It’s been, really, quite a good year for games. I’ve played a lot more than I thought I would, with some of the smaller titles impressing me more than I expected, and some of the bigger titles coming in as aggressively underwhelming. But, in the middle of the melee that was 2022’s release slate, there was one little indie that stood just that bit taller than the rest – and that’s ironic, given the stature of the little game’s little hero.
My Game of the Year for 2022 is Tunic. From my first interaction with the game (where I granted it five stars, surprise, surprise), I have been besotted with Finji and Andrew Shouldice’s mysterious action-adventure gem.
The game – immediately recognisable to anyone that grew up with retro Zelda-like games, and instantly appealing to those that didn’t – is a love letter to the sense of mystery you got when you picked up games as a kid and couldn’t immediately parse what was going on. You’re dropped into a world, and tasked with figuring out what’s going on. Written in its own language, obscure to the point of intrigue, dressed up with a gorgeous soundtrack, and realised in this toybox, tilt-shift aesthetic, Tunic will grab hold of your eyes, your ears, and your heart and it won’t let go… even after the final credits roll.
Tunic manages to summon a sense of wonder, the same sense of wide-eyed wonder that would prick your soul as a child, before you became jaded with the world (and with video games, specifically). Not to be too saccharine about it, but Tunic made me fall in love with games again. I played it on Steam for review, then did it all again on Xbox when it arrived on Game Pass. I gave it to my partner, I have sent codes to friends. I have become the Tunic evangelist, preaching to all to come worship at my isometric church.
The second-best game of 2022, for me, was OlliOlli World. Because whilst Tunic managed to tick most of the boxes of what I look for in video games, Roll7’s 2.5D sporting hit managed to tick the other. With aplomb.
That other box is ‘flow’. Whilst Tunic’s combat is pleasing and fits into the game gorgeously, it’s not exactly Elden Ring or Nier: Automata or Enter the Gungeon, or something. So when OlliOlli World dropped, hot on the heels of Tunic, the two things synced up perfectly: I had one game giving me world, and mystery, and intrigue, and another game giving me that almost hypnotic, zen-like flow-state. The same sort of flow-state that made me spend over 1000 hours in The Binding of Isaac.
Except OlliOlli World is much harder. It requires split-second reflexes, a superhuman left thumb, a good memory, and the ability to download maps and skateparks into your brain and perfect them, and then (probably) never think of them again.
The game has been supported with various DLCs throughout the year, so if you come to the experience now, you’ll get to see why this game is so endlessly playable and you’ll get a bunch more content, to boot. Play OlliOlli World – and I’m sorry in advance about your thumbs.
Marvel’s Midnight Suns
Marvel’s Midnight Suns is my biggest surprise of the year; I pity the marketing team that had to sell this one to the MCU-brained masses, because it’s a hard sell. Teaming up some of the biggest Marvel superheroes (Spider-Man, Wolverine, Captain America, Iron Man) with the niche goths that live in Limbo or something (Magik, Nico Minoru, Blade) and making gamers play with cards – god forbid – was never going to be easy.
And yet the combination of Slay the Spire mechanics, XCOM sensibilities, some phenomenal writing, and all the best bits of the goth side of the Marvel universe makes this an extra-special treat that is maturing on the palette like a fine Transian wine.
What makes it even better is that Midnight Suns has made me realise why I fell in love with Marvel stuff in the first place; away from the fantasy propaganda of the films and the comics that slowly began to fall in line with them, Marvel offered something different back when I was reading X-Men in the late 90s and early 00s – something that respected and drew from alt counterculture and the punk ethos.
Midnight Suns has that same spirit, and it’s a refreshing taste on the tongue after the dreary recent years of the MCU. If this is the future of Marvel games, I am sold. Keep your cookie-cutter Sony Spider-Men – I’ve got Magik to play with.