We’re finally here! This is the fifth episode of this year’s GOTY series, and it’s about time I announce the Top 10! This is part one, counting down from ten to six.
A couple of rules: I do not count ports or remasters as viable candidates. This rules out the Sony ports like God of War, Spiderman, Sackboy, and Persona 5 Royal, as well as Switch ports. While these are great games, they were previously released on other platforms before 2022. I only count games that launch in the year they are made for that platform. I also had a cut-off point of 15th November for entries.
I’ve omitted all Early Access games from my Top 10 this year. This was a significant change to previous years, partially due to the many great Early Access titles released this year. This is why I made a Top 10 Early Access category!
Before I get into my Top 10, let’s look back at my Top 10 from previous years! I always enjoy looking back at my earlier lists, as I’m improving my gaming journalism every year.
10. Hellblade: Senua’s Sacrifice
9. West of Loathing
8. Spellforce 3
7. A Hat in Time
6. Assassin’s Creed Origins
4. Persona 5
3. Total War Warhammer 2
2. Zelda: Breath of the Wild
1. Divinity Original Sin 2
8. Red Dead Redemption 2
6. Two Point Hospital
5. Kenshi (full release)
4. Pathfinder: Kingmaker
3. Hitman 2
2. Kingdom Come Deliverance
1. Rimworld (Full release)
9. Planet Zoo
8. Wildermyth (Early Access)
7. Lost Ember
6. Streets of Rogue (Early Access)
5. Fire Emblem: Three Houses
4. Enderal: Forgotten Stories
3. Disco Elysium
2. Pathologic 2
1. Outer Wilds
10. Crusader Kings III
9. Paper Beast: Folded Edition
8. Popup Dungeon
7. Urtuk the Desolation (Early Access)
5. Desperados III
4. Monster Train
3. Cyberpunk 2077
9. Valheim (Early Access)
8. Vagrus – The Riven Realms (Early Access)
7. Mechwarrior 5 Mercenaries: Heroes of the Inner Sphere
5. The Forgotten City
4. The Riftbreaker
2. Tainted Grail: Conquest
1. Suchart: Genius Artist Simulator (Early Access)
Without further ado, let’s kick off my Top 10 favourite games of 2022.
Ah, Pokemon. The gigantic franchise and one of the biggest entertainment industries in the world, it continues to shit out money. It’s impressive how massive it is, even twenty-five years after its creation in the 1990s. The joy of being a 90’s kid and playing Pokemon Red for the first time on the battery-sucking Gameboy was a delight. I’ve played every Pokemon generation to date, and while each series has its strengths and weaknesses, I’ve enjoyed nearly all of them. Except for the Diamond and Pearl remakes. They belong in the bin.
Pokemon on the Nintendo Switch has been a mixed bag. While Let’s Go was a solid remake, Pokemon Sword and Shield had plenty of controversies, and the Diamond and Pearl remakes are probably my least favorite in the franchise. Pokemon Scarlet and Violet were released a couple weeks ago and are beset by major performance and visual problems, but they still need to sell millions. We’re not teaching them any lessons, are we? The newest additions to the franchise came out too late for me to discuss them now, but I’m a couple of hours into Scarlet. Once I finish it, I’ll review that as well.
Pokemon Legends: Arceus was released early this year, and I wasn’t the only one with mixed feelings about it. With the problems of Sword/Shield and the remakes, I went into Arceus with some misgivings. I enjoy being wrong, however, and Pokemon Legends: Arceus is one of the best games in the entire franchise. A spinoff from the original games, it added a radical twist to the old formula, creating a superb blend.
I had my doubts going in. You’re a Pokemon researcher, aiding the ancient village in the prequel of Sinnoh. But, as it turns out, this was a refreshing change, bringing in stealth, crafting, and RPG mechanics as the player is tasked with catching them all. The first actual open-zone Pokemon game, it mostly succeeds. Despite the rough graphics, the large, open biomes are a delight, and Pokemon are genuinely scary. Wilds will attack you, and giant Alpha Pokemon will mess you up. The first time I ran into one of these alphas was a gigantic Snorlax, running into me like a train.
The story is rather engaging: sucked into this ancient world by the god of all Pokemon, Arceus, the player’s avatar, is brought into the times when battling was barely a thing. Battles are heavily built around wild Pokemon, and this spinoff changed many mechanics. Battling feels more fluid, and fights get rather challenging with the changes to how stats work. It took some getting used to, but I liked the tweaks. Exploring the open world and catching Pokemon is also seamless, being able to see them without battling. That’s one thing I wish Scarlet and Violet had taken into their open-world design…
It feels like an action RPG now, with some rough Pokemon bosses that require the player’s ability to dodge attacks and tame them, bringing out Pokemon in mini-fights to keep them engaged. It’s a drastic twist to the franchise, but Pokemon Legends: Arceus has been a great spinoff. With the leading franchise rarely making changes, it’s nice to have these different games taking more risks.
The poor graphics are the elephant in the room here. The Nintendo Switch might be underpowered, but we’ve seen it handle far superior visuals to Legends Arceus and the new Scarlet and Violet, so it’s a poor excuse for them being this rough. I also didn’t like being unable to swim, though the player unlocks more options through the story to transverse the world, so this was only a problem in the early game.
Despite these niggles, Pokemon Legends Arceus was perhaps my biggest surprise of the year. I had no idea I’d enjoy it as much as I did. The story was engrossing, the gameplay loop is probably the best in all Pokemon, and it was surprisingly complex at times too. I’ve still got a ton of post-game content to finish, and I need to prepare for the notorious end-game boss fight; the one to rule them all. It might be the lowest game on my Top 10, but the bar was incredibly tight this year. You could swap most games on my list in any order and still have the same thoughts about them.
Before I get shot in a car park by the Dark Souls community for daring to put Elden Ring in 9th place, I think it’s a miracle I enjoy it as much as I do. It’s no secret that I’m not hugely keen on the Souls-style games. It’s not that I don’t like them; they’re just not my cup of coffee. I don’t see much appeal in repeatedly ramming myself into a brick wall until I get past it.
Elden Ring had exceptional hype going into its release, all the way back in February. It’s taken the year by storm, and I don’t blame it for sweeping those coveted ‘Game of the Year’ awards ceremonies. Despite my middling interest in the genre, I was intrigued by how the Game would be. Would the hype pay off? Unfortunately, we’ve seen many misses by games destined to take the world hostage.
Fortunately, Elden Ring is one of those big-budget games that primarily lived up to expectations. Unfortunately, the PC version has had significant issues with stutters, so I prefer playing Elden Ring on my Steam Deck. But, seriously, if you told me in early 2021 that I’d be able to pick up a handheld PC for £460 that could run Cyberpunk, Elden Ring, Horizon, and more, I’d laugh. What a remarkable piece of kit, but that’s another tale.
I’ve got about twenty hours into Elden Ring so far, so I will only pretend to know some things about it; I’m not far in the story or anything like that; it’s been more of an exploration experience for me. But nevertheless, I understand why it got all the hype and deserves every piece of success it brings.
The open-ended design with the Souls combat was a clever way to make it more accessible for people like me; if a boss fight is too hard, you’re free to explore the world, level up, and try later. I like that. The sound and music are melancholy, and I appreciate the world design for what it is. Such an enormous game with little handholding takes a lot of skill to pull off. It’s rare for me to play an open-world game and discover something interesting with every run. Even if Elden Ring’s world design eventually runs into the same copy-paste problems shared by others, I still get excited whenever I discover something new. I could be a better fan of the combat itself. It’s okay. What sucked me into Elden Ring was the world. I almost wish that world design was attached to another type of Game. We’ll see many imitations of Elden Ring in the future.
It might not be a game I’ll ever complete, but it made my Top 10 list off sheer, brute-forced determination. I never expected to like a Souls game, but Elden Ring succeeded. Kudos. If we can get some big RPG to make their world spaces more like Elden Ring, it’d be the start of something momentous.
Indie games have taken my year by storm this year. That’s generally been the case since 2018, but this is the first year I’ve played many great ones. You only need to read my Indie Corner series to see that. Of course, it helps that I’ve played more indie titles than AAA this year, though that’s largely down to technical limitations and cost. For the £50 AAA cost, someone can pick up several smaller titles and potentially enjoy them more. What they may lack in production value and marketing, they make up for in ambition and determination.
I covered Wylde Flowers in Episode 23 of my Indie Corner series, and it’s shaping up to become my favorite farming sim game. Unfortunately, there are so many out there that I need help with to work out which ones are for me. Stardew Valley is the most famous, but I’ve also played stuff like Rune Factory, Sun Haven, Harvestella, and My Time at Sandrock. The problem I sometimes have with these games is the sheer amount of content, which usually revolves around a day-night cycle. I don’t know what I struggle with, but playing Stardew Valley burns me out in long stretches. It’s one of many games I can only play in short bursts.
Wylde Flowers differs from its rivals because it’s more of a narrative experience. All the basic crafting and farming mechanics are still present. Still, it is a worthy competitor with a diverse, well-written cast of characters, an exciting storyline, and deep worldbuilding.
As I mentioned during Episode 23, I’ve been drawn to these games over the last few years. Emotional, powerful stories with great characters always inspire me. Lost Ember, Spiritfarer, Outer Wilds, and I Was a Teenage Exocolonist are great examples, and Wylde Flowers deserves a spot on the podium alongside these. I might have put less time into Wylde Flowers than other games on my Top 10, but it might be the most memorable.
One thing Wylde Flowers excels at is the realism in its setting. Every character is perfectly placed, with their own personalities, likes, dislikes, and conversations. This is difficult to do; trust me. I’ve done narrative work in the industry before, and it’s crucial that us writers get these things right. It doesn’t matter how enjoyable the gameplay is in an RPG: if you don’t tell a story well, or have characters that aren’t relatable, you will struggle. I had this problem with Dying Light 2: the gameplay is excellent, but the characters and story are poor.
I won’t go into more detail here, as I covered the essentials during my impressions review, but Wylde Flowers impressed me far beyond my expectations. I might even complete it, something I rarely do with farming sims! Number 8 might seem low for a game I’ve been this positive about, but it’s just a testament to how good games have been for me this year
With one of the most generous demos I’ve ever seen, Crystal Project takes my Number 7 spot. I’m not usually one to play JRPGs. They are too tedious for my liking: too much grinding for no reward. That’s not all of them, of course. The ones I enjoyed most are the Persona series; Persona 5: Royal is finally available on PC, which is nice. About damn time!
Crystal Project was released towards the end of March. Yet another solo project is an excellent example of what one person can do with ambition and hard work. Blending JRPG and platforming in a gigantic, voxel-open world, Crystal Project is an impressive addition to the genre. With several significant updates in recent months, there’s no time like the present to jump in.
While there’s a small story, it doesn’t dominate the game. Crystal Project doesn’t take long, allowing players to explore at their heart’s content. JRPGs are notorious for bogging their time down with endless exposition and story. Crystal Project is nothing like this, and it’s a refreshing change. Dialogue with NPCs always provides something interesting about the world or offers advice on how to play the game. There’s no bloat to Crystal Project, something that’s damn hard to achieve with such a big game. The main story involves collecting magical crystals and bringing the land of Sequoia back to normality, but it’s not something you need to do if you don’t want to. The whole game is open; do whatever you wish. After a prologue trial, the game is available to you.
Combat is a turn-based system, and with many different classes and abilities to unlock, I haven’t gotten bored of it once. All fights are optional as long as you can avoid them, with plenty of ways to tweak settings to the player’s liking. The combat is challenging but not overwhelming. Combined with the non-linear world design, plenty of quests, and platforming puzzles, there’s so much content to devour. Recent updates have added a randomizer mode and New Game Plus, making an already great game even better.
While Crystal Project is already excellent value at £10.99/12EUR/15$, the demo is one of the most generous slices of free gaming I’ve ever seen. There are about twenty hours of content alone, with ways to access the entire game with some platforming tricks. Demos are fantastic for people’s interests, so if Crystal Project is something you’re on the fence about, give the demo a try.
The final game I’m covering in today’s episode, BROK the InvestiGator, has some of the most entertaining writing I’ve seen in years, and that’s in a year with some incredible writing! I recently got into Brok the InvestiGator, and it’s the latest addition to my Top 10 list. With so many games released this autumn ramping up the competition, I needed something special to crack my list. BROK achieves just that, a solo project combining a point-and-click genre with classic beat-em-up style gameplay into a delicious sundae that I’m devouring every mouthful of.
Every character in BROK is fully voice-acted, with a fantastic visual design that feels like a Saturday morning cartoon. Playing as deadbeat, overworked crocodile detective Brok, you’re thrown into the deep end with a deluge of cases in a breathing world full of secrets and trinkets to explore. I played the prologue weeks before launch and thought it had enormous potential. Then, sometime after the game was fully released, I received a review code from the developer: big thank you. For why it’s taken so long, I wanted to spend as much time with it as possible, and I’m glad I did.
With so much dialogue, it plays as an interactive novel with exciting and challenging puzzles. There are friendly accessibility options available, so if puzzles are too complicated, the player can earn hints. There’s also a ton of music, little worldbuilding snippets, and things to unlock while playing. Every character feels unique, and the voice acting is so good that it’s hard to forget these are talking animals. With such a wide variety of surfaces and personalities, BROK does a fantastic job.
The gameplay is also great. With the option of using the mouse or keyboard/controller, navigating the world is a breeze. Combat involves simple, addictive actions like old beat-em-ups such as Streets of Rage to deal with threats, and Combat mode can be turned on with a simple click. You never know what’s lurking around the corner or what can be changed with a few good punches. Don’t like combat? You can turn that off, and there are arcade modes, too, if you enjoy it.
I still need to finish BROK the InvestiGator; I’ve still got a way to go. But, so far, it’s really impressed me. This may not be a full review, but in a year of fantastic games, BROK more than deserves a spot on my Top 10 list.
That’s it for today’s episode! We’re through the looking glass and approaching the end game of my GOTY series for 2022. Next episode, we’ll take a small interlude as I announce some awards. Some will be real things, and others are just an excuse for me to talk about games. The Top 5 will come in a couple of weeks, but in the meantime, wrap up warm and be safe!
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