Best RPG that isn’t covered on RPGFan so I might get in trouble for this one – Vampire Survivors
Listen, roguelikes and RPGs have a complicated relationship. They’re born of RPGs, but often take a huge diversion from the story-driven focus of traditional RPGs with a focus on execution-based gameplay to perfect your runs. There’s a good argument for Vampire Survivors not being an RPG. And I don’t care about any of those, because I haven’t played a single game this year more than Vampire Survivors, and the dopamine hit of constantly leveling up, powering up, and feeling like you’ve broken the game is the best gameplay cycle I’ve experienced in ages. It’s like 5 dollars, max, assuming you don’t just play on Game Pass or mobile. If you haven’t at least given the game a shot yet, that’s on you. You gotta fix that.
Best RPG featuring major superheroes from comics – Marvel’s Midnight Suns
So this year, both DC and Marvel came out swinging with Gotham Knights and Marvel’s Midnight Suns occupying different RPG niches. And I won’t lie, despite the mixed response, I really enjoyed Gotham Knights! I’ve always loved the Bat family, and stealthing about as Robin is a blast. But it can’t compare with Marvel and Firaxis teaming up for something between XCOM and Slay the Spire with an overwhelming dose of fan service for comic fans. Not only is the game a blast, packed with progression systems and relationship building to bolster a very satisfying card-based tactical battle system, but it’s also a showcase for some of the least plumbed corners of the Marvel universe. If you make a game with Magik and Nico Minoru as playable characters alongside your very own customizable superhero, I’m probably in. And hoo boy, am I in.
Best spinoff that the mainline series should ruthlessly copy – Pokémon Legends: Arceus
Pokémon Legends: Arceus gave me a feeling I haven’t felt since playing the original Pokémon Blue as a youngin’. The fresh experience of exploring, focusing on building out a Pokédex over battling, and seeing a world teeming with Pokémon to catch is a revelation that makes the old formula new again. Pokémon Scarlet & Violet got some pretty valid criticism about the state of its release, but it took some critical lessons from Arceus about making a Pokémon world feel vibrant. But technical issues aside, most of the remaining gameplay issues felt like regressions from the new stuff Arceus introduced. We got a revelation in Pokémon this year — it just wasn’t the mainline release.
Best game I’ll finish in like three years – Xenoblade Chronicles 3
The Xenoblade games are not for everyone. I’m a big fan of the previous Xeno games, but the slow pace and huge open worlds of the Xenoblade series has always been a tough sell for my lighter-than-average gaming time. But you know what? The story and world of these games are absolutely next-level. Few games are doing with story and narrative what this series is doing. That’s why I always finish these games, but it always takes me a few years. I’m on my first of likely three or more months-long breaks from Xenoblade Chronicles 3 while I get less burnt out on the exploration loop. If the experience is anything like Xenoblade Chronicles 2, I imagine the ending sequences will transform this into one of my favorite games of all time. I can see how the hardcore fans go so hard on these games. But I also wager I’m not the only one who can see the value while still experiencing that recurring burnout.
Best spinoff of a spinoff – Dragon Quest Treasures
Why haven’t we gotten a new Dragon Quest Monsters game in the West in 12+ years? These spinoffs give the Pokémon series a run for its money, and I’m not only saying that because I’m a die-hard Dragon Quest fan who has lovingly followed the series for over 30 years. Okay, admittedly, that might affect things. But yo! The series rocks! Well, if you feel like me, don’t overlook Dragon Quest Treasures. Doing what Pokémon Legends Arceus did for the mainline series, Dragon Quest Treasures riffs on the Monsters formula by focusing less on battles and more on exploration, collecting monsters to enable that exploration, and hunting down rare treasures (which are all wonderful references to the series at large!). The presence of Erik and Mia from Dragon Quest XI is more or less set dressing, but the core game is an absolute joy that sets off that “just one more run” mentality in a big way. It’s the perfect game to unwind with, especially if you have any love for Dragon Quest from the outset.
RPG of the Year 2022 – LIVE A LIVE
There are a good number of contenders for RPG of the Year. The fact that I’m not a Souls fan might well invalidate any choice I’d make by default in a year where Elden Ring came out. But here’s the thing: LIVE A LIVE has been RPG of the Year since 1994; it’s just now that modern technology has caught up to that fact. This new release does everything right to make a classic easily palatable to modern audiences, but those aren’t what make LIVE A LIVE special. The original game’s setup, a fascinating anthology RPG made up of distinct-feeling chapters (with an overarching story only lightly hinted at), is a unique experience that still feels fresh in 2022. They don’t make many games like LIVE A LIVE, and they certainly don’t make them as polished as this. If you’re the kind of person who’s reading an article on RPGFan, you’re the kind of person who deserves to experience LIVE A LIVE.