Player Research’s Games of the Year 2022

19th December 2022

2022 had a few big-hitter titles that stole the spotlight what with Elden Ring, mainline Pokemon releases, and the new God of War being released. So it’s a surprise that this is one of the rare years where our team have produced a GotY list with no identical candidates. Guess that goes to show we have quite a diversity of tastes among us!

The last 12 months have provided space for countless adventures and experiences; games have enabled us to explore a post-apocalyptic West Coast USA, try to catch ’em all in an open world, scratch our heads scrubbing through mysterious film clips, have our ‘boy’ by our sides as we axe-fight with the Gods, step into the paw-prints of a platforming cat, and so much more!

It’s great to see many creative indie games stand side by side against the blockbuster names, and as ever it makes it so hard to just pick one game as an overall favorite. Note that our in-house rules permit the selecting of live service games with big 2022 updates/seasons, significant DLC for games that may have been released in previous years.

Read on to discover which games stole the hearts of our staff in 2022, along with some runners up and highly anticipated titles for next year.

Amy:

Stray

Image via https://coryschmitz.com/Stray

Stray captured a lot of hearts this year and I’m no exception. My only hope for Stray is that people remember it as more than just ‘the cat game’. That would be unfairly reductive. It makes Stray sound gimmicky.Stray isn’t gimmicky.

It’s a surprisingly beautiful and thoughtful game. It doesn’t take its story too seriously, or its characters. But despite that there are quiet moments of sincerity that felt very special – particularly the grand culmination (no spoilers).

It took me maybe three days to beat Stray, and I loved every second I got to spend in that world. The walled city is a wonderful playground, and I loved exploring the limits of where I could go – it never failed to delight me to realise, yes, of course you can go there, you’re a cat!

The mood and the atmosphere of Stray is such a big part of what makes it special; clearly BlueTwelve in not in short supply of exceptional artists and environment designers. The soundtrack also plays a huge part in this – no surprise, then, that it made an appearance on my Spotify wrapped this year.

Stray was a simply a delight. Whatever kind of game BlueTwelve decide to tackle next – small animal simulator or not – they’ve earnt a day-one purchase from me.

Honourable Mention:

Splatoon 3

Most Anticipated Game for 2023:

Atomic Heart

 

Brianne:

IXION

I’m a sucker for a good strategy game. Throw survival in there and I’m always excited. Now add a heart-wrenching story, a science fiction setting that we could see happening, and top it off with complex gameplay; That’s Ixion.

While it’s not everyone’s cup of tea, survival strategy is one of my favourite genres for games, and Ixion pulls it off beautifully. I’d been looking for a great and difficult survival-strategy game after burning through Frostpunk, and Ixion scratches that itch perfectly.

From its gorgeous sound to beautiful sights, to choices that can bend your morals, Ixion creates a setting I love. It’s punishingly hard, but holds such beautiful sights and sets a truly engaging story of survival, so I don’t mind replaying, again and again, to get the scenario right. If you like survival strategy, and like a difficult strategy game, give Ixion a go.

Honourable Mention:

Dying Light 2: Become Human

Most Anticipated Game for 2023:

Hogwarts Legacy

 

Chloe S:

Immortality

Image: © Half Mermaid

Immortality is so special; I feel I can’t get this kind of truly engaging, investigative gameplay anywhere else other than a Sam Barlow game. No other games have me whipping out my notepad and fervently jotting down clues, connections, and questions like I’m embodying a mystery detective!

It felt more ambitious than (the equally brilliant) Her Story, and Telling Lies, but I felt it pulled off each of the three film narratives excellently. The underlying meta-narrative was captivating, and a joy to discover via unique gameplay mechanics. I really appreciated the themes and underlying messages relating to femininity, abuse of power in the industry, and what it means to be a creative.

Another thing I love is the wide variation of personal relation and interpretation possible in a non-linear narrative experience like this. It fascinates me and fills me with awe to think of all the players who would have taken an entirely different route through the narrative, or found the “ending” far sooner or later than I did, and how that might have shifted what they got out of the game.

I also thought the acting in this game was exceptional and I was so invested in each of the three film strands as their own little mini-works, never mind the connections between them. Manon Gage was an absolute standout and bore the weight of Immortality’s ambitions magnificently, and Charlotta Mohlin was powerful and unsettling in the delivery of her scenes.

Immortality was just an incredible experience, and I can’t wait to see what Barlow has up his sleeves next!

Honourable Mentions:

Overwatch 2

Disney Dreamlight Valley

Most Anticipated Game for 2023:

The Legend of Zelda: Tears of the Kingdom

 

Ellen:

Cuphead: The Delicious Last Course

Image via https://www.eurogamer.net/cupheads-delicious-last-course-is-short-but-tastes-so-sweet

As a long-term fan of the game, Cuphead’s expansion The Delicious Last Course was an easy pick for my Game of the Year. While adhering to its beautifully iconic 1930s cartoon style aesthetics and catchy jazzy soundtrack, The Delicious Last Course brings some truly unique additional content in the form of gorgeous stages, incredible boss fights and even a whole new playable character: Ms. Chalice.

Ms. Chalice transitioning from a charming NPC to a fully playable character was to me the most exciting addition to the game, allowing the player an array of new play styles with extra skills and even a double jump, which could arguably be the game’s first ‘easy mode’ (I use this term liberally). As someone who believes unconditionally in the completionist lifestyle, having a fresh approach to the existing challenges this game offers feels just as sweet as the game’s title might suggest.

I also cannot conscionably praise this expansion without at least a brief mention of The King’s Leap; a series of fantastic mini bosses modelled after chess pieces, hosted by the aptly named King of Games. These extra little challenges bring a new layer of fun, rewarding the player with in-game currency and most importantly an intrinsic sense of satisfaction!The Delicious Last Course was originally planned for a 2019 release, but an extra 3 years for this masterpiece was unquestionably worth the wait!

Most Anticipated Game for 2023:

Final Fantasy VII Rebirth

 

Ely:

Overwatch 2

Image via https://www.godisageek.com/reviews/overwatch-2-review/

I hate myself for this but I seriously haven’t played anything else since it came out. I have a problem.

In 2017 I picked up Overwatch for the first time – drawn in by nothing more than the diversity of characters – and I was immediately hooked (by Roadhog, mostly 😉 haha). We’ve waited so long for Overwatch 2 and it’s finally here! Okay, it’s had a lot of teething problems since launch (and the cosmetics are extortionate) – but that aside, honestly, it just feels so good to get excited about my favourite game again!

The gameplay feels fresh, fights are so much quicker, and it feels like every role has impact. One less tank means that I, a lowly support main, don’t have to churn endless heals out all game and I actually have agency for once (buff Mercy!).

It has its fair share of problems but it would be disingenuous to my 800+ hours in this game to pick anything else.

Honourable Mentions:

Let’s Build A Zoo

Trombone Champ

Most Anticipated Game for 2023:

The Legend of Zelda: Tears of the Kingdom

 

Harvey:

Elden Ring

Image via www.artstation.com/artwork/NGEXrq

As someone who never really clicked with From Software games, I was surprised at just how much I enjoyed Elden Ring. The world-building, the secrets, the weird and wonderful enemies NPCs all combined to create a truly memorable experience, and one of the rare games that I found myself constantly thinking about, even when not playing it.

Although undoubtedly a punishing game, the fact that I could spend time grinding, levelling up and moderating the challenge for myself made it an enjoyable (albeit still tricky) experience. Being smacked around by a big scary boss, casting off into the wilderness to explore and level up, then returning to that boss and defeating it (after getting smacked around a bit more of course) was deeply satisfying.

Honourable Mentions:

Strange Horticulture

The Excavation of Hob’s Barrow

Most Anticipated Game for 2023:

Hogwarts Legacy

 

Jonny:

GTA Online

Image via https://www.dexerto.com/gta/gta-online-gets-halloween-map-changes-and-players-are-loving-it-1970900/

I play over a dozen games yearly but always return to Grand Theft Auto Online. This year they had several great additions and updates, the best being that now you can complete sell missions in a private lobby. Generally, I’m not a car guy or into racing, but I love driving, and being allowed to do sell missions in peace lets me focus on my favourite parts of the game without the hassle of other players.

I bought an ultrawide monitor earlier in the year, which makes the whole experience even better. Now, if they could activate the PS5’s controller’s adaptive triggers and haptic feedback on the PC, it would be perfect.

I couldn’t praise this year’s offerings without mentioning that we got two entire campaigns for free, but the real highlight this year was the Halloween event. They brought back all the cars from previous events, along with spooky encounters with a clone, aliens and a possessed car.

I just completed the first part of the Drug Wars campaign that dropped last week, and I can’t wait to see what’s in store next year. I’m particularly looking forward to the taxi missions and just driving around while listening to Phonk.

 

Timea:

As Dusk Falls

Image via https://www.rockpapershotgun.com/as-dusk-falls-review-a-gripping-adventure-that-deserves-a-prime-time-slot

I love interactive stories, but this game still surprised me with how much thrill and emotional turmoil it can create with narrative choice alone. I truly felt the consequences of my decisions and I kept thinking about them for days.

As Dusk Falls is also a very well-rounded package, as every detail is clearly thought through to fit the story well. It has a unique art style, and very smooth gameplay with timed choices to add tension.

I’ve played both solo and with friends, both experiences being vastly different. My solo playthrough was highly personal, feeling the weight of the story and how I influenced the events. Multiplayer was an interesting twist, however, as it utilises a voting system on choices. I was often surprised at how different people voted, and it was interesting to see how it changed the course of the narrative.

The game also features one of the most satisfying choice trees, where you can scroll through all of your decisions and see how many other options there were that you might never see.

Lastly, I really enjoyed how after every chapter, the game “profiled” me based on my in-game decisions, giving me an overview of my play-style. I’m glad to see As Dusk Falls gaining critical acclaim, including a recent win of the Games for Impact category at The Game Awards. I hope this means even more people will experience this amazing game in the future!

Honourable Mentions:

Two Point Campus

Cult of the Lamb

Most Anticipated Game for 2023:

Hades II

 

Ula:

Valorant

Image via https://twitter.com/PlayVALORANT/status/1601245300533895171/photo/1

In 2022 I didn’t play many games… and Valorant is to blame! This game took the majority of my gaming time, and some of my sleep time too! After briefly trying Valorant in 2020 and not having time to give it a proper play, I knew I wanted to go back. I really couldn’t wait to give this modern and colourful FPS a proper go, and finally did this summer!

4 months and 23 Twitch followers later, I’m in an absolute awe at how absorbing and well made this game is. The complexity that all the Agents and their abilities add to the play is outstanding. The GUR in me claps her hands joyfully atmany aspects, especially how 72 different abilities of 18 Agents are communicated through audiovisual feedback, and how minimal the UI is for such a complex title.

My very favourite thing is the sound design – it’s unlike anything I’ve heard before. I was gradually discovering nuances, not believing my ears… Imagine different characters having different walking feedback. Bear-like Brimstone in his heavy boots couldn’t make the same sounds as fast and agile Neon in her sneakers, could he? Steps on sand couldn’t sound like the ones on solid ground, could they? All the weapons and the weapon skins having different shooting, reloading, and headshot sounds that make such a difference to each gun’s feel! And finally, contextualised dialogue between Agents, reveal subtleties of the lore: “Killjoy, I could never wear that jacket but on you, superb.”, “Reyna, what you just did, je n’en reviens pas, I cannot believe it!”

Did I mention that characters speak multiple languages the game is localised for with an accent matching their original language according to the lore? Mind-blowing!

Phew.

My favourite Agent is Killjoy by the way, what’s yours?

Honourable Mentions:

Goat Simulator 3

God of War: Ragnarök

Most Anticipated Game for 2023:

Hogwarts Legacy


It’ll be interesting to see if people’s most anticipated line up with their games of the year at the end of 2023… Thanks for joining us in 2022, and we wish everyone a happy holidays and wonderful new year!

Written by:

Portrait of Chloe Snell MA
Chloe Snell MA

Games User Researcher


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