2 is that it gives you the opportunity to show your creativity in outwitting other human enemies on the map as the circle gets tighter and tighter. The DMZ extraction mode taps into the fun of games like Escape From Tarkov, and it combines the open world of the Warzone map with the focused narrative of missions. You can take out a lot of non-player characters in the combat but have to be ready for serious fighting when you run into the occasional human team. Let me know when you want to play and we’ll drop together sometime.
4) Call of Duty: Modern Warfare II
Developer: Infinity Ward
Platforms: PC, PlayStation, Xbox
Activision built a new unified engine for Call of Duty: Modern Warfare II and Warzone 2. This made the games work for the next-gen consoles as well as the PC, and it enabled the integration of Modern Warfare II multiplayer maps and weapons into Warzone 2. On top of that efficiency, MWII had both excellent multiplayer and single-player campaign experiences this year.
I was able to score a victory of 42-7 K/D on the Sa’id Ground War map, and it delighted me that I, an unskillful player, could find a path to figure out how to do that. The multiplayer Ground War maps are an awesome experience that reminds me of Battlefield matches at their best. But the map sizes are smaller and the action is lot more intense, with battles swinging in and out of your favor constantly.
The story had an interesting twist and it veered off the path of modern American war propaganda in a way that is healthy for a game that is embraced around the world. The storytelling is good, with enhanced roles for CIA task force leader Kate Laswell and the new Mexican special forces soldiers — who all become important characters in the campaign. You get the message about the moral quagmire of modern war and the unholy alliances that take place in the name of winning a war. There are some memorable visuals of underwater fighting in Amsterdam, fighting on top of a ship with containers sliding around during a storm, and taking out terrorists while rappeling down the side of a skyscraper.
The action is intense and bloody. But the game finds a better line between entertainment and sensational war violence compared to the 2019 title. Instead of participating in massacres, you witness the aftermath of them and take down the bad guys who perpetrated the violence.
3) Horizon: Forbidden West
Developer: Guerrilla Games
Publisher: Sony Interactive Entertainment
I spent a solid 50 hours playing Horizon: Forbidden West, enjoying the richness of the Aloy’s world in a post-apocalyptic setting where mechanical dinosaurs are the main enemy alongside beings that seek to extinguish all life on a quest for power. Even with all of that time, I finished the game with only 30% of the content done.
Whether I was diving deep underwater in the ruins of Las Vegas or jumping off a building in decript San Francisco, I enjoyed the beauty and creativity and vastness of the world that Guerrilla Games created. The Machines were still terrifying and satisfying to take down. The giant mammoth, a Tremortusk, was particularly fun to fight.
I had my struggles. A bug prevented me from finishing one of the more difficult missions. The waypoints in the quests didn’t always point me in the right direction. And I spent an awful lot of time trying to finish the final battle. Aloy also isn’t the most emotional character I’ve ever come across.
What I liked about both the original and the second game is that the narrative is very well conceived. While it may seem like an endless open world game, it’s not. It’s a story that spans worlds. It’s a story about how humanity tries to survive the ultimate apocalypse that threatens to wipe out all life on the planet, how that life comes creeping back and almost gets extinguished again. It’s not just about putting meaning to our small lives on our planet but our journey to the stars as well and how we should behave as the gods of our own world.
If you skipped this game, you should go back to it just for the grand sci-fi story.
2) Elden Ring
Publisher: Bandai Namco Entertainment
Platforms: PC, PlayStation, Xbox
Everybody knows I’m not a skillful player. So you would expect me to finish Elden Ring in perhaps five years. Yet the great thing about this game is that the world lured me in. Even though I knew that the swords and sorcery combat would leave me in tears, I ventured into the exploration of the world created by George R.R. Martin anyway. It made me feel brave to go back into the arena or dungeon one more time where I got my ass kicked 30 times already.
And the more I explored, the more I found I could gain skills and reap rewards that would make it easier to defeat those bosses that were killing me with some much ease. FromSoftware’s developers didn’t compromise by making it easy to defeat the bosses. But they seeded the world with places where you kill a bunch of relatively weak orcs until you got strong enough to take out the nearby samurai swordsman or some of the beasts that guarded treasures. It was also fun to dip into multiplayer where you could find a friend to help you take on a god with a much better chance of survival.
It was a spooky world where the story only trickled out to you in small portions. You had to explore more of the environment to extract the story, and that appeals to me. I never knew what I was going to find.
This is yet another one of those games where I sank more time into it far beyond what was necessary to do my job. Yet even though I put so much time into it, I could put so much more into it as I try to make more headway in it. Yet while it was so satisfying, it lacked the power to completely draw me into the world. I stayed a long time, but I hit escape velocity and moved on to other ways of having fun.
1) God of War: Ragnarok
Developer: Santa Monica Studio
Publisher: Sony Interactive Entertainment
God of War was one of the best games of 2018 because it took an existing and somewhat tired franchise and reimagined it. Kratos turned from an invincible and angry god to a tired one who had a son he was trying to raise. It was an emotional father-and-son journey that had its touching moments. You had a father who could only express anger or disappointment, voice acted brilliantly by Christopher Judge. “Do not be sorry. Be better,” he would tell his son, who was an agent of chaos.
Now Kratos is still trying to protect his son and control his anger, while the boy has grown his powers and tries to prove he is a god as well, worthy of his father’s approval. They’re going up against the pantheon of the Norse gods, like Thor and Odin, who are like organized criminals in this game. Odin is perfectly played by Richard Schiff, creating the impression that he’s a nice uncle.
As these forces gather against each other for Ragnarok, you see characters attempting to avoid fate and the sense of impending doom. The foreshadowing and echoes in the story underscore the quality of the narrative. The gameplay is well executed and you get new weapons and companions that give you new tools to master as you wipe out half of all breathing things on your path to destiny.
Last time around, I voted for the grand epic of Red Dead Redemption 2 over 2018’s God of War. But this story is so intensely personal and tightly woven that the emotions it generated swung me in the other direction against the finest quality of Elden Ring.
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