Josh’s Favorite Games of 2022 — Best RPGs

We now turn to the RPG genre, that also helped while I was writing my book on RPG design. We have some very different takes that go from being old school, to not-so-old school design.

#3 Betrayal at Club Low

You may have played a lot of RPGs, but tell me, have you ever played one where you are a pizza spy trying to break into a club and may inadvertently become the greatest DJ ever known? Betrayal at Club Low is a trip through a strange world where you must use the power of your dice, and pizza, to get past different encounters. Upgrading your dice will give you a better chance at winning encounters, and the story will go differently based on what choices you choose and which encounters you win. There really is nothing else quite like this game, and it’s such a weird delight to go through, especially if you love pizza as well.

#2 Chained Echoes

The most “traditional” RPG on the list this year, Chained Echoes does a great job of mirroring and honoring classic JRPGs but does it in a way that is different the more you look under the surface. With a huge world to explore, challenging combat, and amazing pixel art, this is the game for JRPG fans who are looking for something new to play. While it’s a bit too traditional when it comes to encounters for my taste, it’s still a solid game.

#1: Fear and Hunger 2

I’ve already talked about my love/hate of the brutally difficult Fear and Hunger, and Fear and Hunger 2 continues that trend with more disturbing sights, challenging gameplay, and a whole new world to get lost in…and killed in. This is not for the faint of heart, or those looking for an easy time. This is a game where failing the tutorial will get your legs chopped off.

This is less of an RPG and more of a brutal puzzle for you to try and solve. One day, I need to sit down and try to learn both games. If you like your RPGs hard, and aren’t easily disgusted, there is no other series like it.

Josh’s Favorite Games of 2022 – Best Metroidvanias

The Metroidvania category continues to be an indie staple and this year saw some very interesting ones getting released and hopefully a good sign for 2023.

#3: Haak

The first of several metroidvanias that came out after being on early access, Haak delivers a combination of combat, platforming, and exploration through a stylized destroyed world. The game starts out simple enough, but it does get quite difficult near the end. There are multiple endings, secrets, lots of collectibles, and bonus quests to find in it.

What keeps it from getting higher is that the game tended to rely a bit too much on having to find secrets and hidden stuff to stand a chance, especially at two bosses near the end that spike in difficulty. If you’re looking for a challenging metroidvania, this is a very solid example.

#2: Dungeon Munchies

Even longer on early access and finally out, Dungeon Munchies comes with a lot of variety and charm. What starts out as you coming back to life to learn to cook food from a master necromancer/chef, turns into an ever-escalating journey into this strange world with a lot of heart, soul, and food to uncover. The game takes a lot of interesting turns that no one will really expect where it all leads, and still manages to keep its heart until the very end. Using your food items as a source of customizable buff lists is a different take. What stops it from getting higher is that it did feel janky in spots, and some of the metroidvania progression felt forced.

I hope we see more from the universe as there is a lot more stories to tell and food to make.

#1: Haiku the Robot

Haiku the Robot is a solid metroidvania with inspiration heavily from Hollow Knight while still carving out its own unique take. In a world where humanity is gone and there are nothing but robots around, when a strange corruption starts spreading, it’s up to Haiku to figure out what’s going on.

This is just an all-around great take on the design — controls feel solid, upgrades substantial, and there are plenty of secrets and collectibles to find. If you’re someone who is itching for Silksong and that style of metroidvania, don’t sleep on Haiku.

Josh’s Favorite Games of 2022 – Bullet Heavens

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.

#2: Brotato

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 SpireDwarf 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”.

Josh’s Best of 2022 Awards — Best Executed Games

I’ve created a new category to give more spotlights to games. For this one, I’m honoring the games that didn’t blow up as a revolutionary take on the genre but were all around great games that did what they set out to do.

Honorable Mention: Drainus

Drainus was a great shmup that was released to little fanfare as the latest game from Team Ladybug. I really like the pixel art and the ability to modify your ship and shots on the fly. What keeps it from scoring higher is that while it was a good game, it didn’t really stick around as a memorable one. I would love for someone to take this concept of ship modification further in a future game.

#3: Shadows over Loathing

The latest game from the king of dry wit and humor is Shadows over Loathing. We’re trading the wild west and horse-related puns for Lovecraftian mysteries…and puns. This not-so-spooky sequel to West continues the series’ design of puzzle, adventure, and wacky RPG hijinks. At this point, you are either all in or all out for a Loathing game, and I enjoyed my time slinging cheese at fish people.

#2: Infernax

What if we take a traditional 2D action-adventure and cover it with all the blood? We get Infernax. This challenging modern retro game had some of the most shocking NES-styled cutscene around with meat on the bone in the form of multiple endings. As with the other games on this list, while the game doesn’t stand out among the modern retro classics I’ve played, it’s still a solid game for action fans.

#1: Swordship

Swordship is one of those games that I feel deserves more praise than what it has gotten. A smartly designed arcade-style game. The hook is that while you must dodge and fight against drones trying to stop you from delivering contraband, you are never able to directly attack. You need to maneuver around to get enemies to take out each other.

Josh’s Favorite Games of 2022 – Puzzle

For this entry in my best of 2022 series, my favorite puzzle games, which is separate from adventure.

Animal Crossing New Horizons (Lack Of Recent) Updates

This is a bit of an expansion over a couple of Mastodon posts I made yesterday. (On what account? Here!)

Animal Crossing New Horizons was an amazing hit for Nintendo. It hit right at the start of the pandemic, and so quickly became the second best-selling game on the system.

The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild? 27 million copies. Super Mario Odyssey? 23 million copies. Super Smash Bros. Ultimate? 29 million copies. These are all very high sales figures. Nintendo has made bank during the Switch era.

Animal Crossing: New Horizons? 40 million units sold. That’s over 2.4 billion dollars in gross revenue, and not even counting Nintendo Online subscriptions and the paid DLC! The only Switch game to surpass it has been Mario Kart 8 Deluxe, which has sold 47 million units.

You’d think a game like that would have a long support life, but you’d be wrong. Three years in and it’s been over a year since the last meaningful update. Nintendo has largely abandoned the audience of the most popular Animal Crossing game ever made, by a huge margin.

Why is this so strange? Most games don’t update after a couple of years, after all. There are games that have made a go of a long-lived, if no perpetual, update cycle. Team Fortress 2 famously went on for like a decade of frequent updates, and while Valve has cooled on it since it still sees a lot of play. Stardew Valley is still updated from time to time, and it’s an indie game, although one with a very low overhead.

Animal Crossing, however, has, from the beginning, been a form of gaming that almost demands to be played for a significant period of time. People have played the Gamecube version for many years, keeping their island alive through decades of real time.

Before consoles could connect to the internet, of course, they couldn’t even be updated. But with the introduction of the internet a lot of options became available. The possibilities for a game-as-service approach to Animal Crossing have been great and, in large part, unexplored.

Image from Animal Crossing Wiki
Image from Nookipedia

The thing that really made this all visible is the New Year’s Arch item. The first year the game was released, they made available an archway, made of balloons, with the number 2021 set at the top of it. Then for 2022 they made another version of it, but notably, it didn’t involve hardly any new geometry; it was just the 2021 arch with different colors, and a 2 in place of the 1. It looked almost a if it had been auto-generated, like maybe the game itself had support to make arches programmatically. The item’s catalog description, which was identical for both arches, is even careful not to mention the year on the model: “An arch bearing the Gregorian calendar’s number for the new year.” Why be so elliptical about it if it wasn’t intended to be reused many times?

Behold them in their generic splendor

But no, that wasn’t the case. 2023 saw no new arch at all. The first two arches now stand out in the inventory as a stark reminder of that brief window of time when New Horizons saw active support. Ten years from now, people who come back to the game, or (heaven help them/us) never left it will still see only those two arches, mementos of the time when the game was new. It’s not like a new arch would be a huge addition: there’s obviously already a content pipeline that can be used to add new items fairly easily, and a 2023 arch made along the lines of the 2022 one would probably be about five minutes of work.

No one expects Nintendo to add new features indefinitely, or always for free, but the lack of a new arch, the lowest-effort update imaginable, makes it clear that absolutely no additions will be coming to the game, probably ever, not even extremely minor things like updated yearly items. ACNH updates were something that Nintendo could have comfortably milked for years. It’s not like we aren’t already paying them for online server access.

Animal Crossing is not like other games, but Nintendo doesn’t seem to realize that, has never really understood what the series is about. The archway is just another example. And it doesn’t make a fan of series want to buy any new versions if they know they’re going to be supported only for a brief period of the game’s lifetime.

Josh’s Favorite Games of 2022 – Action Games

I’m doing my best of 2022 series over on Game-Wisdom and I’ll be posting the videos over here, starting with my favorite action games.

Josh’s Favorite Games of 2022:Adventure

It’s time to talk about my favorite games that made me ponder while I was pointing (and clicking).

Honorable Mention Sucker For Love

I’m pretty sure everyone forgot that this game even came out this year. What started as a project for a Dread X Collection, transformed into its own visual/novel meets adventure game. The premise alone is enough to turn heads — as you try to romance three very eligible women who just so happen to be elder gods who can tear apart the fabric of reality.

This is a game that fully commits to its premise, and while it’s not the hardest game in the genre, the complete package stands out as one of the most strangely charming games I’ve played. I don’t know if we’ll get a sequel to it, but it’s an overall great title.

#3 Lucy Dreaming

Lucy Dreaming harkens back to the golden age of Lucasarts-styled adventure games, with its own verb list and wacky logic. Combining the waking and dream world sections did lead to some interesting puzzles. While it can be on the harder side due to its structure and logic, it is definitely a must-play for any fan of old-school adventure games.

#2: The Excavation of Hob’s Barrow

Adventure games oftentimes either land on the side of challenging puzzles or focus more on the story and mood. With the Excavation of Hob’s Barrow, we have one that does both — a gothic horror point and click adventure with some very striking cutscenes. The game, at times, feels like an episode to one of the many anthology horror shows in the past, as the player explores a mysterious village, has creepy visions and dreams, all leading up to the surprising ending. The puzzle difficulty stays on the easier side until the very end, with the final chapter being the most puzzle-filled out of anything else.

I really like the charm and the story of this one, with the world feeling both familiar and alien at the same time. If you slept on this one, and in the mood for a mysterious adventure, then don’t miss this game.

#1: Brok the Investigator

Brok the Investigator manages to combine beat-em-up gameplay with point and click adventuring and puzzle solving to deliver one of the most original takes on the adventure genre. You are free to approach your problems by using your brain or your fists, with the story and ending changing based on your process.

The story itself is also very well done, and despite featuring a goofy talking alligator, there is a lot of heart to this game. Brok is trying to do right by his adoptive son, earn a living, and the push and pull between doing the right thing, and to keep going is an interesting one. This is one of those games I know a lot of people slept on, but this one gets my recommendation as a game worth playing.

Roguelike Celebration 2022: Procedural Music of Tea Garden

We’ve been recapping some of the talks of Roguelike Celebration 2022 for a couple of months now, and it’s probably about time to let it rest until next year. Still, there is one more talk I’d like to draw attention to, on procedural music generation.

The other talks presented this year use music generated by this system for bumper and intermission ambiance. It really became the distinctive sound for this year’s conference.

There were plenty of other interesting talks this year! You can see them all at Roguelike Celebration’s YouTube channel. Here are 2022’s talks all in one playlist. And if you wish to attend next year, be sure to watch their homepage and follow them on Twitter (I have heard no word yet on other media accounts).

Roguelike Celebration: Hypercard and Trans Joy

We’re continuing with our weekly presentation of talks I found interesting from Roguelike Celebration 2022! They regularly have one or two talks that go some ways outside the roguelike remit, and this year one of them was an interesting talk by Cara Hurtle about using both Telnet and Hypercard, an old multimedia system created for classic Macintosh computers, to discuss queer and trans experience. The talk itself is SWF, although following content outside the video might lead somewhere NSFW.

It’s a short talk, only about 15 minutes, and covers some interesting topics!