The seasons are changing, the nights are drawing in and there's even the thought of turning the heating on - if you can afford to - but while the dawn of autumn traditionally heralds the start of gaming's blockbuster season this year we're staring down the barrel of a relatively barren Q4.
Thank heavens, then, that 2022 has already served up an incredible amount of games already - and with the chill in the air making nights in all the more appealing, now's the perfect time to work through your backlog, or maybe add a game or three to it from our list of this year's best releases so far.
What we said in our Hyper Demon review: 'Hyper Demon offers very short games, but they leave you with the sensation they contain decades of action, if only you could slow them down and read the game properly. It's a tiny download, but out there in the cursed darkness it feels gloriously, horribly expansive. It's old pleasures - shoot, dodge, score - but in its moments of near-chaos, its smirkingly short match-lengths (smirkingly short for me at least; I am sure some players can string it out for whole minutes), its demands of mastery, it feels not just modern but like a game from the future. A horrible future, sure, but at least the light displays will be pretty special.'
Return to Monkey Island
PC and Nintendo Switch
What we said in our Return to Monkey Island review: 'Now, Monkey Island has returned. Return to Monkey Island! Another old school adventure game about using A with B, with the team of Ron Gilbert and Dave Grossman back in charge. (Tim Schafer is away sadly, but he's busy so who can blame him?) A proper homecoming! And guess what, it's a thing of immense charm. A thing of luxurious, quilted, velveteen nostalgia.
What we said in our Roadwarden review: 'This isn't Dragon Age or Skyrim, but a deceptively sleepy choose-your-own adventure with deceptively delicate RPG appendages, its locations consisting of terse yet evocative descriptions and nested dialogue choices, beautiful eight-colour isometric dioramas and a soundtrack of animal sounds and melancholy guitar… Roadwarden is, all told, one of the most absorbing, considered and rewarding fantasy games I’ve ever played - not quite as breath-taking as Planescape: Torment or Disco Elysium, perhaps, but a tale told with skill and heart and flair.
PC, PS5, Xbox Series S/X
What we said in our Metal: Hellsinger review:'Hellsinger is a light-feeling game compared to most, relatively short, although extended somewhat by side challenges and indefinitely by its leaderboards, with a campy, kill-the-devil story of fallen angels and giant skeletons that plays out like a moving Iron Maiden album cover. But all of this folds into a kind of irresistibly earnest spirit, a sense of total, shameless, cringeless, full-hearted sincerity. And so as much as it feels like an ode to the genre, Metal: Hellsinger also feels like an outpouring of emotion, as though the game itself is also a different, more personal kind of gestalt. The kind that makes heavy metal the marvel that it is, that's required to enter the fabled state of flow - or that compels even mild-mannered people to headbang in front of their TV.'
What we said in our Splatoon 3 review: 'It's more Splatoon, and I understand if for many that's not quite enough. But also: it is more Splatoon, and is a generous new outing for one of the most polished, playable and impeccably executed series from within Nintendo's group of first-party developers. It's lacking the shock of the new, but with Splatoon 3 you're getting the sense of a special series that's really hitting its stride.
PC, PS4/PS5, Xbox One and Xbox Series S/X
What we said in our MultiVersus review: 'Taking on Smash was always a tall order and while it doesn't hit those lofty heights, I can't say I've ever had online matches this smooth in Smash Bros Ultimate. Player First Games has brought us a surprisingly polished platform fighter - and while individual fighter balancing isn't completely there yet, there's every chance that'll change once it leaves open beta. I never imagined a Warner Bros fighting crossover could ever work this well and now, I'm wondering who'll be added next.'
PC and Xbox
What we said in our Immortality review: 'Immortality is, like Her Story and Telling Lies before it, a game about trawling through reams of video footage to solve a mystery - that of Marissa Marcel, an actress who stars in two films in the late 1960s at about 20 years old, then disappears, then reappears in 1999, and looks exactly as she does in 1968.
'Your task is to piece together what happened, scrubbing back and forth in different clips at different speeds - but crucially, navigating through them via Immortality's major invention - effectively a hyperlink - to click from one-screen element to a different clip. Immortality's bravest gambit is to simply drop you into a scene and leave you to it, and the result is messy, maze-like and unclear, but by dint of that far more organic than a linear mystery that drags you through it by the nose. Barlow has succeeded, in a way, in cutting me free and letting me find a thread of my own through his remarkably networked world.'
PC, PS4 and PS5
What we said in our Rollerdrome review: 'Few games sing for you like this. Few systems compliment and combine so elegantly and relentlessly, with such small and simple moments of care for everything in it, from the little blipping noises for reloading and picking up health (straight out of Grand Theft Auto - Rollerdrome's full of ultimate video game sounds) to the booming pistols of Lara Croft. And no game has ever been so cool.'
PC, PS4, PS5, Xbox and Switch
What we said in our Arcade Paradise review: 'What a thing. Arcade Paradise made me think of Outrun and GTA and Mr Driller, and also my own working life in my teens as a dishwasher and a double-glazing salesperson, sure. But it also made me think of those mazes tiled on the walls of Warren Street tube. Warren Street! Get it? Little puzzles made to be solved between trains, but tricky enough to encourage you to miss your train in the first place. Then you solve the maze and you're off into a wider maze of the underground network. And maybe, who knows, there's a maze beyond that too.'
Xenoblade Chronicles 3
What we said in our Xenoblade Chronicles 3 review: 'It's quick to get to what I love about classical JRPGs - the sensation of running through endless fields of long grass with your companions, facing impossible odds with a spring in your step. It feeds into the incredible sense of adventure that makes Xenoblade Chronicles 3 truly soar as a JRPG. Perhaps more than any game before it in the series this gets the balance between systems and story down perfectly - even better, it manages to entwine the two in an adventure that infuses each of your footsteps with a sense of purpose. It might not quite be the revelation the original was back in 2010, but Xenoblade Chronicles 3 is most definitely another JRPG masterpiece from Monolith Soft.'
PC, PlayStation 4 and PlayStation 5
What we said in our Stray review: 'When it comes to simply recreating the experience of being a cat, developer BlueTwelve Studio has done a wonderful job; playing as a cat feels unique, while also being surprisingly easy to master. It's all the little features, though, that truly capture a cat’s essence, from knocking items off ledges to the little pawprints you leave behind after walking through wet paint, or how the controls invert when you investigate a paper bag. None of these are purely cosmetic things, either, with each screensaver-like moment coming to serve a purpose in your journey.'
As Dusk Falls
PC and Xbox Series S/X
What we said in our As Dusk Falls review: 'As Dusk Falls represents a bold new future for interactive movie games - a future where games can do away with the supernatural spectacle and thrillery whodunnits to rely on human drama to entertain us instead. And OK, this does occasionally veer into soap opera, but at other times it's gentle and deep and dark, even profound. It shows how well games can handle stories and themes like these when done with care and understanding, and how well it can pull us into the lives of others and invest us in the decisions they have to make. And that's what really stays with me about the game: stories - human stories. They are the troubled, awkward and beautiful stories I can see in the world around me, that I can relate to myself. This is a game that reflects, in many ways, our own lives. Silly as it sometimes can be, As Dusk Falls feels real, and I can't think of a higher compliment to give it.'
PC, PlayStation 4, PlayStation 5, Xbox and Switch
What we said in our Mothmen 1966 review: 'The truth is I didn't mind about any of the game's more awkward elements. Because part of Mothmen 1966 is a throwback to the games of the early 1990s, which in their weirdness, their halting ambitions, were frequently clumsy and infuriating and generally lacking in streamlined elegance. Mothmen really feels like that. More than anything it reminds me of nights spent around friends' houses, as we all picked through the Galapagos archipelagos of weird shareware software they had somehow accrued from places unknown.'
PC and Switch
What we said in our Neon White review: 'The crux of Neon White is its speed. If nothing else it's a school for learning how to speedrun - one that, if time permits me, I will genuinely try to learn how to run myself. In a way that's the highest possible compliment I can give Neon White. It's not a game for everyone, especially for those who like to take things slow. But for freaks like me, it's something I can't do without.'
What we said in our Drainus review: 'There are a few tweaks, essentially, that could make this truly special by the time the inevitable console versions roll around. Though if you’ve any affection for the genre, or any love for the likes of Darius and Gradius, then there’s really no reason to wait until then. Drainus has a silly name and a few small frustrations, but that doesn’t stop it delivering the same heart-soaring spectacle and sharp, satisfying action that makes the greats soar. This might fall just short of being one of them, but it’s an exquisite shooter all the same.'
- Buy Drainus on PC from Steam
Sniper Elite 5
PC, PlayStation 4, PlayStation 5 and Xbox
What we said in our Sniper Elite 5 review: 'Like a fleet of Allied landing craft storming the beaches of Normandy, Sniper Elite 5 has blown me away. I spent most of my weekend with it in a state of delighted befuddlement, constantly muttering 'isn't this brilliant?' as it delivered yet another incredibly designed level to creep around while turning Nazi skulls into cornflakes. I've enjoyed Rebellion's infamously grisly stealth series since the middling V2, but I never thought I'd be writing about it with the kind of breathless excitement reserved for the likes of Elden Ring.'
PC, Switch and Xbox
What we said in our Citizen Sleeper review: 'There is real anguish and intimacy here, real experience, real softness, pensiveness, complexity of thought, from the deeply clever, immaculately balanced systems to its extraordinarily well-realised art, static drawings of those characters that each feel like a glossy, coffee table magazine cover of their own, such is the incredible texture, colour, posture, pain behind the eyes. Citizen Sleeper is speaking to you, but in this case I really recommend you simply listen - not least because there's depth to be found in your own silence, and because the things it does have to say are absolutely worth hearing.'
Warhammer 40,000: Chaos Gate - Daemonhunters
What we said in our Warhammer 40,000: Chaos Gate - Daemonhunters review: 'In the grim darkness of the far future, there is only satisfying turn-based squad battling let down just a touch by a sluggish resource-gathering midgame. It feels blasphemous to call a Warhammer 40k adaptation slick, let alone subtle. This is the universe of endless grot, rancid liturgy and heavy-duty cybernetics, its warriors held together by rivets and fanaticism, its starships ancient Gothic ironclads recovered from asteroid fields. You don't expect a delicate handling of inspirations or considerate presentation from such a setting: you expect clashing cogs and excessive crenelations and hint windows that read like catechisms. You expect things to wallow like a Dreadnought knee-deep in Plaguebearer offal. But save for that slight (and to be fair, genre-typical) over-reliance on grinding to help the plot over the next hilltop, Daemonhunters positively glides. At a glance the interface looks like a Borg sneezed all over a cathedral, but in practice this is both a fine balance of ideas from XCOM and Gears Tactics, and a crisp boiling-down of a gargantuan fiction that somehow renders everything digestible, even snappy, without sacrificing the source material's morbid intricacy.'
- Buy Warhammer 40,000: Chaos Gate - Daemonhunters on PC from Fanatical
Nintendo Switch Sports
What we said in our Nintendo Switch Sports review: 'Ultimately, these games are so refined, and delivered with such odd, coffee-shop-and-library charm, that it doesn't matter how you play. My daughter is of the age where she completely missed the Wii, so when this new game arrived and we started moving the furniture around, she didn't have a clue what we were up to. But that afternoon we must have played together for hours, with breaks for when a diving header animation made her laugh so much she needed her breath back. The whole thing was intoxicating.'
Chrono Cross: The Radical Dreamers Edition
PC, PlayStation 4, Xbox, Nintendo Switch
What we said in our Chrono Cross: The Radical Dreamers Edition review: ‘This often feels like a visitor from a parallel dimension itself - sequel to an acclaimed RPG that's in practice more of a companion piece, reminiscent of the PS1 Final Fantasies but a very different beast on the battlefield. It's an engrossing epic, mixing sadness, whimsy and a touch of cosmic dread without, somehow, disintegrating into farce, and if the battle system can be a touch infuriating, coming to terms with it is part of the adventure. The remaster isn't a dazzling effort, but the game's revival in any form is something to celebrate. I am eager to read reactions to it from players who got into RPGs after the Chrono series went under.’
PC and Mac
What we said in our Norco review: ‘Playing through Norco is completely and totally engrossing. Part of that might feel like cheating, what with the act-ending cliffhangers and the figurative mystery boxes of its story or the literal others on its shelves. But it's also utterly earned. It's striking, surprising, novel. It's darkly wary of a future that sits on a knife-edge, disdainful of the cynics, priest-like to the anxious. It's nothing less than extraordinarily beautiful. And like the increasing number of games that want to go a little further than distracting us from these things and instead wrestle with them head-on, it is mesmerising.’
- Buy Norco on PC and Mac from GOG.
PC and Mac
What we said in our Patrick’s Parabox review: ‘My experience with Patrick's Parabox, then, was itself nested like a Russian doll. Looking at the outer layer, I wasn't sold. Yet another nondescript puzzler in a sea of hundreds, with some style but a few rough edges. One layer deeper it started to click. Okay, this is fun. I don't know how it won all these indie design awards but by jove I'll solve this puzzle. By the last few stages, though, I was nodding along, muttering 'Brilliant!' and 'Genius!'’
- Buy Patrick's Parabox on PC and Mac from Steam.
Kirby and the Forgotten Land
SwitchWhat we said in our Kirby and the Forgotten Land review: ‘It's tempting to say that with The Forgotten Land Kirby has graduated from second-tier character to starring in a game that rivals Mario in its pomp, but that's not quite the case. The many ideas and new abilities are never quite as fully rounded as in obvious analogue Super Mario Odyssey; the polish, likewise, isn't quite there (and neither is the framerate, it's worth pointing out, with the action sitting around 30fps rather than the more fluid modern Marios). That all seems to be by the by, though. ‘Like its predecessors, Kirby and the Forgotten Land's an open-armed thing, and now more than ever before it's a game that's for absolutely everyone, the move to 3D platforming perhaps the most significant step forward in the series' history. This is an absolute hug of a game, and quite likely Kirby's best outing yet.’
PC, Mac and Xbox
What we said in our Tunic review: ‘You are not a fox by accident in this game, I think. One of my first thoughts about Tunic, right back at the start, is that your wibbling fox hero didn't actually seem very foxlike. Too much bounce. Too much cheer. Too much innocence. They did not match the gorgeous midnight creatures I sometimes glimpse freeze-framed by a blast of security light at the end of a driveway in the rare hours. Haunted face, blazing eyes, one foot raised and paused mid-step. These are tricksy animals. This is projection, I know, but foxes always feel like deep thinkers, privy to wild and complex thoughts. They do not always bounce cheerfully through this world. And then, over time, I understood. Your hero in Tunic is not yet a fox. They are a cub. And so you, the player, must become the fox for them.’
What we said in our Triangle Strategy review: ‘The maps frequently involve obstacles and elevation that, while not providing cover the way they do in the XCOM games, for example, can still be used to your advantage, and this interplay - between each character's unique attributes, the ever-scarce TP points and some outstanding map design - means combat is excellent, often leading me to take a good hour per encounter. Tactics RPGS flourish in situations that force you to take a step back and think: can I move my healer close enough to a wounded party member in time? Should I launch a ranged spell now or save my TP in case it could hit even more enemies the next round? Triangle Strategy absolutely delivers on that.’
Gran Turismo 7PS4 and PS5
What we said in our Gran Turismo 7 review: ‘Half-met promises and some missing features feel like part of the modern Gran Turismo experience expected by fans, but for the first time in several ages this feels like a Gran Turismo that's worthy of being a modern blockbuster, its appeal breaking out well beyond cultish car nerds like myself. It's a sumptuous, arrestingly gorgeous thing that most importantly retains its enthusiast's heart under the graphical showcase, and that does its level best to make a car enthusiast out of anyone in its orbit. Is it the king of driving games once more? The genre's now too broad and too varied to make such a statement, though Gran Turismo finds itself a neat slot alongside the likes of Assetto Corsa and iRacing, presenting accessible driving that looks simply staggering. Is it the best Gran Turismo to date? Of that there's no real doubt.’
PC, Xbox, PlayStation and Switch
What we said in our OlliOlli World review: ‘This is a skating game, and these games are always two games in one. OlliOlli World is a case in point: at first you just have to get to the end of each level. But then you want to advanced-trick through a Ghost, don't you? Optional challenges tug you into seeing the level you just battled over as a series of fresh possibilities. And then you're through that barrier and the whole world is filled with possibilities absolutely everywhere. Two games in one: a blend of platform hurdles that are fixed and that you need to ace, and then those gaps for self-expression and doing extra tricks and chains and grabs and manuals and spins for wild points. Oh, those gaps! Find them! Create them! (Mind them.)’
PS4, PS5, Xbox One, Xbox Series X/S, PC
What we said in our Elden Ring review: ‘Elden Ring remains a glorious game, one that established fans are going to savour for some time to come, and one that may just welcome new fans into the FromSoft fold. Sumptuous visual design, dark and detailed lore and a vast-but-intricate open world are reason enough to venture out into the Lands Between. Add to that FromSoftware's unforgiving and unforgettable gameplay loop and this is something truly special.’
Far: Changing Tides
PS4, PS5, Xbox, Switch and PCWhat we said in our Far: Changing Tides review: ‘Having adored the first game, I was delighted that a sequel - or "companion piece" - was coming, but admit I was apprehensive, too. I worried that Far: Lone Sails' unique appeal couldn't be stretched to encompass a sequel with a longer runtime, and wasn't sure the puzzling would be so endearing the second time around. If you too are concerned about the same things, worry not. It turns out Far: Changing Tides is every bit as bewitching as its predecessor thanks to its stunning presentation, haunting soundtrack, and wholly unique gameplay and puzzle mechanics. Don't miss it.’
- Buy Far: Changing Tides on PC from Steam.
PS4, PS5 and PC
What we said in our Sifu review: ‘Sifu is a brilliant, eccentric fighting game. It expects close attention and patience, and rewards you with scuffles of incredible intensity. Its campaign structure is bizarre but engaging, coaxing you to replay levels not just for additional moves or to shed a few decades, but to enjoy what you've painstakingly committed to muscle memory.
‘It could take itself a bit less seriously. Certain terrain kills and crowd control sequences recall Jackie Chan's action comedies and sillier beat 'em ups from the PS2 era, but Sloclap never delivers on this comic potential. The story is ponderous and mechanical, more suffocated than energised by the familiar theme of hatred consuming the hater. A less reverent approach might also have helped the game untangle its own Orientalist worldview and perceive itself not as a solemn curator of East Asian culture but an appreciative tourist, galloping around with a camera. Where Sifu most earns its seriousness, for me, is in that largely unspoken marriage of combos and counters with questions of perception and synchronicity. This is a game about the punch-drunk unevenness of time, and the way that unevenness depends on the mind you bring to bear.’
- Buy Sifu on PC from Epic Games Store.
Dying Light 2
PC, Xbox One and Series S/X and PlayStation 4/5
What we said in our Dying Light 2 review: ‘There are stumbles here and there - including infrequent technical issues, which again seem synonymous with the territory of a game of this scope, with models infrequently popping awkwardly into each other or levitating a few feet from the ground - but they're infrequent enough to be overpowered by the ambition of everything else that's in play. Dying Light 2 is not exactly an innovative game, but it's one that throws so much together with an enthusiasm that is, if you'll pardon the pun, infectious. Even more commendably, for the most part it sticks. I can't pretend to be an expert in big blockbuster games - the bloat and overstated breadth isn't exactly to my taste - but Dying Light 2, with its varied systems lifted wholesale from elsewhere, is a welcome reminder of how hugely entertaining they can be. There's a brutality to its breadth, to the vastness of its world - this is the triple-A experience served up with the subtlety and grace of a modified hammer to the head. It's rarely elegant, but it is most definitely enjoyable.’
Total War: Warhammer 3
PC, Linux and Mac
What we said in our Total War: Warhammer 3 review: ‘Recently I caught myself - forgive me - explaining thrash metal to a friend who never got it. It's about building tolerance as much as anything, learning to find the layers to the sound, to acquire a taste for different parts of the palate. I wish I could've explained it through Total War. The more you learn of this game's enemies, the unit types, the little, hard-to-explain intricacies of campaign movement and engagement rules and rule exceptions and the rest - the more you slog it out through the onslaught of early-game detail and action all at once, the battle's Total Spectacle, the game's imperious wall of sound - the more you'll enjoy it. Right now, after a little while, I'm smitten. And exhausted. And really in the mood for some Slayer.’
Please Touch the Artwork
PC, iOS and Android, and coming soon to Switch
What we said in our Please Touch the Artwork review: ‘Please, Touch the Artwork is a playful puzzle game inspired by abstract art. But it's also, I think, something else. It's an attempt to get you to see the art afresh, to see it as part of a lineage that can be understood, to see the way it has evolved and shifted forms over time, and to have a go yourself in a manner of speaking. By using three abstract paintings as the foundations for three types of puzzle, Please, Touch the Artwork encourages you to dabble in the process of abstract art, which is the part of art that we generally don't get to see. You may be trying to solve something in the game, to beat a level, but you're also making choices, thinking critically. The first wall to an appreciation of abstract art - that the art is, you know, finished, and hanging in a gallery and you can only get so close - that wall comes down. Please, touch! See what you can do. For me it was a revelation.’
- Buy Please Touch the Artwork on PC from Steam.
Pokémon Legends: Arceus
What we said in our Pokémon Legends: Arceus review: ‘There's an overpowering sense of novelty to Pokémon Legends: Arceus. This is something new, and it's also Pokémon, a decades-old series, in its purest essence. Battle, trade, collect. Even then there's a fraction of the trainer battles, nothing online, an option but no more necessity to trade. Is it overzealous budget cuts or pure, minimalist design? Is it empty, or is it filled with newfound nimbleness, of the kind that inspires all that wonder and awe precisely because so much of it has been chipped away?
‘Either way, this is a game crafted by subtractive sculpture. And how weirdly refreshing that is, compared to our artform's current, insatiable appetite for only adding more and more. Pokémon Legends: Arceus is either this series' bare minimum, or its purest form. I think it's both at once.’
PS4, PS5, Xbox, Switch. Originally launched 2018 on PC, Linux, Mac
What we said in our Vagante review: ‘Vagante is, all told, the definition of a hidden gem. I'm glad I played on Switch, eyestrain notwithstanding, because the smaller screen does reinforce what I like best about the game - its compactness and delicacy. Roguelikes are often sold as variety shows, but I enjoy them just as much for their sense of economy, the same parts unfolding into many fiendish combinations. Vagante is an elaborate little Swiss Army knife indeed, though arguably short of a headline feature. True, it doesn't have the raw chaos of Noita, in which a single teleport-on-damage unlock can carry you halfway through without you even touching the controls. Nor does it have the personality and sex appeal of Hades, or the conceptual ingenuity of Loop Hero. But thanks to its deceptive straightforwardness, it feels easier to pick up than many of its peers.’
PS4, PC, Xbox (Game Pass) and Switch
What we said in our Windjammers 2 review: ‘Is it superior to the 1994 original? I don't think those behind Windjammers 2 will be too disheartened to hear I'm not sure it ever could be, that original aesthetic and those pared-back fundamentals still providing a special offering all of their own. Remarkably, though, this is a sequel that sits proudly alongside the original, offering a subtly different, enjoyably dynamic take that will hopefully earn the series a new legion of fans. Here's an assured revival of a cult favourite that's a modern classic in its own right.’