As I look back on the past year of gaming, I realize that find my gaming isn't defined by what was released in any given year. As primarily a Switch gamer who often waits for games on sale, there are no big hardware or software releases that define a calendar year for me; instead, it's just a matter of which games I've made time to play.
My four software highlights in 2022 were all games that didn't come out this year. Spiritfarer took me and a friend on a journey; Hollow Knight is a tough-as-nails Metroidvania; Twelve Minutes is a disturbing time loop of a game; and Ring Fit Adventure has been my constant companion throughout the pandemic.
But there are many more games I played this year, and even more that I bought. This year, I became an even more frequent poster (and consumer) of deals on the subreddit r/NintendoSwitchDeals. Combined with Deku Deals' email alerts, I bought more games for less money this year: 53 games (nine more than last year) for $504.34 total ($55.87 less than last year), or $9.52 each ($3.21 less than last year). My YouTube channel's revenue covered all these expenses.
If I really wanted to be frugal, I'd limit myself to buying games I actually had time to play or finish. This year, I finished only ten games, most of which weren't even released or purchased in 2022.
But I still feel okay investing in this hobby, because I'm supporting creators who make the games I want to see in the world. The only way an indie studio will get to make their second games is if we buy their first ones.
However, while I've always tracked my gaming habits across a variety of tools (mostly Excel and Trello), I've recently added You Need a Budget to the mix. The goal of YNAB isn't just to see where your money goes, but to be more conscious and intentional about those decisions. I'm curious what this will mean for my backlog's rate of growth in 2023.
I've also resumed uploading YouTube videos, for the first time in 17 months. While the day of generating thousands of views is long gone, I still enjoy producing this content and sharing my games, and it continues to produce residual income.
As is my annual tradition, here is my summary of every game I played, bought, or wanted to buy this year, as tracked on my Trello board. The parenthetical numbers represent the total for that category, followed by the change from last year. Games don't reappear on this list from previous years unless they've changed category. I've also chosen to omit any games I got for free, those being the twelve games I downloaded from No Gravity Games' "12 Games of Christmas" promotion — all games I would not have bought otherwise.
This list counts only Switch and Steam titles, but I would be remiss to overlook the dozens of hours and hundreds of games I played this spring at Funspot, home of the American Classic Arcade Museum. More than anything else in this list, I'll remember that month as a defining time in my year.
Finished (11 / +1)
- A friend and I started this game in 2022, but since it doesn't support online multiplayer, we had to wait until we were in the same place before finally finishing it. Although some of the exploration and resource management aspects of the game got a bit tedious, it was a bittersweet story that we didn't want to see end.
- Swords & Bones
- This game appealed to the Ghost 'n Goblins fan in me, though its short levels and lack of replayability made it quite forgettable.
- Twelve Minutes
- I was excited when this Xbox title made its way to the Switch, and despite the confined nature and lack of creative solutions, I enjoyed the trial and error of this time loop puzzle. However, its story was at times unsettling: it let you kill your wife either on accident (which I did) or on purpose (which I did not), neither of which advanced the story; however, it did require that I drug my wife and murder an unarmed, restrained man. Honestly, one of my favorite memories of this game may be reviewing it as a guest on the N-Focus podcast.
- Trash Quest
- This short, tight Metroidvania with no narrative and a Game Boy-like palette was entertaining for the night or two it took me to finish it. A few bosses were so tough that I needed to pick up some tips from YouTube videos.
- Hollow Knight
- Trash Quest was a palate cleanser that prepared me for Hollow Knight, a seminal modern Metroidvania. It quickly became my most-played game of 2022, with 38 hours spread across 17 days. I loved the art and the story, and the customization and combinations the charms allowed for nearly infinite strategy. I could've used a bit more hand-holding in figuring out where to go and what to next, though — there were times I was utterly lost. And despite jumping through all the hoops to get the "good" ending, all I managed to achieve was access to the "true" final boss, who was hard as nails (pun intended); after all that work, I ended up settling for the "bad" ending, sigh.
- Wide Ocean Big Jacket
- I picked up this indie game for less than $2. It was more of an interactive story than a game. The dialogue was sharp and felt authentic, but the art style was nearly rudimentary made it hard to feel immersed.
- Ring Fit Adventure
- Finally! After 2.5 years, 31 hours, and 8,000 calories, I finished the exercise game I picked up at the beginning of the pandemic. I hoped it would give me a reason to continue exercising, but the post-game content is weak, so my Ring is likely destined for storage.
- Arcade Spirits: The New Challengers
- I don't always play visual novels, but when I do, they're Arcade Spirits. Both games are set in a parallel world where arcades still reign supreme. I was slightly more engaged by the plot of the first game, but both offered fun choices, diverse characters, and witty dialogue. Aenne Schumann, one of the game's two narrative designers, was the penultimate guest on my Polygamer podcast, coinciding with this sequel's release.
- A Memoir Blue
- Reminiscent of Florence, another wordless, narrative-driven, female-led indie game that can be beaten in under an hour, A Memoir Blue is a mother-daughter story, which we don't often see in games. For that reason alone, it was worth a play.
- Kathy Rain: Director's Cut
- I grew up on point-and-click adventures like Space Quest and Maniac Mansion. I thought it would be fun to revisit the genre, and I already had a head start from having played a bit of Kathy Rain six years ago, when I interviewed Clifftop Games' founder Joel Staaf Hästö for the IndieSider podcast. I liked how the story started, but became far more surreal than I expected. And the puzzles vacillated between very easy (with the game giving me tips before I even had a chance to try solving it on my own) and so obscure that I needed the help of GameFAQs. Overall, an uneven experience.
- I've been waiting to play this chill, puzzle game about unpacking into new homes over the course of a lifetime, and I finally found time to start unpacking on Christmas night. I like the gameplay and the subtlety of the narrative, though sometimes the art leaves me unclear on what an object is or where it belongs, as demonstrated in my Let's Play.
Unfinished (6/ -2)
- Dragon Quest XI S: Echoes of an Elusive Age – Definitive Edition
- I absolutely devoured Dragon Quest VIII on the PlayStation 2, devoting nearly a hundred hours to its completion. I was hesitant to start playing Dragon Quest XI, because I wasn't sure I could afford to lose myself like that again. Turns out I needn't have worried: the first few hours introduced a hackneyed plot, a lackluster battle system, and confusing options (like when and how to switch to 16-bit mode or enable/disable various optional challenges). I couldn't get into this game at all, but I'm hoping to give it a second chance.
- Tile Flip
- A silly little puzzle game, probably ported directly from
- Steel Assault
- A run-and-gun platformer that combines elements of Contra and Bionic Commando. My Let's Play of this game was the first upload to my YouTube channel in 17 months. Alas, I have not yet finished Steel Assault, despite making it to the final boss, who is incredibly difficult!
- It Takes Two
- A Way Out was a phenomenal PlayStation 4 game that was playable in co-op mode only. It Takes Two is a more family-friendly take from the same developer, and after playing two hours of the free demo, I was convinced to buy the full game.
- First there was Ballistic on the original PlayStation; then there was Zuma's Revenge on Xbox 360. I was looking for more of the same in Zumatch, but this puzzle game introduces various power-ups that unnecessarily complicate the gameplay.
- Elevator Action -Returns- S-Tribute
- I will always play Elevator Action whenever I see it in an arcade, so after forty years, I was ecstatic to finally play the sequel, which never made its way from Japan to American arcades. Unfortunately, the sequel is less Elevator Action and more Rolling Thunder. I like Rolling Thunder, but it's not what I wanted from this game. I recorded a Let's Play of the first three of the game's six levels; maybe I'll go back and finish it, or even play the original game that's included.
Evergreen (1 / -2)
- Big Brain Academy
- The Wii version supported the Wiimote, which made it easy to point and click to solve various puzzles. With the Switch, I have to choose between playing on a big screen or using a touch interface, which is a compromise the Wii didn't force. Still, it's a fun puzzle game, and I like competing against the ghosts of my two friends who also play Big Brain Academy.
Abandoned (3 / -1)
- Hammer Kid
- This platformer's short levels were similar to Swords & Bones' (see above), except without any real gimmick or flair. I kept waiting for it to get more complex, but it never did.
- Pac-Man Championship Edition 2 Plus
- I was into this game for awhile, but additional levels are locked, requiring superior achievement in earlier levels. The threshold of this requirement was low to start, but when I realized the final level required nearly perfect scores in all prior levels, I abandoned the goal as unattainable.
- Ys Origin
- I'd only ever played Ys III on Super NES, so I thought seeing where the series began would be fun. Sadly, this game is more like a cross between a shmup and the dreadful NES game Deadly Towers; I was utterly bored by it.
Unplayed (35 / +9)
- Bloodstained: Ritual of the Night
- I think it was Christmas 2018 that I recorded my Let's Play of the original Bloodstained game, which was an excellent tribute to Castlevania III, which I've also Let's Played. I'm a sucker for these games!
- I like to think of myself as someone who loves RPGs, even if the last Final Fantasy game I finished was last millennium. Still, CrossCode came so highly recommended by Andrew Brown of the N-Focus podcast, I had to pick it up.
- GODS Remastered
- The last time I played this game was in a competition at Blockbuster Video. I don't remember it being a fantastic game, but for 99¢, I was willing to pick it up for the nostalgia value alone.
- This 2D action-RPG seems to have settings and themes similar to Shadowrun, one of my favorite Super Nintendo games. It feels like it'd be better on Steam than on Switch, but at 90% off (only $2), I was willing to take a chance.
- I finished Limbo and Inside on Xbox 360 and PlayStation 4, respectively; the latter even has a Let's Play series on my YouTube channel, though I alternated with someone else so played only half the levels myself. The two games were on sale for $2 each, so I thought I might replay them, this time in their entirety.
- XCOM 2 Collection
- Vandal Hearts was one of the games that sold me on getting the original PlayStation. The only tactical RPG I've enjoyed since then is Mario + Rabbids Kingdom Battle, which I'm told is a light version of XCOM, prompting me to pick up a physical copy on sale.
- A Plague Tale: Innocence
- When a co-worker suggested I could access my PlayStation 4 from afar using PS4 Remote Play, I opted to test it with a used copy of A Plague Tale from eBay. The remote experience is not everything I hoped it could be, so I've yet to play this game.
- Republique: Anniversary Edition
- Republique was an early Kickstarter success, having met its crowdfunding goal of $500,000 over a decade ago.
- Goblin Sword
- This looks like a pretty standard platformer with some very light RPG elements — perhaps reminiscent of Faxanadu. Worth taking a chance on for $2.
- Horizon Chase Turbo
- The Apple TV version of this game was fun; until Sega releases OutRun 3, Horizon Chase Turbo will do.
- A miss old-school Contra games. Huntdown promises to continue that legacy in the over-the-top style of RoboCop.
- Little Nightmares II
- A prequel to the original Little Nightmares, which I never played, this horror adventure game has generally favorable reviews.
- Ocean's Heart
- It's been only two years since I played the Switch remake of Link's Awakening, and I'm already hankering for some old-school Zelda. Ocean's Heart should fit that bill.
- The Artful Escape
- I've heard The Artful Escape described as more of an experience than a game. I like games as art — as long as it's more coherent than Kentucky Route Zero.
- Gosh, I just keep buying Metroidvania games! This one looks more 8-bit than most of the ones I buy, so at least I have some variety in my portfolio.
- Guacamelee! 2
- I bought the first game on Wii U; never played it. Bought it again on Switch last year; still haven't played it. But if and when I do, I'll now be ready for the sequel!
- Boyfriend Dungeon
- I've heard mixed reviews of this title, such as how it's incomplete and not everything the publisher promised. But it was also nominated in the Games for Impact category of The Games Award 2021, so it must be doing something right.
- The game Refactor promised a game where you would piece together your environment as you explored it. That game still hasn't come out, even eight years after its Kickstarter, during which time it appears Carto has fulfilled a similar need.
- Death's Door
- An old friend emailed me last December: "If you get the chance check out this indie game for the Switch. I mean how often do you get to play as a crow who works as a grim reaper?" Sold.
- This title is billed as a Metroidvania, but I don't recall having ever played a game in that genre that used a top-down perspective like Zelda's. Should be an interesting mix.
- Endling: Extinction Is Forever
- Endling is one of the few physical games I bought this year, and its tale of the wanton environmental destruction wrought by humanity aligns with my value system.
- Evergate looks like the platforming of Ori and the Blind Forest with the themes of Spiritfarer — what's not to love?
- 1979 Revolution: Black Friday
- It's not often enough that games are used to teach about real-life situations, people, and history. I hope this game will help fill a gap in my knowledge about the Iranian Revolution.
- A Boy and His Blob
- I have fond memories of the original NES version of this game by David Crane of Pitfall! fame. I played the remake on Wii but never finished it, as I got caught up in trying to find all the treasures to 100% each level. I bet I can shed myself of that compulsion and actually finish the game this time.
- Dicey Dungeons
- I'm not keen on the second half of the description "roguelike deck-builder" — but I was willing to take a chance when the game went on sale for under $2.
- Mummy Demastered, The
- I had no interest in seeing the 2017 Tom Cruise film on which this game is based, but maybe it will be a fun enough Metroidvania to distinguish it from what was, by all accounts, an awful movie.
- Dungeon and Puzzles
- This tile-based puzzle game seems like it would be more at home on a tablet device than the Switch. But I got more play out of Warlock's Tower on Switch than on iOS, so Dungeon and Puzzles will be a fun console title, too.
- Magnificent Trufflepigs, The
- A friend described this game as having "an air of mystery and sinister doings that won't actually exist". Sounds like Firewatch to me!
- Nonograms Prophecy
- I bought Nonograms Prophecy without even realizing it was a picross game (which I'd never heard referred to as "nonograms" before). I just figured $2 was a low barrier for entry to the aforementioned No Gravity Games holiday giveaways. Thirteen games for $2? Sure, why not? Even if this one isn't a gem, surely one of the others is.
- Portal Companion Collection
- I already completed both Portal games on Xbox 360, but if I can find the right player two, I'd happily go through the second game again.
- A Winding Path
- Have I ever played a hand-drawn adventure game before? Well, I will!
- This cute puzzle-platformer reminds me of the early Mega Man games. It was on my wishlist from the day Nintendo debuted it in a Direct to the day it went on sale.
- Master Spy
- Yet another game I reviewed on the InsideSider podcast, way back in 2015.
- Grapple Dog
- When I posted this sale to reddit, I was met with strong encouragement to buy Grapple Dog. "For the love of everything that's good BUY IT, one of the best indie games of this year hands down," one user strongly urged. "Cute visuals and fun writing, nice physics, and there's a lot of evolution of ideas and concepts. Also, a good amount of collectibles to grab!" wrote another. "Correctly priced. Great value. Fun to pick up and play whenever you feel like it. Honestly this is what the Switch was made for," chimed in a third. Sounds good to me.
- Mario + Rabbids: Sparks of Hope
- I finished the first game, which sets me up to enjoy the sequel. But do I need to finish the original game's DLC first? Regardless, I'm not likely to play this game anytime soon, and I know it'll likely be cheaper by the time I am — but the Cosmic Edition from Best Buy was on sale and came with a download code of the first game, which I was able to give to a friend as an early Christmas gift.
Not bought yet (7 / +2)
- Horizon Forbidden West
- Aloy's debut outing was my favorite game of 2018. I would be first in line to continue her post-post-apocalyptic adventures, except as a digital nomad, I have easy access to neither a PlayStation 4 nor a PS5.
- I wanted to play this game after hearing Jason Scott devote an entire episode of podcast to it. It wasn't originally available for Nintendo Switch, although it seemed a perfect fit for the platform. Now that it's been ported, I'm just waiting for a sale.
- The Stanley Parable: Ultra Deluxe Edition
- The Stanley Parable is one of those Windows games I've been hearing about since its 2013 release but have not yet had spoiled for me. It wasn't until 2022 that it became available for consoles; I look forward to finally being able to play it.
- I back this Metroidvania's Kickstarter, but the key I received was for PlayStation, predating its Switch release. Now I'll need to buy it (again) for the console I actually have available.
- No Place for Bravery
- One reason I have this list is to remember games that piqued my interest but may nonetheless quickly be forgotten. I don't remember how I first heard of No Place for Bravery, and I had to rewatch the trailer for this top-down action-RPG as I wrote this list. It reminds me of Mark of Kri, a PlayStation 2 game I was ambivalent about — but there must be a reason I put No Place for Bravery on my list, so I'll keep an eye on it!
- Alan Wake Remastered
- I briefly played a friend's Xbox 360 copy of the original Alan Wake over a decade ago, and it scratched the same itch as Silent Hill. Now it's finally on a Nintendo console, but it's apparently a buggy mess, resulting in a very low Metacritic score. A sale wouldn't be enough to convince me to play this version; it needs some decent patches first. I'm not optimistic.
- A Little to the Left
- I'm neat! And this game requires things to be neat!
Unreleased (1 / -2)
- I should've put this game on the list ages ago, as this four-dimensional puzzler been in development since 2009. I think I may even have played it at IndieCade East one year. After all this time, it still has no release date.