Welcome to The Boar Games‘ Annual Game of the Year List, where we’ll be giving our opinions on our favourite games that have captured our hearts this year. So many amazing titles have been out, with studios releasing anticipated sequels like Horizon Forbidden West and God of War Ragnarök, or even unexpected titles such as Stray and Tunic. (And of course, Elden Ring!)
So without further ado, here are our top picks!
1. Deputy Editor’s Pick (Ethan Delcroix) – Neon White by Angel Matrix/Annapurna Interactive
Credits: Angel Matrix/IGDB
With blockbuster action titles like God of War and Elden Ring dominating the GOTY debate nearing the end of 2022, I’d like to make a case for Angel Matrix’s brilliantly addictive indie puzzle-platformer Neon White. Operating on the premise that the player is an ex-mercenary forced to kill demons in the afterlife, the game mixes awesome high-speed platforming with truly awful dialogue and storytelling – creating an authentically corny speedrunning game that wears its influences on its sleeve.
Bouncing off of walls to the sound of endless thumping and complex rhythms is really a treat, elevating the unique, artificial atmosphere of the game’s depiction of heaven
Neon White’s primary mechanic is the transformation of guns into cards, that you can either use as conventional weapons or discard for a one-time ability (such as a double jump or grapple hook). But the game’s real genius lies in its ability to make you keep coming back to its levels even after you’ve completed them dozens of times. With its medal and world-ranking systems, the game encourages multiple runs at each level to get the fastest possible time, prioritising the use of discard effects sparingly for quicker and more stylish paths through the maps. This means that instead of being a slog to get through, it’s actually really fun and encourages different play styles.
For me, the main attraction when I first saw the trailers for Neon White was the music. The entire game was scored by electronic artist Machine Girl, and it is so much better for it. Bouncing off of walls to the sound of endless thumping and complex rhythms is really a treat, elevating the unique, artificial atmosphere of the game’s depiction of heaven.
Neon White is a deeply personal game, being lead designer Ben Esposito’s brainchild of an ultra-specific vision of a game “for freaks and by freaks” that only his studio could realise.
A real indie homerun.
2. Deputy Editor’s Pick (Saud Juffa) – Nintendo Switch Sports by Nintendo
Nintendo and sports… It’s an instant, classic combination that everyone associates when they purchase a new console by the company. Ever since the Nintendo Switch released back in 2017, its hybrid function of a console and tablet in one, compact space made fans eager to try out the capabilities of the full system. Especially with its Joy-Cons, its versatility was quite reminiscent of its predecessor Wii Remote and Nunchuck combination. Thus, it was inevitable that people would link playability with the motion sensor’s functionality, and it was also inevitable that most who owned a Wii had Wii Sports. However, that was all the way back in 2006, which meant that a lot of the player experience later on rode on nostalgia. With Nintendo Switch Sports having dived into the mix in April 2022, its hard not to look at it as a contender for our Game of the Year.
Quite different to Nintendo’s typical franchise specialties like Pokémon, Legend of Zelda and Mario, the company has always had a soft spot for their Mii’s. With the Switch’s state-of-the-art portability and controller mechanics, it gave the company the opportunity to innovate one of its most popular games of all time. Although you can still play past classics like bowling, tennis and chambara, each ‘sport’ has been reinvented in the Switch iteration, such as having an advanced obstacle option for bowling rather than the typical and simple 10-pin alleyway. The cherry on top is surely its online-play capabilities, with a new unlockable system to give your avatar cosmetics when competing with others around the world. Holistically, this game deserves a spot on this list, as it stands as one of the best family-and-friends games of recent times!
3. Writer’s Pick (Austin Lawrence) – Stray by BlueTwelve Studio
Credits: BlueTwelve Studio/IGDB
Year by year, larger-than-life games have been nominated for the Game of the Year award. This year, we’ve got Elden Ring, in which a nameless nobody is guided by grace to become the ruler of the lands between. There’s also God of War, in which the titular character is, well, a god – but among those, we’ve also got Stray. In which you’re a cat.
Stray is unique among the other nominees – it may be an action/adventure, but it’s marketed as a cat game first – and it certainly delivers. BlueTwelve Studio revels in designing the game around the concept of you being a cat. You’re allowed to knock paint cans over and ruin people’s days, you’re allowed to get boxes stuck on your head and mess up your control system, you’re allowed to rub up to legs, knock over boardgames, lie down on people and take a nap, etc. – Stray does cat simulation extremely well, to the point of having a dedicated meow button.
The way it grounds itself in its premise is second to none
Stray is set in a post-apocalyptic cyberpunk city, in which there are no more humans – rather, all the inhabitants are robots. The cat’s goal is to get back to its family outside the city. It then runs into puzzles, dangers (including the Zurks, mysterious entities which devour anything that moves), and well-written story beats, which are told through interactions with your robot companion B12 and other robots throughout the city.
Because you’re a cat, there are no excessive infodumps, no lengthy talking segments or cutscenes – everything’s shown through the environmental storytelling and cat-on-robot interaction. The level design is organic and seamless, and the sound design throughout is excellent for building tension.
As such, Stray deserves to be a Game of the Year award nominee – the way it grounds itself in its premise is second to none, and the way BlueTwelve Studio has designed the game to harmonise with the premise in such a unique way is deserving of a reward.
4. Editor’s Pick (Reece Goodall) – Return to Monkey Island by Terrible Toybox
Credits: Terrible Toybox/IGDB
If you were gaming in the 90s, you may have encountered Guybrush Threepwood, an adventurer hoping to become a pirate in the Monkey Island games – a bunch of hilarious point-and-click titles that tested your brain and told some incredible stories. Creator Ron Gilbert was deprived of his trilogy after departing from Lucasarts in 1992, and the adventures were never quite the same. But in the era of legacy sequels, what better time for the original creator to come back and deliver a Return to Monkey Island?
This is a nostalgic outing, certainly, but it’s one of the freshest and most inventive point-and-click games in recent memory. I won’t ruin the story too much, but suffice to say that the guys have aged and continued to reckon with the secret of Monkey Island as the world changed around them – rest assured, as well as Guybrush, there are also many fan favourites including Elaine, LeChuck and even Wally. The story is once again the framing for ingenious puzzles and a lot of genuinely funny jokes, and it’s conveyed in a new art style that is frankly gorgeous to look at, with a score that is beautiful to listen to accompanying it. It’s a game that appeals to me as a long-time fan, with nostalgia that the game self-consciously plays with, but it’s also one of the most fun experiences I’ve had playing all year. For that alone, Return to Monkey Island has to be one of the Games of the Year.
5. Sub-Editor’s Pick (Jennifer Redding) – Pokémon Legends: Arceus by Game Freak
Credits: Game Freak/IGDB
Released back in January, Pokémon Legends: Arceus set a new precedent for how fans can experience the Pokémon world. Arceus serves as a fairly distant prequel to 2006’s Diamond and Pearl, and in terms of plot, it’s quite simple: you’ll be given a mission, explore, and report back, with the aim of completing the Pokédex. There are even occasional boss battles to dodge attacks from, and defeat, Noble Pokémon in each area. They’re genuinely somewhat difficult and add variety to slightly repetitive gameplay.
It’s not quite an open-world game, but still very impressive in its scope. The areas you can explore are huge and very exciting, and you can freely run around almost everywhere in rather detailed and diverse landscapes. The endearing and fresh gameplay of Arceus did motivate me to see if I could do as much as possible – indeed, whenever I play Arceus, I always sit with it for hours at a time, exploring everything that I can because it’s so fun to do. The novelty of seeing so many Pokémon physically in the same world as my character outside of battle never wore off.
As someone who has fallen out of enjoying the main line of Pokémon games released in the past few years, Pokémon Legends: Arceus is exciting and new. It’s both relaxing and a little challenging, with gameplay best enjoyed by taking it slowly, and even the little annoyances don’t tarnish the overall enjoyable gameplay experience.
Well, that wraps up our list for our favourite Games of the Year for 2022! Let us know if you agree or disagree with any of these titles, and tell us about your own personal highlights!
Everyone at The Boar appreciates the love you dedicate for gaming, and we’re excited to hear from you again next year!