game of the year
Trevor's Top Ten Games of 2022
Trevor | January 2, 2023
2023 is upon us, and it just wouldn't feel like the end of the year without a big list of games.
2022, another year where indie surprises and AAA powerhouses rumbled for 10 coveted spots. Time to see how it all shook out after the dust settled, starting with...
Signalis is, hands down, the best horror game to come out this year. No contest.
Like any good mystery, Signalis opens with a sea of questions. You awaken from a cryogenic sleep on what appears to be a spaceship. As you explore your surroundings, it’s clear things have not gone well for the rest of your crew. Those who haven’t congealed into paste due to failed suspension pods have taken refuge in a nearby mining outpost. While you may not have your memories, your belongings include a picture of someone on the crew you clearly care about, and you vaguely recall having a promise to keep to them. You make your way to the mining outpost to find her.
Only to find out things aren’t much better in there, either.
Atmosphere is the name of the game in Signalis. While there is occasional music, most of the game is deathly silent, amplifying the impact of every ambient noise. The hallways are dark and littered with environmental storytelling. Dismembered workers, scorch marks, failed barricades. Signalis is like exploring the scene of the crime in a locked building while the killer is still at large.
What follows is a bloody, twisted hunt through this facility to put all the pieces together. If horror is your jam—and especially if you have any reverence for the Resident Evil franchise—you owe it to yourself to check this one out.
9. Triangle Strategy
Between Tactics Ogre: Reborn and Front Mission 1st, there was no shortage of remastered turn-based strategy games, but there was at least one original strategy release to crack the top ten.
Triangle Strategy (please stop lying to us about “working titles” Square Enix) is the next game from Tomoya Asano, of Octopath and Bravely Default fame. Much like his previous works, Triangle Strategy borrows much DNA from previous Square RPGs—in this case, Final Fantasy Tactics.
Triangle Strategy differentiates itself from other clones by leaning harder into the political, aristocratic drama that made up the plot of Final Fantasy Tactics. There are major decisions to make at every turn, but where most games make the choice as simple as selecting from the menu, Triangle Strategy takes a more democratic approach.
As all your major characters assemble to debate what the correct course of action is, it’s up to you to do the rounds and convince each person casting a vote to come around to your side. You have one chance to hear everyone out and gather additional evidence before proceeding to a vote, and while sometimes you will be able to sway some of your companions, others may simply move to a neutral position, leaving you in suspense until they walk up to the podium.
If Triangle Strategy had stuck the landing it would be much higher on the list, but my biggest disappointment with this entry lies in the conclusion. There are three sub-par endings, and one more fulfilling comprehensive conclusion which requires a fair amount of luck (or internet browsing) to arrive at. Putting these aside, however, there’s no doubt Triangle Strategy is the best original release of its ilk to release this year.
8.Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Shredder’s Revenge
LET’S KICK SHELL!
The return of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles was perhaps my most hotly anticipated release of the year, and it did not disappoint. What I expected was a fitting tribute to the legendary Konami TMNT arcade games, but what I got contained much more mechanical depth and artistic brilliance than any of them.
If you’ve played Turtles in Time, you have an idea of what to expect. Shredder’s back and he’s even stealing the Statue of Liberty again, the scamp. In Shredder’s Revenge, you hit the streets as the Turtles, Splinter, or even April and take out the foot clan. Rest assured all the faces from the 90’s show will appear somewhere at some time.
There’s a few new twists in Shredder’s Revenge when compared to those Konami games. For one, every character has a backstep to quickly get out of enemy range. There’s also a super bar—Ninja Power—which you can use to trigger one of three different super abilities. Hitting jump and attack simultaneously also triggers an upward airborne attack, which makes hitting flying enemies a thousand times easier than it ever was in the arcades.
What I cannot stress enough, however, is just how impressive the artistic presentation is. Every stage is immaculately crafted, with very few reused assets and backdrops. The colors and effects pop with vibrance, attacks have a satisfying weight and power, and the music is just straight bumpin’. I mean, they even got Raekwon and Ghostface Killah on this set list.
In a year with a handful of disappointing releases for yours truly (all of which you'll find at the end of this list), Shredder’s Revenge lived up to the hype.
7. King of Fighters XV
In a year devoid of many fighting game releases, the king returns.
King of Fighters is an acquired taste among the fighting game scene. Where many games try to be more accessible, KOF has remained largely similar in concept for many years. There are certainly a few changes for newcomers; everyone’s 3-meter supers are performed with the same inputs, auto-combos are present, and more complicated special moves have been simplified over the years. In a game like King of Fighters though, these simplifications only get you so far.
The KOF franchise differentiates itself from others in the genre with a unique approach to a 3-on-3 format. Unlike Dragonball FighterZ where characters are tagging in and out constantly, battles in KOF happen one at a time. Players try to create a team composition where the final character in the lineup (known as the anchor) will be able to come in and clean house with all the meter the other two built along the way. Impressive comebacks and long, technically challenging combos are iconic to the franchise.
The new characters are slick. Isla is a rad graffiti artist from South America who attacks with sentient spray can arms, and Shun’ei wields giant fire and ice arms on his back. The roster also includes the return of many a fan favorite, and even includes different, powered up versions of them from previous entries.
The support KOF XV has seen since release did much to elevate its position on the list. In addition to regular balance changes, KOF XV has incorporated other SNK properties into the fold this time around. A Garou: Mark of the Wolves team has joined the roster, and most recently, a Samurai Shodown squad hit the field.
The only thing keeping KOF low on the list is, to be frank, the fact this is more of the same. There is not a lot of iteration from previous entries in the series, only the distillation and refinement of what’s made it unique thus far. But for KOF fans, it's exactly what we want. If King of Fighters became more accessible, at some point it wouldn’t be KOF anymore.
6. Splatoon 3
After years of thinking about getting into Splatoon, by God, I finally did it. I understand now.
Splatoon 3 is a fitting entry to follow King of Fighters XV, as it makes the list for a similar reason—it doesn’t do anything explicitly new, but delivers a better version of what came before.
Splatoon 3 is a shooter packed with ink instead of bullets. You make an inkling or octoling then enter the fray with others, competing to mark a majority of the field in your team’s color by the end of the match. Now this much, I expected, but what I didn’t realize is Splatoon has much more to offer.
If PvP isn’t your thing, Splatoon 3 also has a surprisingly comprehensive story mode and a team-based offering called Salmon Run, where you and three allies square off against a horde of fishy enemies. In previous Splatoon games, this mode used to be available for a limited time. As of Splatoon 3, it's been expanded on and become a permanent feature.
The way Splatoon 3 rotates its offerings periodically really makes it feel like a living, breathing world. Shiver, Frye, and Big Man give you deets every time you log in, breaking down the available stages and match types. And, if there’s a splatfest in play, you can also count on a fair amount of trash talk between the trio. The main hub itself is also full of activity. The shopkeepers are a lively cast of sea creatures, and the city is populated with equally lively and creative doodles from fellow citizens of Splatsville.
The amount on offer here is staggering. I mean, I didn’t even mention Tableturf Battle, an entire card minigame you could easily miss buried away in the courtyard.
Can’t stress this enough; it’s very easy to lose hours and hours to Splatoon 3, despite every match taking two minutes tops.
5. Monster Prom 3: Roadtrip
I’m an easy mark for laughter, but few games make me cry literal tears quite like the Monster Prom series—and Roadtrip is perhaps the best one to ever do it.
A cursory glance shows I’ve never talked about a single Monster Prom game on this website, which is a glaring oversight on my part. The first Monster Prom is relatively self-explanatory—you attend a monster high school, and it’s up to you (and up to three friends) to woo a classmate in time for the prom. Monster Prom 2 takes the adventure to summer camp and introduces a new cast of characters to meet. Both games have exceptionally funny writing and a vibrant cast of misfits and troublemakers, but aside from a few specific interactions here and there, it’s largely you and your friends making independent choices with little impact on each other, then seeing how those choices play out.
Roadtrip is the first Monster Prom game to upend the formula and make teamwork the name of the game. Instead of raising stats or emotional bonds, Roadtrip is an exercise in resource management. You and your team of friends must manage a series of resources in order to make it to a final destination. If anything falls below zero, it’s game over for all of you. The game even provides options on how competitive you want the journey to get. There can be victories all around, one loser, or a cutthroat road trip where you’re out for yourselves.
Two things elevate this entry in particular—the cooperative nature of the experience makes for more engaging multiplayer, and the quality of the humor is off the charts. I can’t even land on a favorite experience. We ran from a nightmarish off-brand Sonic OCs brought to life, we assembled a Voltron-like robot in an attempt to woo a Kaiju, and the trip culminated in a visit to the amusement park, KNIFELAND.
Monster Prom: Roadtrip is an excellent addition to your party game lineup (provided present company has a raunchy and dark sense of humor, at least).
4. Marvel Snap
If you’re wondering, no, I have not stopped playing Marvel Snap. It dominates my mornings and nights.
Marvel Snap is, in my book, the best mobile game on offer. It moves at a snappy pace, card synergies lead to outrageous plays, and deck-building is a highly versatile experience. Player expression, short time commitment, competitive offerings for free players—this has it all.
If I had to pinpoint a single element driving Marvel Snap up the charts, it’s the first point on the above list. Player expression. While there’s certainly common deck types, how people choose to play them and which cards they’re inclined to include is always tough to guess... and I can understand why, considering I’m right there with them.
Every time I unlock a new card, my mind becomes a flurry of ideas on how to best create a deck around it. Sometimes this exercise ends in disaster, and other times I stumble across a new favorite deck to run. So long as this process continues—and the balance fears I alluded to in a previous article don’t come to pass—it’s hard to fathom a time Marvel Snap falls out of favor.
Sifu was my first obsession of the year.
Sifu is an action game brought to you by Sloclap, inspired by a long history of martial arts action films. When your father is murdered in his own dojo by a former scorned student one fateful night, the unnamed protagonist embarks on a lifelong mission to exact vengeance.
Each area of Sifu belongs to one of the people responsible for your father’s murder. The goal is to tear through these zones with speed and panache and eliminate all five members of Yang’s former gang, then Yang himself. The whole lot of them believe you to be dead. You're a reckoning from beyond the grave.
Their assumption you’re dead is a reasonable thing to assume, considering they slit your throat before the game begins. The reason for your survival is also the game’s most unique feature; a talisman of ching coins possesses the ability to bring you back to life. There is a catch, however—each time you rise this way, you become older. In gameplay terms, this means you have the freedom to make a lot of mistakes in the pursuit of vengeance, but those mistakes have to last the entire run. Once you get past 70, that’s it. Game over. It’s back to the start to try again.
While defeat is almost certain, the good news is there’s permanent skills to unlock along the way. Each ultimate defeat brings with it some additional techniques to master for the next run. Any shortcuts you unlocked in a stage also remain, making your path to the boss easier the next time around.
This slow trickle of rewards leads to an intoxicating need to keep jumping right back in. Each boss is a serious test of your skills, and there's always a new technique to learn, some new trick—but by the time you learn it, you’re already 68 years old and there’s two more bosses to go.
Sifu lives up to its martial arts lineage by never getting easier. Instead, it's you who gets better as your mastery improves.
2. Elden Ring
Believe me, I’m just as surprised as you this isn’t number one.
I almost feel ridiculous adding more words about Elden Ring to the greater internet discourse, as it feels like every aspect of this game has been disseminated and dissected in at least twenty languages, if not more. But hey, it’s GOTY time, so let’s go.
If you somehow haven’t heard yet, Elden Ring is a joint venture between legendary developer FromSoftware and George R.R. Martin. While Elden Ring shares much DNA with its Souls-like predecessors, it breaks the mold by taking the franchise open world. The map is expansive, and within an hour, the game leaves it entirely up to you as to what direction to go.
The breadth of Elden Ring is staggering. Sometimes you explore a cave and find a treasure chest, while other times you explore a cave and find a path to an entirely new underground map. Some false walls contain treasures, and others contain entire cities. If you’ve ever played a Souls game, Elden Ring is a 'roided out souls experience. To my knowledge, I explored every inch of Elden Ring, a feat which took 140 hours.
Elden Ring feels like a culmination of everything From Software has created since Souls games emerged and dominated the industry. The gameplay options are almost staggering. You’ve got a plethora of spells, weapon types, and even new spirit ash companions to manage during your journey. There’s an excellent variety to the boss fights; some you will spend cursing your weapon choices, while others will be a breeze for melee users and a nightmare for casters. If you’ve got it in you to sink another 100 hours into Elden Ring, a second playthrough with a different build yields a different experience entirely.
The real star of the show here, I think, is the environments and spectacle. Multiple times I walked into a new area in Elden Ring and felt a piercing intimidation at the spectacle before me. A city sinking into lava, an underground cave full of stars, a horrific eldritch beast made of starlight. Over every mountain is a new shock, a new threat.
And when these new threats are too much to handle, Elden Ring gives players a way out previous Souls games never provided. Namely, in a world this big, there’s always somewhere else to go.
1. Neon White
This year’s sleeper hit slides in and steals the grand prize with ease.
From the onset, Neon White grabbed my attention with a familiar voice. The eponymous character is played by none other than Steve Blum, a.k.a Cowboy Bebop’s Spike Spiegel himself. It doesn’t take long to realize this casting is on purpose—in many ways, Mr. Blum is almost reprising the role. White used to be part of a mysterious gang of criminals and thieves, each with eclectic traits and dysfunctions. A little found family of violent misfits.
Now his found family has reassembled in the afterlife, and while your old friends seem to remember everything, White is still fuzzy on a great many details.
Ends up dying has an amnesiac effect on the soul. Also ends up Heaven isn’t quite as perfect as reported on earth. Every so often, demons run amok, and once a year, Heaven drags some souls from hell up to clear them out. While in Heaven, these souls are called “Neons”. So, if you’re wondering how a band of criminals ended up in Heaven, consider the question asked and answered. They’re temp workers at best.
The incentive to win this little contest is the winner gets to stay in Heaven... at least until the next rumble, that is, when they have to defend their title to stay. Life’s rough for sinners. The current holder of the title is Neon Green, White's former boss.
As the game continues, White unravels the mystery of his past, one piece at a time.
So how does one exterminate demons? The answer is swiftly.
At first glance, Neon White almost looks like a Counter-Strike mod in refined form. The goal is to get from point A to point B and eliminate every demon the way. How you achieve this is up to you, but make no mistake—there’s the wrong answer, the right answer, and the better answer.
Here’s how it works; during a stage, you pick up these weapon cards. The primary function is a gunshot of some kind, but the secondary function is a new traversal option instead. These include double-jumps, quick descents, and barrier-breaking sprints. These cards are quite purposefully positioned in every stage, and figuring out where and how to use them is the trick.
Everything in Neon White pulses to this frantic, aggressive energy. The music takes on an extraordinarily fast-paced tempo, practically pushing you to pick up the pace at every turn. Many enemies give you only seconds of opportunity to act, and many still can obliterate you in a single hit. Even in Heaven, the world is out to get you.
The intoxicating part of Neon White isn’t just the way all of the design choices work to sell a fernetic pace. It’s also the “ah-ha” moment that comes when you finally piece together a way to shave off time, or figure out a shortcut past an intended obstacle. You’ll hit a wall somewhere, a stage that feels completely impossible. Then you figure one thing out, then another. And by the next attempt, you’re a demon-slaying master.
To speak once more to the story, Neon White plays itself as a dark comedy... until suddenly it doesn’t. The story made me laugh out loud many times, as the cast of characters is an absolute cavalcade of lovable dysfunctional dopes. Yellow is the bro’est of bros, Red is a dangerous femme fatale, and Violet is just straight up dangerous. As you approach the end, however, Neon White takes a hard turn and becomes much more serious. As the stakes climb higher, so too do the consequences.
The reason Neon White takes home the grand prize this year isn’t just the sound design, the level design, the bombastic characters, or the voice acting. It’s also because it had something to say.
Neon White wants you to ponder a single question, one which is on your screen the entire time, right next to your lifebar. “Who deserves a place in heaven?”
Neon White makes a case for the answer: “anyone with the capacity to forgive.”
After how much I enjoyed Gundam Evolution this year I’m surprised it ended up down here, but here we are.
Gundam Evolution is the supplemental Overwatch game I needed when Blizzard suddenly made Overwatch immeasurably worse overnight. It has a great number of changes to the usual formula, mixing up the usual “tank/support/DPS” structure for a more hybrid approach. It also rewards precision and mobility. This does make it less approachable, but the trade-off is individual skill yields greater returns.
Instead of filling the GOTY article with 60,000 words about why Dragalia Lost deserves better than it ever got, I will instead direct you here where you can read my puritanical screed about how this delightful mobile game got done dirty.
Dragalia Lost was unceremoniously put down this November, and with its end of service went a delightful fantasy world full of rich characters and a bombastic narrative with unexpected twists and turns.
This may be the first time I’ve used the Honorable Mention category as a memorial.
RIP Dragalia Lost.
While Multiversus certainly looks like yet another Smash Bros clone, this one finally managed to distinguish itself from its obvious spiritual predecessor by leaning into a team aspect. Characters have saving tethers, heal abilities, and even MMO-style classifications.
Multiversus also puts much more emphasis on mobility. With multiple air jumps and air dodges, everyone can practically fly across every map. Rather than grasp a series of fundamental mechanics like Smash, Multiversus is more about predicting and punishing large movements.
While it lacks the depth of its obvious contemporary and certainly has some problems, it deserves recognition for carving out a unique identity. I especially enjoy the unique voicework, as characters have many witty retorts and commentary calling out their partners or opponents.
Saints Row (2022)
As a fan of the franchise, it hurts to see the Saint’s Row name down here on a GOTY list, but I must speak my truth.
I’ll start with some kind words—the creative spark is still here. The new cast of characters are a delight, the dialogue is snappy and witty, and the whole gang gets up to some wacky antics.
Unfortunately, most of those antics involve an extensive amount of 2010-era 3rd person shooting, as if no time has passed since Saints Row 4. In fact, sometimes it feels worse than Saints Row 4, since many of the bombastic, absurd powers from 4 aren’t at your disposal.
This on it’s own would not be enough for me to condemn the game, but layer on an extensive amount of glitches, bugs, and uninspired side events which make up a large amount of content, and you’ve got yourself a fun story that’s an absolute chore to see to the end.
In my book, this was the year’s biggest disappointment.
As an action game, Bayonetta 3 is a perfectly above-average experience. The snappy action I know and love is here, the new mechanics are fun to pick apart and use, and the new environments are...
Okay, they don’t look great, honestly.
Narratively, Bayonetta 3 is a disappointing conclusion to a trilogy spanning a decade. After six years between this and Bayonetta 2, it hurts me to say Bayonetta 3 was hardly worth the wait. Bayonetta 3 is packed with a formulaic narrative structure, unwarranted twists, and so many subpar mini-game experiences it feels like the game doesn’t trust its own combat to hold your attention.
The best thing I can say about Bayonetta 3 is the new character Viola, a mysterious universe-hopping teenager, is a delight. To be quite frank, the presence of Viola salvaged an otherwise unpleasant experience, and if she’s to be the new face of the franchise, I welcome it.
Hopefully Bayonetta 4 or the upcoming side project Cereza and the Lost Demon can redeem this franchise in full, because right now my expectations are dashed against the rocks.
God of War: Ragnarok
I have only just begun this monolith of a game, which means it could not make the list. Sorry Kratos.
At least three people harped on me to get around to this one before 2022 ended. 2022 is now over. Tunic remains unplayed, and unbought. Oops.