Best of 2022: Top 5 Game Consoles

How about that year in gaming, am I right?

A year that almost felt normal by the end: after all, the highest-end versions of the three main consoles are finally all readily available for purchase around the same time, and it only took two whole years. But before that, it couldn’t help but feel like yet another quirky post-2020 period – big delays and long stretches of silence on the exclusive features and games front as the major console makers move ducks into rows. In many ways, we still haven’t seen the beginning of the tech generation that is now two whole years old – but evidence of its arrival is peeking through the clouds. Here’s my reading of how the evolution of each console’s unique appeal stacked up in 2022.

This is a console list, meaning for all intents and purposes it ignores every configuration of mobile and PC-based platform. Here we go.

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VR BEST OF 2022 DISCLAIMER

This list represents my opinion only. I am not asserting any kind of superiority or self-importance by presenting it as I have. My opinion is not fact. To agree with me 100% is as likely as avoiding MCU fatigue. Respectful disagreement is most welcome.

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5. Xbox One

LAST YEAR: 4th

We’re not quite at PS Vita levels yet, folks; practically speaking the Xbox One still looks pretty far from the end of its life as a serviceable platform for the majority of Xbox Game Pass releases and a decent smattering of bigger third party games. But the Xbox One in 2022 also very much resembled the PS4 in 2021 for the purposes of this list: a lack of exclusive games filtering down from its newer-gen counterpart (which was itself rather strapped). What’s more, two of the year’s biggest indie exclusives – which run fabulously on the One – lost their Xbox exclusivity altogether before long: Rogue Legacy and Tunic spread their wings and head for less green pastures by the end of 2022. The crop of bigger 2023 Xbox Series S|X exclusives look eager to squirm out from under the prior generation’s technical restrictions as well, which seems to indicate writing on the wall. Despite Microsoft’s intentions to keep up support for the machine as one of several Game Pass entry points, I doubt it’ll climb this list any further in the future.

4. Playstation 4

LAST YEAR: 5th

Horizon Forbidden West, Gran Turismo 7, Stray, God of War: Ragnarok. These new critically-acclaimed games all graced the only readily available Playstation throughout the majority of 2022, and they all made a pretty good impression in spite of the existence of shinier PS5 versions. 2022 had none of the SSD shenanigans of Ratchet & Clank: Rift Apart, none of the 3D Audio magic of Returnal, none of the sheer graphical insanity of Demon’s Souls; not one of the PS5’s biggest hitters this year could truly claim any whiz-bang current-gen-only features that would prevent the games from appearing on the PS4, so appear on the PS4 they did. The double-delay of Forspoken and underwhelming technical performance of Ghostwire Tokyo only enhanced the feeling that 2022 could have swapped with 2021 in the grand scheme of Playstation history and no one would’ve batted an eyelid – especially while 2023 looms in the background as quite a different prospect for the old boy.

3. Xbox Series X|S

LAST YEAR: 2nd

In many ways 2022 was a mighty strong year for the youngest members of the Xbox family: it’s hardly the software team’s fault all the best usability and service innovations that make the consoles a joy to play on were already implemented over the last two years, leaving little room for eye-catching goodies within the last calendar year. Furthermore, the smooth magic of Smart Delivery has eroded somewhat as major third party publishers paw eagerly at higher next-gen game price points and more usable modern CPUs; this means despite Microsoft’s insistence on supporting the near-decade-old Xbox One machines, the elusive top-end-console potential of the Series X has been tapped (slightly) more often of late. But the best example of that the entire year was almost certainly A Plague Tale: Requiem which, despite heavy Game Pass marketing, isn’t even an exclusive. And there lies the real story of 2022 for the current-gen Xbox gang.

Despite the best curation team in the business on hand to ensure cream-of-the-crop picks for the Game Pass library (multi-platform indie superstars Signalis, TMNT: Shredder’s Revenge, Tunic, Windjammers 2, Immortality, Metal: Hellsinger, Citizen Sleeper, Tinykin, Nobody Saves the World, and late surprise Chained Echoes all appeared on the service at launch), the real bid-budget exclusives that held up 2021 were nowhere to be seen. Sure, the official 1.0 release of Grounded gave the house of green another strong multiplayer platform to back up the strength-to-strength Sea of Thieves, while the highly anticipated Slime Rancher 2 began its own early-access journey as an Xbox-only proposition; after almost a full year in the doghouse for all sorts of reasons, Halo Infinite also finally woke up at year’s end with a truly staggering feature update; Forza Horizon 5 continued to evolve with fabulous content support; true exclusives High on Life, As Dusk Falls, Scorn, Pentiment, Somerville, and Warhammer 40K: Darktide all have their fans – plenty of reviewers included. But without the handful of headliners that now live in the unproven lands of 2023, the newest Xboxs can only hum along in the middle of this list.

2. Nintendo Switch

LAST YEAR: 1st

This may have been a year numerically comprised almost exclusively of twos, but the Nintendo Switch’s year was defined by threes. The powerful triple threat of trilogy-enders Xenoblade Chronicles 3, Splatoon 3 and Bayonetta 3 led the charge for critical acclaim this year, ably supported by no less than three brand-new Square Enix console exclusives in Dragon Quest Treasures, Harvestella and Triangle Strategy – and of course that last one is naturally built on its own fascination with the number three. We also had three new Pokemon RPGs, long-awaited third entries in both the Mario Strikers and “Nintendo Sports” franchises, and one of Nintendo’s oldest mascots finally got to enter the third dimension in earnest with Kirby and the Forgotten Land. Oh yeah, and there was literally a game called Fire Emblem Warriors: Three Hopes. A big win for pattern-chasers everywhere.

In less poetically relevant good news for Switch owners, 2022 also saw the successful return of 2017’s most bizarre breakout hit when Mario + Rabbids: Sparks of Hope took off late in the year. Live A Live staked its claim as one of history’s most loving 2D remakes, though it’s essentially a new game to markets outside Japan – a technicality that gave the Switch its first-ever year without a single major re-release on its exclusive release schedule. What’s more, in the face of unrelenting demand for more powerful hardware amid a handful of technical shortcomings within major releases, the Switch answered with some of the highest-quality third-party ports in its entire library: Persona 5 Royal, Nier Automata, Portal/Portal 2, 13 Sentinels: Aegis Rim, Trails From Zero, Tactics Ogre Reborn, and FFVIII: Crisis Core Reunion all play superbly on the ageing portable thanks to smart optimisation work. 2023 will certainly see the calls for a proper Switch successor intensify even further – I’ll be right there with them – but with a release schedule humming this consistently I’m not so sure Nintendo will feel the urgency.

1. Playstation 5

LAST YEAR: 3rd

It may somehow still be a mission to get your hands on one. It may have jumped up in price by $50 in Australia in the process. It may have let console-exclusive graphical showcase Forspoken slip into the chaotic void of 2023’s opening quarter, and the blight of stick drift on the Dualsense controllers is now well-known enough to send Nintendo’s lawyers into party mode. But 2022 was still the year the PS5 properly showed up as a worthwhile gaming platform for your money. The technical capability lead it conceded to the newest Xbox consoles at launch has now been pegged back substantially, as throughout the year the PS5 finally added 1440p display support (for the first time ever on a Sony console) and a Variable Refresh Rate solution that in some ways is even more exciting than Microsoft’s for modern TV owners.

Speaking of Microsoft, the service side of Playstation wasn’t afraid to crib from the best parts of the green playbook this year, and while the introduction of persistent game catalogue Playstation Plus Extra compares poorly to Xbox/PC Game Pass on a good day – and the higher Deluxe tier offering in Australia compares even worse to many overseas territories – most casual players likely don’t care: a gaping hole in the perceived value of Playstation’s services has been closed. It’s also fantastic to see the improvements made in 2022 to the PS mobile app, particularly as far as automated screenshot uploads go; all major gaming platforms are now almost equal in this department and I for one am thrilled.

Oh yeah, buried the lead again: all those aforementioned PS4 exclusives are obviously even better on PS5, especially in their various performance modes when played on a HDMI 2.1-capable TV. Just, wow.

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Honorable Mentions

OK I know I can’t technically put anything here, but 2022 was actually a pretty exciting year for non-standard consoles – I just couldn’t physically get myself a Steam Deck (come to think of it, that’s basically just a PC so probably still wouldn’t count) or a Playdate (which is super-unique and definitely would). We’ll have to see how 2023 shakes out within the space.

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