Alyssa Mercante’s Top 10 Games of 2022
2022 wasn’t just the year I started here Kotakuor the year I accidentally went viral for daring to ask rich guys to dress nice at awards shows — it was also the year I forced myself to stretch outside my comfort zone.
I’m a video game jock, always looking for the high of a win earned in buzzer-beater games through solid communication between teammates. I spend most of my free time playing competitive shooters in an attempt to mimic the feeling I get when I PR in the gym, or beat our rival soccer team after a particularly physical game. Just like how I am as an athlete or just a normal civilian, I’m not a fan of trying new things that I could potentially be bad at. It’s why I quit my guitar lessons after a month, why I stubbornly refuse to go bowling, why I can only do karaoke if I’m completely drunk.
But this year I tried some new things – and not everything technically new. I took breaks from competition Overwatch 2 with round after round of Marvel Snap. I put in hours Fire Ring after banning the Soulslikes. I gave Cyberpunk 2077 an actual effort, rather than just rambling on to anyone who will listen. I wouldn’t say this is the most well-rounded GOTY list you’ll find here Kotakubut it’s a sign of my growth as a player.
I can try new things, and me can like them. Just don’t take me bowling.
The battle pass isn’t great, the cosmetics are too expensive (people want loot boxes back, dammit), and as a healer main I’m still sick of getting beat in 5v5 matches, but Overwatch 2 has consumed me ever since it launched. It’s the only game I play consistently with people I also hang out with in real life; we send each other daily texts as the work day draws to a close that just reads “oh?” We then spend the night ignoring our respective partners and screaming bizarrely Overwatch hose into our headphones.
With Overwatch 1 Dead and gone, Overwatch 2 is the only way to scratch my hero shooter itch. And while there are aspects of it that give me great pain (the move towards a more generic shooter being the main issue), I still get so much satisfaction from a hard-fought battle victory. I am a Surveillance-is for life, unfortunately. I wish I knew how to break up with you.
Cult of the Lamb
Not long into mine Cult of the Lamb playthrough, one of my cultists (a cow my partner named Cunty), tells me he wants to eat shit. Literal. He has always wanted to try eating poop. So I go and collect some crap produced by another cultist of his, cook it up into a meal and serve it to him. He is happy. He is more of a believer. I guess this is how Scientology is.
Cult of the Lamb is pretty much this all the way through: dumb fun that looks really good. I find I like the village farming more than I like the roguelike elements, but the latter is so simple and solid that it’s easy to zone out and spend a few hours hacking away at enemies. So, when you return to your village, there’s always something stupid waiting for you, whether it’s a dissenter talking shit or a loyal follower eating it.
When I first joined Kotakuall were deep in the violence of Marvel Snap. I felt a bit left out and wanted to make myself likeable as quickly as possible, so I downloaded the mobile card game on my first day at the office. The rest, my little goblin friends, is history – Snap consumed every waking moment whether I was on the subway, walking to the subway, waiting on the subway, between rounds of Overwatch 2 comp, or on the toilet (the latter I’m sure my gastroenterologist will be very upset about).
For a while I stuck to one construction like another Kotaku co-worker had helped me with, but then, as my Snap senses enhanced, I began building decks to purposefully screw with other players. Now I am the one Snap devil. I’ve only been here a few weeks and I’m insufferable. I’ve been told by loved ones that the horrible, evil giggle that escapes me when I hit an enemy player with Elektra one turn, then Killmonger the next, then Shang-Chi after that is concerning, and I have to agree.
Destiny 2: The Witch Queen
Bungie’s Best comes once a year to remind you that it still makes some of the best campaigns of all time. The Fate 2 conversations so often get bogged down in sunset content, skill-based matchmaking drama and the value (or lack thereof) of the grind, but when an expansion like The witch queen drops it’s all anyone can talk about – and for good reason.
The story of Savathûn managed to fill in the gaps Fate lore, establishing her as the best villain the game has ever seen, and laying out a path for the ideological battles that will continue into the franchise’s future. It was a readable piece of narrative meat (a rarity for Fate, which needs video explanations to explain its video explanations) that benefited from plot threads Bungie has been spinning for years. Plus Witch Queen gave us a sick raid and new Void abilities for players to go gaga over. Fate good.
I am NYC certified in Trap-Neuter-Return and cat colony management and I have three rescue cats (one of which I caught and socialized myself), so of course I love the cat game. It’s a game where you play as a cat and do cat things. There are cat noises. My cats like the cat noises and sometimes watch me play – all very healthy shit.
Stray isn’t going to break any boundaries, but it’s going to let you scratch up a couch like a cat would, and it’s got some of the prettiest level design of the year. I’m also a big fan of how the robot NPCs react to your little cat: I’ll never forget when I jumped onto a surface and interrupted two of them in a tabletop game, only to trot past them a few minutes later and look they are still struggling to pick up all the pieces.
Neon white is crazy, sexy, cool. This game has it all: pop-art visuals, speed-running mechanics, a Machine Girl soundtrack, and a collection of attractive demons called Neons competing to clear the skies of their demonic likenesses. It is difficult to define Neon white, as it almost feels like the anti-game genre game – sure, there are FPS elements, but there’s also dating sim stuff and a lot of platforming. It’s short, but it’s not a deck builder. It has puzzles. You’ll breeze through some of the levels in under 20 seconds, while larger, boss-y levels can take you a few minutes – but nothing on Neon white will eat up your time unless you let it. Trust me, you can.
Apex Legends is always there for me when I need it. It will lie dormant in my game pile for months, but every time I come back, it consistently gives me the tight, focused shooter I crave after a little weirdness. Warzone 2.0 battles or a frustrating Overwatch loss. Apex Legends is one of the best live service games out there right now thanks to a near-perfect mix of new content, required updates, and smart, measured updates. Respawn always shakes up the maps and weapon base just enough to keep the game fresh, but not too much to undo its impressively precarious balance.
Catalyst, the game’s last playable character, dropped just in time to wipe out an annoying meta that had been building for months, bringing with it yet another reminder that Respawn is one of the few popular games that isn’t afraid to center trans and non-binary people. . That’s probably why I find members of the alphabet army in so many of mine Apex Legends lobbies – and I live for it. Apex Legends is my safety net. It will always be on any GOTY list of mine.
Like many who participated in the two-year wait for Cyberpunk 2077 to get playable, I finally decided to try CD Projekt Red’s latest RPG this year. From the moment I saw the character creator, I knew it was going to be a time-consuming game that would threaten my relationships, workouts, and personal hygiene. I pored over every inch of my V, from her buzzed head to her freckles across her cheeks. I worried about her body mods and tattoos. When I finally exited the character creator and started playing the game, I paused and took screenshots every time her shiny chrome nails were visible.
When I give myself time to get lost in Night City, I get it lost lost, and emerge flashing into the sunlight of the real world half a day later, crunchy pounding techno music still ringing in my ears.
I previewed this top-down, twin-stick RPG from Raphael Colantonio last year, and it was absolutely brutal. It’s still just as brutal today, but getting some time with it helps to establish that this is a rock-solid immersive sim set in an incredibly cool world. Undead miners and sirens lurk everywhere in this alternate universe’s Wild West, but along with an arsenal of weapons, you’ll have plenty of opportunity to use the environment to keep yourself alive.
And the world off Weird vest remember. At one point I hired a bodyguard to follow me across the plains because I was tired of getting my ass kicked. Together we got through a tough part, but when we got into the next area and got jumped by some zombies, I accidentally lit him on fire. I didn’t think much of it as he died before my eyes, but I did pause to rummage through his pockets for change. Hours later, when I returned to the town where we first met, an NPC sitting near the lounge was mourning her lost family member. “Oops,” I muttered under my breath. Weird vest don’t want you to think of the characters as disposable, assholes.
For Fire Ring, I was a proud Soulslike hater. The games were the epitome of everything I despise: frustratingly difficult, punishingly cruel, and full of players with superiority complexes. I had tried and failed to play both Dark Souls Remastered and Bloodborne and wanted no part of Fire Ring — until it was revealed that you’d be able to freely roam its world, avoiding pesky early-game bosses and honing your skills so you’d be strong enough to take that boss down with one flourish of your staff.
From the moment I stood up as a Tarnished in the Lands Between, I knew this was the kind of title that would be considered a benchmark in gaming history. To live up to and exceed the hype that has surrounded it for years is something special, but what’s remarkable is how Fire Ring ushered in a whole new player base thanks to its open world capabilities. The flexibility of Fire Ring and its beautiful, bizarre world had me FromSoft-pilled, and now I’m ready to go through the studio’s entire portfolio.