Now that we’re at the end of 2022, I’m taking the time to look back at the year and figure out what the theme was — and how we’ll remember this year in games when it’s long past.
If you look at many sites’ GOTY lists, you’ll see them all dominated by Elden Ring and God of War Ragnarok, but here on Nintendo Life, we’ve had a very different year. Two Pokémon games, a new 3D Kirby, Splatoon 3, Bayonetta 3, and Mario + Rabbids Sparks of Hope kept the exclusives and first-party fires burning on the ol’ Switch, and even though we didn’t get a full Mario or Zelda release this year, we got plenty of news about Tears of the Kingdom and the Super Mario Bros. Movie to tide us over.
Personally, I’m more of an indies gal when it comes down to it, and this year didn’t disappoint, even if many of the best indies on Switch were ports from previous years. I like to think that 2022 will be remembered as a year of weird-but-beautiful narrative-angled games that defy genre, like Neon White, Cult of the Lamb, Citizen Sleeper, and Card Shark, and even if we didn’t get other games in the same category — Immortality, Pentiment, and Case of the Golden Idol come to mind — I still think the Switch had a pretty fantastic year for indies.
Still, if I had to guess what 2022 will be remembered for, I think I already answered the question: two Pokémon games, which effectively bookended the year, with Legends: Arceus at the start and Scarlet and Violet at the end. Both were varying degrees of janky, but both elevated the series to new heights at the same time, and in a year that was bereft of Mario and Zelda, it makes sense that another one of the big dogs would take the spotlight.
These two games, for me at least, were a real coming home moment — the first time in a long time that I’ve actually wanted to play a Pokémon game to completion. For so long, the series has been about the same thing with different flavours; Arceus and ScarVi finally dared to take big steps into the great unknown, and despite a lot of technical flaws, the series is better for it.
And riffing off the themes of both of these behemoth Pokémon games, I suppose I could argue that 2022, five years on from Breath of the Wild, was all about freedom. The freedom to roam in ScarVi and Elden Ring, the freedom to explore in Xenoblade Chronicles 3, and even the non-linearity of Sonic Frontiers — I think we’re continuing to see game design ripples coming from the gigantic splash that Breath of the Wild made in 2017, and I don’t mind at all. A lot of games, AAA especially, benefitted this year from open worlds, and if studios can continue to get it right, games will be all the better for it.
But there could be a bigger, grander theme that I’m just not seeing, and so I turn to you, lovely readers. What do you think will be the “theme” of 2022? Is it different on Switch than other platforms? And what do you think next year will be all about, other than Zelda? Tell me in the comments!