After a few lighter years of game releases, 2022 seemed to deliver nothing but bangers. There was something for everyone this year, from the indie releases to the triple-a space, new IP to long-awaited sequels, from a Greek God to the leader of a cult.
Here are the Explosion Network’s official Top 10 Video Games of 2022.
– Dylan Blight
BlueTwelve Studio, Annapurna Interactive
After capturing people’s imaginations when it was revealed at PlayStation’s Future of Gaming back in June of 2020, Stray fulfilled the promise of playing as a cat. While the game is set in a future in which humanity is dead and robots are all that remain, the cat is incredibly realistic, so much so it created a viral trend of animals reacting to it.
With incredibly crafted and designed levels filled with puzzles to solve, treasures to find and pieces of environmental storytelling, Stray also features a beautiful narrative that at first seems like it will just be about a cat trying to reunite with its family but grows into something much more. Stray does what it does at a really high level and doesn’t outstay its welcome, with it taking 5-6 hours to complete. Filled with some really great gaming moments, Stray is definitely one to remember, and not just for the joy of being a dickish cat.
– Ashley Hobley
9.) Bayonetta 3
It had been eight years since the release of Bayonetta 2, and fans were hungry for the follow-up. The third game in the chronicles of the witch Bayonetta takes the wildest directions in the game’s story (that’s saying something for a Bayonetta game) and delivers some world-building that has left some fans excited at the future, and others mad at the direction the games in the future could be headed. Thoughts on the final act aside, Bayonetta 3 is the action-adventure fans like myself who had been excited to play in 2022. The stylish combat feels as good as ever and adding a new character to play only helped pace everything out, especially with new Kajiu-inspired boss battles being exhausting. Bayonetta was back, and now we can only hope we don’t have to wait as long for the next adventure.
– Dylan Blight
Player First Games, Warner Bros. Interactive Entertainment
Sometimes it’s about being at the right place at the right time. With Super Smash Bros. Ultimate getting its last new playable character and Nickelodeon All-Star Brawl not being what people wanted, the opportunity was there for something to make its mark in the platform fighter genre, an opportunity that Multiversus took with both hands.
With its 2v2 focus setting it apart from other games in the genre, Multiverse features a brilliant cast of characters from the Warner Bros catalogue for you to play as, all fully voice-acted and in an art style that is fitting for each character but feels uniform as a complete package. As a free-to-play game, it has performed well with regular updates and new characters and maps while offering a solid assortment of skins, icons and emotes to earn to keep players coming back to do their dailies each day. As someone who is not a dedicated fighting game fan, I found myself for weeks jumping in for an hour or two and battling others as Superman, smashing them from one side of the map to the other. I have also jumped back in every month or two when a new character dropped to give it a try and see how they are able to take someone like Gizmo from Gremlins and fit them into a fighting game. If Player First Games continue to put out the same quality and quantity of content next year, I suspect we’ll be talking about Multiversus for years to come. Also, Multiversus is a genius-level name.
– Ashley Hobley
One of the surprise games of 2022 for me personally was SIFU. I was keen to try the game, but I was curious if it would work for me or leave me confused and unable to click, like Sloclaps previous game, Absolver, did. SIFU is brutal, but the marriage between the combat, narrative and player makes it all bearable. Dying over and over again doesn’t feel like the end of the world in a game where the character gets stronger in death but has to age. As I struggled to beat the game without againg the protagonist into their 80s, I was adamant I’d never be able to get all the achievements in the game. Somehow, I was hooked, and I went back and beat it all with only a handful of deaths with this journey from adamant defeat in the face of the challenges SIFU delivered me to the feeling of being a martial arts master. SIFU was a journey to cherish for any wishing to go down its brutal path.
– Dylan Blight
6.) Neon White
Angel Matrix, Annapurna Interactive
Neon White is a top-quality indie gem of 2022 that would fit further up the list if we were talking about the best feeling and controlling games of the year. To play, Neon White is a slick speed-running FPS that oozes quality across all facets of its playing experience. Speeding through the minute-long levels is a delightful challenge, and the instant ability to reset the level makes shaving seconds from your record so easy and addicting. This is all backed up by a soundtrack and level design that puts you into a different head space for zooming through the heavenly levels. I also found enjoyment in the charming anime awkwardness of the story and characters, which was a nice pacing technique to slow me down and keep me from reaching terminal velocity.
– Wil James
5.) Marvel’s Midnight Suns
Firaxis Games, 2K
Firaxis has shown its pedigree with the release of Marvel’s Midnight Suns to recapture the magic created by the Marvel Ultimate Alliance series and improve on it with their touch. When first announced, it could be expected that the game’s strategy elements would excel; for the most part, they did. The deckbuilding combat led to a surprising amount of variety in team setups to approach the smaller but more refined battles with the forces of evil. What many did not predict was just how many characters were to be filling this game. Exploring the vast hub world, The Abbey allows players to learn more about some of the more niche sections of the Marvel lore, meet and grow friendships with Marvel characters that cross a broad spectrum of the comic giant’s hero gallery and develop the Firaxis-created character, The Hunter in a multitude of ways.
Marvel’s Midnight Suns goes above and beyond fans’ expectations to be a surprise late in the 2022 calendar to appear here on our top 10 list. There is plenty here for players to go back and dive into the game, and this writer is extremely excited to see where Firaxis goes next with this franchise.
– Ciaran Marchant
4.) Horizon Forbidden West
Horizon Forbidden West is the follow-on from Horizon: Zero Dawn, a story of Aloy and her friends fighting against the evil forces aiming to destroy the world and rebuild it in their image. The events in this game happen only months after the original giving a great deal of urgency to the story. Hades has been defeated, but there is a greater threat on the horizon, and Aloy and her friends must venture deep into the forbidden west, a big place filled with untamed beasts, three great clans, a threat of war and more dangers than one might wish upon an enemy. The game has many places to explore, more missions and side quests to experience, and enhanced combat, gear and weapons mechanics that are simple to understand while remaining harder to master.
Horizon: Forbidden West moves more towards the RPG and story elements than the first game, and it’s for the best. The game knuckles down into the greater world expanse and allows the player to gain a deeper understanding of the world and its people. Horizon handles the role of action gaming and in-depth narrative extremely well. Allowing the character to develop Aloy in their way. Side missions assist in levelling up Aloy while the main mission progress the story. Getting out and exploring the wider world to discover untold tales of heartache and joy. There was more than meets the eye to this adventure for any that wished to discover it.
– Jacob Hegarty
3.) Marvel Snap
Second Dinner, Nuverse
Marvel Snap marries together Marvel characters at the peak of their cultural relevance (as well as plenty of fun smaller characters), fair and engaging live service and collections models and an excellent card game at its core. Marvel Snap’s use of the Marvel licence and characters is obviously great for marketing purposes. Still, it also has given them an excellent foundation for the ongoing game, and they can and have used these characters expertly to fuel the way you grow your collection. It is fun to get characters we are familiar with from the MCU and learn about the smaller characters while trying to find a variant for these that you love.
Of course, this is all underpinned by the excellent card game that is strategic and deep, all while being quick and snappy to play. It is immensely satisfying to go into a game thinking about how you will execute your deck’s strategy and then pivot to incorporate the locations into the game plan. Marvel Snap makes this core of what makes card games so engaging and approachable through its short games and small deck list and has somehow managed to do this without losing variety and depth. Even though it is a game perfect for handheld devices due to the quick games, I found myself playing much longer than quick bursts throughout the year. Marvel Snap had me agog from its initial reveal and, thankfully, lived up to the hype I had built up in my mind.
– Wil James
2.) God of War Ragnarök
Santa Monica Studio, Sony Interactive Entertainment
It’s still a miracle that Santa Monica Studio and PlayStation managed to take the God of War franchise and swerve it so hard into the direction of 2018’s God of War, and we can end up with 2022’s God of War Ragnarok. A game that manages to build upon the epic boss battles and macho-filled led world that is going to be a game with Kratos as the lead character. God of War Ragnarok manages to fulfil the previous game’s efforts of humanising a very unlikable protagonist. It also gives everyone else in the game just as much care and attention to detail.
Combat is as brutal and exciting as it was in 2018, but things have been built upon with Kratos having access to a more significant weapon collection and, thus, combat moves from the outset. Fights also move more as Kratos can swing himself quicker around the battlefield, and the mini-bosses are much more varied, leading into the big boss battles, which include some awe-inspiring fights against Norse Gods.
– Dylan Blight
1.) Cult of the Lamb
Massive Monster, Devolver Digital
Mixing a roguelike with a base builder doesn’t seem like a combination that should work, and yet Cult of the Lamb proves this to be wrong. Playing as the last lamb in existence, you must repay your debt to The One Who Waits, who saved you from being killed by cultists, by building up a cult to help set it free.
Surprisingly deep as both a roguelike and a base builder, the two mesh together wonderfully as you go out to gather resources like wood or stone or animals who you can brainwash into joining your cult, then use those resources to improve your cult with a statue for them to worship at, a toilet so they don’t have to defecate on the ground or a compost bin where you can deposit dead followers and turn them into fertilizer. All of this would be very dark and evil if not for the cartoon art style which works in perfect juxtaposition to the terrible deeds your lamb can do.
The roguelike elements are a lot of fun with a variety of weapons to use and a good tarot card-based upgrade system which makes each run through a biome feel unique. Add to that any special abilities or extra health you gain from using or sacrificing your cut members and you have a lot of different ways to play.
I played the game when it was released on PS5, at which time the game still had a lot of issues with regular freezes or hidden enemies and a reduced number of followers entering the temple. There were many reasons to stop but I was more than happy to restart the game and jump back in because I was having so much fun. The game is in the best state it has ever been in and with more updates from Massive Monster already planned, this fantastic game is only going to get better.
– Ashley Hobley