2022 has been a pretty remarkable year for video games, with the very best games of the year split fairly evenly across genre and developer size. Sure, we had massive AAA role-playing games and titles from established franchises impress us, but we also played some of the most-impressive indie games in years on everything from Xbox Series X to mobile. That made narrowing down to 2022’s 10 best games quite a challenge, but the GameSpot staff rolled up our sleeves and made the tough decisions.
Games eligible for our list included new games since near the start of December 2021 as well as titles leaving early access during that period. GameSpot’s Game of the Year for last year, Deathloop, was released on Xbox Series X|S in 2022, so make sure you check it out if you haven’t yet.
Below, listed in alphabetical order, are GameSpot’s top 10 games of 2022. Let us know which ones you’ve already played, as well as any games on the list you’re still itching to try out before the first wave of new games arrives in 2023. We’ll announce our pick for Game of the Year on Tuesday, December 13.
Available on Xbox Series X/S, Xbox One, PS5, PS4, PC
Elden Ring is both the most ambitious game From Software has ever developed and the culmination of its many years perfecting the Souls formula. On paper, many of its new ideas shouldn’t work, but Hidetaka Miyazaki and his team are considered some of the best game developers on the planet for a reason. For the first time, From Software uses an open-world design, yet it also manages to cleverly maintain the interconnected, locked-door-filled areas of its predecessors. It means that players are free to go nearly anywhere from the very beginning–provided they’re up for the combat challenges–but they’re still rewarded for careful exploration in the game’s many dungeons, cathedrals, and dilapidated villages. A generous (by the developer’s standards, at least) equipment-upgrading system encourages players to try out more than one type of weapon, and the many weapon arts and spells mean very few builds will ever be the same.
The freedom to choose your path also extends to the combat, which is, as expected from From Software, superb. The classic sword-and-shield approach is perfectly viable, but so is an ultra-fast nuisance wielding a giant pizza cutter who can make a copy of themselves. Making that choice is largely a matter of personal preference rather than needing one strategy to beat a particular boss, and if players find themselves struggling in a specific area, they can almost always take off in another direction and find a way to get stronger, coming back hours later to show that pesky dragon how a maiden-having Tarnished gets things done. Or, if they prefer, they can simply wander around The Lands Between and bask in its almost-angelic glow, which gives off a false sense of safety that hides the many horrors hiding behind nearly every corner.
Remarkably, despite its brutal difficulty and often-cryptic storytelling, Elden Ring is projected to be one of the best-selling games for all of 2022. It’s a rarity that the most critically acclaimed game of the year also tops the charts, but it’s also a rarity to get a game as special as Elden Ring. — Gabe Gurwin
God of War Ragnarok
Available on PS5, PS4
God of War Ragnarok is the culmination of a character arc that, just a few years ago, sounded like a ludicrous proposition. And yet, developer Sony Santa Monica managed to pull off what felt like an impossible feat by depicting a journey that shows Kratos, the one-time Greek god of war known for brutality and absolute dedication to death and destruction, find balance as a father, a friend, and a champion for the future of the oppressed in the nine Norse realms.
This journey of growth is set against the backdrop of Ragnarok–the end of the world of gods and men–and comes as Kratos delicately attempts to guide his son, Atreus, through some of the same challenges that shaped him and brought out the worst in him. With the benefit of these life experiences and emotional growth, as well as kindness and love shown to him by his wife, Kratos finds himself better equipped to serve as a guiding hand for his son than ever. But it comes at a time when his son desperately seeks to forge his own path, which requires him to step out of his father’s shadow.
This often fraught dynamic is what carries Kratos and Atreus through an odyssey that brings them both to blows with Thor, Odin, and other Norse gods, each of which is facing their own demons. God of War Ragnarok is a story of one father learning not to hold on too tight, while another uses his iron grip on his family for his selfish deeds. It’s the story of a son understanding the value of wisdom that comes from experience, while another tries to break a cycle of self-destruction. But these are just a few of many themes in a game that is incredibly well-written and acted, as well as one of the best-playing action games of the year. — Tamoor Hussain
Available on Xbox Series X|S, Xbox One, PC, mobile
At first glance, Immortality doesn’t look like a video game at all. Even after you begin playing it, you’d be hard-pressed to find many games that look like it, and even fewer than play like it. The only real comparisons one could draw would be the two games that developer Half Mermaid made before this one, and even then, Immortality builds on those games’ genre-bending features in fascinating ways in order to deliver one of the year’s absolute best video games. Using the now-signature stylings of live-action archival footage and the heart of a detective game, Immortality breaks new ground in the video game space to tell a unique story about artistry, its costs, and, well, a few other wrinkles you simply have to experience for yourself.
To speak to Immortality’s strengths is harder than it is for most games, because the nature of Sam Barlow and his team’s latest effort is deliberately evasive, asking players to search through hours and hours of movie recordings, invented wholecloth for the game’s story, that span 30 years of a disappeared actress’s career. What happened to Marissa Marcel? It’s the million-dollar question implied as soon as you’re placed in front of the game’s faux-Moviola machine, which allows you to pause, rewind, fast-forward, and even click on pieces of a frame–a face, a knife, a pool of blood–and search the records for similar imagery. This constant thread-pulling is both deliberately imprecise and relentlessly engrossing. Even clicking on the same image twice, from slightly different angles or frames, can lead you down new proverbial rabbit holes, allowing this eight-hour game to reimagine the medium’s common one-more-try design. Over time, you’ll piece together the story like red string on a corkboard.
Answering the human questions of Immortality–Where is Marissa now? Why did her promising career fail to launch? What did Hollywood do to her?–are eventually revealed to be the corporeal stand-ins for more…philosophical questions. These answers matter, and you’ll get answers to at least some of the game’s many mysteries, but its grander plans are not for sharing, they’re for seeing for yourself.
There is a moment in Immortality that had me jump out of my seat in a way I always thought was an exaggeration when I’ve seen people do it in movies and TV. It comes at a time when the game reveals its secret hidden meaning I won’t spoil here. This moment is even more compelling when you consider that it comes at a different time and in a different scene for different people because of the way each player moves through its time-twisting movie clips, table reads, and personal camcorder footage without a guiding hand. I’ll think about this moment for a long time, and I’ll remember Immortality as one of the best games of 2022 because, though this singular moment had me out of my seat, the entire experience kept me on the edge of it. — Mark Delaney
Mario + Rabbids Sparks Of Hope
Available on Switch
There’s no feasible way Mario hanging out with the Rabbids should work, and yet developers Ubisoft Milan and Ubisoft Paris have managed to accomplish the feat twice. Mario + Rabbids Sparks of Hope is even better than the first outing, with Mario and friends joined by new characters Edge, Rabbid Rosalina, and Bowser in an action-adventure turn-based strategy game worthy of being one of the best games of 2022.
In a year full of excellent turn-based strategy games, Sparks of Hope stands out for the emphasis it places on movement within the scope of its tactical combat. The game lends great importance to a player’s movement economy, not only creating a diverse variety of movements during your turn but also allowing your movements to influence the action economy and perform special attacks. Too often, moving from point A to point B is the most boring or inconsequential part of tactical turn-based games, but Sparks of Hope makes it the most exciting part of each battle.
Adding to that, Sparks of Hope builds on the success of its remarkable predecessor, with a tactical combat that remains approachable in terms of understanding how it works, but enjoyably challenging in how difficult it ultimately becomes. The game encourages you to think through the consequences of every movement and attack, rewarding a sound strategy. Much like Kingdom Battle, Sparks of Hope is endearingly charming as well, as voice acting brings the memorable personalities of the Rabbids to life in oftentimes hilarious ways.
Mario + Rabbids Sparks of Hope is just an all-around solid package of a game that’s incredibly fun, which is why it’s one of our favorite games of year. — Jordan Ramée
Available on PC, mobile
As the old saying goes, write what you know. In the case of Second Dinner, a new studio founded by Hearthstone veterans, that meant taking all the knowledge accumulated from their work on Blizzard’s streamlined card battler and crafting something new. Marvel Snap is the result of those efforts, and for fans of CCGs it’s easy to see how this fits into a continuum of the studio’s design philosophy and refinement. For everyone else, it’s just an incredibly fun, well-designed game that’s hard to put down.
Marvel Snap is designed to fit right into your life. As a mobile-first game, it’s optimized for the device you already have on you at all times. Matches are designed to be quick, lasting only two or three minutes apiece. Matchmaking is lightning-fast, letting you queue up and start a match in a matter of moments. Second Dinner carefully sanded off every possible point of friction to make the game inviting.
That ease of use doesn’t come at the expense of its competitive bona fides, however. While it’s easy to understand the fundamentals, the skill ceiling is high, letting you craft incredibly complex strategies. Randomized locations keep matches from feeling repetitive, and clever players can take advantage of Hot Locations that are currently in the rotation. Part of that strategy can revolve around bluffing or doubling down thanks to the Snap system, in which you wager rank points when you’re certain of your impending victory–or if you just want to intimidate your opponent into retreating.
The Marvel license is used to excellent effect here, with a wide array of both iconic heroes and obscure back-benchers. The card artwork is simply beautiful, and enhanced by an upgrade system that imbues it with impressive qualities like a sharp 3D effect. Upgrading your cards earns you more cards, creating a compelling loop of gameplay systems that feels fair and fuels every comic book fan’s penchant for collecting.
Given all this, it would be easy for Marvel Snap to gouge customers, but, so far, the monetization in Marvel Snap seems almost confusingly fair. There is no way to pay your way to a better collection, as even the premium currency can only buy you variants and more Missions. A monthly season pass lets you earn new cards and variants, but they aren’t especially overpowered compared to what you can earn for free. Second Dinner seems to know it’s created something special here, and trusts that quality will sustain the game and the studio without predatory tactics.
And that’s what makes Marvel Snap so surprising. It’s a remarkably confident game right from the start, and it deserves to be. — Steve Watts
Available on PC, Switch, PS4, PS5
Speedrunning is a relatively niche thing–maybe you’ve watched a stream where someone rushed impossibly fast through a task that would take you 10 times as much time, or you’ve blasted through a Mario level with reckless abandon. Plenty of games put you on a timer and give you a deadline, but few are designed in a way to make you feel like a speedrunner. That’s exactly what Neon White does, presenting thoughtfully crafted levels and challenges that, at first, may be difficult to complete in any amount of time, but will soon have you dashing through them more quickly than you ever thought possible.
The conceit of each stage in Neon White is simple: defeat every enemy and make it from the beginning to the end as quickly as you can. You’ll always have access to a sword as a last resort, but along your path you’ll find guns with a limited amount of ammo. The obvious–and often necessary–use for these is to fire them at enemies, but you also have the option of discarding each one in return for an associated one-off movement ability, like launching you up into the air, forward in a dash, and so on.
These are essential for both basic navigation of levels, as well as making use of shortcuts you’ll discover as you repeat a stage over and over to better your positioning on the leaderboards (or simply make it to the end). And it’s in that loop of improvement that Neon White proves to be phenomenally satisfying. Your initial runs through a level may involve taking carefully considered shots at enemies and carefully minding any platforming, but that soon gives way to moving forward as if a rocket engine were attached to your back, blazing forward with what you would have previously thought to be an impossible amount of speed and precision.
The action and level design escalates over the course of the game as new weapons and enemies are introduced, ramping up the challenge of finding the minimum amount of gunfire needed to deal with foes so you can focus on beelining it from point A to B in as little time as possible. Seeing yourself improve and transform from a cautious explorer to a blistering speedrunner stage after stage is a thrill like little else. — Chris Pereira
Available on PC, Xbox Series X|S, PS5, PS4
It’s not often that we get to play a game that tackles the coercion of industrialization, the relationship between morality and technology, or the affairs of an estranged family that span generations. In fact, it’s hard to come by any game that attempts to tackle these topics, let alone all three. Yet Norco manages to do all of it, and tell a story that is oftentimes as funny as it is heart-wrenching.
On the surface, Norco is a surreal, southern gothic set in a dystopian sci-fi depiction of New Orleans suburbia, told through a pixel-art point-and-click adventure. It opens with the story of Kay, a character coming home years later after learning about the death of her mother, and in the process, finds out that her brother has been missing. What unravels is a story that spans far beyond its family drama setup and expands into a tale that explores the underbelly of her small town.
Norco is at times ugly to look at, but not because of its art. It’s in how it captures a New Orleans suburb that’s been uprooted, contorted, and polluted by the oil refineries that surround it on all sides. But in its muted and muddled pixelated palette, it captures a colorful depiction of southern suburbia. In doing so, looking at it makes the world you explore all the more sad, as you bear witness firsthand to the lives affected most by industrialization. Every environment showcases the people who continue to live their normal lives, whether it’s the teens outside the bookstore looking to get food for a lost dog, or the lowly hot dog vendor who’s just trying to peddle his weeks-old inventory, it all feels tangible. And every interaction, despite the dire world it’s in, is often funny, filled with thoughtful prose, and incredibly heartwarming.
Year after year, we’re given spectacles that push the limits of technology and redefine what we think is possible in the medium, often leaning on big setpieces of AAA proportions. But Norco manages to tackle momentous topics seldom attempted in other games, and does so effortlessly through the lens of the lives of common folk, who are as believable as they are endearing. Norco isn’t a big-budget game bursting at the seams of epic proportions. Instead, it whispers a southern gothic fairy tale that speaks louder than even the biggest games this year. — Kurt Indovina
Available on Xbox Series X|S, Xbox One, PC
Pentiment is easy to dismiss as a niche game created for a niche group of players, but to do so would be a great disservice. While it’s premise might not seem like something particularly relatable, as it follows a young artist creating illuminated manuscripts in the 16th century who finds himself tasked with solving a murder, Pentiment has a way of making a situation that seems so foreign into something intensely intimate. Coincidentally, this ties into the game’s overall message: History is not some distant, detached concept, but rather an ever present force that creates us and much as we create it.
In Pentiment, you are tasked with quite literally creating history, as it falls upon you to make countless decisions with dire consequences. These decisions range from deciding who protagonist Andreas Maler will supper with (and subsequently will learn vital information from), to who is ultimately guilty of murder and should be put to death. While more and more games are embracing giving players choice-driven experiences where time is a precious commodity, few are doing so quite as masterfully as Pentiment. As you gather information and experience all these defining moments in Andreas’ life, you’re never quite sure just which choices are the right choices–and for good reason.
Pentiment reinforces the idea that the search for truth is not only a daunting task, but an impossible one. While the truth might exist, it is ultimately molded by individual perspectives and oftentimes decided upon by history’s winners. As the community Andreas finds himself a part of begins to unravel, plagued by high taxes, religious oppression, and civil disrest, these ideas come to a head and demand to be reckoned with.
However, Pentiment doesn’t solely examine history, politics, and philosophy. It is also a celebration of the power of art and a source of comfort for those experiencing grief or depression. While there are several moments of hopelessness throughout the game–where it feels as if things couldn’t possibly be worse–it is ultimately a hopeful story that wants us to know that not only are we better than our worst mistakes, but it’s never too late to grow from them. Much like the illuminated manuscripts Andreas crafts, our choices become a beautiful, illustrated story, and we get to choose the ending. — Jessica Howard
Available on PC, Xbox Series X|S, PS5, Switch, Xbox One, PS4
Though Tunic had garnered a significant amount of buzz since its reveal at E3 2017, even its most devoted followers likely never anticipated that it would not only live up to the hype, but set a new benchmark for Zelda-like games. At first glance, it’s easy to perceive Tunic as a colorful little action-adventure starring an adorable fox wielding a tiny sword. But once you wash up on the shore of the gorgeously rendered world, it doesn’t take long to realize that Tunic cleverly subverts the ingrained expectations of the many odes to The Legend of Zelda that came before it.
In defiance of the modern game design tendency to guide players to destinations and solutions, Tunic admirably views its players as true explorers, emphasizing the wonder of exploration and discovery. Scattered throughout the world are individual pages of a manual that, together, resemble the thick game manuals that often used to be included inside game boxes. This design feature is both a charming callback and an integral part of what makes Tunic so darn inventive. The pages offer subtle clues on where to go next, providing new context for previously visited areas, and slyly hint at solutions to the deftly crafted puzzles. Even Tunic’s combat and character progression systems are linked to the game manual. Only by pouring over the manual can you begin to decipher Tunic’s many secrets. And you’ll definitely want to decode the mysteries, as Tunic has some seriously mind-blowing puzzles.
The overarching game manual conceit is complemented by a world design that encourages searching every nook and cranny. Seemingly hidden passages give way to new areas and secrets only when you make the conscious decision to investigate thoroughly. The art direction and isometric camera perspective bolsters these illusions, giving way to delightful aha moments.
Though Tunic’s world seems adorable, it’s also quite dangerous. Taking a Souls-like approach, the combat is nuanced and methodical, relying heavily on well-timed parries and dodges. Even small enemies pose a thrilling threat, and the larger-than-life bosses reward those who have scoured the world for upgrades that help in battle. But if you want to be an explorer without hitting combat roadblocks, Tunic has great accessibility options to tailor the experience to your liking.
When you consider the fact the game was designed by solo developer Andrew Shouldice, Tunic becomes all the more impressive. — Steven Petite
Available on Xbox Series X|S, Xbox One, PC, mobile
It’s cheap. It’s ugly. And it’s easily one of the best games of 2022. Vampire Survivors is the clearest example of how compelling a simple concept and fantastic game feel can be. Part shoot-em-up and part roguelite, Vampire Survivors floods the screen with crudely drawn monster sprites that look ripped from a Castlevania asset pack. Your character attacks automatically, so your entire focus is on using a single thumbstick to move out of harm’s way by thinning out their numbers and threading yourself through openings. The objective? Survive for 30 minutes, before the Grim Reaper appears to deliver a predetermined death.
The intricacies lie in how you develop your character in those 30 minutes. Each enemy drops experience, which increases your level and allows you to outfit your character with additional tools and abilities to keep improving your odds of survival. These range from the almighty garlic, which creates a radius of damage around you, and a set of bibles that constantly orbit your character to damage anything that gets close, to lightning strikes that smite enemies, throwing knives that will launch in the direction you’re facing, and holy water that does area-of-effect damage.
These tools can be leveled up to improve their effectiveness and, eventually, combined along an evolutionary path that will change how they behave. The crucial thing here is, everything you’re doing is pushing your character toward becoming an unstoppable and indestructible monster-slayer. Level up the right tools and evolve them properly and soon you’ll be able to saunter through hordes of enemies slashing, burning, and eviscerating them all in satisfying ways. The power trip that comes from doing so is frighteningly moreish, so you’ll come back to unlock more stages and characters time after time, burning through hours of playtime as instantaneously as you demolish enemies. — Tamoor Hussain