The best video games of 2022 so far

(The Washington Post illustration; iStock)

Game of the year season is upon us, and there are plenty of great games in contention for that title. “Elden Ring,” undeniably, is one of those games. On the other side of the spectrum, so is “Wordle,” the success of which has spawned dozens of spin offs. Newer contenders, such as “Marvel Snap,” “Stray” and “Immortality” have helped round out the list.

We’ll keep this list updated as the year goes on. We’ve heard promising word-of-mouth buzz for games like “Citizen Sleeper” and “Tunic,” but simply haven’t yet had a chance to play those titles. Further still, some of the games listed here now might lose their spots as other, more compelling candidates rise to claim the GOTY mantle.

Across Xbox, PlayStation, Nintendo Switch, PC and even mobile phones, here are the games you should be playing now.

Elden Ring

“If you’re a fan of the Souls games, you’ve likely already made the decision to play ‘Elden Ring,’ the new From Software game co-written by Dark Souls creator Hidetaka Miyazaki and Game of Thrones creator George R.R. Martin,” wrote Gene Park in The Washington Post’s review of the game. “For everyone else, this is still a hard game to skip.”

The game features a story that’s enticingly cryptic, demanding players piece it together. It’s a comedy game where the difficulty turns players into the punchline — and that’s a good thing. It’s also one of the easiest Souls-like games to get into, a feat for a genre known for its punishing difficulty. We’re not even halfway into the year, but “Elden Ring” is practically a shoo-in for any final game of the year list.

Available on: PC, Xbox Series X and Series S, Xbox One, PlayStation 5, PlayStation 4

Read our 'Elden Ring' coverage


Wordle

“Wordle,” a free online word game, technically released in 2021, but it truly exploded in popularity in 2022 and was purchased in January by the New York Times for an undisclosed seven-figure sum. Now, it boasts “millions” of daily players, according to the Times. Players get six tries to figure out a five-letter word — one that’s supposed to be part of a common vocabulary — and that’s basically it. There’s only one puzzle to solve every day.

It’s easy to understand how the game has traveled so far. The game is accessible from any web browser, and people have enjoyed sharing their results on social media, demonstrating their word-savviness. The game has also inspired numerous spin offs, extending the game’s legacy far beyond its five-by-six grid.

Available on: PC, mobile via browser

Here are the 13 best Wordle alternatives


God of War Ragnarok

“In almost every aspect, ‘Ragnarok’ is the better game when compared to the 2018 release,” wrote Gene Park in The Washington Post’s review of the game. That’s high praise.

“Ragnarok,” a sequel to 2018′s “God of War,” is a continuation of the reboot narrative and a refinement of the first game’s mechanics and feel. On paper, that doesn’t sound too exciting. But it adds up to a miraculous package: a compelling narrative punctuated with faster, gorier and more highflying action, spread across hours of gameplay that don’t end when the credits roll.

There are some pacing issues in the game — perhaps the sequel’s biggest shortcoming. But on the whole, “Ragnarok” offers another chance to step into Kratos’ shoes. He feels just like his old self. It’s a welcome return.

Read our review


Marvel Snap

Last month, “Marvel Snap” made our list of great iPhone games. But “Marvel Snap” isn’t just a good mobile game — it’s a great game full stop.

In “Marvel Snap,” players build a deck of cards based on characters from the Marvel comic books. Each card has a certain power level and cost to play, and many of the cards boast unique abilities that modify your power or downgrade your opponent’s. Over the course of six turns, cards are played on the board; whoever has the highest power in two of three locations on the board at the end of the game wins.

“What I wanted to do was make a game I really wanted to play,” said Ben Brode, the founder of Second Dinner, the game’s developer, and former game director for Blizzard Entertainment’s “Hearthstone.” “I had just become a father. My son was born basically the day ‘Hearthstone’ was released and I found that it was much easier for me to play mobile games. So I wanted to build something that I would be able to play more often.”

Judging by the fact that we can’t put this game down, it looks like Second Dinner succeeded.

Available on: iOS, Android, PC

Read our coverage


Splatoon 3

“Splatoon 3” eschews traditional multiplayer shooter mechanics in favor of a system where players undergo a constant balancing act. The game puts players in teams of four, and crowns the winning team based on which team has more paint on the field at the end of the match. Players have to constantly choose: Does it makes sense to attempt to shoot an opponent to temporarily remove them from the battlefield, or should they instead concentrate on laying down more paint for the win?

In “Splatoon 3’s” hubworld, a cleverly disguised main menu screen, you’ll find several buildings leading to its single player mode, its co-op mode, Salmon Run, and most importantly, item shops that allow players to test its wide variety of weapons and gear loadouts outside of battle. “Splatoon 3’s” quirky and colorful setting not only showcases how confident the IP is in its identity, but how confident it is that players will “pick it up” and eventually understand how to play the game through natural experimentation.

Available on: Nintendo Switch

Read our review


Stray

“Stray” is one of those games that haunts you long after the credits roll, but you wouldn’t guess that from its wholesome premise: You play as an orange tabby cat trying to make its way home through a neon-lit cyberpunk city, enlisting the help of friendly androids and a flying robot companion, B-12, along the way.

You platform around the city like it’s your own personal jungle gym and solve puzzles while unraveling the mystery of what befell the so-called Dead City. The developer’s commitment to re-creating authentic cat behavior can’t be overstated — there’s a button entirely dedicated to meowing. The game encourages you to get up to feline mischief, but also to just vibe in its gorgeously detailed cityscape, all while a heart-wrenching narrative unfolds, interspersed by some truly terrifying action sequences. And yet, none of these disparate pieces feel at odds. “Stray” is an enrapturing experience that keeps players invested from start to finish.

Available on: PC, PlayStation 4, PlayStation 5

Read our review


Immortality

“Immortality” is unlike most of the other games on this list — and, in fact, unlike most games in general. The main mechanic involves watching video footage and clicking on points of interest, which will bring you to new video footage. As you jump from clip to clip, you slowly piece together what happened to the subject of all this footage: the would-be movie star Marissa Marcel.

That core mystery is a joy to piece together, and the game explores some trenchant and troubling subjects: violence against women; how the notion of bad behavior by powerful men changes over the decades; cases of mistaken or assumed identity, as well as how those identities interact with one’s supposed “real” identity; public perception; and rebirth. It’s a riveting experience and a novelty for the genre, making it a strong contender for any game of the year list.

Available on: PC, Xbox Series X and Series S

Read our review


MultiVersus

“MultiVersus” is the first game that could give Super Smash Bros. a run for its money — and it’s free to play. Like Super Smash Bros, “MultiVersus” is a fast-paced, four player platform fighting game that is easy to pick up but difficult to master: Its got simple controls alongside loads of complex mechanics under the hood.

But what makes “MultiVersus” really stand out is its focus on 2v2 combat. Every character in the game’s cast of Warner Bros. Discovery characters, from Batman to Arya Stark, have abilities designed to support a duo partner. In fact, a lot of the game’s fun lies in testing out different character pairings. It may sound like a lot, but unless you have professional esports aspirations, you don’t have to take the game too seriously. Just appreciate Shaggy from Scooby-Doo going Super Saiyan (WB saw the memes and delivered), or LeBron James slamming a basketball into Superman’s face.

Available on: PC, PlayStation 5, PlayStation 4, Xbox Series X and Series S, Xbox One

Read our review


Rollerdrome

“Rollerdrome” is a battle arena game built inside the curved walls of a skatepark: Stay in the flow state to execute well-timed jumps and tricks all while dodging enemy gunfire. The plot hits the same notes as the Hunger Games series. In the game, you compete in a blood sport orchestrated by a mysterious giant tech company in the not-so-distant future. The brutality is all a televised spectacle that’s captivated the media and the public. Your goal is to fight, win and become the next “Rollerdrome” champion.

But while it’s easy to mistake “Rollerdrome” for a Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater game with guns, it’s less about what tricks you pull off and more about landing certain chains of commands to eliminate your enemies — and survive. In short: less Tony Hawk, more John Wick.

Available on: PC, PlayStation 5, PlayStation 4

Read our review


Neon White

“Neon White” distills speedrunning, the art of completing a video game as quickly as humanly possible, down to a propulsively compulsive experience anyone can enjoy — even if they’re not normally the kind of player who’d obsessively memorize a game’s ins and outs to beat it in record time. Levels are constructed to teach and encourage the player to learn through exploration and experimentation. Every time you realize when and, more importantly, how to skip a big chunk of a level, you feel like an evil genius.

“This is the game’s central illusion — one that reminds me of Valve’s 2007 first-person puzzle classic ‘Portal,’ albeit with a greater degree of freedom,” writes Nathan Grayson in The Washington Post’s piece on the game. “When you uncover a new skip — which happens constantly and with a procession of new cards to widen the possibility space — it’s like you’ve defied the will of some unseen overlord, even though said overlord absolutely meant for you to figure all of this out.”

Available on: PC, Nintendo Switch

Read our coverage


Norco

In “Norco,” a sci-fi, point-and-click adventure game, players will “encounter rogue androids, sentient ecological networks, ghostly swamp lights and other supernatural elements,” writes Emily Price in The Washington Post’s review of the game. But “the main antagonist is all the more horrifying for its mundanity: ‘Norco’s’ villain is the company, the boss and the bottom line, and its greatest threats are directly born of the environmental damage that those have caused.”

It’s set in a dystopian version of the real-life town of Norco, Louisiana, and, despite being a fictional tale, the game “is in equal measure a loving and brutally honest portrait of the struggles of the people who live there.” “Norco’s” themes of man-made pollution combined with the supernatural brought to mind genre touchstones such as “Kentucky Route Zero” and the NieR series, Price writes. But the game’s primary achievements are its specificity, texture and complexity. The result, Price writes, is a “robotic story, disturbing, personal and fresh, [and] an experience that should not be missed.”

Available on: PC

Read our review


Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Shredder’s Revenge

“Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Shredder’s Revenge” builds on a vast lineage of beloved classic beat 'em ups, so it’s no wonder the title has been received so warmly by fans who still remember the TMNT arcade cabinets and original 1987 cartoon.

“ ‘Shredder’s Revenge’ achieves everything it set out to do, and will go down as an instant classic for its genre,” wrote Gene Park in The Washington Post’s review of the game. “No matter what era, whether it’s 1987, 1989 or 2022, it would be one of the finest, most exciting video game experiences of the year, honing an arcade formula as ageless as Turtles in time.”

That’s the kind of praise that’ll make you say cowabunga, dude.

Available on: PC, Nintendo Switch, PlayStation 4 and Xbox One

Read our review


Pokémon Legends: Arceus

For decades, the Pokémon Company has been trying to replicate the full glory of bug catching, a huge inspiration for its titular series, and for decades it has been stunted by RPG tropes, hardware limitations and a repetitive, uninspired design philosophy. Enter “Arceus,” a game that proves that even a series as bread-and-butter as Pokémon can wildly evolve its formula. Gone are the tropes of the previous mainline games, replaced with an open world set in the ancient past, heavily based on feudal Japan. The typical “battle to weaken, then catch” format has been replaced with a mechanic encouraging players to sneak in and toss balls third-person-shooter style. Best of all, Pokémon of all rarities spawn right in front of you.

“Arceus” is a desperately needed Pokémon formula shake-up. It’s a game that, like “Breath of the Wild,” inspires you to search its world for more secrets and more mysteries.

Available on: Nintendo Switch

Read our review


Horizon Forbidden West

It’s easy to get lost in the gorgeous open world of “Horizon Forbidden West,” the highly anticipated sequel to Guerrilla Games’ 2017 post-apocalyptic RPG “Horizon Zero Dawn.” Exploration is revamped with protagonist Aloy’s new arsenal of gadgets, letting her glide across valleys and swim through sunken cities. The weapons, the map, the enemies — everything feels scaled up. The writing and characters are captivating, particularly Aloy’s new crew, a mix of new faces and allies from the first game. Though the plot goes a bit off the rails, leaning more into science fiction this time around, Guerrilla Games’ masterful world-building comes together in an endearing tale of hope and human tenacity — no easy feat in a series with such a bleak premise.

Available on: PlayStation 5, PlayStation 4

Read our review


Tiny Tina’s Wonderlands

“ ‘Tiny Tina’s Wonderlands’ is the closest any game developer has come to re-creating Dungeons & Dragons,” wrote Michael Czar in The Washington Post’s review of the game.

“There are plenty of games that share similar combat mechanics to D&D,” Czar wrote. “But what ‘Wonderlands’ focuses on — and nails — is the feeling of actually sitting around a table playing D&D: moments of chaos when a dungeon master has mere seconds to improvise a way forward for their players; times when teams throw a good plan out the window, but it all works out in the end; the fiery arguments that might overtake a group of friends just trying to have fun; the feeling of knowing what jokes will land with your dungeon master and which ones won’t. That’s what makes ‘Wonderlands’ a true D&D game.”

Available on: PC, PlayStation 4, PlayStation 5, Xbox One, Xbox Series X and Series S

Read the full review


Lost Ark

“Lost Ark,” a South Korean Massively Multiplayer Online Role-Playing Game (MMORPG) published in North America, Europe and other regions by Amazon Games, has consistently stayed atop active player count rankings on the PC games store Steam. It’s logged over 20 million registered accounts. From the start of the game, it grabs players by throwing them into combat with flashy, eye-catching skills and stunning graphics. Players have remarked that they felt like they were getting a great amount of value for a free-to-play title. The punishing endgame where teams must band together to take down challenging bosses isn’t for everyone, but the community that has stuck around seems pretty loyal.

Available on: PC

Read our coverage


Rainbow Six Extraction

In a year headlined by “Elden Ring,” it’s hard to recommend “Rainbow Six Extraction” as a game of the year contender with a straight face. And yet, here we are.

“Extraction,” a co-op player versus everything first-person shooter, is a rare breed of game that gets in, does what it sets out to do, and gets out. There is a limited number of missions, and each challenges you to cooperate with your teammates and use your full tool kit smartly to overcome cleverly designed shooting puzzles arrayed semi-randomly around the levels. Better still, these missions get genuinely challenging as you level up, and your mistakes have dire consequences for your capacity to progress. In that way (and I’m surprised that I’m even writing this) “Extraction” sort of resembles “Elden Ring,” if you squint a bit.

Available on: PC, Xbox Series X and Series S, Xbox One, PlayStation 5, PlayStation 4, Google Stadia, Amazon Luna

Read our review

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