Best of 2022: Elden Ring and Sherif’s other GOTY picks

It’s that time of year again, when we all tell you which of the games that came out in the last 12 months we like best. It’s my turn, and I hope you weren’t expecting an out-of-left-field choice; an artistic indie game you’ve never heard of that I’m going to try to convince you is the game of the year in 2022.

It’s not me, unfortunately. Someone more cultured would probably have more interesting choices, but I’m a man of simple pleasures. And so, without further ado, here are all my Game of the Year picks for 2022 – starting with the game that secured its spot all the way back in February.

Elden Ring – PC

There was little chance that Elden Ring wasn’t going to be one of my favorite games in whatever year it was released in. I love FromSoftware’s work so much, they’ve pretty much ruined most other games for me.

The idea of ​​”Dark Souls with a horse” was appealing, but it made me worry that my favorite studio would go down the dark path that destroyed many others. I was afraid we’d get a massive game that offered multiples of the first ten hours, one with more maps than you could imagine exploring, and icon barf to ensure you never run out of things to do without any of it feeling convincing.

The Elden Ring ended up having none of these problems, and it’s all because of two guiding principles. Elden Ring is an open world game that justifies being open. You’re free to go anywhere, and the game will even toy with you, sending you to areas you won’t organically visit for a dozen hours later—teasing you about what’s to come.

That freedom is consistently rewarded, even if it’s just by increasing your power. Elden Ring does this by constantly showing you things over the horizon that are sure to catch your eye and tempt you to go after them. Even if you ignore that lure, you’ll quickly discover that straying off the beaten path has other distinct advantages.

The other thing that makes Elden Ring’s open world so compelling is that for all the work it does to make you want to explore it, it’s okay for you to miss a lot of it. You are allowed to fail and get stuck. Elden Ring is perfectly fine with you getting lost because it trusts you to find your way in the end.

Most open world games are so terrified of players missing out on content that they completely lose all discovery of their vast playgrounds. And for that Elden Ring deserves my admiration.

Sifu – PC

I’ve often talked about the need to feel cool in a video game. For me, it is almost always achieved through mechanics. If a game lets me do one cool thing, and gives me as much freedom as possible within the framework to do more cool things, I’ll be happy.

So it’s no surprise that Sifu was one of my favorite games of 2022. Sifu is the kind of action game that romanticizes—almost fetishizes—a real exercise you and I will never get good at in the real world. In this case, it’s Kung Fu.

There’s nothing quite like mastering a game’s mechanics, but it’s especially satisfying when your moves are rooted in tangible martial arts. You feel like you’ve transcended the medium, enough to keep you in that trance until you turn the game off.

Marvel Snap – iOS

Okay, look. I’m not a card player. In fact, I’d say adding cards to anything is a surefire way to greatly reduce my interest in it. But as I’ve discovered this year, that rule isn’t as hard or fast as I once thought.

I started playing Marvel Snap on a whim, because when you cover video games for a living, you tend to be more open to checking out popular games even if you’re not into them yourself.

I thought that once I got Snap’s schtick, I’d be done with it in a day or two. But here I am weeks later, still playing it daily. Snap is the perfect phone game. It doesn’t try to recreate the visuals or gameplay of big boy console games. Its success is partly brilliant use of the device it was designed for, but also in how it plays within players’ expectations of what games can and should be on those devices.

There’s a time and place for games that push those boundaries, but I’m rarely interested in playing them on a phone. What makes Snap so easy to return to is that you trust that it won’t waste your time or suddenly become so complex that you have to pay more attention to it than you should a phone game.

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