In a surprising twist from 2022, a new sub-genre found its way to dominate the landscape with the Vampire Survivor likes, Bullet Heaven, auto shooter, whatever we want to call it. With so many games being released, I had no choice but to add the category to the list this year.
#3: 20 Minutes til Dawn
20 Minutes til Dawn was the first of the many VS-likes to show up with a more active-style game. While it may not have the same potential for crazy combos like Vampire Survivors, there is certainly a lot of room for it to grow. What keeps the game from getting higher at the moment is that there isn’t as much of an escalation in terms of power and the situation that we see from the other games. Once you get control, it’s very hard to lose it in this game, and a lot of runs are almost decided before the halfway point. There is potential here for more of a skill-driven take on the design that I hope we see more of.
Part of the problem with trying to compare to Vampire Survivors is that a lot of the games tend to avoid both the spectacle and the snowballing of a play. Brotato is one of the best ones that come the closest thanks to its focus on builds and roguelike design. Each run plays out over 20 waves, and you need to match your weapons and items to the character you’re using. While it’s not as skill intensive as 20 Minutes Til Dawn, there is more going on with the items and planning you’re doing.
Of the other VS-Likes I’ve played, this is the one I’ve spent the most time with that isn’t Vampire Survivors, and I hope we see more to it in the future.
#1: Vampire Survivors
Was there really any doubt here? Vampire Survivors, love it or hate it, is one of the most influential games of 2022, and the entire reason for this category. One of the best examples of how much a simple gameplay loop can be elevated. It is one of those lighting in the bottle kind of games that has obliviously been copied, but not one other game has managed to reach the same heights. It is the Slay the Spire, Dwarf Fortress, or Factorio, of its genre.
The aspects that make Vampire Survivors work are that it is easy to play, the feel of the different weapons and builds, and the escalation. The game perfectly encapsulates an enjoyable 30 minute (or less) gameplay loop that can be repeated again and again. It is a game where essentially “stuff” is all it needs from a content point of view. I honestly don’t know where else the developer can go with it, or if we ever see another game like it at this level of recognition, but Vampire Survivors takes the award for “nuclear bomb dropped on the game industry for 2022”.
Owner of Game Wisdom with more than a decade of experience writing and talking about game design and the industry. I’m also the author of the “Game Design Deep Dive” series and “20 Essential Games to Study”