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2022 brought us some great games — it’s been a good year. Any year where I have actual difficulties narrowing down my top 5 (or even top 10) list is a win in my books. And this year I’ve had plenty of games to keep me busy. These are the titles that I most enjoyed in 2022.
Keep in mind that this is not a list of the games I consider to be the best of the year. GamesBeat collectively agreed on those already. This is a list of the games I loved best this year, the ones that brought me the most happiness. Rest assured, I think Elden Ring is the best-made game of the year and deserves the top spot. But you won’t find it in this article. I did love it — I just loved others more.
5. Bayonetta 3
Yeah yeah, don’t @ me. You knew that I was going to put Bayonetta 3 on this list, if only because I’m just happy that I actually have it. This is not a perfect game by any means — Luka wears out his welcome pretty quickly, and the enemies look blander than previous titles. I freely admit that, as a Bayonetta fan, some of the love from the previous titles is bleeding over into the new games. But still, Bayonetta 3 has charms of its own. It’s a new challenge for Bayonetta, and she once again proves that she’s capable of meeting it.
I’m all about games that go bigger with sequels, and Bayonetta 3 certainly does that. The Demon Slave gameplay pads the series’ already overstuffed toolbox, adding yet more spectacle to this already spectacular world. The variety of environments also raised up one of the series’ few weak points. ALSO … Jeanne also gets her own levels so she’s not just retreading Bay’s ground. Bayonetta fans waited a while for this game, and I, for one, was not disappointed.
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4. Horizon Forbidden West
Poor Horizon. First Zero Dawn gets scooped at its debut by Breath of the Wild, then Forbidden West gets overshadowed by Elden Ring. This series can’t catch a break. But I’m here to defend Aloy, if only because of how much joy Forbidden West gave me. I love a beautiful post-apocalypse, and Western America after the fall of mankind is gorgeous. This world and its dangers put a smile on my face, and it was pleasant enough to step back into the world.
The story was a bit weak, in the sense that I didn’t feel it ended well. But I enjoyed the new characters and returning favorites. I also appreciate that Aloy is slightly warmer, more open person in this title. Admittedly, it took me a while to get into the Horizon series, but Forbidden West was a delight to play and I was happy to get a chance to return to this world.
We were inundated with delightful indie titles this year — Stray, Tunic, etc. Games that weren’t here for a long time, but were a great time. But out of all of them, Signalis was the only one that gave me chills. It’s the only horror game that I’ve played this year that unsettled and even scared me. It’s a pure distillation of survival horror: solid basics, brilliant atmosphere, none of the bullshit. I only wish it was longer so I could enjoy more of it.
Signalis is exceptionally restrained, as horror games go. There cutscenes are simple and sparse. The soundtrack is soft and unobtrusive. Even the pixel art, which is inspired by PS1-era horror games, puts spooky shadows over over-the-top gore. Even the story is something told in whispers, the setting and world established with contextual clues rather than boatloads of exposition. Perhaps it wasn’t everyone’s indie darling this year, but I had plenty of fun with it.
2. God of War Ragnarök
I feel like I’m in a bit of an upside-down situation with God of War Ragnarök. Back in 2018, I was one of the people confused over all the praise the “new” God of War received. I liked the original games with all their spectacle and felt that imitating The Last of Us was a baffling new direction. I didn’t dislike the game — I just didn’t understand what it was trying to do. Now Ragnarök comes in and finally braids the series’ threads together. It’s not often a game can evoke genuine tenderness in me, but seeing Kratos and his long, bloody character arc finally come to a close did something to my heart.
Ragnarok also has a much broader cast of Norse gods, particularly Odin and Thor. They make almost as big a splash as their Greek counterparts, with their personalities only tempered in comparison with Kratos’s own. Also, I would be remiss if I didn’t point out the increased role of Atreus, both in story and gameplay. He proves over the course of the game that he’s capable of taking up the torch, and it’s a sweet thing to see.
I want to meet the Xbox Games Studios person who first heard the pitch for Pentiment and gave it the thumbs up — I have a feeling we’d be great friends. “Murder mystery set in 16th-century Bavaria where the player is the amateur detective and the art style mimics medieval and early modern illuminated manuscripts and woodcuts” is all the way up my alley. It’s the type of thing I hope to one day create myself. It also has two of my favorite mystery tropes: Small, allegedly pleasant town where everyone has dark secrets and a totally unprepared civilian becomes an unlikely detective.
Pentiment’s cast of characters is its strongest element. From the sleazy murder victim to Andreas’s stoic religious companions to the more crass townspeople — I enjoyed all their company, and sitting down to have meals with them is an investigation mechanic I’ve never seen before. The game’s time cycle also imposes an element of urgency missing from most adventure games. Perhaps Pentiment isn’t everyone’s cup of tea, but by god, it is mine.