I feel like it’d be an over exaggeration, if not outright inaccurate, to say 2021 was a bad year for video games. Quite frankly, there were plenty of awesome new games or updates to existing ones. On a personal level, Ratchet & Clank: Rift Apart properly demonstrated the potential of the PlayStation 5, both Great Ace Attorney games finally made it to the West, and Super Smash Bros. Ultimate truly made the impossible possible by completing its roster with Sora from Kingdom Hearts.
But I will admit the industry itself has made it hard to be optimistic about 2022. Over the last twelve months, we’ve seen outright abysmal releases like the Grand Theft Auto: The Trilogy remasters, the likes of Ubisoft and Square Enix committing to incorporating NFTs (the newest environmentally damaging grift) into their games, and then there’s just everything about Activision, which has once again highlighted how horrible the industry can be behind closed doors.
While it is important to acknowledge all the bad parts of this industry, even if it’s painful to do so, that doesn’t mean there’ll be no joy to be found in it either. As always, there are already a number of select games I’m looking forward to this year and I’m sure there are a number of amazing titles that haven’t been announced yet. Plus, this is a yearly tradition at this point so let’s get on with things and get to my ten most anticipated games of 2022.
Before we get to the list proper, I want to give special mention to Goodbye Volcano High and Gotham Knights as they were on my 2021 list but were delayed to this year. Also, a quick shout out to the Steam Deck. I don’t know if I’ll try and get one this year (I may not even be able to), but it’s existence does mean I’m far more likely to try out PC exclusives. Right, onto the list proper.
1. Pokémon Legends: Arceus (Nintendo Switch)
Man, January’s already starting strong. Granted, it’s not releasing until the very end of the month, but Pokémon Legends: Arceus will most definitely be the first new game of 2022 I’ll buy. Unlike the Brilliant Diamond & Shining Pearl remakes, which I skipped over due to my lack of interest and how unambitious they were, Pokémon Legends looks to be a far more refreshing experience.
While it’s not quite the open-world The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild style experience some fans may have hoped for, Pokémon Legends is at least doing a lot to stand out from previous games. We already got a taste for seeing Pokémon roam in the wild in previous entries, but Legends is taking it to the next level, with the ability to really observe them in their natural habitat. The fact you can sneak up on them and throw a Poké Ball without entering battle alone was a “wow” moment for me, alongside being able to transition into battles so seamlessly.
I could go on and on about the radically different setting, a premise that doesn’t involve the usual “become the Champion” routine I was already tired of two generations ago, and the wholly new Pokémon. I know not everyone is sold on the visuals, but I think they’re perfectly fine. I’m just happy to see a full fledged Pokémon RPG break the usual mould. Hopefully, it’ll feature a nuanced or at least interesting narrative beyond researching Pokémon, but it’s a shake-up the franchise desperately needs and I already hope Legends will become its own sub-series or something.
2. Loco Motive (Nintendo Switch, PC)
I’m glad I decided to start checking out Nintendo’s Indie World Showcases. A lot of people get irrationally angry at them because they’re not “proper” Nintendo Directs, but they’re the perfect place to discover small games that one could very easily miss. They’re how I learned about Gnosia (easily one of my favourite games of 2021) and the most recent one featured two games in particular that very quickly grabbed my interest.
I nearly didn’t include Loco Motive on this list because you can actually play it for free on itch.io already. But I then found out that it was made in two weeks and is more a proof of concept, and its next release is a complete re-imagining, so I count that as a new game.
I’m a sucker for games with multiple playable characters with their own storylines that intertwine with each other. Loco Motive offers that, a murder mystery on a train, some great pixel art and animation, and has already been favourably compared to classic Lucasarts point-and-click games. Sounds like a winner to me, although there hopefully won’t be many puzzles with annoyingly obscure solutions that leave you wondering how anyone was meant to reasonably solve them.
3. Afterlove EP (PS4, PS5, Nintendo Switch PC)
The second indie game from the showcase to catch my eye, Afterlove EP combines two of my favourite genres – visual novel and rhythm game – and dresses them up in a lovely looking manga-inspired art style set in Indonesia, a setting I don’t think I’ve ever seen represented in a video game before.
The story alone is enough of a hook. You play as a young musician named Rama, who is struggling with the recent death of his girlfriend, Cinta. Not only is he plagued with the promises he failed to fulfil while she was alive, but (whether it’s supernatural in nature or purely a coping mechanism) her voice has taken residence in his head, making it even harder for him to move on.
The same development team also made Coffee Talk, which I’ve never played but heard only good things about. Its promise of multiple story paths and endings means it should have decent replay value and while I’m a bit hesitant about the dating sim part of the game, I’m a sucker for sappy romances. I already want to help this poor guy come to terms with Cinta’s passing and get on the road to recovery.
4. Kirby and the Forgotten Land (Nintendo Switch)
The Kirby series has such a consistent track record when it comes to quality that Nintendo could announce Kirby Does His Taxes and I’d probably still buy it. But what makes Kirby and the Forgotten Land particularly exciting is that it finally sees the pink puffball break into the 3D space.
2022 marks Kirby’s 30th anniversary and, in all that time, the series has never had a true 3D game. Even its debut on the Nintendo Switch, Kirby Star Allies, stuck to the traditional 2D formula. There was supposed to a 3D title for GameCube but it was cancelled, and the closest fans got a taste of the possibility was the City Trial mode in the Kirby Air Ride racing spin-off.
Kirby and the Forgotten Land is not only new ground for the series, it’s already got an intriguing set-up. Story’s admittedly never been a selling point for the series, but the abandoned, post-apocalyptic looking city in the trailer is an environment I don’t think Kirby’s ever navigated before. And the brief glimpse of a boss fight from the trailer has me excited for their potential now Kirby’s no longer limited to a 2D plane. Plus, like I said, the Kirby series has never let me down before and I genuinely don’t think it ever will.
5. AI: The Somnium Files – Nirvana Initiative (PS4, Xbox One, Xbox Series X/S, Nintendo Switch, PC)
Even though I hoped, I never actually expected AI: The Somnium Files to get a sequel. Much like Kotaro Uchikoshi’s Zero Escape series (which I also love), I don’t think it sold particularly well in Japan or in the West. But despite the odds, I got my wish and then some.
Getting a sequel at all is amazing enough, but its premise is precisely what I wanted. There was a specific point in the first game where I thought it’d be really cool if a sequel saw the scrappy but kind-hearted Mizuki take over as the protagonist, joining ABIS as an adult and working as a Psyncer. And while I don’t think she’s quite at adulthood yet, that’s more or less what the sequel will be about.
There’s very little to go on beyond the teaser trailer and the box art, but I already have so many questions I can’t wait to see answered. Plus, I’ll get to reunite with old faces, meet new ones, and experience another off-the-wall but tightly written narrative that only Uchikoshi could conjure up. And if I’m lucky, there’ll be a cheesy musical number in there too.
6. Marvel’s Midnight Suns (PS4, PS5, Xbox One, Xbox Series X/S, Nintendo Switch, PC)
I’ve never been one for strategy games but, funnily enough, 2022 has two of them that I’m eager to check out. The first is Midnight Suns from Firaxis Games, the studio behind the modern XCOM games. I did play XCOM: Enemy Unknown back in 2012, but it’s punishing difficulty really put me off. Midnight Suns, by comparison, looks to be far more accessible and appealing to casual players like myself.
Rather than needing to hide behind cover and pick off enemies from a distance, it looks to recreate how a fight involving superheroes would work, with your party pulling off flashy attacks and using the environment to tear through the band of bad guys standing in their way. I’ve also found myself developing a taste for deckbuilding games so the card-based combat’s a nice bonus.
The main appeal for me, however, is its focus on the supernatural side of the Marvel universe, something I feel the movies and most games tend to side-line. The roster’s already looking plenty diverse, with a mix of recognisable and slightly more obscure heroes, and having the option to create your own hero, the Hunter, is pretty cool. There’ll also be a strong focus on character interaction which is always a plus in my book. Can’t wait to see what sort of conversations Blade and Captain Marvel will have.
7. Mario + Rabbids Sparks of Hope (Nintendo Switch)
Unlike AI: The Somnium Files, I was much more confident that Mario + Rabbids would get a sequel, but I was still equally thrilled to see it officially announced. It was the only thing from Ubisoft’s E3 2021 presentation that I had any interest in and I feel the developers are as excited to be making it as I am to play it.
Offering players more freedom of movement seems to be one of the game’s main priorities, both in the battles themselves and in the various locales we’ll visit as we journey from planet to planet. The original game’s exploration segments were admittedly rather linear so combining that with brand-new, unique locations could make that aspect a lot more interesting. And while I never had an issue with the grid-based combat in the first game, the glimpses we’ve seen of how battles play out in the sequel already demonstrate some exciting and new potential strategies.
But perhaps what I’m most looking forward to is what sort of creative, funny, and charming shenanigans the characters will get into next. The first game was chockful of crazy moments you’d never expect to see in a Mario game, and Sparks of Hope is already starting strong with its new, menacing looking villain and the inclusion of Rabbid Rosalina (hopefully the actual Rosalina will make an appearance).
It’s a shame that this is still a Ubisoft game and, frankly, between its NFT bullshit and its failure to meaningfully address the abuse allegations from 2020, I have no desire to give it my money, not even for this. So, I’ll be making a concentrated effort to buy this game second-hand. Maybe Ubisoft will get its act together in time to curry my favour but I sincerely doubt it given its track record.
8. Sonic Frontiers (PS4, PS5, Xbox One, Xbox Series X/S, Nintendo Switch, PC)
Honestly, I feel like I’m only putting Sonic Frontiers on this list out of obligation. Sega hasn’t given me much of a reason to be excited about it, but my inner Sonic fanboy can’t help but whisper in my ear “No, this one will actually be good.”
Thankfully, Sega did share an actual trailer for it at The Game Awards 2021, confirming its title and that it will be an open-world game as the leaks claimed. It’s certainly an interesting prospect and the trailer contains some intrigue regarding its narrative. I just wish Sega showed some actual gameplay. So far, all we have are some admittedly pretty environments.
It’s definitely ambitious, I’ll give it that, which is more than I can say for the abject disappointment that was Sonic Forces. I don’t even need it to be at the same level of quality as something like Super Mario Odyssey. Give me something akin to Sonic Adventure or Sonic Unleashed and I’ll perfectly content with that. But I think it says a lot that I’m a lot more excited for the second Sonic the Hedgehog movie than I am for the next game.
9. Bayonetta 3 (Nintendo Switch)
Fun fact: when I was watching the September Nintendo Direct and the Bayonetta 3 trailer began, I instantly knew that’s what it was. Then Lappy showed up and I was all “Wait, is this Astral Chain 2?!” While I would’ve been happy with that, it’s for the best that it was Bayonetta 3 considering it had been nearly four years since it was announced.
I can’t blame some fans for being concerned about its development considering the complete lack of updates from Nintendo and PlatinumGames. But I think that nearly four minute trailer showed there was nothing to worry about. The action looks as stylish as ever and being able to summon demons as part of combat, not just the QTEs, is a really cool addition to Bayo’s moveset.
I’m also surprised by how curious I am about the game’s story and premise, considering I felt the story was the weakest part of both of the previous games. The new enemies clearly aren’t angels or demons and the identities of the figure at the end of the trailer and whoever it was that attacked Bayonetta in the announcement teaser are complete mysteries.
The fact that Hellena Taylor has obviously been replaced as the voice of Bayonetta is incredibly disappointing, but I’m hopeful that there’s more to it than just a simple recasting. I’m fully onboard with the theories that Bayonetta 3 is set in an alternate universe and this isn’t technically the same Bayonetta or something. If that doesn’t turn out to be the case, however, I think whoever the new actor is is doing a decent job so far and I hate how she’ll inevitably be harassed by idiots once her identity is known.
10. Untitled The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild Sequel (Nintendo Switch)
I may have given up on any hope of seeing Zelda be playable in the sequel to Breath of the Wild, but I’m still pretty pumped for it, especially after the E3 2021 trailer. Much like the Bayonetta 3 trailer, even though it only raised further questions and barely answered the ones we already had, what we saw was enough to justify the two years of silence from Nintendo.
You’ve got an entirely new area made up of floating islands that seem to harken back to Skyward Sword, Link’s wild new design and crazy arm that has Sheikah Slate powers, new mechanics like Link being able to move through solid objects, and the sight of Hyrule Castle flying up into the sky. Breath of the Wild was already insanely massive, and it really feels like Nintendo plans on going beyond even that with the sequel.
I think my only real hope is that there’ll be more to the story beyond “save the princess, stop the bad guy.” The idea of Link and Zelda embarking on a journey together, while not new to the series, is especially enticing and could serve to further flesh out their relationship. Although the scene of Zelda falling into that dark pit suggests it’ll be another solo adventure, which is simply disappointing. I’d also appreciate a villain with some personality to serve as a good foil to Calamity Ganon, who was more of a force of nature than a character.
Oh, and no weapon degradation system. Yeah, I said it, it was the worst part of Breath of the Wild and I never want to see it again.