Once again, Indie titles have proved they can stand up to the big boys of AAA.
While Elden Ring and God of War: Ragnarok may dominate the discussion around the best games of 2022, there were plenty of other titles released this year that warrant conversation. There were some slightly forgotten gems in the AAA sphere, like Horizon Forbidden West, which for some unknown reason was released a week before Elden Ring.
However, moving away from the big blockbusters of the gaming world, indie titles have had a great 2022 as well, giving us plenty of gems to fill out this year and keep us playing into 2023. It might seem like a known fact to many that indie games can match if not beat the standards set by AAA titles, but with each year it seems the genre excels further and further. Let's take a look at some of 2022's best indies and see which comes out on top.
All of these games are serious contenders for Gamereactor's indie title of the year, and kicking off our list is Tunic, a great Zelda-inspired action/adventure title. It combines a cutesy aesthetic and inviting world with some difficult encounters and well-designed levels that evoke the nostalgia of the early Zelda titles while also providing a wholly new experience. Releasing in early 2022, it may have been easy to let Tunic slip by, but it is certainly a game worth picking up if you haven't already.
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Another game that uses a cute, anthropomorphic animal as its protagonist is Cult of the Lamb, a roguelike and town-builder created by Massive Monster and published by Devolver Digital. If you know Devolver, you know Cult of the Lamb is going to have a good amount of weird in it, and from the different deities that exist in the world to the fact that you run your own cult, the game certainly fulfils its requirement in the strange department. It also contains an incredibly fun gameplay loop that'll have you brainwashing your critters for hours on end.
Moving away from the cute creatures of the indie gaming world for a time, there have been some great action hits this year, such as Neon White. This FPS puzzle-platformer may at first sound like it's biting off more than it can chew, but a few hours with Neon White will show you quite the opposite, as the action, soundtrack, and visuals all blend incredibly well to make a fantastic game about kicking demons out of Heaven.
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The fast-paced titles don't stop there as Sifu is another game worth considering as the Indie Game of the Year. Coming from Sloclap, Sifu intrigued many right from its first reveal trailer, as it showed how instead of dying, a player would respawn as an older version of themselves. Mix that unique mechanic in with combat that requires time and effort to pull off correctly, and you've got a game worth running through again and again. Whether you want to defeat all the bosses as young as you can, or play off the old kung-fu movie tropes and be the old man that takes everyone down with just a few punches, Sifu allows for a surprising amount of replayability in a game that could've just been all about the aging gimmick.
Another excellent title that released closer to the end of 2022 is SIGNALIS, a survival horror game from Playism. The world of SIGNALIS would be enough to make it a great game, as it would've been worth exploring even without the horror elements that Playism have intricately worked into the gameplay. SIGNALIS stands as a great call-back to the horror titans of gaming while making bold new steps for itself.
Finally, there's Stray, the game that won the internet's hearts in the middle of the year by featuring a cute cat as its protagonist. To label Stray as just the game where you play as a cat would be seriously underselling it, though, and like some other titles on this list, a lot of work has clearly gone into designing every aspect of Stray. It might not have a well-developed combat system, but it does work in a great narrative and world into a game that could have just ended up as a simple futuristic cat simulator.
So, which title wins out altogether? Well, that is a tricky thing to decide, as if we're talking pure gameplay, I would have to say that Neon White or Sifu would be the top contenders, with the latter just edging out on top. However, on the whole, Stray stands out as a clear break-out hit for BlueTwelve Studio and for good reason. It has a bleak, futuristic world but also manages to be one of the most wholesome and inviting gaming experiences in a long time. Gaming isn't just about fighting gods at the end of the world, but it can also be about ensuring a cat can return to the surface from a strange, dystopian city.