ComingSoon’s Top 20 Games of the Year
As 2021 showed, gaming does not take a year off. Few years demonstrate that more than 2022, as it was jammed full with a ton of excellent games. As such, here are ComingSoon’s top 20 games of 2022, which are separated by an ordered top 10 and an alphabetical list of our favorites that just missed the cut.
Cult of the Lamb
Cult of the Lamb is a master at balancing. It’s half roguelite and half farming sim and its tone varies between being cute and disturbing. And somehow, it all works. This charming little dungeon crawler’s ability to fuse its disparate halves into a unique whole is impressive and makes it stick out. It’s also refreshing to play a roguelite and sim game that doesn’t demand dozens upon dozens of hours, meaning Cult of the Lamb is sweet séance that doesn’t eat up too many nights.
Digimon has always been more willing to embrace darker themes in its narratives than most other creature-oriented franchises, and Digimon Survive is the latest proof of this. Centered around kids who are trapped in what seems to be another world — one filled with both friendly and fearsome monsters — Digimon Survive has some heavy moments that don’t hold back. The game’s simple grid-based tactical gameplay and intense visual novel segments make for a compelling and unique Digimon title that anyone can jump into, regardless of their experience with the franchise.
Elden Ring is the next big step for the soulslike formula. Its open world is key to this transformation, as it has opened up the genre in a truly staggering way. A lot of games have exploration, but almost none of them have true exploration like Elden Ring where players are guided by their eyes and not a small question mark on a map screen. This more immersive and rewarding approach means there are surprises around every corner, many of which are covered in spikes and poisonous barbs. Because of its focus on freedom and mystique, Elden Ring is an empowering yet mysterious RPG that is likely going to be the beacon for the genre going forward.
Lego Star Wars: The Skywalker Saga
The sheer breadth of content in Lego Star Wars: The Skywalker Saga is a marvel, but the completely redesigned combat and expansive open galaxy make it a truly special experience. TT Games could have continued with its tried-and-true formula that has worked in so many other Lego titles, but the developer went all out and crafted an entirely new combo system that makes combat far more fulfilling. Alongside multiple planets filled with collectibles and secrets, this drastic improvement made Lego Star Wars: The Skywalker Saga a blast to play and well worth celebrating.
Mario + Rabbids Sparks of Hope
A mixture between Mario and the Rabbids still should not work, but, as Mario + Rabbids Sparks of Hope shows, it does. This sequel has the tactical gameplay from the original, but is more open and customizable. Having access to new ability slots gives players greater freedom over what they can do in combat, which is essential in a strategy game like this. Combined with the radically different characters and upgrades, Sparks of Hope is a rewarding tactics game that is good enough to almost completely make up for the annoying Rabbid voices.
Heavy metal and blasting demons are, ironically, a match made in heaven and that is partially why Metal: Hellsinger works so well. Shooting, reloading, dodging, and performing executions to the beat is exhilarating since the action thumps as the bass drum does, creating a wonderful feedback loop that encourages rhythmic play. Having to constantly maintain a beat and perform actions to it means players have to stay engaged to slay Hell’s finest or risk getting mauled. It’s a clever and empowering system that’s metal in nearly every sense of the term.
Signalis takes cues from the PS1 era of Resident Evil and Silent Hill games with its fixed camera and vibes, but it’s so much more than a throwback. This tightly paced horror game uses those inspirations well without overly leaning on them and modernizes the formula where appropriate. It’s got a fixed camera, but smooth, non-tanky controls. The art style emulates the PS1 look but still manages to be utterly creepy and grotesque. It has puzzles typical of the genre, yet they’re almost all intuitively designed and fit within the world. It’s an unnerving world at that, too, with a mysterious story told to the player indirectly and in pieces.
Much has been said about Sonic the Hedgehog‘s recent titles, but Sonic Frontiers has provided fans with an exciting new foundation for future Sonic titles. The less linear approach to the series’ iconic speed-oriented platforming served as a welcome change to the formula. There’s certainly room for improvement, but the future of the Sonic franchise hasn’t seemed this bright in quite some time.
Stray is about more than it lets on. It may seem like it’s just about a cat and it does live up to that fantasy; effortlessly jumping to high places is empowering and knocking over small objects is quite funny. However, the game intelligently uses this feline perspective to more intimately navigate this broken world trying to put itself back together. Its dystopian hellhole is awash with flickering neon lights and intricately dense buildings that all give it the life its robotic characters are so desperately trying to find. It’s thoughtful, charming, and full of soul, something cats are not always known for having.
Xenoblade Chronicles 3
Xenoblade Chronicles has become modern JRPG royalty for good reason. The latest installment, Xenoblade Chronicles 3, built on what was already established while telling a compelling story about mortality. Pushing the Nintendo Switch to its limits with its huge world and grand visuals, Xenoblade Chronicles 3 really does it all, tying together past titles while being one of the most satisfying RPGs to come out in recent memory.
10. Neon White
Ben Esposito went from making a hilarious yet thoughtful game about a raccoon sinking a town into giant holes with Donut County to a game that is decidedly not like that. Neon White is a fast-paced speedrunning title where players have to gather cards that are either guns or some sort of movement ability in order to briskly get to the end of the level. Smashing records and getting gold is dependent on how well players choose to use each card, which leads to an experience that simultaneously rewards strategic thinking and reflexes. The anime-inspired story and setting around it make for pleasing window dressing, but the snappy controls and unique gameplay loop are the true stars here.
9. Stanley Parable: Ultra Deluxe
Stanley Parable: Ultra Deluxe sells itself short as part of a joke. The framing implies that it is just a console port and nothing more. But that’s so far from what it actually is and it uses that assumption to shock players and tell its weird, self-referential tale. Its old jokes still stand up, too, and they are complemented by an array of new gags that fit the same tone and are written just as well. Stanley Parable: Ultra Deluxe is a remarkable achievement in comedy within games both in terms of raw writing, but also because of how it subverts its setup in order to fully and confidently commit to the bit.
8. Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Shredder’s Revenge
Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Shredder’s Revenge is unabashedly cashing in on nostalgia, but it is not just a pixelated ploy to reel in ‘80s kids. This turtle-powered beat ‘em up takes the general tempo from the older arcade entries, but modernizes them for a contemporary audience. Animations are more expressive, backgrounds are lively, and the melee combat is a tad less mashy thanks to its expanded move sets, all of which are set to an incredible synth-heavy soundtrack. There are heaps of references to the old games and some deep TMNT cuts, but it’s also a well-designed game in its own right that transcends nostalgia and is more than just a collage of mindless callbacks.
7. Kirby and the Forgotten World
Kirby has made one incredible transition to 3D with Kirby and the Forgotten World. This new dimension allows for new gameplay opportunities that take advantage of the pink blob’s power-sucking ability. Players can suck in large traffic cones to break ground, summon a whirlwind to traverse hazardous terrain, or, well, fire a gun, all of which have their uses in platforming or combat.
Stages are vibrant despite their apocalyptic backdrop, but, more importantly, are also designed well enough to utilize different powers and hold plenty of secrets. With plenty of levels to scour through, bonus stages to master, and an incredibly bonkers ending, Forgotten World is a lovely and wholesome experience worthy of Nintendo’s cutest mascot.
6. OlliOlli World
OlliOlli2: Welcome to Olliwood was a huge step up from the original, and OlliOlli World is a similarly massive upgrade. This remarkable sequel maintains the combo-based flow state inherent to the series, but builds on it or improves it in nearly every way. Wall rides and firecrackering down stairs add more possible ways to move through a level, while the grab, grind switching, and late tricking systems allow for more trick customizability. Utilizing all of this and moving through a level in one long combo is endlessly satisfying, as it takes skill that players naturally learn; there are no skill trees here.
But OlliOlli World goes a step above by offering something for players of nearly all skill levels. It’s possible to just peacefully skate to the exit and hit gnarly tricks along the way, yet it also has something for those who want to nail every route with perfect timing. The multilayered challenge system gives more to those who want it and delving deep makes this entry almost endlessly replayable. When combined with a more pleasing and unique art style and an astonishing amount of customization, OlliOlli World is a brilliant skating game that keeps giving and giving
5. Horizon Forbidden West
Horizon Zero Dawn was a promising title and Horizon Forbidden West makes good on that teased potential. Forbidden West takes the foundation laid by that debut, but expands everything accordingly. Battling robotic beasts is still a tense affair that forces players to think tactically in the moment for survival and analyze what parts they might need for crafting later on. And with a greatly expanded bestiary and weapon wheel, it’s got even greater variety this time around.
Forbidden West’s narrative strides are also just as noteworthy since its more nuanced animations are more equipped to convey its story. Characters don’t just stare at each other anymore and instead emote appropriately, which helps humanize its many characters and allows its grander tale land with more impact. It also manages to keep the sense of mystery the first game had and steadily leads the player along with a deluge of well-paced breadcrumbs, all of which lead to one eye-opening cliffhanger.
It sets up a high-stakes sequel, but that doesn’t diminish what Guerrilla Games did with Forbidden West. Improving on almost everything from the first game is a remarkable feat and demonstrates the team’s flexibility and how it went from dabbling into RPGs to making a genre titan in just a few years.
Sloclap’s Absolver was a frustrating shell of a game, but it had some promise nestled into its overly complicated gameplay and misguided multiplayer setup. Sifu clearly showed that the studio learned from all of those freshman mishaps since it is all of Absolver’s best parts and more.
Sifu’s action has some of the strongest melee combat in years because of the grace and thought put into every action. Players have to stay alert and gracefully deflect blows and counterattack when they see an opening or cleverly use the environment to their advantage. The controls for doing so are responsive, which lets Sloclap crank up the intensity. Sifu is a challenging game on its two higher settings, one that requires its students to learn its intricacies and resist the urge to button mash. The road to becoming a kung-fu master is immensely rewarding because of that climb as overcoming hardship is what leads to Sifu’s many euphoric highs.
3. Stranger of Paradise: Final Fantasy Origin
Renowned Japanese developer Team Ninja helped take 3D action games to new heights with its Ninja Gaiden reboot in the early 2000s and showed more recent mastery within the genre with its Nioh series, which took the action in a soulslike direction. All of the studio’s past expertise was key in making Stranger of Paradise an incredible game that succeeds far past the original sales pitch of Nioh with Final Fantasy enemies (which admittedly is pretty awesome in and of itself).
While not as punishing (unless played on higher difficulties) as Nioh, Team Ninja was able to implement a fast-paced battle system that requires parrying and careful use of skills to succeed. Enemy encounters end with brutal attacks that see foes crystallized and smashed, which plays into the game’s ongoing theme of chaos and violence.
While the story initially is fun for its undeniably hammy campiness, it surprisingly becomes a memorable tale that completely recontextualizes the original Final Fantasy thanks to one of the best gaming twists in recent memory. Stranger of Paradise: Final Fantasy Origin ultimately packs a narrative and emotional punch that is just as brutal as the finishing blows that Jack dishes out to anyone that gets in his way.
2. AI: The Somnium Files – Nirvana Initiative
Zero Escape creator Kotaro Uchikoshi has spent the past decade cementing himself as the best writer in all of gaming. While Uchikoshi didn’t direct the sequel to 2019’s AI: The Somnium Files, he still wrote Nirvana Initiative, which manages to outdo its predecessor in every area from puzzle quality to the shocking murder mystery that is at the core of its narrative.
While Nirvana Initiative is mostly a stand-alone experience since it takes place several years after the original, the way it works with its predecessor is truly genius. Nirvana Initiative builds off the expectations that players have from the first game and subverts them later on in some stellar ways. The interactive timeline that it uses to tell multiple stories even delivers an incredible twists in and of itself. All of this just shows how thoroughly each beat is thought out and how it continually delivers twist and after twist.
The gameplay has also been improved, as the memory worlds the player visits have a ton of variety and different types of puzzles to solve and don’t rely on the frustrating trial-and-error that made some parts of the original a chore. There’s even a full-blown role-playing game level in one of the worlds, for example, and there are plenty of secrets that reward fans for looking into every nook and cranny.
Despite seemingly being all over the place with its humor and tone, Nirvana Initiative ultimately provides a stellar story that comes together to tell an inspiring saga that features plenty of thought-provoking elements that stick around long after the credits roll.
1. God of War Ragnarök
Santa Monica Studio had a herculean task ahead of it when rebooting the God of War series. That weight of that undertaking did not subside with God of War Ragnarök, as the team created such a high bar for itself. But despite those odds, Santa Monica Studio succeeded since God of War Ragnarök is a better game in just about every way.
Ragnarök’s gameplay is more refined from top to bottom. Not only is its traversal more streamlined, but its combat is also a fair bit deeper. More involved and layered arenas give crafty players more ways to dispose of enemy forces and the way Santa Monica Studio has layered in more moves means players are more empowered than ever. The vastly expanded bestiary also means even the most hardened veterans will have to think on their toes and use these various tools in order to come out victorious. Its variety of tools means it can be a fast-paced, juggle-heavy character action game, but it still retains a bit of methodical play with its newly expanded emphasis on shield-based defensive moves. This interplay means Ragnarök is able to both be a strategic action game as well as a true test in reflexes where forward momentum is key; a gratifying and rare combination.
While impressive in its own right, it’s myopic to only focus on Ragnarök’s combat since its storytelling chops are as sharp as Kratos’ Leviathan Axe. Santa Monica Studio created a journey where each step is almost directly foreshadowed yet is still engrossing because of all the little details. Kratos and Atreus’ relationship is tested and the way in which the studio examines this bond is unpredictable in the ways that it twists and turns. Many of its other characters also get similarly compelling arcs, ones that round out the cast and provide more backstory and meaning to the world. These arcs also cleverly take shape in its side missions and show that the studio didn’t fluff up the game with extra quests just because; it all serves a purpose.
A decent chunk of this worldbuilding spills out in its many optional conversations, which provides backstory during traversal but also demonstrates how thoroughly this game was created. Even the writing on these short journeys is poignant, often providing some worthy anecdote or even a funny joke that displays how the game masterfully bounces between tones while keeping its characters at the forefront. Of course, the performances during the critical path cutscenes are exquisite and benefit from the superb camerawork and animation that highlight the subtleties such a narrative-focused game needs.
Because of the many touches like this, Ragnarök is an unmitigated success that wraps up the saga in spectacular fashion. And not only is it a deeper and denser game than its forebear, but it’s also the best game of 2022.