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Game Developer’s best of 2022: Danielle Riendeau’s top six games of the year

From Into the Breach: Advanced Edition to Citizen Sleeper and Stray, these are the games that stuck with our EIC.

It’s become a common refrain in my life, when writing these year end posts, that I simply didn’t play enough games in a given year. It happened again, and this time around it feels especially egregious because there was so much work that speaks to my particular dorky sensibilities. Do you even know how many cool adventure games came out in 2022 (I even made a tiny one myself!)?

But the exasperation is partly exaggerated. I’ll get to most of them in the new year, and after all, this is a wonderful problem to have: it means there’s tons of interesting, inspiring, special work out there that I’ll be able to enjoy some time.

So, while this is a short list, and many of the 2022 games I know I’ll love won’t get their shout out here, it’s ok. We’ve got plenty to be happy about right here.

Into the Breach: Advanced Edition

Into the Breach squad

The Advanced Edition is a massive (I would call it feast-like) content update to one of my favorite games of all time, 2018’s brilliant tactics puzzler Into the Breach. I’ve written a great deal about this game, and played even more (I have several thousand hours of commanding tiny mechs under my belt). While it was hard to argue for this as a “2022 game,” for the purposes of our staffwide list, it’s such a brilliant update to an existing game and such a genuinely dizzying design feat that I can’t help but be impressed just thinking about it.

Subset managed to cram in so many more mission types, pilots, mechs, entire teams, enemies and more that I understand why the team needed years to design, balance and probably playtest the living daylights out of it. The real feat is in that balance: the reason I play so much of the game (and continue to) is that I still haven't seen every possible scenario play out on those 64-grid maps, between always-outnumbered mechs and the giant bugs that threaten the world. The Advanced Edition just gave me so many more pieces to play with, and possibilities to try out. I haven’t ranked this list, but if I did, this would very much be my number one game of the year.

Stray

Stray

Stray is simply an awesome little video game about being an adorable cat, exploring a gorgeous, mysterious world, and doing some good old puzzle-platforming. It is… catnip for me (sorry, not sorry), appealing in every possible way, and I’m so glad it turned out the way it did. Here’s to more cat-inspired platforming in the future!

Citizen Sleeper

Citizen Sleeper Ankhita

I wrote a bit about why Citizen Sleeper is so excellent in our sitewide list: it presents a strong story, excellent TTRPG-inspired mechanics, and humanist cyberpunk vibes.

But for my personal list, I’d like to highlight just how effective its storytelling can be. In one storyline, you can help a worker named Lem who is struggling to support himself and his young daughter, Mina. My partner and I, playing the game cycle by cycle (I’d play a day in the game’s parlance, then she would, and so on), went pretty far down this questline. We cared about Lem and Mina, babysat for her often (even when it didn’t go great: these things are always a literal dice roll), and tried to help out where we could. We accidentally completed a related quest without realizing it would screw over Lem and Mina, and my partner and I were heartbroken. 

I actually tried to look up how to save scum a bit, but the damage was done.

In all honesty, the way the rest of the quest goes, they may be better off with what ended up happening. But that doesn’t erase the guilt and sadness we both felt when we thought we had ruined their lives.

That’s good writing (and narrative design, and mechanical design!) and it’s a sign of just how intensely Citizen Sleeper makes you care about the people on the down and out station.

Inscryption

Inscryption Wetlands

Yes, I know this is a 2021 game—but I only just played it this year, and in the fine spirit of all that preamble above, I want to give this a shout. I played this with my partner, and just constantly tripped over myself thinking about how brilliant the whole experience is: the mechanics are fresh and deep enough to completely cure me of any leftover wariness I had about card-based games (they are incredibly fashionable now, but not long ago, I would have steered clear, probably just based on a vague fear of “too many rules and numbers” to remember—and I’m admitting now that I’m a wiser woman today). The narrative and world building elements are brilliant, spooky, and wildly effective. This is totally my pick for 2022’s 2021 game of the year.

Elden Ring

Elden Ring Iiji

I almost can’t believe how much I fell in love with Elden Ring. While I loved Bloodborne and played about two thirds of Dark Souls 3, I’m not really a Soulslike person. I love the worldbuilding and sheer gob-smacking weirdness of the games, but I often enjoy them from afar, watching let’s plays and speedruns and other associated content.

As many have noted, this giant open world was much more accessible than most of the developer’s previous games, and at least until the end, I was able to play this much more like a particularly wild and batshit platformer than a traditional Soulslike Action-RPG. Oh sure, I fought things, and that was cool, but only once I was wildly over-leveled (as were my spirit ashes) and otherwise living my best life riding, jumping, and crafting my merry ass off. This game is so deeply, wonderfully weird, and its brilliance (for me, at least) lies in how it uses and reuses assets and animation from all of FromSoft’s previous titles into a sort of delicious stew.

Pentiment

Pentiment pet dog

I still haven’t finished Pentiment, and I will steer you towards our collective list for a healthy list of reasons why this Renaissance murder mystery is amazing. I am also writing it here because it’ll help keep me honest about a number of other story-driven adventure games I’m really dying to play (but just didn’t find time): Norco, Roadwarden, The Case of the Golden Idol, McPixel 3, Beacon Pines, Anglerfish, practically everything on this list, Bear and Breakfast, and Immortality (perhaps slightly stretching the definition here, but I’d consider it close enough). What if I plan a little staycation sometime in 2023 and just play 2022’s great adventure games? That’s an idea…

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