As the particularly shopping-focused festive season winds down, the first part of the year is traditionally quite quiet for big video game releases. Not so in 2022.
After a series of partly pandemic-related delays to games originally scheduled to launch in 2021, this year has got off to a flyer, and in February in particular there was barely time to appreciate one big title before another arrived to demand our attention. For many, the game of the year is already out (more on that shortly) and we’ve had some superb indies to play through too.
So now we’re almost exactly a quarter of the way into 2022, we thought it would be a good time to reflect on the best games of the year so far, and chances are at least a few of them will have passed you by.
We’ll update this list again come the summer to see where we’re at, but as you’ll discover, there’s plenty to keep you occupied until then.
Kirby and the Forgotten Land
This platforming adventure is the first fully 3D outing for Nintendo’s preposterously cute pink puffball, and it’s a total smash. As with all Kirby games, the aim here is to suck up enemies and inherit their abilities, but new to Kirby and the Forgotten Land is Mouthful Mode, which allows our happy hero to inhale objects like cars, vending machines and traffic cones and effectively become them. It’s never less than utterly absurd and often hilarious.
Kirby and the Forgotten Land is for the most part of a very gentle game that’s perfect for younger players who might struggle with some of Mario’s grand adventures, but trust us when we say that in the latter stages the game dials everything up to 11, culminating in a truly bonkers ending that you won’t forget in a hurry.
Skateboarding games have had a resurgence over the last few years, and OlliOlli World is up there with the very best the genre has to offer. Like the first two games in the series, you trick your way through 2D side-scrolling levels using mostly the analogue sticks to perform increasingly complex tricks. But OlliOlli World is more approachable than its predecessors, adopting a new visual style that makes the whole game look like a Saturday morning cartoon, and not punishing you anywhere near as harshly for sloppy skating.
But make no mistake: World is still a very tricky game to master, and if you want to tick off every objective on your quest to become a Skate Wizard (it’s a whole thing) you’ll need to have seriously fast thumbs. The game feels fantastic to play and has that one-more-go factor that often turns what was supposed to be a quick 10-minute blast into a several-hour session. The game came out nearly two months ago and we still can’t get enough of the thing.
Platforms: Xbox, PS5, PS4, Switch PC
If you have even a passing interest in video games then you’ll have found it impossible to miss the Elden Ring conversation. FromSoftware’s open-world masterpiece is already looking like the game to beat when it eventually comes to game of the year discussions, and is without doubt one of the genre’s all-time greats.
Exploring the treacherous but magnificent Lands Between as a Tarnished of your creation is so much fun that it could be tens of hours before you decide you’re ready to progress the story. And while Elden Ring is still an incredibly punishing game, its non-linear structure makes it far easier to get into than the Dark Souls games that paved the way for it. If you can’t beat a boss, head out for another adventure and come back when you’re more powerful. It’s brilliant, and you should play it.
Platforms: Xbox, PS5, PS4, PC
Gran Turismo 7
The Forza Horizon series is the gold standard of modern racing games, but hardcore car nerds will never turn their backs on Gran Turismo, and the seventh entry (the first on PS5) does not let them down.
While this is still a racer geared towards petrolheads who will happily spend hours customizing their virtual rides, Gran Turismo 7 is also very approachable to newcomers. A wide range of assist options are designed to keep you on the road and having a good time, while the game very gently introduces new cars and modes, teaching you a thing or two about car culture along the way with an earnest love of the subject that’s hard not to love. As you’d expect, GT7 is also a great advert for the PS5, with some of the best DualSense features we’ve experienced so far.
Platforms: PS5, PS4
Horizon Forbidden West
If Elden Ring is the anti-traditional open-world game, telling you very little about its world and trusting you to discover its secrets for yourself, then Horizon Forbidden West is an open-world game that does everything you’ve come to expect from the genre, multiplied by 100. Endless looting and crafting, a map bulging with icons and markers, and a protagonist who will quite literally tell you what she needs to do to progress pretty much non-stop throughout. And all of this is absolutely fine.
Playing once again as Aloy, now fully aware of why the post-apocalyptic North America she calls home is populated by furious robot dinosaurs and human tribes that won’t stop fighting each other, Forbidden West gives you a truly stunning open-world playground to explore, and while the sci-fi story gets decidedly after as you go, the game is so much fun that you really won’t mind. If Elden Ring is too obtuse for your tastes (again, fine) then head to the Forbidden West instead. You won’t regret it.
Platforms: PS5, PS4
Looks can be deceiving. You’d be forgiven for assuming that Tunic, the long-awaited indie release about a cute-looking fox on an adventure, is going to be a cuddly game that holds your hand along the way, but you couldn’t be more wrong. When the titular (and green tunic-wearing) cub wakes up on a beach at the beginning of this 12-hour game you’re told next to nothing about how it got there or what it needs to do next.
Instead, as you make your way through Tunic’s mysterious fantasy world you’ll collect pages that gradually form the in-game manual. You won’t be guided towards a weapon, key item or an objective, and the game won’t explain its mechanics and systems in a tutorial. Harking back to adventure games of old with more than a nod towards Zelda, you’re all on your own here, and it’s really quite refreshing. Tunic’s combat is surprisingly tough too, but it’s not the game’s biggest strength, and if you just want to explore there’s a no-damage mode, something frankly every game should have. An old-school acc.
Platforms: Xbox, PC
Pokemon Legends Arceus
Very few game series are as happy in their own skin as Pokemon. The formula doesn’t really change, and there’s something quite comforting about that. But if you are looking for a Pokemon that does things a bit differently, Pokemon Legends Arceus is as bold as they come.
Pokemon Legends Arceus isn’t quite an open-world game, but it feels more open than any Pokemon game before it, and because the game is set in the past when little was known about these strange monsters, the emphasis is on discovery rather than battling bigmouth gym leaders. Ultimately you’re still trying to catch ’em all, but Arceus gives your more ways of doing so, and if you’re a longtime fan of the series, seeing Pokemon roam the vast landscape and knowing your character is the first to encounter them is pretty exciting. This game feels like a blueprint for a different approach to the enduring RPG series, and we can’t wait to see what comes next.
Not a joke. While its popularity has inevitably waned somewhat, this web-based word game was a global sensation at the beginning of the year and its simplicity was incredibly refreshing. On the off chance you’ve been living peacefully under a rock since January, the aim of Wordle is to correctly guess an existing five-letter word in six tries. If you guess a correct letter in the right place the tile will turn green, if the letter is in the word but it’s in the wrong spot it’s yellow, and if the letter doesn’t feature it’ll appear grey. The word is the same for everyone in the world and changes every 24 hours. And that’s pretty much all there is to it.
The game itself is great, but it’s Wordle’s superb share feature, which lets you easily share your result that day with friends and on social media (crucially without revealing the correct word itself), and automatic recording of your personal stats, that really made it Blow up. New family rivalries were born, and who wouldn’t want to bask in the glory of beating Richard Osman at a puzzle?