TheGamer Game Of The Year Editor’s Pick, 2022 – Lexi Luddy

2022 was an exceptionally strange year for video games, both full of surprising releases destined to become classics and high-profile disappointments. Pair that with near-constant delays of games both big and small, and a constant barrage of news stories that reminded me how rough this industry can be, and you wind up with a year when I found it hard to get excited about the video games I was playing. That said, there were a handful of games and bits of tech that got me excited during 2022 and reminded me why I love games in the first place.

10. Tiny Tina's Wonderlands

Wonderlands is great because it feels like a clean break away from the bloat of Borderlands 3, refocusing on what made Borderlands great in the first place. The guns feel unique in a way they didn’t in the last game, the mixed sci-fi/fantasy setting recaptured the magic of Tiny Tina's Escape from Dragon Keep, but most importantly I cared about the story again. Borderlands 3 was so desperate to be edgy, cynical, and relevant and was unbearable as a result. Wonderlands pulls way back on the constant need for quips, while also going back to sprinkling in earned character moments. It also helped that there wasn't much Randy Pitchford involved in the marketing in this game because he is too busy off in Hollywood trying to get high-fives from Kevin Hart or whatever.

9. Splatoon 3

The best thing about Splatoon 3 is that it works. I knew I loved Splatoon, and it had been just long enough since I had played the second game that I was itching to get back inking again, but right up until release there was this feeling, deep down inside of me, convinced that Nintendo would mess it up. In a year when Mario Strikers: Battle League and Switch Sports both launched half-baked and content-light, and with Nintendo's penchant for just the worst online matchmaking experiences, you can hardly blame me. Thankfully, Splatoon 3 works damn well. Playing with friends is easy, the fashion had a personal impact on my own life, and the story mode is as brilliant as it is underrated yet again.

8. Pick Pack Pup

I doubt a lot of people have played Pick Pack Pup, which is only available on the Playdate. It’s here to represent how special that weird piece of hardware is. That cute yellow handheld with the funny crank on the side has dozens of mico-games and experimental oddities you might have seen a few times but never thought much about. Yes, Pick Pack Pup is just a simple item-matching game with a pointed anti-corporate story that makes this list, but its bite-size fun sums up why the Playdate is wonderful.

7. Just The Steam Deck As A Concept

I was going to try to find a game that summed up how great the Steam Deck is, but I couldn't. Versatile and open source to the extreme, the Steam Deck and the community that has popped up around it has made everything from tackling my backlog to getting into emulation seem manageable. Being able to play triple-A PC games while travelling was a game changer. Having an excuse to finally beat games that have been sitting in my Steam library for years like Metal Gear Rising was a relief. Most of all though, finally figuring things out about emulating has helped fill in my gaming knowledge massively.

6. Mario Kart 8 Deluxe DLC

Is it cheating to put DLC for a five-year-old game on my GOTY list? Especially when that game is a port of an eight-year-old game? Probably. But who cares when you can now play 200cc online races of Coconut Mall where the only items are Blue Shells?

5. Rogue Legacy 2

The impossible sequel. How do you follow up a game like Rogue Legacy? It was genre-defining in its time but the roguelite genre has moved so fast in the last nine years that it seemed impossible to recreate the first game but also modern. For a while, it looked like Cellar Door Games wasn't going to succeed. Rogue Legacy 2's early access launch in 2020 was rough, but thanks to two years, a supportive community, and some smart design choices, the team has made one of the most satisfyingly difficult and well-balanced games ever released.

4. Kirby And The Forgotten Land

Kirby would be higher up on this list had I finished it, but it is too good to rush. I keep this game's cartridge in my Switch at all times for whenever I have a bad day and just need to distract myself in a world full of joy and wonder for a while. The Forgotten Land is full of excitement and just wants to put you in a good mood and I appreciate that.

3. Judgment

I love the Like A Dragon series, in theory. I have only actually played Yakuza 0 and Yakuza: Like a Dragon, but I love everything that series stands for. The melodrama, the comedy, the heartfelt messages, I love it all. When Judgment started a new series in Ryu Ga Gotoku's universe in 2018, I hoped it would be an easier place to step onboard but I sadly, for whatever reason, missed it. In 2022, both games came to PC, and thanks to the Steam Deck I am finally getting to enjoy this crime epic. It's thrilling, funny, heartbreaking, and a great adventure.

2. Citizen Sleeper

There is a character in Citizen Sleeper, a real dirtbag, who I knew would always betray me. I knew he was only out for himself, and I knew he would throw me under the bus if it meant even a slight leg up. However, the writing was so good at convincing me that he was just like me, just trying to survive in a harsh, dystopian world that I should help him. Even though I knew how this was going to end, I wanted to help this terrible person because Citizen Sleeper is so well written that it was able to convince me that everyone is worth saving. In the end, he tried to shoot me. But, honestly, if I was to replay the game's branching narrative all over again, I would still try to help him. Because maybe, just maybe, he was worth saving too.

1. Tunic

Tunic was the only game this year I had to finish. I couldn't put it down and stayed up late playing it. A triumph of game design and subversion, it not only made me want to learn about its fictional languages and uncover every one of its secrets but reminded me why I love games. There were several times when I was convinced I found an exploit or a workaround, only to realise that the developer was several steps ahead of me already as the game rewarded me for whatever trick I’d pulled off. Every part of Tunic is considered and thoughtful, and it does the thing very few games manage to do anymore: surprise me. It feels like magic.

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