There is no denying that Elden Ring is the best game of 2022. That’s my pick, by the way. I actually think anybody who picks anything else needs to give their head a wobble (though I respect their opinion, of course, and suggest aspirin for the bumped head).
But then, at the same time… gosh, there’s some games I really admire this year. There’s Vampire Survivors, which has the excellent frenetic energy of a 90s classic. There’s Marvel Snap, which somehow dragged me back to the world of collectible card games, against all odds, and at the same time that an improved digital version of the Pokemon TCG launched.
I could go on. Xenoblade Chronicles 3 is a top-tier JRPG, gleefully using genre tropes with no shame or embarrassment – and to great effect. Pentiment is the sort of game the industry needs to make more of. Midnight Suns continues Firaxis’ streak of only making shit-hot games, and nothing else, all bangers, all the time. Immortality is mind-meltingly brilliant. And, god – Sonic Frontiers made Sonic… sorta… good? Again? What the hell is that about?
But, it’s all about Elden Ring. Only one thing really comes close to it for me, anyway, and that’s Pokemon Legends: Arceus, a game that is both very good and also hugely exciting because of how thrilling it is to think about in the context of the rest of the Pokemon series. Legends Arceus should mark a sort of sea-change for the series, and as a Pokemon fan it’s sort of the game I’ve been dreaming of since I was about 12. It’s brilliant. Any other year, it would’ve won.
But Elden Ring. Ohhhhh, Elden Ring. I had an inkling that it’d be good, but I never would have imagined it’d be this good. What’s brilliant about it, I think, is that it’s simultaneously the deepest and most accessible Souls game all at once. It’s a studio that’s never built an open world game before seeming to just casually drop one of the most natural-feeling and engaging open worlds in forever.
It’s not really any one thing, really. It’s everything. I can point to a bunch of games this year that do individual, specific things better than Elden Ring – but I can’t point to a single one this year – or any year back to 2017 and Breath of the Wild - where it all comes together into such a cohesive, unstoppable whole.
I’m not even one of those Souls nutters, either. I’ve always liked those games well enough, but Elden Ring is the first one that grabbed me in this way. It’s the first one to get me watching excruciatingly long lore deep dives on YouTube. And it’s the first one I’ve felt compelled to play more than twice.
What a game. Here’s to an expansion next year – and good luck to any new games that launch anywhere near that.