Dec 31, 2022
Ed Acosta’s Top 10 Games of 2022
It’s that time of year again to poke and prod around my cabeza, trying to figure out what I had the most fun playing this year. I easily found ten games but ordering this year’s list was challenging as over 3/4 of the games on my were incredibly fun to play. So understand, going into this list, the ranking isn’t without serious overthinking. Heck, at least three of these would easily be #1 on my list if they weren’t fighting with each other!
To start, I want to briefly go over what my list for 2021 would have been. Last year Saving Content had to put a hold on our Game of the Year lists for necessary reasons, but I still wanted to recognize some key releases last year. Two racing games were enjoyable arcade affairs, Hot Wheels Unleashed and Cruis’n Blast. Hot Wheels was a good old-fashioned arcade racer that prioritized fun over anything else. I enjoyed picking the toy cars and ripping around the famously orange Hot Wheels track pieces. The vehicles look like diecast toys rather than life-sized cars too! Looking at how the paint coats some of the cars will give an excellent example of this. Some corners feel thicker than others, and metallic flakes are larger than what you’d find on car paint. While racing around the tracks, you’ll avoid household objects and encounter some Mario Kart gravity-defying maneuvers; Hot Wheels Unleased is definitely a family fun racing game.
Cruis’n wasn’t technically new as it had been released in arcades for a few years before its Switch release, but as with Hot Wheels, it brought some crazy arcade racing fun. An authentic Cruis’n experience with turbo boosts and drifting around corners while flying by some crazy-looking tracks. You’ll end up around different parts of the world and driving through a Land of the Lost area with dinosaurs at the earth’s center. Plus, there are many unlockable cars to work towards, so you have more to do other than your standard arcade time attacks.
Some smaller games kept my attention too. Unpacking, Lake, and Death’s Door each had something great that kept me interested. The combat of Death’s Door was fun to play, the calm delivery aspect of Lake was a nice way to end my days, and the zen-like organization of Unpacking was enough to soothe the stresses of my day.
Finally, we had some of the heavy hitters last year. Any of these could have been my top game: Hitman 3, Far Cry 6, Guardians of the Galaxy, and Forza Horizon 5. Hitman 3 took everything that made the previous Hitman games so great and gave us even more. Plus, if you had the other titles, you could import everything into the 3rd game and play it all under one game! For everyone who disliked Far Cry for being more of the same formula, there were people like me who enjoyed the game BECAUSE it was more of the same. It was familiar and fun and tickled the checklist completionist part of my brain. Guardians of the Galaxy was a nice surprise; it had an incredible story, and its combat was a blast. It was everything that Marvel’s Avengers should have been.
So that leaves one. Forza Horizon 5 would have won my 2021 Game of the Year, and it would have been because of how much enjoyment I found driving around Mexico. It felt like I was returning to the full-featured fun I had in Horizon 3’s Australia. It was just a fun map to explore, and of course, being able to drive all the new cars and old staples was just what the doctor ordered.
With 2021 out of the way, let’s get to 2022. This year I had three notable mentions I wanted to recognize. First, Eric and I played a ton of SnowRunner this year co-op, and this was one of those games we enjoyed playing together as a “we’re actually on a phone call but playing a game” type of game. We would hop on Discord and deliver goods while chit-chatting about our day. Even though there are some frustrating moments in Snow Runner where you can quickly get stuck, having that co-op partner available to come by and give you a bit of a rescue made all the difference.
Secondly, I wanted to shout out Grand Theft Auto Online. With a couple of new content releases this year, Rockstar kept things interesting enough for me, Eric, and our cousins to keep playing on the weekends. GTA: Online to us is very similar to how we played Snow Runner; it was a good way of getting everyone into Discord to chat and have something to do simultaneously. But the best part of the GTA: Online experience this year was Rockstar opening up the ability to complete everything in GTA: Online in private lobbies. This was an incredible moment as we could all have fun and play GTA how we wanted to play without having to deal with trolls and modders. Doing contract jobs, pay phone hits, and heists gave us all some fun moments this year. Plus, all the hijinks would invariably occur when we played, hijinks that would cause us to all laugh out loud for minutes on end.
Originally this notable mention list was only going to include two games until I came to visit family for the Christmas holiday. I found all our Rock Band equipment at my parent’s place and saw my father still had a copy of the original Rock Band for his launch Xbox 360. Eric and I realized that his three children had never actually played Rock Band earnestly either. In fact, my nephew, the oldest of the bunch, was not much older than Toddler/Preschool age when Rock Band was all the rage. So it was incredibly cool to see the three of them having a blast playing the guitars and the drum set to the songs. I even spent over 2 to 3 hours redownloading all the DLC songs that work with the original Rock Band and even redownloaded Rock Band Blitz to play all the other DLC songs available. It makes me wish it were easier to play Rock Band on new systems, as this could be something the kids might add to their gaming repertoire. As I told my niece how much her Dad, Mom, and I played Rock Band, I showed her all the extra songs we had purchased over the years to let that dedication sink in. I miss Rock Band and hope these instruments hold up for a long time.
Ok, I know that was a lot to get through, but finally, we have reached the part of this article where I put together my list of top games this year. I got ten of them to get through, so with no further ado, here are my Top 10 games of 2022:
10. Sonic Frontiers
Sonic Frontiers was a pleasant surprise; after hearing some people describe the game, I was unsure if this would click with me. Utilizing an “Open Zone” world design, Frontiers uses multiple open worlds where you can collect items, defeat bosses, and complete puzzles. It scratched the checklist part of my brain and had some enjoyable combat. The bosses had some challenging, but not too challenging, fights, and the end boss fight for each stage was a nice cap off to the level. I’m excited to keep playing and finish this game, as it’s the most fun I’ve had with Sonic since Sonic Mania.
09. LEGO Star Wars: the Skywalker Saga
I’ve always enjoyed LEGO games and their very repeatable formula. Break things, collect bricks, find collectibles, unlock cheats. Rinse, Repeat. It’s one of those games that’s easy enough to complete all the achievements and have a quirky time doing it. It’s even better when you do so with a friend! The Skywalker Saga is great as it’s compiled all nine movies into one game and gave us some updates to combat. Updates like a skill tree and a new over-the-shoulder perspective that breaks away from the almost-locked camera of older LEGO titles. The Skywalker Saga is a good showing of what future LEGO games can be, and I’m excited to see what franchise they tackle next.
08. TMNT Shredder’s Revenge
The LEGO games have sort of become a modern version of a beat ’em up, especially for families, but one of the original kings of the beat ’em up genre released a new game this year. Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles Shredder’s Revenge was an incredible game, bringing the old school beat ’em up formula into a more modern setting. Beat ’em ups have had a hard time transitioning from the quarter-munching difficulty of the arcades, and Shredder’s Revenge does a great job of keeping the challenge there when you don’t have the risk of spending multiple quarters. It also helps that you can play with a whole team of Turtles and two more, on screen, all at once! Plus, both April O’Neal and Master Splinter are great brawlers in their own right. What keeps this from going higher is that after you beat the game, there is little left to do. There are a few collectibles to find and one additional character to unlock, but that’s it. I was hoping for some Character DLC or additional levels to show up.
07. Saints Row (2022)
Talk about a game that launched poorly and got sent through the reamer. I didn’t run into as many bugs and issues as other reviewers, so that didn’t cloud my playtime. Because of that, I was enjoying my time in Santo Ileso. The writing may not be as strong as previous entries, but I found the new characters likable and the story interesting. I had fun with the familiar Saints Row gameplay, while the driving mechanics were pretty decent. They did take a little bit to get used to, but it was drivable. The game has become even stronger with update after update since launch, and it’s honestly one of the most fun games I’ve played this year.
06. Jackbox Party Pack 9
The Jackbox games have yet to miss. Every new release has found its way into my gameplay rotation for parties or get-togethers for years now. This new set of games is almost all bangers too. Fibbage 4 is just classic Fibbage and the strongest in this package. But that’s not to say that Quixort or Roomerang isn’t fun. Quixort leads to some crazy fun shouting matches when you’re trying to make a point that the order of things is wrong or right. Roomerang provides a great game where you can stab your friends in the back or work to create some funny scenarios. Nonsenory is alright, and Junktopia is a neat concept that most people tend to skip because it’s initially confusing. Overall, I loved this pack and can’t wait for the next get-together to play it again.
05. Gotham Knights
I was initially skeptical of Gotham Knights, and if it weren’t for Gamefly, I would have passed on this one. What hooked me was the co-op gameplay. Running around the city as one of the four bat family members with Eric was a big plus in my book. It also helped that the combat was fun and not too distant from the action found in the Arkham series. I prefer the reversal-focused combat of Arkham rather than the evasion-focused combat of Gotham, but it was still quite fun to play. But it isn’t #1 for a reason, and the biggest reason is that this game actively tries to make me want to dislike it. From a locked 30FPS, decisions to lock fast travel to an in-game mission, not being able to delete unwanted suit blueprints, going with the color swatch route rather than giving me an RGB slider for outfits, a batcycle that feels slower than a taxi, all leading to a Batman voice over that is one of my most disliked renditions of the dark knight. This game tried its hardest to get me to stop playing. But I ended up with the platinum trophy, so do with that information what you will.
04. Need for Speed Unbound
EA kind of just dropped NFS into our laps right at the end of the year. First, with an out-of-the-blue announcement, then a drop and dump of the game in December. I don’t know why it was handled that way; the game is great fun, and I still stand by the thought that it is basically NFS Heat 2, but Unleashed is fun in its own right. The racing is good, the physics is just as good as the past few NFS titles, and the car selection is excellent. The things holding it back, though, are its story, voice acting, and theming. I’m done with the Underground theme altogether; it’s one that needs to stay in the past. But the graffiti art flourishes that appear from your car are so cool to see and experience. It was almost to the point that I wish they did the whole game in that art style, like an NFS version of Auto Modelista.
03. Disney Dreamlight Valley
I knew I would enjoy Disney Dreamlight Valley, but I did not fully understand how much I would love it. As with a few others I’ve mentioned already, it triggered that lizard-brained checklist part of my mind collecting and crafting to complete the tasks. It gave me all the same vibes I get when playing Animal Crossing but without any forced time management. I could play the game at my own pace and not worry about waiting a whole real-world day for anything to complete. As long as I had the patience to collect enough crafting materials to complete tasks, I could sit there all day and play the game to my heart’s content.
On top of that, Dreamlight Valley incorporates quality-of-life changes to the Life Sim genre. Things like being able to freely move houses around at any time, utilizing fast travel points, and moving those fast travel points where you want them. All that, plus stacking items and placing those stacks in chests, makes for excellent organization. There are some downsides to the handling of the migration of these items between storage and pockets, so I hope they get a patch out to correct that eventually.
02. Pokémon Violet/Scarlet
I chose Violet for my game because the future legendary Miraidon looks cooler. As for the game itself, I’m having a blast! I have completed the story and am currently working on completing my Pokedex. Violet is some of the most fun I’ve had in a mainline Pokemon game in ages. I love the idea of the 3D open world and how that older 2D world layout translates. Being able to travel from town to town, walking through rocky passes or dense jungles, is so neat when you factor in that you can see all the Pokemon in the area. Gone are the days when you are rummaging through the grass, trying to hit a random encounter. Now you can see what Pokemon are in the area and can choose to avoid or engage with them. Plus, that sense of surprise or excitement when you find a rare monster or a shiny is still there. There were many times when I would gleefully say aloud the Pokemon I found because I was excited to have finally seen one on my adventure.
They’ve also streamlined some of the game, making things feel tighter. For example, they incorporated the Pokecenters and Pokeshops into a singular Pokestop where you can get everything done in one spot. Plus, they’ve made things like name changes and move resets much easier and quicker. Gone are the days of finding NPCs that delete moves or offer you name changes to your Pokemon. They can be done right through menus now! Does the game have some flaws? Yeah, the performance issues do hinder the experience a bit with its frame rates and low poly models that pop in sometimes, but even with those affecting the gameplay, it’s still so much damn fun to play. People make the joke all the time how during open-world presentations, they used to say, “See that mountain? You can go there,” but there is something that leaves me in awe when I travel up some of the highest points in this game and look down over the world, to see the cities I’ve been to or the areas I’ve visited.
On top of all that, this Pokemon title also takes the most significant leap with its Co-Op. They are doing precisely what open-world co-op should do, let you hop in and out of another person’s game, but the world is your own. To explain, if I jump into Eric’s game, all the NPCs and Gyms are based on our individual games. Going to a gym and completing it doesn’t affect Eric’s game and vise-vera. We can independently travel the world continuing our story but be in the same instance together. I could travel to where he is at catching Pokemon and see him battle them. Or I can join him on a picnic and chill with our monsters. I wish that future updates or games allow us to follow our friends into gyms and trainer battles to watch them occur. Right now, you can only see the random Pokemon encounter battles, which is neat! I love this game, and I’ve already put almost 80+ hours into it since its launch.
If it were any other year, Pokemon would have easily taken my top spot, but I sat here debating: did I enjoy Pokemon or Plate Up more this year? It should go to the game that I played for just as long but could do so co-operatively as a team. Plate Up is a mix of games like Overcooked and Diner Dash. You get the cooking mayhem of Overcooked while having the franticness of delivering the orders as you’d see in Diner Dash. You can surely play alone and try to deal with taking orders, cooking, delivering, and cleaning, but depending on your setup, that could be super frustrating. Plate Up is a game that shines when you add more people. A maximum of four people can play, but more can play using steam workshop mods.
Before you start your run, you have to choose the layout and the main dish your up-and-coming restaurant will use. Once selected, you’re sent to the blank floor layout. Adjust where your tables will go, where dishes will be cleaned, where the all-important cooking will happen, and so on. This is where players will usually split up and tackle different tasks. What makes Plate Up extra challenging is that it is a Roguelike. After each completed day, you get the choice of blueprints to purchase. The blueprints can benefit your restaurant with things like dishwashers, faster stoves, cleaning brushes, faster shoes, etc. Some items, give and take, though, like the shoes, for example. You can get a set that will make you faster, but the messes you walk over worsen. Those messes will end up slowing you down and cause even more frustration. So you have to be aware of your choice, especially when they give you the option of a new card to add to your pool on certain days. These cards could be a bonus or a hindrance. The end goal is to survive to day 15. Once you reach 15, you could keep going or roll over that restaurant into a franchise, where you can use those cards earned under a new restaurant that serves the same main dish. If you fail before then, you lose all your acquired cards and start over.
The game is fun, hectic, exciting, stressful, and it’s a great game to enjoy with your friends or family. Just about every other night, we would find ourselves hopping into Plate Up, trying to complete each one of our restaurants. With the two recent holiday updates, they’ve added more dishes, cards, and quirky hats to wear. I can confidently say that Plate up is my 2022 Game of the Year.