It’s never an easy task distilling what makes a game great and forcing it into prose, especially when things like “the best” are so subjective. Stuart’s already had a crack at his best games of 2022, and it’s a good list if you fancy a read, but I decided to take a slightly more scientific approach. The hypothesis is that if a game is truly good, I’ll have spent more time with it through the course of the year… right? So I waded through stats and records of what I’ve played in the last 12 months and figured out my top three of the year. To me the top two weren’t surprising, and at the point of collating the details number three was right, but has since been usurped by God of War: Ragnarok (it’s been covered already so I’ll leave it well alone). Let’s crack on, shall we?
Setting off a theme – earlier releases in the year have allowed for more gaming time – Dying Light 2: Stay Human kicked off 2022’s glut of timesink open world games. In what feels like an age since the first game, the sequel was definitely worth waiting for and offered a bigger, bolder and more character driven experience. It managed to still make the night terrifying to explore, whilst offering up enough safe haven’s to make sure you felt compelled to risk your life, and didn’t make things too easy during the day either.
With acres of real estate in the virtual world to explore, and a verticality that really delivers in the latter stages of the game, Dying Light 2 proved to be a masterclass in environment design and making it easy for gamer’s to spot and follow the parkour routes through the city. It’s a slight shame that it’s taken so long for DLC to emerge if only because my gaming time has been taken up with the other titles on this list, meaning I’ve just not had the opportunity to revisit Villedor and the surprisingly likeable Aiden Caldwell. That’s almost a feat in itself… making an in-game Aiden a decent character.
2. Gran Turismo 7
The daddy of all racing games made its return in March this year after far too long a hiatus. Sure, we had GT Sport and it was serviceable, but it lacked the depth that we know Polyphony is capable of. On the surface GT7 looked like a different game, and potentially quite light touch, but spend a couple of hours with the eccentricities that make up a Gran Turismo title and you’ll find huge amounts of content to wade though, and a game that feels infinitely replayable. Ignore the furore that surrounded the microtransaction elements on release – you simply don’t have to spend any real world cash to progress – and take note of the continued addition of free content, and it is one of the contenders for game of the year.
The standout moments for me whilst playing have been the endurance-type events with hard as nails AI, variable weather, and strategy calls to make on the fly. These have elevated this title above the previous iterations because it all just feels so fluid and accessible. Speeding down straights at 300 KPH whilst flicking through the dashboard’s weather forecast and deciding on which compound of tyre to choose at the next stop is massively engaging, and when a call to go on inters instead of full wets nets you position gains because your skill keeps it on the tarmac… it feels like a massive triumph. It’s big, noisy, beautiful, and brings the best incarnation yet to your console.
1. Horizon: Forbidden West
What surprised me most about February’s release of Horizon: Forbidden West wasn’t how big it is, or how detailed, it was that it got totally overshadowed by Elden Ring. Now that game is worthy of the GoTY title, but it means that H:FW was overlooked by many early in the year. That’s a massive shame because Guerrilla have crafted Aloy’s second adventure with a care and attention that’s absolutely phenomenal. The fact that it spanned 2 generations for release too is quite the technical achievement, and all players are in for a visual feast in the 100+ hours it’s possible to spend in the apocalyptic future.
I’ve put double the amount of time into Forbidden West than I have on GT7 (and I played nothing but that game for the month of March!), and I still find new things to see and do each time I visit the shattered US coast. There’s so much that stands out in the design of the world, the characters, the side quests, the WTF moments of the main story, and of course, the robot dinosaurs; it’s impossible to get it all down in a couple of paragraphs. What sums it up though is that despite the time I’ve put in, I’ve still not finished it. It’s not that I’m stuck or it’s too big, it’s that I don’t want the adventure to end. I’m about to enter the final stages, and it’s pretty clearly signposted, so I decided to just roam the lands and see what else there is to do. Turns out there’s a lot. Very few games have the capability to evoke that kind of feeling, and it was a joy to discover it this year in a blockbuster like this.
Honourable Mention – Hardspace: Shipbreaker
I couldn’t end without mentioning Hardspace: Shipbreaker because I’ve spent an inordinate amount of time stripping down ships and floating about in zero-G, pretending I’m a space recycler. It’s one of those games that you read about and think “Really?! Sounds dull.“, but it’s oh-so satisfying. It takes obsessive compulsive behaviour and combines with monotony and manages to conjure up a truly engaging experience. Seriously, try it.