“2022 has surely got to be the year we get things back on track as a species” we said, with customary PCGamesN optimism, this time last year. Unfortunately it only took two months for those hopeful sentiments to prove premature, and unlike in lockdown, the distraction of videogames wasn’t entirely innocent – in habitually featuring Russians as baddies, FPS games like Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2 feel uncomfortably close to the bone in 2022.
The rest of the year in videogames hasn’t been too dissimilar from recent history, with indie breakouts bubbling up as bigger projects continue to slip. Absent big beasts like Starfield, now delayed into 2023, the year in triple-A was dominated by one game above all: PCGamesN’s tip-top-secret formula to decide its games of the year – which we’ll disclose shortly – crowned its winner by the biggest margin ever.
Here’s how it works: every PCGN staffer ranks their top five games, with the top pick getting five points, second place four points, and so on. We tally up the points for all of the submitted games and throw them into a spreadsheet, which spits out a clear winner – a very clear winner, this time around, which is destined to remain one of the best PC games for some time to come. The rest of the story is in just how tight the rest of the countdown was: there were fewer than seven points separating second place from tenth, meaning a few heated debates as we settled some ties, and that other quality games such as Marvel Snap, Rollerdrome, and TMNT: Shredder’s Revenge narrowly missed the top ten.
Some may look back on 2022 and think of it as a bit of a dud, but I say it’s only possible to draw that conclusion if you look at triple-A. With indie games in the majority on our list, you need only read on to discover why, aside from one behemoth, our attention was split so evenly between so many other games: there was a lot of quality this year.
Although Norco is the perfect game to snuggle up with this holiday thanks to being a simple point-and-click with a few QTEs and some mild puzzles, its subject matter is heavy and it doesn’t always make for easy playing. It dives headfirst into a rundown town on the brink of collapse, never skirting around the bleak uncertainty of the town’s future or the the impact of climate change and societal decay.
The adventure game takes place in the real town of Norco, Louisiana, as a search for your missing brother spills over into the titular town and sinks into a mystery that plays out over generations. The story is fed through scrolls of dialogue, character interactions, and of course, pointing and clicking with objects and items you come across.
Despite the morose mood of the game being established early in the short narrative, there’s still so much beauty in Norco’s world. Through the pink light seeping through cracks in the pixelated clouds, there’s a familiarity and warmth in everything you touch, reflecting a sliver of hope for humanity.
9. Overwatch 2
Let’s get the messy bit out of the way first: Overwatch 2 isn’t the game many people expected it to be. Blizzard has been touting the PvE story mode content for years, but none of this shipped with Overwatch 2. Instead, we received a drastically improved version of Overwatch 1 which is more exciting to watch as a spectator, contains several new heroes and maps, and most importantly, is more fun to play.
The biggest change made to Overwatch 2 saw teams drop from six players to five, removing one tank from each side. Players spend less time shooting barriers and instead get to focus on the elements that make the game fun to play. Fighting alongside coordinated teammates in Overwatch 2 has never felt better now that you’re able to make decisive attacks more often.
This creative freedom is best expressed in the latest game mode, Push, which sees teams move a robot from the middle of the stage to their opponent’s spawn. As the robot reaches checkpoints along the way to its destination, the match starts to feel more intense as fights break out more quickly. The chokepoints on the map are constantly changing as the robot rarely stops in the same place, creating dynamic battles to ensure every match plays out differently. To top it all off, Overwatch 2 is completely free to play and features cross play compatibility with every console. What’s not to love?
8. Vampire Survivors
While the premise of Vampire Survivors may not instantly appeal to everyone – it’s a 2D bullet hell game where you have no control over your weapons – there’s a beautiful moment after your first death when it sinks its teeth in, that ‘just one more’ instinct goes into overdrive, and you’re hopelessly hooked. When the basics of Vampire Survivors are under your control, you’ll glide through levels in a flow state; with its hypnotic rogue-lite gameplay and minimalist controls, the 30-minute timer will breeze by, and before you know it, you’ll be lining up another run.
Vampire Survivors is our surprise hit of the year. Even after 100+ hours, we still find ourselves going back to the stages we’ve played many times before, with characters we know inside and out. It’s our safe space, our tool to relax, and for just five dollars, it can be yours too.
7. Neon White
What happens when you mix speedrunning, striking aesthetics, and visual novel elements into a big pot? You get Neon White, Annapurna Interactive’s fast-paced, card-collecting FPS extravaganza. If you like your shooters with a side of clock-watching pressure, this indie darling is likely already on your game of the year list, and it potentially still has you in its ‘just one more shot’ clutches.
Developed by Angel Matrix, Neon White places you into the shoes of a deceased assassin tasked with exterminating demons in Heaven. The prize? A permanent place in the promised land, provided you can keep up with your competing companions. To succeed, you’ll need to parkour beyond the pearly gates, use deck-build gun cards to destroy devils, and leap through over 90 levels in record time.
Somehow, Neon White manages to cram plenty of character chit-chat into the speedrunning game’s schedule, and it makes for a great mid-level breather. If you’re a sucker for anime shenanigans, you’ll probably fall in love with the protagonist’s found family. Failing that, you’ll be more than busy repeatedly playing levels to discover shortcuts and shave seconds off of each run.
Tunic takes the simple concept of an old-school, top-down Legend of Zelda style game with a focus on exploration and introduces the twist that you’re finding pages of the manual scattered across the world, written in a language you can’t understand. With each scrap you find, you might uncover a completely new mechanic to interact with the world, or you might be left with even more questions than before. What makes Tunic truly special, though, is just how lovingly developer Andrew Shouldice has intricately designed everything from the world to the manual that governs it. With each new discovery, you’ll begin to see certain aspects of the game in a whole new light.
By the time you finish Tunic, it’s almost as though you’re seeing the Matrix itself; tiny things that seemed like the most incidental set dressing in the first hour might become some of the most integral clues of all as you slot together the final pieces of its climactic puzzle. Like Fez and The Witness before it, Tunic takes its place as one of the most masterful pieces of puzzle game craftsmanship to grace our screens. If you enjoy that sense of jaw-dropping, fist-pumping revelation, you owe it to yourself to play Tunic – and its robust accessibility settings mean that even if its tougher combat challenges aren’t your thing, you can still enjoy solving the magical mysteries that make it so memorable.
5. Total War: Warhammer III
The thing that makes Total War: Warhammer III one of this year’s best games wasn’t present when the strategy game launched in February. At the time, it was merely another rock-solid entry in the series, introducing the wildly fanciful daemons of Chaos and a host of imaginative mechanics to go with them.
However, it was the arrival of Immortal Empires, the combined sandbox campaign that includes everything from the previous two Total Warhammer games, that cements Total War: Warhammer III as one of the greats of 2022. When Creative Assembly began planning this ten years ago, it was a recklessly ambitious goal – but now it’s gone and pulled it off.
Total War: Warhammer III’s vast Immortal Empires campaign map represents the culmination of that vision, and in realising it, Creative Assembly has created what is arguably the definitive Warhammer experience on PC.
4. Return to Monkey Island
The original Monkey Island and its sequel are true classics of the point-and-click adventure genre, and while the series dipped in quality with subsequent entries, 2022’s aptly named Return to Monkey Island is a return to form for the hilarious antics of Guybrush Threepwood.
Back to Monkey Island he goes, with familiar faces showing up left, right, and centre. The comedic and witty writing from Ron Gilbert was sorely missed in the less-loved instalments, and while this entry doesn’t break new ground like the series first did, it’s up there with the very best games in the genre, with new jokes and throwback references in abundance.
3. A Plague Tale: Requiem
If you thought that Amicia and Hugo’s story couldn’t get any more depressing, you were wrong. Filled with twists, turns, and a whole lot of rats, A Plague Tale: Requiem builds upon the foundations of the first in this unique stealth series, but surpasses its predecessor in telling a richer, more mature story. As we said in our Plague Tale Requiem review, innocence is a thing of the past, so strap in for quite a ride.
While the mechanics remain similar to the first game, Amicia has grown into a battle-hardened, PTSD-stricken young adult who will slaughter soldiers to achieve her aims. Hugo soon follows in her footsteps, using the dynamic new rat mechanics to tear through legions of armour-clad warriors with ease. Where some of our other Game of The Year nominees bring more traditional RPG adventuring to the table, Requiem is a saga of strife and anguish viewed through the lens of children that are struggling to survive. It’s raw, it’s gritty, and most of all, it makes you think.
In the immortal words of the Aristocats, ‘everybody wants to be a cat’ – but despite the internet’s love for our haughty feline friends, cat games are few and far between. No, we’re not talking about those cartoon mice apps that subject your screen to the mercy of tiny claws, but games where you can take direct control of those claws and use them for your own nefarious purposes. Thankfully, BlueTwelve Studio fills that niche with Stray; an atmospheric adventure game that follows the eponymous stray on a journey through a sprawling cyberpunk city in an effort to reunite with his family.
Along the way, you can tear up vintage furniture, knock over tins of paint, and happily ignore any closed shutters and ‘keep out’ signs standing in your way – an open window is as good an invitation as any, after all. The neon brilliance of the Walled City compels you to explore, and its lingering detritus tells a story about the whimsical robot denizens trying to eke out a life with what humanity has left behind. They take pleasure in the simple things, requesting your assistance in gathering knitting materials and collecting scraps of sheet music. Establishing robot-cat relations would prove difficult if not for B-12, a companion drone that serves as a translator, hacker, and friend that accompanies you on your journey. B-12 can even help you fight off the Zurks, which are strange mutant creatures that occupy the darker corners of the Walled City, ready to pounce on unsuspecting, overly-curious felines.
Stray has a simple premise at its core, but it wholly avoids becoming a gimmick by relying upon a cat’s singular ability to go where it pleases in order to deliver the message at the heart of its story. Through wide, impartial eyes, Stray celebrates the communal and creative spirit of humanity while also ruminating on the ecological consequences of consumerism, and the harmful societal divisions created by the demand for order and control. For a game where your only means of communication is through a dedicated ‘meow’ button, Stray has a lot to say about our world today, but it’s the tentative hope for the future that lingers long after its heartfelt ending.
1. Elden Ring
The brutal claustrophobia of previous Soulsborne games makes way for a sweeping, vibrant fantasy world in Elden Ring, but somehow, FromSoftware manages to maintain high drama and a pervasive sense of craft and design, despite the game’s open-world pretensions.
You’re free to explore, but each section of Elden Ring seems laboured over and choreographed. Where so many modern sandbox games are made diffuse through offering choice and agency, FromSoftware’s RPG lets you move organically from one beatific set-piece to the next, allowed to wander and discover at will, but always in the presence of environments, characters, and of course bosses that bear the unmistakable marks of the developer’s visionary artists.
It’s every bit as brilliant as the likes of Red Dead Redemption 2, Witcher 3, and the other standouts of the open-world genre, but you couldn’t argue the experiences are overly similar. Elden Ring is its own thing, a masterful summation of everything FromSoftware has done in its past fused with precious, rare innovation in one of gaming’s most mature genres. Not only is it our game of the year; it took the crown by the widest-ever margin in our internal poll.