Emily Spindler’s top 10 games of 2022

GamesHub Staff Writer Emily Spindler shares her Top 10 games of the last twelve months.
Emily Spindler's Top Games 2022 Game of the Year

Looking back on all of the new releases this year, so many fantastic games hit the scene in 2022. January feels like it was half a decade ago given the chaotic year it’s been, and the lineup of my top games for the year is equally as chaotic, with games ranging from cozy to eldritch horror, single-player story games to MMOs.

Reflecting back on the year that was in games was eye-opening as I realised just how many amazing titles I had to choose from. Getting to cover games professionally means playing big titles, but also having the pleasure of exploring (particularly local) indie games that have absolutely changed my perspective on gaming as an art form. Getting to see all of the weird, wonderful, and exceptionally creative works out there is a joy and I’ve loved seeing more indie games gain major audiences over the last few years thanks to social media and plenty of breakout hits.

While I agonised over the ranking of my top games for quite some time, all of my standouts have stuck with me throughout a massive year and will likely be in my roster of go-to’s for a while to come yet. Some of these I have had the pleasure of covering for GamesHub, and proceeded to sink time outside of that delving further in, while others are hotly anticipated releases I just had to try out, and my year has been all the better for it.

Without further ado, here are my top games for 2022.

10. Overwatch 2

Despite not fully reinventing the wheel, Overwatch 2 surprised me with just how much even small changes could totally change the pacing and strategies needed to succeed in this hero shooter. Having been there, playing a tank since 2016, I was both nervous and excited to see how this sequel fared and what I might miss from the original. But beyond having to take turns in queueing for the tank role when playing with my usual group, and some other minor changes to things like Competitive ranking, overall this game manages to take what worked well and give it a fresh coat of paint.

All the more fast-paced now that it’s a 5v5 team game, Overwatch 2 introduces a handful of fun new characters with great ability loadouts, and reworks the original heroes to keep up in a much more intensified version of the first. Now every hero can hold their own and be the star of the team, rather than some being relegated to mostly supportive or intelligence-gathering roles on the sidelines.

Read: Overwatch 2 review: heroes never die

I’ve spent an embarrassingly long amount of hours getting my teeth sunk into the game (and am still nowhere near any good at it) and will probably spend many more in the months to come as I attempt to climb out of my unfortunate Bronze ranking. 

Whether this is your first foray into Overwatch or you’re a seasoned veteran (and probably much more skilled than I am) it’s well worth jumping on to see what the hype is about. The formula works just as well the second time around (even with some teething issues) and I’m excited to see where it goes with new additions to the roster like a story mode coming into play over the next few years.

9. Tiny Tina’s Wonderlands

I’ll come out and admit it; I’ve never played a Borderlands game before. Tiny Tina’s Wonderlands has been an absolutely chaotic first step into the franchise, although from what I can tell, the Borderlands universe is chaotic by nature. It’s every bit as engaging as I hoped it would be, filled to the brim with guns and explosions, and is, in a word, bombastic.

Read: Tiny Tina’s Wonderlands review – A tremendous tall tale

The Dungeons and Dragons style game-within-a-game framing works particularly well. It leans into some of the typical swords and sorcery fantasy tropes that any D&D player is likely to know well, albeit with a twist in the form of Tiny Tina’s humour and imaginative flair. Even the game’s UI has a fantasy feel to it, a nice touch amongst the swathes of little details that come together to make it work so well.

The mayhem of it all made it feel like I really was playing a tabletop RPG with a bunch of friends, and the game is carried by the wonderful voice acting cast and hilarious (while simultaneously charming) script and story.

8. God of War Ragnarok

God of War Ragnarok was bound to rank in my favourite games this year given my absolute love for its predecessor, and it didn’t disappoint. It’s a blockbuster AAA game through and through, with high-emotion storytelling and stunning visuals as the story of Kratos and Atreus continues, with the stakes higher than ever. Rather than resting on the laurels of being a big title, Ragnarok pulls out all the stops to really show just how amazing games can be.

It wouldn’t be a God of War game without fantastic combat to accompany the story, and there are seemingly infinite combos to take down enemies however you decide is most effective (or looks the coolest, if you play in any way similar to how I do). Each different weapon loadout made me feel like I was playing an entirely different combat system, which is a feat in and of itself.

Read: God of War Ragnarok Review – A captivating epic filled with heart

Combat aside, because I could wax lyrical about what many other games could learn from Ragnarok, where the game truly shines for me is the story. The previous game pulled on my heartstrings, but this one truly moved me. Atreus’ coming-of-age tale is like no other, and it’s a joy to get to experience it. It’s in no small part aided by the fantastic score that accompanies it, of course. I felt connected to each character as they developed throughout the story, feeling every emotional high and low more keenly because of it.

With slick execution, gorgeous world and character designs, and storytelling to rival some of the best, God of War Ragnarok has well and truly earnt its spot on my top games list for the year.

7. Frog Detective 3

The Frog Detective series as a whole brings me a sense of joyful nostalgia for a time not so long ago; one of the many 2020 lockdowns, on a Discord server with a group of friends, all getting to experience this light-hearted adventure about the world’s 2nd best detective solving some very serious mysteries together. 

Frog Detective 3 delivers the same deadpan humour as the rest, wrapping up the trilogy in a neat bow for those who’ve followed along throughout the years. Although, it doesn’t get there without a major red herring and twist, as any good mystery tale should. I sat playing this game and chuckling to myself all the while at the absolutely absurd interactions with every character. And not so surprisingly, I experienced the very same joy over this sequel as I did with the first and second two years ago, wrapped in a blanket, playing along with a group of friends, wondering how every single line could be hilarious, whether intentional or not. 

Read: Frog Detective’s Grace Bruxner is moving on

The new scooter that Frog Detective can use while investigating the Wild West (and the extra time spent doing tricks over sand dunes) happens to play a key part in this ranking, too.

6. Horizon Forbidden West

As the first game I played on the PS5, Horizon Forbidden West was always bound to have a special place in my heart when it comes to looking back on the games of the year. Next-gen graphics aside, it’s a gorgeous title that’s every bit as mind-blowing to play as the first. Every biome is positively teeming with life, both mechanical and organic, and adds to the sense that Aloy is traversing a wild world much larger than that which she left behind. It really does feel like the full capabilities of the console are being put to good use, with the animation of every human character feeling much more realistic than I’m accustomed to in games, despite some moments of being grounded by small issues (such as Aloy’s hair movement).

Read: Horizon Forbidden West review – a breathtaking journey

I’m a self-professed big nerd as far as world-building goes, and boy, does Horizon Forbidden West have one hell of a living, breathing world to explore.  The game leans more heavily into the expansive lore at its disposal with confidence, and every twist and turn in the story feels exciting and unexpected, a breath of fresh air after playing plenty of games where tired tropes are repeatedly trotted out at any given moment.
Horizon Forbidden West is equally as groundbreaking for me as the predecessor was on release. It’s one of the first games in a long time I strove to complete not because I had to, but simply because I was (literally and metaphorically) on the edge of my seat, desperate to know where Aloy’s next big adventure was taking her.

5. Pokemon Scarlet and Violet

Pokemon Scarlet and Violet are yet another wonderful addition to the franchise’s roster, whether (like me) you’re drawn to them by childhood nostalgia, or if you’re fresh to the series. New mechanics like Terastallizing Pokemon in battle keep things interesting, and the new generation of Pokemon is as adorable as ever. 

Open-world adventuring with your team by your side is as fun as everyone always thought it would be, and the three main storylines available make this feel like a step in a new direction for the games. I’m used to the very linear-feeling games, where you follow one set path town-to-town, taking down each Gym Leader before reaching the Elite Four, with an antagonistic group to foil the plans along the way. Pokemon Scarlet and Violet turn this on its head with minimal guidance on which is the best path to start on, and the connections to the main NPCs feel much more real as you make your way through the world.

Read: Pokemon Scarlet and Violet review – A shiny, Terastallized gem

Despite technical difficulties, this game still takes out a top spot this year for me in part due to the childlike joy induced by staying up late catching Pokemon with friends again just like the good old days. I hope the next game continues in this direction, but for now, I’ll keep filling my Pokedex.

4. Cult of the Lamb

Since its announcement in 2021, Cult of the Lamb has been hotly anticipated, and it’s for good reason. Beyond the intriguing premise of an adorable lamb becoming an otherworldly cult leader, the game is a hell of a lot of fun

Dungeon-crawling has never been so simultaneously cute and horrifying. If you’re not so much of a fan of that aspect, the cult management side of the game is equally entertaining as you decide whether to be benevolent or rule with an iron fist (and re-education stockades). I initially set out to be a kind leader to my flock, but after a follower’s request for me to feed poop to another ended in every single one of my members getting food poisoning (as well as repeatedly dying in the dungeon), I had to quickly switch tactics.

I’m usually the type to pick the ‘nice’ option in games because I feel guilty for mistreating the pixels I interact with, but playing the part of an all-seeing, harsh leader certainly has its perks. For one, earning the loyalty of your cult through sacrifices and hard labour when everyone is a paper cutout creature (in my case, all woodland animals) is very entertaining.

Read: Cult of the Lamb review – The flower of the flock

Go deeper down the rabbit hole and build your following and power, taking down each of the deities that have struck down The One Who Waits (your patron), and discover even more off-kilter additions to Cult of the Lamb. No detail has been skipped over and it truly shows.

3. Wayward Strand

Wayward Strand is an Australian gem and sits comfortably in my top three games of this year. Not a lot of games touch on the elderly, let alone focus almost entirely on them, and after playing this game, I feel like that’s such a missed opportunity for so many amazing stories to be told. The vibrant group of retirees living in the floating aged care ward you find yourself wandering as Casey, a teenage aspiring journalist, all have their own views and tales to tell. Wander past their room just a moment too late, and you might miss their story altogether.

This theme of time ticking along is rife throughout the entirety of Wayward Strand, with the clock always front of mind as it marches on at the top of your screen in-game. Casey only has three days to try and learn about the lives of those onboard the ship, and every split-second decision on who to speak to or what room to enter leaves you dwindling away your short time there. Despite this, the game doesn’t feel at all like you’re rushed. You can easily sit in silence with any of the residents, sometimes eliciting a whole new thread of conversation purely through your patience.

Read: Wayward Strand review – The clock keeps ticking

I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again: Wayward Strand made me cry. I’m not much of a crier during games most of the time, so it’s a testament to the amazing effort that has gone into each individual character and their rich stories, as well as the sometimes stark commentary on the state of care both in the setting of the 1970s, but also in the modern day. It’s not all tears, though; there are plenty of light-hearted, funny moments with the characters too. In the short playtime, I managed to experience almost the whole spectrum of human emotion, and that’s a feat in itself. 

Wayward Strand is also a wonderful example of a local game that truly feels Australian. Even in the opening menu, the sounds of local songbirds immediately orient it in its setting without being overdone. I’ve since replayed this game multiple times just to experience the entirety of each character’s storyline through, and think it’s well worth visiting, again and again, to pick up on every last detail, twist, and turn before Casey’s time aboard runs out.

2. Xenoblade Chronicles 3

What can I say about Xenoblade Chronicles 3 that I haven’t already gushed about to anyone who would listen? I’m a complete newcomer to the series (albeit after some lengthy deep dives into the genre-typical convoluted lore) but a Japanese-style RPG fan through and through, and this game well and truly delivers on what I love about the genre and then some. The extensive combat skills and tactics keep battling through the map fresh even when that many battles in any other game might’ve felt too much like just grinding between cutscenes. 

On the topic of cutscenes, Xenoblade Chronicles 3 is absolutely stunning. The Nintendo Switch and its technical capabilities are really put to the test with the expansive maps and for the most part, holds up well (in comparison to difficulties experienced with other Switch games like Pokemon Scarlet and Violet). The voice acting is also masterfully done, and while an altogether different story to previous installments in the series, manages to tie in and give nods to past games in a way that long-time fans will appreciate.

Read: Xenoblade Chronicles 3 review – a grand-scale adventure

One of the key reasons this game stands out above many others this year truly is in the finer details, despite the setting and game itself being so grand scale. Little interactions between characters build a sense of camaraderie while traversing the landscape, dwarfed by the upturned sword sticking out of the Earth far in the distance. The off-seers in your party, Noah and Mio, play mournful tunes to send off the souls of the dead as you encounter their husks dotted along your path, in quiet, reflective moments that drive home the overall tone of the world they inhabit. Even small details in the game mechanics, like the ability to complete fetch quests all from a menu (minus the sometimes painful back-and-forth NPC interactions and travel time usually accompanying these kinds of things) make Xenoblade Chronicles 3 as great as it is.

The extensive runtime might seem daunting at first, but it’s well worth the input to experience the payoff of completing the story and exploring the world of Aionios.

Honourable Mentions

While these games didn’t quite make the top ten, I have to give a few honourable mentions to some other standout titles from 2022. 

Fire Emblem Warriors: Three Hopes somehow managed to take a staunchly turn-based combat fan and make me enjoy the absolute free-for-all that is typical of a musou game. Despite leaning heavily on the Fire Emblem: Three Houses world and story, I didn’t feel like I was sitting through a retelling of Fódlan’s story all over again. Old characters are given new facets to their personalities and backstories I didn’t get to see in the original, and turning the story on its head by making Byleth the villain worked in a way I didn’t expect. While I remain a big fan of slower-paced combat, this game has broadened my digital horizons and surprised me at every turn.

I stumbled upon V Rising purely through word of mouth and proceeded to spend a ridiculous amount of hours grinding through this vampire survival game. It gets an honourable mention purely due to the fact it’s still in early access so on a technicality, isn’t really a 2022 release, but the game feels fully complete as is and is a heap of fun. A particular shout-out goes to the blood-drinking system which can aid you in different combat types, as well as the mechanics that at their core take into account all of the best (and worst) attributes of vampirism and make them a part of the gameplay. I’ll be watching this one closely in 2023.

How could I talk about the top games of 2022 without mentioning Elden Ring? It deserves all the accolades it receives, and only just lost out on my list due mostly to my knack for near-constantly dying at every juncture. It’s expansive in every way, and warrants as many hours as you can put into it to really experience all it has to offer.

Some other titles well worth a mention:

  • Bear and Breakfast is downright adorable with hilariously absurd dialogue, both important features for all the best cozy games.
  • Citizen Sleeper is binge-worthy through and through, thanks to the well-written sci-fi world and story, accompanied by a beautiful soundtrack. Like I needed another reason to start planning a cyberpunk-esque TTRPG game.
  • Potion Craft: Alchemist Simulator is a very late addition to the list given the December 14 release date, but I’ve been obsessed since it was in early access. The medieval manuscript-inspired art style and fun potion-making mechanics made the game a lot more interesting than I initially thought, and the music makes me feel like I’m living my historical apothecary dreams.

1. Stray

I’m always a sucker for a game featuring a cute animal and have waited with bated breath for Stray since it was first previewed. Post-apocalyptic stories are a dime a dozen, particularly in video game form, but viewing the setting through the eyes of a cat gives a whole new perspective to the story. As I slunk my way through dilapidated urban streets, resplendent with flickering neon signs, it struck me just how cat-like Stray was. Even as I found myself in what you might consider high-pressure situations, there was every opportunity to pause, scratch up some carpet, or knock over a paint can or two. Difficult-to-reach locations for a human protagonist were no issue for me as I scaled buildings and snuck through crawlspaces, allowing for a totally different view of a once-thriving metropolis. 

I’ve previously found games with only robot NPCs to feel quite empty and dull, such as Fallout 76 on its release or Generation Zero, but this isn’t the case at all with Stray. Despite playing a non-verbal character in the Stray Cat (if you don’t count the ability to meow at literally any point in time), the addition of your robot companion B-12 and the cast of robot Companions that dwell in the ruins makes the game and world feel very much alive. I was touched by the sweet moments between the Companions and the Stray, such as finding sheet music for the musician Morusque, who serenades you as you curl up next to him. The beginning of the story also made me cry a little, but perhaps that’s just my cat-loving bleeding heart.

Read: Stray Review – So Exquisitely, Believably Cat-like

Despite all the sweet and funny moments Stray has to offer, it’s equally downright terrifying at many points. The enemies, including the swarms of Zurks, and the abandoned parts of the map were at some spots so spooky due in part to the beautiful environmental design and ambient soundscape that I had to take a breather. As someone who is usually pretty placid when it comes to outright, gory horror, the quiet terror of being chased by a horde or trying not to fall from a crane thousands of metres high really got me.

Stray is an amazing game, for cat lovers and those not beholden to a feline companion alike, and comfortably sits as my favourite game of this year. Come for the cute cat, and stay for the wonderful story, aesthetics, and gameplay.

For more on the best games of 2022, explore the rest of our game of the year coverage:

Stay tuned for more curated lists from GamesHub staff and special games industry guests.

Emily Spindler-Carruthers is a journalist interested in writing about diversity and accessibility in gaming, and the ways in which video games can impact communities. You can find her @Sagef0xx on Twitter.