There’s a reason why shooter games are consistent best-sellers around the world, thanks in part to their ability to deliver some of the most exciting gameplay around within their genre. The big difference here is that shooter games are more than just reasons to deliver a small package of lead at terminal velocity, as plenty of developers have turned the genre into a more experimental and colorful category within the gaming space.
2022 has seen some incredibly experimental titles find great success on the global stage, with one of the best examples being Neon White. A tale of saints and sinners battling for a chance at redemption in a heavenly tournament, Neon White uses the genre to create a speedrunning tour de force that emphasizes speedy precision over blazing guns. Another example from this year would be Metal: Hellsinger, a hellborn adventure where matching your actions to the beat of the death metal music around you is just as important as a quick squeeze of the trigger.
For anyone looking for a pure simulator of all-out action though, there was still plenty on offer. This year’s latest Call of Duty game, Modern Warfare II, kept the action realistic and exciting, while Sniper Elite 5 reminded everyone about the violence that a single bullet can do to evil Nazi war machines. Whatever your taste, there was plenty to enjoy this year.
We’ve gathered the best of the best in the shooter genre according to the critical numbers from GameSpot’s sister site Metacritic, and if you’re looking for more lists detailing 2022’s excellent games, you can check out the best PC, Xbox, and PlayStation games of the year.
Neon White packs plenty of heat with an arsenal of devilish guns, but this is also a game where you’re shooting for the stars as you engage with brilliantly designed levels. Bullets are supplemental to the real action taking place here, as you’ll be using your arsenal of Soul Cards to shave those precious seconds off of your latest run in this incredible showcase of speed, precision, and strategy.
Destiny 2: The Witch Queen
Destiny 2 has long had some of the most thrilling gunplay to sink your teeth into, but it’s the systems that enhance that gameplay that makes the game so special. With this year’s Witch Queen expansion, Destiny 2’s wonderfully absurd arsenal grew bigger, the opportunity for detailed builds became more essential, and the core gameplay unifying these ideas felt better than ever as Guardians banded together to fight back against the forces of the Darkness throughout the year.
A first-person shooter from a bygone era that has been reimagined with modern rendering techniques, Prodeus is more than just surface-level retro visuals slapped onto a standard gun-toting frame. It has viciously intelligent level design, a sublime flow of violence between each level, and it’s utterly thrilling once you get your hands on its impressive selection of hard-hitting weapons.
On a list that details games where more crimson is spilled than that time when Mr. Bean landed a job at the blood bank, Splatoon 3 is a welcome dive into family-friendly territory. Similar to previous games, Splatoon 3 is all about painting your way to victory through chaotic rounds of ink-hurling action. Splatoon 3 doubles down on what made the previous games so much fun, and with new modes added to the mix, it has an infectiously enthusiastic spirit that’ll put a smile on your face.
Azure Striker Gunvolt 3
With a Mega Man-shaped hole in the gaming calendar still present, the Azure Striker Gunvolt series has been filling that void nicely over the last couple of years. Azure Striker Gunvolt 3 captures the magic of the previous games, but it also knows exactly when to deviate from the established formula with its new characters, weird story, and nuanced tweaks to its high-octane run-and-gun gameplay.
There’s no better power fantasy than being a lone gunslinger in the wild west, and Weird West captures that feeling with plenty of reasons to slap leather and fill your hand with iron. A straight-shooting collection of stories, dark fantasy in the old frontier, and high noon shootouts, Weird West lives up to its title and draws you into its bizarre world.
How do you make roller skating cool? That’s easy, as all you need is OlliOlli World developer Roll7, an art direction that pulls inspiration from 1970s grindhouse films, and plenty of guns. Rollerdrome pits you against the clock and dangerous human adversaries as you mix speed, tricks, and stylish marksmanship together with devastating precision, and the end result is a sporty thriller that sticks the landing.
Call of Duty Warzone 2.0
With the original Warzone in the rearview mirror, Call of Duty Warzone 2.0 evolved the battle royale experience to be bigger than ever this year. The result has been transformational, with the new map of Al Mazrah being home to 150-player skirmishes, a growing metaverse of guest stars, and plenty of nostalgic locations being stitched into the battlefield. A well-balanced tour through Call of Duty’s greatest hits and anchored by best-in-class gunplay, Warzone 2.0 is a strong step forward in a new direction for this free-to-play game.
Call of Duty: Modern Warfare II
A weekend of blockbuster action, intrigue, and enough digital TNT to wipe Mount Everest off the face of the planet has become an annual tradition with Call of Duty, and this year’s entry didn’t disappoint in that department. With a more grounded approach, stunning levels, and plenty of finely-tuned weapons waiting to be used, this year’s entry in the series is pure boots on the ground fun across single and multiplayer modes.
One of the more unique games of the year, Metal: Hellsinger merges the heaviest of all music genres together with a devilish rampage through hell. You’re essentially a nigh-unstoppable force of nature slaying to the beat of the death metal soundtrack. With a selection of tracks that features the screams of some of the biggest names in a hardcore genre of music, Metal: Hellsinger feels and sounds exhilarating to play when its signature gameplay is dialed up to 11.
Sniper Elite 5
There’s a one-shot thrill to Rebellion’s Sniper Elite series that never gets old, thanks in part to the gory X-ray camera that shows just how vicious a single bullet can be on the human body. Sniper Elite 5 isn’t a one-trick long distance pony though, as the latest entry in the series was a riveting mission behind enemy lines that looked better than ever and continued to transform protagonist Karl Fairburne into a one-man army.
There’s no getting around the fact that Overwatch 2 feels like more of the same, but when you’ve got a formula that has been honed from years of tweaking and experimentation, it’s hard to improve that much on a winning design. Where Overwatch 2 distinguishes itself is with thoughtful updates that surround those systems, amplifying their strengths and running wild with some of the best multiplayer action that you can arm yourself with.
Tiny Tina’s Wonderlands
A quirky spin-off from the Borderlands universe, Tiny Tina’s Wonderlands retains the core DNA of that loot-and-shoot franchise and gives it a makeover with a new fantasy coat of paint. That translates to magical arrows and spells being flung at all manner of bullet-sponge enemies, but the end result feels terrific and has a delightfully cheeky sense of humor woven into its design.
Outriders had a satisfyingly scrappy sense of style when it first debuted last year, and this year’s massive expansion built on those themes with chunkier weapons, ludicrous powers, and an expanded endgame. Bringing out the best of People Can Fly’s RPG shooter, Worldslayer makes all the right moves in that alien apocalypse to deliver an action-packed experience that is both weird and cool.
Platinum Games’ Sol Cresta, a spiritual successor to the Cresta series of arcade shoot-’em-ups, holds absolutely nothing back as you unleash enough firepower to obliterate an entire galaxy at anything in front of you. It’s classic vertical-scrolling action to the max that has a fun twist on the genre with its ship-swapping mechanics, a fantastic retro design, and an energetic soundtrack that complements the chaos you’ll unleash across the screen.