Like every year, there were way too many cool video games to play in 2022. Even people whose jobs are to write about games don’t have enough time to play them all. Big-budget, 50-hour-plus games like Elden Ring, God of War Ragnarok, and Xenoblade Chronicles 3 can be too easy to get lost in.
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But since the holidays are coming up, you’ll probably have some free time to play games you may have missed during the year. One thing is certain: after reading this list, you will definitely have a backlog that will keep you busy until January or February.
1. Nobody Saves the World
Xbox Game Pass has been a wonderful thing for consumers. You can use Microsoft’s gaming subscription service at any time to find something cool to play that you haven’t heard of before. You need to put the Game Pass game Nobody Saves the World at the top of that list.
You play as Nobody, a nameless little guy who gets a magic wand that lets him change into a rat, a slug, a dragon, and a lot of other things. Each form has its own skills that get better as you kill more enemies in the top-down dungeons of the game. As you level up, you can also unlock new forms.
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At some point, you’ll be able to mix and match abilities from different forms and use them all at once to destroy your enemies’ entire screens. Nobody Saves the World is about as fun as it gets if you like games where you watch numbers go up while meters fill up in the background.
2. Citizen Sleeper
Citizen Sleeper is probably best when you know as little as possible about it going in. It’s also on my own list of things to do. But based on what pretty much everyone I know has said about this game all year, it seems like a no-brainer for fans of games with interesting, branching stories.
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Citizen Sleeper is about a worker robot who runs away from the job they were made for on a space station that has become a kind of lawless country. It’s all about trying to stay alive every day, making friends, doing odd jobs, and doing anything else you can do with a roll of the dice.
Citizen Sleeper is like a tabletop role-playing game because you roll dice to see what happens when you do something, and the story can go in different directions depending on what happens. Oh, and here’s something else: it’s also on Game Pass.
People who have played Norco say it is one of the best games of the year. It is another story-driven adventure game with something to say about the real world. For most of the year, you could only play it on PC, but as of mid-November, you can also play it on consoles.
Norco is a point-and-click adventure game with beautiful pixel art that draws you into the fictional town of Norco, Louisiana, which has the same name as a real town. It’s rare for a game to take place in the deep south, and it’s even rarer for a game to directly address capitalism, climate change (the real Norco has had multiple oil refinery explosions), and everything else that’s kind of bad about living in America right now.
Even though Norco isn’t an action-packed blockbuster, if you look closely, you might find something real that no big-budget game could give you.
4. Rogue Legacy 2
In 2014, the first Rogue Legacy made a lot of noise and made money in its first hour on sale. It was hard to resist going into a castle that changed shape, fighting until you died, and using the money you earned to buy upgrades that your offspring could use the next time around. You never knew what would happen on a run, but the steady incline of the upgrade made each run a little less scary.
The good news is that the sequel in 2022 is even better than the first one. Rogue Legacy 2 uses the same basic idea as the first game but adds a lot of new classes with their own weapons, new spells to use in battle, and new ways to move around the castle that make it much more fun than before. It has never felt better to hit an enemy with a hot frying pan.
Rogue Legacy 2 is a lot like the first game, but everything is more advanced. Nothing wrong with that.
Remember when the golden age of 3D platformers was really popular? In the late 1990s, it seemed like every other video game had a brave mascot that was good at jumping on things. The most popular games were Super Mario 64, Banjo-Kazooie, Crash Bandicoot, and Spyro the Dragon. Mario is the only one still working consistently.
Enter Tinykin. This Game Pass hidden gem is a cute little platformer where you play as a small guy running around a normal house. I love the “small character in a huge version of a normal room” trope. Your character quickly learns how to catch and control the titular tinykin, which are color-coded creatures that can do different things for you.
It’s basically a combination of Super Mario 64 and Pikmin, to put it simply. You can finish it on a weekend, which I strongly suggest.