A new year’s first few months are always terrible for new video game releases. Developers that are unable to complete a project in time for the holidays frequently cut their losses and postpone the results until January or February in order to purchase extra time for polish. Still, I don’t think I’ve seen anything quite like the beginning of 2022. The COVID bottleneck is starting to ease, studios are working at maximum efficiency, and all of a sudden Namco and Sony are managing to release two of the largest titles on their respective slates in the same week, well ahead of the autumnal peak. The backlog of games you have waiting in your Steam library is something that comes with being a game industry follower, but it has rarely gotten this bad so rapidly. Obviously, it’s a good problem to have. The difficulties of 2021, when the release timetable completely dried up, are far preferable to our current situation. Here are some fan favorites for what is already looking to be a significant gaming year, listed by date of release.
Stardew Valley’s pastoral appeal is relocated underground by Core Keeper Dislyte Lilith. The biggest Steam hit of the year is a gratifying mashup of several popular fantasy homesteading sims (like Terraria, Valheim, and Minecraft), but this time, your intrepid survivor is lost in a vast, randomly generated network of caves. The delicate balancing act between pleasant household duties and perilous dungeoneering is accomplished in Core Keeper. Yes, if it means I get to tend the garden by torchlight later, I’ll occasionally prefer to engage in combat with the monstrosities lurking in the depths.
It wasn’t necessary for Pokémon to alter. In the past three years, two DS classics—Brilliant Diamond and Shining Pearl—as well as new editions of the main series have all been released. All of those games had incredibly strong sales, demonstrating that the Pokémon formula is still successful 30 years after Red and Blue. However, Pokémon Legends: Arceus offers a different future in which Nintendo decided to forgo the too basic RPG trappings in favor of something a little more profound. Here you are, a Pokémon trainer living alone in the wild, getting a clearer, spookier idea of what it might be like to live among the wild Pikachus. Poké Balls can be used to sneak up on Pokémon and surprise them, fight your target without being forced into a turn-based grind, and flee for your life after upsetting a massive Electrode. I’ve had dreams about playing this video game since I was approximately eleven years old because it’s Pokémon meets Bear Grylls.
Unsurprisingly, the outstanding PlayStation developer packaged its PS4 Uncharted games in a package that corresponds with the subpar film adaption as Naughty Dog routinely rereleases its back catalogue. But The Legacy of Thieves on the swanky PlayStation 5 is definitely worth a look if you missed Uncharted 4 or The Lost Legacy when they were released in 2016 and 2017, respectively. The fourth and final game in the narrative was the first actually to examine Nathan Drake’s selfishness. The Uncharted series normally portrays Nathan Drake as a rebellious man-child who turns strangely petulant anytime he doesn’t get his way. (It is additionally among the top action games from the previous ten years.) Additionally, Naughty Dog experimented with an open-world gestalt in The Lost Legacy, a mini-chapter that centers on two of the franchise’s most adored characters, and it has me eager for whatever the firm has in store for us next. It’s probably for the best that it will be a while before we see another Uncharted game. In the end, the series ended on a high note.
Strange Horticulture is a game about observing plants, as its name suggests. As distressed clients flood your door and demand particular herbal cures, you peruse a dusty tome packed with botanical theory before giving the requested specimen. Even though it sounds dull now, you’ll start to enjoy Strange Horticulture’s sophisticated deduction method as it finds its rhythm. With only a few hints, you are expected to go over an extensive list of phytologic disclaimers, gradually eliminating the exceptions and edge instances until you are positive that the man in your business requires the plant with blue blooms and triangle-shaped leaves. Finally, a computer game that makes us simultaneously feel educated and bucolic.
It has the feel of a big expansion pack, Rainbow 6: Extraction. The game shares the same characters and weapons as Rainbow 6 Siege from Ubisoft, but forgoes squad-based multiplayer in favor of a horror-movie-style journey through an outrageous, viscerally terrifying alien apocalypse. Think John Carpenter’s The Thing with SWAT squads as you and two pals struggle to accomplish a trio of challenges before falling victim to the horde in the franchise’s sterile corridors and corporate antechambers, which have been overrun by oozing pustules, curdled zombies, and infectious muck. Extraction exceeded my incredibly low expectations; it reminded me of the best high-stakes XCOM missions with their grim, white-knuckle thrills. Have you left any of your pals behind in the churn? The parasite has them trapped, and your next goal is to release them, or they’ll pay a harsh progression penalty. You recall what it was like to actually fear death in Extraction after so many co-op games that treat us with kid hands.
By the second or third leveling up, your character’s destiny is usually already decided in most RPGs. We invest some talent points on dexterity and strength and come to terms with the idea that we’ll eventually have to restart the game if we ever want to roll a mage. But Nobody Saves the World was created precisely to address that issue. Nobody, the main character, has the ability to transform into 15 various forms that cover every trite fantasy cliché (a dragon, a warrior, a ranger). Each form has a unique set of powers to discover, and forms can switch in and out of various move sets everywhere. The effects are sacrilegious in the nicest way possible—all of a sudden, your little spellcaster is equipped with some of the game’s longest tank cooldowns. By the time you’re done with it, Nobody Saves the World has presented you with everything it has to give. Since when you realize you made the wrong character choice after 20 hours, is there anything worse?
The past 10 years have seen FromSoftware produce some of the best single-player action games ever. With games like Dark Souls, Bloodborne, and Sekiro, developers let us loose in intriguing universes filled with brutally challenging boss fights and a teeming underbelly of hidden information, Easter eggs, and branching pathways that will keep you guessing long after the credits have rolled. The company’s most daring evolution to date is Elden Ring. FromSoftware tosses its conservative linearity out the window and masterfully stretches its epic, Souls-ian grandeur in every direction with a world map that rivals the size of Grand Theft Auto’s Los Santos. Every square inch of the atlas glows with custom-written adventures, excluding the repeated simulacra that clog up the typical Assassin’s Creed voyage. This open-world game was constructed to the highest standards. It’s a remarkable game that marks a turning point for the field of environment design.
The Horizon series’ setting is challenging to comprehend. You are a Neolithic cavewoman living in an ancient America where enormous cybernetic dinosaurs are common. You’ll repel them with a spear made of silicon chip blades. Oh, and you also peruse what look to be the abandoned laboratories of a much more advanced human race in underground ruins. The 2017 release of the first game did a terrific job of weaving all of these erratic plot lines together, and Forbidden West maintains that effort. You’ll stick around for the plot, which deftly reveals more of the secrets surviving in this post-post-postapocalyptic world, even though the gameplay is still a fine open-world adventure that shines when you’re up against one of those aluminum-plated T. Rexes. Is mankind truly deserving of a second chance? is always the central query.
A franchise called Total War was once totally engulfed in historical doctrine. From Napoleon’s front lines to the feudal Japanese Oda clan, we wreaked devastation while being permanently constrained by the boundaries of the planet Earth. But with 2016’s Total War: Warhammer, the game’s creator, Creative Assembly, switched to orcs, elves, and demons, and now, six years later, we have the trilogy’s climax. Like the earlier games, Warhammer puts you in command of a roving army that is eager to engage its adversary force on the open battlefield. Total War is more about watching from a distance and savoring the magnificent viscera when your cavalry executes a perfectly timed flank, while there is plenty of strategic strategy to analyze. With a stronger focus on narrative than its predecessors, Warhammer stands out. Here, Creative Assembly is unrestricted by analects and is free to conjure up gruesome situations involving the numerous revolting creatures that make up the Warhammer universe. Total War is a great place to start if you’ve always been interested in this grimdark world but haven’t had the need to paint those pricey pewter statues.
The beating them up is over. There won’t be a new Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles game released anytime soon, and playing the Simpsons arcade game still requires a trip to your nearby Six Flags. Sifu was created to fill that vacuum and brings back one of the most fundamental video gaming pleasures: killing a bunch of guys at a dive bar. The gameplay in Sifu never changes throughout the course of its seven-hour running length, and its only plot is a warmed-over compilation of kung fu clichés. (Angry men want to kill you. With your fists, show no pity to them.) But it doesn’t matter since throwing a combination of punches and kicks at an anonymous heavy who is reclining on a pool table still feels amazing today. Sifu is like to heaven on earth for those of us who enjoy losing ourselves in a simple battle system.
A modest skating game revival is currently underway, and it’s culminating coincidentally with a wave of early-2000s Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater nostalgia. These timeless works don’t serve as much of an inspiration for OlliOlli World. The sport is instead reduced to a two-dimensional plane where forward velocity rules. Each level places you into a hellacious obstacle course bracketed by ramps, rails, and half-pipes; your basic goal is to make it through the checkpoints in one piece. In practice, this means you’ll be merging wall rides and 5-0 grinds like clockwork and using your trick repertoire to create a rhythmic, almost parkour-like pace. But the slacker-utopia style of OlliOlli World is what makes it so unforgettable. Who wouldn’t want to live on a world where kickflips are the only way to travel?
Elden Ring has sold 12 million copies, proving that we are in the golden age of enigmatic, elliptical video games. However, FromSoftware’s unbreakable opacity is nothing compared to Tunic, a top-down Zelda-like adventure that offers absolutely no helpful exposition to the player. Objective marks are absent, the dialogue is encoded in odd hieroglyphics, and the riddles are incredibly challenging to understand. Is that your only hope? A worn in-game instruction booklet, reminiscent to the paperback guidelines you’d find in cardboard Mega Man boxes in the late ’80s, scattered across the world. Tunic wishes to invoke the delightful bewilderment of the gaming of old, when we slipped an anonymous cartridge into a Super Nintendo before we even knew how to read, trusting on our instincts to get by. Designer Andrew Shouldice has faith in us to go for it. You’ll discover that the water isn’t as chilly as you first thought once you’re in.
Norco is a true location. With a population of just under 3,000 people, it is situated just outside of New Orleans and is dominated by a massive Shell oil refinery that both supplies and represses the community. Although the depiction in Norco isn’t entirely accurate—Louisiana isn’t dotted with elegiac androids and swampy, revanchist death-cults—for all of its sensationalism, Norco feels surprisingly grounded in the numerous tragedies of 2022. This point-and-click adventure wants you to immerse yourself in an especially American dystopia while you try to uncover an alluring mystery. With each breath of that moist, sulfur-flecked air, you’ll sense the pain.
Ghostwire: Tokyo marks Tango Gameworks’ first real foray into greatness after first becoming known for the pulpy, janky Evil Within series. It has abandoned American suburbia in favor of an eldritch, sodden Tokyo that is home to every malevolent spirit from Japanese folklore. Ghostwire’s grind might occasionally drag it down, but I’ve been drawn in by its smooth first-person animation, colorful opponent designs, and the powerful hometown pride Tango displays in its capital city. In this game, you will expel demons before visiting a fake 7-Eleven to buy some mochi that will restore your health. The depiction of post-apocalyptic Japan is as accurate as is humanly possible.
It should come as no surprise that Weird West, developed by Arkane (Dishonored, Deathloop) veterans’ WolfEye Studio, has transported one of its signature, perpetually cursed regions to the American frontier. You take control of a number of mistreated characters who are out for vengeance as bounty hunters, cultists, and the chattering undead are on the prowl. The playing field is completely open in this top-down, tactical shootout. Nothing is accepted as a given. Look at the chimney on the bank’s roof—the one you’re attempting to rob. If you can get up there, you might be able to use the hatch to escape a deadly firefight. Weird West is the perfect example of WolfEye’s notion that gamers should be able to interact with the worlds they explore.
Every IP that would host them, Traveller’s Tales has gladly ported their Lego games into. The Tolkien legendarium, Marvel, DC, and Harry Potter series have all welcomed them, but Star Wars has always been their first and finest home. Since no other game wearing the Rebel insignia has ever squeezed this much Star Wars into its source code, The Skywalker Saga is the studio’s opportunity to be absolutely definitive in their obsessive cataloging of pop culture. There are six different playable versions of Lando Calrissian. Malakili, the owner of the Rancor beast in Jabba’s palace, is under your authority. There is a mention of a “ghost droid” on Tatooine who only appears in a well-liked non-canon fanfiction. No detail was overlooked by Traveller’s Tales, and the end product is a living library of both the sublime highs and pitiless lows of Star Wars. You will go through Attack of the Clones in its entirety, and you will like it.
It’s amazing how the Timothée Chalamet bump has suddenly roused Dune, a series that has lain in complete hibernation for decades, from its licensing slumber. We are now flooded with Dune board games, comic books, and movies. Someone at Warner Bros. also had the good judgment to give Shrio Games the universe for a Dune-themed RTS. Age of Empires was heavily influenced by Shrio’s earlier game, Northgard, which let players lead Viking bands across the lush Arctic tundra. House Atreides and House Harkonnen clash on the wasteland, and players scramble to gather every dash of melange and spritz of water they can get their hands on to keep the war machine afloat. The warring clans of Arrakis are beautifully transferred into Spice Wars’ design philosophy. Sandworms, of course, provide a persistent hazard and have no superior. There’s always a danger that one of your battalions will get sucked up completely, ruining your strategy. It’s cruel, obstinate, unjust, and distinctly Dune. It is exactly how I want it.
The Stanley Parable, released in 2013, was a masterwork of postmodern game design. You awaken in a vacant cubicle, haunted by a kind, persistent narrator who records your various pitiful exploits in the gray tedium of corporate life. The objective is to effectively break the game and undermine the typical linear, single-player campaign’s one-way conveyor belt. The Stanley Parable’s arrival on consoles with Ultra Deluxe effectively doubles the original offering by adding enough new content. Expect the story to be as bitingly self-referential and incredibly morbid as always, especially now that it has the opportunity to be in continual dialogue with the original. How can you make a follow-up to a game that was already so brittle? It’s amazing to see The Stanley Parable attempt to explain something it doesn’t understand.
One may argue that the 2013 publication of the first Rogue Legacy, which started the roguelike boom we’re presently experiencing, is to blame. From the darkest corners of PC gaming, the game elevated Machiavellian ideas like permadeath and no save points to the top of the Steam charts. The franchise gracefully incorporates many of these modernizations as Rogue Legacy 2 joins the gaming industry, where several other creators have improved upon its initial tenets. Presently, Rogue Legacy 2 places a heavy emphasis on environmental diversity, much like Minecraft or Dead Cells, and offers a large range of distinctive classes, à la Hades. The game’s primary gimmick, which first made me fall in love with the series, is still present, which is best of all. A character’s immediate descendant, who is afflicted with a variety of congenital blessings or curses, is the one you take control of once they pass away. (Although you may have swift feet, you also have color blindness.) It’s like a paperback fantasy serial stretched to its cheesiest limits; it’s basically a never-ending string of children taking revenge on their parents. Finally, the king is coming home.
You’ll genuinely start to wonder why it took so long for Evil Dead: The Game to exist as you’re running through a haunted forest with a boomstick in your hand, defending the Necronomicon from ghastly interdimensional invaders. The euphorically schlocky Evil Dead franchise has always deserved a loving video game adaptation. All the bloody thrills from the movies are condensed by Saber Interactive into a challenging, intensely asymmetric multiplayer game. Ash Williams, Henry The Red, and other heroes wielding Necronomicons are controlled by four players, while a fifth person is in charge of a real Army of Darkness. Although it’s exciting to eke out an existence by the skin of your teeth, I enjoy myself more when I’m the evil dungeon master. Chittering demons that you unleash from the gates of hell prowl the map, stealing the souls of your victims one by one. You could even be able to take control of one of the heroes at some points, using them as an enemy team’s weapon. Nearly four decades after the first Evil Dead movie, which was a miraculous sleeper hit, the video game shocked me in the same way.
Standing in the charred remains of a burned-out boarding house, you identify as a time-traveling detective. Six people perished in the fires. The objective is to examine the dimensional feedback that contributed to this catastrophe and change a few of the residents’ decisions to create a timeline in which they survive. In Eternal Threads, the majority of the gameplay is spent scrolling through a week’s worth of arguments, secrets, seductions, and heart-to-hearts while simultaneously solving two mysteries. How did this home catch fire? What exactly are these folks concealing, then? Even just the opportunity to partake in an amazing act of kindness in Eternal Threads was enough to captivate me on the notion. Isn’t it wonderful to travel back in time and alter our choices?
As soon as Diablo Immortal was introduced, it was certain to cause controversy. One of the most prestigious PC titles ever is switching to a mobile-first, microtransaction-heavy strategy at a time when Blizzard’s corporate reputation is in complete disarray. Numerous of these worries are still relevant, yet nothing can alter the reality that Immortal on an iPhone plays remarkably naturally. With a flick of the index finger, a demon hunter may fire crossbow bolts across the screen, while wizards can conjure up magical storms with a level of accuracy that is virtually on par with using a mouse and keyboard. The game features a strong dungeoneering theme. The loot-lust can rule your life when you go out with companions and explore cursed catacombs, exactly like it did in 1999. While Sanctuary can be explored on the train, Diablo Immortal won’t help Blizzard’s image.
The top digital card games now available, including Hearthstone, Slay The Spire, and Legends of Runeterra, all fundamentally follow the model created by Magic The Gathering in 1993. Before someone with a superior deck or brain puts you back to the matching queue, there is a lot of arithmetic, a lot of keywords, and a lot of back and forth tempo swings. Nerial’s Card Shark, however, conjures a very other way of thinking. The ancient art of sleight of hand will help you as a 17th-century peasant on a mission to defraud the nobility of their undeserved shillings. Cut the aces to the top of the deck after searching the deck with your thumb. Pour yourself a glass of wine and take a quick look at what your opponent is holding. If you make a mistake, you go to jail. Card Shark knows that playing poker is more fun when you can influence the other players at the table rather than look down at your hand. Hope Nerial is the next to receive the Rounders license.
With 2015’s Until Dawn, a gruesome slasher-flick parody in which you accompany a group of clueless twentysomethings to their unfortunate demise, Supermassive Games established themselves. In a sense, The Quarry is the game’s spiritual heir. This time, we’re in charge of a group of teens trying to make it through the night at a camp in the moonlight, and to no one’s surprise, things immediately spiral out of control. The plot of The Quarry develops like an interactive drama; you control the protagonists’ decisions during a series of daisy-chained cutscenes and watch as they inevitably meet a horrific, midnight movie ending. It’s corny, hematic, and humbly unassuming. Some horror games seek to throw your body on a meathook, while others want to reveal their great thoughts about the cosmic flaws of morality. Both are essential in their own right, but The Quarry strikes the ideal note amid the beautiful early summer.
Speedrunning is the focus of the video game Neon White. In this first-person shooter, the adversaries you encounter are completely incidental and don’t actually threaten your life. Instead, they only improve the mobility features built into your weapons. That gun in your holster, is that? It can be used to double leap. the launcher of rockets? Use that to anchor yourself to high, distant surfaces. Neon White belongs to a distinct genre, and as you gain momentum in these stages and race through the unsettling white marble nothingness, you’ll pass the threshold into the realm of the sublime in video games. A fantastic 3-D Sonic the Hedgehog game was finally created; it was just released under a different name.
If you’re of a certain age, you might remember playing video games for the first time on Friday nights at a dingy, disused arcade, where you’d spend many quarters on a Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles game. Therefore, TMNT Shredder’s Revenge is a heartfelt ode to those priceless, wallet-draining experiences. Through and through, this is a beat ’em up. With a small group of buddies, you can seize control of your favorite Turtle (or April or Master Splinter, for that matter) and defeat an infinite swarm of ninjas wearing purple armor. Along the journey, you’ll come across a treasure mine of references to TMNT mythology and, more significantly, a comprehensive move set comparable to the best action games available. Yes, you can improve at TMNT Shredder’s Revenge as opposed to losing all of your life after five minutes and a severe second boss. The biggest compliment I can give anything is that it makes me wish I was a father.
Arc System Works is known for producing some of the most beautiful fighting games ever. Dragon Ball FighterZ, a meaty, brutal ode to the Toriyama estate that was launched five years ago, comes returning with a spin on a media series that has received very little attention in the west. Arc System Works has been charged with incorporating the enormously popular RPG Dungeon & Fighter into a retro, Street Fighter-like homage. However, you won’t have to worry about the canonical touchstones you’re missing since watching DNF Duel in action is amazing. A super move will be interrupted by a brief anime cutaway of a celestial fighter flying through the skies and unleashing a devastating coup de grace while emitting beams of crackling neon energy from the combatants. No one is required to master any complicated joystick maneuvers in DNF Duel, which simplifies its control scheme to the most fundamental inputs. This is a reform that the fighting-game genre has long needed because it makes this Arc System Works offering genuinely friendly to newbies.
Like the Merrie Melodies classics it was emulating, Cuphead dragged on for a very long time because it takes a very long time to stitch together zillions of hand-drawn animation cels, especially when they’re stretched across a ten-hour video game. Therefore, I don’t think it came as a surprise to anyone when Cuphead’s first expansion showed out about five years after the initial game. A marathon of brutally tough boss fights, depicted with the glossy accuracy of Disney’s fabled cartooning sweatshops of the 1940s, are what made Studio MDHR’s debut unforgettable. When starting a new save file, The Delicious Last Course is available, so if you’ve been away for a while, you won’t have to worry about facing any of the game’s absurd trials to access the new content.