Games I Actually Liked In 2022
It's time to look back on a weird year for video games.
The Keighleys are behind us (I have no hot takes. I slept through them) and we are now firmly in the season of games journalists posting Year End Games Lists for quick filler content while they try to recuperate a fraction of the physical, mental, and emotional toll crunch takes on their bodies and relationships over the holiday break.
That means its time to engage in the age-old tradition of questioning what value Year End Games Lists even have outside of providing a quick source of content that is easy to produce and a reliable platform for advertisers of both the ‘intrusive autoplaying website ads’ and ‘overproduced trailer’ variety.
Someone has to like them for them to be such a sure bet.
Do people like making them? I honestly kind of doubt it. You have to play a representative amount of games that came out in a given year for anyone to take you seriously, and everyone online will yell at you if you decide poorly. There has to be an anxiety towards compiling all the games that came out and scrambling to finish any you missed until you just decide that actually it’s a lost cause because even if you did play all of Sonic Frontiers you doubt it would change your rankings.
They feel, to an outside observer who used to make Year End Polls just for fun, like something that sticks around primarily out of cultural inertia and a sense of obligation. A relic of a time when games coverage was primarily restricted to large outlets and award show coverage on G4, a ‘TV For Gamers’ network that closed in 2014 and tried to return this year but was shut down by its parent company after its outdated coverage and reliance on Old Names like Adam Sessler failed to draw an audience or any substantial attention outside of the sphere of right-wing commentary channels that principally watched clips of G4 to criticise the hosts for being ‘too woke.’
The main problem with year end lists, I’ve found, is that the games I ‘enjoyed most’ out of a year are almost never the ones I’ve spent the most time playing, and a list of those games would never be particularly representative of any given year. If I was to make the list of games I actually played in 2022, that would be a very short and incredibly depressing list where I talked mostly about how I finally managed to quit Star Wars: The Old Republic, a terrible game with a small-yet-dedicated audience that cares enough about the social dynamics of a mediocre World of Warcraft clone that a member of its roleplay community allegedly pulled a gun on another member over roleplay drama in the year of our Luigi 2022. Then I played a lot of the pro-wrestling management sim Total Extreme Wrestling 2020, which leans into a lot of the emergent narrative moments that define the best games in the genre by taking the outcomes of every match fully out of RNG and letting the player write the storylines, decide who wins the matches, and place the random element on how the crowd reacts to the show you make for them.
As I write this, I just booked Jordan Eagles, a randomly generated rookie from my oldest save on this version of the game with a stock photo face that I import into every save since because I thought his name was funny, to retain his AEW World Television title over John Silver, a real wrestler who gained some notoriety this year when a picture of him explaining something to a woman went viral on a social media platform that was bought by a transphobe this year, but which failed to translate into any sustained ‘push’ for Silver because the real life AEW is kind of a dysfunctional mess that most notably lost one vice president to WWE this year and suspended the other three after they got into a backstage altercation with their biggest star.
In the Zoëverse AEW, he’s losing to Eagles tonight in what will almost certainly be a good match that the fans will enjoy, because Jordan Eagles’ stats are woefully overpowered because I forgot that wrestlers import with the stats they have at the time of your old save (2030, with eight years to develop his skills) and not the stats they debuted with. So Jordan Eagles just debuted at age 19 with the popularity of a mega-star and the skills of a grizzled veteran, which made me run with a storyline that he graduated from a WWE Tough Enough style reality TV show, if only because it was probably more believable to my audience than the idea that he was grown in a tank to be the ‘Shadow The Hedgehog of Pro Wrestling,’ which was my second idea. Also, I think I probably cheated in my old save because workers don’t tend to develop 100 in skills under normal circumstances, but I already have most of the heavy simulation elements turned off because I play largely to relax. TEW is generally a little bit looser with cheating for me as, unlike in Football Manager, there are no achievements to unlock and you don’t have to pay to edit your players’ stats.
I have decided, entirely independently of any game mechanics, that Jordan Eagles’ entrance music is Estella by KennyHoopla and his finishing moves are named “Eagles Has Landed” and “Where Eagles Dares.”
Jordan Eagles is my boy.
So my GOTY, by the metrics of games that I actually played, is Total Extreme Wrestling 2020, although an honourable mention goes to Dishonored, which I finally played through to a low chaos ending after dismissing it on release because I played the extremely scuffed PS3 release, and then wrapped up the absolutely excellent Knife of Dunwall and Brigmore Witches before deciding that it was a shame that nobody ever made a sequel to that game.
(Dishonored 2 is fine, the game just lost a lot of charm between the engine change and shift in development teams and I just don’t find it as compelling.)
If I have to pick a game that I actually played that came out this year, then my honourable mention goes to Overwatch 2, which I picked up to play with my TTRPG group as a cool-down after sessions and was fun for like a week until I realised that I wasn’t enjoying solo queue and I wasn’t going to invite any of my friends to play it along with me, so I uninstalled it.
These are fundamentally unsatisfying answers, because I didn’t play Elden Ring (found it too similar to Dark Souls 3 in the Network Test and avoided because I found that the weakest in the Souls series) or Horizon: Forbidden West (haven’t played the first one yet), or God Of War: Ragnarok (the first one came out during a point where I was incredibly tired of ‘Sad Dad Games’ and I don’t own a PS5 and honestly I just don’t know if that genre is for me any more), or Stray. I didn’t even play Immortality, which feels a lock-in to be some pretentious boor’s GOTY contender, entirely because I dislike Sam Barlow’s oeuvre of games about investigating the lives of duplicitous women and thought buying it would count as enabling his Madonna-Whore complex.
So how do we update the age-old tradition of the Year End Games List? Is it even possible to participate in The GOTY Conversation if you haven’t played any of the contenders? That was a trick question. I don’t actually have an answer, and I’m not immune to making filler content because I felt bad for not updating more articles before the year was out. I figured most people just skip past the introduction to Year End Games Lists until they get to the subheading where the games are finally talked about anyway.
Let’s talk about the games I actually liked in 2022.
SPACE WARLORD ORGAN TRADING SIMULATOR:
Space Warlord Organ Trading Simulator is going to show up on literally nobody’s GOTY list in 2022. Partially because it came out last year, in that nebulous period after GOTY lists get decided by all the major outlets and nobody remembered to include it in their lists this year when they have an editorial mandate to crown Elden Ring as the king of the mud, and mostly because it’s the specific kind of low-budget game that gets patronizingly described as ‘a neat little game’ on a podcast somewhere and then promptly forgotten about.
Which is sad, really, because SWOTS is fucking great. Management sims are at their best when they have brief moments of tension to liven up the usually placcid routine players can settle into, and SWOTS commits to this excellently with its bursts of mad dash panic in the sprint to buy and sell organs for various clients before trading closes. Its body horror economy is squishy, gross, and timely in its commentary about the present day and the human body as a commodity, like all good satire.
It freshens up a genre I adore and hides some really smart writing mixed in with the emergent narratives you generate as a player. It’s definitely worth picking up.
I have only played like an hour of Weird West, and I fucking love its moody western atmosphere and mix of the best parts of cRPGs and systems-driven ImSim design already. I am writing this section to shame myself to finish it, and I will be ashamed of myself don’t include a longer writeup for Weird West in next year’s article.
It has a first person mode now, so I’m honestly glad I waited to fully dig into it.
If we’re ranking these, Selaco, even as a demo, should my unironic GOTY, and I have nothing to say you probably haven’t already heard from every single Boomer Shooter YouTuber that is already singing its praises. It’s an outstanding technical achievement, an exercise in artistry and environmental design made solely to flex on what can be accomplished when you push the absolute limits of GZDoom, a source port that has so far contorted the foundations of ZDoom that it’s difficult to believe this is still, technically, running on a lineage of code that was derived from the Linux port of Doom back in 1994. Selaco uses it to create something that has the attention to detail of an immersive sim and plays like F.E.A.R. It all combines to a game that blows me the fuck away every single time I open it and it’s not even fucking finished yet. This game will get better.
I can’t wait.
FORTUNE'S RUN (DEMO)
I played a lot of demos this year, and none of them stuck with me the way Fortune’s Run did.
Fortune’s Run is fucking grimy, with an overbearing weight of space and altitude to its nightmare city on the fringes of space that adds up with its punishing gunfights and pounding club music to instill a hazy sense of dread that makes the whole game feel like someone decided to demake Deus Ex on the Build Engine by way of the Nar Shaddaa level of Dark Forces and a ‘hollywood gun fight’ mod for Half Life 2 made in 2006.
All of these comparisons are deeply affectionate. I said I was going to name it my GOTY around when the game sent me wall-running through a shady nightclub slicing up alien smugglers with a katana with movement code literally ripped out of the Quake 3 Engine, and while I stick with Selaco being a more focused and impressive experience and definitely deserving of a ‘Most Outstanding’ award, I fucking adore Fortune’s Run and no other game this year has shown so much promise for the future of Games I Actually Like.
And like Selaco, it’s not finished yet. Which fucking rocks. I enjoyed the absolute shit out of my time with Fortune’s Run (Demo) and the fact it’s a demo leaves me excited for how all these disparate ideas coalesce into a finished game when it finally releases.-
With that, my ritual obligation to complete a Year End Games List is fulfilled, and the hunger of the great demon Yhabalchodath has been sated for another twelve months. Praise our blessed mother of the infinite maws, and see you in 2023!