There were some absolutely superb games that started the conversation in 2022 – when I look at you, elden ring – from blockbusters to high-profile indie games. But the downside is that, as always, many excellent experiences just fell through the cracks.
I’ve spent all year compiling a massive list of awesome indie games to watch out for, and while I don’t have time to go through all 250+ of them, here we have five absolutely top-notch games for you to check out don’t miss a single event before ending the year 2022.
That Case of the Golden Idol
In an “It’s so easy, I can’t believe this has never been a mechanic in a game” scenario, The case of the golden idol is a brilliant mystery game that actually requires you think about the information presented to you that connects the gameplay to the story at a profoundly fundamental level.
Played through over a dozen scenarios, Golden Idol follows the mystery surrounding said idol through a colorful 18th-century aristocratic cast. Each scenario is a snapshot surrounding an often gruesome murder. It’s up to you to observe the scene, uncover each character’s identity and motivation, and then piece together the truth behind what actually happened.
Clicking around gives you a list of words – names, objects, emotions, and the like – which you then need to pit in your handy notebook against clues, signs, and statements to decipher what exactly is going on. It’s an excellent system as it really gets you thinking about how each of the pieces of this puzzle actually fit together.
And if, for some reason, all that riveting detective work wasn’t enough, the story weaved here is extraordinary. It’s amazing how much you invest in these characters and how, even though the images you contemplate are functionally static, your deductive expertise makes the mysteries and revelations all the more compelling. It’s like – and I know that doesn’t seem to make sense, but if you play it for yourself you’ll understand – reading a great crime thriller that you’re also writing in real time.
At first glance the art might seem a bit garish, but after a while the charm shines through – especially in some wonderful facial expressions. For fans of Return of the Obra Dinnthis game is an absolute must.
Betrayal at Club Low
I’ve been a huge fan of Cosmo D’s work since falling in love with the surrealist who is interested in capitalism and humanity Tales from off-peak town. But where earlier games were a vessel for mood and narrative, Betrayal at Club Low is more mechanically oriented and draws on current hits like Disco Elysium for inspiration.
Centered around a single building, club low leans in a focused place into a wide space of possibility, across a narrow line of passage into a broader community. Using a dice-based structure for each action taken, a handful of different abilities determine your path through the club and towards your goal – often with hilarious and/or thought-provoking results.
For example, you have to come in first. There is a bouncer at the front door, but he doesn’t like people standing in line. If you want, you can challenge him to a fistfight with your physique if you happen to be muscular. Or you can weave your way through the line somehow – maybe you can be Deceptive and sneak past those waiting, or use your wisdom to confuse the crowd with a timeless parable, distracting them and allowing you to slide through. These interactions pass/fail with dice rolls, with each stat determining your chances of success. Me? I sneaked to the side door and persuaded the dozing guard there to let me in by acting like a funny cheeseball.
club low is like an unfolding puzzle box, encouraging multiple playthroughs with different styles and stats to learn more about what exactly is going on here, with 11 different possible endings. This is truly a fantastic tabletop-like time, and I can’t wait to see how Cosmo D continues to expand on this mechanical exploration as their games progress.
Deadeye deepfake simulacrum
Stop me if you’ve heard this before: you get an objective like “retrieve the Macguffin” – but the cool thing is that you can approach the mission however you want. I’ve read this line so many times that my mind exploded with possibilities, only to be let down by the realities and game design limitations that shattered my wildest dreams. At least until I played Deadeye deepfake simulacrum.
Thanks in part to its simpler – albeit incredibly readable and surprisingly slick – graphic style, ability to take up space DDS is incredibly wide. In a cyberpunk dystopia, you’re graciously given the opportunity to pay off a megacorporation’s ever-growing debt by taking part in a shady corporate espionage operation. Who you are and how you complete these missions is entirely up to you. Sure, you can start with guns blazing, but they exist So many other fun toys to play with.
You can almost hack anything – Cameras, turrets, doors, people, their guns, individual bullets, the fridge, whatever. They can become invisible or teleport. Hell, you can become a necromancer and raise the dead if you want. True openness is at your fingertips.
This is all wrapped in a wonderful lo-fi aesthetic that extends beyond the simplistic graphics and seeps into the music, endless rain, and chat logs with your handler. Best of all, even though it’s early access, it’s incredibly polished and already playable from start to finish and has a free demo. Early access is easy for the (solo!) developer to add more side content, more fun tools and skills – more of just about everything. This game could justifiably be the best immersive simulation out there right now.
yes it is that good
vocation taiji ‘2D The witness‘ is reductive, but it’s also the strongest touchpoint for what awaits you as you dive into this East Asian-inspired puzzler.
You have your open world with customized puzzles about the location. There are no words just puzzles you need to solve to understand the rules of the puzzles to solve more puzzles. The mechanics behind these challenges are simultaneously incredibly simple and deceptively deep. They seep into the environment in incredibly clever ways.
A bit like baby you areYou can sit there and stare at the screen taiji Doing nothing for 15 minutes, swearing up and down that this puzzle is impossible, when suddenly something clicks, you realize that the puzzle is so incredibly easy, and you’re a fucking genius.
It’s like learning a whole new language. At first, everything presented in front of you looks completely incomprehensible, but as you start working through what you already know and begin to push the edges of what you haven’t learned, you begin to explore a whole new one to see the world revealed to you on foot.
Grid Slayer is a game that does a lot with very little. Simple grid maps with basic character map drawings pave the way for a deck-building roguelike experience that combines the best of everything Kill those of The Spire deck building progress, In The Breach’s foresight and The Original Sin of Divinity Interactivity on the battlefield. Plus it rocks.
You play as a single unit that you quickly build into an absolute powerhouse, and each map challenges you with a growing army of enemy combatants, all bent on seeing you buried in the ground. At first glance, it may seem like the myriad of mechanics – health, movement, armor, draw capacity, card abilities, action timing, and more – can seem a little overwhelming, but a great tutorial walks you through everything with minimal fuss while letting you just shows how coherently all of these disparate pieces come together and create an overwhelmingly fun whole.
The interactivity of the map is what elevates Grid Slayer to the next level. Let’s say you have an Arrow Attack card that deals lightning damage. There are 3 enemy goblins coming towards you, but there is a barrel full of water between them. If you find a way to break this barrel, it will squirt water all over the place and drench the goblins – opening up an opportunity to paralyze them all with a single arrow shot.
There was a a lot of of grid-based tactical games coming out this year, but something about Grid Slayer remains in my mind so easily one of the best. The possibility space and build potential are wild, and the progression with increasingly tough handicaps makes up for a compelling experience.
For more on the best games of 2022, check out the rest of our Game of the Year coverage:
Stay tuned for more curated lists of special guests from the gaming industry.