Welcome to 2022 Favourites, our look back at a great year of gaming. Whether they’re brand new or just new to us, these are the games we’ve most enjoyed playing in 2022.
I got married in 2022. In fact, I technically got married twice! So neither time nor money have been on my side this year. That means I’ve not been able to play too many of the latest and greatest games. I’ve really felt the benefit of subscriptions like Xbox Game Pass and PlayStation Plus in 2022. They’ve allowed me to dip into a wide variety of games without plonking down £70 each time. And they’ve helped me discover smaller games that I might not have found otherwise.
That’s not to say I haven’t enjoyed a good few big AAA games this year. I very happily put at least 50 hours each into Cyberpunk 2077, Ghost of Tsushima and God of War Ragnarok. But they’re not the games that have really stuck with me. The games that have captured my imagination are the smaller, more eccentric experiences; the indies that go to places that the big budget blockbusters simply can’t.
I hopped on the Neon White train a few months later than most, but it nonetheless got its hooks into me in a way that no other game has this year. With its bite-sized levels, Neon White is designed to be played and replayed time and again to get through its stages as quickly as possible. I’m proud to say that I have an Ace medal in every single level, the highest rating that the game offers.
Each card gives you a different weapon – a pistol, a submachine gun, a precision rifle – but they also each offer a unique ability when you discard them. One gives you a double jump, another a grappling hook, and another sends you crashing down through conveniently flimsy sections of flooring. I found mastering the different weapons exhilarating; once I got to the point of swapping out and using cards without even thinking about it, Neon White‘s flow became transcendently entertaining.
The characters and narrative of Neon White are something of an acquired taste, and also unapologetically horny. There’s almost a dating sim aspect to the game as you build relationships with Neon White’s wacky characters, and wacky is definitely the operative word. The story won’t work for everyone but I found it to be an entertaining enough diversion from the game’s sublime gameplay loop.
The highest compliment I can pay Neon White is that I plan on immediately replaying it once it becomes available on other consoles (it was previously a Switch exclusive). I don’t think I’ve ever done that with a game before, but Neon White is as close as gaming gets to crack cocaine for me.
Actress Marissa Marcel made three movies in 1968, 1970 and 1999. None of them were released,. Now she’s mysteriously vanished, leaving behind only a pile of archival footage from her unreleased films. That’s the killer set-up of Immortality, which tasks you with sifting through this footage and discovering what really happened to Marissa. Clicking on an element within a scene, whether it be an actor or a prop, opens up a new clip for you to watch; Immortality’s bank of footage soon grows to hundreds of clips, each with their own little clues as to Marissa’s fate.
I’m a pretty big film lover but more than that, I’m a lover of film production stories. I clearly have something in common, then, with writer and director Sam Barlow. Immortality admirably recreates three different eras of film but even more impressive than that, though, are the moments before and after ‘action’ and ‘cut’ are called. Flubbed lines, scene rehearsals, and creative meetings all feel completely natural, as if they’re special features on the DVD of a real movie. Newcomer Manon Gage delivers an electrifying performance as Marissa and the characters she inhabits, but her supporting cast also contribute significantly to an experience where the artifice completely melts away.
Immortality is fundamentally a story about art, and the messy human beings who feel driven to create it. It’s also one of the most unique games I’ve ever played. I spent far more time watching Immortality than I did interacting with it, but I never felt restless. The fake movies are very watchable, and the meta-narrative connecting them is profoundly compelling. If you’re looking for a break from games that resort to violence as their primary interaction, however cartoonish, then you can’t go wrong with Immortality.
The Messenger is not new. In fact, it came out in 2018; in gaming terms, that’s practically ancient. But I probably would never have gotten around to playing it had it not been included in the PS Plus Extra game catalogue. I’m so glad I did, though, because I had a total blast with this game.
The Messenger is a loving pastiche of a few different kinds of classic games. It incorporates an 8-bit side scroller aesthetic, the exploration of a Metroidvania, and even some light RPG progression too. The Messenger weaves all these elements together with an irreverent, self-aware sense of humour into a very winning package.
The game is touch but fair. I died many, many times in some of the toughest challenges I’ve ever faced in a game, but I seldom felt frustrated. I only ever felt more motivated to attack boss fights more strategically, or approach platforming sequences with greater patience. Despite not being new, The Messenger was undoubtedly a highlight in my gaming year; I look forward to whatever developer Sabotage Studio does next with great interest.
Beat Saber VR
My lovely wife gifted me a Meta Quest 2 for my 30th birthday in January, and it continues to amaze me even a year later. The thing about VR, though, is that it’s not quite as easy to pick up for a quick session as a regular console. Clearing enough space to play, strapping on the headset and controllers, setting up your safe play zone; all of these things take time. And with time at a premium this year, I’ve not spent as much time in virtual reality as I’d like.
That being said, one of the games that I’ve consistently made time for is Beat Saber. The concept is simple: it’s like Guitar Hero, except instead of using a plastic guitar, you cut the music notes in half with laser swords. I’ve shown a good few friends their very first VR experiences this year, and Beat Saber is always one of the first games I have them try. It has truly been a delight to watch each of them react to the strange artificial world around them, and groove to the game’s banging soundtrack.
If you really get into it, Beat Saber can also be a pretty good aerobic workout. I’m often dripping in sweat when I finish a session, to the point where I’ve had to buy a wipable face plate for my headset. But whether you’re like me or you possess even a modicum of physical fitness, Beat Saber is some of the easiest fun you can have with VR.
I Expect You To Die 1 & 2
For all the possibilities that VR offers, most Quest games tend to fall into a few familiar categories. Shooting games are extremely common, as are games that involve boxing or hand to hand combat. It’s easy to see why these games do well and continue to get made, but I’ve found far greater enjoyment in VR puzzle games; specifically, the spy-themed brainteasers of the I Expect You To Die series.
Each level of I Expect You To Die places you in a classic espionage movie locale. Whether you’re backstage in a theatre or floating above the Earth in a space station, the influences of Bond and Mission: Impossible are clear. You’re tasked with solving a series of puzzles in each of these locations, but it’s not quite that simple. You need to do all that while dodging fatal lasers, fending off goons and destroying enemy tanks. It’s like an escape room on steroids; imagine if the last stag or hen party you went on featured henchman shooting poison darts at you.
You could probably recreate these games on a regular console but I don’t think they’d be nearly as enjoyable. The sound design, the tangibility of the gadgets you interact with, and just the sense of presence you feel all elevate the I Expect You To Die games from excellent puzzlers to must-plays for any newly minted VR owner.