The best video games of 2022 so far

It’s only August, and already there are plenty of great games released this year that are in the conversation for game of the year. “Elden Ring,” undeniably, is one of those games. On the other side of the spectrum, so is “Wordle,” the success of which has spawned dozens of spin offs.

We’ll keep this list updated as the year goes on. We’ve heard promising word-of-mouth buzz for games like “Citizen Sleeper” and “Tunic,” but simply haven’t yet had a chance to play those titles. Further still, some of the games listed here now might lose their spots as other, more compelling candidates rise to claim the GOTY mantle.

Across Xbox, PlayStation, Nintendo Switch and PC, here are the games you should be playing now.

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“If you’re a fan of the Souls games, you’ve likely already made the decision to play ‘Elden Ring,’ the new From Software game co-written by Dark Souls creator Hidetaka Miyazaki and Game of Thrones creator George R.R. Martin,” wrote Gene Park in The Washington Post’s review of the game. “For everyone else, this is still a hard game to skip.”

The game features a story that’s enticingly cryptic, demanding players piece it together. It’s a comedy game where the difficulty turns players into the punchline — and that’s a good thing. It’s also one of the easiest Souls-like games to get into, a feat for a genre known for its punishing difficulty. We’re not even halfway into the year, but “Elden Ring” is practically a shoo-in for any final game of the year list.

Available on: PC, Xbox Series X and Series S, Xbox One, PlayStation 5, PlayStation 4

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“Wordle,” a free online word game, technically released in 2021, but it truly exploded in popularity in 2022 and was purchased in January by the New York Times for an undisclosed seven-figure sum. Now, it boasts “millions” of daily players, according to the Times. Players get six tries to figure out a five-letter word — one that’s supposed to be part of a common vocabulary — and that’s basically it. There’s only one puzzle to solve every day.

It’s easy to understand how the game has traveled so far. The game is accessible from any web browser, and people have enjoyed sharing their results on social media, demonstrating their word-savviness. The game has also inspired numerous spin offs, extending the game’s legacy far beyond its five-by-six grid.

Available on: PC, mobile via browser

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“Stray" is one of those games that haunts you long after the credits roll, but you wouldn’t guess that from its wholesome premise: You play as an orange tabby cat trying to make its way home through a neon-lit cyberpunk city, enlisting the help of friendly androids and a flying robot companion, B-12, along the way.

You platform around the city like it’s your own personal jungle gym and solve puzzles while unraveling the mystery of what befell the so-called Dead City. The developer’s commitment to recreating authentic cat behavior can’t be overstated — there’s a button entirely dedicated to meowing. The game encourages you to get up to feline mischief, but also to just vibe in its gorgeously detailed cityscape, all while a heart-wrenching narrative unfolds, interspersed by some truly terrifying action sequences. And yet, none of these disparate pieces feel at odds. “Stray” is an enrapturing experience that keeps players invested from start to finish.

Available on: PC, PlayStation 4, PlayStation 5

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“Neon White” distills speedrunning, the art of completing a video game as quickly as humanly possible, down to a propulsively compulsive experience anyone can enjoy — even if they’re not normally the kind of player who’d obsessively memorize a game’s ins and outs in order to beat it in record time. Levels are constructed to teach and encourage the player to learn through exploration and experimentation. Every time you realize when and, more importantly, how to skip a big chunk of a level, you feel like an evil genius.

“This is the game’s central illusion — one that reminds me of Valve’s 2007 first-person puzzle classic ‘Portal,’ albeit with a greater degree of freedom,” writes Nathan Grayson in The Washington Post’s piece on the game. “When you uncover a new skip — which happens constantly and with a procession of new cards to widen the possibility space — it’s like you’ve defied the will of some unseen overlord, even though said overlord absolutely meant for you to figure all of this out.”

Available on: PC, Nintendo Switch

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In “Norco,” a sci-fi, point-and-click adventure game, players will “encounter rogue androids, sentient ecological networks, ghostly swamp lights and other supernatural elements,” writes Emily Price in The Washington Post’s review of the game. But “the main antagonist is all the more horrifying for its mundanity: ‘Norco’s’ villain is the company, the boss and the bottom line, and its greatest threats are directly born of the environmental damage that those have caused.”

It’s set in a dystopian version of the real-life town of Norco, Louisiana, and, despite being a fictional tale, the game “is in equal measure a loving and brutally honest portrait of the struggles of the people who live there.” “Norco’s” themes of man-made pollution combined with the supernatural brought to mind genre touchstones such as “Kentucky Route Zero” and the NieR series, Price writes. But the game’s primary achievements are its specificity, texture and complexity. The result, Price writes, is a “robotic story, disturbing, personal and fresh, [and] an experience that should not be missed.”

Available on: PC

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Shredder’s Revenge

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“Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Shredder’s Revenge” builds on a vast lineage of beloved classic beat 'em ups, so it’s no wonder the title has been received so warmly by fans who still remember the TMNT arcade cabinets and original 1987 cartoon.

“ ‘Shredder’s Revenge’ achieves everything it set out to do, and will go down as an instant classic for its genre,” wrote Gene Park in The Washington Post’s review of the game. “No matter what era, whether it’s 1987, 1989 or 2022, it would be one of the finest, most exciting video game experiences of the year, honing an arcade formula as ageless as Turtles in time.”

That’s the kind of praise that’ll make you say cowabunga, dude.

Available on: PC, Nintendo Switch, PlayStation 4 and Xbox One

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For decades, the Pokémon Company has been trying to replicate the full glory of bug catching, a huge inspiration for its titular series, and for decades it has been stunted by RPG tropes, hardware limitations and a repetitive, uninspired design philosophy. Enter “Arceus,” a game that proves that even a series as bread-and-butter as Pokémon can wildly evolve its formula. Gone are the tropes of the previous mainline games, replaced with an open world set in the ancient past, heavily based on feudal Japan. The typical “battle to weaken, then catch” format has been replaced with a mechanic encouraging players to sneak in and toss balls third-person-shooter style. Best of all, Pokémon of all rarities spawn right in front of you.

“Arceus” is a desperately needed Pokémon formula shake-up. It’s a game that, like “Breath of the Wild,” inspires you to search its world for more secrets and more mysteries.

Available on: Nintendo Switch

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It’s easy to get lost in the gorgeous open world of “Horizon Forbidden West,” the highly anticipated sequel to Guerrilla Games’ 2017 post-apocalyptic RPG “Horizon Zero Dawn.” Exploration is revamped with protagonist Aloy’s new arsenal of gadgets, letting her glide across valleys and swim through sunken cities. The weapons, the map, the enemies — everything feels scaled up. The writing and characters are captivating, particularly Aloy’s new crew, a mix of new faces and allies from the first game. Though the plot goes a bit off the rails, leaning more into science fiction this time around, Guerrilla Games’ masterful world-building comes together in an endearing tale of hope and human tenacity — no easy feat in a series with such a bleak premise.

Available on: PlayStation 5, PlayStation 4

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“ ‘Tiny Tina’s Wonderlands’ is the closest any game developer has come to re-creating Dungeons Dragons,” wrote Michael Czar in The Washington Post’s review of the game.

“There are plenty of games that share similar combat mechanics to DD,” Czar wrote. “But what ‘Wonderlands’ focuses on — and nails — is the feeling of actually sitting around a table playing DD: moments of chaos when a dungeon master has mere seconds to improvise a way forward for their players; times when teams throw a good plan out the window, but it all works out in the end; the fiery arguments that might overtake a group of friends just trying to have fun; the feeling of knowing what jokes will land with your dungeon master and which ones won’t. That’s what makes ‘Wonderlands’ a true DD game.”

Available on: PC, PlayStation 4, PlayStation 5, Xbox One, Xbox Series X and Series S

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“Lost Ark,” a South Korean Massively Multiplayer Online Role-Playing Game (MMORPG) published in North America, Europe and other regions by Amazon Games, has consistently stayed atop active player count rankings on the PC games store Steam. It’s logged over 20 million registered accounts. From the start of the game, it grabs players by throwing them into combat with flashy, eye-catching skills and stunning graphics. Players have remarked that they felt like they were getting a great amount of value for a free-to-play title. The punishing endgame where teams must band together to take down challenging bosses isn’t for everyone, but the community that has stuck around seems pretty loyal.

Available on: PC

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In a year headlined by “Elden Ring,” it’s hard to recommend “Rainbow Six Extraction” as a game of the year contender with a straight face. And yet, here we are.

“Extraction,” a co-op player versus everything first-person shooter, is a rare breed of game that gets in, does what it sets out to do, and gets out. There is a limited number of missions, and each challenges you to cooperate with your teammates and use your full tool kit smartly to overcome cleverly designed shooting puzzles arrayed semi-randomly around the levels. Better still, these missions get genuinely challenging as you level up, and your mistakes have dire consequences for your capacity to progress. In that way (and I’m surprised that I’m even writing this) “Extraction” sort of resembles “Elden Ring,” if you squint a bit.

Available on: PC, Xbox Series X and Series S, Xbox One, PlayStation 5, PlayStation 4, Google Stadia, Amazon Luna