Riley’s Game of the Year 2022

Typically, I don’t tend to play many games on their release. Whether this is due to budgets, backlog, or accessibility, my selection of games for any given year can range from old classics to new releases. With that said, here are the top 10 games I completed in 2022!

As a 3D platforming connoisseur, I usually don’t get on well with 2D platformers. but, something about Klonoa: Phantasy Reverie Series integration of 3D elements whilst utilising the hardware it was built for kept me engaged through this game. I love the world, the ideas it brings out, and the heart-wrenching story hidden beneath its cute exterior and now that it’s been made far more accessible to a wider audience even more people can find and love Klonoa.

It’s a series that’s notoriously bad at selling units but has a dedicated and invested audience that adores them and it’s easy to see why: it’s not the most difficult game to complete but every step of the way was a joy to experience. If you love Kirby but would like a little more difficulty without feeling punished Klonoa are the games for you!

I’ll be straight with you, yes I bought HyperDimension Neptunia for the cute games console anime girls. Yes, I didn’t expect a lot of depth and just wanted something cute and chill to play on my Vita, sue me. It took me six years to get past the second chapter of this game due to a notoriously high difficulty spike, but I realised most of the problem was me. I hadn’t read the tutorials correctly and upon restarting the game and reading it right the game was a breeze.

I ended up loving the mechanical depth of combat, despite it being turn-based it’s quite a lot more involved than simply matching type-ups or increasing stats which is a refreshing change from someone that mostly plays Final Fantasy, Persona, and Pokémon. It’s also not as it appears, the story actually has a lot of twists and turns and doesn’t really stray into the “degenerate” cliches its marketing may give off. It’s a fun contender for the JRPG space with systems that make it enough of a unique experience to warrant giving it a try.

When every game is killing enemies, platforming, or puzzle-solving sometimes it’s nice to have a change of pace. Maybe you want to run some errands while exploring a large archipelago and meeting colourful fish people in a Ghibli-styled romp. In Summer in Mara, there are mysteries to investigate, people to help, and items to collect for cooking, crafting and decoration. It’s not for everyone but it’s definitely a lovely palette cleanser in between some heavier action games that doesn’t overstay it’s welcome with a lovely layer of intrigue with its more science fiction elements. I was pleasantly surprised by how addictive a long string of fetch quests became, especially as my island developed more and the story of the game opened up.

Although Scarlet and Violet were a bit of a mess with clear room for improvement, it’s an enjoyable experience and the gameplay loop is insanely strong. I wish it took more from Arceus than it did, but from what we did have it was a really fun time. The new Pokémon designs are great, with Ceruledge being one of my new favourite monsters. Area 0 was an incredible experience, and now I want a whole game like with that Xenoblade-esque style, especially the Paradox Pokémon, which are a really cool idea! I just hope the inevitable DLC can make this experience better akin to Sword and Shield‘s expansion pass adding a lot of value to their base game.

I already love the roster of the Guardians films so being able to play through an interactive story was great, it genuinely felt like playing through an extra movie. The soundtrack was stellar, the gameplay, although linear, was investing, and along with the great writing and customisation options this was one of the better Marvel games along with Insomniacs Spider-Man titles. I feel like I would have loved this more if your collectibles could be added to using chapter select, having to restart the entire game to add more collectibles really soured the completion process for me. I also wish we could switch between party members akin to Final Fantasy VII or XV but maybe in the sequel.

I really wasn’t expecting to like Bugsnax as much as I did, between the unique ways you need to utilise your tools to capture specific Bugsnax to the weird lore implications of the characters consuming them it really is a uniquely different adventure. It sunk its freakish, tasty teeth into me and I couldn’t stop playing once I got into it. It took me over a year to start it but once I did I never looked back, definitely a lot darker than its cheery happy appearance lets on!

Now this may be a weird takeaway, but I did get an idea from playing this — if we combined Pokémon Snap with the concepts outlined here with a bigger budget we could really have something promising. Imagine venturing around with traps, trying to catch unique Pokémon with berries and tools and completing an encyclopedia but without the battling concept at all. It would be unique to the series but it would work so perfectly if developed correctly (maybe I’ll write something more about that in the future?).

I was excited about Stray from the moment it was revealed in 2020 and it delivered exactly what I wanted and more. It was far deeper and heavier than I anticipated with a remarkably enticing journey through a dystopian future void of any hopes but the sheer joy of the innocence of a cat on top of its chaotic tendencies to knock objects over and just be a cat was too fun to dismiss.

There’s a lot of love and care taken into the experience, and even the speed-running trophy at the end brought a lot of fun as learning the optimal route through the game was just as engaging as meticulously voyaging through completing every side quest. Definitely my favourite indie title of the year, highly recommend!

Controversially, we were provided with two unique main series Pokémon adventures this year, in addition to Scarlet and Violet we were given a unique step back in time with Legends Arceus. This adventure saw the protagonist being thrust into the past to solve a mystery of a wormhole’s appearance above Mt Coronet and due to your unique connection with the wild creatures you aided in completing the first Pokedex and unravel the mysteries of that era, fighting unique forms of existing Pokémon and new evolutions to bring order to the past.

This entry changed a lot, it was, mostly, open-ended with wild Pokémon venturing everywhere with the ability to attack and knock out the trainer as well as their team, sneak mechanics that mattered, meaningful HM replacements that helped traversal rather than hindered it, and a crafting mechanic that made exploring feel more worthwhile. While we now know that a lot of these additions were destined to stay in the past I do hope that we see another adventure akin to this and the ‘Legends’ series becomes a new way to explore the past of the Pokémon world as it’s so full of lore that are begging to be relived in this vein.

When Splatoon 3 launched, a lot of fans were asking, “how is this different enough from Splatoon 2 to not just be DLC?” The answer is simple: the feel and pace of battles. Splatoon 2, although a different beast to the WiiU title feels a little sluggish and slow compared to the fast-paced chaotic style that the sequel delivers. The new weapon spread, classes, and load-outs create a new balance to the battles that a simple patch would have completely devastated Splatoon 2‘s meticulous balance and meta.

Not to mention the story that takes the best elements of the first two games and combines it with the Octo Expansion’s brutal death-upon-minor-failure approach makes the new story mode a much more fun experience to complete. The story itself is similar to what you’d expect, someone is kidnapped, you need to rescue them, and there’s a bunch of exposition about the world with a sinister undertone that you only notice if you read between the lines. Splatoon 3 is everything that came before it and more, and a worthy sequel to an incredible franchise that keeps reaching new heights with every iteration.

Sucker Punch, the studio that can release classic after classic, rivalled by none besides Insomniac Games. I fell in love with Sly about a decade ago, after having already played through the inFamous series, and after a long 8-year hiatus between First Light and getting my hands on and playing Ghost of Tsushima, I could not be happier. It’s easy to write the game off as another one of Sony’s dozens of over-the-shoulder action games that they seem headstrong on pumping out critically acclaimed classic after another but, in this writer’s opinion, Ghost of Tsushima stands tall above them.

The island is being ravaged by the Mongolian army, innocent people are being tortured, murdered and burnt alive, devastation, and destruction is wreaked at every turn. However, as one of the few surviving samurai, Jin Sakai adapts, overcomes, and takes on a new identity (‘The Ghost’) in order to save his home, and ultimately save Japan’s mainland. There’s a very real feeling of dread and doubt throughout, you relate to Jin as he battles his demons on whether or not this new method of wiping out the enemy is right, and yet despite all he must endure and must continue what he’s started.

The game takes a simple approach: defog the map by completing objects, chasing foxes, writing Haiku, clearing out enemy camps and reclaiming the land— but none of this feels tedious. The world is so lived in, so beautiful and tragic that uncovering these mysteries comes naturally to you as you push on, not because the map is filled with objects, but because you and Jin want to see the island saved. Ghost of Tsushima is my top game of the year, and it may be one of my favourite games of all time. Nothing compares to the three straight weeks I played this title for. I didn’t want to do anything else until the people were saved, and rightfully so, Sucker Punch have created a masterpiece.

And those were my top 10 games of the year (that I completed), did you play any life-changing games this year? Are my civil rights gone because I picked two Pokémon games? Or maybe I missed a big game I should check out in 2023? Let me know!

Video game completionist and 3D platformer connoisseur, Riley is a fan of the whimsical frenzy of bright and colourful characters to bless us in the late 90's. Their favourite game's are Spyro, Persona 5 and Super Mario Sunshine.

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