2022 was a great year for niche games, offering great picks in various genres. As a big fan of JRPGs and visual novels, in particular, I saw myself constantly enjoying new options and having a hard time keeping myself from getting overwhelmed with all those releases.
Picking only five titles was excruciating as I struggled to properly convey the kinds of experiences I feel better represent what I had the chance to enjoy this year. Honestly, even if it were a list with 20 titles, I’d still feel like I was leaving too many great choices behind. Nonetheless, here are my picks of only five games released in 2022, all of which left a mark on me, and I’d love to see more people playing them.
5. Triangle Strategy
Announced in February 2021, Project Triangle Strategy was instantly on my radar. I’m very fond of Team Asano’s works, especially the Bravely series, so I was curious to see what they’d do for their first foray into the tactical RPG genre.
Despite keeping the boring name, Triangle Strategy hits all the right notes into what makes a great SRPG title. On the narrative side, it offers an excellent, politically-charged story that I still think about constantly. Meanwhile, the tactical gameplay manages to flesh out the uniqueness of each unit, something rare for its peers, while offering solid systems all around.
4. Kirby and the Forgotten Land
I’ve always been a huge Kirby fan to the point I even cried playing Kirby: Planet Robobot. As such, it’s easy to imagine any Kirby announcement will always be an event for me. The series has a unique sense of fun, allowing players to choose how far they want to go. Beyond the approachable, accessible surface of exploring the stages at your leisure, there are eldritch horrors in its lore and the much more challenging tasks of collecting everything and doing post-game content.
While Forgotten Land never reached the same level of emotional discharge from me as Robobot, make no mistake: this foray into 3D lands was an absolute blast. Never in my life would I expect them to make a 3D Kirby that feels so much like their usual 2D output while still being so fresh. Congrats to HAL Laboratory, as I eagerly anticipate their next 2D and 3D Kirby games.
3. Citizen Sleeper
I’m always on the lookout for unique narrative games. While I’m playing Japanese visual novels most of the time, I’m very open to any story that feels like it might impact me. Once upon a time, back at the beginning of this year, I found out about an upcoming indie narrative RPG called Citizen Sleeper. Developed by Jump Over the Age, the sci-fi premise and aesthetics instantly hooked me.
Once I did get to play the game, I could hardly be more pleased with what it offered. With a unique transhumanist tale of a digitized human consciousness in a robotic body, Citizen Sleeper is one of the most thought-provoking tales of the year. I’ll never forget how it felt to find a way to live in the artificial satellite Erlin’s Eye, getting resources to live one more day and bonding with people a little more, even while questioning my existence.
2. Slow Damage
Back in 2021, Slow Damage was supposed to release simultaneously in Japan and the west. Unfortunately, that didn’t happen due to various circumstances. Having heard of its high quality from a friend, I eagerly anticipated the latest Nitro+Chiral title to come west. The release only happened in November 2022, but it was worth the wait.
As with previous games such as Togainu no Chi or Dramatical Murder, this is a slightly futuristic tale that dives deep into a rotting concept of society. As the painter Towa, we dive deeper into some guys’ psyches, learning about their traumas and “weird” desires. Molly Lee’s translation was also a highlight, helping convey Slow Damage‘s unique voice to western audiences.
1. Xenoblade Chronicles 3
As someone fond of Tetsuya Takahashi’s games since Xenogears, there was no way I’d not play Xenoblade Chronicles 3. Monolith Soft’s recent release was a fantastic addition to the series, and I couldn’t have been more pleased with what it set out to do and accomplished.
While the previous titles in the series were also fascinating, Xenoblade 3 does a great job explaining its mechanics. As such, its deep strategy options are laid bare for even the most inexperienced in the genre to enjoy with due patience. Besides that, the story frankly hit me in the feels from the get-go and managed to keep me enticed for many hours to come. There’s no doubt in my mind that this was my absolute favorite RPG of 2022.
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