I reviewed a lot of games this year. More than 50. Then in between those games, I managed to cram in a bunch more extra-curricular titles and maybe something that qualifies as a life for a maladjusted introvert like myself. That’s probably why this year feels like it lasted forever and was a ceaseless cavalcade of failures. My brain is full.
So, allow me to spill my brain all over the page here, as I recount the games that left the most lasting scars in 2022. Fortunately, this also doubles as a list of developers who should be paying for the therapy that keeps me going as a borderline functional member of society.
Happy’s Humble Burger Farm
This game technically came out in 2021, but it was December, so it wasn’t considered for Destructoid’s Game of the Year awards. That means my co-workers had an entire year to play it and understand how much it deserves all the accolades, and I don’t think a single one did that. That, or they did play it and didn’t tell me because they don’t want to hurt my feelings by saying they didn’t enjoy it.
Anyway, Happy’s Humble Burger Farm is a game that I’ve spent a year thinking about and pushing on all my associates. Hey! Hey, you! You should play it. It’s about making burgers in a haunted corporate simulation. It’s a fever nightmare of a concept that is executed with the most horrific motivation of all: Love.
Speaking of fever nightmares, Golden Light is about being trapped in a torturous meat labyrinth where you’re made to suffer for all your countless failures and shortcomings. I really like the implication that the protagonist is condemned to their personal hell because they’re a writer. I relate to that, because I blame my inability to make friends on the fact that no one can really understand my artistic vision.
Someone told me Iron Lung is boring, and it made me really sad. I base my value as a writer and human on the accuracy of my recommendations, and I refuse to believe people simply have different tastes. Iron Lung is one of the most creative and unique short-form narrative horror games made this year, and if you don’t like it, it’s probably because you hate me.
Tunicis a game about bringing a Famicom game back from your vacation in Japan and trying to figure it out without knowing the language. Okay, not explicitly, but I'm just choosing to ignore any other possible interpretation. There are quite a few games out there that give perspective on their own art form, but Tunic’s is such a unique vector on the topic that I couldn’t help but fall in love.
Sucker For Love: First Date
Who knew that the best way to evoke the overwhelming emotions and existential horror of an actual romantic relationship would be to tie in the Lovecraftian mythos (and Robert Chambers, I know.) I love dating sims, and while Sucker For Love: First Date is more of a visual novel, it expertly finds a way to mesh feel-good romance with unknowable dread. Novel dating sims can be awfully hit-and-miss, but Sucker For Love: First Date manages to stand out with outstanding writing, shockingly good voice acting, and clever design.
Dialtown: Phone Dating Sim
Speaking of dating sims, Dialtown: Phone Dating Sim is also more of a visual novel than a dating sim, but that’s the least of its problems. It’s the classic story of a romance in a world where everyone has replaced their heads with antiquated electronics. You play the role of a disgusting cryptid who must find someone to help them get into the funfair where they may lay their eggs in a squalid hole. Relationship goals. True romance. 10/10.
Metal Max Xeno Reborn
I think I confused a lot of people when I proclaimed Metal Max Xeno Reborn to be an amazing surprise. Note that I never made the claim that it was going to be a sleeper hit. I never said that it was the greatest innovation ever contributed to the JRPG genre. What I did say is that it’s a “late arriver to a bygone era of JRPGs,” and that “I could even see its jankiness on display in the screenshots.” Despite that, it’s probably the most fun I had this year on my PlayStation, and something that crawled under my skin and lived there for a while with the various other parasites that I scratch at until my skin is raw.
I immediately bought up a collection of older games in the series and can now proclaim myself a fan. The publisher stoked my newfound enthusiasm by immediately canceling the next planned game, thus proving that everything I love will quickly die.
Creating a retro-inspired game that captures the spirit of classic design is something that is often attempted but rarely achieved. It’s more than pixel-art and tricky platforming; it’s about planning out every challenge in careful detail. Belle Boomerang is a rare example of a game that creates its own identity from a variety of inspirations. It’s also very challenging on its retro difficulty mode. You have to fight for every step forward you take, and that’s the sort of abuse that many modern platformers seem unwilling to dole out. You’ve been warned.
Two Point Campus
This was one of my most anticipated games for the year, and I was not disappointed. Of course, my expectations for Two Point Campuswere “Two Point Hospitalbut a bit different,” so I wasn’t exactly looking for the moon here. Two Point Campus is a successful continuation of Two Point Studios’ shared universe simulation games. While Two Point Hospital was something of a redo of 1997’s Bullfrog classic, Theme Hospital, Two Point Campus has the developers applying the formula to a completely new but equally parasitic sector.
Betrayal at Club Low
Another game that I won’t shut the hell up about, Betrayal at Club Low is Cosmo D’s latest modern art tempest. While previous games in the Off-Peakseries were unique enough, Betrayal at Club Low transcends them by pairing its acid-trip aesthetics with truly revolutionary mechanics. For the first time, the dialogue in a game feels just as compelling as any RPG combat system, pitting you and your dice in a battle of tongues. Innovation has never been quite so arousing.