The 30 Best Games of 2022

Games Lists best of 2022
The 30 Best Games of 2022

This does not mark the 20th time Paste has released a Best Games of the Year list. Paste wasn’t doing games when it launched in 2002, and I’m not exactly sure when that coverage started. Maybe 2005? The oldest games piece I can find on our site comes from that year, and was written by Chris Dahlen, who may or may not have had the official title of “games editor” but was the first person to really spearhead any kind of regular games coverage here. So maybe this is the 17th annual Paste Games of the Year list, and thus the 18th overall. I realize you don’t really care about this: thanks for your patience.

Even if Paste wasn’t writing about games when our first issue hit the stands back in 2002, it’s still been covering games for a long time—longer than pretty much any other general interest pop culture outlet. I’d like to think we’ve cultivated some kind of coherent taste or philosophy in that time, particularly in the 11 years since I took the section over, and that our year-end list means something to both our readers and the talented artists who’ve made these games. If not, that’s cool, too: thanks for reading, either way. Of course who actually reads these intros? Most people probably immediately scrolled down to see what’s on here, and maybe didn’t even read a single blurb. (More people will probably just see this top 30 with no blurbs and no context copy-pasted onto any number of message boards—and that’s fine. I rarely have time to read myself, these days. But to those of you who did click, thanks. We appreciate it.)

We don’t have any kind of official criteria we’re looking for when reviewing a game, or considering it for a list like this. We know what we like when we see it, though, and we really liked all of these games. Some of them are great, even—games we’ll remember for years to come. Maybe we’ll even find time to replay one or two of them. It’s amazing what you can do when you really put your mind to it—like actually playing a videogame more than once.

Hey, it’s been a year. (Or, y’know, 11 months.) Here are the games we liked. Give ‘em a shot, if you haven’t already.

30. Cultic


Platform: PC

Retro FPS Cultic feels like the rare throwback that isn’t held back by its inspirations. It’s denser, packed with levels that are sprawling and labyrinthine, but never monotonous. In parts, it almost feels like an immersive sim, where I’m fashioning ways to approach rooms with care and an eye towards my resources. Its pixelwork is similarly impressively layered, and there are fewer sights I’ve seen this year as satisfying as the flick of your player character’s lighter in the dark. Cultic is grimy and heavy, occasionally even the right kind of suffocating, and it’s because it knows how to set a mood. I’ve played few single-player FPS games as satisfying as Cultic of late, and I hope it isn’t long before I get to again, especially if it means getting even more of this brilliant little gem.—Moises Taveras


29. Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Shredder’s Revenge


Platforms: PlayStation 4, Xbox One, PC, Switch

This loving tribute to the multiplayer beat ‘em ups of the late ‘80s and early ‘90s focuses like a laser on the nostalgia of a certain generation. It’s not just that it’s based on the version of the Turtles from the first cartoon and toy series (complete with the original voice actors), the same era that inspired the beloved arcade brawler from 1989; the entire genre is so inherently old-fashioned that it can’t help but feel like some long-lost game from 30 years ago. If you miss teaming up with your friends to bash generic punks and thugs in a cartoonish version of New York City, Shredder’s Revenge will wind back the clock for you. It wouldn’t make this list if it was just nostalgia, though; Shredder’s Revenge adds enough modern tweaks to drag that formula into the 21st century. It’s an example of a game that does what it sets out to do about as well as it possibly could.—Garrett Martin


28. Metal: Hellsinger

Platforms: PlayStation 5, Xbox Series X|S, PC

Metal: Hellsinger’s sturdy skeleton props up its metallic flesh and beating heart. Scored with love for the genre it’s named after, each song bangs harder than the last. The songs themselves aren’t just spectacular, but they get why you’re there and actively seek to reward fans of the genre. Being a rhythm game, it only stands to reason that the musical aspects are easily Hellsinger’s’ stand out contribution, but I haven’t played something with music and sound design that bolsters what’s happening in-game this well since 2019’s Wattam. It stands to reason that hitting a shot or a dash on beat feels better than not, but on top of a damage boost and a much more satisfying, crunchy sound effect for your weapon of choice when hitting the beat, Hellsinger makes the deliberate choice to reward you for good play.—Charlie Wacholz


27. Splatoon 3


Platform: Switch

On its own merits, Splatoon 3 keeps everything funky fresh, providing yet another solid experience for Squid Kids to happily, even greedily, consume. It’s junk food, a sweet and savory snack that fills you up just the right amount to always want another bite. It might not nourish your body, but it nourishes your soul, each taste leaving yet another joyful memory. The wrapper may be different, but the insides are still the same consistent and sublimely tasty treat. You don’t mess with the perfect junk food; they changed the flavor of Coke once and it almost caused national riots.—Mik Deitz


26. Weird West


Platforms: PC, PlayStation 4, Xbox One

It starts with a familiar enough Western trope. Bandits raid your character’s homestead, killing your child and kidnapping your partner. Instead of working for an evil rancher or railroad man, though, you soon learn the attackers work for man-eating Sirens. Weird West’s world is full of such supernatural horrors, including wraiths and werewolves. Kindly townsfolk and roving robbers are both somewhat acclimated to dealing with these beings, though some civilians have it harder than others. Aside from seeing the setting as an overhead view combination of Dishonored’s steampunk dark magic and Red Dead Redemption’s prestige Spaghetti Western formula, I found myself comparing Weird West to Fallout: New Vegas, which had a Wild Wasteland optional perk setting that tuned up the wackiness. It’s a fun world that ends up being darker and more intense than silly, with humor often coming from absurdity.—Kevin Fox, Jr.


25. Horizon Forbidden West

Platforms: PlayStation 5, PlayStation 4

Horizon Forbidden West proves the open world genre doesn’t have to be as creatively bankrupt as it currently is, even while sticking close to the genre’s conventions. With the right focus, the right setting, and the right storytelling, a game can remain in thrall to a familiar format and still feel inspired. It isn’t a game that will surprise you or make you rethink the possibilities of what games can do, but it’s proof that games can still be really fun even if they don’t try anything new, and that’s something we don’t often see from big budget corporate games like this one.—Garrett Martin


24. The Last Clockwinder

Platform: Oculus Quest

As one of the few remaining gadgets that don’t require electricity to function, I find a real comfort in clocks. They’re a combination of interlocking gears, wound by an actual person and set to keep ticking for a long time. It’s this fondness for clocks that The Last Clockwinder aims to impart, although of course the game relies deeply on electricity. Playable only in virtual reality, The Last Clockwinder is one of the first full narrative experiences I’ve had through the platform, and I was repeatedly amazed by the experience of inhabiting the small but compact space the game takes place inside. Getting to inhabit a character so fully is a feeling I haven’t really ever experienced, and it led to a disorienting but ultimately calming dissociation from my real surroundings as I let The Last Clockwinder fully envelop me.—Joseph Stanichar


23. PowerWash Simulator

Platforms: PC, Xbox Series X|S, Xbox One

It’s a cliché to admit, but the real thing being power washed when I play this game is my own brain. People joke that when something scratches that specific itch, it makes their brain go “brr,” but I hear the satisfying hiss of a power washer instead. I feel the layers of filth and muck that accrue while I trudge through life simply melt away as I spray down parks, vehicles, and various buildings in alarming states of disarray in PowerWash Simulator. It’s also provided me an alternative from the various fictional war crimes me and my friends frequently commit in other games in our steady rotation. The greatest boon PowerWash Simulator has given me though is this warm feeling that I’m doing something objectively good. And that feels pretty great.—Moises Taveras


22. Trombone Champ


Platform: PC

Trombone Champ isn’t just a meme machine. It’s an absurdly difficult rhythm game that’s also perhaps the most potent sight (and sound) gag in videogame history. I couldn’t care less about “doing well” in this game; what makes it great is how ridiculous the game gets when you do badly at it, which will happen pretty much every time you play it. Between the elasticity of the synthetic trombone’s tone, the utter precision required to hit each note, the non sequitur backdrops, and the wide-eyed obliviousness of the cartoon avatar, Trombone Champ is impossibly hard in the name of comedy—something games notoriously struggle with. This champ doesn’t struggle; it’s easily the funniest game of the year. Its spell doesn’t last long, but for an hour or so this is as joyful as videogames get.—Garrett Martin


21. Iron Lung


Platform: PC

Iron Lung is a concentrated dosage of claustrophobic terror. Set in a tiny rusting submarine, its porthole welded shut to allow travel beyond intended limits, you must blindly navigate deep-sea trenches on an alien moon using only an imprecise radar and an unfinished map. Visual touches communicate how this vessel is being crushed by the depths as pipes burst, oxygen depletes, and blood-red fluids rush in through gaps in the hull. But perhaps most stressful of all is the knowledge that the ship’s fate is entirely in your hands as you’re forced to navigate constrictive passages against a ticking clock. These dire circumstances communicate doom and the grim resignation that comes alongside it, the backstory of this broken world filling in this apocalyptic setting. Altogether, it delivers the kind of unbridled intensity that could only come about in this smaller-sized, more experimental experience. If you like being scared, this is one you don’t want to miss.—Elijah Gonzalez


20. Rogue Legacy 2

Platforms: PC, Switch, Xbox Series X|S, Xbox One

As the successor to one of the games that helped kick off the roguelike craze, Rogue Legacy 2 had big shoes to fill. However, it turns out genre reinvention isn’t necessary when you nail the fundamentals. For starters, the core platforming feels excellent, with an expanding pool of movement abilities and crisp controls that make it empowering to work through screens full of bullets, angry monsters, and environmental hazards. While new areas are initially insurmountably difficult, persistence is rewarded with a deep pool of upgrades that make things more manageable and varied, such as the long list of unlockable classes that enable unique playstyles. It also makes some clever decisions around structure, letting you tackle things in reasonable chunks by turning each region of this cursed castle into a mini-roguelike. And although I’m not sure it will do much for those uninterested in this style of game, its expansive list of accessibility options makes it more approachable than some of its peers. Through its responsive platforming and constantly expanding depth, Rogue Legacy 2 is an excellent example of the genre.—Elijah Gonzalez


19. Xenoblade Chronicles 3

Platform: Switch

Xenoblade Chronicles 3 is a worthy addition to the franchise, one that succeeds in its mission as a culmination of the Xenoverse so far, and one that, despite building on top of pre-existing systems with even more of them, manages to streamline itself enough and in enough ways that it wouldn’t be a surprise for it to become the best-selling title in the series. It turns out you can sell philosophy to the kids, so long as that philosophy also has mechs. Monolith has come a long way since Xenogears and Squaresoft, and Xenoblade Chronicles 3 is evidence they’re still going to have places to go without needing to find a new developmental process or bosses, too. Whether it’s the “best” Xenoblade or not doesn’t matter as much as the fact that it fits in wonderfully with what already existed, and ensures that we should be looking forward to whatever those next steps for the series end up being, too.—Marc Normandin


18. OlliOlli World

Platforms: PC, Switch, PlayStation 4, PlayStation 5, Xbox One, Xbox Series X|S

The third in Roll7’s series of arty, lo-fi skateboard games follows the typical trajectory of a videogame series: everything is bigger, longer, deeper. Beefier, even. It has characters. A whole story, even. At its heart it’s still the thumb-aching, quick-twitch trick machine that OlliOlli has always been, but with the narrative and world-building elements expanded so thoroughly that it doesn’t always feel like the elegant puzzle engine it used to be. That’s neither good nor bad—it comes down to your personal tastes—but it’s all done with the same charm and the same cool aesthetic that the series is known for. And given that it’s been seven years since the last time we dipped into a new OlliOlli, this is very cool World is a welcome one indeed.—Garrett Martin


17. Kirby and the Forgotten Land

Platform: Switch

I am no great lover of Kirby, Nintendo’s adorable little fluff ball who seems to star in a brand new videogame every single year. Kirby and the Forgotten Land shouldn’t be missed, though. It can be difficult for a non-Kirby diehard to tell the difference between a “mainline” Kirby game and all the various spinoffs he stars in, but just as Mario’s central platformers are a notable cut above the miscellaneous games he pops in, Kirby’s main entries are where the series truly shines. Forgotten Land innovates by dragging Kirby into the third dimension, and also by introducing a new skill that recalibrates how Kirby interacts with his world but that also feels perfectly in character for him and the series. After years of inhaling his enemies and stealing their abilities, Kirby can now swallow all manner of objects and assume their qualities for himself. Forgotten Land feels like no Kirby game we’ve played before, but it’s still purely, unmistakably Kirby, with all of its colorful charm and the flexible difficulty that makes it rewarding for both young beginners and stalwart veterans. It’s another successful Switch reinvention of a classic Nintendo series.—Garrett Martin


16. I Was a Teenage Exocolonist


Platforms: PC, PlayStation 5, PlayStation 4, Switch

I Was a Teenage Exocolonist is a narrative-oriented life-sim that thoughtfully handles its wide range of ideas, full of sharp commentary and earnestly portrayed characters. As a member of the first generation raised on a distant planet, you witness political tumult and the dangers of your new home as you grapple with the universally awkward experience of growing up. Although its colorful aesthetic may make it seem like a “wholesome game,” it fully engages with the perils of its setting while still communicating the warmth of its characters and their relationships. It envisions what a better future can look like, rendering a post-capitalist commune where its characters question Earth’s regressive practices, but it avoids devolving into utopianism by grappling with the moral ambiguities of this colonial project, as well as the ever-present threat of right-wing reactionism. While its deckbuilding elements become a little stale by its conclusion, it foregrounds substantive choices that directly impact its characters’ fates, placing you at the center of political strife and interesting sociological questions. It’s thoughtful, kind, and just about everything I value in science fiction.—Elijah Gonzalez


15. Marvel Snap


Platforms: Android, iOS, PC (Early Access)

Marvel Snap is a quick and simple deck-building game, but like the MCU, the variations on that simple theme are seemingly endless. That unpredictability ensures no two games are the same and that you’ll likely hit that play button again and again. The learning curve isn’t very steep and it’s made easier by the player-matching system, and as you level up the competition becomes tougher and it’ll take a little more foresight to win. And the twists on traditional deck-building games means you’ll have to keep adapting your strategy. There’s no need to pay anything to stay competitive, at least until late in the game—the only real temptation is to keep playing. Marvel has become a juggernaut because it delivers a simple, good time with just enough twists and eye candy to hold your attention for a couple of hours. Marvel Snap is exactly that in the form of a mobile game.—Josh Jackson


14. Soul Hackers 2


Platforms: PC, PlayStation 5, PlayStation 4, Xbox Series X|S, Xbox One

Even with all the side quests and demon grinding I did, Soul Hackers 2 was only 32 hours. A 30 to 40 hour JRPG is almost unheard of at this point. And it’s breathtaking. Sure, there’s little room for walls of explanation and expository dialogue. There’s no hidden lore fragments to collect. The character side quests are straightforward to resolve and clearly telegraphed. Soul Hackers 2 tells a good anime story about rivals to friends, AI learning about humanity, and dealing with trauma, and wraps it up in some of the best dungeon crawling Atlus has put together in over a decade. It’s condensed and digestible, perfect for a modern gamer who has way too many things in her backlog. It’s rare that I review a game and want to go back to it. Even if I love it at the time, I’m usually so wiped from the process that I need to delete it from my PlayStation and just not think about it for a good while. Soul Hackers 2 is graceful and breezy enough, while still being a meaty monster-collecting dungeon crawler, that I’ve been thinking about my return to it the entire time I wrote my review.—Dia Lacina


13. Stray

Platform: PC, PlayStation 5, PlayStation 4

Stray absolutely understands what it’s like to be a cat—at least from a human’s perspective. This cat will scratch on rugs, walls, and furniture. This cat will nonchalantly knock glasses, vases, and even open cans of paint off shelves. This cat will get its head stuck in paper bags, hang out in empty boxes, or idly swat balls back and forth, if you want it to. This cat will even jump onto a table in the middle of a game of dominoes, knocking the pieces all over the floor. It’ll also purr and meow, rub itself lovingly against the legs of those it likes, and even snuggle up against a robot as it takes a nap. Stray captures the mischief, aloofness, and sweetness of a cat, while also uncannily recreating the way they look and move. The cat gets the hype, but it’s the cat’s robot friend that ultimately makes the biggest impression. If B-12 was just a typical guide—a hint system and blinking arrow in character form—Stray wouldn’t work. B-12’s journey of self-discovery is the main emotional through line in the game, the wire upon which the entire experience hangs, and even if you can tell where that story is going before the drone can, it’s told with a clarity and forthrightness that adds to its power. The cat game might be less about the cat and more about the existential crises facing mankind and the artificial intelligences that will be left behind, but at least there’s a dedicated meow button—Garrett Martin


12. Cult of the Lamb


Platforms: PC, PlayStation 5, PlayStation 4, Switch, Xbox Series X|S, and Xbox One.

From the very moment Cult of the Lamb begins, players embark on a rollicking, deceptively cute, but ultimately sinister journey through the lands of the Old Faith, and it never lets up. Within seconds of gaining control of the game, the player is executed for being a potential vessel for The One Who Waits, a god who’s been bound by chains. This fallen god saves the player before charging them, a literal sacrificial lamb, with taking up a crown and restoring them to power. From there, players engage in a lot of frankly dubious behavior, indoctrinating dissidents of the Old Faith into a cult and deciding how best to exploit them.

Cult of the Lamb’s greatest strength might be its honesty. Action games are about this absolute physical dominance over other things and people around you, and management sims have always been about pulling on threads and watching systems big and small do your bidding. In a sense, Cult of the Lamb is this wholly self-aware marriage of two distinct, but intrinsically tied, genres about the order of things, and just immediately inserts you at the top of that hierarchy, laying it all bare. It drops all pretenses and weaves conquest and violence of various forms (spiritual, physical, and systemic) into its systems and simple story very satisfyingly. At the end of the day, your cult leader is little but an avatar for destruction masquerading as a hero. How much more of a videogame could you be at that point? And for that frankness alone, Cult of the Lamb is more than deserving of high marks.—Moises Taveras


11. Wordle

Platform: Browser

Wordle is only available once per day. This is something I absolutely hated at the start, because I’m a sick digital content addict, but now that I have the availability to play Wordle-like games all the time, I simply do not. By limiting it to once per day, creator Josh Wardle makes his game an event, something to be discussed and compared and contrasted and over-analyzed. Part of the reason he did this was to leave you wanting more, and the scarcity effect works, but I’ve come to really appreciate the simple fact that I do this one time each day, it takes two minutes, and then I’m out. It’s ideal, and it feels like it took a bit of courage for the creator to stick to his daily schedule and enforce a non-deluge policy. Wordle asks nothing of me, and I love it.—Shane Ryan


10. Tunic


Platforms: PC, Xbox One, Xbox Series X|S, PlayStation 5, PlayStation 4, Switch

You know what’s just full of respect? Andrew Shouldice’s Tunic. That’s what. This one-man adventure jam doesn’t go easy with its puzzles, having faith that its players will be able to think their way through every tricky scenario presented to them. It also has a deep and overt respect for ‘80s Nintendo games, specifically the original Legend of Zelda; that’s evident not just in the game’s isometric view and general environment, but also in its in-game manual, which isn’t just some mystic, sacred text the adorable fox hero has to seek out, but also a recreation of an NES-era instruction booklet. Tunic sifts through the shared experiences of our gaming past to create something new and unique enough to exist outside the easy allure of nostalgia.—Garrett Martin


9. Vampire Survivors


Platforms: PC, Xbox Series X|S, Xbox One

I blame it on the garlic, which obliterated enemies that dared step to me, and made me feel invincible. Of course I wasn’t, and fell mere minutes later, but that taste of what it might mean to utterly dominate the indomitable was more than enough to hook me on Vampire Survivors. Even as I write this blurb, my eyes are darting over to the game’s icon on my desktop, and I can almost hear it calling me. Vampire Survivors is a game that pretty explicitly digs its claws into everyone who plays it, but you have to be willing to embrace the cacophony that follows to be really happy with it. Inside that madness is a wonderful roguelike—an alchemical wonder, if you will—that obscures its depth and secrets with simple graphics and overwhelming odds. It is the easiest game to pick up and the hardest to let go of and, whoops, I’ve begun another run.—Moises Taveras


8. Live a Live


Platform: Switch

Live A Live still has it. Takashi Tokita led a young team of fans at Historia, Inc. to create a version of a classic as vibrant and exciting and crucially unique in Square’s catalog today as it was in 1994. Released between Final Fantasy VI and Chrono Trigger and passed over for translation due to its technically less impressive sprite work compared to its flagship siblings, it shines today as the celebration of a cult classic, with a worldwide legacy and influence as an important milestone in an entire alternate history of RPGs. Live A Live is the exact opposite of the unique masterpiece that’s so good it ruins other games: it is a heartfelt tribute to everything there is to love about the RPG format, and will leave you invigorated and excited not just to play more RPGs, but to watch more Kung Fu movies, more Westerns, more classic Sci-Fi. If you’ve even a passing interest in the genre, it is simply a must play.—Jackson Tyler


7. Neon White


Platforms: Switch, PC

Neon White is pure motion. It might look like a first-person shooter—it’s in first person and you shoot a lot—but it’s all in service of the constant heedless rush at the game’s heart. Almost every time you shoot a demon it’ll be to acquire whatever kinetic ability it gives you, which you will almost immediately use to jump a little higher or rush forward a little faster or to literally grenade yourself dozens of feet into the sky to reach the next platform. You’re not here to shoot, per se, but to get from point A to point B as quickly as possible, and the shooting merely facilitates that. When you fully tap into its flow Neon White is about as exhilarating as videogames get, becoming an extension of your own nervous system as you effortlessly string moves together while trying to shave microseconds off your best time. And on top of its mechanical excellence it also has a story and cast of characters so well-written that I’m able to overlook its unfortunate reliance on an aesthetic and character tropes right out of anime. Neon White combines arcade elegance and extreme replayability with a genuinely thoughtful and surprising story, making it almost the best game of 2022 so far. It’s the only game that finally, fully broke Elden Ring’s hold over me; I haven’t set foot in the Lands Between since my first time sprinting through Heaven.—Garrett Martin


6. Signalis


Platforms: PC, PlayStation 4, Switch, Xbox One

While Signalis fits into a larger trend of games that emulate PSX-era survival horror, its bold aesthetic choices and spellbinding storytelling help push it past its influences to create something singular. Its gameplay successfully channels some of the usual suspects like Resident Evil(2002) and Silent Hill 2 as your forage for keys, avoid Crimson Head-esque reviving zombies, and repeatedly backtrack to solve puzzles. However, its greatest selling point is that it has one of the most compelling videogame narratives of the year, its ruminations on death, identity, and accepting loss conveyed through cryptic symbolism and recurring cycles of pain. By constantly switching settings, artistic styles, and perspectives, it creates a disorienting headspace that emphasizes the confusion of its protagonist, slowly revealing the meaning of its recurring images until the horrible weight of it all comes crashing down. It’s a brainworm of a love story that I can’t get off my mind.—Elijah Gonzalez


5. Elden Ring

Platforms: PC, PlayStation 4, PlayStation 5, Xbox One, Xbox Series X|S

You’d be forgiven for thinking Elden Ring was the only game that came out this year. For a solid three months it seemed to be the only thing anybody talked about, wrote about, or even played. From Software blew its signature RPG formula up into one of the largest open world games in memory, which makes it more accessible than their earlier Souls games, but also even more mysterious and unsettling. Its massive, secret-filled world is clearly influenced by The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild, but with the brutality and subtle approach to storytelling you expect from a Souls game. It might be a little too big, and devolves into a bit of a slog in the late game, but Elden Ring remains an almost unthinkable achievement. I’m dumped over 170 hours into it and still occasionally pop in again to look for any caves or ashes I might’ve overlooked. Elden Ring has a way of setting up camp inside your head and refusing to leave that few games can match.—Garrett Martin


4. Pentiment


Platforms: PC, Xbox Series X|S, Xbox One

On every level, Pentiment’s illustrations, storytelling choices, and most clearly people are a mirror for the manuscripts that shape its characters’ lives. Whether they read or not, everyone is a repository of history, with their own verbal handwriting, quirks, and opinions on what the town of Tassing’s legacy should be. These human texts open up genuinely insightful questions about authenticity in art and what it will come to mean centuries later, as well as what to do when your history has been lost to you. It is a beautiful portrait of history that doesn’t limit itself from commenting on labor inequity, parental loss, or artistic hopelessness, all things the medieval and early modern art it draws from portrays so vividly. In bringing some of those stories to us today, Pentiment accomplishes the remarkable goal of being both clear-eyed about the medieval period’s faults, and sincere about its masterpieces.—Emily Price


3. Immortality

Platforms: PC, Xbox Series X|S

Sam Barlow has created his own micro-genre of games built around mundane video sources. First it was the police interrogation videos of Her Story, and then the video calls of Telling Lies. With Immortality, Barlow and his team go fully cinematic, presenting a mystery about a forgotten actress from the late ‘60s who disappeared after her three starring roles went unreleased. The footage from those lost films resemble different styles of film from two different eras, and the interface is set up like an old Moviola editing desk. You’ll sort through her short film career looking for insight into why she vanished, clicking from one clip to another, including outtakes and talk show appearances. Over time the mystery takes an unsettling turn into horror, but Immortality doesn’t lose site of its themes—voyeurism, the power of sex, the inherent exploitation of movies, the specific exploitation and power dynamics of the director/actor relationship, etc.—in chase of scares.—Garrett Martin


2. Citizen Sleeper

Platforms: PC, Switch, Xbox One, Xbox Series XS

You can think of Citizen Sleeper as a sort of digital board game set in a sci-fi dystopia beset by end-stage capitalism and all the rampant dehumanization that entails. It’s a game about work and death where the only levity comes from the relationships we make with others—yes, the friends we made along the way, but not nearly as banal or obvious as that sounds. It questions what it means to be a person in a system that inherently subjugates personhood to corporations and wealth, and it probably won’t surprise you that the answers it lands on aren’t always the most optimistic or uplifting. Here at Paste Cameron Kunzelman described its “melancholy realism” as part of a trend alongside other story-driven games that are largely hostile to the dominance of capitalism, and it echoes the impossibility of thinking seriously about this medium, this industry, and, well, every aspect of society today without discussing the impersonal economic system that drives it all. It’s a heady RPG that respects your time and intelligence, and one of this year’s must-play games.—Garrett Martin


1. Norco

Platform: PC, PlayStation 5, Xbox Series X|S, PlayStation 4, Xbox One

As a Southerner I don’t really trust anybody to write about the South unless they, too, are from here—or at least have lived here long enough to truly understand what makes it great and awful in equal measure, and how the ways in which the South is actually fucked up often diverge from the ways in which outsiders think it’s fucked up. Norco, a smart narrative-driven game about the unique ways in which institutions like religion and big business have exploited the South, its people and its land throughout history, is clearly the work of people who understand this region and its fundamental defects. It’s an unflinching, occasionally surreal glimpse into an only slightly exaggerated version of Louisiana, with its mythical and allegorical flourishes only highlighting the aimless mundanity and real-life degradations of the modern South. If you only play one game from this list, make it Norco.—Garrett Martin

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