This article is available in both written and video format. The video shows the games in action in full 4K and 60 frames per second while I read the article as a voiceover, so if you watch the video you won’t need to read the written article that follows since it’s the same ‘script’. The video can be viewed here:
The general consensus seems to be that 2022 wasn’t a very good year for video games.
With many of the big titles planned for this past year hit with delays, it’s clear that 2023 is going to have a much larger number of high-profile releases.
That said, I’ve never been a fan of doom and gloom, and there have still been a healthy number of high quality titles released this year, regardless of which systems you own.
Here, then, are yer man Scullion’s 10 favourite games of the year.
As ever, there are a few caveats to bear in mind before we get started.
• It’s in alphabetical order, not best-to-worst. I can’t be arsed deciding whether a game was my 6th or 7th favourite of the year. They’re all great: get them all.
• Before you even think about writing a comment saying this, I didn’t “forget” anything. I haven’t played every game released this year, and this is my personal list. In particular, I missed out on a lot of Triple-A titles this year. So no, I didn’t forget Elden Ring or God of War Ragnarok or Xenoblade Chronicles 3, I just haven’t played them yet.
Before starting with my main list of 10 this year, I want to buck tradition slightly by offering a single honourable mention that didn’t quite make the cut, but I feel deserves to be at least acknowledged.
Martha is Dead has its fair share of problems, be that with performance issues or the fact that some of the content within is blatantly trying its best to offend the player, but that doesn’t mean the game doesn’t still paint a beautiful picture of 1940s Tuscany, and doesn’t still have some story elements that sit in your head for days after the credits roll.
One of the main reasons I’m not choosing to include it in the main list of 10, however, is that its subject matter really is quite nasty and it has four or five scenes that are so tasteless that I know for a fact that a lot of players will be really offended by it. As such, I can’t really give it a blanket recommendation to everyone without it playing on my conscience. What can I say, I’ve become a bit of a soft touch as I approach 40.
Still, if you don’t mind a game that gets quite graphically disturbing at times, Martha is Dead is still worth a look even if it isn’t in my main 10. Speaking of which, let’s start the proper list.
I’m always a sucker for a retro compilation no matter how barebones it is, so Atari 50 is undoubtedly one of my games of the year due to the fact that it’s the complete opposite of barebones. Indeed, it’s far and away the most feature heavy retro compilation I’ve ever played.
Not only does it contain over 100 retro Atari games going all the way back to Pong and coming all the way up to the Atari Jaguar, it also contains some modernised reinterpretations of certain games which are a treat to play in this day and age.
Far and away the most impressive feature, however, is the Timelines which provide the framework for the games. These five curated narratives provide hundreds of images and hours of video giving some much added context to the games, even those that have aged the worst.
Atari does a hell of a lot wrong these days, but in teaming up with Digital Eclipse for this retro compilation, this is one of the few modern Atari products that should hopefully show new players exactly why the brand was so important in gaming’s formative years.
Cursed to Golf
This wee indie-produced golf game has been on my radar for a while, so I was delighted to find that the full thing lived up to the expectations I’d built up in my head.
The game is set in a sort of golf purgatory, and the player has to clear a series of holes within a set number of strokes in order to return back to their body.
This would be a bit crap if the controls weren’t impressively tight, and if the levels weren’t fiendishly well designed, but thankfully they are, making each playthrough a finely balanced combination of shouting “fore” and shouting four-letter words.
I’m not a massive fan of the roguelike gameplay loop, in which players have to constantly play randomised games over and over again until they finally inch their way to the end. Cursed to Golf, however, is one of the few exceptions that genuinely did have me coming back for more.
I suppose you could say each ‘slice’ of gameplay had me ‘hooked’. Because, you know, those are golfing terms. Look, shut up.
Disney Dreamlight Valley
It would be quite dismissive to just say that Disney Dreamlight Valley is “Animal Crossing with Disney characters”, but to be fair, every time I’ve recommended the game to people on Twitter, that’s exactly how I’ve described it.
After all, is there really anything wrong with comparing the game to one of the most popular titles of recent years, especially given that Dreamlight Valley actually surpasses Nintendo’s game in a number of areas?
While Animal Crossing essentially leaves the player to their own free will, Dreamlight Valley allows them to either do the same or take on a healthy selection of quests which bring new Disney characters to the village – there are currently 21 – and increase your friendship with them, which in turn unlocks new costumes, furniture and customisation options.
It should go without saying that if you aren’t a Disney fan the whole thing could be a bit too twee for your liking, but if you know your Maui from your Merlin the amount of fan service here is is sensational, from the extensive soundtrack which contains individual familiar musical motifs for every character in the game, to the fact that each of them has their own series of daily conversation topics packed with references and in-jokes.
So far the monetisation is almost non-existent too, though given that the game is going free-to-play in 2023 this is something that will have to be re-evaluated after that happens. So far, though, this is the game I spent the most hours on in 2022, and the quests have meant it’s remained a part of my daily routine for longer than Animal Crossing: New Horizons did.
Crossovers are one of my favourite things in any media so I was already all in on MultiVersus way back when the leaks first started appearing. Thankfully, the gameplay wasn’t the weak link I was worried it would be, and the result is a surprisingly competent Smash Bros alternative.
In what other game can you see the likes of Shaggy from Scooby-Doo and Bugs Bunny taking on Arya Stark from Game of Thrones and Harley Quinn? And each with their regular voice actors, on top of that?
What’s more, since release developer Player First Games has been providing players with a steady stream of new characters, bringing the roster to a total of 23 fighters, up from the 16 available during the game’s early access period.
In the past five months, the game has seen LeBron James, Rick & Morty, Gizmo and Stripe from Gremlins, Black Adam and Marvin the Martian added to the roster, and plenty more are apparently on the way.
It’s not all great news, though, because MultiVersus differs from Dreamlight Valley in that its monetisation system is pretty severe. Although there are no pay-to-win elements, most of the game’s more elaborate (and frankly fun) character skins are expensive stuff, often costing players up to $15 per skin.
For someone like me who likes to to play with a variety of characters, and who prefers to put the work in to unlock things like cosmetic rewards (in the game’s Battle Pass equivalent, for example), these skins are essentially locked off which is really frustrating. There’s no way I’mn paying the same price as a high-profile indie game just to make Superman gold.
The crap monetisation aside, MultiVersus remains a solid Smash Bros alternative, and I’m excited to see which characters arrive in 2023.
Pokémon Legends: Arceus
For years I’ve been waiting for the Pokémon series to finally shake things up a bit and break from the traditional structure we’ve all come to expect from the main games.
Pokémon Legends did exactly that, ditching the usual turn-based combat in favour of a more open-world adventure, where you can quickly catch Pokémon by simply chucking balls at them as you run around. It makes things feel a lot quicker when there’s none of the usual stop-start stuff.
In fact, it felt like so much of Legends was built around finally breaking bad habits that fans of the series were getting tired of, meaning the entire game felt like a huge refresh for what had become a pretty formulaic experience.
The fact that its title is Pokémon Legends: Arceus suggests there may be more games in the Pokémon Legends series in the future. If that’s the case I’m fully on board, because I’d love to play more of the same in different settings or time periods.
First things first: if you’re the sort of player who likes your stories to be neatly wrapped up by the end of the game, you’ll want to give Somerville a miss entirely. For those who don’t mind a bit of mystery, though, this is a wonderful indie title.
Without wanting to give too much away, the game revolves around an alien invasion and a father trying to deal with the consequences that arise as a result of it.
Somerville may have some slightly annoying physics-based puzzles, but these are few and far between, and once you deal with them you’re left with a tight, 4-5 hour adventure that looks stunning, sounds incredible and really sucks you into its world.
It feels a lot like a modern version of Another World (or Out of This World, if you’re American), which is definitely no bad thing. As long as you don’t mind a plot that just goes wild in the final act and stops making any sort of sense, it’s well worth dedicating some time to it, especially because it’s on Game Pass and you can play through it all in one evening.
Easily the most divisive game on my list this year, there will be just as many people who have Sonic Frontiers in their list of the 10 worst games of the year as there will be people claiming it as one of their favourites.
For me, it’s a similar situation to Pokémon Legends, in that this was the shakeup the Sonic series needed, relegating its usual linear stages to a supporting role and focusing more on open-world exploration.
As a first attempt at this new style, it has plenty of annoying issues (not least of all the camera), but once everything clicks in place, it’s possible to put together some really satisfying moments as each open-world area eventually becomes one massive interlinked grind rail.
It certainly has its sloppy moments – like anything Sonic Team does in this day and age – but at the end of the day, this isn’t a list of the 10 most technically accomplished games of the year. It’s simply the 10 games I had most fun with, and in that respect my 20 hours with Sonic Frontiers has to be included.
I’ll level with you: I’m really not a cat person. I’m not a dog person either, for that matter, I’m just not really much of an animal lover in general. So it speaks volumes that Stray ended up with me actually giving a shit about my cat protagonist: I can only imagine how it affects people who do like cats in real life.
It helps that this cat has been placed in a futuristic world that’s beautifully detailed – especially when it comes to its bright neon-lit city section – and is accompanied by a wonderful soundtrack that’s become a personal Spotify favourite.
The game’s simplistic jumping system, where you just press the X button to automatically leap to the nearest ledge, may take a lot of the danger out of the game in that it’s practically impossible to jump to your death, but Stray isn’t supposed to be a massive challenge, it’s supposed to be an experience.
That sounded really pretentious, so let’s talk about turtles or something.
Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Shredder’s Revenge & The Cowabunga Collection
Turtles games are like buses: you wait for ages for one and then two turn up at the same time. Plus one of the buses only takes you to old stops you used to go to in the ‘90s… or something. Look, I obviously didn’t think this analogy through.
The point is we got two great Turtles games this year, starting with Shredder’s Revenge. Developed by Tribute Games, whose staff included Ubisoft veterans who worked on the Scott Pilgrim game, it’s a similarly retro-themed beat ‘em up and it’s glorious.
It’s similar to Streets of Rage 4, in that it appeals to fans of its 16-bit beat ‘em up predecessors, but also adds enough new mechanics (like mid-air juggles and combos) to make sure modern players love it too.
For those who remembered those classic games, The Cowabunga Collection followed two months later.
Not only did Digital Eclipse knock it out of the park with Atari 50, it also gave us this fantastic compilation covering the original arcade TMNT game, its sequel Turtles in Time and every Turtles game released on the NES, SNES, Mega Drive and Game Boy.
Having 13 retro TMNT games on there is impressive enough on its own, but in true Digital Eclipse style there’s also a huge museum section with over 3700 images including manual scans, comic covers and design documents.
If you’ve got even the slightest interest in TMNT, both these games are well worth a look. Shredder’s Revenge is also currently on Game Pass, so if you’re an Xbox player it’s a no-brainer.
In recent years the WWE games have been more Gillberg than Goldberg, culminating in the disaster that was WWE 2K20. 2K and Visual Concepts wisely decided to take a year off to rethink things, and the result may be the best wrestling game since the N64 era.
The combat system has been completely revamped – ditching the limited reversal bollocks of the last couple of games and making things more skill-based again – and the annoying stamina meter has been almost entirely ditched.
The character models have been hugely improved, so they actually look more like their real-life counterparts rather than unlicensed wrestlers modded into the game by a fan.
And the fun MyRise story mode has enough alternate plot routes to justify multiple playthroughs, keeping you busy for a while.
Rumour has it that WWE 2K23 is set to be revealed during the Royal Rumble in January. Now that the series is back on track, I now find myself properly excited for the next WWE game for the first time in ages.
Want to watch my videos in full 4K on your 4K TV? Simply subscribe to my channel on YouTube then sign into your YouTube app on your telly.
If you enjoyed this and other articles and want to help me write them more frequently, I’ve now got a PayPal ‘tips’ jar: if you like what you read feel free to chuck yer man Scullion a couple of quid here or there and help stock up my Irn Bru fund so I can continue working away like a bastard.
Alternatively, please do your normal Amazon UK shopping via this link or Amazon US shopping via this link. Tired Old Hack is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for me to earn fees by linking to Amazon.co.uk and affiliated sites.