As I sat down to write this, I realized that this marks a decade of putting together my yearly top ten list for Giant Bomb. That includes a few years before I started working here, a few years after I left, and now—hey, I’m back! And as usual, my list is a mix of bigass AAA games and fun indie stuff. I guess the throughline for all of them is that they’re games where you do a bunch of shit instead of listen to or read a bunch of shit. Anyway, here’s my ten!
I don’t know a lot about cults, but I feel like they’re generally frowned upon. Whenever I see a headline about one it’s always regarding a bunch of weird sex stuff or a mass suicide or something uniformly unfortunate. That’s why I really enjoyed the chance to be a benevolent cult leader with no ulterior motives. Me and my followers just hung out in the woods, played dice games, and frequently had dance parties and big feasts. They also gave me a lot of money but no one seemed too upset about it.
While the actual combat and action portions of the game aren’t anything to write home about, I really enjoyed returning from my excursions to see what each new day brought to my camp. Everything was usually cool, and I only sent people to prison if they were being an egregious asshole. It was a good time for all in my cult, and it makes the top ten even if I wish it had more on the cult management side and improved upon or omitted the other half of the game.
First off, I fully understand that this game kind of sucks. The camera can be janky as hell, platforming can feel imprecise at best, and the open-world feels pretty lifeless and looks pretty generic. THAT SAID, you can run really fast and grind and bounce on a bunch of shit. There’s something about that speed and motion that lends itself really well to an open world – even a relatively boring one.
I’ve always been a big fan of being able to turn my brain off and just do a bunch of mindless collecting or platforming, and that’s pretty much all this game is. It requires almost zero brain activity and just enough lucidity to hit some buttons and hop around. If you can pull that off, then you can have fun grinding on sky rails and jumping on robots for as long as you want. It’s *maybe* a 7 out of 10 game but I still want to keep playing it.
I was so surprised by how much I enjoyed this game that I decided to write up a review of it for this website. You can check that out if you want my full thoughts, but I’ll just say that I came in with zero expectations. I thought the original Mario + Rabbids was totally fine but ultimately didn’t grab me enough to stick with it. Despite assuming this would be the same case, Sparks of Hope’s engaging battles kept me interested and I wound up thoroughly enjoying the entire experience this time. That Edge character sucks ass, though.
With its top down perspective and dungeon-heavy campaign, you’d be excused for thinking that Nobody Saves the World is a Zelda clone. Some of that structure may be present, but the real hook of the game is the huge variety of forms your protagonist can take. Each of them has a number of useful buffs and attacks, and it really starts to get fun once you gain the ability to slot them into other forms. Dungeons frequently feature specific types of enemies or hazards, and it’s a fun puzzle to look at all of your unlocked abilities and try to concoct the perfect build to overcome them. There’s virtually no downtime in the game, either, as at any point you’re working on a handful of different quests tied to your form’s ability.
It’s simple, breezy, and one of those games where I genuinely had a hard time putting the controller down.
Tinykin checked a LOT of boxes for me within minutes of playing it. You’re a tiny character in a big world. You can grind on rails, wires, and platform edges. You get a floaty jump thing that feels kinda like FLUDD from Super Mario Sunshine. You can throw a bunch of little dudes that follow you around like Pikmin. Every level is jam packed with personality, collectibles, and hidden items. Your mobility options aren’t complex, but everything feels just right and the levels are a joy to explore. I had so much fun with this that I started up a second playthrough immediately after ending my first. It came out of nowhere for me, and you owe it to yourself to check it out if anything I listed in the last paragraph speaks to you.
Two pieces of advice if you haven’t played Neon White yet:
Play Neon White
Skip all of the story
That’ll let you ignore the bad parts of this game and get right to the incredible action. If you haven’t played it, Neon White is an incredible mishmash of first-person platforming and gunplay with a focus on speedrunning. Getting through each level isn’t particularly difficult, but where it gets interesting is when you beat a level in 56 seconds and then glance at the leaderboard and see that your friend beat it in 12 seconds. Then you gotta hop back in and re-examine the environment, which often leads to revelations that allow you to skip entire sections.
If part one of each stage is your breezy first completion and part two is realizing where your time can be improved upon, part three is the process of executing on your newfound knowledge. And that’s where things get really intense. You’ll curse yourself and restart time and time again, but it’s all worth it when you finally have that run where you hit every one of those jumps and shots and find out you bested your friend on the leaderboard by a fraction of a second.
Prior to 2022, I had successfully avoided this juggernaut outside of playing it for a couple of days at Epic for a 2014 Game Informer cover story. And back then, it was a completely different game. When it eventually found massive success with its battle royale pivot, I managed to ignore it as a PUBG clone for the youths. But then they put a wrestling guy in it and I decided to stream it on Giant Bomb as a goofy one-off stream.
Oops! Now it holds the title for the most money I’ve ever spent on a game, and it’s quickly rising up the ranks of my most-played games of all time. It’s hard to be upset though, as I genuinely enjoy loading it up in the mornings to do my dailies, playing it for hours at night while catching up with my friends across the country, and eagerly anticipating the next big update or item shop unvaulting.
It may be fun to play as Robocop, Sarah Connor, All Might, a xenomorph, or many of my other dozens of skins, but that wouldn’t mean much if the gameplay wasn’t excellent. Thankfully, it’s a top notch battle royale experience that remains rewarding whether you finish at #1 or #92 thanks to its engaging quests and steady cadence of changes, updates, and additions. I wouldn’t be surprised if I’m still playing this game five years from now.
Without a doubt, this was my personal biggest surprise of 2022. I’ve always respected From’s games from afar. I’ve played them all and recognized their obvious level of craft and quality, but Bloodborne was the only one I stuck with long enough to beat (thanks to a ton of grinding and brute force). When I was given access to the network test a while before release, I played a couple of hours and thought I might not even play the full game. It seemed like exactly the game I expected. “They threw the From combat and tone into an open world. It’ll probably be a really well made game, but it ain’t for me and I’ll bounce off after a few hours,” I thought.
NOPE. I was entranced for my 120-hour playthrough, and as of this writing I’ve decided to start a new one thanks to all the discussion around it for Game of the Year.
I’m not gonna go off for paragraphs about how good this game is. You’ve heard it from every outlet, media personality, and friend all year. And they’re right. It undeniably raises the bar in numerous different categories, and is the first game since Breath of the Wild over five years ago to give me anything close to that sense of wonder and discovery. It’s a monumental achievement that’ll be rightfully discussed for decades among the greatest games of all time.
We have limited time on this spinning blue marble. As such, there are a handful of experiences that everyone should endeavor to indulge in at some point. Falling in love. Traveling the world. Eating at a five-star restaurant. Jumping out of an airplane. People tend to speak highly of witnessing the birth of their child.
I would like to suggest adding the feeling that I experienced during the above screenshot. Strutting through a Vampires Survivors stage with a collection of evolved weapons and obliterating thousands of enemies in a run is without a doubt the best I’ve felt while playing a video game in 2022.
You’ll understand the appeal of Vampire Survivors within minutes (if not seconds) of picking up the controller for the first time. And that appeal only becomes stronger and stronger as the deceiving depth of the game becomes apparent as the unlocks come rolling in. I spent dozens of hours unlocking everything on PC and Steam Deck. Then I did it again on Xbox. Then I did it for the DLC. Now I’ve started the phone version. And I’ll continue to eat up every update and DLC that developer Poncle puts out. If this year has been any indication, that drip feed is going to keep going for quite some time.
I can’t sit here and tell you it’s a *better* game than Elden Ring. They’re vastly different in terms of budget, scope, and impact on the future of the industry. But there’s no game that I enjoyed playing in 2022 more than Vampire Survivors.
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