As the gaming world stops for another year, ESTNN looks back at our Game of the Year 2022, plus a few honorable mentions.
So, for the list. We had our team submit their own personal Top 10 lists, with points assigned to each game. Ultimately, we think it gave us a really interesting list of games, with a few surprises. Each game will feature a paragraph or so from one of the writers who nominated that game the highest, and we'll include where each person included said game. In the end, we'll have one or two honorable mentions that just missed out. Note that not our entire staff submitted lists (just 9 in total), and not everyone submitted a full list of 10 games (just three people did).
The rules of our list and what games are included:
- Only games out in 2022 before December 1st
- Titles after will go into next year's list
- No console/PC rereleases of a game
- No remakes/remasters
- No DLC
- Expansions could be included, though none made the list
Game of the Year 2022
10 - Victoria 3
David H - Personal second spot
My year started with me finding a surprising fondness for Paradox's other grand strategy title, Crusader Kings 3. I've seen these titles for years but have always been scared of them. While I'm a massive fan of Total War and other strategy titles, Paradox's titles always seemed one step too far for me. That all changed with CK3, and when Victoria 3 came around, I was quietly hyped for it. I skipped the initial week, watched some of the chatter around the game and eventually made the leap.
While it took me some time to get to grips with it, I found myself loving a game I never expected I would. Now, it helps that, like, with CK3, I like the setting of Victoria 3. Though, for a change, I didn't play as the UK/Britain for once. With them being one of the major powers, I went with the country I now call home, Sweden. oh, boy, was it an adventure. While I ultimately failed, mostly due to me letting Norway gain independence and then not having the backup to squash a socialist uprising. I still loved the defeat. I'd later return to Sweden and make up for the loss, this time, I would make it to the end game and 50 hours later, I knew I'd played one of my favorite games of the year.
9 - The Knight Witch
The Knight Witch is a shoot'em up Metroidvania by the studio with arguably the best name in the business, Super Awesome Hyper Dimension Mega Team. You can check out our review here. Its hand-drawn graphics alone as super charming. This goes from the fantastic backdrops of the levels you'll be exploring to all its characters, enemies, and even beautifully animated spells. The game is brimming with personality in every single aspect, especially in the writing. What starts off as a by-the-numbers affair of saving the world from evil turns into a rather delicate tale about the consequences of your actions.
All of this comes together in a neatly packaged Metroidvania wearing the coat of a twin-stick shoot'em up. There is a whole bunch of stuff for you to explore and discover and if the game had only its shooter aspect going for it, it would still be excellent. But it turns out that those two genres go together quite beautifully. The challenging nature of the shoot'em up makes looking for upgrades and new abilities much more engaging. And levels are never too vast to be disorienting and backtracking is mostly kept at a minimum. In short, The Knight Witch is an amazingly complete package of a game.
8 - Pokémon Legends: Arceus
Joseph S - Personal second spot
Responsible for the evolution of Pokémon as a franchise, Legends: Arceus gives us a huge piece of the history and lore behind the Pokémon World. Taking place in the ancient Sinnoh region known as "Hisui" Legends: Arceus delivers a captivating story, a brand new region full of exploration and discovery, and plenty of tidbits for long-time fans to evolve their Pokémon knowledge. The game's atmosphere is ancient and natural, full of various landscapes to be admired and explored. As the premier trainer in Hisui, you are responsible for not only catching Pokémon, but also making discoveries about their habits and abilities. It turns the player into a major key in Pokémon history and mixes mainline game elements with a unique style so influential it helped the direction of the next mainline games.
7 - Neon White
Timo - Personal first spot
What happens if you combine the movement tech of the old Quake titles with an unhealthy addiction to speedrunning and '90s anime? You get Neon White by Angel Matrix. A first-person shooter jump 'n' run is all about slaying demons as stylishly and effectively as possible. Speed is the game's name, and you're rewarded and encouraged to play its almost 100 levels as fast as possible. The music by Machine Girl is also fantastic and only further elevates the game's heavenly aesthetic.
Neon White convinced us not only because of its charming story and Dreamcast-Esque aesthetics but also the depth of its gameplay. It's easy to pick up and doesn't require extremely good reflexes or precise inputs to master, either. Instead, you learn how to use all the tools at your disposal and are constantly encouraged to rethink the way you approach a level. And its timed challenges and the global leaderboard encourage you to keep on optimizing. You can read our full review of Neon White here if you're still not convinced to give it a shot.
6 - Total War: Warhammer 3
David H - Personal first spot
When I looked back at the year, for the longest time, I just couldn't settle on what my top pick was. I enjoyed God of War, and loved Victoria 3 but was Elden Ring really my favorite game? It was my first Souls-like. I loved it and completed it. For about a week, it was first on my list, but then I looked at my Steam played, and realized just how many hours I'd put into Total War: Warhammer 3 this year. Somehow, It'd completely escaped me that the game was released this year, but when I did, I knew it had to take the top spot.
I'll be the first to admit, without the Immortal Empire update (added the giant 3 game map to the title), it may not have taken my top spot. However, it did come out, and it was a game-changer. It's a pick that will shock many and certainly did within our staff. But, when it came down to it, it was the game I enjoyed the most, played the most and will likely continue to play as more DLC comes out for it.
5 - Sifu
Timo - Personal third spot
Sifu is easily the best pure action title of the year, it is probably the best action title since Devil May Cry 5 and I don't say that lightly. Coming from the brilliant minds at Sloclap who made the severely underrated PvP-RPG-Coop title Absolver it is yet another love letter to martial arts. Not only is it one of the prettiest games that came out this year, but it also managed to convince us with its amazing depth in gameplay and the level of expression it allows the player.
The best kind of praise you can give a title is that it achieves exactly what it sets out to do. Sifu is a playable Kung Fu movie that draws from a wide range of inspirations. While your first few attempts will end in failure, Sifu manages never to feel unfair. It is a title that shoves you around and demands you to be better. And once you start to master the combat systems, every encounter will turn into a graceful dance that'll put fear in your enemies. Since its launch, Sifu has gotten various updates, including difficulty modifiers, challenge modes, and a replay feature, making the game infinitely replayable.
4 - Kirby and the Forgotten Land
Joseph S - Personal first spot
In Kirby's first venture into 3D open/linear level design, he absolutely stole the show for Nintendo. So many games disappoint us time after time, from framerate issues to graphical displays and bugs galore in most AAA games. After years of watching the industry lower its standards, HAL Laboratory is still unwilling to drop to that level. Kirby and the Forgotten Land is a very well-polished game with innovative and original gameplay, a beautiful and fitting soundtrack, and extreme variety in gameplay. Platforming, puzzles, action, and even time trials.
Kirby and the Forgotten Land isn't renowned as just one of the best Kirby games but as one of Nintendo's best franchise hits. Alongside other games that redefined their series, like Mario Odyssey and The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild, Kirby and the Forgotten Land shows us that there is still so much to come from the Nintendo franchises that have dominated the industry for decades.
3 - Stray
Jish B - Personal second spot
With an evocative, heartwarming story, overtones of philosophy and existentialism, fascinatingly fresh elements of exploration and arguably the most adorable protagonist ever, Annapurna Interactive and BlueTwelve Studio’s Stray jumped onto our laps back in July. They stayed in our hearts well after we were finished petting them. We were up to here in post-apocalyptic worlds inhabited by gaggles of hungry monsters in video games. Still, Stray changes things up by not only making those monsters weirdly cute, but also by filling the world with the most interesting robots on this side of Blade Runner.These robots had personalities (ranging from nice to nasty, but always nuanced) and charm in spades. Navigating such a world as a cat desperate to get back to its family was quite the adventure, and with an equally lovable amnesiac flying android in tow, every bit of progress was rewarding.
The game's beauty lies in the atmospheric lighting, brilliant attention to detail, and occasional injections of lively color rebelling against a world that seems like it would actively throw it out had it been sentient. The sound design and music added a great layer of ambiance and substance to the game, with the main character providing a much-needed shot of life into an otherwise inorganic world. The gameplay was simple and not very challenging, but you can tell that the game's focal point is the story and its heart, not the obstacles in the way. Stray might not be everyone’s cup of tea, but with millions of copies sold and overwhelmingly positive reviews everywhere you look, it’s a solid, adorable adventure for just about anyone who enjoys one.
2 - God of War Ragnarok
Santa Monica Studio's 5th entry in the infamous God of War franchise is coming in second. The second entry of the Norse duology picks up right where God of War (2018) left us. And continues the tale of Kratos and his son Atreus as they face off against the Asgardian pantheon while navigating their way toward Ragnarök.
Not only does God of War: Ragnarök know to convince with stunning graphics and a beautiful art direction, but also outstanding performances from all the talent involved (special shoutout to all the fantastic localization efforts). Through and through, God of War: Ragnarök is not only an outstanding sequel that elaborates on everything God of War (2018) has established but also brings the story to a satisfying conclusion that had us breathless until the credits rolled.
1 - Elden Ring
Paul G - Personal first pick
First-time Souls players who were willing to sink their teeth into Elden Ring were in for an awesome treat when FromSoftware released their most accessible title with the help of prolific writer G.R.R. Martin. Elden Ring’s plethora of customization options granted players a large variety of playstyles. Whether you chose a magic sorcerer build or a more melee-focused Tarnished majorly affected the difficulty of your experience.
This innovation and the existence of rare drops made every playthrough a unique experience in The Lands Between. The action RPG hit replaces a properly-told story with grand vistas and intriguing questlines, all of which raise more questions than answers. But despite constantly looking for guides to painstakingly complete Elden Ring’s narrative puzzle, the payoff — especially after beating a colossal boss on the ninth try —always feels extremely satisfying.
Two Point Campus
Two Point Campus is a breath of fresh air among all the games released this year. Its quirky humor combined with easy controls makes for a fun experience building the weirdest university possible. I’m just kind of sad we can’t attend wizardry and medieval knight lessons in real life.
Session: A Skateboarding Sim
Some might wonder what this does here; we have given Session a meddling score of 6.5/10, after all. Simple, out of all the games released this year, Session is the only one that I still put at least 5-10 hours into every week. Because Session's better than the sum of its part, while it sports lifeless, empty environments and deadeyes NPCs handing out generic tasks in text boxes, it is clear this isn't what Session is made for.
No, Session is made for the kind of video game enjoyer that happily puts in hours just to land one trick exactly the way they wanted to. In many ways, it simulates the art form that is street skating so perfectly that it's easy to mistake it for the real thing sometimes. This is achieved by delicate controls that offer its players the ability to micro-adjust their inputs obsessively in rich environments with infinite opportunities to express themselves.
So if you have any love for the sport of skateboarding, especially the expressive subgenre of street skating. Session is exactly what you're looking for. Trust me. Once you get familiar with its controls, it's really hard not to pick it up once a day just to scout a spot and shred it to bits and then carry on with your daily activities. Session's just good for the soul.