Damn. What a year for gaming. And it’d be impossible to crown a game of the year if Elden Ring hadn’t come out. So without further ado, here’s some tips from me, a gaming expert, to you, an internet rando.

Wanna play, without hyperbole, a true masterpiece? Elden Ring

Had you asked me a year ago, Elden Ring was not on my radar. But this roleplaying game from the people behind the excruciatingly difficult Dark Souls series is really a masterclass in game design. It’s boasting a complete open world that just works by the way it’s laid out. There’s little to no hand-holding, no endless poorly written dialogue – you just boot the game and get going. It’s the best game since Breath of the Wild back in 2017 and it might even be better than that.

The defining moment for me: about 10 hours in, I’m starting to get my bearings, but everything in this huge, huge, huuuuuge world is super dangerous. Like these two huge bears in this weird misty forest, for instance. I sneak past them, and suddenly find a little unassuming temple a bit behind them. I go inside the temple, find an elevator, and activate it. We go down… and down… and down… for what feels like 3 minutes straight. Then, suddenly, the tunnel through which I was descending opens up and I and up in am underground forest that’s so huge the stones on the fucking ceiling feel like a starry night sky. That’s when I realized: there was a fucking second world underneath the first one.

I’m never finishing this game. But every month, I return to it, and lose myself for five more hours. It’s amazing.

Wanna play the first decent 3D Sonic game in two decades? Sonic Frontiers!

Man, Sonic’s had a rough go. It was so bad that the best Sonic the Hedgehog game in the last ten years was Sonic Mania – and that was made by a sega-hired team of romhackers. So cue my surprise that Sonic Frontiers, Sonic’s latest 3D game, is quite good! It’s set in an open world filled with springs and rails and while it makes no sense, it’s fun to run around in. Also, the battles are bonkers:

I’m fully convinced this game just became good by accident, because honestly, nothing in it feels tuned, tested or thought-out at all, but this game feels like a Whopper when I’m hung-over: terrible, but lovely at the same time.

The game for everyone – and yes that includes you, non-gaming cool person and/or grandparent: Curse of the Golden Idol

I’m a bit torn on puzzle games: the ones I love, I friggin love, but those are few and far between. So I’m quite happy to like Curse of the Golden Idol quite a bit. The premise is best explained with an example: You get a painting of one dude pushing another dude off a cliff. Certain things are clickable and give you more information (the contents of the victim’s pockets show he’s carrying a syringe, for instance). Then the game asks a couple of questions and you have to answer them. Who killed who? And why?

The game is rather short, with 11 of these paintings that get more complex as they go along. And the kicker: the paintings build on on each other, telling you a story featuring mysterious statues, cults and spontaneous combustion. It’s an amazing game and you, yes you, should play it.

Wanna mix anchovies with nutella and actually LOVE IT? Marvel’s Midnight Suns

Some genres should not be mixed, but the person who figured a Persona-Style “friendship simulator” in which you befriend 11 marvel characters (Wolverine! Iron Man! Niko… Nomura…?) would mix well with a card-based tactics battler is a genius.

By all accounts, this game should not work. But that’s what they said about the Avengers movie back before it came out. Marvel’s Midnight Suns is amazing, and while it is not the best game of 2022, it is MY best game. No game has had more staying power this year, I’ve been eating pop-corn with Captain Marvel and then using her to punch Hydra bad guys for almost a month now and I feel like I could keep playing this for many months more.

(Full disclosure, this might come off as if this game being good was a complete coincidence, but it was made by Firaxis, the people behind Xcom 2, a game I have poured 300+ hours in over the years honestly the game I would take with me to an abandoned island. So yeah, I knew I would fall for this one HARD).

Wanna mindfuck your toddlers? Play Kirby: The Forgotten Land

2022 was also the year in which my kids began to participate in the hobby that’s actively destroying my back. We played basically all the Mario games, but none of those made their little brains explode like Kirby did.

So Kirby starts out innocently enough: a pink little puffball has a platformer adventure. A second player can play as what my kids affectionately called Banana Waddle Dee, a Waddle Dee with a Bandana, and not a banana, but whatever. And then this happens:

Yep. It’s body horror for toddlers. As soon as this scene played, my kids were hooked. They wanted to defeat the big bad Leon – an evil lion. We fought for weeks and then, we finally defeated him. Only – GASP! – he wasn’t the bad guy at all, he was being controlled by an evil alien!

So yeah, a lot of narrative firsts for my kids in this one. First piece of genre media? Check. First bait and switch? Check. First close encounters? Check!

This is the game that made me enjoy playing with my children instead of just next to them. It was great, and even months later, they still ask me about Leon.

Wanna feel smart? Play Signalis, Disco Elysium or Immortality

These games will totally make you the life of the party – but only if the party is specifically:

  • A third-semester lit student party: Disco Elysium. This very, very verbose role playing game is a literature student’s wet dream. You can roleplay anything, from a decent cop to a rapey communist. On my playthrough, I was suddenly known as “regular cop”, which kind of says a lot about me. The story – essentially a murder mystery in a world that feels semi-based on clockwork orange – is a written work of art and one of the best things I’ll probably read in my life. Also, it was way too smart for me (and itself).
  • A first-semester film school party: Immortality. This game has you essentially scrubbing hours of footage from three movies to find out what happened to its main actress. The movies are from the 60s, 70s and 90s and are recreated perfectly, which is no small feat considering this game was made by a game studio. The illusion of analysing found footage works perfectly, and when the supernational elements started trickling through, I got chills so bad I had to turn off my PC. (You can play this on your tablet/phone/whatever if you have an active Netflix subscription, so there’s no reason for not trying this out)
  • A 2002 LAN party: Signalis. This retro horror game tells a story that feels like a mixture of Neon Genesis Evangelion and the first Metal Gear Solid. Like Elden Ring, it knows that less is more, and doesn’t beat you around the head with endless explanations or walls of text. Let’s be honest: The sparsity of prompts like “Jump into the meat grinder? YES / NO” are what really makes them work.

Do you play way too many games, but do you also want to play many, many more? Get a SteamDeck!

2022 was the year of the Steamdeck, essentially a portable Linux handheld built for gaming. I preordered one in 2021 because I had a feeling I would like it (and I have a thing for handhelds), but this ended up changing my life. All the games on this list, I played on this device. I invested in a Dock that connects it to my TV. I even dabbled in Linux to get the most out of it. It’s not a cheap device, but it’s been the best bang for my buck in years.

Honourable mentions

  • Do you like unfinished games that still draw you in? Try Pokémon scarlet of violet, the buggiest pieces of shit I can’t help but love.
  • Do you yearn for your days in college? Try Two Point Campus, a university simulation game in which you train cooks, clowns, spies and wizards. Because why not.
  • Do you like to feel like an idiot? Play Starcraft 2 competitively and feel bad when you squander your entire army to another fucking marine push.
  • Do you wanna finally play the game the kids are playing, but are you scared that the kids are too good? Play Fortnite Zero Build – the most popular game in the world, minus the building. You know, the part the old geezers (like myself) are bad at.

Man, 2022 was an amazing year for games. I probably forgot at least five I completely devoured the last year.

Blogbert

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