the first half of 2022 has been good to gamers. While the last few years have been filled with a woefully large reservoir of delayed games, the dam has burst – and the first half of 2022 has been crammed with some absolute bangers.
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Whether you’re a fan of strategy, action or horror, the games industry has spent the last seven months ensuring there’s at least one must-play title waiting for you. Games like Starfield and Breath Of The Wild 2 may have been pushed back to 2023, but have no fear: the amount of world-class games that have already launched this year means you’ll be kept busy for the foreseeable future. Without further ado, here are NME‘s best games of 2022 so far:
Horizon Forbidden West
Horizon Forbidden West is hardly a radical reinvention of the formula established in 2017’s Zero Dawn, but Aloy’s jump to the PS5 has given developer Guerilla Games licence to expand, well, just about everything.
As you explore the sprawling domain of the Tenakth tribe on a mission to restore the terraforming AI GAIA you’ll get to play with more weapons and more melee options while you fend off more robotic wildlife, master more skills, gather up more collectibles, and tick off more side quests.
Not everything is an improvement – the control scheme is strained to breaking point by the added combat abilities, and the convoluted RPG weapon system can absolutely get in the sea – but the easy charm that made the original a winner is back in spades, bolstered here by deeper side characters and a few big heart-filled moments.
It helps that Guerilla has learnt from being left in Breath of the Wild’s shadow, with a flexible new climbing system and open exploration that makes the Forbidden West feel far more free than Aloy’s old digs.
By Dominic Preston
Kirby And The Forgotten Land
Despite being one of the franchises that Nintendo is most eager to experiment with, most of Kirby’s adventures have felt more than a little bit by-the-numbers since Kirby: Triple Deluxe arrived on the Nintendo 3DS back in 2014. Happily, this is not the case for Kirby and the Forgotten Land, which is probably the biggest switch-up for franchise since he first got his power copying abilities back on the NES.
Kirby and the Forgotten Land pulls its titular hero far from the familiar locales of Planet Popstar and drops him into what appears to be a post-apocalyptic version of Earth, adapting his familiar 2D gameplay into 3D for the first time. What results looks like something between a kid-friendly The Last of Us and Super Mario 3D World look, and what is presented gameplay-wise feels fresh and vibrant simply through the introduction of a third dimension. Add in Kirby’s new “Mouthful Mode” powers, where the pink powerhouse takes on the attributes and abilities of real-world objects he’s wrapped himself around, and there’s never a dull moment to be had. Want to leather a bad guy while wielding the powers of a vending machine? You can do that here.
Forgotten Land won’t be winning any awards for best story at the end of the year, but HAL Laboratory has proven once again that with stunning visuals, catchy music, and exciting enough gameplay, adding in long cinematics would just get in the way of us having a good time anyway. Got a Nintendo Switch? Don’t skip this one.
By Vince Pavey
Elden Ring is so impressive, you really do have to feel sorry for any other AAA game release in 2022. The remarkable impact that this title has had, not only in bringing back returning FromSoftware fans but in attracting an entirely new, untapped audience, means that this fairly niche brand of action role-playing game is now well-and-truly in the spotlight, and with 13.4million sales and counting, it looks like it’s here to stay.
FromSoftware has been perfecting its craft for many years, complementing artistic, beautiful environments with seamless, methodical combat. Extravagant bosses have been a mainstay, peppering gameplay with difficult and rewarding challenges, and rich lore has forever run through its veins like marble through rock. Elden Ring is the apex of this design, taking those key elements and ramping them up to unprecedented levels.
The linear gameplay of past titles has been swapped for a breathtaking open world where the direction of your journey is entirely your own, and never has that sense of adventure felt so pure. It truly is FromSoftware’s magnum opus, and despite over two years of relentless audience hype, somehow it delivered in every sense. As a result, we’ve been gifted with another unique FromSoft experience, a testament to studio confidence and the value of artistic vision above all things. Games just don’t get better than this.
By Benjamin Hayhoe
Total War: Warhammer 3
- Developer: Creative Assembly
- Playable on: PC
Total War: Warhammer 3 may have hit a few speed bumps at launch, but that didn’t stop Creative Assembly’s latest fantasy outing from becoming one of the best strategy games of all time. The Total War series remains unmatched at bringing large-scale battlefield clashes to life, and Warhammer 3‘s ocean of unit diversity took that to new heights in February.
From hordes of plague-spewing demons to gun-toting Kislevites, no two factions in Warhammer 3 play remotely the same, and every single race brings at least one compelling reason to play them. Plus, an Outpost system allows players to recruit troops from other races, which means that army compositions can be shaken up and revolutionised to your heart’s content.
However, the best thing about Warhammer 3 still lies ahead. A slew of major patches have already cleared up Warhammer 3’s launch gripes, and the game is set to become unfathomably better when Immortal Empires arrives later this year. This gargantuan update will fuse Creative Assembly’s Warhammer trilogy into one jaw-dropping map brimming with six years of factions and improvements, which should turn the studio’s already-unmissable gem into the undisputed Prince and Emperor of strategy games.
By Andy Brown
- Developer: Supermassive Games
- Playable on: PS4, PS5, Xbox One, Xbox Series X|S, PC
The Quarry is the latest horror game from Supermassive Games and it manages to be a truly memorable experience. Featured in the game is an entertaining cast of characters who are brought to life with fantastic performances from the likes of Brenda Song, Justice Smith, and Ted Raimi.
As you progress through the story, you’ll take control of several characters. While playing as each character, you’ll be making choices that affect their relationships and, crucially, whether they live or die. Each choice you make feels important no matter how small it may seem. Even if you do mess up, you can always use the rewind system to save a character’s life. I loved having this feature as games like this usually won’t let you reload once a character dies.
As a casual horror fan, I found myself drawn to the mystery of Hackett’s Quarry. Without spoiling too much, the game’s story features tons of shocking twists and turns like your typical horror movie and each one is more shocking than the last. The Quarry is a game I will certainly revisit to make different choices and view the different endings. If you’re a horror fan like me, this game is for you.
By Brendan Bell
- Developer: Tango Gameworks
- Playable on: PS5, PC
When playing Ghostwire: Tokyo, it doesn’t take long for its creaky open-world design to show itself. Set in Shibuya where a supernatural fog has spirited away the city’s usually dense and bustling population, it’s a map you can accurately decry as being empty or lifeless as you follow the formulaic structure of gradually opening up the spaces you can explore while more icons of quests and collectibles take up the real estate.
Yet these flaws never stop the game’s setting from being anything but compelling. Made even more immersive with its first-person perspective, this is perhaps the most detailed and authentic representation of Japan’s capital outside of the Yakuza games, and on a grander scale given the impressive verticality you have to traverse its rooftops to take in the breathtaking views while rescuing the city’s inhabitants in spirit form.
But Tango Gameworks also looks closer to home culturally, imbuing its collectibles and quests with such a detailed specificity, from the yokai you encounter based on Japanese folklore to the seemingly random collectibles that have something to say about historical and contemporary Japanese culture. As a piece of virtual tourism, albeit one plagued by spooky visitors you’ll have to routinely defeat with your own supernatural powers, it’s utterly irresistible, especially when a trip to Japan post-Covid is still off the cards.
By Alan Wen
- Developer: Angel Matrix
- Playable on: PC, Nintendo Switch
Neon White is as good as the gameplay is rapid. Right from the get-go, you are experiencing the tight movement mechanics and interesting level design that make Neon White so enjoyable. The game is unashamedly built for speedrunning, with each of the gradually introduced mechanics adding a new form of movement. Neon White is not aiming for later replayability, it wants you to retry the stage you just completed immediately. It displays the stage leaderboard proudly beside a button asking you to replay it, Neon White knows you can go faster and what’s more, it knows your friends have already gone faster.
Neon White is so much more than its stages, though. This game is plugged into the cultural zeitgeist of the modern age. The writing of the characters nails modern anime tropes, and makes fun of them in a tasteful and knowing way. The writing is equal parts nonsensical and intelligent, with endearing characters and a plot laced with just enough mystery to keep you hooked. In a fashion akin to dating simulators, you’ll find yourself going back to old stages to grab the collectable gifts just to unlock additional dialogue with the characters in the hub area. That’s not to mention the intoxicating rhythmic soundtrack. Neon White is high-speed, well-written and just a damn good time in general.
By Jack Coleman
Rogue Legacy 2
- Developer: Cellar Door Games
- Available on: PC, Xbox One, Xbox Series X|S
Rogue Legacy 2, which began life as an Early Access title in 2020, is a “genealogical roguelite” according to developer Cellar Door, meaning that instead of upgrading one character, you progress your legacy and each new run sees you select one ancestor (of a possible three) of your previous character. Upon death, your character is retired, setting this sequel apart from other games of a similar ilk where the focus is placed upon upgrading one protagonist.
Hopping around 2.5D levels, attacking scoundrels that stand in your way with a variety of swords, bows, magic and other instruments of death contributes to your gold balance, which is put towards upgrading your headquarters. This giant castle base serves as a skill tree that the player will constantly unlock and upgrade before each run, or face losing gold previously acquired.
Cellar Door knew not to mess with anything that made the original Rogue Legacy so special, keeping everything that worked well and combining it with a plethora of new features, unlockables and upgrades for players to chase. On top of this, an adorable refined art style and incredibly tight controls round off the experience. The only unfortunate factor here is that you’ll lose hours to this black hole before you’ve realised.
By Cheri Faulkner
Sniper Elite 5
- Developer: Rebellion
- Available on: PC, Xbox One, Xbox Series X|S, PS4, PS5
Rebellion’s latest Nazi basher, Sniper Elite 5, is an exercise in levelling up. Previously the snipe-’em-up franchise has been a schlocky affair, B-movie thrills for people willing to overlook some dodgy AI and slightly rough edges.
No longer. With Sniper Elite 5, Rebellion seems to have cracked the magic formula. The open-world levels are dense and interesting while enemies are just the right side of challenging to let you play however you want to play. With many of the giants of the stealth genre now hiding away, Sniper Elite 5 has shown it’s capable of carrying the torch forwards.
By Jake Tucker
Looking to fill the rest of 2022 with even more fantastic games? Here are NME’s 20 best games of 2021.