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Monday, November 28, 2022

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The best games of 2022 so far



Dont take heed of those who would have you believe 2022s been a slow year for games. If you know where to look, or have an inquisitiveness mind, its been quietly brilliant. We might not have matched the blockbusters that saw us through spring – though its unlikely anything match the grand spectacle of Elden Ring, or the polish and prestige of Gran Turismo 7 – but theres been a string of bangers ever since, from the assured, schlocky stealth of Sniper Elite 5 through to more thoughtful fare like Citizen Sleeper or As Dusk Falls. Or if you want something a bit more direct theres the genius of Neon White, or the shooting heaven of Drainus.

There’s a lot, basically – so much so that keeping on top of it all can be a task itself. So here’s a handy runthrough of the best games of 2022 so far, something we’ll be returning to and updating on a regular basis. It should be the perfect companion piece should you be looking for anything to play over the summer – or if you just want to prove to anyone that 2022s not been all bad when it comes to new games.

Xenoblade Chronicles 3

Nintendo Switch

What we said in our Xenoblade Chronicles 3 review: Its quick to get to what I love about classical JRPGs – the sensation of running through endless fields of long grass with your companions, facing impossible odds with a spring in your step. It feeds into the incredible sense of adventure that makes Xenoblade Chronicles 3 truly soar as a JRPG. Perhaps more than any game before it in the series this gets the balance between systems and story down perfectly – even better, it manages to entwine the two in an adventure that infuses each of your footsteps with a sense of purpose. It might not quite be the revelation the original was back in 2010, but Xenoblade Chronicles 3 is most definitely another JRPG masterpiece from Monolith Soft.


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Performance has come on a long way since Xenoblade Chronicles 2, as Digital Foundry discovered.

Stray

PC, PlayStation 4 and PlayStation 5

What we said in our Stray review: When it comes to simply recreating the experience of being a cat, developer BlueTwelve Studio has done a wonderful job; playing as a cat feels unique, while also being surprisingly easy to master. Its all the little features, though, that truly capture a cat’s essence, from knocking items off ledges to the little pawprints you leave behind after walking through wet paint, or how the controls invert when you investigate a paper bag. None of these are purely cosmetic things, either, with each screensaver-like moment coming to serve a purpose in your journey.


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Strays an early contender for game of the year if the enthusiasm its been met with is anything to go by.

As Dusk Falls

PC and Xbox Series S/X

What we said in our As Dusk Falls review: As Dusk Falls represents a bold new future for interactive movie games – a future where games can do away with the supernatural spectacle and thrillery whodunnits to rely on human drama to entertain us instead. And OK, this does occasionally veer into soap opera, but at other times its gentle and deep and dark, even profound. It shows how well games can handle stories and themes like these when done with care and understanding, and how well it can pull us into the lives of others and invest us in the decisions they have to make. And thats what really stays with me about the game: stories – human stories. They are the troubled, awkward and beautiful stories I can see in the world around me, that I can relate to myself. This is a game that reflects, in many ways, our own lives. Silly as it sometimes can be, As Dusk Falls feels real, and I cant think of a higher compliment to give it.


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As Dusk Falls feels like an exciting new dawn for narrative adventures.

Mothmen 1966

PC, PlayStation 4, PlayStation 5, Xbox and Switch

What we said in our Mothmen 1966 review: The truth is I didnt mind about any of the games more awkward elements. Because part of Mothmen 1966 is a throwback to the games of the early 1990s, which in their weirdness, their halting ambitions, were frequently clumsy and infuriating and generally lacking in streamlined elegance. Mothmen really feels like that. More than anything it reminds me of nights spent around friends houses, as we all picked through the Galapagos archipelagos of weird shareware software they had somehow accrued from places unknown.


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The CGA aesthetic is part of Mothmen 1966s appeal, but theres plenty more to appreciate besides.

Neon White

PC, PlayStation 4, PlayStation 5, Xbox and Switch

What we said in our Neon White review: The crux of Neon White is its speed. If nothing else its a school for learning how to speedrun – one that, if time permits me, I will genuinely try to learn how to run myself. In a way thats the highest possible compliment I can give Neon White. Its not a game for everyone, especially for those who like to take things slow. But for freaks like me, its something I cant do without.


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As stylish and sexy as speedrunning gets.

Drainus

PC

What we said in our Drainus review: There are a few tweaks, essentially, that could make this truly special by the time the inevitable console versions roll around. Though if you’ve any affection for the genre, or any love for the likes of Darius and Gradius, then there’s really no reason to wait until then. Drainus has a silly name and a few small frustrations, but that doesn’t stop it delivering the same heart-soaring spectacle and sharp, satisfying action that makes the greats soar. This might fall just short of being one of them, but it’s an exquisite shooter all the same.


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Shooting games dont get much prettier than this.
  • Buy Drainus on PC from Steam

Sniper Elite 5

PC, PlayStation 4, PlayStation 5 and Xbox

What we said in our Sniper Elite 5 review: Like a fleet of Allied landing craft storming the beaches of Normandy, Sniper Elite 5 has blown me away. I spent most of my weekend with it in a state of delighted befuddlement, constantly muttering isnt this brilliant? as it delivered yet another incredibly designed level to creep around while turning Nazi skulls into cornflakes. Ive enjoyed Rebellions infamously grisly stealth series since the middling V2, but I never thought Id be writing about it with the kind of breathless excitement reserved for the likes of Elden Ring.


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Sniper Elite has been threatening greatness for a while now, and 5 really delivers.

Citizen Sleeper

PC, Switch and Xbox

What we said in our Citizen Sleeper review: There is real anguish and intimacy here, real experience, real softness, pensiveness, complexity of thought, from the deeply clever, immaculately balanced systems to its extraordinarily well-realised art, static drawings of those characters that each feel like a glossy, coffee table magazine cover of their own, such is the incredible texture, colour, posture, pain behind the eyes. Citizen Sleeper is speaking to you, but in this case I really recommend you simply listen – not least because theres depth to be found in your own silence, and because the things it does have to say are absolutely worth hearing.


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Stylish and thought-provoking, Citizen Sleepers a leftfield gem.

Warhammer 40,000: Chaos Gate – Daemonhunters

PC

What we said in our Warhammer 40,000: Chaos Gate – Daemonhunters review: In the grim darkness of the far future, there is only satisfying turn-based squad battling let down just a touch by a sluggish resource-gathering midgame. It feels blasphemous to call a Warhammer 40k adaptation slick, let alone subtle. This is the universe of endless grot, rancid liturgy and heavy-duty cybernetics, its warriors held together by rivets and fanaticism, its starships ancient Gothic ironclads recovered from asteroid fields. You dont expect a delicate handling of inspirations or considerate presentation from such a setting: you expect clashing cogs and excessive crenelations and hint windows that read like catechisms. You expect things to wallow like a Dreadnought knee-deep in Plaguebearer offal. But save for that slight (and to be fair, genre-typical) over-reliance on grinding to help the plot over the next hilltop, Daemonhunters positively glides. At a glance the interface looks like a Borg sneezed all over a cathedral, but in practice this is both a fine balance of ideas from XCOM and Gears Tactics, and a crisp boiling-down of a gargantuan fiction that somehow renders everything digestible, even snappy, without sacrificing the source materials morbid intricacy.


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Theres no shortage of Warhammer 40k games, but Chaos Gate stands out..
  • Buy Warhammer 40,000: Chaos Gate – Daemonhunters on PC from Fanatical

Nintendo Switch Sports

Nintendo Switch

What we said in our Nintendo Switch Sports review: Ultimately, these games are so refined, and delivered with such odd, coffee-shop-and-library charm, that it doesnt matter how you play. My daughter is of the age where she completely missed the Wii, so when this new game arrived and we started moving the furniture around, she didnt have a clue what we were up to. But that afternoon we must have played together for hours, with breaks for when a diving header animation made her laugh so much she needed her breath back. The whole thing was intoxicating.


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Nintendo Switch Sports feels like its flown under the radar a little – though commercially its been a huge success.

Chrono Cross: The Radical Dreamers Edition

PC, PlayStation 4, Xbox, Nintendo Switch

What we said in our Chrono Cross: The Radical Dreamers Edition review: ‘This often feels like a visitor from a parallel dimension itself – sequel to an acclaimed RPG thats in practice more of a companion piece, reminiscent of the PS1 Final Fantasies but a very different beast on the battlefield. Its an engrossing epic, mixing sadness, whimsy and a touch of cosmic dread without, somehow, disintegrating into farce, and if the battle system can be a touch infuriating, coming to terms with it is part of the adventure. The remaster isnt a dazzling effort, but the games revival in any form is something to celebrate. I am eager to read reactions to it from players who got into RPGs after the Chrono series went under.’

Its another barebones Square Enix port which amazingly runs worse on a PS5 than it did on a PS1. The games so good, though, its not a dealbreaker.

Norco

PC and Mac

What we said in our Norco review: ‘Playing through Norco is completely and totally engrossing. Part of that might feel like cheating, what with the act-ending cliffhangers and the figurative mystery boxes of its story or the literal others on its shelves. But its also utterly earned. Its striking, surprising, novel. Its darkly wary of a future that sits on a knife-edge, disdainful of the cynics, priest-like to the anxious. Its nothing less than extraordinarily beautiful. And like the increasing number of games that want to go a little further than distracting us from these things and instead wrestle with them head-on, it is mesmerising.’

Norcos artwork is both grimy and glorious.
  • Buy Norco on PC and Mac from GOG.

Patrick’s Parabox

PC and Mac

What we said in our Patrick’s Parabox review: ‘My experience with Patricks Parabox, then, was itself nested like a Russian doll. Looking at the outer layer, I wasnt sold. Yet another nondescript puzzler in a sea of hundreds, with some style but a few rough edges. One layer deeper it started to click. Okay, this is fun. I dont know how it won all these indie design awards but by jove Ill solve this puzzle. By the last few stages, though, I was nodding along, muttering Brilliant! and Genius!’


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It might look familiar, but Patricks Parabox boasts depths all of its own.
  • Buy Patricks Parabox on PC and Mac from Steam.

Kirby and the Forgotten Land

Switch

What we said in our Kirby and the Forgotten Land review: ‘Its tempting to say that with The Forgotten Land Kirby has graduated from second-tier character to starring in a game that rivals Mario in its pomp, but thats not quite the case. The many ideas and new abilities are never quite as fully rounded as in obvious analogue Super Mario Odyssey; the polish, likewise, isnt quite there (and neither is the framerate, its worth pointing out, with the action sitting around 30fps rather than the more fluid modern Marios). That all seems to be by the by, though.
‘Like its predecessors, Kirby and the Forgotten Lands an open-armed thing, and now more than ever before its a game thats for absolutely everyone, the move to 3D platforming perhaps the most significant step forward in the series history. This is an absolute hug of a game, and quite likely Kirbys best outing yet.’


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This isnt exactly a technical showcase, but as Digital Foundry explains its still a big step for the series.

Tunic

PC, Mac and Xbox

What we said in our Tunic review: ‘You are not a fox by accident in this game, I think. One of my first thoughts about Tunic, right back at the start, is that your wibbling fox hero didnt actually seem very foxlike. Too much bounce. Too much cheer. Too much innocence. They did not match the gorgeous midnight creatures I sometimes glimpse freeze-framed by a blast of security light at the end of a driveway in the rare hours. Haunted face, blazing eyes, one foot raised and paused mid-step. These are tricksy animals. This is projection, I know, but foxes always feel like deep thinkers, privy to wild and complex thoughts. They do not always bounce cheerfully through this world. And then, over time, I understood. Your hero in Tunic is not yet a fox. They are a cub. And so you, the player, must become the fox for them.’


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Theres so much to love in Tunic – the toughest thing is talking about it without spoiling it.

Triangle Strategy

Switch

What we said in our Triangle Strategy review: ‘The maps frequently involve obstacles and elevation that, while not providing cover the way they do in the XCOM games, for example, can still be used to your advantage, and this interplay – between each characters unique attributes, the ever-scarce TP points and some outstanding map design – means combat is excellent, often leading me to take a good hour per encounter. Tactics RPGS flourish in situations that force you to take a step back and think: can I move my healer close enough to a wounded party member in time? Should I launch a ranged spell now or save my TP in case it could hit even more enemies the next round? Triangle Strategy absolutely delivers on that.’


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Digital Foundry was impressed with some of the more technical aspects of Triangle Strategy.

Gran Turismo 7

PS4 and PS5

What we said in our Gran Turismo 7 review: ‘Half-met promises and some missing features feel like part of the modern Gran Turismo experience expected by fans, but for the first time in several ages this feels like a Gran Turismo thats worthy of being a modern blockbuster, its appeal breaking out well beyond cultish car nerds like myself. Its a sumptuous, arrestingly gorgeous thing that most importantly retains its enthusiasts heart under the graphical showcase, and that does its level best to make a car enthusiast out of anyone in its orbit. Is it the king of driving games once more? The genres now too broad and too varied to make such a statement, though Gran Turismo finds itself a neat slot alongside the likes of Assetto Corsa and iRacing, presenting accessible driving that looks simply staggering. Is it the best Gran Turismo to date? Of that theres no real doubt.’


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Theres no denying Gran Turismo 7 is a technical masterpiece – as explained by Digital Foundry here.

OlliOlli World

PC, Xbox, PlayStation and Switch

What we said in our OlliOlli World review: ‘This is a skating game, and these games are always two games in one. OlliOlli World is a case in point: at first you just have to get to the end of each level. But then you want to advanced-trick through a Ghost, dont you? Optional challenges tug you into seeing the level you just battled over as a series of fresh possibilities. And then youre through that barrier and the whole world is filled with possibilities absolutely everywhere. Two games in one: a blend of platform hurdles that are fixed and that you need to ace, and then those gaps for self-expression and doing extra tricks and chains and grabs and manuals and spins for wild points. Oh, those gaps! Find them! Create them! (Mind them.)’


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Its beautiful and bold and one of the best things released this year.

Elden Ring

PS4, PS5, Xbox One, Xbox Series X/S, PC

What we said in our Elden Ring review: ‘Elden Ring remains a glorious game, one that established fans are going to savour for some time to come, and one that may just welcome new fans into the FromSoft fold. Sumptuous visual design, dark and detailed lore and a vast-but-intricate open world are reason enough to venture out into the Lands Between. Add to that FromSoftwares unforgiving and unforgettable gameplay loop and this is something truly special.’


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Looking for some guidance in your quest? This is as good a starting point as any.

Far: Changing Tides

PS4, PS5, Xbox, Switch and PC

What we said in our Far: Changing Tides review: ‘Having adored the first game, I was delighted that a sequel – or “companion piece” – was coming, but admit I was apprehensive, too. I worried that Far: Lone Sails unique appeal couldnt be stretched to encompass a sequel with a longer runtime, and wasnt sure the puzzling would be so endearing the second time around. If you too are concerned about the same things, worry not. It turns out Far: Changing Tides is every bit as bewitching as its predecessor thanks to its stunning presentation, haunting soundtrack, and wholly unique gameplay and puzzle mechanics. Dont miss it.’


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Looking for sailors? Youll find some here.
  • Buy Far: Changing Tides on PC from Steam.

Sifu

PS4, PS5 and PC

What we said in our Sifu review: ‘Sifu is a brilliant, eccentric fighting game. It expects close attention and patience, and rewards you with scuffles of incredible intensity. Its campaign structure is bizarre but engaging, coaxing you to replay levels not just for additional moves or to shed a few decades, but to enjoy what youve painstakingly committed to muscle memory.

‘It could take itself a bit less seriously. Certain terrain kills and crowd control sequences recall Jackie Chans action comedies and sillier beat em ups from the PS2 era, but Sloclap never delivers on this comic potential. The story is ponderous and mechanical, more suffocated than energised by the familiar theme of hatred consuming the hater. A less reverent approach might also have helped the game untangle its own Orientalist worldview and perceive itself not as a solemn curator of East Asian culture but an appreciative tourist, galloping around with a camera. Where Sifu most earns its seriousness, for me, is in that largely unspoken marriage of combos and counters with questions of perception and synchronicity. This is a game about the punch-drunk unevenness of time, and the way that unevenness depends on the mind you bring to bear.’

Sifus as smart as brawlers come, and pretty darn stylish too.

Dying Light 2

PC, Xbox One and Series S/X and PlayStation 4/5

What we said in our Dying Light 2 review: ‘There are stumbles here and there – including infrequent technical issues, which again seem synonymous with the territory of a game of this scope, with models infrequently popping awkwardly into each other or levitating a few feet from the ground – but theyre infrequent enough to be overpowered by the ambition of everything else thats in play. Dying Light 2 is not exactly an innovative game, but its one that throws so much together with an enthusiasm that is, if youll pardon the pun, infectious. Even more commendably, for the most part it sticks. I cant pretend to be an expert in big blockbuster games – the bloat and overstated breadth isnt exactly to my taste – but Dying Light 2, with its varied systems lifted wholesale from elsewhere, is a welcome reminder of how hugely entertaining they can be. Theres a brutality to its breadth, to the vastness of its world – this is the triple-A experience served up with the subtlety and grace of a modified hammer to the head. Its rarely elegant, but it is most definitely enjoyable.’


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Its a bit trashy, but Dying Light 2 is an awful lot of fun.

Total War: Warhammer 3

PC, Linux and Mac

What we said in our Total War: Warhammer 3 review: ‘Recently I caught myself – forgive me – explaining thrash metal to a friend who never got it. Its about building tolerance as much as anything, learning to find the layers to the sound, to acquire a taste for different parts of the palate. I wish I couldve explained it through Total War. The more you learn of this games enemies, the unit types, the little, hard-to-explain intricacies of campaign movement and engagement rules and rule exceptions and the rest – the more you slog it out through the onslaught of early-game detail and action all at once, the battles Total Spectacle, the games imperious wall of sound – the more youll enjoy it. Right now, after a little while, Im smitten. And exhausted. And really in the mood for some Slayer.’


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Surely Total Warhammers a better name for the series though?

Please Touch the Artwork

PC, iOS and Android, and coming soon to Switch

What we said in our Please Touch the Artwork review: ‘Please, Touch the Artwork is a playful puzzle game inspired by abstract art. But its also, I think, something else. Its an attempt to get you to see the art afresh, to see it as part of a lineage that can be understood, to see the way it has evolved and shifted forms over time, and to have a go yourself in a manner of speaking. By using three abstract paintings as the foundations for three types of puzzle, Please, Touch the Artwork encourages you to dabble in the process of abstract art, which is the part of art that we generally dont get to see. You may be trying to solve something in the game, to beat a level, but youre also making choices, thinking critically. The first wall to an appreciation of abstract art – that the art is, you know, finished, and hanging in a gallery and you can only get so close – that wall comes down. Please, touch! See what you can do. For me it was a revelation.’


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Smart and stylish – and Im just talking about Donlan.
  • Buy Please Touch the Artwork on PC from Steam.

Pokémon Legends: Arceus

Switch

What we said in our Pokémon Legends: Arceus review: ‘Theres an overpowering sense of novelty to Pokémon Legends: Arceus. This is something new, and its also Pokémon, a decades-old series, in its purest essence. Battle, trade, collect. Even then theres a fraction of the trainer battles, nothing online, an option but no more necessity to trade. Is it overzealous budget cuts or pure, minimalist design? Is it empty, or is it filled with newfound nimbleness, of the kind that inspires all that wonder and awe precisely because so much of it has been chipped away?

‘Either way, this is a game crafted by subtractive sculpture. And how weirdly refreshing that is, compared to our artforms current, insatiable appetite for only adding more and more. Pokémon Legends: Arceus is either this series bare minimum, or its purest form. I think its both at once.’


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Its not quite the big open world Pokémon people have been pining for, but Arceus is a huge step in the right direction.


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Vagante

PS4, PS5, Xbox, Switch. Originally launched 2018 on PC, Linux, Mac

What we said in our Vagante review: ‘Vagante is, all told, the definition of a hidden gem. Im glad I played on Switch, eyestrain notwithstanding, because the smaller screen does reinforce what I like best about the game – its compactness and delicacy. Roguelikes are often sold as variety shows, but I enjoy them just as much for their sense of economy, the same parts unfolding into many fiendish combinations. Vagante is an elaborate little Swiss Army knife indeed, though arguably short of a headline feature. True, it doesnt have the raw chaos of Noita, in which a single teleport-on-damage unlock can carry you halfway through without you even touching the controls. Nor does it have the personality and sex appeal of Hades, or the conceptual ingenuity of Loop Hero. But thanks to its deceptive straightforwardness, it feels easier to pick up than many of its peers.’


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Perhaps overlooked a little given the glut of releases earlier this year, Vagante is well worth your time.

Windjammers 2

PS4, PC, Xbox (Game Pass) and Switch

What we said in our Windjammers 2 review: ‘Is it superior to the 1994 original? I dont think those behind Windjammers 2 will be too disheartened to hear Im not sure it ever could be, that original aesthetic and those pared-back fundamentals still providing a special offering all of their own. Remarkably, though, this is a sequel that sits proudly alongside the original, offering a subtly different, enjoyably dynamic take that will hopefully earn the series a new legion of fans. Heres an assured revival of a cult favourite thats a modern classic in its own right.’


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They really dont come much more stylish – or colourful – than Windjammers 2.

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