Table of Contents
- ELDEN RING
- God of War: Ragnarök
- Neon White
- Total War WARHAMMER III
- Full Metal Daemon Muramasa
- I also completed…
- What’s Next
This year was about recovery for me, and continuing good habits. I haven’t exercised this much in my life until this year. It was a great feeling to be able to come back from a run, sit down and relax with a couple of great games.
This year brought many great releases, but this is a list of the best games I completed this year. That means that games from previous years have also made this list.
Played on PC. Released in 2022.
The fallen leaves tell a story… of one of the greatest games of all time.
After making Demon’s Souls, Dark Souls, Bloodborne and Sekiro, the geniuses at FromSoftware worked hard on ELDEN RING. Last year, when I was at my lowest, I was sitting in my couch talking to a friend as we watched the first gameplay trailer for ELDEN RING drop.
I had finished Bloodborne earlier that year and I was not sure if what I saw was going to work well. I was worried that the beautiful and detailed environments from earlier games would end up becoming barren areas with too much traversal and too little combat.1
I was off the mark, and happy to explore this game’s large world when the game dropped earlier this year. Th scope of ELDEN RING is hard to appreciate: the game is enormous. There are so many open areas with multiple ways to approach them!
There are also plenty of so-called legacy dungeons which act quite like levels from earlier Dark Souls games: they are much more constrained and linear than the rest of the game. They provide a nice change of pace and make the game feel like it’s almost Dark Souls 4.
In fact, some reviewers have said that due to the size of the game, it’s kind of like getting Dark Souls 4, 5 and 6 at once.
I spent about 150 hours playing ELDEN RING, doing about everything there was to do in the game. I am eagerly awaiting a new content drop (FromSoftware has confirmed there is more on the way), which is hopefully an expansion of some sort.
I don’t want to say too much about the game’s main areas, I only want to mention that the game is best experienced blind, but the usual tips apply: Don’t give up. Learn the core combat system. Be patient. If you get really stuck, you can always open a wiki or something but this game is handily the most accessible game the studio has made.
Oh, and in this game you can always go a different direction and seek another more appropriate challenge before you return and destroy whatever was keeping you from progressing earlier.
With ELDEN RING being the most accessible game that FromSoftware has made so far, I would say it is an excellent title to dive into the series. I finished this game twice, and I did not regret doing so. It was a really special experience.
I can’t wait to finally complete the other FromSoftware games in my backlog.
Played on PS5. Released in 2022.
One’s destiny isn’t set in stone.
God of War: Ragnarök is the sequel to my pick of the year of 2018. Somehow, that was four years ago? Where did the time go?
I waited all this time to learn more what happens, and here we are. If you enjoyed the previous game, this one is more of the same, but bigger, better, more diverse… generally speaking simply more of the same goodness. If you liked the previous game, I am sure you will enjoy this one.
I think the biggest improvement over the previous game is mechanical: the gameplay is significantly enhanced by the addition of various new combat systems and new enemies, some of which are devious.
There is also a good variety of enemy boss battles, which is an improvement over the previous game (which had lacking boss variety).
Visually, the game looks like more of 2018’s God of War, this time running at a higher resolution and 60 FPS on the PS5. I played the previous game on PS4 Pro at roughly 40 FPS, and this game runs a lot better. I also replayed a bit of the previous game on PS5 after it got a patch and wow: both games are much better on PS5.
The last game was more constrained when it came to locations one could visit, but fortunately your journey will take you to all of the nine realms this time; and let me tell you: there are some absolutely stunning vistas in the game.
Additionally, the performances by the cast were also amazing: all of the returning characters were amazing just like in the last game. The new characters are also very well played: it was great to finally see Thor and Odin make their appearance.
From a narrative point of view, I think I prefer the prequel but this is undoubtedly a better game than the previous installment. I think that this game had scope and pacing issues that weren’t present in God of War (2018) but this is a minor criticism. I don’t want to spoil any particular bits of the game, so I’ll leave it at that.
For that reason, God of War Ragnarök comes in at my number 2 spot this year. This is still one of the best games I’ve played, ever, but ELDEN RING is hard to beat.
Played on PC. Released in 2017.
Excellent from ending A to E.
NieR:Automata has been an entry on my backlog since the time it was released five years ago, but I never got around to actually playing it until this year.
With the knowledge that an anime adaptation would be arriving next year, I figured it was time to get ahead of everyone who gets into a particular game after seeing a different adaptation of the setting or series (Edgerunners and Witcher are great examples here).
If you’ve been on the internet, there’s a good chance that at some point you’ve seen the main character, 2B, in some form or another. That 2B is a popular character because she’s a sexy character is no secret. I’m sure the excellent character design(s) is what got a lot of folks initially interested. Sex does sell, after all.
Just like last year with Outer Wilds, I was able to experience some form of existential dread this year: while you might initially mistake the game for game with some fanservice, it is also about the nature of humanity, what it is like to experience existential dread, and to work hard on a singular purpose, with no end in sight. NieR:Automata can be an uncomfortable game to play at times.2
The truth with this game is that one might find themselves putting down the game before its climax. You need to play through the game, get through the credits, and then you’re told that the game isn’t over. You get thrown back into the game, and go through the same story from a different perspective in a second playthrough. This introduces a certain repetitiveness, one that might cause players to stop playing altogether.
However, replaying the game from a different perspective is very much a necessity for the story that the makers of this game were trying to tell. After completing the game for the second time (and getting a different look on the story you’ve played so far) the game kicks into fifth gear and it’s a rollercoaster until the end.
I won’t say more. I think you should give it a chance. NieR:Automata actually received a Switch port which is also quite good, so you can play it on all major platforms: PC, Xbox, PlayStation and Switch.
A future is not given to you. It is something you must take for yourself.
Oh, and the game has one of the greatest soundtracks of all time. Just wait until you get to the final credits. Don’t give up, and if you need help… accept it.
I also played NieR Replicant this year after finishing this game, but if you are going to spend some time playing through the game multiple times, play through Automata that way. I think it has a better pay-off.
Played on PC. Released in 2022.
Speedrunning in style.
Neon White is a first person speedrunning game about a man stuck in purgatory who’s given a chance to get to heaven… provided he is the last “neon” to survive.
In order to succeed, the protagonist called ‘White’ will need to visit various corners of heaven and deal with the demons that have popped up all over the place. As you progress through the game, you learn about White’s past, as well as the past of his friends and partners in crime (who are called Red, Violet, Yellow and Green).
Neon White may intentionally suffer from cheesy anime dialogue syndrome, but when it comes to its gameplay, it is a stellar game.
In each stage, you have to 1) kill all demons and 2) get to the exit, but you have to do this as quickly as you can. You do this by picking up a variety of different “weapons” which can be used to kill demons, but also can be used with their alternate mode in order to quickly move thoughout the level.
Move fast enough, and you will get enough medals to see the game to its inevitable end. The stages may seem short, but the challenge of completing all of them quickly isn’t a small one.
I was playing this for an extended period of time and had a great time getting all the gold medals and collectibles in each level. I recommend checking out some gameplay and you’ll immediately know if this game is something for you or not.
I loved it.
Played on PC. Released in 2022.
The entire Old World, ripe for the taking.
The final entry in the WARHAMMER trilogy of Total War games released this year, and it did so in rough shape. The game was not ready for prime time, and it showed. At launch, the game suffered from various performance issues and seemed rushed out of the door.
A large amount of players returned to WARHAMMER II until the mess was sorted out. Personally, I only played the tutorial and half of a Kislev campaign before giving up and deciding to wait for the next big patch since the game ran much worse than the previous game did, for no discernible reason.
It wasn’t until later on in the summer, with the arrival of patch 2.0 that the game became truly worth playing. Many of the performance issues were resolved, which was necessary to have playable base game.
But most importantly, the main reason that will give the game a lot of replayability was introduced: a new mode, called Immortal Empires, which allows you to play on an absolutely massive map, and allows you to play as any lord from the WARHAMMER trilogy.
This is what we were all looking forward to when the Mortal Empires (the large map’s equivalent for WARHAMMER II) released and we first got a glimpse of what could be possible in the future when we were able to play as factions from the first game and the sequel. Immortal Empires is the same, only bigger: you can now play as factions from the first game (Empire, Dwarves, Greenskins, etc.), the second game (High Elves, Dark Elves, Skaven, etc.) and now the third game (Chaos, Kislev, Cathay, etc.). 3
I can confidently say that WARHAMMER III now finally eclipses its predecessor, and is one of the games with the most amount of unique mechanics I’ve ever seen.
With so many unique factions are on offer, each sporting their own race mechanics, faction mechanics, unique lords and army rosters… there is truly no other Total War game that compares, and only a few grand strategy games have this game beat in complexity (only the Paradox games, really).
A grand campaign takes a while to complete, but it is oh so much fun!
Read on PC. Released in 2021.
Where there are demons, he slays them.
Where there are saints, he slays them.
His way is the way of the blade.
Is that a visual novel on this list? I don’t usually include visual novels on my game of the year list, because I feel like many of them are very much the same: plenty of them are half dating sim games, with a good amount of slice of life and drama.
The average (non-spicy) visual novel is effectively the equivalent of “chick lit” for men: usually featuring a high-school setting, with a quircky cast and a few romance routes (or is exclusively smut).
I wrote about visual novels in 2014 when I was reading plenty of them while I was barely out of college: reading these was a fresh experience, I was also younger and more easily entertained.
I have kept up with visual novels over the years for various big releases (I even helped fund some official releases for works like CLANNAD and Rewrite via Kickstarter) but I have not been surprised by a novel in the last few years quite as much as I was by Muramasa, which was released last year.4
When I read books, sometimes the book I’m reading can prove to be a real page-turner, and I cannot tear myself away from the words I’m reading. Perhaps its best if I put the brief description here (as can be found on VNDB):
This is not a story of heroes.
Since time immemorial, warriors called musha have ruled the battlefield, granted supernatural power by their enchanted suits of armor - tsurugi.
Minato Kageaki is one such musha, driven by duty to don his crimson armor and challenge the greatest evils of an age. But though madmen and tyrants fall to his blade, never will he claim that his battle is right.
For the tsurugi he wields is cursed Muramasa, which five centuries ago brought ruin to the land, and innocent blood is the price it demands in exchange for its terrible might.
"Where there are demons, I slay them. Where there are saints, I slay them."
These words are an oath, the unbreakable Law binding him to his armor. But they also tell the story of his past, and of the future to come.
In general, books can provide much more context and insight into the characters’ minds than a TV show or regular video game.
As such, a visual novel such as this one is probably only really possible in either a) book form, where it lacks the visual and musical accompanyment, or b) visual novel form, where it is enhanced by the previously mentioned.
Full Metal Daemon Muramasa features a ton of mature themes, including extremely violent and sexual content. This game is not for the faint of heart!
When dealing with sensitive topics such as war, murder, rape and all sorts of devastation — all of which are present in this story — being able to read a monologue of a character who knows the cost of all the horror of war really adds to the experience.
For a work of this significance and length, I am happy to say that you can tell (even as someone who barely knows the language) this was carefully translated with an eye to detail.
I might even concede that this title is too shocking at times, but Muramasa does land most of its key beats in such a way that I have been thinking about it all year.
Played on PC. Released in 2017.
I am not done with Final Fantasy XIV’s lengthy story yet. A little after publishing the first version of this post, I completed the second expansion, Stormblood, which means I’m playing Shadowbringers now, the third expansion.
That means I’m halfway done with expansion content for Final Fantasy XIV at the time of writing! Stormblood was quite enjoyable, with more great characters and excellent twists and turns.
I’d personally actually rank it quite high in terms of game satisfaction for this year, but I cannot say much about this game without spoiling things, so this will not be a ranked game.
Stormblood marks an excellent continuation of an already great storyline. I cannot wait to see what happens next. (Final Fantasy XIV is likely my most-played game this year, with ELDEN RING taking the number two spot.)
Played on PC. Released in 2021.
A game that will surely become a co-op classic, and great relationship therapy. I had to play this one with a buddy, but I imagine this is a fantastic game to play with a significant other.
I was stunned by the sheer volume of unique gameplay mechanics in this one! If you can find a friend or loved one to play this with… do it!
Played on PC and Steam Deck. Released in 2008.
A JRPG classic that I owned on PC, PS4 and on Switch. Ended up finishing the game twice: once on PC the first time through, and then again on PS4. This game has a phenomenal art style and soundtrack, and the gameplay has held up pretty good as well.
I remember trying the Valkyria Chronicles 4 demo when it released a few years ago on the Switch, and at that point I already owned the first game on PC… I just hadn’t gotten to it yet. Well, I’m happy that I finally finished it this year.
Played on 3DS. Released in 2011.
The penultimate main Professor Layton game on DS/3DS. I had a good time playing through the game and solving the puzzles, but the game was perhaps too similar to its predecessors. Still, the main mystery of the game kept me invested as usual.
Played on PC and Steam Deck. Released in 2021.
Automata’s spiritual predecessor, and a remake of NieR Gestalt. Sadly a tad bit too repetitive for my liking, but overall a decent experience with a stand-out soundtrack that I will be listening to for years to come.
I did only play through Replicant once and watched the other endings on YouTube: one must replay the second half of the game a couple of times in order to see all the endings, and I was not invested enough here to go through it. Perhaps it is my fault, since I started this after playing Automata.
Played on 3DS. Released in 2013.
I played this one on the 3DS, and had a great time just battling demons. I wasn’t sure if I was going to enjoy this dungeon crawling JRPG, but I did. Highly recommended if you still have a 3DS laying around and you haven’t played this yet.
I wanted to play this one (and its sequel, Shin Megami Tensei IV: Apocalypse) before starting Shin Megami Tensei V, which released last year on the Switch.
Played on PS5. Released in 2015.
A stunning (but flawed) cinematic experience. I understand why it was panned for its short length back in the day, but at a discount it is about as good as (or even better than) a Call of Duty campaign in terms of getting a short but enjoyable cinematic experience.
Played on Nintendo Switch. Released in 2018.
The first game of the Atelier Arland trilogy. Atelier games are cosy and cutesy JRPG games about cutesy girls doing alchemy to help the people they love (and sometimes save the world). Playing them feels like like crawling back into your bed on a cold weekend morning.
I played the Dusk trilogy a couple of years ago on PS3 and really enjoyed those three games back then. I’m pleased to have gotten around to the oldest of the “modern” Atelier games. I had a good time with this one. After making it to the end (I still need to play the epilogue) I moved on to Atelier Totori, which I also finished after this post was written.
Grand Strategy. Played on PC. Released in 2016.
I got into this because of a friend. This type of Grand Strategy game isn’t for me: I prefer the simpler Total War and Civ, but I can see the potential of the complex systems of the game. I will try to get into this one again at some point in the future.
Other than Fire Emblem Engage and the Legend of Zelda: Tears of the Kingdom, my release calendar for next year for games that I personally care about is rather empty, but that doesn’t mean that next year will be a sleeper year for me.
I have made a list of some of the highest rated games on my backlog that I really want to play, and I will be making my way through those games first. I also missed a few releases this year (notably Horizon: Forbidden West) that I really want to get around and play as well.
Overall, 2022 was a stellar year with ELDEN RING being the absolute highlight for me. But it wasn’t the only banger. I will not easily forget my top 3 games from this year. I must say, I am curious to see what that top 3 will look like next year, given my plans…
It’s easy to dislike open-world games due to the nature of the genre: many open world games try to fill their game worlds too much or too little. Balancing an open world game (and pacing one) is actually pretty difficult. I have played many games of this type and unfortunately, many suffer from subtle issues that decrease the player’s enjoyment. ELDEN RING definitely handles being an open-world game this rather well. ↩
These themes are, let’s say, handled in a more interesting way than the hamfisted approach of Detroit: Become Human. ↩
Unfortunately, you must own the previous two games in order to play this game mode. There’s an ongoing discussion about giving access to owners of WARHAMMER III to this game mode but restricting which factions they can play as, but nothing has come from that yet. This means that you need to spend quite a bit of money as a new player to be able to play the best content the game has to offer; I think that’s a bit unfortunate. ↩
Full Metal Daemon Muramasa (装甲悪鬼村正) was originally released domestically in Japan on October 30, 2009. This game is regarded by the visual novel community as one of the best stories its medium has been able to tell so far. Keep in mind that this is a brutal story about a man who, in the end, is more of an anti-hero than a regular hero. (The game’s description even disclaims: “This is not a story about heroes.”) In 2021, an English translation was released on JAST USA’s website and in 2022 a streamer-friendly version was released on GOG.com. The game is not available on Steam, which is unfortunate. ↩