2022 perhaps won’t be remembered as a standout year for new game releases judged as a whole, but as far as exclusive content for the big three consoles went, it was actually pretty solid. One of them, in particular, delivered a handful of absolute gems that made it the console to own. But which are we talking about? Read on to discover who we think had the best exclusives of 2022 between PlayStation, Xbox, and Nintendo.
Sony studios arguably set the benchmark for AAA blockbusters, and 2022 saw several of its marquee franchises return in a big way with a number of explosive sequels.
The year kicked off with the Legacy of Thieves Uncharted collection, which is a retread of the past for most PlayStation enthusiasts but nonetheless is a compilation of three of the brand’s most iconic action/adventure games of all time. Remastered with upscaled visuals on PS5, it’s the definitive way to experience beloved classics.
Later in February saw the release of Horizon Forbidden West, the follow-up to what many consider the PS4’s best game in Zero Dawn. Twinfinite’s glowing review of the game celebrated its bigger and bolder approach to its open-world design and another solid story that cemented Horizon’s place as a premier PlayStation franchise we’ll absolutely see more of down the line. Perhaps not quite as exciting as the original, but Forbidden West is still a must-play exclusive.
PlayStation continued in fine form with the much-anticipated debut of Gran Turismo on PS5 hardware, and it didn’t disappoint. The beloved career mode is back, marking a return to a full-fat GT experience after the mixed successes of Sport. And as expected, the photorealistic graphics and improved driving physics proved a new high watermark for the franchise. It joins the ranks of the very best driving simulators, bound together with that signature Polyphophny digital quality that reminds us of the series’ PS2 glory days.
September brought with it yet another release of a PlayStation classic in The Last of Us: Part 1, polished with enhanced visuals that bring it up to the same lofty standards as its acclaimed sequel. It’s more of the same if you’ve played the game already, but is now improved with better audio, haptic feedback, and a couple of new game modes it reminded us what an absolute triumph it’s always been. TLOU: Part 1 might be an oldie, but it’s the sort of experience you buy into the PlayStation brand to enjoy.
The last major exclusive of 2022 was, of course, God of War: Ragnarok, a sequel that hardly needs an introduction as one of the most hyped games of the year. The shining critical acclaim it received at launch saw it record one of the highest Metacritic totals of the past twenty years, and we here at Twinfinite certainly approve. It stands tall as one of the best games ever made and has us incredibly excited to see what the PlayStation brand puts out next.
Sandwiched either side of tentpole first-party content were several corkers from smaller studios, including the bizarre but brilliant Ghostwire Tokyo, the quirky cat simulator Stray, and the kung-fu fighter Sifu. All received a positive critical and audience reception and helped diversify PlayStation’s 2022 library with smaller but no less compelling gameplay experiences.
Microsoft has for years been clear that Game Pass is the reason to own an Xbox platform. The service has delighted us once again this year with its unbelievable value proposition, making available all sorts of new releases as part of its package. If you enjoy playing a wide variety of different games, it’s hard to argue that there’s a better platform than Xbox for sampling everything the games industry has to offer.
But if you purchased an Xbox to experience exclusive games from Microsoft’s ever-growing first-party studios, then it has to be said that 2022 was a year of disappointment. With the holy trinity of Halo, Forza, and Gears in between installments, the various upcoming IPs and projects in the works from Microsoft’s other teams were nowhere to be seen. All of the big three suffer exclusive droughts from time to time, but Xbox has made a habit of it over the past ten or so years — something that’s doubly frustrating for its audience given all of the aforementioned studio acquisitions which are supposed to fill the gaps.
Of course, presumably, they will… eventually. The likes of Redfall, Fable, Hellblade II, Replaced, and all manner of other games in the pipeline are on the way.
But again, 2022 was certainly a disappointment as far as the sheer number of games goes, and what we did get were short but sweet experiences rather than blockbusters to rival the likes of PlayStation. That includes the superb illustrated storybook experience of Pentiment, with its delightful medieval-inspired art style and clever writing. This charming adventure from talented developer Obsidian Entertainment is exactly the sort of inventive, bite-sized game that gets a chance to shine on Game Pass.
Elsewhere, Somerville, the debut game from the new studio, Jumpship, impressed. Part walking simulator, part puzzle platformer, it shares lineage with the likes of Limbo and INSIDE, with Dino Patti involved in its creative design and piqued our interest as a result. It never quite reaches the same brilliance as those two, but it was a solid first outing that we thoroughly enjoyed and is well worth checking out.
The other big standout from Xbox’s 2022 lineup was Vampire Survivors, a roguelike that really wasn’t on our radar until it certainly exploded onto the scene. Its quality gameplay proved an addictive loop Twinfinite editor Dylan Chaundy couldn’t get enough of, and it has fast become yet another Game Pass indie success story that proves the service is often a beacon to
Nintendo has had a rather peculiar 2022 when it comes to exclusives. Despite having some of its most iconic franchises see a major release – or in the case of those delightful pocket monsters, two! – it’s not all quite been sunshine and rainbows.
February witnessed the release of Pokemon Legends Arceus, which welcomed Pokemaniacs to a true open-world experience in the series for the first time. However, it was this release that signposted what would become a lingering problem for the handheld in 2022 – performance. Legends Arceus was a jittery mess with texture pop-in and sluggish framerates that slumped way below 30fps when things got chaotic on-screen. It was an issue seemingly made worse by docking the Switch, but regardless of how you were using the hybrid handheld, it was clear that Nintendo’s 2017 system was really beginning to strain under the pressure of the publisher’s more ambitious titles.
Kirby and the Forgotten Land, however, with its more light-hearted graphics and streamlined levels, fared far better. In fact, upon its release in March, many believed it would be a solid Game of the Year contender come the end of the year. With the pink blob’s ability to transform into a variety of different objects, he was able to take on all manner of different enemies and solve various environmental puzzles throughout the varied levels and worlds we explored. However, its rather limited co-op mode was one of the game’s few major drawbacks, with player two’s Waddle Dee unable to use abilities and the camera’s insistence on only following Kirby, meaning your partner in crime is likely going to end up off the camera a lot, or in very close proximity to you.
The Summer brought a flurry of high-profile releases, from Nintendo Switch Sports, intent on recapturing the meteoric success of Wii Sports, to the epic sci-fi RPG Xenoblade Chronicles 3. The former, while mimicking its predecessor’s core gameplay, didn’t quite offer enough to keep solo players interested, and the lack of Golf on the release date was a disappointing omission. The latter, however, delivered exactly what fans were looking for – a meaty JRPG with near-100 hours of gameplay, all wrapped up in a gorgeous world just begging for players to explore and do battle in.
It was such a high point for Nintendo in 2022, in fact, that it’s still sitting at the top of the Switch’s exclusives in terms of Metacritic score for the year. Even this didn’t come without its drawbacks, though, with the game feeling particularly cramped in handheld mode with the world’s beautiful visuals being somewhat hindered by the small, low-resolution screen of the base Nintendo Switch models.
Nestled in between these releases was Fire Emblem Warriors: Three Hopes, retelling the story of 2019’s Fire Emblem: Three Houses but with the hack-and-slash-style gameplay of Fire Emblem Warriors. While this style of combat isn’t going to be for everyone, getting to know the characters better via support conversations and watching the story twist and turn to keep you hooked was just as compelling as it has been in mainline Fire Emblem titles. Late-game stages made for a serious challenge, but the new protagonist felt bland, and the formulaic nature of Warriors-style games reared its head once again to make everything feel a little too samey after a while.
As Summer turned to fall, the Switch received another duo of titles in the form of Splatoon 3. The inky shooter didn’t take massive leaps and bounds forward from the previous titles but still provided the same family-friendly shooter fun that has led the series to be one of the most beloved on the Switch. Stylish demon slayer Bayonetta was up next, with the third release in the series.
Despite some controversy around voice actor pay, the game was praised for its explosive set-pieces, a plethora of weapons for players to experiment with, and the introduction of Infernal Demons, ensuring combat felt more dynamic than that of its predecessors. Let’s be honest, though, the story’s still a bit of a mess and tricky to follow, and once again, the game struggles when it comes to visuals when using the Switch in handheld mode.
The final two exclusives for the Switch arrived in the form of Mario + Rabbids: Sparks of Hope. The former was praised for taking a massive step forward from its predecessor, granting its characters the ability to move freely within the world rather than confined to the grid-based squares the last game’s world had been divided into. The Rabbid’s humor was in full flow, while well-balanced challenges meant that strategy fans of all skill levels had something they could really test their mettle against, culminating in epic and exciting boss battles. Again, though, the game had some technical issues with our review citing performance problems, bugs, and even some occasional unresponsive controller inputs.
Last but certainly no means least was the new mainline entries in the Pokemon series – Scarlet and Violet. Taking wannabe Pokemon Trainers to the Paldea region, the games further embraced the open-world design that Arceus Legends had introduced all those months ago, but in a more modern setting with three separate storylines to explore at your leisure. But it was this open-world freedom that also became the games’ downfall.
Massive performance problems and a plethora of bugs resulted in even Nintendo itself acknowledging and apologizing to fans for the state of the titles and promised improvements in the form of updates post-launch. Despite this, Scarlet and Violet’s core gameplay was as compelling as it always has been in the Pokemon series, and while the titles only really dipped their toe into the potential of its open world, it was an encouraging step in the right direction all the same.
PlayStation might not have had the volume of Nintendo when it came to exclusives in 2022, but it was the exceptional quality of its lineup that shone through. It’s easily our choice as the exclusive content console for 2022. The likes of Horizon, God of War, and GT7 led the charge and laid down a benchmark for blockbuster gameplay experiences we can’t see being surpassed any time soon.
Clever third-party exclusives also added a unique flavor to the PS4/PS5 library, with games like Stray an absolute triumph. All of that was bolstered by the aforementioned compilations/remakes of two established PlayStation franchises to round out a very robust 2022 offering.
In truth, it feels strange to be celebrating the production value and quality of Sony games while at the same slandering that of Nintendo. The big N built its reputation on those principles in the 1990s and kept it as a pillar of its strategy ever since, but things have rather slipped in recent times.
Indeed, despite some really strong gameplay showings from the Nintendo Switch exclusives in 2022, the Nintendo Switch is clearly beginning to falter as a platform. Over 100 million switches may have been sold, but with the release of the Steam Deck this year, and even 2020’s PS5 and Xbox Series X|S are starting to see Nintendo really look behind the curve.
As for Microsoft, there’s not really a great deal to discuss — and that’s the problem! As much as we adore Game Pass and what it continues to do to promote indie gems and more unusual projects from various studios, we’re hankering for Microsoft’s studio acquisition charge to finally yield some big blockbusters. That hasn’t happened quite yet and following on from the mixed results of 2021, it feels as though 2023 is a big year for the Xbox platform to prove itself more than a Game Pass machine.