As the video game industry continues to adjust to post-pandemic life, more and more excellent games continue to grace every platform.
Sony dropped some of the biggest first-party blockbusters of the year, including the superb God of War Ragnarok, the expansive Horizon Forbidden West and the revamped The Last of Us Part 1. Meanwhile, Microsoft and Nintendo got a few major exclusives under their own belts with standouts like As Dusk Falls and Bayonetta 3. Between all of those were phenomenal third-party releases, including Elden Ring, Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2 and Need for Speed Unbound.
With the holidays around the corner (and after many, many hours of playtime), we’ve made our picks for the best games of 2022. These titles represent a wide range of genres and platforms, offering something for everyone no matter how you play.
2018’s God of War not only successfully rebooted a series that had been dormant for five years, but it also set a new standard for the action genre with its more mature tone and emotional father/son story. God of War Ragnarok takes those concepts and ramps them up even higher. Considerably longer than its predecessor, Ragnarok’s upgraded combat and traversal makes gameplay feel significantly fresh, while the story wraps up the Norse mythology arc exceptionally well.
Horizon Zero Dawn was one of the few successful original franchises launched during the PS4 era, introducing a world where machines have taken over the world and a phenomenal lead in female hunter Aloy. Players were attracted to Horizon Zero Dawn’s beautiful open world and gameplay that blended stealth and some of the best arrow combat in gaming. Horizon Forbidden West does all of that and more in its Western setting. Retaining everything that players loved about the original while adding new features like underwater traversal and combat makes this a worthy sequel.
There’s no way to talk about the best games of 2022 without mentioning the grand epic of Elden Ring. This collaboration between Dark Souls developer From Software and “Game of Thrones” creator George R. R. Martin not only ended up selling nearly 18 million copies but became the fastest-selling game for publisher Bandai Namco. A game that brings the beloved Dark Souls formula to a more mainstream audience, Elden Ring retains the punishingly difficult gameplay that From Software is known for while thrusting players into a large open world with a story that’s slightly more understandable. In a time when many gamers gripe about games getting too easy, Elden Ring became a true champion.
Microsoft didn’t end the year with any huge blockbuster Xbox Series X exclusives, but that didn’t mean its first-party efforts weren’t up to snuff. Just look at As Dusk Falls from Interior Night, a team made up of veterans from interactive drama powerhouse Quantic Dream. Featuring a slick art style and a beautiful yet heartbreaking narrative of two interwoven families, As Dusk Falls’ interactive story — in which your decisions shape the narrative — makes it one of the most unique games released this year. It doesn’t hurt that there’s a really clever multiplayer feature that allows groups to create their own branching storylines in couch co-op or alongside live viewers on Twitch.
Five years since the release of PS4 exclusive Gran Turismo Sport, developer Polyphony Digital has returned with its storied racing simulator series. Released on both PS4 and PS5, Gran Turismo 7 is a visual wonder regardless of where you play it. However, the current-gen version is an especially great visual treat with support for real-time ray tracing, 4K native resolution and smooth 60 frame-per-second gameplay. That’s on top of some significant gameplay upgrades, including the return of dynamic time and real-time weather effects like rain. Just be mindful that even the robust single-player portion of the game requires an internet connection.
Nintendo may have a reputation for kid-friendly titles, but the House that Mario Built is perfectly capable of heading into more mature territory. There isn’t a better example than Bayonetta 3. Developed by Platinum Games, Bayonetta 3’s hack-‘n’-slash action is as totally over the top as its multiverse storyline. One of the best action games of the year, Bayonetta 3 introduces new mechanics for the lead, including the ability to summon massive infernal demons to fight alongside you as well as multiple playable characters, including newcomer Viola and longtime series staple Jeanne.
Another fine Nintendo Switch exclusive released this year, Kirby and the Forgotten Land is the first game in the series to be in full 3D. Still maintaining a linear structure, Forgotten Land has players control the lovable pink creature through the cutest apocalyptic wasteland in gaming history. Signature gameplay mechanics like Kirby’s copy ability are now upgradable, and you can play with a friend in local co-op. However, the new “Mouthful Mode” is where the game really shines, adding a complex and hilarious layer to the game as the titular hero swallows large objects like cars and traffic cones.
Another year, another Call of Duty game from Activision. The past couple of games in the series (Cold War, Vanguard) failed to improve on the excellent precedent set by the 2019 Modern Warfare remake. Since then, the free-to-play battle royale action of Call of Duty: Warzone has become a gaming sensation. This is what makes Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2 such an accomplishment all around. Besides offering the best single-player in the series in quite some time, the multiplayer is as tight as ever. Meanwhile, the audio/visual presentation is some of the best you’ll find in a shooter this year.
Burnout developer Criterion Games created some of the best Need for Speed games in recent memory, including Need for Speed: Hot Pursuit and Need for Speed: Most Wanted. However, things started to take a downturn with more recent entires like Need for Speed 2015 and Need for Speed Payback. Though Need for Speed Heat pushed the series in a much-needed different direction, Need for Speed Unbound is the true return to form we’ve been waiting for. Unbound features a funky art style that blends hyperrealistic cars and world visuals with an attractive anime aesthetic. Perhaps more significantly, it’s one of the few big-budget arcade racers available today, with a forgiving driving model that lets you focus on going fast and looking cool doing it.
One of the highest-profile horror games to be released this year, The Callisto Protocol has some serious pedigree behind it. The Striking Distance Studios-developed game is directed by Dead Space co-creator Glen Schofield, and there are plenty of similarities between the two games — from the satisfying dismemberment mechanics to the minimalistic on-screen interface and unique death animations. Critical reception for The Callisto Protocol has been polarizing, but it makes for a nice appetizer before EA’s Dead Space remake arrives next year.
Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Shredder’s Revenge proves that there’s nothing wrong with sticking to the basics. Inspired by the ’90s Konami arcade games based on the beloved turtles, developer Tribute Games keeps things simple while making clever touches to the beat-’em-up formula. This includes a wider array of offensive and defensive movies alongside the ability to play as April O’Neil, Master Splinter and Casey Jones in addition to the original four turtles. Then there’s the fantastic presentation, which features the original voice actors from the ’90s animated series and a soundtrack that includes notable rappers like Mega Ran and Ghostface Killah.
In a year dominated by console and PC games, Marvel Snap showed up to remind us just how high quality a mobile game can be. Developed by Second Dinner — a team made up of many of the original minds behind hit game Hearthstone — this card battler consists of short, addictive battles between cards made up of Marvel’s iconic heroes and villains. Marvel Snap features hundreds of unique cards that span the storied comic book publisher’s 80-year history, with new characters and variants being added almost every week. Unlike many other popular card games, Marvel Snap is incredibly accessible for newcomers while retaining tons of competitive depth that will constantly have you coming up with new decks and strategies.
From triple-A action games to card battlers, Marvel’s gaming portfolio is becoming more diverse than ever. Perhaps the best example of that yet is Marvel’s Midnight Suns, which sees the beloved universe spread into the tactical role-playing genre. Developed by Firaxis Games (the team behind the beloved XCOM tactics franchise), Midnight Suns has players create their own superhero dubbed “The Hunter” as they link up with various Marvel superheroes to fight villains — and build relationships with iconic heroes like Wolverine and Ghost Rider in between battles.
From Until Dawn to The Dark Pictures Anthology, Supermassive Games understands what makes a great interactive horror adventure. The developer’s latest game, The Quarry, takes its patented formula up a notch while paying homage to ’80s slasher films like “Friday the 13th.” The game features a large ensemble cast of Hollywood heavyweights, including Justice Smith, Lance Henriksen, David Arquette and Brenda Song, while pushing the gameplay forward with new social options and a rich array of branching story paths.
The surprise of Multiversus wasn’t the fact that Warner Bros. Interactive Entertainment created a game that blended all of its properties into a free-to-play brawler reminiscent of Nintendo’s Super Smash Bros. — it’s the fact that the game was really good. Multiversus has gotten big praise for its tight gameplay that focuses on team combat, and its ever-growing roster spans everywhere from the DC Universe to “Rick and Morty” and “Game of Thrones.”
Annapurna Games has developed a gaming portfolio that’s just as unique as its film arm, and after the success of unique hits such as Twelve Minutes, Kentucky Route Zero and Donut County comes Stray. Players are put in the shoes of a cat who gets separated from its furry friends. What happens next is an adventure set in a postapocalyptic world where humanlike robots have taken over a city abandoned by humanity. The cute platformer has loads of charm, beautiful visuals, clever puzzles and a lovely soundtrack.
The second entry in the strategy series that combines the worlds of Nintendo’s favorite plumber and Ubisoft’s Rayman spin-off, Mario + Rabbids Sparks of Hope improves on everything that made Mario + Rabbids Kingdom Battle so well received. This time Rosalina and Bowser join the cast of playable characters, and there are significant improvements to the turn-based tactical combat — including a more open-ended playing field and new types of enemy encounters. In addition to the main single-player campaign, there are three expansion packs, including an adventure with platforming icon Rayman himself.
Since releasing on the Wii U in 2015, the Splatoon series has become the closest Nintendo has ever gotten to releasing a shooter in the vein of Call of Duty or Gears of War. The latest game in the series since 2017’s Splatoon 2, Splatoon 3 adds plenty of weapon types and multiplayer modes on top of a new single-player campaign. Despite being a tad bit goofy in nature, the shooting and ink mechanics make it a unique standout in the shooter genre. Better yet, the game has gotten a steady influx of new content post-release, including the beloved Splatfest events that let players fight on behalf of their favorite food, color or even Pokémon.
Performance issues aside, Pokémon Scarlet and Violet do a great job ushering in the ninth generation of the beloved monster-catching franchise. Similar to last year’s Pokémon Legends: Arceus, this new mainline entry takes place in an open world region called Paldea where you can freely explore and engage with wild Pokémon in ways that previously weren’t possible. Players can even engage in boss-like battles against new, larger Pokémon known as Titans, and there’s a lovable new cast of characters to get to know.
2019’s A Plague Tale: Innocence was a surprise hit about a pair of siblings trying to escape Aquitaine, France, during the Hundred Years War and rise of the Black Plague. A mix of stealth and a cool rat horde mechanic led to extremely tense and very memorable gameplay. Its sequel, A Plague Tale: Requiem, expands the combat system in interesting ways, giving players new tools and weapons that can be upgraded through a progression system.
Playdead’s Limbo and Inside are two of the most revered indie side-scrolling adventure games of the past decade. Studio co-founder Dino Patti, through new venture Jumpship, released a spiritual successor to both games through Somerville. Like its predecessors, the game is a side-scroller with platforming challenges and physics-based puzzles. This story of a father trying to find his wife and son in the midst of an alien invasion really resonates due to how well the narrative is told.
Sifu is a martial arts brawler with a unique premise and art style. It also has one of the best intro sequences in recent history. Blending beat-’em-up gameplay with roguelike sensibilities, the game casts players as a child of a martial arts master looking for revenge against their father’s death. The hook is that every time the character dies in combat, they resurrect older and stronger. Die too much and players must restart the portion from the age they started with. Though Sifu is known for its sometimes brutal difficulty, a recent patch added an easier mode to make the game more enjoyable for newcomers.
The concluding entry in the Xenoblade trilogy of role-playing games, Xenoblade Chronicles 3 doesn’t rock the boat in terms of gameplay mechanics. Differentiating itself from previous games, this entry stars Noah and friends Keves and Mio stuck in a battle between two warring nations. The same fantastic combat from previous Xenoblade games returns, this time bolstered by new features such as the new ability to fight alongside seven party members during battles and better navigation during various quests.
For most gamers, a remake of the first entry in The Last of Us franchise didn’t make much sense considering its original 2013 release on PS3 and eventual PS4 remaster in 2014. But after playing The Last of Us Part 1, we can now say that going this route made absolute sense. Based mechanically and visually around The Last of Us Part 2, this remake enhances as much as possible the story of Joel and Ellie’s terrorizing cross-country trip across a post-plague United States. Besides updating the graphics and artificial intelligence, there are also some much-needed accessibility options that should open up this critically acclaimed masterpiece to even more gamers.
With a cartoon art style inspired by classic 1970s film Rollerball, Rollerdrome is a fascinating blend of Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater and Doom. Developed by OlliOlli creators Roll7, the game has players filling in the shoes of Kara Hassan. Players must destroy enemies with various weapons while maneuvering through combat areas that feel like skate parks. To earn ammo, players must perform tricks. Earning health means destroying enemy combatants. Though the goal of each level is to destroy enemies, there are side objectives similar to Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater.