It’s December! That means it’s time for the obligatory roundup of our favourite games from the year gone by. And, as we did last year, we’re not constraining our own personal “games of the year” to stuff that actually came out in 2022, since good games are timeless. Rather, we just want to talk about our favourite experiences that we’ve had in the last 12 months or so, regardless of their actual release dates.
It’s good to unashamedly celebrate the positive like this now and then, because it’s very easy to feel cynical about the state of modern gaming for all manner of reasons. The important thing to remember is that if you ever start feeling burnt out by all the high-profile stuff on the market, there are a wealth of other games to enjoy. And chances are you’ll find your own gaming experiences will be much more rewarding if you focus specifically on what you know you enjoy rather than what you think you “should” enjoy (i.e. what has the biggest marketing push).
I know that’s certainly been true for me for a decade or more at this point, and 2022 is absolutely no different. So let’s jump in and look at 10 of my favourite gaming experiences from the year gone by!
Needy Streamer Overload
It feels like 2022 has been a very long year, so I was surprised to see that I actually played Needy Streamer Overload (aka Needy Girl Overdose) in January of this year — this game feels like it’s been around for a while. And I guess “nearly a year” counts as “quite a while”, but still.
Anyway, Needy Streamer Overload is an excellent narrative-centric game that takes aim at modern online culture, particularly VTubers and streamers. It’s easy to look at it and feel like it’s a cynical takedown of modern popular trends, and perhaps it is — but I’m inclined to feel like it’s taking a more unashamed, unfiltered and realistic look at the price of online popularity.
As the partner of an up-and-coming streamer, it’s up to you to help her manage her career. Exactly how you go about that is up to you, and the various things you get her to focus on can lead to some very different conclusions to the story. A visual novel at heart, Needy Streamer Overload is by turns humorous, bitingly satirical and absolutely heartbreaking. Plus it’s all wrapped in some absolutely gorgeous pixel art. Definitely still well worth your time.
Atelier Sophie 2
I love me some Gust, and they absolutely did not disappoint with Atelier Sophie 2. Providing a story that unfolds between the first Atelier Sophie and Atelier Firis, Atelier Sophie 2 offers some of the most refined, well-presented Atelier gameplay we’ve ever seen, coupled with a touching, heartfelt story that pleasingly answers a few things that existing Sophie fans may well have been curious about.
At the same time, despite being a direct sequel, Atelier Sophie 2 remains accessible to newcomers and makes a point of providing plenty of reference material for you to get up to date with what’s going on. Previously existing characters get new things to do, and a host of charming new companions are introduced, and the mechanics build on the previous titles in the Mysterious subseries of Atelier rather than radically reinventing things.
Atelier Sophie 2 also strikes a good balance between the sprawling open-world fields of Atelier Firis and the more constrained field areas of other Atelier games. There’s still plenty of exploring to do — including plenty of “come back later with new abilities” sections — but the whole thing feels tightly focused and well-implemented. Absolutely one of my favourite experiences from 2022, to be sure.
Gal*Gun Double Peace
It wouldn’t be a Rice Digital roundup without some love for Gal*Gun, and this year I had an absolute blast revisiting Gal*Gun Double Peace thanks to its new Switch version. Inti Creates’ wonderful blend of rail shooter and dating sim never fails to make me smile — and since Double Peace was the first Gal*Gun game I ever experienced back on its original PS4 and Vita release, I will always have a particular soft spot for it.
Those who have never experienced Gal*Gun for themselves will quite understandably make certain assumptions about the series based on its appearance and the way it is marketed — but as anyone who has spent any time with it will tell you, it’s far more than mindless ecchi perving at heart. By contrast, it’s actually an extremely heartfelt series of games, with an incredibly well-realised cast of both main and supporting characters.
Gal*Gun Double Peace in particular has a ton of longevity thanks to its “True Love” mode where, after you unlock all the other endings, you’re able to pursue a relationship with any of the supporting cast members in the game. And this is to say nothing of the simple joy of pursuing high scores, too. Definitely an emphatic favourite of 2022.
Stranger of Paradise: Final Fantasy Origin
I was skeptical when I first heard this game described as “Final Fantasy Souls” — but, as ever, such a gross simplification turned out to be completely inaccurate, since this bears only the most passing resemblance to Souls games in terms of structure; it’s actually got its own very distinctive feel to it.
To say too much about Stranger of Paradise’s narrative is to spoil it, so I’ll refrain from doing that here for the benefit of those still to see it through to its conclusion. But suffice to say that the “Final Fantasy I Remake” approach works extremely well, and will keep established series fans guessing right up until the very end of the experience. At the same time, it remains completely accessible to series newcomers; this is a perfectly self-contained story in its own right.
The weighty combat is immensely satisfying, the encounters challenging and the progression system pleasingly flexible. All in all, this is an excellent action RPG-style addition to the expanded Final Fantasy universe, and one that series fans absolutely should not pass on. One of 2022’s fondest memories for me, for sure.
Doukyuusei was one of the original dating sims back when it first came out, so it was an absolute delight to see its enhanced remake come west. It was even more of a delight to discover that despite the rather juvenile “Bangin’ Summer” subtitle, the game as a whole is an incredibly sensitive, emotional depiction of building relationships and all the challenges you can face while attempting to get to know new partners.
You have to really work at the relationships in Doukyuusei, and rather surprisingly, reaching an erotic scene doesn’t always feel like a “reward” given the various contexts in which they occur. Considering this was one of the first ever examples of a game like this, it’s actually quite astonishing how well it handles the subject matter. On more than one occasion, I actually had to put the game down and set it aside for a while after a particular sequence had bummed me out so much.
In other words, while this might look like happy colourful moe moe kyun funtimes at first glance, you should go into Doukyuusei expecting some surprisingly serious, heavy subject matter. Relationships are tricky business, and Doukyuusei certainly doesn’t shy away from showing that. And that’s precisely what makes it one of my favourite games of 2022.
If you like shoot ’em ups, Drainus should be an absolutely essential purchase, since it’s beautifully presented, mechanically elegant and marvellously playable. One would expect nothing less from Team Ladybug, the doujin developer behind Touhou Luna Nights and Deedlit in Wonder Labyrinth, but it’s reassuring to see that they’re just as confident making a classic horizontally scrolling shooter as they are a platform action game.
Drainus’ brilliance comes from a variety of sources. Firstly, the narrative is surprisingly compelling — not something that can often be said about traditional shoot ’em ups — and integrated well into the gameplay without becoming obtrusive. Secondly, the mechanics are excellent, featuring a highly customisable ship and a power-up system tied to your overall “health” rather than simple collectibles. And thirdly, the titular mechanic, your ship’s ability to “drain” enemy bullets and then fire them right back at your foes, is immensely satisfying.
Varied stages, beautiful presentation and thoughtful design make Drainus not just one of the best shoot ’em ups of 2022, but one of the best games of 2022, full stop.
Seven Pirates H
The Vita may be dead in terms of current releases, but its legacy lives on thanks to the Nintendo Switch, a spiritual successor to Sony’s lewd-friendly platform in many different ways. And nowhere is this more apparent than in the fact we now have nearly the entire Genkai Tokki series from Compile Heart available in English, thanks primarily to localiser-publisher eastasiasoft.
In contrast to its two immediate predecessors Moero Chronicle and Moero Crystal, Seven Pirates H is not a grid-based dungeon crawler, but rather something more akin to Compile Heart’s “mainline” (for want of a better term) RPGs. That means plenty of exploring 3D environments, collecting treasure, crafting items and beating up enemies — who are, in this case, fairly consistently obscene in the most delightful ways.
It’s much more than just mindless lewd and levelling up by boob-massaging, though; Seven Pirates H features really fun combat mechanics, a brilliant cast of characters, inordinately catchy music and an entertainingly silly story. It’s perhaps a bit on the short and easy side, but honestly, when it comes to RPGs, sometimes it’s genuinely nice to have something you can get through fairly quickly and still feel like you’ve had a worthwhile experience. And that’s one of many reasons it was one of my faves of 2022.
The Succubus series
This is cheating a bit, I know, but it’s really hard to pick just one from this immensely good 18+ series — largely because they’re all excellent, but also because they’re all notably different from one another. Castle in the Clouds takes cues from Wonder Boy, Midnight Castle Succubus is Castlevania II made by people who know what they’re doing, Sword of Succubus is Zelda with a boob fetish and Tower of Succubus is Tower of Druaga but actually fun.
How am I supposed to pick between those? Answer: I’m not going to, because I’m in charge here, so there. They’re all good. And they’re all cheap. And if you’re a little squeamish about the sexy scenes, there are all-ages versions of Castle in the Clouds and Midnight Castle Succubus available — though Tower and Sword of Succubus integrate their sexual content into the actual gameplay too tightly for this to be possible, so those are only available in 18+ format.
I cannot emphasise enough that you should not write these games off as shovelware porn games, because they absolutely are not. They are brilliantly designed retro homages first and foremost, sexy adult games as a happy bonus. And all of them, without fail, are some of my favourite gaming experiences of 2022.
Super Bullet Break
A fairly low-key release that I don’t think anywhere near enough people have played and appreciated, Super Bullet Break is one of my favourite games of 2022 for its sheer addiction value. This is a massively compelling, highly enjoyable take on the deckbuilding roguelite subgenre, in which you battle through a series of scenarios using your cute girl cards to deal damage and make use of special abilities.
Featuring brilliant character artwork from a variety of distinctive artists, plus some enjoyable characterisation and some excellent mechanics, Super Bullet Break is a ton of fun from start to finish — and it’s not a game you’ll beat quickly or easily, either. Like most games that incorporate roguelike elements, there’s a small chance you might actually be able to beat it in your first few playthroughs, but more likely you’ll be unlocking new girls and mechanics as you gradually make progress through the game as a whole.
Lovely presentation, catchy music and superb gameplay — Super Bullet Break is absolutely one of my favourites of 2022, so if you’re yet to give it a go for yourself I strongly encourage you to correct that situation as soon as possible!
Rhapsody: A Musical Adventure
Being a European RPG fan in the PS1 era really sucked, because a ton of great games got localised into English for the North American market, then never made it across the pond to European players. That means we missed out on a ton of great games — including some big hitters from companies like Squaresoft — but thankfully, there are some companies who seem to recognise that there’s a market for rereleasing these classics for a truly worldwide audience.
One such company is Nippon Ichi Software, who have, to date, put out three absolutely fantastic “Prinny Presents NIS Classics” collections, each featuring two games from the PS1, PS2 and PSP days. I’m yet to delve into all of these, but one I did take the time to experience for myself is Rhapsody: A Musical Adventure, a game that originated on the PS1, and that many cite as the origin point for the company’s popular Disgaea series.
Featuring beautiful background and sprite art, a brilliantly funny script, some wonderful songs — no, it’s not lying about it being a musical — and a runtime that doesn’t outstay its welcome, Rhapsody only really suffers from being one of the easiest games I’ve ever played. But it really doesn’t matter, because I had such a lovely time playing it that I have absolutely no hesitation in counting it among my favourite games of 2022.
So those are my picks for my favourite games of 2022. Honestly, there are even more that I could have thrown into the list — I absolutely loved my time with Rance 01 and 02, for example, and will be continuing on with the series in the new year — but I have to set a limit somewhere!
Trent and Lilia will be along soon with their own top picks from the year — so in the meantime, here’s to a highly enjoyable year of gaming, with plenty more to come, even as the world at large falls to pieces.
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