TheGamer Game Of The Year Editor’s Pick, 2022 – James Troughton

2022 was a surprisingly good year for games, and much like last year, it has been carried by indies. We’ve had everything from loving tributes to H. R. Giger and Zdzisław Beksiński to Castlevania cookie clickers, an excitingly fresh and diverse slate that has kept things interesting month to month. Narrowing it down to just ten has been a tough task, but these are the games I’ll cherish for years to come, and likely revisit time and time again.

10/10 Scorn

I was apprehensive about Scorn. I knew people were all aboard the hype train, but taking notes from Giger and Beksiński to create a new horror world felt like it ran the risk of becoming Alien-lite. Thankfully, it didn’t. It might draw heavily from these two artists, but it's never to a fault, as it manages to use their distinct styles to craft its own unique world. The fleshy mechanics of a fallen civilisation are a far cry from the futuristic Earth colonisers finding near-unkillable extraterrestrials, but it also makes for disturbingly grotesque puzzles that invite you to wedge your hand into uncomfortable spots. These puzzles are some of the most intricately laid out since Portal, and I never felt frustrated trying to solve each mystery, and enjoyed spending my time taking in the scenery as I dragged moving and screaming parts together to open whatever giant door was blocking my path.

9/10 Immortality

Something I find undeniably eerie for no apparent reason is the retro aesthetic of games and movies. I’ve never been sure why, but that older jank leaves me feeling deeply uncomfortable, and having to piece together Immortality’s changing film reels to uncover the truth behind the acting, all at 3am in pitch black, made for a creepy mystery that dug its teeth into me. I beat it in one sitting, unable to rip myself away, and when things get quiet, I’m sure I’ll be back for another scare.

8/10 Vampire Survivors

Rogue-lites are easily my favourite genre. I’ve played The Binding of Isaac, Hades, Neon Abyss, Dead Cells, Loop Hero, and so many more to death. It’s no surprise then that Vampire Survivors won me over almost immediately. Like Loop Hero, it’s all about building up your character and letting them handle the carnage, rather than getting stuck in the action yourself. All you need to do is dodge enemies, pick up loot, and level up, but it’s still incredibly rewarding when you’re tearing through hordes of skeletons and ghouls.

7/10 Need For Speed Unbound

I grew up on racing games. My dad makes them for a living, after all. He brought me copies of Midnight Club 3, Burnout 3: Takedown, and Driver: San Francisco as a kid, but it’s been years since I’ve enjoyed a new racing game. Cue NFS: Unbound, which blends Spider-Verse-style visuals with a Burnout Paradise-esque open world. It’s the perfect mix of self-expression and exhilarating race driving.

6/10 God Of War Ragnarok

Ragnarok was one of the most difficult entries to place on this list. On the surface, I loved it. I cried a lot, got soppy with Kratos’ turn from hardened cut-off dad to loving supportive father, and thought it was a fitting end to not only the Norse saga, but Kratos’. It’s a near-perfect sequel, but it doesn’t reinvent the wheel. It’s more of what we had in 2018, which was brilliant in its own right, but without much in the way of innovation, it fell down a few pegs.

5/10 Citizen Sleeper

A problem I have with a lot of RPGs is how you can be a jack-of-all-trades and do everything. In Skyrim, you have time to become the head of every faction, solve everyone’s minor problems, all before tea, and Alduin will be sitting there waiting. Citizen Sleeper, on the other hand, limits what you can do per run, forcing you to pick and choose your battles, all while juggling the need to sleep, work, and eat. It’s a tough balance to strike, but one that incentivises replays as you simply can’t crack every mystery in one go, and these mysteries are interwoven like a good old fashioned Choose Your Own Adventure novel.

4/10 I Was A Teenage Exocolonist

Gay, heartfelt, and with a rich narrative to boot – Teenage Exocolonist was always gonna be on my list. It’s one of the first games I’ve played where I felt truly represented not only in terms of my sexuality, but my boundaries. I was able to not hug my parents or be overly affectionate, yet remain respected and a part of their world rather than being punished for my own limitations. At its core, that’s what Teenage Exocolonist is all about – forging relationships and finding kinship among a group of unlikely friends, all while creating a new world you can be proud of.

3/10 Pentiment

I’m a sucker for anything Obsidian puts out. The Outer Worlds and Fallout: New Vegas are two of my favourite RPGs, so I was first in line to try out Pentiment, and it might be its best work yet. You’re a traveler who arrives in the town of Bavaria, painting to make ends meet, and you find yourself embroiled in several murder mysteries as you uncover a conspiracy at the heart of the settlement over the course of several years. It’s a lot like a middle ages Fletch, as you fumble about for clues, but ultimately make things worse and draw the ire of everyone around you, before accidentally finding the answers and nearly getting killed. Obsidian’s best known for its dialogue, so an entire game focused on its strongest asset was always going to be exciting to unpack.

2/10 Marvel’s Midnight Suns

Marvel has been on a roll, with Ultimate Alliance 3, Spider-Man, Miles Morales, Guardians of the Galaxy, Snap, and now Midnight Suns – we don’t talk about Avengers. But Midnight Suns is the most unique of the lot. Fights are done with cards in small zones that you choose from a table, while you explore the Abbey and forge relationships between the action. I never knew I needed a Marvel game where I could sit and watch movies with Blade and go fishing with Magik, but now I realise that’s all I wanted this entire time.

1/10 Elden Ring

Elden Ring completely shook up the Souls formula, but it also turned the open-world genre as a whole on its head. Gone are busy maps filled with checklists, icons, repetitive side quests, and mindless objectives, as From invited us to look around, pick a landmark, and explore. That’s what it’s all about – not difficulty or mastering intricate combat systems. It’s about discovery and mystery. And even today, hundreds of hours later, I’m still unpacking those mysteries and exploring the Lands Between, finding new things.

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