2022 was a great year for games. Here’s Launcher’s list of the very best.
Presented in alphabetical order, here are The Washington Post’s picks for the 10 best video games of 2022.
The most anticipated title of the year not only exceeded expectations in quality and sales, it became a cultural phenomenon. It was filled with memorable characters like Radahn, who learned gravitational magic just so his favorite horse could support his titanic body. But it also turned players themselves into memorable characters, like the chivalrous “Let Me Solo Her,” a player who helped others defeat Malenia wearing nothing but briefs, and the “Cash Lord,” a moniker taken up by comedy troupe leader Mark Phillips who struggled through his first Souls game in an entertaining marathon of streams. Beyond the medium, “Elden Ring” was one of 2022’s icons of pop culture. — Gene Park
Available on: PC, Xbox Series X and Series S, Xbox One, PlayStation 5, PlayStation 4
Read our initial review: ‘Elden Ring’ review in progress: No one is prepared for how colossal this game is
“God of War Ragnarok” had a high bar to meet after the success of 2018’s series reboot, and it handily surpassed it. The campaign is full of surprises and raw, poignant moments that dive even further into the complicated father-son relationship between Kratos and Atreus. The main story is one of the best told in games to date, and even still, the side quests rival it in quality.
The combat is just as brutally satisfying as ever, this time seeing Kratos and Co. carve through soldiers and beasts across the nine realms of Norse mythology. “Ragnarok” also brings back the kind of cinematic, over-the-top boss battles with larger-than-life foes from the older God of War games that were sorely missed in 2018’s “God of War.” “Ragnarok” is a powerful and emotional final chapter in the series’s Norse saga. — Alyse Stanley
Available on: PlayStation 5, PlayStation 4
Read our full review: ‘God of War Ragnarok’ improves on its predecessor in every way
Marvel Snap is competitive accounting, a description obsessives like me will recognize as a compliment. The power levels adding up and up and up. The synergies between cards, stacking and multiplying. Then, there’s the crucial business of comparing notes with other nerds on social media. A win. A loss. A successful gamble. And one that flops. More tinkering of the deck. It’s great theater, abstracted into a colorful superhero-themed spreadsheet, all packed into six short rounds — just a few minutes of play altogether. If you’ve got the willpower to play just one match, that is. — Mikhail Klimentov
Available on: PC, iOS, Android
Read our latest coverage: 11 great games to play on iPhone
“Neon White” is a fascinating fusion of Mirror’s Edge, Sonic the Hedgehog, a deck-building game and a visual novel featuring a deceased assassin with amnesia. Got all that? The game sees you parkouring across complex structures that hover high in the sky; cards can be used to shoot enemies in your path or to offer additional movement options. Blasting through a level as quickly as possible is a joy, evoking the thrill of speedrunning as you constantly experiment with new cards and paths to shave off mere seconds from your personal record.
The real meat of the game, though, is in its gift system. After completing a level, a gift is hidden somewhere within the structures, and always off the beaten path. When you find these gifts, you can give them to other characters to deepen your relationship, visual novel style. Attempting levels anew to find these gifts forces players to rethink how they navigate the space. It’s a blisteringly fast gameplay loop that will have you coming back again and again. — Jhaan Elker
Available on: PC, Nintendo Switch, PlayStation 5, PlayStation 4
Read our latest coverage: Ben Esposito was tired of ‘wholesome’ video games. Enter ‘Neon White.’
If I had my way, Pentiment would win game of the year and we would all go home. This narrative adventure game had even PlayStation die-hards considering Xbox Game Pass. Set in 16th century Bavaria, the game weaves art history and real history into a religious murder mystery that unfolds over decades. (The game’s name refers to the reappearance of an element in a painting that an artist had painted over.) Developed by Obsidian and a marked departure from its previous games, Pentiment examines themes of change and loss. — Shannon Liao
Available on: Xbox Series X and Series S, Xbox One, PC
Read our full review: In ‘Pentiment,’ characters don’t shy away from history or heartbreak
“Pokémon Legends: Arceus” does something no other mainline Pokémon game has done before: It attempts to create a real open world. The game’s focus, too, is different: You’re tasked with completing the Pokédex, not becoming a Pokémon Champion by defeating the Elite Four. Gone are loading and transition screens to battles. Instead, Pokémon appear right in front of you, and you have the option to stealthily sneak up and throw Pokéballs at them, bypassing the traditional weaken-the-Pokémon-in-battle-to-catch-it formula the series is known for. The change in mechanics, along with an almost watercolor-esque aesthetic to the feudal Japan-inspired Hisui region, is a much-needed shot of adrenaline for the series. While “Arceus” has its share of tech and graphics issues, those issues never get in the way of what was otherwise a smooth, unique experience. — Jhaan Elker
Available on: Nintendo Switch
Read our full review: ‘Pokémon Legends: Arceus’ doesn’t need to look beautiful to be a beautiful game
“Stray” is a captivating study in environmental storytelling that masterfully deconstructs our preconceptions about what it means to be human. At the same time, since you play as a cat, you spend a lot of time knocking stuff off tables, getting into places you don’t belong and delighting in being an adorable nuisance. There’s even a dedicated “meow” button! And yet these seemingly disparate tones never feel at odds.
“Stray” is an enrapturing experience that keeps you invested from start to finish. Its gorgeous neon-lit, cyberpunk city is a blast to explore. Its intuitive controls and impeccable vibes make it a no-brainer recommendation for casual players, while its feline protagonist brings a fresh perspective longtime gamers are sure to appreciate. — Alyse Stanley
Available on: PlayStation 5, PlayStation 4 and PC
Read our full review: ‘Stray,’ a game in which you play as a cute cat, is a meow-sterpiece
The indie hit of the year popularized a genre that mixed rogue-like elements and the kind of idle games that flood mobile and browser platforms. It’s barely a video game, requiring no buttons to push besides confirming menu options. And yet, if video games can be defined as a series of interesting player decisions, “Vampire Survivors” is also the most video game game of the year. It’s not a complete original: Vice reported in January 2022 that the game is heavily inspired by the mobile game “Magic Survival.” But what makes the one-man creation of “Vampire Survivors” so special is its comforting use of classic video game imagery — legally distinct sprites based on the Castlevania series — and intoxicating audio design that mimics the absorbing soundscape of a casino. — Gene Park
Available on: PC, Xbox Series X and Series S, Xbox One, iOS, Android
Need gifts for a gamer this holiday season? We’ve got recommendations.
Wordle is undeniable. Were I in charge of ranking this list in non-alphabetical order, I’d put Wordle in first or second place on the strength of its virality alone. Think back to the early months of this year; every social feed was Oops All Squares. But that’s not its only strength, nor its greatest. The lithe packaging and minute time commitment belie the brain-teasing pleasure of playing Wordle, and knowing, too, that you’re competing with every other player out there. More than any other game released this year, Wordle is proof — as if anyone were asking for more — that everyone plays games, even if they don’t think of themselves as a gamer. — Mikhail Klimentov
Available on: PC, mobile via browser
Read our latest coverage: Wordle players break streaks to support New York Times union walkout
“Xenoblade Chronicles 3” is the true heir to the golden era of 1990s Japanese role-playing games. It’s an ambitious, tragic and emotion-driven epic — as big as “Elden Ring” in sheer size, and grander in scale than the God of War series has ever been. It’s easy to fall in love once you hear the soundtrack by legendary composer Yasunori Mitsuda, who also scored “Chrono Trigger,” which many consider the peak of gaming music. Anyone who misses the old romance of Final Fantasy games will see this game as a sort of homecoming. — Gene Park
Available on: Nintendo Switch