James O’Connor’s Top 10 Games Of 2022

James O’Connor’s Top 10 Games Of 2022
Contributor: James O’Connor

It’s customary to begin these Game of the Year pieces with a short paragraph or two summing up how strong the year in games was. Usually, it looks something like this: “While it might not have been a great year for humanity, thanks to (insert three disastrous world events here), it was a cracking year for games.” You follow up with some brief comments about how there were a lot of good indies this year among all the AAA titles, while trying to find some core theme running through the year — usually tied to where the most modern consoles are in their “cycle”.

Going into this list, I expected that I’d have to deviate from this formula. When I thought about my favourite games of the year, only two sprang to mind; the obvious golden boy that sits at number 2 on my list, and my slightly more personal (but by no means original) pick at number 1. I wasn’t sure that it had been an amazing year outside of that.

It wasn’t until I actually sat down to write out my list of contenders that the truth emerged — this was actually an exceptional year for games I enjoyed. Perhaps the strongest in a while. Within a minute, I had a shortlist of about 25 games I was considering, and even that list was being selective, with some very strong games left off. I am not sure why this escaped me until now, but this was a huge year for bloody good games. The games below were, in my personal subjective opinion, the bloody best.

Honourable Mentions:

  • Wayward Strand
  • The Last of Us Part 1
  • Gran Turismo 7
  • The Quarry
  • Powerwash Simulator
  • As Dusk Falls
  • Pokemon Scarlet
  • Bayonetta 3

10. Mario & Rabbids: Sparks of Hope

Mario & Rabbids continues to be a franchise that doesn’t quite make sense on paper, but snaps into perfect clarity once you’re lining up Luigi in a sniper’s nest to shoot a weird rabbit. This is one of those rare AAA third-party Switch games that has the spark and sheen of a Nintendo title (having Mario in it certainly helps), and every tweak and change they’ve made for this sequel was a good choice. Figuring out the best way to combine your movement options through a battlefield to pick off enemies hits that same part of the brain that a perfect line in Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater does.


9. Citizen Sleeper

I listened to a lot of interviews with Gareth Damian Martin as I played through this game (which they designed and wrote), and I can’t help but admire the clarity of the vision on display here. This is a game about the precarity of the gig economy, the daily challenge of living with a prohibitive medical condition, and the corruption of a sci-fi world by the stain of capitalism — and all of this is represented beautifully through the game’s RPG mechanics. Citizen Sleeper‘s derelict space station is a beautifully realised location, and the game plays the inherent tension of your attachment to this floating death trap beautifully. This is just a wonderful feat of storytelling.

8. The Excavation of Hob’s Barrow

This is probably the game on my list that needs the most introduction. The Excavation of Hob’s Barrow is a point-and-click adventure game about Thomasina Bateman, an antiquarian researcher who has traveled to the remote village of Bewley to investigate a barrow she wants to include in her upcoming book. Sounds sexy, right? What unfolds once she arrives is a cracking little horror tale: something is clearly amiss in Bewley, and no one seems particularly keen for Thomasina to dig too deep. The plot is propulsive and exciting, and the puzzles are excellent – nothing too obscure or ridiculous, but challenging enough to give your brain some exercise. Crucially, the ending is dynamite, which is important for a game like this – the set up all pays off.


7. Pentiment

This was the big revelation of my end-of-year push to check out or revisit potential GOTY contenders before putting together this list (with apologies to Wayward Strand, which got pushed down to the 11th spot by this game but which shares a lot in common with it and is still a must-play if you like great storytelling in games). My main takeaway from Pentiment‘s twisty, intricate storytelling and gloriously artistic representation of 16th century Bavaria is that I desperately want to see this team’s spreadsheets. I must see how their narrative systems work. I work as a narrative designer in my day job, and if I could tap into their systems I would become extremely powerful. Please, someone, show me how you did this.


6. Marvel Snap

Of all the games on this list, Marvel Snap is the one with the most power to ruin my life. I do not want to become one of those people that is always on their phone, but the temptation to plug in a quick match is always there. The desire to make yet another deck, to experiment with a new card that doesn’t quite fit my current decks, never fades. If they ever rebalance their completely broken economy (the price of gold is ludicrous) I might even spend some money on this one, which is something very, very few free-to-play games convince me to do.


5. Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Shredder’s Revenge

TMNT: Shredder’s Revenge took two things I did not know that I cared about in this, the year 2022 — the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles and scrolling beat-em-ups — and turned me into a fan of both. Since finishing this together my partner and I have dug into both the Cowabunga Collection and Streets of Rage 4, but it’s Shredder’s Revenge that keeps pulling us back.

The secret ingredient to Shredder’s Revenge is a simple one — it’s very easy. There’s some nice depth to the combat system, and I know that if I dug into the arcade mode I’d face a harder challenge, but Shredder’s Revenge is designed to make you feel like you’re good at it without needing to master a huge learning curve. That’s a potent feeling to be able to tap into, especially for a game like this — bring in a new player and they’ll get it immediately. Bonus points for getting the Wu-Tang Clan involved.


4. Return to Monkey Island

I’m surprised to find this so high on my own list. When this game was initially revealed, I wasn’t a fan of the art style (quietly, of course; I did not tweet at Ron Gilbert because I’m not a piece of shit). But it clicked once I was actually playing the game, and now I think it’s a perfect fit. I’m also not someone with a huge amount of nostalgia for Monkey Island — I played and really liked the Special Edition of the first game on the Xbox 360, but have not played the others. So I’m surprised at just how much Return to Monkey Island‘s nostalgia worked for me, how easily invested I was in its extremely self-aware storytelling. More than anything, though, I really loved how Monkey Island blended classic adventure gameplay with modern sensibilities and conveniences. I adore the in-game hint book that slowly guides you towards solutions before flat-out revealing them, and I love how well the game maps the controls to a controller.

As for where I fall on that controversial ending: I think that ending elevated the game two positions on this list. Big fan.


3. Live A Live

A single thought kept coming to me as I played Live A Live – if the original release of this game had been available on the SNES locally when I was a kid, and I played it back then, would things be different? Would it have become one of those core memories for me, a game I could look back on as an adult and say “this is one of the reasons why my adult life is so focused on games”? Maybe. At the very least, this is one of those games I played and thought “why isn’t everyone doing this all the time?”

Live A Live is, essentially, eight separate mini-RPGs that all get smooshed together for a final level after you beat them. They each share similar battle systems and visual styles but are distinct in gameplay, character, and setting. They are RPGs with every last bit of bloat cut away, leaving lean, focused representations of the genre behind; a big conclusive battle is guaranteed every few hours. They vary in quality and depth, but they add up to something special, unique, and super rewarding. It’s also an RPG that actually fits neatly into an adult life, which is a huge plus.


2. Elden Ring

I’ve been surprised at how many personal lists I’ve seen published that didn’t feature Elden Ring. It’s a sign that games criticism is less monolithic than it was back when I started — there’s more variety in the opinions and the people giving them. I am glad that Elden Ring hasn’t absolutely swept, despite personally being totally enamoured with it.

Truthfully, I did not finish Elden Ring. Actually, I didn’t even come close. My save file is about 25 hours deep, and the thought of coming back now and trying to remember where I am and how to navigate this massive world is very intimidating. But wow oh wow, do I love this game. I am awed by its scale and its depth. This is the deepest I’ve ever gone into a From Software title, the first time they’ve really clicked for me, and there’s a part of me that thinks the best way to proceed is to go back to the earlier titles and see if I can make headway in any of them before I eventually work my way back to Elden Ring.

1. Immortality


Immortality has been a massive success, which is cool for a game that was obviously made specifically for me. Immortality (a game about scrubbing through footage from the making of three unreleased movies to try and learn about the fate of star Marissa Marcel) haunted me for weeks after I played it. In the game, you find match cuts in the footage to try and uncover every scene; one morning, in a bleary half-awake state, I decided that the doorway out of my bedroom was a match-cut for a specific doorway from a scene in Immortality and could not leave bed until the sun came out further and illuminated the darkness beyond the door. It takes a lot for a game to do that to me.

I do not want to risk spoilers, so I will say this: I believe that a vast majority of players will appreciate and enjoy Immortality, but for some players, it’s going to tap into something deeper, something primal, something that exists inside them. It’s an intangible thing that I cannot name, but I know it’s inside me, because Immortality made it pulse and glow. And really, isn’t that what you always hope for when you sit down to engage with media or art, to feel something inside you stir and react? I feel enriched by this game, and as though my personal goals as a creator have shifted — I don’t want to make this, but I want to keep looking for the way this made me feel. Immortality will be a touch point for me for the rest of my life.

James O’Connor is a Project Narrative Lead at Mighty Kingdom. A former games journalist, he has previously written for Gamespot, Hyper, and many, many other gaming publications. You can follow him on Twitter at @Jickle.

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