2022 was a busy year, both for the games industry and our tiny corner of it. Hardworking indie developers never seemed to stop releasing title after title, and we continued to cover as many of them as possible. Today we want to give kudos (or condolences as the case may be) to them. Not all of these games were necessarily 2022 releases, but they stood out as the most notable experiences the year had in store for our intrepid contributors.
Programming note: games we played in 2022 made it into our consideration for these awards, but some games may have come out on a year other than 2022.
Demetri – Rounds: There are few 1v1 games that reward and enable individual players’ varied skills like Rounds. The movement and shooting are top notch, the cards and stages are so varied that we haven’t even felt compelled to check out the mod scene yet, and the tension is unmatched. You will never know true fear until your friend drafts Fastball after 3 different flavors of explosive and unleashes the wrath of Zeus from their pistol.
Kyle – Bobble League: To be completely honest, I wasn’t expecting a game from Discord’s platform to make such a splash but Bobble League takes a simplistic style of the game of soccer and gives it enough twists and turns in the formula (turn-based action a la Atlas Reactor!) to give it a ton of replayability and the accidental moments of looking like a pure genius make this game a must-play with buddies.
Kyle – A Musical Story: This isn’t just a soundtrack. This is an experience. Each pluck of a string can be a somber remembrance of a life tormented in struggles or a hopeful rendition of our main protagonist’s future. It’s pretty, then demoralizing, then tender, then apathetic, then emotion after emotion after emotion. For a game surrounding its plot and structure solely around feeling each note in a tour de force of emotion: Glee-Cheese has done an astounding job.
Demetri – Trombone Champ: Boooooo-womp.
Demetri – The Forgotten City: Time travel is a notoriously difficult area of fiction to wrangle. The Forgotten City doesn’t just wrangle it, it manages to be one of the most engrossing and satisfying pieces of time-fic I have ever experienced in any medium. The character writing and performances are impeccable, all in service of a plot that will keep you transfixed as you chase various endings. To elaborate any further would do the game a disservice.
Kyle – milk outside a bag of milk outside a bag of milk: Nikita Kryukov is a fucking beast. What an absolute sledgehammer of emotions filled into the size of a coin purse. Diving head-first into the mind of a young adolescent succumbing to medication and daily parental distress and questioning if you yourself are the saving grace the gaming world has made us out to be. It’s like nothing I’ve ever played before and probably ever will, but I’m glad I got to see the milk sour in real time. Lord knows I wouldn’t be able to explain it if I saw it after.
Kyle – Grounded: This may not be a big surprise to many people who play open world crafting survival games, but I do not like open world crafting survival games: except this one. From the interesting plot and characters to the sheer terror some of these bugs can provide you, especially to the brave souls playing in 1st Person Mode: Grounded grabbed a hold of me and my friends and didn’t let go until we searched every nook and cranny of that backyard.
Demetri – Infernax: I try a lot of games on Xbox Game Pass, many of which don’t get more than an hour or two of my time. Infernax got me for three whole playthroughs and I’m partway through a fourth. This is the kind of retro love letter that ascends beyond its inspirations to provide something genuinely better, and considering how good those inspirations are that’s a hell of a feat.
Demetri – Tunic: There are games that leave you to figure them out, which I respect and enjoy, and then there are games that revel in their elaborate intentional obscurity. Tunic is firmly in the latter camp and wants to rub your face in it. The premise of this game is incredible, but it’s let down by a second act that drags hard and a third that reduces the entire experience to misery. And as a final note, why does a game with such awful combat feature so much of it?
Kyle – Deathverse: LET IT DIE: Thinking about this pisses me off. I love LET IT DIE. Been a devout SUDA man for countless years. But this attempt at revitalizing a niche product with an even more niche style (melee-centered 16-person battle royale) is just not good. The cherry on top of locking private lobbies to a $45 season pass will kill this game. It’s already happening, and it’s sad as Hell.
Demetri – Dodos Riding Dinos: I have been chasing a game that adapts the frantic joy of kart racers to the tabletop for years, and now I finally have it. Dodos Riding Dinos isn’t just a card game with fancy bits, it’s a strong design in its own right without ever sacrificing any of its whimsy. Landing clean shots with the game’s items is as satisfying as a green shell snipe in Mario Kart, and making the great jump in this game’s Rainbow Road equivalent has led to some of the most excitement I’ve had at a table all year.
Kyle – SpyXFamily: While I tend to shy away from your big-budget obvious candidates that are going to shroud every single Anime list this year, it’s hard to pull away from just how amazing SpyXFamily was. Pitch-perfect pacing between comedy, action, emotions, and world-building and providing 25 episodes where I felt none missed a beat. It’s a hard thing to do, and it deserves its just rewards wherever it can.
Kyle – FAITH: The Unholy Trinity: If you’ve followed our website this year, you shouldn’t be surprised to see FAITH on our Best Of List. We both were amply stoked to see it potentially come out this year, and even more satisfied that it hit every mark we were hoping for. Oozing with personality and chalk full of edge of your seat moments bred from just pixels on a screen show the genius that Airdorf has provided while letting your imagination fill in the gaps. It takes a special kind of storyteller to take the nostalgic days of the Commodores and the MS-DOS’s and provide a more tense, scary, and dread-filled experience than many of the AAA competitors and FAITH does so with absolute ease.
Demetri – The Forgotten City: I need you to understand how much The Forgotten City shook me. On a long weekend three of us booted it up on a lark while hanging out. It consumed our entire weekend. All of our time was spent collaborating, speculating, discussing, and dissecting every square inch of map and every single line of dialog. I am in awe of this game and what it accomplishes. You owe it to yourself to see what’s on the other end of The White Hallway, and I very specifically mean getting there yourself spoiler-free. This is one of the very best experiences I have ever had with a video game, full stop.
That’s another year wrapped up here! Thank you again to all the teams making bangers year after year and the very generous readers taking time to check out our website. We’ve had over 14,500 unique visitors find their way here and our site broke 20,000 views without having to sell our soul to advertisers. For a little site that’s been going on strong for three years, seeing this incredible progress will mean more than most will ever know. Thank you for reading.
Here’s to a safe, enjoyable, and well-played 2023!