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Best of 2022: Pokemon Scarlet and Kelsey’s other GOTY picks

My GOTY is broken, but I don't care.

2022 has been a slow year for games, but by no means a bad one. This year, I got to spend plenty of time with games that I’d of never seen myself playing beforehand, and finally held hands with some games I’d been waiting an eternity for. On top of that, it’s been a fantastic year for horror games and reveals, which I’ll always gobble up eagerly.

Amongst it all, however, I experienced something that I didn’t expect; I fell head over heels in love with the Pokemon franchise again.

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If you can get past the bugs, this year's mainline Pokemon game is full of brilliant ideas.

Pokemon Scarlet - Nintendo Switch

My personal game of the year for 2022 is Pokemon Scarlet. The release of Pokemon Sword and Shield in 2019 left a sour taste in my mouth, and saw me turn away from the Pokemon series for a while. While it may be a series primarily aimed at children, Pokemon has a large adult fanbase too, and Pokemon Shield truly took the p**s when it comes to hand-holding. By my third gym, I couldn’t handle it any more, and didn’t look back.

Sprigatito and me are the best of friends.

That is, until, Pokemon Legends: Arceus came out. This wasn’t a top Pokemon game for me, but it laid the foundations for what could be a brilliant future game, and that’s exactly what we received when Pokemon Scarlet and Violet launched. I’ll be the first to admit that the quality of the game is truly abysmal, however, with pocket monsters involved in the most absurd of bugs and glitches, it actually became part of the fun for me.

Now, this is no excuse for Game Freak and Nintendo to ship games in this state. That aside, though, this is the most fun I’ve had with a Pokemon game since Pokemon X, and the open-world shows great promise as to where the series could go with some additional TLC. With that, and a brand-new fixation on Pokemon Trading Card Game, I couldn’t get enough. The new Pokemon, the traversal mechanics, even the picnics with my party of Pokemon; I love everything about where Pokemon gameplay is headed, and can’t wait for more.

Back in 2019, I’d of never expected this.

Stray - PC

My runner-up for game of the year has to be Stray, which I’ve patiently waited for since it was announced years ago. So, when it arrived and was even more than I expected, I was overjoyed. I went in hard on my review trying to find the words to explain how magical this game feels, but still feel like anything I say doesn’t do this wonderful cat game the justice that it deserves.

Stray was the perfect playground for a cat. The most beautiful, cyberpunk environment packed with detail and charming robot NPCs is overflowing with items to knock over, ledges to clamber up, and catnaps to be had. But there is so much more to this game than simply immersing yourself in the life of a cat in an unfamiliar world.

The Outsider, a cat, speaks with Sojiro at a fast food stall in Midtown in Stray.
Stray is also littered with references to other games, music, and more, which I'm a sucker for.

Stray tells a story of loss and friendship, and often reminds you how important animals are to humans, or at least entities mimicking humans. It’s a lot of responsibility for our protagonist to have, but their adventure is executed flawlessly as they use their feline dexterity to bridge gaps between these lost civilisations, and find their own way home. Stray had me walk away feeling more considerate of those around me, and also had me scrolling through cat adoption websites…

Stray is the only game this year to make me cry, which doesn’t take much, but the story it tells and messages it hides away impacted me like no other game this year.

Signalis - PC

When we were discussing our game of the year as a team, video producer Jim Trinca assumed mine to be “something chill, or something really horrible, no inbetween,” and rightfully so. Signalis is the latter.

Arriving just a week after the Silent Hill Transmission, which announced multiple Silent Hill games including a remake of Silent Hill 2, I was itching for some of Konami’s finest. I picked up Silent Hill 2 for my PS2… but instead found myself playing Signalis. Which, despite being a very different game with pixel art and robots, takes great inspiration from the survival horror of the early noughties.

A save point by the caged boss arena in Signalis
Signalis is dark, eerie, and difficult to put down.

As Elster, you stalk corridors packed with hostile Replika enemies, almost resembling Silent Hill’s nurses, and one of the bosses you face is basically a reinterpretation of Silent Hill 2’s Flesh Lip enemy. This, paired with an industrial, synthy soundtrack, made Signalis the best Silent Hill game to not even be a Silent Hill game, honestly.

Just like a good Silent Hill game would, Signalis messes with you. It breaks the fourth wall, frustrates you with puzzles, and ultimately, is one of the best horror games I’ve played in years. With a short runtime and a slot on Xbox Game Pass, I couldn’t recommend Signalis more for the horror fans among us.

2022 was certainly something. I also spent plenty of time suffering from an Elden Ring hangover after playing the game for a month straight, and kicked back with Kirby and the Forgotten Land soon after. Both games could’ve easily been my Game of the Year, but ultimately, Pokemon, Stray, and Signalis snagged the top spots.

As for next year, I have high expectations. I’ll finally be able to play the Resident Evil 4 Remake, and hopefully get to jump into Replaced, a pixel-art sci-fi platformer shown off at The Game Awards that looks unbelievably cool.

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