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The Best Games of the Year (Before the Holiday Rush)

This year is only barely halfway through, and yet we've already seen some downright incredible games. Let's look at the best titles to come out so far!
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This year has been incredible for fans of pretty much every genre of video games. We’re not even into the busy holiday season yet, and we’ve already played some of the best games ever made. If you haven’t had a chance to check out Elden Ring or Xenoblade Chronicles 3, for instance, you’ve been missing out on some of the best games of the year.

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A lot of this crowded field is due in part because of the widespread shutdowns and office closures that took place in 2020. Several major studios had to shut their doors and move to working from home, a transition that slowed production on many large titles. So far in 2022, several massive games have been released after numerous lockdown-related delays.

Today, we’re going to break down the best games released so far this year. And, remember, heavy hitters like God of War: Ragnarok, Bayonetta 3, and the next generation of Pokemon titles are still slated for later this year! Let’s check out the best games released so far and see how they stack up against the crowded slate of excellent titles in 2022. 

Xenoblade Chronicles 3

Xenoblade Chronicles 3 shows developer Monolith Soft firing on all cylinders. While some people have only qualified praise for the first two entries in the series, XC3 is an unmitigated masterpiece. It’s huge, sprawling, epic, and beautifully crafted. Every new location hums with life and details, and the main cast is full of likable and unique characters who refuse to fall into tired archetypes.

The protagonists all spend some time in the limelight, and the story wisely chooses to avoid making one character the focus of every story beat. They all share the top billing, making the party feel more like something you’d see in a D&D campaign, not a single-player RPG title. This emphasis on teamwork bleeds over into the combat design, too, with each character capable of fusing into a giant robot called an “Ouroboros,” adding even more tactical depth to the already-immersive combat.

The storyline is gripping and tense. Players control Noah and his friends as they navigate a bizarre world comprised of locations from both the first and second Xenoblade titles–worlds that ostensibly should have never bumped into each other. Even if you’ve never played the first two, you should check out this unparalleled JRPG.

Elden Ring

If you loved Breath of the Wild and just wish that it was significantly creepier and tougher, then there’s a game you need to play. Elden Ring is everything a Dark Souls or Legend of Zelda fan could ask for in a video game. It’s a massive open-world RPG that gives you the freedom to explore vast dungeons and fight terrifying, larger-than-life monsters to your heart’s content. It’s also tough as nails–something that many fans adore about this thankless, bleak title.

If you’ve ever wanted to experience a video game that accurately captures the feeling the tackling an old-school tabletop RPG, this is the game for you. It’s punishing but rarely unfair, and it’s delightful to plumb the game’s numerous caverns and hidden dungeons to find new trinkets and weapons. What’s more, there are engrossing, subtle stories buried all over the sprawling game world.

Elden Ring is everything a From Software fan could have ever asked for. It’s easily one of the best games of 2022, and it might be among the best games ever made. If you haven’t had a chance to play it yet, take a break this weekend and check it out. 

Kirby and the Forgotten Land

Nintendo’s adorable little pink mascot has been through a lot of adventures over the years. Lately, the little guy has mostly been seen as a fighter in the popular Super Smash Bros series, but he’s best known for his starring role in adorable, addictive platforming titles. The latest of these, Kirby and the Forgotten Land, sees the pink puffball making his first leap to the world of 3D platforming. 

Kirby is more fun to control than ever in this Switch exclusive. It features a slew of returning “copy” powers that you might expect, like the sword and fire powers that have been in every Kirby entry since the second. The game also sports gorgeous graphics, making the most of the Switch hardware to present a surprisingly detailed post-apocalyptic world for him to explore. 

This time around, the game also offers a suitable challenge for players of all ages. You’re able to take on difficult challenges if you want, giving yourself more reason to learn the game’s finer points. If you’re a fan of Kirby or 3D platformers in general, you need to check out this incredible Switch exclusive.

Horizon Forbidden West

Sony’s only got two marquee titles for 2022: the upcoming God of War: Ragnarok, and the already-released Horizon Forbidden West. This sequel to the 2017 Horizon Zero Dawn continued the series’ pattern of extremely bad luck in release timing, as Forbidden West launched the same month as Elden Ring, while the first game released alongside Breath of the Wild. That’s stiff competition for a game that prides itself on its massive game world and open exploration.

Despite this unfortunate timing, Forbidden West is still one of the best open-world games ever made. It’s the quintessential “map game,” offering tons of activities across its sprawling rendition of a far-future American West. You get to fight robot dinosaurs with a bow and arrow, which is sure to please everyone’s inner five-year-old. There’s also a surprisingly in-depth story.

Exploring the game world is addictive and rewarding, not least because the game is gorgeous. Forbidden West looks its best on next-gen hardware, so if you get a chance to play it on the PS5, take it. The 4K resolution and ray tracing make the game a treat for the eyes, and it’s one of the most compelling reasons to own a PS5 right now. 

Pokemon Legends: Arceus

The old joke goes that developer Game Freak made the first Pokemon game in 1996 on the Game Boy and then made the second Pokemon game in 2022 on the Nintendo Switch. Pokemon Legends Arceus marks the most profound departure from the core formula of mainline Pokemon RPGs that some fans were shocked to see the game come out only a few years after Pokemon Sword and Shield. What’s more, Pokemon Scarlet and Violet will also launch later this year!

Arceus abandons the series’ fixation on random encounters, tedious battle screens, and fixed isometric cameras. Instead, players control a trainer in a fully-realized 3D environment, complete with a controllable camera and Pokemon that actually amble about natural landscapes. This all sounds pretty elementary, but seeing such a well-made Pokemon game after several lackluster generations is enough to excite any longtime fan of the series.

Arceus offers the clearest path to the future of any mainline Pokemon game yet. If Scarlet and Violet are anything like Arceus, they’ll probably be some of the best RPGs to hit the Switch this year. 

Neon White

Some games are fun to play through at breakneck speeds. Gamers love to test themselves against a clock and try to speedrun their favorite titles. Neon White takes this inherent desire and turns it into a core gameplay mechanic. When you play through a new level in Neon White, you’re just trying to find the fastest way to defeat every enemy and make it to the finish line.

That might sound a bit narrow, but it’s incredibly rewarding. The game has unbelievable amounts of replayability, and it’s extremely fun to perfect your runs through the most devious levels. And that’s a good thing because Neon White oozes style. The music and graphics help to pump you up for your most impressive runs.

If you’re in the mood for a skill-testing and stylish first-person action title, check out Neon White. It’s one of the best indie games of the year and easily worth the low price of admission.

Triangle Strategy

Triangle Strategy is a turn-based tactics game from Square Enix that uses the same 2D HD graphics style seen in games like Octopath Traveler and Live a Live. While this graphical style is a bit divisive, people who love it really love it. Triangle Strategy has a lot in common with other turn-based tactics games like Final Fantasy Tactics, Fire Emblem, and Tactics Ogre. It’s extremely plot-heavy, too, with a strong emphasis on political maneuvering and decision-making.

That decision-making focus allows each playthrough to diverge wildly from other paths. If you’re interested in a massive game that takes some fascinating plot twists and turns based on the player’s intervention, you should check out Triangle Strategy. The turn-based combat is extremely in-depth and rewarding, and it makes a perfect companion to the secondary game of trying to get ahead of your political rivals off the battlefield.

While the game is a spiritual successor to Octopath Traveler, you don’t need to play that game to enjoy Triangle Strategy. Fans of thought-provoking tactics games owe it to themselves to give Square Enix’s latest strategy outing a shot.