The action-adventure genre has become the flag-bearer for the category of games that many would consider to be the highest-profile blockbusters every year, and it’s easy to see why. It’s the perfect intersection of fast-paced combat, ancillary gameplay activities, and narrative drive, and when developers get that balance right, the end result tends to be special. As tends to be the case most years, 2022 saw several such new games- here, we’ll be talking about our favourites in that group, before finally crowning one of them as the brightest highlight for the genre for the entire year.
NOTE: The nominees and winner were decided by an internal vote held among the entire GamingBolt staff.
THE LAST OF US PART 1
The Last of Us remains a veritable masterpiece even in its original form to this day, and while that very fact may have led many to question why a remake was even needed (especially at its eye-watering price), it’s undeniable that The Last of Us Part 1 on the PS5 has instantly become the best way to play Naughty Dog’s seminal game. In terms of both gameplay and story, Part 1 is a very conservative upgrade, but though the experience remains largely unchanged, it does tweak the occasional thing to add yet another layer of polish to the game. On the visuals front, meanwhile, the remake represents a massive jump, bringing The Last of Us up to the level of modern-day releases. While it may not be an essential purchase for many, for those who’re desperate to dive back into its post-apocalyptic world, it’s easy to recommend.
LEGO STAR WARS: THE SKYWALKER SAGA
LEGO Star Wars: The Skywalker Saga changes up the long-running series’ gameplay formula in several key ways, but at the same time, it ensures to keep the simplicity and straightforward enjoyment of that formula intact- and it strikes the perfect balance in doing that. Whether you’re engaging in combat, exploring the game’s many massive maps, blowing up ships, or tacking the multitude of puzzles you’ll run into, The Skywalker Saga manages to perfectly toe the line between being approachable and being genuinely engaging. Add to that a healthy dose of Star Wars fan service and charming humour, and what you get is a meaty package that’s guaranteed to keep you entertained no matter how much time you spend with it.
A PLAGUE TALE: REQUIEM
A Plague Tale: Requiem is a wonderful example of how much games can benefit from choosing to be focused rather than sprawling, even more so than its predecessor was. From the game’s first moment until it last, it keeps things moving forward at an excellent pace, weaving together its well-told story with solidly built and engaging gameplay mechanics in perfect harmony. One moment you’re witnessing a touching moment between Amicia and Hugo, the next you’re stealthily creeping through bushes while avoiding murderous, armed soldiers, and the next, you’re running for your life as a massive horde of plague rats chases you. A Plague Tale: Requiem maintains its excellent pacing with admirable consistency, to the extent where you almost begin taking it for granted. That, above all else, is the mark of an excellent game.
GOD OF WAR RAGNAROK
The God of War franchise never has never failed to up the ante for all action-adventure games as a whole with its new instalments, even going back to its Greek era, and true to tradition, God of War Ragnarok sets a new benchmark for the entire industry. It’s a masterpiece in more ways than one. Players who’re looking for a deep, thrilling combat system will find it here. Those who want a vast and sprawling adventure with rewarding exploration and excellent side quests won’t be disappointed either. If story and storytelling are the main things that drive you to games, God of War Ragnarok knocks the ball out of the park on that front as well, more often than not. From top to bottom, this game is an astounding achievement, and one that we’ll be talking about for many years to come.
Of the many games we’re speaking about here, Soulstice might perhaps be the one that has the most rough edges, and there are certainly issues with the game that do bring down the experience in noticeable ways (like its occasionally frustrating camera, for instance). Where the game really makes its mark is with its combat, which emulates character action games of the 2000s in some truly impressive ways. That fast, slick action is always a blast on a very fundamental level, while special praise also has to go to how surprisingly meaty the game is. For fans of the genre, Soulstice is well worth a look.
Tango Gameworks has been a big name in the horror genre for quite some time now, but having established itself as such with the two Evil Within games, the developer delivered something different this year with Ghostwire: Tokyo. The first person action-adventure title certainly has a spooky vibe, but it’s not really about the scares. Front and center here is the combat, which takes the bones of a first person shooter and applies a layer of explosive magic on top of that framework. That combat and other aspects of the game – like the open world, for instance – aren’t game-breaking by any means, but once you dive into its eerie rendition of Tokyo, it’s hard to pull yourself back out.
PlatinumGames is the kind of studio that can miss the mark pretty significantly with some of its games- this very year, we got a prime example of that in Babylon’s Fall. With Bayonetta, however, the studio always sticks the landing. Bayonetta 3 follows in the footsteps of its predecessors and delivers an astounding action game, boasting incredible mechanical depth that rewards players for really getting to grips with the stylish combat. Obliterating hordes of enemies in typically ridiculous and over-the-top action doesn’t ever lose any of its luster either, and even if you’re unimpressed with the story (which you probably will be), you’re compelled to keep on playing- because it’s just that much fun. Here’s hoping we don’t have to wait as long for Bayonetta 4 as we had to for this one, because this is a series that just never fails to impress.
Old-school action titles like the older God of War games have become something of a rarity in today’s day and age, with the genre having evolved beyond that style of gameplay, but Evil West proves that there’s still plenty of experience left in that sort of an experience. A straightforward, focused, stylish action game- above all else, that’s what Evil West is. It combines punchy melee combat and satisfying shooting mechanics with excellent enemy design and thrilling boss fights, all set against the backdrop of a dark fantasy wild west setting that does more than enough to pull you into the world. Games often find it easy to balance their old-school sensibilities with modern design, but Evil West deserves a lot of praise for how well it does that.
An ordinary cat stuck in an extraordinary situation, caught in the middle of a dystopian cyberpunk post-apocalyptic society where androids fear for their lives and hide from face-sucking parasites. With a premise like that, it’s impossible not to get your head instantly turned by Stray, and it’s even more gratifying to see that premise done justice as well as it is here. And it does that not just through its storytelling, but from a gameplay perspective as well- Stray’s gameplay is always simple and straightforward, but it’s also always a lot of fun, not least because of how dedicated the game is to encouraging players to do things that a cat would do, and how it would do them. The fact that those almost always bring a smile to your face is, of course, a huge bonus as well.
There’s no telling how long it’ll be before Nintendo decides to make another Zelda game following the series’ older design philosophies, but at least indies have stepped up to the plate to fill that void with their own takes on the formula. Last year, we got Death’s Door, and this year, it was Tunic’s turn- and what a game it is. Tunic boasts incredible level design that combines rewarding exploration with an excellent blend of combat and puzzles, while its visual style never fail to dazzle either. What makes it really stand out, however, it the unique way it tells the story of its world, and how central that feels to the mechanics of the game. Tunic may not be a AAA heavy-hitter, but in more ways than one, it stands toe-to-toe with some of the year’s best offerings.
GOD OF WAR RAGNAROK
SIE Santa Monica Studio’s reinvention of God of War in 2018 has already gone down in history as a legendary game. Not many developers would have had quality to follow-up on something like that with a game that not only equals its predecessor, but even improves upon it. That, of course, is exactly what God of War Ragnarok does. It’s much more of an evolution than a revolution, for obvious purposes, but having that foundation greatly benefits the game, because the quality of everything from the combat to the exploration to the side quests and so much more takes such a significant leap forward from what was already an impressive starting point. This is a series that has delivered generation-defining action-adventure games time and time again over the years, and God of War Ragnarok still manages to rank as one of its best outings ever. That should tell you everything you need to know about how good the game is.