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  • Various Authors

The Best Games of 2022

Literally all of these games are about animals, in one way or another.

A navy, ice blue, and red graphic with a pixelated background and 8bit-style text. The QSO logo is readable in the middle, with a glow around the text. There is a games controller in the background done in a dotted, warped style. There are ice blue and bright red pixels around the border.

2022 has been nothing if not a dramatic year for the gaming industry. The tone for the industry over this last year was set early on, when The New York Times acquired Wordle for an undisclosed (but evidently large) sum of money. Throughout the year, several more huge acquisitions were made - Epic Games claiming Bandcamp perhaps being one of the most unexpected turn of events - as well as a number of withdrawals and cancellations. While it was probably inevitable that the Nintendo eShop for the Wii U and 3DS would shut down eventually, did it really need to be so soon?


While the industry was as, frankly, chaotic as ever, 2022 was also a fantastic year for games in a lot of regards. In just one year, we've seen multiple releases in the Pokemon franchise, the release of the Steam Deck (Valve's little handheld PC) along with a shit ton of software updates for it, word of the newest entry into the Legend of Zelda-verse, and some seriously huge charity bundles.


Before we look forward to what 2023 holds for games, let's take a moment to look back at some of our favourite releases from 2022.

 

Stray

Everybody wants to be a cat - especially since seeing the 2016 test footage of the game that would become Blue Twelve Studio’s Stray - a game where you play a cat exploring a cyberpunk world inspired by Hong Kong’s Kowloon Walled City. Like a lot of people, I was expecting a short, chill walking simulator in which you can do catty things like scratch the sofa and knock things off tables. That stuff is there of course, but I was surprised to find it within an impressive, genre switching action-adventure.

After falling into the bowels of a huge megastructure and being separated from your feline friends, you journey back to the surface with the help of a cute drone companion called B-12, discovering a civilisation of robots who have replaced the extinct humans of an enclosed apocalypse bunker. Platforming, puzzles, open world exploration, adventure game bits, stealth bits, combat bits and even some grotesque eyes-on-the-wall horror bits; it throws a lot at the wall, most of which sticks and creates a nicely paced experience for 5-10 hours with engaging story and worldbuilding.


I think my only big criticism is that once you meet B-12 early on, you are then playing the game as a robot - the feeling of exploring the world as a cat becomes a bit lost once you have a chatty drone on your back to interact with everything in it. But hey; it’s game where you play as a cat and you can press a button to meow and curl up asleep on a cushion, so who am I to complain? ~ JC


 

Lookouts

If gay cowboys have a million fans, then I'm one of them. If gay cowboys have one fan, then I'm THAT ONE. If gay cowboys have no fans, that means I'm dead. If I have a mission in life, it’s to seek out as much LGBTQ+ western content as possible. Of everything I’ve come across so far, Lookouts is easily one of my favourites.

Although the game was originally conceptualised and piloted in 2019 for the Gay Western Jam on itch.io - which was run by Robert Yang, creator of The Tearoom - the full version of Lookouts was released back in April 2022. It’s a delightful visual novel following Robin, a cowboy canine, as he scouts out the town of Clemency for gold. Things start to go a little awry for Robin as he finds Joseph, a handsome hawk who just so happens to be the lookout from his rival gang. As the game unfolds, it turns out that the two have more in common than just their job title.


Created as a collaboration between Coldoggo (art, character design), ParanoidHawk (programming, story), and fake gamer comics (music), Lookouts is a demonstration of exemplary talent in all regards. The narrative style and dialogue took me into the game’s wild western world, endearing me to our two anti-heroes quickly. Although we only get a brief look at some of the novel’s eccentric cast, from Sheriff the Lizard to the big bad Curly Wolf, a breadth of history and worldbuilding sits at our fingertips during gameplay. The excellent penmanship is met with an equally enamoring 2D art style, and a suitably atmospheric soundtrack, making the game a delight for all the senses. ~ Toni Oisin H.C.


 

Pokemon Violet

Every time a new Pokemon game is released, I can’t help getting excited. Each generation brings new characters and creatures to fall in love with, and even in some of the series’ weaker entries there’s still so much to enjoy. Take the Unova region: while the base games didn’t blow me away, it introduced me to some all time favourite ‘Mon, like Oshawott and Seismitoad. However, with Pokemon Scarlet and Violet, Game Freak have cleared the bar set for themselves way back with Pokemon Diamond and Pearl, making for the best mainline Pokemon game in decades.

A huge part of what makes the games so good is the incredible open world system. Whereas some Pokemon games of old felt unnecessarily railroaded, the Paldea region is your oyster, allowing you to truly explore and forge your own path. Save from reintroducing Pokemon contests, there’s something here for every kind of Pokemon fan, and the multiple storylines available offer plenty of choice for how to play.


Of course, the best part of every Pokemon game is the Pokemon themselves. Pokemon Violet has some of the series greatest designs in years. From the humble (and underrated) Spidops, through the monstrous Skeledirge, to the ruinous legends of yore, the quality of designs is incredible.


Above all though, what makes Pokemon Violet my game of the year is through how well it’s captured a sense of childlike wonder that only Pokemon can. While playing through Violet, I felt the same way I did playing Pokemon Gold as a youngster - which is the highest compliment I could give. From the emotional rollercoaster of Arven’s storyline, through the heart-racing moment I caught a shiny Sudowoodo, to the thrill of riding a legendary Pokemon across rolling hills - this is the stuff that all the best games are made of. ~ AC


 

JC is a musician, graphic designer, and one-third of dinopunk band Nervous Rex. Follow them on Instagram and Twitter.


Toni Oisin H.C. is the Head of Audio at QSO Media. Read more of his writing here.


AC is the Head of Written Content at QSO Media. Read more of their articles here.


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