2022 has not wasted any time.
Whether because of shifting release calendars, less reliance on the retail sphere, or delays from the COVID-19 pandemic, the early months of 2022 became a perfect storm of video game release mayhem. We wandered The Lands Between. We deciphered secret languages. We explored 31st-century America. And as we made it out of the hectic AAA release schedule, we took the time to search for hidden gems.
And we found a whole bunch of them.
So, we’ve taken it upon ourselves to help you separate the wheat from the chaff — to recommend our favorite games from the slew of ambitious titles that come out as the months go by. We’ll be updating this page throughout the year, with the most recent releases toward the top, so you can stay up to date with all of the excitement (or at least as up to date as possible). We’ll also be doing the same for the best movies, the best anime, and the best TV shows of 2022.
Sniper Elite 5
It’s easy, for the uninitiated, to write off the Sniper Elite franchise as a hyper-violent Nazi-killing X-ray gore fest. It is that, yes. But it’s also a paragon for excellent level design, and Sniper Elite 5 continues that trend — in fact, it features some of the best sandbox missions I’ve ever played. They sprawl across mine-riddled beaches, bucolic wineries, and coastal chateaus, capitalizing on every chance to give you a sightline, however narrow, to the next soon-to-be-shattered Nazi skull.
This was no easy task, considering that the newest outing brings the franchise to World War II-era France, quite possibly video games’ most rote destination. But developer Rebellion Developments has found new ways to make the beaches of Normandy exciting. There are elements of IO Interactive’s Hitman trilogy on display here, as the roguish Karl Fairburne is forced to sneak into bunkers and cobblestone alleys, trading his trusty sniper rifle for a silenced handgun and close-quarters know-how. There are also abundant reminders of Arkane’s Dishonored games, with multiple approaches to every objective, ranging from non-lethal to what I can only describe as very lethal. Sniper Elite 5 has elevated an already fantastic franchise to the pantheon of the immersive-sandbox greats. —Mike Mahardy
Sniper Elite 5 is available on Windows PC, PlayStation 4, PlayStation 5, Xbox One, and Xbox Series X.
The Stanley Parable: Ultra Deluxe
The Stanley Parable is the most 2013 video game. You play as an office drone who steps away from repetitive days of data entry to wander the hallways of a mysterious office complex that branches like the pages of a choose-your-own-adventure book. It’s a walking simulator. It’s a satire. It’s a cheeky lampoon of video game storytelling, the limitations of player agency, and its serious contemporaries fixated on “games as art.” This is to say that The Stanley Parable was a video game about video games, from a period when the medium was at its most self-conscious and navel-gazey.
The Stanley Parable: Ultra Deluxe is the most 2022 video game. You play as an office drone who steps away from repetitive days of data entry to wander the hall of a mysterious office complex that branches like the pages of a choose-your-own-adventure book. But then you find New Content™. It’s a requel. It’s a postmortem. It’s a cheeky lampoon of video game monetization, the artistic limitations of mining intellectual property, and its audience-tested contemporaries fixated on “games as a service.” This is to say that The Stanley Parable: Ultra Deluxe is a video game about the culture of video games from a period when the medium has never been more powerful and mercenary. —Chris Plante
The Stanley Parable: Ultra Deluxe is available on Windows PC, Mac, Nintendo Switch, PlayStation 4, PlayStation 5, Xbox One, and Xbox Series X.
Warhammer 40,000: Chaos Gate - Daemonhunters
Like Gears Tactics before it, Warhammer 40,000: Chaos Gate - Daemonhunters (sigh, that name) boils the XCOM formula down to its bare essentials before building it back up into something wholly its own.
Daemonhunters puts you in command of a team of Grey Knights — basically Space Marines with a strong streak of religious zealotry — as you travel around a star system on a spacefaring cathedral. You customize the Knights, outfit them with ever improving gear, and upgrade their respective skill trees in an effort to synergize the perfect murder squad and stem a spreading Nurgle plague. It’s a testament to the skill of developer Complex Games that the turn-based combat is equal parts nuanced and bombastic, and for every explosion that rattles the screen, there’s also a quiet moment of triumph as a Justicar gets to a downed teammate just in time to extract the whole team. —Mike Mahardy
Warhammer 40,000: Chaos Gate - Daemonhunters is available on Windows PC.
This text-heavy, tabletop-inspired RPG feels like a cerebral, melancholic answer to the broader cyberpunk canon. You awaken on the space station Erlin’s Eye in a body that is and isn’t yours; your consciousness exists inside a humanoid machine owned by the corporation Essen-Arp. To prevent you — and others like you — from running away, you were built with “planned obsolescence.” You have to take a supplement in order to survive, and your first goal is to figure out how to stay alive. From there, the Eye opens up, revealing stories of the people there and the power struggles that govern their lives.
Pulling heavily from dice-based tabletop games, Citizen Sleeper forces players to make daily trade-offs — Do I want to repair the Ambergris, help Feng hack through the Eye’s secrets, or supply mushrooms to street vendor Emphis? — all with a limited and daily randomized set of dice. In contrast to other decision-driven games, Citizen Sleeper never makes me feel as if I’ve been “punished” for making a wrong choice. Mostly, it demonstrates how scarcity impacts decision-making — how living in survival mode means having to hedge and scrounge. As you progress, and find ways to nourish yourself, your options expand, yielding to the ultimate question: Do you stay, or do you once again escape? —Nicole Clark
Citizen Sleeper is available on Windows PC, Mac, Nintendo Switch, Xbox One, and Xbox Series X via Xbox Game Pass.
Rogue Legacy 2
Rogue Legacy 2 is a celebration of heroes and their differences. Every new heir brings a unique flavor to their roguelite run, ensuring that no two outings are ever the same: One Valkyrie might utilize a pizza boomerang to slice (lol) their way through enemies, while their Ranger descendant propels itself between platforms with flatulent intensity.
In this way, Rogue Legacy 2 is unusually fresh for a roguelite, putting it among the greats like Dead Cells, Slay the Spire, and Hades. In a genre that usually asks players to follow a discrete path or develop a consistent skill, Rogue Legacy 2 encourages you to find the joy in playing as unlikely heroes against uncertain odds. It’s just as good in short bursts as it is in marathon sessions, and it never stops surprising. —Ryan Gilliam
Rogue Legacy 2 is available on Windows PC, Xbox One, and Xbox Series X.
The Iron Oath
Tiny but mighty, The Iron Oath is an early access strategy RPG that nails the basics and, thus far, builds on them wonderfully.
The main storyline is about 10 to 15 hours so far, and the writing is functional, but the combat and management are rock solid. It all takes place in an unrelenting fantasy world on the constant brink of apocalypse, and the player runs a mercenary company. This entails keeping your troops both alive and happy as they work through dungeons, save lost souls, and fight back demons. The difficulty options are modular, and the game’s UI is clear enough to ensure that anyone can get off to a running start. This is a game to watch as it develops, but the starting foundation is strong enough to support hours upon hours of tactical challenges. —Cass Marshall
The Iron Oath is available on Windows PC.
Lego Star Wars: The Skywalker Saga
Lego Star Wars: The Skywalker Saga is as much about the evolution of the Lego video games as much as it is the story of the titular Star Wars family.
What started as a simple series about pantomiming through old movie franchises has become a fully voiced epic spanning nine movies. It features hundreds of characters, along with updated combat that brings depth to what was previously a hack-and-slash formula. It’s also a charming delight that remixes some of the most iconic moments in cinema history to make them feel fresh, while still giving players a chance to play the famous Death Star trench run for themselves. For children just getting into Star Wars or the Lego games, The Skywalker Saga is a smorgasbord of colors and magic, ensuring oohs, aahs, and giggles on every level. But for their parents who grew up during a different generation of Star Wars and Lego games, it’s a thrilling adventure nonetheless, and it does far more than simply leverage nostalgia. —Ryan Gilliam
Lego Star Wars: The Skywalker Saga is available on Windows PC, PlayStation 4, PlayStation 5, Xbox One, Xbox Series X, and Nintendo Switch.
Tiny Tina’s Wonderlands
With Tiny Tina’s Wonderlands, it feels as if Borderlands’ developers are finally comfortable letting go, and the results speak for themselves. Wonderlands is a joyful romp through tabletop-RPG-inspired worlds, with seemingly minor tweaks that create huge ripples in the series’ “Diablo meets guns” formula. You can combine two disparate character classes, traverse a board game-style overworld, and pour dozens of hours into the phenomenal “Chaos Chamber” endgame. Through it all, Gearbox is willing to acknowledge that we’re not here for a script, or even a coherent narrative, and it leans into that sentiment with an appropriately scattershot story — it doesn’t take itself so seriously that it sacrifices unpredictability, joy, or the satisfaction of mesmerizing, well-earned loot. —Mike Mahardy
Tiny Tina’s Wonderlands is available on PlayStation 4, PlayStation 5, Xbox One, Xbox Series X, and Windows PC.
Norco stands out for a lot of reasons: It’s a beautiful, honest portrayal of southern Louisiana, an inventive and dystopian science fiction story, and a sharp criticism of the oil industry’s blight. Created by Geography of Robots, Norco is an interpretation of Norco, Louisiana — the real town whose name stands for the New Orleans Refining Company, home to Shell’s manufacturing complex. As a point-and-click adventure, Norco unravels slowly as the main character, Kay, returns to her childhood home following her mother’s death. It’s all at once a magical realism story with mystery elements, yet still firmly rooted in a sense of reality — not an easy blend of genres to balance. The writing and simple environmental puzzles, together with a unique mind-map mechanic that acts as a character list and mental notebook, lend to a fast-paced story that still leaves room to stop and take in all of the poignant weirdness. —Nicole Carpenter
Norco is available on Mac and Windows PC.
Some games thrive on meaningful obfuscation. Tunic is one of them.
There are echoes of Myst, The Witness, and the original Legend of Zelda in developer Andrew Shouldice’s action-adventure outing. It has also drawn myriad comparison to 2012’s Fez, a game which also deployed its own unique written language to confuse, entice, and ultimately steer players toward its largest overarching secrets. Its combat can become cloying — especially during later boss fights — and its level design doesn’t always allow for the most leisurely backtracking. But its willingness to trust the player’s intelligence, patience, and most of all, thirst for discovery make it a masterful adventure in its own right. —Mike Mahardy
Tunic is available on Mac, Windows PC, Xbox One, and Xbox Series X.
Numerous games have tried to emulate the explorative wonder of 2017’s The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild, but Elden Ring is the first game to truly succeed. With a landscape that will take years to fully decipher, it is every bit the kind of game we’ve come to expect from developer From Software: mysterious, impenetrable, and ultimately rewarding. But its open-world trappings reframe much of the brutality of those games, and don’t detract from their challenges, but rather, encourage incremental progress over brute force. It’s not uncommon to get lost in a far corner of the map for a dozen hours, only to return to a previous challenge as a completely new character, with stronger powers and newfound wisdom at your disposal. This game is a marvel. —Mike Mahardy
Elden Ring is available on PlayStation 4, PlayStation 5, Windows PC, Xbox One, and Xbox Series X.
Destiny 2: The Witch Queen
Destiny has been through a lot since 2014: rocky release days, a global pandemic, and a sale to PlayStation, to name a few of its many obstacles. So it’s almost a miracle that, eight years along, Destiny 2: The Witch Queen is the best thing to ever happen to the series. With a new campaign, a new location, new weapons, and new powers, it’s more Destiny, to be sure. But it’s also Destiny without the qualifiers, or the conversations that are spoken with not a small amount of yearning: “Imagine how good this would be if Bungie did X, Y or Z?” Bungie has spent the past few years building on the potential of its massive experiment, and with The Witch Queen, it’s finally paying off. —Ryan Gilliam
Destiny 2: The Witch Queen is available on PlayStation 4, PlayStation 5, Windows PC, Xbox One, Xbox Series X, and Google Stadia.
Lost Ark is an impressive feat. Its outstanding class design and excellent ARPG gameplay would already be enough to set it apart from many of this year’s games, but it’s also a content gold mine. Originally launched in Korea in 2019, then adapted for release in Europe and North America this year, the MMO launched with fantastic endgame content right out of the gate (a rarity for the genre). And while Lost Ark’s already extremely rewarding in its own right, developer Smilegate RPG is promising more endgame content and new classes in the near future. It seems as if there’s still an exciting road ahead. —Austen Goslin
Lost Ark is available on Windows PC.
In Strange Horticulture, you sell plants. Though the plants may look ordinary, they’re anything but: There are plants that make people brave, and others that lure them to their death. Some are meant to increase focus or poison your enemies. It’s a simple game that’s executed with the utmost attention to detail. In running this plant shop, a strange, occult story unfolds through customer gossip and plants found via an in-game map. Strange Horticulture is short — it took just over five hours to complete — but it was one of the more impactful games I played this year. —Nicole Carpenter
Strange Horticulture is available on Windows PC.
Total War: Warhammer 3
There are ambitious games, and there are ambitious games. Total War: Warhammer 3 is the latter. Its map is bigger than those of its predecessors combined, and it launched with eight fantasy factions, each stranger and more grandiose than the last. It’s also exceedingly weird, and refuses to rest on its laurels as the strategy trilogy wraps up, instead pushing the envelope wherever it can. It transports players to ethereal Chaos Realms before warping them back to their homelands to battle diseased goliaths and shapeshifting demon lords. It is as far from a safe third installment as we’ve seen since Hitman 3. And if the DLC road map for Total War: Warhammer 2 was any indication, the next few years will get even weirder. —Mike Mahardy
Total War: Warhammer 3 is available on Windows PC, Mac, and Linux, and via PC Game Pass.
Horizon Forbidden West
The sequel to 2017’s excellent post-apocalyptic Horizon Zero Dawn is already one of the year’s best. Horizon Forbidden West takes so much of what made the first game great, and gives players more to work with: more settlements, weapons, and traversal options. It starts a bit slow, and can take a while to introduce some of its more creative gadgets — but it gets better and better as you unlock more tools for your arsenal. By the end, Aloy can glide off mountains, swim the deepest seas, and explore American landmarks along the west coast. This game’s gorgeous open world feels like a gift, and it’s easy to sink hours into exploring every gorgeous corner. Meanwhile, the character writing and world-building convey a civilization well worth saving. —Nicole Clark
Horizon Forbidden West is available on PlayStation 4 and PlayStation 5.
OlliOlli World, by Roll7, is fast-paced, colorful, and a real challenge — a gorgeous celebration of skateboarding and its culture. It’s also goofy and perfectly earnest, too, with more similarities to Adventure Time than Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater. In one moment, I’m doing a stalefish grab over aliens dancing in their underpants, and in the next, I’m racing a bear in a tube on a river. Though it’s fun and silly, it’s also very hard; to excel, you must master precision-based flicks and button pushes that test your limits. —Nicole Carpenter
OlliOlli World is available on PlayStation 4, PlayStation 5, Windows PC, Xbox One, Xbox Series X, and Nintendo Switch.
Dying Light 2
The immersive payoff in Dying Light 2 Stay Human requires a rather stiff time investment. The plodding story pacing isn’t helped by some of the reversals and outright nullifications that can happen later, either. But the game’s first-person parkour and combat gameplay are stand-up delights. However much time you choose to spend in the vast, locked-down city of Villedor, you won’t be bored by any of it. And, as a role-playing game, Aiden Caldwell evolves into a fascinating and powerful character, thanks to multiple storyline branches, decisions that have irrevocable consequences, and two perk trees that make his athletic capabilities even more exciting to see, let alone do for yourself. —Owen S. Good
Dying Light 2 is available on PlayStation 4, PlayStation 5, Windows PC, Xbox One, and Xbox Series X.
Vampire Survivors is a simple game, but it shouldn’t be dismissed. Hiding behind its retro graphics and cheap price is one of the most gripping games in years. There’s only one method of input in Vampire Survivors — movement — and it’s your goal to survive for 30 minutes while picking up weapons that automatically attack for you. My whip slashes nearby enemies every second or so, and my character lobs axes on a set timer. During each run, I choose new upgrades from randomized pools, combining them with other items to create the optimal build that’ll help me survive until the end. I’ve completed countless runs already this year, and I’ve unlocked all the new tools I can. But Vampire Survivors is one of the only games that keeps me playing just for the sheer fun of it, “wasting” 30 minutes every night as bigger and more sprawling games pass me by. —Ryan Gilliam
Vampire Survivors is available on Windows PC, Mac, and via web browser.
Pokémon Legends: Arceus
To say that Pokémond Legends: Arceus was a long time coming would be an understatement. In fact, I’ve fully embraced the Dunkey joke that this is actually the second Pokémon game ever made. It gracefully streamlines so many of the series’ tedious aspects (the mere act of catching Pokémon in real time is now satisfying as hell) that it’s a wonder Game Freak hasn’t tried this before. It’s also the first game in which I actually care about filling out the Pokédex, complete with each creature’s challenges and research tasks. It feels less like a hamfisted series of turn-based battles, and more like a contemplative, sometimes terrifying adventure into the wilderness to sate my collector’s appetite. —Mike Mahardy
Pokémon Legends: Arceus is available on Nintendo Switch.
Nobody Saves the World
Nobody Saves the World is a bizarre little video game, but it has left an indelible mark on my psyche. It’s a game all about shapeshifting — unlocking new powers to build yourself into the perfect weapon for the job, or a very specific tool needed to solve a single puzzle. It’s about exploration and experimentation. It’s funny and interesting, and, above all else, it’s deeply clever. In a year filled with so many big games, the size and grind of Nobody Saves the World seems small. But great things often come in small packages, and I won’t be forgetting Drinkbox Studios’ latest anytime soon. —Ryan Gilliam
Nobody Saves the World is available on Windows PC, Xbox One, and Xbox Series X through Game Pass.
Like Animal Crossing: New Horizons before it, Wordle’s biggest strength is its communal power. By offering a simple word-guessing puzzle that refreshes every 24 hours, it allows us to celebrate, complain, pontificate, and ultimately rejoice about one very specific and ultimately harmless thing per day, whether on social media or at the neighborhood bar. It has become a sort of lightning rod for heated discussions and considerate arguments alike. It has made me feel insufferably smart one day, only to remind me that I am, in fact, extremely dumb the next. It has also single handedly reignited my family’s text thread. Who among us will ever forget the day they encountered the word “vivid?” —Mike Mahardy
Wordle is available via web browser here.