2022 has been an odd year for video games. At this point last year, I had a lot of faith that we'd finally see the new generation arrive in style, and that the delays caused by the pandemic would catch up to and crash into the planned releases for this year, resulting in a bumper crop that we'd be unable to reap even after toiling night and day, so bountiful would our fruits be! That wasn't really the case. Instead, we saw many more delays, only three major triple-A affairs (one of which, Horizon Forbidden West, was a minor disappointment), and plenty more delays. Indies were a slightly different story (as you can read about here), but for the most part 2022 was another year that fell short of its potential. Next year, more than any other year, it's going to be our year.
First, it's worth looking at the differences between 2021 and 2022. I wrote at the time, and still stand by, 2021 being a down year for video games. It had some decent games, and people tend to get overly emotional about these sorts of things. If a year had a few games that you liked, then it's great! But that's not how it works. In the grand scheme of things, 2021 does not live up to the plethora of major hits that came in 2017, 2018, or 2020. That's fine – we know the extenuating circumstances. But one thing in its favour was its consistency.
2021 had consistent results. At regular portions through the year, those games we might call 'double-A plus' for want of a term between the big-indie double-As (Kena) and blockbuster triple-As (God of War), dripped out every so often. Almost as often, a major triple-A was bumped into 2022. We knew exactly what to expect, and it's not like there was nothing to play. Resident Evil Village, It Takes Two, New Pokemon Snap, Metroid Dread were all solid, and Ratchet & Clank was the one major budget game and it was a technical marvel. Not a great year overall, but nothing to cry about either. 2022 has been less solid.
The highs of 2022 have been higher – 2021 does not have a contender to God of War Ragnarok nor Elden Ring in terms of prestige. Even Horizon Forbidden West, 2022's bronze medalist, is on similar footing to Ratchet & Clank. I don't think those two are the best games of the year, necessarily. Ragnarok especially is derivative of the 2018 version, overuses the camera gimmick at the cost of emotional moments, and suffers badly from pacing issues. But regardless of individual flaws, it is a blockbuster able to bust more blocks alone than 2021 managed collectively.
However, the lows of 2022 were lower too. 2021 had smaller games, and fewer of them, but it didn't have as many wild swings as 2022. Where last year games were forced to shrink, this year games persisted with their size and instead were empty and broken. Saints Row and Pokemon Scarlet & Violet were the biggest culprits here, both tired versions of what they might have been, but despite being a major fan of both series, the biggest disappointments for me came through Nintendo Sports titles. Switch Sports had just six sports (a seventh has now been patched in, still way short of Wii Sports Resort), no offline modes, no training, and progression online tied to meaningless ranks and a FOMO-loaded cosmetic store. Mario Strikers: Battle League, meanwhile, had phenomenal gameplay but no game. 2022 was a year of all risk, no reward.
Despite this, I am hopeful for 2023. Major games coming out next year include Tears of the Kingdom, Final Fantasy 16, Kill the Justice League, Starfield, Diablo 4, Fire Emblem Engage, Redfall, Stellar Blade, Street Fighter 6, and many more – and that's before you consider the remakes on the way. Some of these will likely be delayed, but then there are also some indies waiting to steal the spotlight, double-As flying under the radar, and even with a third of the big games missing out, we're set for a bigger year than 2021 and 2022. It's foolish to measure up a year before we've even reached it, and perhaps arrogant to go solely off the largest titles, but after getting it all wrong last year, I'm doubling down on 2023. It's shaping up to be the best year of the new generation, and hopefully brings some titles that finally justify these expensive bricks in my living room.
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