Finally, after 200 hours of grinding and question through the Lands Between, you’ve taken your rightful place upon the Elden Throne. All the Demi-Gods have been felled, their Great Runes subsumed within your endless inventory, their Remembrances dispersed into runes or weapons that gave you greater strength. The Elden Tree burns, and you are maidenless once again, even as the Turtle Pope nods benevolently in your general direction. Congratulations, Tarnished: you’re finally done with Elden Ring, three months and far too many hours after you first ventured forth.
Now what the hell are you going to do with yourself?
2022 has been a slow year for new games so far, but it probably hasn’t felt like it to anybody who fell headfirst into the enormous open world of Elden Ring. Writing about games is a major part of my job, and I’ve been terrible at this year (yes, even worse than usual) because since February I’ve spent 90% of my free time on a single game. Elden Ring has dominated my attention like no game ever—even more than Breath of the Wild—and based on how the discourse on it is only now starting to die down, three months after release, I assume I’m not alone in that obsession. Not even the Red Dead Redemption games, or the recent Fallouts, or anything by Bioware or From Software (Elden Ring’s developers) have hogged the spotlight so thoroughly and for so long. In my 14 years of somehow getting paid to write about videogames, I can’t think of anything with this kind of longevity.
Now that people are finally starting to wake from their Elden Ring stupor, it’s time to look back at some of the best new games that have been overshadowed by From’s epic. If you missed these when they came out earlier this year, you’re excused—almost no other game could get any traction in the face of Elden Ring’s dominance. Not all of these games are great, per se, but we can still broadly recommend all of them to anybody who’s finally looking for something else to play. We haven’t ranked ‘em—this list is in strictly alphabetical order—but if we had to we’d put NORCO at the top. Stylistically it’s a diverse list, with point-and-click adventures, classic shmups, strategy RPGs, Nintendo platformers, and even a wrestling game getting a nod from yours truly—meaning their should be a game below that you’d enjoy, no matter your tastes.
If you’re finally done with Elden Ring, and looking for something new to fill that yawning void in your life, here are 10 games we think you should check out.
Platforms: PlayStation 5, PC
Not only is Ghostwire” Tokyo’s world rich, but the imagery and the themes are also rich as well. This is a game about bodies. It’s a game about the way people handle loss and memory. It isn’t the cliched, unsubtle expression of these topics that we typically get in videogames, either. There are so many games that try to engage with the topics of memory, throw the player into someone’s dreams and then call it a success. Ghostwire: Tokyo doesn’t necessarily nail all of the narrative and thematic beats it is aiming for, but it still experiments with them. By taking clear inspiration from artistic cinema and rethinking how to contextualize space, Ghostwire is impressive even when it doesn’t quite succeed.—Rosy Hearts
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
Kirby and the Forgotten Land
Forgotten Land is approachable for less experienced players, and yet stuffed with reasons for veteran gamers to stay both interested and invested. It’s adorable at basically all moments, and it’s lovely to just look at the way Kirby moves around and interacts with his environment. It manages to straddle the line between valuing and carefully adapting the Kirby that was, while completely revamping what you thought Kirby could even be. Maybe it won’t sell you on the franchise if you aren’t already buying, but if any of the available titles were going to change your mind on that score, it’s this one, and well worth finding out if it will do the trick for you. After all, who doesn’t want to feel joy?—Marc Normandin
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
Platforms: Switch, PC, PlayStation 4
I need to remind y’all that I write an irregular column about shoot ‘em ups, aka shmups—those old-fashioned games where players pilot some sort of craft or creature or vaguely Barbarella-inspired angel across the screen while shooting as many enemies as they possibly can. A core staple of any gaming diet in the ‘80s, the genre gradually fell out of favor with the masses, and exists today primarily as a cult curiosity or nostalgic throwback. Sol Cresta, the latest heir to the inexplicably difficult 1985 shooter Terra Cresta, probably won’t restore the shmup to the top of the gaming pyramid, but it’s not like it’s trying to. It’s a shoot ‘em up solidly for shoot ‘em up fans, and the latest high-energy action game from Platinum, the studio behind Bayonetta, Vanquish, and Nier: Automata. Terra Cresta’s defining feature is the ability to expand and contract the power-ups collected throughout the game; instead of just beefing up the ship’s weapons, they can be used as pods that orbit the ship and provide a wider range of fire. Sol Cresta pays tribute to that concept by letting players dock multiple ships together. It’s an exciting new entry in a largely overlooked genre, and while everybody else is venturing forth into Elden Ring for the first time, I’m shooting up space again like I’ve done a million times before.—Garrett Martin
Tiny Tina’s Wonderland
Platforms: Xbox Series X|S, Xbox One, PlayStation 5, PlayStation 4, PC
Tiny Tina’s Wonderlands is an intriguing convergence of RPG systems and shooting mechanics in a delightful world with mostly pleasant characters, though whether it accurately reflects tabletop roleplaying will be up for each player to decide. It’s a fun game, but mileage will vary depending on individual tolerance for the Borderlands house style, from aesthetic to sense of humor (though it veers more cuddly and less edgy this time around) and level scaling. While it’s by no means polemic, it’s got a point of view that will keep it from being forgettable, while mostly trending positive with a narrative about overcoming trauma and loneliness. It’s a fine reintroduction to the looter-shooter space, drawing on multiple RPG heritages to make a fun, if somewhat adolescent, experience.—Kevin Fox, Jr.
After a dull beginning, the Final Fantasy Tactics homage Triangle Strategy sings. Its complex narrative and interpersonal relationships build a lived-in world that makes the player care about their decisions and feel the impacts therein. Poor performances from its one-dimensional heroes are sure to turn some off from what’s otherwise an incredible narrative that twists politics and dramatic irony in ways few other games have. Though it might lean closer to a visual novel than a tactics game at times, the two occasionally disparate elements combine to create a game that goes beyond its individual parts.—Charlie Wacholz
Platforms: Xbox Series X|S, Xbox One, PC, Mac
There’s something incredibly special about Tunic. Developed almost solely by Andrew Shouldice, the game presents itself as a cute action-adventure title in the vein of the original Legend of Zelda. The exacting combat, ethereal music, and sublime art direction are all in service of something far more complex. It’s a masterfully crafted puzzle-box that provides all the answers, if you know where to look.—Mik Deitz
Platforms: PlayStation 4, Xbox One, PC
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.
Platforms: Xbox Series X|S, Xbox One, PlayStation 4, PlayStation 5, PC
Kicking out right at 2.9, the beleaguered WWE 2K franchise makes a surprising comeback with its best installment in years. WWE 2K22 still shows many of the questionable and annoying hallmarks of WWE’s 20-year creative slide—the story modes can be as nonsensical as an episode of Raw or Smackdown—but like WWE itself, the in-ring action is largely good. And unlike the product you’ll see on TV, the wrestling here isn’t as repetitive or rigidly confined as WWE’s current style; it gives you the opportunity to work your own style of match, as fast-paced or methodical as you’d like. It’s no Fire Pro, nor a match for Nintendo 64’s classic wrestling games, but it’s the best WWE-branded videogame in well over a decade.—Garrett Martin