We’re halfway through the year, and a throughline is clear: Despite a wave of delays and industry turmoil, 2022 has cemented its place as a pretty good year for video games. By summer, we’re generally lamenting about the lack of essential sports. But this year, so far, is the opposite: Somehow, there are almost too many games that are worth your time.
This post originally appeared on March 16, 2022. We’ve updated this to reflect some of the best games that have come out in the meantime.
The following is a comprehensive list of the games, blockbusters, and indie standouts that have already made a meteoric impact on Kotaku’s collective taste.
But at the same time, we get it: Your time is precious, and even if you spend every second of your free time playing, you’ll never be able to spend all of it before the next wave of games arrives. Can’t get out. To that end, we’ve cited statistics from the ever-helpful HowLongToBeat to estimate how long it will take you to complete each game.
There is no single style reductive for labeling neon white. It’s partly a first-person shooter, yes, but it’s also a visual novel, and a dating sim (kinda), and a flamboyant platformer (kinda way more). You play as the so-called Neon – a dead slayer, called upon to purge the heaven of demons from hell – named White. You’re tasked with running through bite-sized levels that last anywhere from 30 seconds to two minutes.
There’s a “fastest” route through each stage, and you can compare your time against friends and the wider world. Play carefully, though, and you’ll find a hidden secret solution in each level that can reduce your time. In the process of hunting, you slowly realize that Neon White might be the one thing most compatible: a puzzle game—and arguably the best game of the year.
When you think of immersive Sims, you probably imagine first-person games with densely packed environments. Weird West Expect bucks – it’s an isometric shooter – but make no mistake: it’s definitely an immersive sim.
Developed by the co-creators of Dishonored, Strange West is an alternate-reality western where humans live alongside werewolves and other creatures of the night.
The narrative is divided into five different characters (a benevolent hunter, a mage, a “pigman”) of sorts. And even if your choice has serious consequences, like any solid entry into the genre’s canon, there’s a handy quick-saving option that allows you to go wild, experiment, and make as many mistakes as you want.
Horizon Forbidden West
Horizon Forbidden West is the pinnacle of the so-called “map game”. Lest you get the wrong idea, this is clearly a compliment and a selling point, even if you get burned on the format.
Nearly every point of interest in Horizon’s world – a post-apocalyptic rendering of the American West – is worth checking out whether you find the surprisingly complex tactical mini-games or the first mission in a riveting series of side-quests.
Then there’s the inventive combat system (based on futuristic bows and arrows) that pits you against some of gaming’s best cannon fodder (robots modeled after prehistoric animals), anchored by a truly all-star cast. Gaya is set against the backdrop of a bonkers story. (Lance Reddick, Angela Bassett, Ashley Burch). Also: you get a hang glider.
Elden Ring is the culmination of the FromSoftware ethos founded nearly 30 years ago with the original King’s Field. But despite being the company’s biggest game ever in terms of both scale and popularity, it also knows how to go out of its own way.
While Souls newcomer Elden may struggle with Ring’s vague goals and overall challenge, every little disappointment serves to make its environmental story and moments of triumph all the more compelling.
Elden’s Ring is not a game that gently caresses your weary shoulders, but a game that lays on your back like a monstrous monkey, a passion made more difficult to move from its abundant checkpoints And the ease with which it allows you to leave for a quick adventure, and then jet.
If you’ve wanted to get into the Souls series before, but balked at its lengthy dungeons and backtracking, Elden Ring might just be the From Software game that finally gets you over that hump.
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