Five games from 2022 you need to play this Christmas
Giving a definitive list of the best games of the year is a virtually impossible task when a single title might take over 100 hours to fully complete. So this isn’t a best-of list, rather a recommendation of some games that have moved, surprised or gripped me over the last 12 months, from a free-to-play card game to one of the most brilliant action RPGs ever to grace our screens.
While lists like this are subjective, reductive and generally unhelpful, there was one game that almost everybody would agree is a masterpiece of the form: Elden Ring.
The latest game by Dark Souls and Bloodborne creator From Software is a vast, dense, inscrutable, elegiac sandbox to explore on the back of your ghostly steed. You will face off against huge, melancholy foes, become embroiled in quests both mundane and world-altering, and die more times than you can count, all while trying to work out what on earth is going on.
The legendary combat is better than ever and the unique worldbuilding the studio has become famous for – western fantasy filtered through a Japanese lens – is taken to the next level in a game that will be talked about for decades to come.
It seems absurd to include in this list a game that not only came out in 2020, but was so unfinished, so utterly unplayable, that it was subsequently removed from the PlayStation store and became an international joke.
But 2022 was the year Cyberpunk was finally knocked into playable shape – and it’s actually really good. While not quite living up to the studio’s own hype – perhaps no game could – Cyberpunk is now a solid all-round RPG, offering a gripping central story, some excellent side-quests and some genuinely interesting build options, all set in a world that’s a pleasure to explore.
It’s not perfect, still too sparse and unpopulated to really feel like the decaying metropolis it wants to be, but if you’re looking for an open-world action RPG to get your teeth into, now’s a great time to jump in.
Pixel-art point-and-click adventure Norco is both an homage to Lucas Arts games of yore, and a forward-thinking sci-fi adventure in its own right.
You play Kay, a young woman who returns to the run-down Louisiana town of her childhood following the death of her mother. Set in the near-future following the collapse of the American government, Norco now resides in the shadow of a vast refinery, which, having sucked dry both the earth and the local populace, is now a crumbling monument to greed. But a mysterious orb spotted above the swamps offers a potential way out…
Norco ruminates on the legacy of slavery, the brutal consequences of corporate monopolies, ecological collapse, the difficulties of familial bonds and our complicated relationship with faith, all painted in the wonderfully nostalgic art style of games children of the 80s will have grown up with.
Scorn is a love letter to Alien designer HR Giger and Polish painter Zdzisław Beksiński, a horrific trudge through a biomechanical nightmarescape that would make a xenomorph feel out of sorts.
It’s essentially a walking simulator with some light environmental puzzles and some rudimentary survival horror sections. Nothing is explained – there is no dialogue – and you must feel your way through the hostile alien world, often literally.
Everything you see in Scorn feels like it has been made for a terrible purpose, but one you can’t possibly comprehend. Are you here for it, or is it here for you? Are you food for some unknowable creature, or are you a part of it? Was this world built, or did it grow?
There are few games quite as singular as Scorn in their mission to make your skin crawl.
When I see the words “free to play” next to a game, I tend to run for the hills. It’s a system of monetisation that encourages developers to hide gameplay behind arbitrary paywalls, sidelining enjoyment in favour of persuading you to buy another wedge of its in-game currency.
But Marvel Snap is free-to-play done right. It’s essentially a card battler in the vein of Hearthstone or Magic the Gathering or Gwent, in which you face off against other players using an ever-growing collection of Marvel heroes, each of which have a unique set of abilities (one card, for instance, might double the power of other cards you have played that turn).
Each game only takes a few minutes and there’s a constant feeling of micro-progression as you earn in-game currency for completing daily and weekly challenges (such as beating opponents while playing cards of a certain power). The free-to-play system doesn’t gate progress, although it will allow paying players to access certain new cards early and progress faster.
Having played almost 50 hours since it launched, I’ve only paid £2.50, which seems like exceptional value to me.