Neal’s Top 25 of 2022 and More
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A lengthy list of games played and games not played.
For close to a decade, I’ve kept a running list ranking my favorite games of the year. I add new games as I play them, idly tinker with it once every month or two, and sometimes make big swings when a game turns sour over time or I find myself returning to it more than I expected. It’s a fun exercise that sometimes shows up in content form here on Nintendo World Report. Starting with last year’s list, I accepted defeat and added in a Top 10 “Games I Wish I Played” because I have two children now and a full-time job outside of this and honestly I’m impressed I even played as many games as I did to begin with. So here’s a list of my Top 5 Switch Ports/Collections, Top 25 Games, and Top 10 Games I Wish I Played.
Top 5 Switch Ports/Collections of 2022
5. Klonoa: Phantasy Reverie Series
If I was basing this solely on the impressiveness of the port, Portal would be in this spot, but I had to go with the game that meant more to me here. I only first played Klonoa on Wii, courtesy of that remaster, and it blew me away. It’s just such an incredibly charming platformer with excellent music and style. It also helps that the story has such a left-field twist that worked extremely well for me when I first played it. Being able to replay that game on Switch rules and also being able to play the second game in the series is also a bonus. I’m a little torn as to which game I think is better, so I’ll cheat and say they’re both great.
4. TMNT: The Cowabunga Collection
The arcade machine I gravitated to at the arcade as a kid usually involved some version of these Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles game so being able to have those games on hand on my Switch rules, even more so because the quality of this collection is off-the-charts fantastic. This might have reminded me how much those old arcade games were just quarter-munchers, but they’re so radical to play. Even aside from the brawlers, it’s a good assortment of games, topped by the Game Boy Metroidvania Radical Rescue and the notoriously hard original NES game that is more playable here than it ever has been before.
3. Atari 50
Real talk: most of the games in this collection are bad. It’s a lot of primitive console ports of arcade games and early games that are more impressive for the fact they exist. The supremely cool part of Atari 50 is how it’s packaged as an interactive museum. The timeline is presented first, encouraging you to learn the context of these games before playing them. It’s a reminder of how integral Atari was to gaming as we know it, even if the company themselves have been a non-starter for the past 20 years. Also, all of the new takes on old games are really cool. The world needs more vector graphic games.
2. Dicey Dungeons (on Mobile)
I adored Dicey Dungeons on Switch when it hit the platform in late 2020. When I heard it was ported to mobile, I bought it immediately and then just tore through it again. Maybe this is a cheat of a pick but Dicey Dungeons is amazing.
1. Chrono Cross: The Radical Dreamers Edition
One of the most earnestly heartwarming surprises of the year, Chrono Cross is playable on modern platforms alongside a localization of the Japanese Satellaview release Radical Dreamers. I hold Chrono Cross in high esteem; it’s arguably my favorite RPG on PlayStation. I consider it a masterpiece with a lot of ambitious rough edges. Just because it sits so well for me doesn’t mean it will sit well for everyone but there’s just something about this game that delights me. A weird thing to say considering the tone of the “kill your darlings” story. The music is maybe the best soundtrack ever. The battle system is weird, but enchantingly unique. The massive amounts of potential characters is daunting, but I truly love the way that aspect is integrated throughout the game. And Radical Dreamers? Well, it’s an old visual novel but there’s some good music and lore tucked away inside of it. It’s a great localization of a weird thing.
Top 25 Games of 2022
Programming note: I got COVID at the end of 2022 (still not close to 100% as I’m writing this) so I’m going to speed-run the back of this list.
25. Elechead – An extremely neat platformer with a very clever hook.
24. Toodee and Topdee – An extremely neat platformer with a very clever hook. Listen this and Elechead are different games but they’re both neat and clever.
23. A Little to the Left – Chill and heartwarming puzzle game that is that great mixture of serene and brain-wrinkling.
22. Fishing Paradiso – An under-the-radar game that combines charming slice-of-life writing with low-stakes retro fishing.
21. Tunic – I’m likely lower on this than most, but when Tunic clicked for me, it was incredible. It’s packed with table-flipping concepts, but then it just gets bogged down by Soulslike combat I don’t enjoy.
20. Sonic Frontiers – Embattled as it is, I really enjoyed exploring the world in Sonic Frontiers. Going into cyber space? Not so much. This is a wild mix of highs and lows.
19. Nobody Saves the World – If I could bottle up my feelings on this game in the first few hours, it’d be in my top five. This game is still very good, but once the discovery of new transformations runs out, it starts to slide. Still awesome on the whole.
18. Retro Bowl – Somebody made Tecmo Bowl with a franchise mode. That made for one of best sports game weekends of my life.
17. Mario+Rabbids: Sparks of Hope – I’m about halfway through this game but as it stands, I like it more than the first one. I like the Rabbids weirdness of it and how it feels like a cracked version of Mario.
16. Harvestella – I love Harvestella for what it tries to do more than what it actually ends up doing. It really is a JRPG through the lens of a farm/life sim. It’s not always excellent, but when it soars, it really soars. Also the story, as overwritten as it is, is way stronger than expected.
15. Vampire Survivors (on Steam Deck) – What a smart dumb game.
14. Pick Pack Pup (on Playdate) – The best Playdate game I played. It’s a unique take on match-three with an adorable aesthetic.
13. MLB The Show 22 – I’m still amazed this is functional on Switch. What a port and what a game.
12. Fire Emblem Warriors: Three Hopes – I’m a sucker for Warriors games featuring worlds I like. Especially when they manage to make levels feel like light tactics.
11. Dorfromantik – Carcassonne but for single player and also it’s just super chill.
There is not that much game in Mixolumia, but despite that, I think about Mixolumia often. The diamond play area twists (literally)the Tetris-esque puzzle game on its ear and opens up strategic planning and accidental excellence. It was rewarding to both execute a plan and place blocks and have it set off a chain of exploding chaos because blocks fell the right way. The music is also tremendous.
9. Poinpy (on Mobile)
If you have a Netflix account and haven’t played Poinpy on your mobile device, what are you doing? The dude who made Downwell (and then worked at Nintendo for a minute) made another game. It’s on your phone and you probably can get it for virtually free (depending on how you view your Netflix sub). It rules. It’s like Downwell but you go up and also the visuals are bubblegum cute and not pixel grunge.
The sublime feeling of figuring out a puzzle in Freshly Frosted and watching the conveyor belts spill out rules. Maybe the best video game vibe of the year. This is a devilishly hard puzzle game, but I think it does enough to prod you along the way if you hit any walls. Most folks might not remember the developer’s (Quantum Astrophysicists Guild) previous game Tumblestone, but it’s the same style as Freshly Frosted. They take a well-worn concept and twist it into something awe-inspiring.
I had my doubts about Shovel Knight but then I played it and those doubts went away. It’s basically a pick-up-and-play Shovel Knight game. It’s Shovel Knight: Arcade. It’s Shovel Knight, but Downwell. The procedural generation is so good and the element of choice going between each stage gives you enough agency so you never feel totally screwed. It also does a very good job of building you up with abilities and options to help you out along the way.
I mentioned earlier in the Cowabunga Collection portion about how I always loved playing the Turtles arcade games. Well, they made a new one and it owns so hard. While the old arcade beat-’em-ups had some quarter-munching habits, Shredder’s Revenge does not have that same punishment. Instead, it’s just a celebration of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles and their video game history. The fact you can play with up to six players locally or online is incredible and the added nuance with some of the power-ups and moves adds a little bit more to the brawler fray.
5. Pokemon Legends Arceus 4. Pokemon Violet
Ask me next week and I’ll flip the spots of these games. On one hand, I love how self-contained Arceus is, letting you explore that world to its fullest focusing more on your player character as an active participant in the world. Messy as the visuals may be, it’s cohesive. The Pokemon live in these worlds and you get to sneak around and try to catch them. Collecting the full Pokedex in Arceus is awesome.
On the other hand, Pokemon Violet’s full Pokedex is something I likely won’t end up finishing, but credit where credit’s due I’m the farthest I’ve been in finishing a mainline Pokedex since like 1999. I love how expansive Paldea is and even if the visuals are broken and soupy, I can explore a fascinating world packed with tons of Pokemon. It also helps that the new Pokemon are some of the strongest in a generation I can remember and the three-pronged story paths coalesce into one of the most fulfilling finales in a Pokemon game ever. At the end of the day, I put a combined 125-150 hours across both games in 2022. They both rule.
Neon White isn’t the easiest game to explain, but maybe the simplest way to showcase how this game wound up on our top 5 list for 2022 is that it’s a game that makes speedrunning fun and approachable for virtually anyone who picks up the controller. This stylish game that is self-proclaimed as being “for freaks” is a first-person parkour game where your goal is to complete deviously designed levels as quickly as possible, with each level lasting less than a minute (ideally). The novel twists on top of that basic premise helps to make it more compelling, like the smart card-based combat and movement mechanics where you have a small hand of cards that represent weapons you can use to kill enemies. You can also discard a card to gain a maneuvering boost, whether it’s a double jump or a stomp. Maybe the only place where Neon White stumbles is its story, but even in that case, the social link system tied to other characters opens up both mildly interesting lore and, more importantly, side content that offers even more twists on the foundational brilliance. Toss well-implemented online leaderboards and an earworm soundtrack into the fray and you have a game you can lose hours in.
This is the best RPG I’ve played since Chrono Cross. And not Chrono Cross in 2022, I mean dating back to Chrono Cross’ original release 20+ years ago. Xenoblade Chronicles 3 is a masterpiece and the only reason it isn’t number one is because it just so happened that another series I love put out an all-timer. Xenoblade Chronicles 3 takes everything I liked about Xenoblade 1, 2, and X and combines it into an absolute dream of an experience. I still think the story in 1 is better, but 3’s story is packed with twists and turns and gut punches. The voice cast is incredible and the side missions, specifically the hero quests, are incredibly good and compelling. The battle system takes the best aspects of 2 and shaves off the gacha nonsense. The class system is in-depth and somehow manages to not overwhelm you with like 20 classes split among six characters that are always on screen at the same time. Exploring the world is just plain fun, especially since the battle system can be toyed around with in ways that can help you outsmart battles against tougher foes. Just a dazzling, incredible game. I can’t wait for the story DLC.
1. Kirby and the Forgotten Land
Kirby and 3D have been illustriously separate over the years. Rumors of a 3D Kirby game started up in the GameCube era and faded away as the closest we got to Kirby in a 3D space was Kirby Air Ride and Kirby’s Blowout Blast. Finally, HAL Labs was given some extra time to take the recent run of 2D Kirby excellence that they’ve had to take the pink puffball to the third dimension and boy howdy: it’s amazing. While it isn’t quite the open world folks might have assumed, it feels more like Super Mario 3D World, letting you bounce around isometric worlds, finding secrets, exploring with power-ups and being dazzled by incredible set pieces. Bosses are crazy fun, capped off by a masterful finale. The side missions where you have to use power-ups or Mouthful Modes to quickly complete a challenge are a good change of pace to the longer normal levels as well. They also feed into how you can evolve the copy abilities, adding in much needed variety considering the overall copy ability count is lower. There’s also the fact that an entire fake language was made for this game and they made a song with the fake language. Why did they go this hard? I have no idea, but it made for the best game of the year.
Top 10 Games I Wish I Played in 2022
10. Crisis Core: Final Fantasy VII Reunion 9. Dragon Quest Treasures
I’m not going to beat myself up over either of these because they came out in December, but I do want to play both.
8. Hundred Days
I played a demo of this on Steam way before a Switch version was confirmed and it just seemed like such a cool idea of mixing wine-making with puzzling.
7. Deedlit in Wonder Labyrinth
Everyone seemed to think this ruled when it came out on Steam and I’d probably have fun with it.
6. Card Shark
I did play the sizable demo, but it was just a victim of me being busy. I felt pretty satisfied after the demo but one of these days I really want to keep doing sick card tricks to get at the aristocracy.
5. Live A Live
I played the demo and was, well, kind of nonplussed. I think I respect Live A Live for what it tried to do in the ‘90s as opposed to what it is now, but I aspire to give it another shot someday.
4. Bayonetta 3
Bayonetta 1 and 2 stinking rule so even if the story ends like garbage in Bayonetta 3, I feel like I need to play it. Platinum knows how to make a ridiculous action game.
3. Cult of the Lamb
I’m thrilled to see the creator of The Adventure Pals see success with a game where you lead lambs to slaughter. The mixture of dungeon-crawling and town sim always seemed fun.
2. Nier Automata
I feel like I owe it to Matt to play this.
1. Rogue Legacy 2
Rogue Legacy 1 is so good and Rogue Legacy 2 being in Early Access means it likely has some excellent refinement that made previous Early Access successes (like Hades) as polished as they were. I really need to sit down and play this…
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