Best Game of 2022 (That I Played): Horizon Forbidden West
Early in 2022, I realized that the release of Horizon Forbidden West was rapidly approaching, and I still needed to play Horizon Zero Dawn. So, with the strong encouragement of RPGFan’s own Caitlin Argyros, I dove into the open-world post-apocalyptic RPG, quickly falling in love with the world, the story, and Aloy’s character. I loved it so much that, rather than wait a few months between playing these two massive titles as I had planned, I immediately purchased and started playing Forbidden West on its release date. Unsurprisingly, I adored it as well. It built on everything from the first game, enriching the already excellent combat and expertly picking up loose plot threads to tie them into a new, grander story. Surely, I thought, this was a real contender for Game of the Year. Then Elden Ring came out a week later. Well, Forbidden West is MY game of the year (though I might give Elden Ring a try in 2023 to see what all the fuss is about).
Best Game That I Couldn’t Stop Playing After the Credits: Rogue Legacy 2
When I reviewed Rogue Legacy 2’s Early Access release back in September 2020, I was relatively impressed. The game seemed like a reasonable upgrade over its 2013 indie darling predecessor, Rogue Legacy, and I hoped that the team at Cellar Door Games would continue to expand it to become a worthy successor. When the full game was released in April, it blew my expectations out of the water. Here was a sequel that completely obliterated the need to play the first title. Everything Rogue Legacy did, Rogue Legacy 2 did better. Plowing through generation after generation of heroes left me with a deep appreciation of RL2’s expertly crafted gameplay loop, imaginatively designed biomes, varied character builds, and tough-as-nails boss fights. The post-game content is also excellent, offering new challenges and remixed boss fights to keep me playing long after I saw the credits roll.
Best Sequel That Isn’t a Sequel: The Stanley Parable: Ultra Deluxe
Oh boy! A remake/expansion to one of the best video game narrative experiences of the last decade! I sure hope they kept all of my favourite endings and easter eggs! Wait, what the… Holy cripes on toast, they stuffed a full sequel in here!
The trailer to The Stanley Parable: Ultra Deluxe might be one of the most deceptive pieces of video game marketing I’ve ever seen. It promised a few additional endings and maybe some extra content, but nothing in the trailer hinted that this “remake” would deliver one of the most mind-blowing sequels I’ve ever played. What I find especially hilarious is that this isn’t even the first time the developers have pulled this trick, as The Stanley Parable was an expanded remake of a Half-Life 2 mod. Ultra Deluxe offers us a classic case of “don’t bother to buy the original because the sequel offers you everything and more!” The Stanley Parable: Now with a Bucket!
Best Sequel That No One Expected: Return to Monkey Island
The fact that Monkey Island got another sequel isn’t, in itself, surprising. After all, there have been four sequels since the release of The Secret of Monkey Island back in 1990. The surprising part is that the series’ original creators have returned for the first time since 1991’s Monkey Island 2: LeChuck’s Revenge. That game ended on a cliffhanger, which was famously NOT resolved in the way Ron Gilbert and Dave Grossman intended. But rather than declare that every Monkey Island game since 1991 was non-canon, as many speculated they would, Gilbert and Grossman instead wove everything in the series into one complicated tapestry of point-and-click goodness. The result is Return to Monkey Island, the best Monkey Island in decades and a celebration of what made the series remarkable in the first place. Will we get another Monkey Island game from them in the future? Well, it’s a perennially popular piratey property, so probably. But if this does turn out to be the last entry, Gilbert and Grossman ended the saga of Guybrush Threepwood with a finale that left a smile on my face and a tear in my eye.