20. Marvel Snap
Lightning-quick matches, collectible superheroes and enticing simplicity make this the smartphone card game of dreams. Free of convoluted rules and sprawling decks, this is card-battling boiled down to the elegant essentials. Evocative comic-book art betrays a genuine love for the Marvel source material, too.
What we said: A wonderful combination of nostalgia, fun and challenge. If the seemingly unstoppable Marvelisation of popular culture must continue, let it at least occasionally throw up gems like this.
19. A Little to the Left
A puzzle game that draws upon the human talent for pattern recognition to turn us all into neat-freaks, rearranging books and cutlery and stationery by size, colour, shape, or whatever else feels right. So satisfying that it frequently elicits a sigh of happiness when a puzzle is complete and everything is as it should be.
What we said: The impression is of a project made with great care and love.
18. Return to Monkey Island
PC, Nintendo Switch
Sometimes when a beloved thing from the past comes roaring back again, you rather wish it had stayed safely coddled in your memory. But happily, Return to Monkey Island is full of old friends we’re delighted to see again. Full of piratical point-and-click puzzles, affectionate writing and voice acting that raises a smile.
What we said: A tale that retreads old paths but also clearly wants to be more than just an ode to a bygone era.
17. OlliOlli World
PC, PlayStation 4/5, Switch, Xbox
Chill vibes only in this charming, welcoming skating game, where having a good time and expressing yourself feel just as important as stringing tricks together for high scores. It’s snappy and delightful to play, amusing to look at and excellent fun, capturing the irreverence and charm of modern skate culture.
What we said: From its free-spirited counterculture flavour to its flamboyant aesthetic, this is the gaming equivalent of a weekend trip to Brighton.
16. Horizon Forbidden West
It would have been difficult to even imagine a game as vast as this a decade ago. Flame-haired robot-dinosaur hunter Aloy’s seemingly unending quest to fix the mistakes of her planet’s architects is so huge that you can get lost in it sometimes, but it’s a stunning feat nonetheless, exciting to play and awe-inspiring to look at.
What we said: A damn good time, and a stunning example of just how good video games can look in 2022.
Historical games tend to tell grand heroic stories, but not Pentiment: here you are a manuscript illustrator in a small Bavarian town that is about to be convulsed by the Reformation. It’s a tale told with empathy, about the ordinary lives of people living through a time of immense change.
What we said: A game that provides a wonderfully evocative window into the past.
14. Neon White
Nintendo Switch, PC
Described as “a game for freaks” by its designer, this parkour-shooter-meets-anime-card-game speedrunner defies categorisation, and is more interesting for it. Its levels are elegantly designed for you to shave milliseconds off your times with each run, creating near-endless potential for self-improvement. Its cast, meanwhile, is a bunch of cringeworthy, posturing nerds that you can’t look away from.
What we said: Neon White’s chaotic presentation and somewhat puerile script conceals a game of taut design and striking imagination.
13. Splatoon 3
Nintendo’s colourful, family ink-splattering shooter might not be bringing anything that new to the table, but it’s just SUCH fun, and so inimitably stylish. A quietly innovative single-player adventure brings a creative intellectual challenge alongside the usual turf wars and chaotic shootouts.
What we said: I’ve been playing versions of this game on and off for seven years now, but the fun doesn’t wear off.
12. Total War: Warhammer III
The finale of a grand, operatic fantasy war trilogy, this huge-scale, high-stakes strategy game sees eight factions of gloriously overwrought daemons, dwarfs, undead and ogres fight epic battles and sieges to build and secure their empires (and lay claim to supernatural demonic power, of course). An absurdly generous sandbox for Warhammer fans to play in.
What we said: Warhammer’s real trick has always been how it stays tongue-in-cheek about its own excess while still worldbuilding with earnest imagination, and Creative Assembly caps off the trilogy with some of its most gripping – and funniest – writing.
11. Nintendo Switch Sports
It’s not complicated, but swinging a controller around to play tennis or fling a bowling ball or kick a giant football is always, always fun. Nintendo Switch Sports is a game that welcomes all-comers, from competitive kids to nervous dabblers. Recaptures all that was great about the glory days of the Nintendo Wii.
What we said: None of these sports would be enough to sustain a game alone, but together, and paired with Nintendo’s charming, slick aesthetic and brain-infesting music, they are the makings of a good time.
10. Bayonetta 3
If you fed the weirder bits of the Book of Revelation and a bunch of action anime series to an AI, you’d probably come out with something like Bayonetta 3. The hypersexual demon-and-God-slaying witch takes us on a truly wild ride, resulting in one of the most out-there exhibitionist gaming spectacles you’ll ever play.
What we said: Bayonetta 3 is a reverent hymn to video games in all their glorious silliness.
9. The Case of the Golden Idol
Irresistible to fans of detective fiction, this intelligent, elaborate mystery game revolves around a cursed treasure, and has you examining ornate crime scenes frozen in time at the moment of every different victim’s death. It lets you piece together every last thing yourself, and makes you feel very clever for doing so.
What we said: A game of wondrous, Sherlockian texture that plays out in our own imagination as much as on screen.
8. Cult of the Lamb
PC, PlayStation 4/5, Xbox, Nintendo Switch
A twisted kawaii art style and unbelievably compelling gameplay loop made this weird game about a sacrificed sheep one of the surprise hits of the year. Above ground, build your following and look after your cultists; below ground, battle demons in an effort to free an eldritch God.
What we said: The overall effect is darkly, fascinatingly cute: mall-goth meets folk horror, and the perfect set dressing for elegant, sharp gameplay.
Remember the days when video games’ secrets were hard-won knowledge, gleaned from painstakingly studying paper manuals and trading stories in the playground? Tunic does. It yearns for – and recreates – a time when games felt unknowable and enticing, before video walkthroughs and social media spoilers. A wonderful, nostalgic, but innovative adventure that feels like a step into the unknown.
What we said: It feels like a luxury to play a game that isn’t constantly prodding you towards the next objective, and that instead allows you the space to daydream.
PC, Xbox, PlayStation
A magical-realist lament about a real-life small town in Louisiana that’s been swallowed by the oil industry, this downbeat narrative game is about what its protagonist leaves behind when she abandons her home town, and what is – and isn’t – worth coming back to, and trying to salvage.
What we said: This is no gleaming sci-fi landscape; it’s humid and buzzing, a place of poverty, its people braced for the next economic or natural disaster.
5. God of War Ragnarök
Retired Spartan God-killer Kratos and his increasingly wayward son Atreus just can’t extricate themselves from the lives of the NorseGods in this astonishingly ambitious mythological adventure. The physicality of the weapons (and fists) makes fighting mythic beasts thrilling, but it’s once again the story and characters that make this epic worth seeing through.
What we said: There haven’t been many interpretations of ancient mythology as gripping, detailed and imaginative as this, in video games or any other medium.
PC, PlayStation 4/5
It could have just been The Cat Game, but Stray is a memorable work of science fiction that shows how seeing a game world from a different perspective can make you think differently, too. As a cat, you explore robot shantytowns with graceful leaps and batting paws. Half-open windows become opportunities; objects balanced perilously close to a ledge become irresistible temptations.
What we said: By placing this magnetic yet unknowable creature of nature into a tightly controlled, human-made science-fiction dystopia, Stray highlights something that any cat person already knows: you can never really tame a cat.
PC, Xbox, smartphones
A spellbinding game that is also three entire movies, Immortality is something that has never been even conceived of before either in games or film. Unravelling the mystery of a vanished Hollywood starlet by examining footage from her works, we become absorbed into this fastidiously recreated cinematic universe – and become part of the story ourselves.
What we said: I have never seen – or played – anything like it. It’s not a game that everyone will love, but I do think it’s one that everyone should play.
2. Elden Ring
PC, PlayStation 4/5, Xbox
Building upon the principles of developer FromSoftware’s previous cult hit games – challenge, self-direction, perseverance, mastery, discovery – Elden Ring creates an exquisitely absorbing fantasy. Everywhere you go, there is something alluring, or something that can kill you, or both. Exploring and, slowly, conquering this masterwork feels like a true achievement.
What we said: This is a massive world, astonishingly rendered (the sun and moon wheel in the sky, casting each scene anew) and seemingly limitless in its creative diversity. It is an unrivalled feat of design and inventiveness.
Few games have ever united the world like Wordle, the beautifully simple daily word puzzle that exemplifies a universal truth about video games: they bring people together, and it’s our shared experiences with them that we remember most fondly. Seeing friends and family who’d never normally engage with games swapping strats and chasing streaks was a rare joy after the relentless pummelling of the past few years. It first released in 2021, taking off in popularity just before the new year, but Wordle is nonetheless the feelgood story of 2022. It felt like a gift to the world: a small dose of daily happiness, easily spread.
What we said: The game has the elegance of a daily newspaper puzzle – a five-minute conundrum that slots pleasingly into even the most harried routine.