Our individual Game of the Year articles allow our lovely team of writers to share their own personal PS5 and PS4 picks for 2022. Today, it's the turn of retro reviewer Jamie O'Neill.
I was looking for a surprise comparable to Marvel's Guardians of the Galaxy from last year, so I considered Need for Speed Unbound in this search too, but Sonic Frontiers became my favourite gaming surprise of 2022. The Open Zone structure expanded pathways for verticality, while the game retained an element of traditional 3D Sonic in its Cyber Space stages. It reminded me of Shenmue III in 2019, by filling a gap, and allowing hope for life to be pumped into a classic SEGA franchise. While in the future Sonic Frontiers will most likely be considered a stepping-stone in the evolution of Sonic games, I was still pleased that Sonic Team found success by using creativity and innovation to vary the 3D Sonic formula.
Capcom Arcade 2nd Stadium Bundle is a more niche selection of arcade games, but at £32.99 for 32 titles, it retained a similar sense of value to the classics-packed Capcom Arcade Stadium. These unique games recalled a more specialised sense of nostalgia, as Knights of the Round filled my fantasy brawling fix, Eco Fighters provided a vividly colourful shmup, and Darkstalkers: The Night Warriors reminded me of the mid-1990s students' union bar. There were a lot of amazing retro collections in 2022, but there's something about Capcom's pixel art and chiptunes that makes Capcom Arcade 2nd Stadium the most fitting way to honour my Dad's weekend trips to seaside arcades like Ffrith Beach, New Brighton, and Southport throughout the 1980s and 1990s.
I knew I was going to appreciate the release of Klonoa Phantasy Reverie Series, just based upon how much I enjoyed Klonoa on PS1 and PS2 in the first place. Sometimes I feel that Klonoa can be dismissed as too cartoonish, but where many games use 2.5D visuals to dynamically rotate background graphics along a 2D gameplay plane — Cotton Fantasy is an example of this from 2022 — Klonoa's stages are built around how the 2.5D platforms wrap around paths to create entangled platforming routes. This was exemplified in the task to free all residents in Phantomile, because discovering the location of bubbles, and figuring how to pop them is cleverly knitted into the twisting stage design.
2. Elden Ring
Back in February, it was cool to discuss my progress in Elden Ring with my cousin and my friend, although at times it felt like I played Elden Ring all wrong, as their Soulsborne experience ensured they progressed in a more efficient manner. Early on I ignored the guidance of grace, so even before entering Stormveil Castle, I travelled from Limgrave around its imposing fortress to Liurnia. I also found a way to transport myself to Caelid, and I spent a large amount of time exploring these three areas, before I'd even confronted Godrick the Grafted. Then again, FromSoftware designed Elden Ring to be accessed this way, and I've enjoyed a similar approach of exploration over story progression for a while now in games like Assassin's Creed Valhalla, too.
There was a moment while playing six players online — with the intention of completing Arcade Mode on the hardest Gnarly difficulty in a single two hour-ish sitting, as masses of sprites swamped the screen — when I realised I didn't just love Tribute Games' Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Shredder's Revenge, I adored it as my favourite game of 2022. The Trophy is called 'Like the Old Days!' and the experience perfectly captured memories of skateboarding around Southport arcades to be amazed upon first seeing the original TMNT coin-op in 1989. Following this, I'll also get Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: The Cowabunga Collection as a cowa-bonus gift this Christmas.
What do you think of Jamie's personal Game of the Year picks? Feel free to agree wholeheartedly, or berate relentlessly in the comments section below.