We are currently in the beginning stages of the holiday window, the time in which, traditionally, most of the year’s biggest blockbuster releases hit store shelves and digital storefronts. This year’s holiday window promises a ton of big releases that we’re all eagerly anticipating from franchises like Halo, Far Cry, and Metroid, but we can’t ignore the looming leviathan that is 2022.
The Stage is Set
Next year looks to carry this holiday season’s momentum and give players little time to recover from the relentless releases. Right out of the gates, we have two hotly anticipated games – From Software’s collaboration with George R.R. Martin, Elden Ring, and Game Freak’s most unique experiment with the mainline Pokémon franchise in decades, Pokémon Legends: Arceus – launching on the same day in January. But if you think that’s a mere coincidence, look no further than February. In the shortest month of the year, we have Dying Light 2 Stay Human, Horizon Forbidden West, Destiny 2: The Witch Queen, Saints Row, The King of Fighters XV, and the extremely promising brawler Sifu.
However, after those first couple of months, things slow down … at least in terms of games with hard release dates. Sure, you have the new entry in the long-running racing-sim series, Gran Turismo 7, the D&D-meets-Borderlands looter shooter, Tiny Tina’s Wonderlands, and the exciting retro strategy RPG, Triangle Strategy, hitting in March, as well as STALKER 2: Heart of Chernobyl hitting in April, but after that, the solid release dates are few and far between. You know, aside from Bethesda’s next big title, Starfield, which for some reason already has a release date of November 11, 2022; I guess maybe this date pays tribute to Bethesda’s most popular game, The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim, which launched on November 11, 2011 – Who knows? But the hits don’t stop with the games that have solid release dates.
Beyond The Opening Acts
Most of the games that have dates already are undeniable heavy hitters, but if you dig into the list of games currently slated for a broader release window within 2022, you’ll see we’re only scratching the surface. Looking purely at the triple-A titles, we have a ton of great games, including The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild sequel, God of War: Ragnarok, Redfall, Bayonetta 3, Splatoon 3, Marvel’s Midnight Suns, Lego Star Wars: The Skywalker Saga, Mario + Rabbids Sparks of Hope, Rainbow Six Extraction, Kirby and the Forgotten Land, and plenty of others. That doesn’t even include smaller (but just as exciting) titles that recall beloved past franchises like Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Shredder’s Revenge and Metal Slug Tactics.
Sequels to well-liked games including Two Point Campus, Salt and Sacrifice, A Plague Tale: Requiem, Company of Heroes III, Slime Rancher 2, Blossom Tales 2: The Minotaur Prince, and Earthlock 2 are also on the docket, giving players, even more, to look forward to. Meanwhile, The Callisto Protocol is set to pay homage to Dead Space, while Eiyuden Chronicle: Hundred Heroes is sure to please fans of Suikoden. Those embedded in the comic book world have way more to look forward to than the aforementioned Midnight Suns, as DC is also bringing the heat with both WB Games Montréal’s Gotham Knights and Rocksteady’s Suicide Squad: Kill the Justice League scheduled for next year.
It’s undeniable that 2022 has some incredible games lined up for release, but before we get too carried away with the coronation ceremony, I think some perspective is in order.
When I look at the long list of games currently scheduled to hit in 2022, I absolutely think it outshines the last couple of years. However, how would it stack up against some of the best years of all time? Many point toward years like 1997 (Castlevania: Symphony of the Night, Final Fantasy VII, GoldenEye 007, Star Fox 64), 1998 (Zelda: Ocarina of Time, Half-Life, StarCraft, Banjo-Kazooie, Spyro the Dragon, Metal Gear Solid, Resident Evil 2, Grand Theft Auto, Gran Turismo, Pokémon Red & Blue, Baldur’s Gate, Mario Party), or 2007 (Assassin’s Creed, Mass Effect, Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare, Portal, BioShock, Super Mario Galaxy, Rock Band, Crysis, God of War II) as the greatest years in the history of gaming, but often overlooked are the later years in the 2010s.
For example, just a few years ago, in 2017, we received a new contender for the greatest years of all time, as players were treated to an onslaught of outstanding games, many of which are now considered among the greatest of all time. In that calendar year, which also included the launch of Nintendo Switch, players received Zelda: Breath of the Wild, Horizon Zero Dawn, Persona 5, Nier: Automata, Fortnite, Resident Evil 7, Hollow Knight, Sonic Mania, Night in the Woods, Hellblade: Senua’s Sacrifice, Mario + Rabbids: Kingdom Battle, Splatoon 2, Injustice 2, Uncharted: Lost Legacy, Nioh, Assassin’s Creed Origins, Cuphead, Divinity: Original Sin II, Prey, What Remains of Edith Finch, Metroid: Samus Returns, Destiny 2, and a shocking number of other massive, critically acclaimed games.
Then, just a year later, the industry doubled down on the greatness with 2018, a year that included Red Dead Redemption 2, God of War, Marvel’s Spider-Man, Super Smash Bros. Ultimate, Forza Horizon 4, Return of the Obra Dinn, Dragon Ball FighterZ, Frostpunk, Monster Hunter: World, Celeste, Assassin’s Creed Odyssey, Into the Breach, and Dead Cells. However, as great as 2017 and 2018 were, those earlier years, which laid the foundations for series and genres that we still enjoy to this day, will always have a leg up when talking about the best years of all time.
While looking at the list of games coming out in 2022 includes mostly sequels and new series from established developers, players can expect plenty of new franchises to take root next year as well. The trick with forecasting ahead is that we don’t know many new franchises are worth keeping an eye on until we get closer to their release dates and learn more about them. Are we likely to get the first game in the next series that will rival Grand Theft Auto in 2022? It’s unlikely. But it’s also entirely possible that we’ll be completely blindsided, and the game we most clearly associate with 2022 when our future selves reminisce isn’t even mentioned in this article.
Who knows if 2022 will carry the same historical significance as 1997, 1998, or 2007, but with so many games that capitalize upon past successes and continue the formulas of games that came before, there may be more likely-to-be-good games than any of those years. This list also doesn’t account for any number of surprise hits that could emerge that aren’t on our radars. After all, how many people in 2014 could have foreseen a crowdfunded indie darling like Undertale bursting onto the scene as one of the most beloved games of 2015?
Not to mention, many publishers have recently made a habit of shorter marketing cycles. Look at 2021, for example; we didn’t know games like Marvel’s Guardians of the Galaxy, Metroid Dread, and Forza Horizon 5 even existed as we entered the year. How many games like that will be announced in summer 2022, only to launch in the subsequent holiday season? Also, will other games that currently don’t have an official release window, such as Overwatch 2, Senua’s Saga: Hellblade II, and Fable, finally get release dates in the next calendar year? As wild as 2022 already looks, it could become substantially more stacked.
Of course, as we’ve seen these last two years, no game’s release date is guaranteed, particularly as the pandemic continues to affect how development studios operate. Also, any game, regardless of the studio, pedigree, or franchise, could turn out as a flop. Still, with so many exciting games scheduled to enter our homes in the next 15 months, the biggest question comes in figuring out where we’ll find the money to buy all these games and how on Earth we’ll find the time to actually play them.
How is 2022 looking for you so far? Which releases are you most excited about? If everything scheduled in 2022 comes out as planned and is as good as expected, where would the year stand among the greatest years of all time? Sound off in the comments below if you feel so compelled. Otherwise, have a great day.