Archive for the ‘Lists’ Category

Best of 2022 Closer

Looking back at this equivalent post from the previous year is always amusing, but this time around it was hilarious; I really thought 2022’s amazing first quarter prospects meant we’d get a proper release date spread for videogames throughout the year! Truly a fool. Nonetheless, looking forward is always fun, and 2023 definitively contains the promise of the next mainline Fire Emblem, the next mainline Final Fantasy (maybe even two of them?), the next mainline Zelda, both a new Tekken and a new Street Fighter, and the next Christopher Nolan / Mission Impossible films. Hey, we might even get some big Xbox exclusives again, or even an Australian Steam Deck release? We can certainly dream.

I cant’t wait for it to start gathering momentum, but until that happens, here’s a look back at all my favourite stuff from 2022:

1. Top 10 Disappointments

2. Five Special Awards

3. Top 5 Game Consoles

4. Top 15 K-Pop Singles

5. Top 10 Movie Characters

6. Top 10 Gaming Moments

7. Top 10 Movie Scenes

8. Top 10 K-Pop Albums

9. Top 15 Games

10. Top 10 Movies

Best of 2022: Top 10 Movies

This has been the year’s final countdown on Vagrant Rant for a decade now, but it’s usually a relative breeze to put together after the competitive stress of the album and videogame lists – which in fairness do tend to require more time investment. But it also rarely feels like the biggest list of the year, despite its prime slot.

And yet here we are. Not since 2014 has my top ten movies ranking been this ridiculously stacked; I probably wouldn’t hesitate to throw the entire thing at last year’s list and watch it displace the majority of 2021 like an Archimedes dream. Three films that provided mentions on both the characters and scenes lists this year don’t even make the overall top ten here. The Black Phone, Elvis and After Yang don’t even make the honorable mentions. I tried to fit them. I don’t know what else to say; it really was so much fun to watch movies in cinemas this year, and that did not seem likely for the majority of this decade thus far.

I finished 2022 with 41 new-release movies in the can – yes, including Morbius – and because I doubt I’ll ever get up to a number that high again, we’re going for a full deck of ten (still un-ordered) honorable mentions to close out the year – hey, that’s still only covering under 50% of what I watched so it doesn’t feel gratuitous, right?

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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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10. The Batman

For the first time in ten years, the best superhero movie of the year came from DC. Anything is possible, folks; especially when a movie looks and sounds this good. Sure, this is a Batman story with eyebrow-raising things to say about Bruce Wayne, his allies and his enemies; and the vast majority of the new classic character interpretations justify themselves. But this isn’t just a comic book – it’s a movie, and I mean, just look at it. You could probably just overlay the red-and-black film logo over the entire film and it would barely look out of place; shadows and blood-red highlights define a stunning vision for Gotham City courtesy of Planet of the Apes trilogy director Matt Reeves. That main score is also evocative and weirdly catchy, and it’s bolstered by the best use of a Nirvana song since Weird Al gargled marbles.

9. The Stranger

This was surely Netflix’s best-ever year for exclusive new films (I’d love to comb through properly and confirm that though), and The Stranger is a compelling start to that argument. Based loosely on a gut-churning true story, this tale of an undercover cop trying to make friends with a slippery drifter suspected of cold murder is rendered scarily relatable by Joel Edgerton’s anxious two-sided performance. Sean Harris is even better as the mark in question, and the cinematography makes the isolating open plains of Western Australia feel as bleak as the claustrophobic interior shots rife with unsettling buzzing. The Stranger is definitely more about the journey than the destination, but what a journey.

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Best of 2022: Top 15 Games

What a weird year for those of us who follow videogames.

The flow of the annual release schedule remains a frustrating thing to predict year-to-year, but it took on an extra-strange shape in 2022: as far as the wider triple-A scene was concerned, virtually all the big game action was localised to the first and last quarters of the year. That meant enough of a relative chasm in the middle to allow me to complete a massive-scale catch-up project I never thought I’d have the time to do, but it also meant an unusually dense December full of release dates that didn’t blink for once. So it’s no surprise that, with a couple of big-name exceptions, this GOTY countdown is defined by the only two consistent sources of quality game releases all year: prestige indies and the Nintendo Switch.

Single-player games don’t qualify unless I played them for over five hours or finished them, which this year eliminates *deep breath* Sonic Frontiers, The Callisto Protocol, Tinykin, Harvestella, Soul Hackers 2, Live A Live, Kirby and the Forgotten Land, AI: nirvanA Initiative, Card Shark, The DioField Chronicle, Metal: Hellsinger, and Evil West from contention, even though any of those games could have genuinely challenged for a place on the list had I got to play more of them – and I’m probably forgetting quite a few others. Extra-special shout-out to Chained Echoes, High on Life and Sports Story, which arrived at the eleventh hour and rocketed up in hype after I had already started the year-end writing process in earnest and had absolutely no hope of playing them.

Parentheses indicate the platform (or platforms – cross-save is truly a wild concept) where I played each game.

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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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15. Stray (PS5)

2022 was a year positively teeming with quality indie games, and they ran the gamut of genres and presentation styles. Only one of them was really trying to follow the triple-A game design formula. It was the cat game. The game where you play as a literal cat. In a way, that kinda made it this year’s Kena: Bridge of Spirits: a Sony exclusive with a wide linear level design structure, evolving stakes, tempting PSN trophy design and great use of the Dualsense controller; it is thankfully much easier than Kena though. Stray also has an excellent soundtrack, goes to some pretty wild places in terms of its oddly endearing AI supporting cast, and doesn’t outstay its welcome. Good stuff to kick us off.

14. Triangle Strategy (NS)

Triangle Strategy can perhaps consider itself one of the unluckier victims of 2022’s release schedule quirks, hitting in the middle of arguably Square Enix’s worst PR month in years when it already had enough to deal with regarding its terrible name and warped fandom expectations. Hindsight is 20/20, but it’s tempting to imagine an alternative situation where it let, say, the Tactics Ogre Reborn remaster go first to allow it’s story-first tacical gameplay approach room to breathe around JRPG July or something. But contextual frustrations aside, this game is a treat, fusing a meaty Game of Thrones-infused narrative epic with stunning artwork and rewarding, character-driven progression to add intimate significance to on-field strategic moves and major off-field democratic choices alike. Speaking of which…

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Best of 2022: Top 10 K-Pop Albums

As we head into the big three countdowns to round out the year, here’s a cool dose of quality K-Pop and K-R&B song collections that flowed better than anything else I heard in 2022. It was a banner year for veteran SM soloists, a couple of familiar voices and some exciting new talents. A couple of cheeky classification instances in there this year, but that’s hardly a new phenomenon. That said:

1-3 tracks = N/A

4-7 tracks = mini album

8+ tracks = full album

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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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MINI ALBUMS

5. SMiLEY – Yena

It is once again a minor crime that my formatting insists on keeping the mini album list down to five entries, but despite the plethora of fantastic options for fifth spot this year I can’t help but remain attached to the very first one I heard in 2022.

January saw former Iz*One member Yena begin her solo career with the first of two EPs, but the oddly-titled SMiLEY has almost none of the hallmarks of a debut effort; almost a year after the mini’s release the gumption to kick off a five-track piece with an acoustic slow jam is still stunning (and essentially unique among the idol scene). Said jam Before Anyone Else is immediately captivating, and though the title track is no Smartphone, the high register touch makes Lxxk 2 U one of 2022’s more palatable punk-pop attempts. Pretty Boys is a masterful staccato delight worthy of anyone’s top B-Side list, leaving Vacay to carry Yena home on a light breeze. A promising start to be sure.

4. Colorful Trauma – WOODZ

Three years in, three entries on this list; the artist currently known as WOODZ isn’t slowing down. With this fizzing EP he packs more bombast and bravado to ice the considerable producing chops now expected of any of his album releases. The multi-layered talent sets up the rockier, almost country-tinged tone of Colorful Trauma with a guitar lick so starkly unusual among WOODZ’s close contemporaries it may as well be a fanfare. Thus starts Dirt on my leather, yet another out-of-the-park smash of an opener to add to the WOODZ collection. HIJACK proves the guitar goodness no fluke, buzzing like an Advance Wars CO theme song underneath growling vocal ad libs. The third-track appearance of punky title I hate you almost sounds toothless in comparison, but it does have a killer melodic pre-chorus that pairs nicely with the wailing lead guitar behind Better and better. Committing to the full strumming quintet, it’s a pop-acoustic accompaniment that brings the album to a gentle close on Hope to be like you.

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Best of 2022: Top 10 Movie Scenes

This has to be my favourite edition of this list ever.

So many great 2022 movies, so many great scenes, not enough space. There’s no slot for that haunting Riddler scene that opens The Batman, for example, or the water bottle backstory from Bullet Train. Zoe Saldana nailed two completely different all-too-short sequences in two wildly different movies this year, and I couldn’t find room for either of them here. I’d also normally have space to have fun with ludicrous moments like that crab dance from the third Fantastic Beasts movie – which is played completely straight – or that cooked out-of-body tiny cave meet-up from the beginning of The Northman – or that final shot from The Menu. But alas, only ten slots on this one. Here are the movie moments that fill them:

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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.

MASSIVE SPOILERS AHEAD!!!

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10. Sea Showdown – Avatar: The Way of Water

The trademark James Cameron Action Finale is present and accounted for in his spectacular 2022 Avatar sequel, and how. A few prior action beats go off spectacularly in 3D and 48 frames per second – starting with a stunning train derailment and moving through countless gorgeous water-borne shenanigans – but the climactic battle on open water is somehow greater than the sum of its technically-impressive parts, largely thanks to an ocean of earlier ensemble character work with and an armada of Chekhov’s gunfire ignited surgically by a master of the craft.

9. Field Operation – Ambulance

The constant complication conga faced by the desperate criminal characters at the centre of Ambulance’s white-knuckle ride-along would probably make for a pretty decent black comedy if the film was shot differently – but that hypothetical version probably wouldn’t include this visceral scene. I’d wager only medical professionals would find the exaggerated luck and Hollywood-accurate medical terms at the heart of this impromptu video-call surgery funny in any way. For the rest of us, it’s just a nail-shredding tension tornado not for the squeamish.

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Best of 2022: Top 10 Gaming Moments

As long as there are new games, there are moments within those games that will come to define the year in which they first appeared. Future mentions of that year will hurtle these immortalised blends of digital art and human experience to the forefront of the mind like tiny, delicious morsels of nostalgic goodness, transporting the player back to a crystallised slice of time when experiencing this medium felt truly worthwhile.

Actually, that may just be me.

Here are my top ten favourite moments I had with videogames in 2022. Big ol’ spoilers ahead, particularly for a fair few story endings.

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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.

MASSIVE SPOILERS AHEAD!!!

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10. Exiled – Pokemon Legends: Arceus

Raise your hand if you thought the cel-shaded Pokemon spin-off about rounding up historical versions of fan-favourite creatures in steam-powered Pokeballs was capable of an affecting story moment putting you in the shoes of a shunned outcast after an entire town turns on you during a crisis, forcing you to perform a silent walk of shame as everyone judges you for something that isn’t your fault. Yeah, I’m not raising my hand either.

9. Mammoth – Horizon: Forbidden West

Even more than the first game, Horizon: Forbidden West is built on interlocking systems; we’re not talking obscene Breath of the Wild physics shenanigans here, but we are dealing with a richer suite of combat options that builds on Zero Dawn‘s greatest strength to cook up a veritable buffet of viable attack angles in most situations. After throwing you into a handful of scenarios designed to tease out some of these options, the game’s first encounter with a resting, fully decked-out robotic mammoth (or at least the first one I found) is an absolute peach. I almost beat it once with the head-on approach, then after reloading the save tried a completely different combination of weapons, weak points and environmental hazards to chip away and take it down. It’s a sensational spectacle, especially once you factor in all the gorgeous particle effects and the electronic/symphonic hybrid battle music – which goes hard.

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Best of 2022: Top 10 Movie Characters

If you’ve visited this site at all during 2022, thank you! You might have picked up the vague impression that a lot of movies worth seeing came out this year, and you’d be right. However, sometimes a sea of well-made films can limit the potential for standout characters to emerge; traditionally this is a list that tends to revel in larger-than-life caricatures thrust into the memory because their surrounding movies aren’t the greatest. It’s also historically rather fond of side characters that aren’t necessarily all that important to narrative momentum, often allowing them to have more fun.

That’s how you know 2022 was a truly special year for cinema: not only did I thoroughly enjoy every one of the ten movies that birthed these characters, but the vast majority of them are essential parts of their films’ stories – a couple are even the main protagonist. Needless to say I quite enjoyed writing this one.

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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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10. Danny – Ambulance

Jake Gyllenhaal must be so much fun to cast in movies these days. The drama / thriller veteran has built up such a varied portfolio of roles that if you go blind into a JG film, you’re probably just as likely to see him play a relatable underdog as a despicable psychopath. And that makes him absolutely perfect for Danny in Michael Bay’s Ambulance. His first scene sets him up brilliantly with characteristics of both archetypes and from then on he becomes the cast’s true wildcard, holding emotional dynamite in his capable hands as the tension ratchets up consistently around him, threatening to set off explosions. And boy, do we get explosions.

9. Namor – Wakanda Forever

Even more than its ambitious predecessor, Black Panther: Wakanda Forever is an ensemble piece; and while the best performance in the movie surely belongs to Angela Bassett as Queen Ramonda, the most memorable character presence comes from a new addition. The long-awaited MCU debut of Namor the Sub-Mariner – here reinvented as a villainous immortal Mesoamerican warrior worshipped by the alternate name Kukulkan – simmers with a vengeful anger tempered by intimidating patience thanks to a physically imposing turn from Tenoch Huerta. Best believe his zippy airborne action sequences and the destruction they cause are something to behold, too.

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Best of 2022: Top 15 K-Pop Singles

As far as this site is concerned, 2022 has essentially been about looking back over the last decade of entertainment media; that is, of course, purely a coincidence based on my decision to start a blog at the beginning of 2012. But for some reason, more than any other year-end countdown list this year, this particular one really seems to want to match the nostalgic mood. Whether it’s the sound, the visuals, or shockingly the acts themselves, increasingly large swathes of K-Pop are starting to sound like they did ten years ago, and I for one am thrilled. Don’t get me wrong, there’s plenty of stuff on this page unbeholden to the past; but if you’ve ever called yourself a lapsed casual K-Pop fan, this list might just be worth your ears (and good pair of headphones, and probably your removal of automatic captions, but that’s up to you).

A shout-out to the community of the Diggy’s Dungeon K-Pop podcast for their knowledge and recommendations, and as always a quick disclaimer that I base this very personal ranking on the music first and foremost (well entirely, really – most of these music videos were completely new to me this week).

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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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15. Forever 1 – Girls’ Generation

Welcome back SNSD!

Way, way down on the list of things I didn’t know I wanted to hear in 2022 – because I genuinely didn’t think it was possible – was the return of a full (well, as full as possible after all that 2014 business) Girls’ Generation line-up. But not only did they somehow make it happen, they put out the best track in the history of the eight-member edition. Packed with cheesy touches like that cavernous stadium clap effect on the chorus, and utterly unafraid to overfill your headphones with a wall of sound, the chorus line still manages to soar over it all, and the Into the New World reference in the background of the bridge? Stop, please. I’m not afraid to admit I got real emotional the first time I heard this one.

14. Alone – Highlight

The former B2ST boys brought back the bass in 2022 – and not much else – but that minimalist sound just works wonders on the ever-confident Alone, which extracts maximum value from a single slap line, a bit of cheeky distortion and the mature charm of the group’s four remaining vocal veterans. It’s a clean dose of throwback K-Pop listening, and that’s before you even lay eyes on the gloriously 2010-style video. Dance-in-a-box, ambiguous collapsing scenery, neon lights and expensive car all present and accounted for, thank you.

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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.

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Best of 2022: Five Special Awards

Last year this list of mini-lists had a bit of a shake-up, thanks largely to the increased amount of TV content with tenuous connections to the material Vagrant Rant normally covers; but I figured it had been such a unique year that 2022 would surely see some of the older categories come back. Nope, here we are with the exact same five. Maybe 2021 was more of a trailblazing year than it appeared?

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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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Best Third-Party Game Publisher

Square Enix

We kick off with a back-to-back win for Square Enix; but even though its competition could only be described as paltry this year, the way the Japanese gaming giant went about dominating 2022 could not have been more different from its more measured and western-leaning 2021 efforts. As covered on yesterday’s list, Square didn’t exactly come out of the blocks flying this year, but never in my wildest adolescent dreams could I have expected the sheer volume – and at times relentless pace – of the Japanese role-playing output they had in store to help people forget how weird it was that they shed all those powerhouse western teams all at once.

Re-releases, fresh ideas and combinations of both abounded as Final Fantasy VI Pixel Remaster led into Triangle Strategy, the aforementioned Stranger of Paradise: Final Fantasy Origin, the shock localisation of Radical Dreamers as part of the Chrono Cross remaster, the even more shocking localisation/remake Live A Live, then Romancing SaGa: Minstrel Song, The DioField Chronicle and Valkyrie Elysium back-to-back, a premium-quality Nier Automata Switch port, then a five-week holiday period stuffed with Harvestella, Tactics Ogre Reborn, Dragon Quest Treasures and finally Final Fantasy VII: Crisis Core Reunion. There were also two whole Voice of Cards RPGs released throughout 2022. Given where this company was at a decade ago “staggering” doesn’t begin to cover it, and I’m probably forgetting something too. Is a 2023 win on the cards too? Looking at the schedule, I wouldn’t count it out.

Runner-Up: Focus Entertainment

Best Indie Game Publisher

Devolver Digital

As always, this was a fun one to call; it seems indie publishers are only getting better at curating and fostering quality in gaming’s most exciting space. Raw Fury had a quiet one by their standards, only really offering the critically-loved NORCO as a brand-new title; everything Chucklefish announced got delayed (almost certainly a good thing); and most of the glints in the eyes of Gearbox Publishing are still on the horizon. That left us with a good old-fashioned heavyweight battle pitting Annapurna Interactive – house of the beloved Stray, A Memoir Blue, and Neon White – against Humble Games – who gave us runaway hits Temtem and Signalis alongside the underrated Chinatown Detective Agency and Prodeus. It’s a toughie, but my pick goes to Annapurna – just – for reasons that may become clear by the end of the year.

All that fight is just for the runner-up spot, of course, because Devolver Digital spent 2022 doing a lot more than simply producing their best mid-year game presentation in years. The indie publishing veterans showed the rest of the industry how it’s done, letting loose the likes of Samurai Warrior 3, Trek to Yomi, Weird West and Card Shark to delight players with all kinds of tastes in the first half of the year alone, before sealing their dominance with two of the biggest indie hits in recent memory. Return to Monkey Island is the point-and-click return to form no one saw coming, and as for Cult of the Lamb… well, that one may have just codified an entire subgenre.

Runner-Up: Annapurna Interactive

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