In a year filled with many great titles, let’s look back at the trends that shaped our gaming experiences.
The year 2022 is almost over, but it feels like just yesterday that we were hyping our most-anticipated games, most of which are now in the rearview mirror. While 2023 is sure to deliver even more incredible experiences, we can’t move on before looking back at what defined this last year in gaming. From in-game clothing styles to the world of virtual sports, let’s take a walk down memory lane through the year that was 2022.
2022, the year that made cats humanity’s best friend
Cats are no strangers to video games, whether they’re cuddling up to our gaming machines for warmth or exploring in-game post-apocalyptic landscapes. This year saw cats take center stage in various titles, such as Annapurna and BlueTwelve’s Stray, a game about a cat that gets wrapped up in saving the world from a material-eating parasite. The feline-led feature Klonoa Phantasy Reverie Series was also released. The highly-anticipated collection of remade 2.5D side-scrolling classics reintroduced the world to its titular plucky protagonist.
Of course, cats also graced the likes of Sonic Frontiers, Ghostwire Tokyo, and even Persona 5 Royal. And who can forget everyone’s favorite cult shopkeeper kitty, Forneus from Cult of Lamb? Each of these titles gives players a cat companion to help out along the way of the hero’s journey or offers players complete control of a kitten looking to save the world. Whether it’s Big the Cat helping Sonic learn to fish, Morgana teaching Joker the way of the Phantom Thief, or Ghostwire’s Nekomata handing out side-missions, it seems the cat has become humanity’s new best friend and, at times, our would-be savior.
2022, the year that gave everyone a chance to play
The push towards inclusivity and accessibility was seen in a big way this year. Games like God of War: Ragnarök and The Last of Us Part I included features that add to Santa Monica and Naughty Dog’s past accomplishments in this area. Options such as audio cues, cinematic audio descriptions, auto-platforming, navigational assistance, high contrast mode, and more appear in these titles. Horizon Forbidden West also gave players access to unique difficulty-changing features like automatically having protagonist Aloy sprint, heal, or deploy her trusty Shieldwing. Adjustable settings like these help open games to wider audiences than ever before so that more players can get the chance to experience some of this year’s most captivating adventures.
2022, the year that pushed sports beyond reality
Windjammers 2 brought extremity and otherworldly style to the world of virtual sports with its release back in January. In this hyper-real game of frisbee, players are pelted with super abilities, nutty obstacles, and outlandish venues in a 1-on-1 sport where reactions, wits, and coordination are tested.
This release kicked off a series of fantastic extreme sports titles that could only exist in the virtual world: OlliOlli World, a cartoony 2D skateboarding game that takes place in a world that appears to be made by a skate-loving god; Cursed to Golf, a roguelike golf game set in purgatory that pits you against death itself; and Rollerdrome, a bloodsport that tasks you with performing skate tricks while fighting off robotic enemies. If you’ve ever thought sports were too restricted by reality then 2022 is your year.
2022, the year that we changed our battle royale arsenals
The unshakable popularity of the battle royale genre continued, but with some new twists. Not only did the outrageous Fall Guys debut on PlayStation 5, but other games entered the fray to shake up the classic royale formula. Deathverse: Let it Die takes things in the wackiest direction you can expect from a follow-up to the original Let it Die, giving a hellish death game the aesthetic of a tacky game show. Rumbleverse combines fighting game combos, wrestling cliches, and battle royale gameplay into one action-packed package. And there’s also Call of Duty: Warzone 2.0, which adds many twists to the genre. Instead of the usual large shrinking circle, at times, there are three circle safe zones within the collapse, often resulting in matches ending with surviving three teams armed to the teeth. And who can forget the addition of helicopters, boats, and more vehicles? Epic also tapped into the power of Unreal Engine 5 to give battle royale juggernaut Fortnite a massive visual boost. If you were unsure of trying the genre before, now is the time to check it out.
2022, the year that let us fight our fears alongside friends
2022 saw a major shakeup in the horror genre. The option to face frights in games is no longer relegated to a solo experience with the advent of asymmetrical horror. Dead by Daylight continued pushing the genre throughout the year after heading the new frontier and was followed up by some thrilling additions.
One highlight, in particular, is Evil Dead: The Game, which pulls together what makes this subgenre so great and why its staying power is so strong. Complex character growth mechanics, genuine scares, and laughs alike make up the experience of what it’s like to play a single match. And the film franchise in which it’s set is undoubtedly the perfect place for all its over-the-top competitive carnage to take place.
Other releases like Ghostbusters: Spirits Unleashed, Back 4 Blood, and Resident Evil Re: Verse have shown how different and unique entries in this burgeoning genre can be. All that’s left now is to pick which flavor you like the most. Want to pick up Ash William’s iconic Boomstick and chainsaw hand? Or do you want to cross the streams and kick ghost butt?
2022, the year Lands Between gave us a breather
Videogames have always offered a way to break away from reality to journey into another world and experience something we can only dream of. But what happens when these games give us time to stop and smell the roses within these realities? Many large titles of the year put this notion to the forefront, most notably Elden Ring.
FromSoftware’s latest epic threw us into the large open world of The Lands Between and gave us full reign over what to do and when to do it. But between the action and countless deaths, we eased the reins on Torrent to soak in the atmosphere. This downtime provided ample opportunity to reflect on the mesmerizing journey through these lethal landscapes. Yes, death was inevitably around the corner, but this world would continually enamor us with its beautiful countrysides and stunning vistas. Even when a dragon came to burn you alive, at least it flambéed you against a majestic backdrop of natural beauty, right?
We saw the freedom to roam represented in games throughout the year, like Sonic Frontiers, Stray, Horizon Forbidden West, and God of War: Ragnarök. Each takes place in a vast, dangerous world to get completely lost in. And despite the dangers that continuously cross your path, you’re always given the chance to appreciate the beauty those are set in. A welcome invitation that allows us to truly appreciate the hard work and passion developers put into creating these fantastical worlds.
2022, the year family reigned supreme
Family ties weaved their way into many of gaming’s biggest experiences this year. Whether those ties were from blood, fate, or love, plenty of titles showed that there’s no better way to tackle life than with those who will always be there with you. Just look at Amicia and Hugo from A Plague Tale: Requiem. These two siblings pushed through impossible odds to support one another and reach their goals. Without the other, they wouldn’t have the strength to be who they needed to become by the game’s emotional conclusion.
The power of this dynamic also found its way into other games this year. God of War: Ragnarök saw Kratos growing as a father thanks to his son, the Phantom Thieves took on the world as a found family of misfits in Persona 5: Royal and Joel overcame his trauma through his journey with Ellie in The Last of Us Part I. And who can forget the turtle family taking down Shredder’s army once more in Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Shredder’s Revenge? In 2022, family easily proved to be one of gaming’s best power-ups.
Did you spot any other examples of the 2022 gaming trends mentioned here?