In a year filled with long epics, it’s the shorter games that stand out. “Elden Ring” deserves Game of the Year honors, but the long-form adventure was one of several that dominated the charts.
Sometimes it’s better for a game to buck the trend and stand out. It’s also one of the biggest reasons for my favorite game of the year. Here are my top 10 games of the year.
1. “Marvel Snap” – The most popular gaming machine on earth is not a console. It is the smartphone, but many core players do not take this platform seriously despite the huge audience. Second Dinner’s Card Battler should make them reconsider this opinion.
Built from the ground up for the smartphone, the free-to-play game takes advantage of the medium with its vertical layout and the way cards appear three-dimensionally based on how players tilt the phone. But the biggest draw is how “Marvel Snap” fits into everyday life.
The short but satisfying play sessions and portability mean it’s great to play if you have a busy life that includes, say, putting a baby to bed at 2am. With many maps and strategies to pursue thanks to its rotating and randomized locations, it is a game that tests the players’ ability to adapt to their opponents and circumstances.
Best of all, it’s a title that feels like free-to-play players can compete against grizzled veterans. “Marvel Snap” does not ask players to buy packs of random cards. Instead, there are cards as players upgrade the looks of their own collection, and over time they can amass a solid set. (iOS, Android and PC)
2. “Elden Ring” – Software’s epic adventure in the Lands Between dominated the conversation for the first part of the year. Director Hidetaka Miyazaki successfully adapted his “Souls” formula to an open world and created an expansive continent that begs to be explored.
Players can venture into the unknown, but they better be prepared to die. Since this is a “Souls” type game, the difficulty is merciless. It will frustrate the players, but in their struggle they will also find the exhilarating thrill of victory and other life lessons that have always been at the heart of Miyazaki’s games. (PC, PlayStation 5, PlayStation 4, Xbox Series X and Series S, Xbox One)
3. “God of War: Ragnarok” – The sequel to one of the best games of 2018 continues to push the boundaries of video game storytelling. Sony’s Santa Monica studio follows Kratos and his son, Atreus, as they once again attract the attention of Odin. The boy has a connection to Ragnarok and the campaign follows the two as they try to fight fate.
Despite all the goofy moments, it’s the acting (Christopher Judge gives a fantastic performance as Kratos) and the quieter moments between father and son that separate this game from other adventures. “Ragnarok” will stay with you long after the credits roll. (PlayStation 5, PlayStation 4)
4. “Bayonetta 3” – Platin Games knows how to make action titles and its flagship franchise with the Umbran Witch shows the extent of that mastery. For each chapter of the franchise, the developers have managed to outdo themselves in terms of creativity and gameplay.
With this third entry, the team roars forward with Bayonetta against a multidimensional threat. The campaign takes players to multiple realities as they encounter fascinating versions of the protagonist, all while the team incorporates new weapons, combat techniques and paths of traversal for a frenetic yet deeply playable experience. (Nintendo Switch)
5. “Horizon Forbidden West” – Sony has booked a great year for its first-party titles with this follow-up to the amazing “Horizon Zero Dawn”. This sequel follows Aloy again as she encounters a new threat in the post-apocalyptic world.
She must find a way to repair the terraforming program that is rebuilding the Earth when she encounters a technologically advanced group called the Zeniths. Her adventure to finish them off and unite the warring tribes of the West is as exciting as it is beautiful.
Open-world adventures like these are often bogged down with uninteresting side quests, but director Mathijs de Jonge and the team at Guerrilla Games find fresh ways to make these forays better than another paint-by-numbers job. They offer a master class on how to turn these optional experiences into rewarding must-play adventures. (PlayStation 5 and PlayStation 4)
6. “Road” – BlueTwelve Studio had probably the best new protagonist of the year. The titular orange tabby stole players’ hearts as they controlled the cat through a mysterious underground world. After being separated from her friends, Kitty must navigate a strange realm filled with robots and flesh-eating monsters.
As a cat, players have plenty of agility and quick reflexes, but the addition of a helpful artificial intelligence called B-12 lifts the narrative and makes this adventure more than just a cat simulator (although there’s nothing wrong with that). It tells a surprising story about loss, perseverance and the kindness of the human spirit. (PlayStation 5, PlayStation 4 and PC)
7. “Splatoon 3” – Nintendo has finally put all the pieces together and created a family-friendly shooter packed with content for all types of players. Competitive gamers will find a robust online mode that is less difficult than previous entries. Fans of the cooperative game will find plenty of reasons to jump into the Salmon Run Next Wave.
Those who want a single-player experience will find an exciting adventure that takes players through the mysterious Alterna Guardians. It highlights the world of “Splatoon 3” and its origins.
All modes are linked by a progression system focused on gear and collectibles that will keep players busy until the next wave of content comes out. (Nintendo Switch)
8. “Kirby and the Forgotten Land” – The pink puffball celebrated its 30th anniversary, and Nintendo pulled out all the stops with a special concert in this fantastic platformer from HAL Laboratory. It is the first game in the series that is in full 3D and elegantly translates the hero into the new style.
Kirby still has his copy ability, which lets him steal the powers of his enemies, and players can use those powers as they save more Waddle Dees. Additionally, Puffball has a Mouthful Mode that lets him swallow large objects like cars or vending machines, giving him ways to open up new areas and defeat powerful enemies.
“Kirby and the Forgotten Land” was one of the best games in the series in years and one of the top family-friendly adventures of 2022. (Nintendo Switch)
9. “Mario + Rabbids Sparks of Hope” – The sequel to one of the best strategy games in ages is even better than the original. “Sparks of Hope” retains the unpredictable and combo-heavy nature of its combat system, but this time Ubisoft Milan and Ubisoft Paris have refined it even more, giving players more freedom and also increasing the depth thanks to the introduction of sparks that add modifiers for Attacks and Abilities.
Throw in new characters like Bowser, Edge and Rabbid Rosalina, and players have plenty of heroes to take on Cursa and his minions. The project explores more of the game landscape that touched the original and makes more inventive missions that make the game shine. (Nintendo Switch)
10. “Gran Turismo 7” – Although Sony’s flagship racing franchise has lost ground to the “Forza” series, Polyphony Digital’s latest entry has shown that the developer still has a lot in the tank. The team doubled down on the sim aspect of the series to create an experience that feels good on the DualSense controller.
But the most enjoyable part of the project is the GT Cafe, which despite its simplistic structure offers a convincing campaign. It does a great job of introducing and celebrating car culture to fans. (PlayStation 5 and PlayStation 4)