After numerous game delays and pandemic setbacks, the video game industry finally felt like it was back in full swing in 2022. While the PlayStation 5 still remains largely elusive for many, the year certainly left no shortage of consoles to choose from with Xbox Series X/S, Nintendo Switch, and PCs giving gamers plenty of options. Along that line, a wider variety of highly anticipated titles were released this year than the last. Some of those entries, like Gotham Knights and Sonic Frontiers, didn’t quite live up to expectations, while others, which we’ll get to, exceeded them.
On the business side, 2022 opened with a boom as Microsoft acquired Activision Blizzard for $69 billion in January, amid continued allegations of CEO Bobby Kotick’s discrimination, sexual harassment, and creation of a toxic work environment. Later that month, Sony Interactive Entertainment acquired Bungie for a billion, further ensuring that both Microsoft’s Xbox and Sony’s PlayStation would continue their attempts to outdo each other with exclusives—good news for gamers, though less so for developers who are now forced to cater to a certain type of gamer. Alongside new partnerships, there were some breakups too. Electronic Arts withdrew its license with FIFA following a 30-year partnership. E3 was also canceled this year, leaving developers and studios to find other outlets to get word of their upcoming games out.
Video game adaptations remain an attractive prospect for the film and television industries, and 2022 definitely highlighted the successes and failures of that effort. Sony’s Uncharted left critics mixed but did respectable numbers worldwide, launching a new franchise for Tom Holland and Mark Wahlberg. Paramount’s Sonic the Hedgehog 2 grossed nearly the same as Sony’s film, with the added superlative of being the highest-grossing domestic video game film. Paramount quickly announced a third film for 2024 along with a Knuckles spin-off limited series for Paramount+. Gran Turismo was greenlit at Sony with Neil Blomkamp, Warner Bros. greenlit Mortal Kombat 2 with Simon McQuoid returning to direct, and Emma Tammi signed on to direct Five Nights at Freddy’s for Blumhouse. Universal released the first trailer for an animated Super Mario Bros. Movie, which aims to replicate Sonic’s success next April.
On the TV side, Netflix’s Resident Evil was canceled after one season despite the rather ingenious idea to set it after the events of the games rather than adapt the games themselves. But all hope is not lost on the small screen. A God of War prequel is in development at Amazon Prime Video, and Netflix will try their hand at a Horizon prequel. If HBO’s The Last of Us sets the high bar its trailer suggests it will, surely more television adaptations will gain traction.
As for the best games of 2022, it seems developers had the apocalypse on their minds. You’ll notice an ongoing theme of world-ending events and post-apocalyptic scenarios. Yet, amidst all of that human-caused wreckage and suffering, there’s hope to be found, as even some of the bleakest adventures highlighted the importance of connections, family, and friendship. While the notion of escapism feels somewhat slighter with so many end-of-the-world stories, it seems that the pandemic, Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, and the ever-present threat of intolerance and attacks on human rights have encouraged game developers to emphasize the importance of staying connected, and fighting together, whether that be through co-op modes or narrative.
Here are TIME’s favorite games of the year:
10. Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Shredder’s Revenge
Cowabunga! The Heroes in a Half-shell take to the streets in this arcade-style action side-scroller inspired by the 1987 cartoon series. Shredder’s Revenge is a healthy slice of pixelated nostalgia that brings back the voice cast of the cartoon series, while also offering modern updates like a deeper 2D environment and a killer soundtrack. Shredder’s Revenge supports both single player and multiplayer as you choose between Leonardo, Donatello, Michelangelo, Raphael, April O’Neil, and Master Splinter and take on the Foot Clan, Bepop, Rocksteady, Krang, and, of course, Shredder. As you battle enemies from the sewers and city streets of New York to Dimension X, picking up health boosts from pizzas along the way, Shredder’s Revenge has just one flaw: it’s over all too quickly. Thankfully, each character has their own playstyle and special skillset, giving it a replay value lacking in most arcade-style games.
Available on PlayStation 4, PlayStation 5, XBOX One, Nintendo Switch, and PC.
9. LEGO Star Wars: The Skywalker Saga
All your favorite characters from Anakin to Rey, the battles that thrilled you, and the moments that made you fall in love with Star Wars are lovingly recreated here, in LEGO form. Despite covering the plot of nine movies, The Skywalker Saga is easily digestible and the perfect way to introduce younger gamers to the galaxy far, far away. Of course, that’s not to say adult fans won’t find plenty to enjoy here as well. With a treasure trove of Easter eggs, fun and varied combat, a greater emphasis on exploration, and local co-op, The Skywalker Saga really does marry all the best aspects of the Lego Star Wars games. It refines character movement (keeping in mind that these are block figures), as well as camera positions, allowing for a smoother use of force powers, blaster shots, and of course, lightsaber battles. While many of the games on this list are high-stress and challenging, The Skywalker Saga encourages relaxation and promises a good time.
Available on PlayStation 4, PlayStation 5, XBOX One, XBOX Series X/S, Nintendo Switch, and PC.
8. Resident Evil Village: Shadows of Rose
Resident Evil Village’s DLC isn’t just bonus content but its own unique story that concludes the Winters saga that began in Resident Evil: Biohazard. Set 16 years after the conclusion of Village, Shadows follows Ethan’s daughter Rose Winters, who enters the mind of a conscious fragment of mold in search of a crystal that will remove the powers that left her a social pariah her entire life. How that works exactly isn’t important—it’s just your typical Resident Evil pseudo-science and dream logic. What is important is the sheer terror Shadows is able to create through this experience, which returns to the third-person perspective the previous two entries broke away from. While players traverse familiar areas from Village, since fallen into disrepair, the horrors found there are all new. The second act ups the ante with a return to House Beneviento that’s so stressful in the way it utilizes…well, better to just let you experience the horror for yourself.
Available on PlayStation 4, PlayStation 5, XBOX One, XBOX Series X/S, and PC. Nintendo Switch cloud version to come in early December.
In Sifu, you play as the child of a martial-arts master who seeks revenge after the death of his father. A beat-‘em-up-style game inspired by Jackie Chan films, Sifu makes impressive use of its martial arts combat system that really highlights the importance of practice. One of the most novel elements of the game is the fact that each time you die, the character ages, allowing you to utilize more powerful attacks but reducing your overall health, to the point where your character can age beyond the ability to fight, forcing you to restart the level. It adds a whole new layer to risk and reward combat, and along with an emphasis on improvisation, crafting weapons from the environment, and even the option to talk some battles out instead of fighting, Sifu does more than throw wave after wave of enemy at you. It forces you to learn both discipline and adaptation in a way that makes every fight a different game of death.
Available on PlayStation 4, PlayStation 5, Nintendo Switch, and PC.
6. The Last of Us Part 1
It may be a bit of a cheat, which is why it couldn’t be placed higher in good faith, but Naughty Dog’s third foray into the first installment of The Last of Us justifies itself as its own unique experience worthy of a spot as one of 2022’s best. It’s the same story you already know and love: Joel, a smuggler, escorts a teenage girl, Ellie, across the ruins of the United States, while struggling to stay alive against Cordyceps mutated humans and warring militia factions. From character development to environment design, vocal performances to combat, it’s the height of video gaming. Part 1 isn’t just a PS5 port; it rebuilds the game from scratch with current gen animation and graphics, and enhanced controls, making the experience, whether it’s your first time or a replay, all the more memorable. And it’s the perfect refresher course before HBO’s adaptation of the series debuts in January.
Available on PlayStation 5 and PC.
You play the entirety of Stray as a cat, doing all the things that cats do, including jumping on things, knocking stuff off shelves, scratching up carpets and doors, and meowing…a lot. As a stray who gets separated from his family after falling from the lush greenery of the outside world, you find yourself in a cyberpunk, walled city meant to protect the last remnants of humanity. But humanity has all passed on and left behind only their robot companions, who imitate the lifestyles of their former owners, including the class systems that led to humanity’s downfall. Accompanied by a helpful drone, you work your way from the slums to the upper levels, solving puzzles, performing side quests, and unlocking the history of the world you explore. You’ll find yourself surprised at just how invested you become.
Available on PlayStation 4, PlayStation 5, and PC.
4. Elden Ring
No one ever said sword and sorcery would be easy. Directed by Hidetaka Miyazaki of Dark Souls fame, with story and world-building from George R.R. Martin, Elden Ring is the highest of high fantasy experiences. It’s also massive in scope, sometimes to the point of frustration, with so many side quests, areas to explore, armor and weapons to unlock and upgrade, and enemies to combat that you can all too easily find yourself lost from the main quest. That quest sees your custom created character on a mission to repair the Elden Ring and become the new Elden Lord. There’s a lot of trial and error, and in the spirit of Dark Souls, the combat is very demanding and difficult, but it’s also rewarding and encourages players to learn from their missteps. And because it’s an open-world experience, you can often find yourself in battle you’re not nearly ready for. While mileage may vary, the sheer ambition of Elden Ring makes it a standout.
Available on PlayStation 4, PlayStation 5, XBOX One, XBOX Series X/S, and PC.
3. The Quarry
Supermassive’s spiritual follow-up to Until Dawn is another triumph for horror gaming. Paying homage to the summer camp horror movies of the ‘80s, The Quarry features a group of camp counselors who decide to have one last hurrah before packing it in for the summer—only there’s a curse over the lands and a werewolf prowls the night. Featuring a recognizable cast of actors including Brenda Song, Justice Smith, Miles Robbins, and Ariel Winter alongside horror legends Ted Raimi, Lin Shaye, Grace Zabriskie, David Arquette, and Lance Henriksen, The Quarry offers hundreds of decision branches that affect the fates of the characters, their relationships, the places you can hide, the story you witness, and the outcome of the game. With likable characters you want to see survive the night, surprising twists, a co-op option, and great replay value, The Quarry is a dream nightmare scenario.
Available on PlayStation 4, PlayStation 5, XBOX One, XBOX Series X/S, and PC.
2. Horizon: Forbidden West
Post-apocalyptic hunter Alloy returns in this sequel to 2017’s Horizon: Zero Dawn. The wastelands of the western United States are free to roam in this expansive, open-world follow-up that’s twice the size of its predecessor, which means twice as many robots to hunt down, side quests to complete, and upgrades to find. Alloy, along with familiar and new allies, tries to put the world back together by restoring the A.I. Gaia and rebooting the Earth’s biosphere, decimated centuries ago by a human war against the machines. With smooth, intuitive combat and traversal, and graphics that showcase the power of the PS5, Forbidden West is a joy to play. But what makes it linger is its emotional heft, memorable characterization, and strong allegory about what happens when humans put their faith in greedy billionaires whose egos outweigh their technological knowhow.
Available on PlayStation 4 and PlayStation 5.
1. God of War: Ragnarok
From its myth-shattering storytelling to deft tonal shifts, its emotional character arcs to its bone-breaking action, God of War: Ragnarok is what all action-adventure games should aspire towards. And in a year full of gorgeous games, Ragnarok is such a sight to behold it’ll make you want new glasses to see it all the better. Set three years after the previous installment, Ragnarok once again finds Kratos and his son Atreus attempting to find peace in Midgard, peace that is all too quickly shattered by the Aesir and the coming Ragnarok. While Atreus seeks to uncover his origins, Kratos fears the boy is leading them into a war with Odin that will have insurmountable consequences. As father and son travel across the nine realms with the sage Mimir, they encounter gods and monsters pulled from Norse mythology that test their strength, but more importantly their bond. For Kratos, it’s a story of seeking something more than war. And for Atreus it’s a coming-of-age story in which the consequences of growing determine what kind of god he’ll be. And for players? Well, it’s an epic and emotional saga that stands as the best game of the year.
Available on PlayStation 4 and PlayStation 5.