It’s been a roller-coaster year for video game releases. Early in the year, 2022 felt like it was shot out of a rocket with games like Elden Ring and Horizon Forbidden West. And then, suddenly, the release schedule fell off a cliff until the fall months. But on the whole, it’s been a solid year across the board for AAA blockbusters, little-known indies that exploded in popularity, and deeply imaginative narrative games.
If you recently built a new desktop PC, were gifted a gaming laptop, or have some Steam gift cards burning a hole in your pocket, we’ve got a helpful list. While there are many great games you can spend your time with, here are 10 absolute bangers across a variety of genres and price points you won’t want to pass up.
This simple $5 indie dominated the hearts and minds of several Verge staffers this year, and since it reached version 1.0 in 2022, it seems more and more of us continue getting Vampire-pilled. Vampire Survivors is a basic bullet hell survival game that hides some incredible depth beneath its surface. This game has just one control input: move around the screen with the analog stick to avoid ever-increasing waves of enemies while your weapons auto-fire at set intervals. It may sound simplistic, but it’s just so damn fun. And while there is not a vampire to be seen within its near absence of a story, its characters and settings are weirdly cool enough that you may find yourself inventing your own backstories.
As mentioned in an interview with The Verge, the game’s creator initially worked on software development for casino games, and Vampire Survivors shows that with each and every gratifying gem and coin pickup sound. The gameplay loop is enthralling, the music slaps, and the updates keep coming at a feverish pace. If the game really clicks with you, I’d wager you may easily sink 50-plus hours into it, just as I have. And at just $4.99 for the base game on Steam and $1.99 for its recent DLC expansion, it’s an absolute steal.
Cearly inspired by classic Castlevania titles like Symphony of the Night, Vampire Survivors is a time survival game with minimalistic gameplay and roguelite elements.
FromSoftware’s dark fantasy epic RPG may be an obvious recommendation since this Game of the Year winner mostly needs no introduction, but this opus deserves all its praise and commendations. Elden Ring is a genuinely excellent RPG, and its world of the Lands Between is dense and rich with interesting characters, mysterious lore, and beautiful visuals. It’s an exceptional use of the open-world mechanic since the game doesn’t just become a monotonous checklist of quests but instead allows you the freedom to bite off however much you want to chew.
The open world and flexibility it offers helps make Elden Ring a great introduction to the “Soulsborne” subgenre. Sure, its challenging difficulty will make you suffer at times, but as someone who has quickly bounced off a Dark Souls and Souls-like game or two before, I can assure you that this one can put its hooks in you. When an enemy or area becomes too punishing, just race your horse off somewhere else, where you might find yourself questing and leveling for a bunch of hours until you’re ready to go back and try again. Elden Ring makes hardly anything in its massive world feel like busy work, and all of it feels rewarding.
Elden Ring is set in a sprawling dark fantasy world full of unforgiving enemies and deep lore to uncover.
Speaking of Souls-like games, Tunic is an isometric action RPG that blends a bit of Dark Souls with some heavy Legend of Zelda vibes, yet it manages to create something very unique. You play an adorable fox in a green tunic, donning a sword and shield to cut through enemies in a mysterious land. It’s got lushly colored landscapes with dramatic lighting and deeply dark dungeons to crawl through, but its true beauty lies in its sense of mystery.
While Tunic is an homage to one of gaming’s most classic franchises, it also pays a loving respect to a meta aspect of gaming itself: old-fashioned instruction books and strategy guides. The game doesn’t tell you much of what’s going on with the story or where you’re supposed to go, and much of the in-game text is in a cipher-like language, but things are slowly revealed as you find pieces of an in-game guide. The guide’s artwork is endearing and may really tickle the nostalgia bone for anyone who grew up reading printed guides or issues of Nintendo Power. It’s an engaging way to discover a world and unlock a story, and it makes Tunic an incredibly charming game.
Tunic borrows heavily from classic The Legend of Zelda titles, but its adorable aesthetic betrays the difficulty of this stylish isometric adventure game.
Crank. Up. The. F*[email protected] Volume. Metal: Hellsinger is an awesome first-person shooter built around fast and fun gunplay set to the beat of heavy metal music. That may sound a teensy bit like Doom (2016), and it is, but in addition to Doom’s adrenaline-fueled push-forward feel, Metal: Hellsinger is also a rhythm game. You shoot your guns and slash your sword to the beat of the music, and your continued combos bring the music fully to life. Each encounter with demons and ghouls in its small arenas is a battle with metal music on your side, crescendoing with the vocals track kicking in — which really gets the endorphins flowing, especially if you’re blasting it on your speakers or headphones.
The story is campy, but there’s a charm to its simplicity. It oozes with the try-hard gothic stylings of a metal band T-shirt, but it’s hard not to love how much fun it has with it. Just hearing the narrator set the stage with “South of Heaven… way, way south” made the hairs on my neck stand up and put a smile on my face. Tap your foot along to the beat and the trigger of your shotgun, and you, too, may almost feel compelled to throw up the horns to your monitor.
A mash-up of arena first-person shooter and rhythm game. Metal: Hellsinger asks players to slay hordes of demons and stay in time with fast-paced heavy metal music.
If ‘90s nostalgia is your bag, Return to Monkey Island is an exceptional revitalization of the classic point-and-click adventure. But the best part of this quirky game, with its lovingly designed cartoon-like visuals that give it a more modern feel, is how easily accessible it is. Not only can seasoned Monkey Island fans enjoy it but also first-timers with no prior experience in the franchise or even the genre.
The fun story is perfectly fine as a standalone adventure, but Return to Monkey Island also has an in-game hint book to help you if you’re ever stuck on some of its puzzles. The hint book doesn’t just contain generic tips but, rather, specific clues to guide you on the exact puzzle you’re working on — and it does it without giving up the goose and sucking all the fun out of it.
The latest in the long-running series of point-and-click adventure games, featuring the return of creator Ron Gilbert and a whole new art style.
Just as watching a horror movie with friends makes for the best experience, playing a choose your own adventure thriller / teen slasher game is more fun with company. Supermassive Games’ The Quarry is a suspenseful narrative game that has you playing a cast of teenage counselors at a summer camp where some mysterious and blood-soaked murders and disappearances are afoot.
Much like other games by Supermassive, such as Until Dawn and The Dark Pictures Anthology series, the story unfolds based on the dialogue choices you make and the quick-time events you succeed or fail at. The choices are yours and yours alone, so that means what you do will often have repercussions on who lives and who dies. And many decisions must be made under a very brief time crunch, leading you to some tough options. This is where having a buddy or small audience of friends to play along with makes The Quarry such a great experience. The game has built-in co-op functions to allow players to play specific characters, but it’s fun even if one person is at the helm of the controls and all the others are weighing in on decisions. For me, I think this game may become a new annual ritual for spooky season.
The Quarry is an interactive teen slasher from Supermassive Games, the studio behind horror games like Until Dawn.
2022 has been a great year for narrative games, and one of the best is Citizen Sleeper. If you have a love for tabletop gaming, sci-fi stories, and the existential dread of living as a person’s synthetic copy sold into corporate servitude in a late-stage capitalist dystopia — well, here’s your game. You start each day with mostly one primary goal: survive. As a Sleeper, your manufactured body is degrading from planned obsolescence, triggered by your escape from your controlling overlords. You have to do whatever you can to make money, afford more stabilizer (the precious resource that keeps you going), and develop what community you can on the decrepit space station The Eye.
Citizen Sleeper is heavy on text and dialogue, but it’s an immersive experience with slick art, presentation, and beautiful (if slightly haunting at times) music. It’s not a particularly long game, but even in a sub-10-hour playthrough, it feels richly dense. You can even run through multiple times to get different endings — some of which, you guessed it, are filled with melancholy. But it’s a beautiful journey that asks you, much like Apple TV Plus’ Severance, to ponder what it means to have a sense of self as someone’s manufactured copy.
A narrative point-and-click roleplaying game that mixes tabletop dice mechanics with a dystopian sci-fi adventure.
Norco is another excellent narrative point-and-click indie game, taking you on a journey to a futuristic version of an oil refinery-dominated southern Louisiana suburb. It starts with a somewhat simple premise for a mystery: you must return home to find your missing brother in the wake of your mother’s death. But what unfolds is an increasingly surreal and poignant take on memory, religion, and revisiting your childhood town.
The game’s oil painting-like pixel art and lo-fi electronic soundtrack ooze style and lend an unforgettable lens through which to view this crumbling American suburban landscape. It’s such a pretty work of art that it may be just as engaging for the person watching as it is for the person doing the pointing and clicking. But be warned: Norco’s relatable themes and hopeful spirit may leave both player and onlooker holding back some tears.
A text-heavy narrative mystery game set in a futuristic and surreal Louisiana suburb.
If you have ever watched a stream of Games Done Quick and felt intrigued by the breakneck pace and perfectly timed inputs of speedrunners, you should give Neon White a try. This speed-based first-person shooter / platformer is set in the afterlife, where you play a demon hunter called a neon (you’re the titular Neon White) vying for a chance to make it into heaven. It’s a quirky story that feels more than a bit anime-inspired, complete with recognizable voice actors like Cowboy Bebop’s Steve Blum. But while the conversations among characters can be fun, if sometimes a little rote, the real joy comes from the blisteringly fast action.
Neon White’s combat and platforming are all about speed, repetition, and optimizing. You start out running through the short arenas in an awkward, uncertain fashion — wondering how the hell you’re supposed to match the listed goal times. But the game slowly teaches you how to be faster, using the secondary fire of the card-based weapons you find for an expanded arsenal of movement methods.
This game makes you feel like a speedrunner by putting you through the motions of seeing how you can optimize your run further and further to shave off just fractions of a second and reach the next rank. And it remains rewarding if you have a knack for competition because, in addition to a global leaderboard, you also get a personalized leaderboard for your friends on Steam who play the game. Even if you don’t light up the leaderboards with record scores, you may at least come out of Neon White with a greater appreciation and connection to what you see at the next AGDQ event.
A first-person shooter all about speedrunning, from the creator of indie game Donut County, with a fast-paced soundtrack by Machine Girl.
A free-to-play mobile game? On PC? Okay, just hear me out. Marvel Snap is not just a time-waster for your phone. It’s an exceptionally good one-on-one card battle game, and playing it on your PC monitor really does put the fantastic comic book artwork on the full display it deserves. Once you power up some of your cards to give them an animated or 3D effect, they really come to life in the larger size, and the in-game effects of Carnage powering up by eating through its fellow cards or Hulk sending rippling tremors across the digital table play much better with more real estate.
Plus, with the game’s portrait orientation and average match time of only six minutes, you can play quick matches side by side on the same screen with your work. I’m totally not doing that right now while running late on filing this very article. Nope, no, not at all.
While Marvel Snap has microtransactions that allow you to pay to accelerate your progress and get the newest cards earlier, I can personally attest that you don’t have to put a dime into it to have a whole lot of fun. Perhaps you won’t feel obligated to reach max level for every season, but if you’re a Marvel comics fan or love card games like Magic: The Gathering, Hearthstone, or the glut of card-based video games of recent years like Slay The Spire and Inscryption, I bet you’re gonna have a ton of fun with Snap. Now please, Second Dinner, bring us that PvP update so we can play against friends.
A collectible card game where each card features a Marvel character, complete with unique abilities and attributes. Free with in-app purchases.