As we tallied up the votes for this year’s Game of the Year list, I was blown away at how many quality games came out in the last 12 months. It’s been a veritable video game feast whether you like shooters or narrative adventures, strategy or whatever the hell we’re describing Vampire Survivors as.
What other year could you choose between, not just several different narrative games but ones that tell wholly unique stories, using mediums just as varied? As ever, if you’re not playing much and you need to know what’s essential in 2022, let us be your sommelier, offering up a video game testing menu of stuff you’re bound to adore. Chosen and written about by some of NME’s most trusted video games contributors, it’s a cracking list of things you might want to check out.
As ever with these lists, an apology. Marvel’s Midnight Suns and even Callisto Protocol would be worthy entries to this list, but review code came across too late to be considered for inclusion into this year’s list. It doesn’t mean they’re bad: I reviewed both, they’re pretty good! But maybe they should have been pretty good earlier in the year, eh?
Jake Tucker, Commissioning Editor (Video Games)
Words by: Andy Brown, Cheri Faulkner, Chris Wallace, Dom Preston, Jake Green, Jake Tucker, Jen Allen, Jenny Zheng, Jordan Oloman, Reid McCarter, Tom Regan, Vikki Blake
20. A Plague Tale: Requiem
Platforms: Nintendo Switch, PC, PS5, Xbox Series X|S
A Plague Tale: Requiem is the rare videogame sequel that feels like a truly essential follow-up. Its portrayal of a 14th Century France rendered apocalyptic by the conjoined horrors of the Hundred Years’ War and the Black Death is necessarily grim, but not cheaply sadistic or without glimmers of hard-won hope. Requiem’s lush soundtrack and painterly visuals are well suited to pleasant scenes set in sun-baked Mediterranean idylls as well as moments of operatic terror that take place within impossibly vast dark caverns filled with roiling seas of vicious rats. The willingness to highlight both the beauty and the pain of a life lived in terrible times – to find joy amidst widespread misery – doesn’t just make Requiem compelling on an immediate dramatic level. It also offers a stirring and clear-eyed ode to human perseverance. RM
Best Bit: Shortly after sibling duo Amicia and Hugo believe they’ve found reprieve from war and plague in a peaceful city, their illusion is shattered with a climatic scene where screeching rats erupt from the ground in quantities so massive that Amicia must flee through alleyways and over rooftops as stone walls and towers are swallowed up all around her by the rodent swarm.
19. We Are OFK
Platforms: Nintendo Switch, PC, PS4/PS5
At face value, We Are OFK is about four friends coming together to form a band – but scratch beneath the surface of this visual novel, and you will find so much more. A colourful tale that explores what it means to create art and share that passion with others, We Are OFK flits between hilarity and heartbreak as it bounces through its five-episode act. For the player, these episodes revolve around helping the cast communicate with each other through texts, drinking sessions and fiery arguments. Each character’s personality and emotions are explored in touching detail – meaning by the time you hit the credits, you’re left feeling intimately familiar with the entire band.
If the premise of this Los Angeles epic isn’t enough, We Are OFK is built around a shimmering, poppy five-track EP – so whether you’re laughing or crying your way through an episode, your foot will be tapping along the whole time. AB
Best bit: The gorgeous, creative music video to ‘Follow/Unfollow’
18. Bayonetta 3
Platforms: Nintendo Switch
When it comes to dazzling digital destruction, nothing this year comes close to Bayonetta 3. From pummelling enemies with demonic trains in Ancient China, to 2D shoot ‘em up homages and Kaiju showdowns, Bayonetta 3 is a gushing love letter to all things video games. In many ways, it’s the antithesis of God of War – the anti-Western blockbuster.
Where many AAA games yearn to be treated as film-esque high art, Platinum’s long-awaited threequel proudly celebrates the medium’s arcade-y roots, eschewing po-faced realism for captivating carnage. With our heroine now able to summon screen-filling behemoths at the press of a button, it’s also the closest we’ll get to experiencing the dragon-taming of Platinum’s sadly cancelled Scalebound.
Sure, combat may lack the pixel-perfect precision of its predecessors, but make no mistake – Bayonetta 3 is a classic. Like Nintendo’s moustachioed plumber before it, each new level ups the ante, elevating you to even giddier gamer highs. Every year, critically acclaimed releases arrive and are swiftly forgotten, but Bayonetta 3 will still be revered in decades to come. TR
Best bit: The sheer spectacle of Bayonetta’s first Kaiju-on-Kaiju boss fight
17. Metal Hellsinger
Platforms: PC, PS4/PS5, Xbox Series X|S
If Guitar Hero and Doom had a gun-toting demon baby, the proud parents would have named it Metal: Hellsinger. On this hellbound rhythm-shooter, players must gun down hordes of demons to the beat of a fiery metal soundtrack from the likes of Serj Tankian, Trivium’s Matt Heafy and Arch Enemy’s Alissa White-Gluz.
Hellsinger’s score is an extraordinary feat, and turns each of the game’s tightly-crafted levels into miniature concerts of screaming guitars, thundering drums, and plenty of bloodshed. In an equally metal plot, you follow a heavily-armed demon through the depths of hell, on a quest to reclaim her voice from the devil. Predictably, the devil is keen to keep it for herself – kicking off four hours of fast-paced, catchy carnage.
If you can keep up with Hellsinger’s breakneck pace, you will be rewarded with this year’s loudest, most gratifying shooter – and plenty of new favourites to add to your Spotify playlist. AB
Best bit: Getting your hands on The Hounds, a lethal set of dual pistols, for the first time
Platforms: PS4/PS5, PC
Part third person shooter, part dystopian roller skating arcade game, and from the team behind the OlliOlli franchise? Rollerdrome seems like a strange mix to say the least. The second you get your hands on the controller, however, it all clicks into place wonderfully.
The skating in Rollerdrome feels sharp, and manages to be just simple enough that you’re able to shoot down rockets, perform split-second dodge rolls and switch weapons as you go. Reloading is tied to tricks – just one way Rollerdrome constantly pushes you towards experimentation. All of this is paired with a dystopian plot in which players compete in a deadly game show to earn cash prizes. It’s skate or die, with only one winner.
On paper, Rollerdrome shouldn’t work. In practice, it’s basically a rhythm game, with just the right blend of challenge and spectacle to keep you going. Yet another must-play from the folks at Roll7. JG
Best bit: Spider Tank enters the arena for an epic boss fight.
Platforms: PC, Xbox Series X|S, Xbox One
A murder-mystery plucked from the tapestries of 16th-century Bavaria, Pentiment is a masterclass in storytelling from Obsidian Entertainment. When the small town of Tassing and the nearby Kiersau Abbey become embroiled in a shocking murder, it’s left to journeyman artist Andreas Maler to find the killer – but as this decade-spanning story unfurls by interrogating residents and pointing fingers, it becomes clear that Maler has stepped into a perfect storm of conspiracy and small-town drama.
The most intriguing thing about Pentiment is that you will never truly know if the results of your sleuthing were correct – characters will live and die by your deeds, and it’s on you to decide if you made the right calls. This has a sublime effect on your investigation: the drive to keep your conscience clean will send you plumbing Tassing’s figurative and literal depths for clues, but tight deadlines mean Maler physically can’t exhaust every suspicions. The game’s stakes always feel painfully high – and as a result, Pentiment is sure to go down as one of Obsidian’s finest. AB
Best bit: The incredibly satisfying ending, which wraps up the game’s biggest mystery – no spoilers!
14. Hardspace: Shipbreaker
Platforms: PC, PS5, Xbox Series X|S
In space, no one can hear you engage with capitalism. Blackbird Interactive’s cracking space salvage-’em-up manages to blend in work sim and critique of capitalism into a nice bow, but it mostly works because pulling spaceships apart in zero gravity feels so good, and there’s a real craft in carving apart these space hulks for profit.
The best part is when you realise that totally salvaging a ship actually isn’t the most efficient use of your time and start tanking half of the ship into the bin. Soon, you’ll use small C4 charges to blow a ship into easily-salvageable chunks. There’s a craft to Hardspace: Shipbreaker that makes it one of the most compelling games of the year.
It’s also one of my biggest regrets of the year. While everyone knows NME review scores are objectively correct, if I would have known how Hardspace: Shipbreaker would have burrowed into my brain for the entirety of 2022, I probably would have given it five stars. JT
Best bit: The first time you successfully salvage a reactor, slingshotting it into the salvage bin with your grapple hook.
13. As Dusk Falls
Platforms: PC, Xbox One, Xbox Series X|S
A family on a tense road trip from California to Missouri crash into a family of criminals in a tense hostage situation in a small-town motel with explosive stakes. Through it all, you’ll try to keep a cool head and make the right choices to keep your people safe. Whoever your people end up being.
As Dusk Falls is a masterpiece in plotting, characterisation and story, that takes its cues from prestige TV. You’ll care about everyone here, which makes the relatively low stakes feel almost overbearing. As Dusk Falls tells you a lot, particularly with the things it doesn’t say.
As a result, you have a tense thriller that’s more Dog Day Afternoon than As Dusk Falls’ narrative video game compatriots, but that just makes it an even more essential inclusion onto any backlist. Cracking performances and a unique art style only add more polish to an exception title. JT
Best bit: The game’s entire tense first act is unmissable.
12. Neon White
Platforms: Nintendo Switch, PC
What if we took a custom signature from a gaming forum in the early 2000s and turned it into a video game? We’d probably get something like Neon White, an impossibly cool speedrunning FPS set in the kingdom of Heaven. With typography evocative of cult classic anime, minimalist glass ocean backdrops and neo-Metalheart aesthetics, Neon White curates a knowing stylistic niche that feels like being hit in the face with an air cannon.
Yet unbelievably, it also has the mechanical substance to match its despicably handsome art direction. Airtight platforming and meticulous gunplay make every map feel like a carefully-designed Source Engine surfing spot, where delusion, faith and luck have to collide so you can defy your friends on the leaderboards. Give it 30 minutes and you’ll be trying to pull its vicious hooks out for weeks, and that’s before you can address the impact of its moreish Machine Girl soundtrack. JO
Best bit: Stacking Soul Cards to invent a previously non-existent path so you can shave precious frames off of your completion time.
11. Mario + Rabbids Sparks of Hope
Platforms: Nintendo Switch
Mario + Rabbids: Sparks of Hope could have played it safe and just been a revision of the original game. Instead, Ubisoft managed to make a tactical RPG feel remarkably open given the concept. When battling it out, you have more flexibility than a grid would ever give you with real-time movement providing a different level of strategy than before. It removes the harsh nerdiness of a strategy game while still offering all the good bits.
Unlocking Sparks, creatures that reinforce your abilities on the ground, provides far more depth than the first game could ever achieve without ever feeling intimidating to any type of player. And, of course, it oozes the charm of a Mario game with some gorgeous animations of all the characters you control. The story may make little sense but you won’t care about that. Bigger and better, it’s one of the best Mario spin-offs around and a fine introduction to an ordinarily niche genre. JA
Best bit: Lining things up perfectly so Mario leaps from Princess Peach’s head to dash across a foe, just as Luigi peppers shots elsewhere.
Platforms: Mobile, PC, Xbox Series X|S
From the mind of Sam Barlow, the creator of Her Story, comes Immortality – an investigative tale that burns through reel after reel of cinematic drama. The premise is simple: your job is to uncover the fate of fictional actress Marissa Marcel, who starred in three films that mysteriously never made it to the silver screen. This horror-tinged tale plays out by scrubbing through archival footage of each film, looking for clues as to Marcel’s untimely disappearance.
You can click on everything from a burning cigarette to a bad wig in your search for answers, and each will feed into another vaguely-related clip. As a result, Immortality quickly becomes an intricate spider’s web of intrigue – one that grows increasingly more difficult to untangle yourself from as Marcel’s story grows darker. Impressively, Immortality runs for just a few short hours – though its twists and turns will remain with you for long after. AB
Best bit: There are too many twists to choose from, but that devilish moment in ‘Ambrosio’
Platforms: Nintendo Switch, PC, PS4/PS5
Sloclap’s follow up to Absolver brings the martial arts revenge flick to life with a cool twist: your character has a magic artifact that will return him to life when he dies, a few years older. Now, you have one night to get revenge on the gang that killed your father. The night won’t stop until they’re all dead or you are.
Sifu’s strength lies in its martial arts. Combat demands patience and precision, and is rewarding for anyone willing to put in the effort to get good. It’s packed full of memorable fights, whether it’s fighting through an apartment building, a dance floor or even an entire museum full of goons.
It’s punishing, sure, but an easy mode added after launch has made it more manageable for those who just want to enjoy the ride. JT
Best bit: An early game homage to Korean revenge movie Oldboy gives you a corridor full of goons and a memorable brawl.
8. God of War Ragnarok
It’s hard to imagine how anyone can take a critical darling like God of War Ragnarök‘s 2018 predecessor and hope to match it, let alone attempt to improve it. But that’s exactly what Sony Santa Monica set out to do with one of gaming’s most highly-anticipated sequels ever.
Whilst its core ingredients remain unchanged – the combat still feels meaty and satisfying; the story remains bombastic and compelling – the frozen fjords and breathless vistas of God of War Ragnarök‘s nine realms are a fitting backdrop indeed for a world besieged by squabbling gods. Sure, at times it’s a struggle to keep pace with the intricacies of Ragnarök’s cast of duplicitous deities, but with every swing of the axe and monosyllabic mumble, you’ll move Kratos and Atreus’ story closer to its astonishing climax. VB
Best Bit: Smash, bash, crash, and smash again, Boy, but take your time: the nine realms are stunning, and some journeys are best savoured.
7. Sniper Elite 5
Platforms: PS4/PS5, Xbox One, Xbox Series X|S, PC
With its fifth entry, Rebellion’s sneak and snipe franchise is showing some true class. Sniper Elite 5 is shlocky, with players taking the role of German-American sniper Karl Fairburne as he shoots and sneaks his way through dismantling another Nazi plot.
You’ll wander around France sabotaging the entire war machine, in densely packed levels that are a joy to poke and prod at. Bizarrely, sniping feels almost secondary to the entire experience, but strong level design and combat makes this a blast.
The tone is weird – music and dialogue combine to show you this is a game mostly designed with looking at World War 2 through the lens of an over-excited WW2 dad. Regardless, the actual mechanical play of the thing is so good you’ll forgive the tone. JT
Best bit: A French chateau offers up a surprisingly deep murder puzzle for those willing to play along
6. Marvel Snap
Platforms: Android, IOS and PC
What right does a free-to-play, licensed card game for smartphones have to be this good? It helps that Marvel Snap comes from a team of ex-Blizzard staff including former Hearthstone director Ben Brode, but this is its own beast.
Fast-paced enough to finish in a minute or two, Snap plays out over just six turns, with three locations to play cards at. Dominate two of the three and you win the game – and if you’re feeling confident, you can make like Thanos and ‘snap’ to double the stakes.
Cards range from the MCU’s biggest stars to deep cuts like the Infinaut, and the random locations change the rules up each round, so no two games are ever quite the same. You can throw real money at Snap, but only for cosmetic flair you can unlock through playing too, like variant cards with different artwork or upgrades to frame-breaking designs and shiny logos – the heart of the compulsive loop that always makes you play just one more
Best bit: Crushing an opponent who had the audacity to snap at you first
5. Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2
Platforms: PC, PS4/PS5, Xbox One, Xbox Series X|S
With Infinity Ward at the wheel, Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2 delivered everything we wanted from this year’s blockbuster shooter. The range of multiplayer modes ensured thrills for players of all calibre, while increased lethality across the board makes every match feel like you’re driving a car at 90 mph…in the wrong lane.
However, Modern Warfare 2’s surprise triumph was its single-player offering. The game’s campaign sends players racing across the globe in a hunt for stolen missiles, and stamps every country it visits with an explosive shootout. Expect to swing makeshift knives through a small Mexican town, tear up the docks of Amsterdam with a shotgun, and methodically work through the floors of a Chicago skyscraper, picking off foes Die Hard-style.
This year’s reboot also paints many fan-favourite characters with a refreshing bit of life: a cheesy action quip from the cast’s youngest member – which would have been at home in most other Call of Duty’s – is met with a tired “fuck off” from Ghost, while series icon Captain Price takes up the mantle of the group’s grizzled murder-dad. Combined with the rest of Modern Warfare 2’s no-frills thrills, Infinity Ward closed out 2022 with a resounding bang. AB
Best bit: Taking part in an explosive prison break
Platforms: Nintendo Switch, PC, PS4/PS5, Xbox One, Xbox Series X|S
Tunic pulls inspiration from the Dark Souls and Zelda series to present this gem. You play as a small animated fox on a mission to traverse dangerous worlds and uncover secrets. Created by indie developer Finji, Tunic opens up worlds before your very eyes, encouraging you to slip into seemingly impossibly small gaps, cross enigmatic dungeons laden with lasers, spikes and traps before throwing you into boss fights that take multiple attempts to succeed whilst also having the heart to provide a “no fail mode” for the story seekers amongst us who just want to progress.
Paying close attention to the seemingly nonsensical manual quickly unveils the secrets to success in Tunic. The game works with the player to give an insight to what works well in this weird world, whilst never hand-holding or becoming overbearing. There are no button-mashing menus and no free information but that’s what makes Tunic so satisfyingly fun. The nostalgia value of reading handwritten notes makes the heart pang for 1997-era Sega games in a wonderful way. Figuring out the journey alone is difficult but the ending(s) are so worth the many hours poured into this fantastic game. CF
Best bit: Working out how to achieve the two different endings – the bad ending and the true ending – without any hand-holding.
3. Vampire Survivors
Platforms: PC, Xbox One, Xbox Series X|S
The top-down chaos of Vampire Survivors is easy to understand at a glance: it’s a bullet hell shooter, the screen full of monsters and projectiles. However, here you’re the bullet hell, with your character putting out damage in every direction, as you move through a flood of enemies picking up XP and getting exponentially more powerful.
A rogueite played in 30-minute bursts, every Vampire Survivors build offers a distinct flavour: going big on garlic means you just wade into the nearest crowd, while a holy cross will boomerang back past you, meaning the most damage is dished out to those behind you.
Because each game will end at the 30 minute mark with the arrival of an unkillable big bad, so the game is constantly pushing you forwards: to be aggressive, to experiment, to learn and improve. If you think Vampire Survivors doesn’t look like much, you just haven’t played it yet. JT
Best bit: When you discover the true power bestowed from your first weapon evolution
2. Total War: Warhammer 3
I tend to rinse through games quite quickly, so a few years back, I spent a long time trying to find a ‘forever game’. A Destiny or an MMO to learn inside-out. The joys of no-lifing a complex game to mastery felt like a crucial gaming experience I was missing out on. But everything I tried, I eventually fell off before hitting that 100 hour mark. Then, I found the Creative Assembly’s Total War: Warhammer series.
That I’ve managed to put over a thousand hours into this fantasy-themed strategy trilogy is still wild to me, but what’s even wilder is the way all those hours were spent. Creative Assembly’s mix of turn-based and real-time strategy has so much variety and depth that I barely ever feel like I’m repeating things. Whether you’re on-the-ground commanding legions of troops in battle, or directing your empire from an apocalyptic campaign map, Warhammer 3 reinvigorates and adds new relevance to everything that came before it.
It’s difficult to talk about Warhammer 3 as its own entity – it’s more a punchline to an excellent yarn CA have been weaving for the last half decade. But it’s also hard to talk about The Return of the King in isolation, and that doesn’t make it any less glorious. There are more consistent strategy games out there, but none with this level of wild ambition. There are deeper strategy games out there, but none this utterly intoxicating. NR
Best bit: Giggling to yourself as Skaven do, well, Skaven things.
1. Elden Ring
Platforms: PC, PS4/PS5, Xbox Series X|S, Xbox One
Well, of course it’s Elden Ring. FromSoftware’s first foray into open-world games is grandiose, stunning and varied, a realm of endless challenge containing all the developer’s classically hard combat, gruelling corpse-runs and punishing bosses, bundled up together with current generation graphics.
There are caveats, ones long-term Dark Souls fans are used to. The shameless mining of assets from older games; the obscure user interface; the interminable debates about whether the game’s non-linear, breadcrumbed story-bites count as a narrative (and who cares if GRR wrote it?)
But this isn’t just for the fans. After all those arguments about an easy mode, From has quietly shown us that it can serve the hardcore and a less-skilled audience at the same time. New players are aided by new mechanics like summonable AI allies, easier rune-farming, the many paths (including hidden ways to bypass bosses), a summonable mount, and accessible character respecs – whilst you don’t have to engage with player invasions unless you really want to. With these elements, we could all find our own pace.
And as we did, as we progressed, the world just kept opening up and up and up. In Elden Ring, you are a stranger in a strange land. Whereas the other Tarnished have history in this world, you don’t and stumble into the middle of its intrigues, ignorant of expectations and rules, as represented hilariously in the official comic. The deeper you go, the stranger the place gets – until by the end you’re making decisions about its fate that you can’t possibly comprehend.
Exciting, weird, challenging, rewarding, obscure, bleak… Elden Ring is a justifiable choice for our game of the year. DG
Best Bit: The way Elden Ring uses stunning vistas to show your objectives: Stormveil looming over Limgrave, the reveal of Liurnia and Raya Lucaria afterwards, the descent to Siofra River, the dragon in Leyndell…