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Hidden Game Gems You Missed In 2022

2022 has been an excellent year for video games. "God of War" jumped to PC, and long-awaited titles such as "Horizon Forbidden West" and "Elden Ring" finally released, but the year isn't over yet — and those are just the AAA games that got the most attention and marketing bucks. However, they aren't the only games in town.

Plenty of video games either fly under the radar or are quickly forgotten after launch. One might assume these games don't receive much attention because they aren't great, but in many cases, that couldn't be further from the truth. Not only are numerous non-AAA games fun, polished experiences that belie their smaller budgets and studio sizes, but many of these titles surpass their AAA brethren — not that many people notice. These gems can often remain hidden from the larger gaming community and attract far less attention than they deserve. Does that really sound fair when multi-billion dollar AAA titles such as "Battlefield 2042" get all the ads, only to release in buggy and unplayable states that players hate?

Here are some of the best hidden gems that have been released this year.

Nobody Saves the World

Have you ever thought "The Legend of Zelda" could do with some classes and RPG progression mechanics? For example, did you ever want Link to be able to use a bow, but not his sword (or vice versa)? Nintendo has yet to produce a game like that, but DrinkBox Studios, the team behind "Guacamelee," did.

In "Nobody Saves the World," players control a nobody — literally. The protagonist has no distinguishing features or memories; they're a blank slate. Their only ability is the power to shape-shift into various forms and learn associated skills, and only because they "stole" a wand. "Nobody Saves the World" is filled with the kind of humor gamers have come to expect from DrinkBox Studios, but these forms are the game's main draw.

As players progress through the game's procedurally generated dungeons, they unlock new forms, each with their own quests associated with the new shape's abilities. The game provides a constant feedback loop of earning a new form, acquiring quests, and rewarding players with still more forms and powers. Gamers can even mix and match forms and abilities to create wacky and overpowered builds.

In most games, once a quest is complete, players earn rewards that only stay relevant for a while, but in "Nobody Saves the World," new quests are the rewards, which is more fun than it sounds.

  • Release Date: January 18, 2022
  • Genre: Action, Adventure, RPG
  • Game Modes: Single-player, local multiplayer, online multiplayer
  • Metacritic Score: 79 (PC), 84 (Nintendo Switch), 79 (Xbox Series X), 76 (PS5)

Shadow Warrior 3

If you were to ask a gamer to name an FPS franchise that's existed since the 90s, most would probably answer "Doom" and "Wolfenstein." However, these aren't the only options. "Shadow Warrior" is also a viable response, and while the original version never received as much attention as the other two, its 2013 reboot ironically has. It even did well enough to greenlight two sequels.

"Shadow Warrior 3" is a fast and furious shooter that stars Lo Wang (yes, that is a double entendre). The game thrusts players into a wide selection of levels where they have to shoot all manner of demons. Mobility is the name of the game, as players have to stay on the move to stay alive. Plus, many arenas are littered with booby traps that can be shot to tear through demonic hordes — or players if they aren't careful.

"Shadow Warrior 3" shares some DNA with "Doom Eternal," but it isn't just an overblown clone. For instance, Lo Wang is the exact opposite of the Doom Slayer; he's cocky, headstrong, and talks more than Deadpool. But at the same time, Wang is an excellent (and relatable) protagonist because he's vulnerable and makes mistakes. Plus, he can rip out demons' innards and use them as weapons.

To put it bluntly, anyone who enjoyed "Doom Eternal" will probably love "Shadow Warrior 3."

  • Release Date: March 1, 2022
  • Genre: Action, Adventure, FPS
  • Game Modes: Single-player only
  • Metacritic Score: 71 (PC), 76 (Xbox Series X), 63 (PS4)

Infernax

Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, but what happens when someone imitates a game audiences widely regard as bad? They usually end up improving it. At its core, "Infernax" is everything "Castlevania 2: Simon's Quest" set out to be, but more and better.

"Infernax" is a pixelated metroidvania title that stars the knight Alcedor (or whatever players decide to name him). Like other entries in the genre, players can level up and improve Alcedor's skills, but unlike most metroidvanias, players can make choices that impact the narrative. Depending on what gamers do, Alcedor can end up a martyr, a new duke of hell, or even a time-displaced warrior wielding a holy assault rifle. Yes, the game can get ridiculous as it channels the 90s machismo cheese of its inspirations.

While "Infernax" doesn't do anything new, everything it does is polished. Combat is challenging and rewarding, and platforming sections test players' skills without testing their patience. Plus, the game is a treat for the eyes and ears thanks to its appealing faux 8-bit pixel artstyle, earworm soundtrack, and disgusting-yet-tasteful gore and body horror. "Infernax" might homage the retro games many people grew up with, but it more than earns its "M" rating.

  • Release Date: February 14, 2022
  • Genre: Action, Adventure, RPG
  • Game Modes: Single-player only
  • Metacritic Score: 84 (PC), 84 (Nintendo Switch), 81 (Xbox Series X), 83 (PS4)

Dawn of the Monsters

On one hand, movies about kaiju (aka. giant, city-destroying monsters) are more popular than ever. Fans have received more "Godzilla" movies in the past five years than the franchise saw in the decade prior. But on the other hand, kaiju video games are experiencing a drought. Where are all the kaiju brawlers like "Rampage" or "Godzilla: Destroy All Monsters Melee?" Well, one released earlier this year.

"Dawn of the Monsters" is a throwback to old school beat 'em ups with a manga flair. However, instead of fighting the evil gang members and punks from titles such as "Streets of Rage," "Dawn of the Monsters" draws from the deep well of kaiju media. While every character and monster design is original, they all take clear inspiration from properties such as "Ultraman" and "Godzilla."

Much of the game's appeal comes from the simple pleasure of watching (or in this case, controlling) the giant fighting monsters. "Dawn of the Monsters" boils down to walking from left to right, beating up opponents, and destroying the environment in the process. The combat system, while seemingly simple, has plenty of depth and encourages players to fight strategically (with just a tinge of reckless abandon).

"Dawn of the Monsters" is a complete experience that speaks to the caveman portion of our brains that just loves flashy destruction.

  • Release Date: March 15, 2022
  • Genre: Action, Adventure Beat 'em Up
  • Game Modes: Single-player, Local multiplayer
  • Metacritic Score: 81 (Nintendo Switch), 76 (PS5)

Sifu

Kung-fu films are pure power fantasy. Deep down, everyone wishes they could take on armies of faceless goons as an untouchable flurry of fists and feet. But how does a studio properly translate that feeling into video game form? "Sifu" found a way.

"Sifu" is a gorgeous beat 'em up that stars a nameless martial artist on a quest for revenge against the people who killed his sifu, or mentor. During his journey, the main character busts drug rings, beats up powerful bosses with supernatural powers, and looks cool while doing so.

The main appeal of "Sifu" lies in its presentation and roguelike nature. Thanks to beautiful animations and fight choreography that nail the kung-fu flick feel, the game is a masterpiece in motion. However, animations are nothing without engrossing gameplay, and critics found that "Sifu" delivers on that front, too. The game utilizes a novel death mechanic where each time the main character is defeated, they resurrect and grow older, trading some health for stronger attacks. Resurrect too many times, and the protagonist truly dies and has to start the level over. This system challenges players to memorize enemy attacks and unlock shortcuts in order to remain as young as possible, which is as challenging as it is fun.

"Sifu" is a must for kung-fu lovers and roguelike fanatics alike.

  • Release Date: February 8, 2022
  • Genre: Action, Fighting
  • Game modes: Single-player only
  • Metacritic Score: 79 (PC), 71 (PS4), 81 (PS5)

Pupperazzi

"Pokemon Snap" is a beloved classic title that lets players shoot Pokemon...with a camera. The game inspired a generation of shutterbugs who desired more opportunities to film the daily lives of digital animals. Gamers got a second chance with 2021's "New Pokemon Snap," and a third chance with 2022's "Pupperazzi."

"Pupperazzi" has one of the simplest game premises of all time: photograph cute dogs. That's it. Well, players can also take requests from NPCs and snap specific photos, as well as interact with the puppers in a myriad of ways, from feeding them to tossing frisbees. And yes, gamers can pet the dogs, because that might as well be a law at this point.

At its core, "Pupperazzi" is a relaxing experience. You aren't trying to rescue a litter of puppies from an evil dressmaker or save the world or anything. You're just here to take pictures of puppies, nothing more. Of course, you have to line up the shots and time them perfectly, but the process of doing so is just so wholesome and calming. The experience provides a zen you don't get in most games, aside from the "Pokemon Snap" titles — but those are Nintendo exclusives. Meanwhile, "Pupperazzi" is available on Xbox and PC.

  • Release Date: January 20, 2022
  • Genre: Action, Casual
  • Game Modes: Single-player only
  • Metacritic Score: 70 (PC), 66 (Xbox One)

Neon White

Many gamers love to give themselves an extra challenge by speedrunning. It's nice to stop and smell the flowers, but it's also fun to see how quickly you can finish a title through skill and by taking advantage of cracks in the game's code. This fascination with speeding through adventures has resulted in many studios producing titles based around the concept, the latest of which is "Neon White."

In this game, players control the assassin known only as Neon White. He may be dead and burning in hell, but heaven needs him to deal with a demonic infestation. However, Neon White isn't the only one on extermination duty. Heaven also enlisted several other assassins to participate in an contest to see who can wipe out the most demons, with the grand prize winner receiving an all-expense paid stay in heaven. Not a bad motivation, all things considered.

Gameplay combines speedrunning and on-the-fly deckbuilding. As players dash through levels, they pick up cards that represent various firearms. Gamers can use these guns as, well, guns, but they can also discard the items for different movement boosts, such as a double jump and dash. "Neon White" levels are short, blazingly-fast puzzles that force players to strategize when to shoot a firearm and when to discard it for some speed. Plus, leaderboards and in-game rewards tempt gamers to perfect their runs and shave milliseconds off their records.

Simply put, "Neon White" is speedrunner heaven.

  • Release Date: January 16, 2022
  • Genre: Action, Adventure, FPS
  • Game Modes: Single-player only
  • Metacritic Score: 88 (PC), 87 (Nintendo Switch)

Weird West

The Wild West is a popular setting, since many consider the time and region to be a tough place where one took the law into their own hands. The oft-forgotten flipside to this backdrop is the Weird West, which is just the Wild West but with witches, werewolves, and other supernatural phenomenon. The most famous example of this mash-up is probably "Red Dead Redemption: Undead Nightmare," but 2022 saw a new contender..

Unlike most video games, "Weird West" follows several protagonists, each with their own dedicated chapter. Players get to control a bounty hunter, a werewolf, a witch, a pigman (a cursed man with a pig's head), and a Native American. Each character has their own abilities, and depending on the choices players make, gamers can bump into these characters in later chapters as either allies or enemies.

Even though "Weird West" isn't an open-world game, it sure feels like one. The genre's simulation aspect is in full effect thanks to various in-game systems. For instance, if enemies run away while in combat, they might never return or can come back with a posse, seeking revenge. On that same token, the NPCs players save could show up randomly to save the day. These mechanics, in addition to the aforementioned morality system, make the world of "Weird West" feel just as lived-in as any robust open-world title.

  • Release Date: March 31, 2022
  • Genre: Action, Adventure, Simulation, RPG
  • Game Modes: Single-player only
  • Metacritic Score: 76 (PC), 81 (Xbox One), 73 (PS4)

Anno: Mutionem

"Cyberpunk 2077" was touted as the open-ended cyberpunk action RPG, but upon release, the game failed to live up to hype — or the standards of contemporary titles. You wouldn't expect an indie game to do what "Cyberpunk 2077" could not, but "Anno: Mutationem" is all about defying expectations.

"Anno: Mutationem" is the story of Ann, a "lone wolf" on a mission to find her missing brother. On her quest, Ann is aided by her hacker friend Ayane as they explore an anime-fueled dystopian megacity populated by all sorts of weird and wild denizens.

Freedom and openness are the lifeblood of "Anno: Mutationem." The game gives players an end goal, but how they go about reaching it is up to them. Do they eavesdrop on bar patrons or beat the answers out of criminals? The world of "Anno: Mutationem" feels alive and is full of side activities and alleyways begging to be explored. While the standard cyberpunk tropes of corporate corruption, mutants, and rogue AI hide around every corner, the game is also full of more unusual concepts, such as cat-shaped car ads and cyber corgis. The main content and side missions weave together into a living world that draws players in and encourages them to learn more about the dystopian city and how it came to be.

In a nutshell "Anno: Mutationem" is everything "Cyberpunk 2077" wanted to be but more and better, complete with an attractive anime aesthetic.

  • Release Date: March 16, 2022
  • Genre: Action, Adventure, RPG
  • Game Modes: Single-player only
  • Metacritic Score: 71 (PC), 71 (PS5)

LumbearJack

Many puzzle games are designed to challenge pattern recognition and critical thinking centers of players' brains. Others, like "LumbearJack," just want to give gamers a fun, easy time that tickles the logic centers of their brains without straining them.

"LumbearJack" is a pretty on-the-nose title since the game stars a bear lumberjack. But instead of cutting down trees, he cuts down the buildings of an evil corporation that wants to bulldoze his forest. Throughout the game, players can save all manner of friendly forest critters and upgrade (and occasionally replace) LumbearJack's axe, which is used to smash objects and solve puzzles.

While games such as "Dark Souls" demonstrate the benefits of intense difficulty, "LumbearJack" displays the advantages of the opposite. The game's puzzles, combined with its simple art-style, deliver a laid-back experience that lets audiences unwind. "LumbearJack" is designed as a fun, relaxing experience that also gives its players a sense of accomplishment, because who doesn't love freeing cute animals from cages?

"LumbearJack" might not be a long game, but it's fun for all ages, as well as the perfect digital palette cleanser.

  • Release Date: June 11, 2022
  • Genre: Casual, Puzzle
  • Game Modes: Single-player only
  • Metacritic Score: N/A

Trek to Yomi

"Ghost of Tsushima" is a beloved samurai epic inspired by the real Mongol invasion of the Isle of Tsushima, as well as the works of film director Akira Kurosawa. The game even sports a "Kurosawa Mode" that washes the world in a grainy, black and white color filter that mimics his films. However, "Ghost of Tsushima" isn't the only game that pays homage to the filmmaker and his seminal samurai flicks.

"Trek to Yomi" is a 2D sidescroller that stars Hiroki, a samurai on a quest to avenge his dead master, which he does through a simple combat system that focuses on proper timing and positioning. The combat is not flashy, but it isn't underwhelming, either, as death comes fast and frequently to players who button-mash their way through levels. The system gets the job done, since the focus of "Trek to Yomi" is on the narrative.

"Trek to Yomi" looks the part of a Kurosawa film, but it also plays out like one. Storytelling is the game's biggest strength, as the dialogue is well-written and the narrative keeps audiences guessing. What seems like a straightforward story about revenge twists and turns around numerous corners, and nothing is ever as it seems. "Trek to Yomi" successfully tricks players into thinking it is something it is not up until the very end.

  • Release Date: May 5, 2022
  • Genre: Action, Adventure
  • Game Modes: Single-player only
  • Metacritic Score: 71 (PC), 72 (Xbox Series X), 69 (PS5)

Silt

Games such as "Limbo" and "Inside" demonstrated the power of minimalism. Who needs a big, open (and possibly empty) world to draw in players in when all you need is a small, 2D landscape stuffed full of detail and monochrome terrors? "Silt" continues that tradition, along with a large helping of thalassophobia.

In "Silt," players control a scuba diver — or do they control some entity possessing the scuba diver? The game is intentionally unclear (which is part of its charm), but whatever force animates the diver can also possess nearby sea creatures to solve puzzles. Players can use piranhas to chew through vines and chains, electric eels to power up long-dead machines, and stingrays to...teleport through objects?

"Silt" is a fairly easy experience. Puzzles only require players to make use of their immediate environments, and death sends gamers back a few minutes at most. However, the atmosphere more than makes up for that and slams audiences with an underwater horror landscape. Every level is overgrown and full of terrifying (and terrifyingly large) bioluminescent creatures that emit an unearthly glow. The world expertly makes gamers think they are encroaching on unwelcoming, hostile caverns best left forgotten.

Even if you don't suffer from thalassophobia, "Silt" might give you some.

OlliOlli World

The skateboarding genre was arguably at its height during the "Tony Hawk's Pro Skater" era, but as time went on, audiences lost interest. While "Tony Hawk's Pro Skater 1 + 2" temporarily revitalized the genre, that return to form was short-lived. If it weren't for the "OlliOlli" franchise and its latest entry, quality skateboarding video games might have grinded their last rail.

"OlliOlli World" is the third entry in the "OlliOlli" series. The game keeps the level-based progression of its predecessors while adopting a more cartoonish art-style and narrative. However, this new attitude is mostly skin deep. Players still need to chain together tricks, grinds, and kickflips to complete challenges and proceed through levels, but this time around boarding arenas that are more colorful and in 2.5D. Most levels have an alternate "gnarly route" that dials the difficulty up to 11, but you know what they say: No guts, no glory.

At first, getting a handle on "OlliOlli World" and its systems seems challenging, but the longer you play, the more in-tune you become. The game elicits a "one more try" mentality that sees players improving their scores, nailing tricks they couldn't earlier, and grinding on rails they previously missed. Inevitably, gamers find themselves in a zen-like state of focus and tranquility, chaining together tricks in skateboard nirvana.

Total War: Warhammer 3

The "Total War" franchise is an acclaimed series of strategy games that let players channel their inner general and control vast historical armies. However, the franchise is at its best when it ditches historical accuracy and lets gamers run rampant as the commander of vampires, dwarves, and Aztec dinosaurs.

The name "Total War: Warhammer 3" is a bit of a misnomer, since the game isn't so much a sequel as it is an expansion that adds to the preexisting "Total War: Warhammer" experience. The previous entry, "Total War: Warhammer 2," added story campaigns for each army, as well as additional factions such as the High Elves and Skaven (rat people that overwhelm enemies with sheer numbers and guns). "Warhammer 3" does the same, as it includes a long-awaited tutorial, game system reworks, and most importantly more new armies. At long last, players can finally control fan-favorite factions, most notably four flavors of Chaos Daemons. And, each army plays differently and features their own campaign mechanics.

Unfortunately, "Total War: Warhammer 3" is rough. When the game works, it works brilliantly, and players can witness bloody, large-scale battles. When it doesn't, visual glitches and AI pathing mistakes abound. That's not to say you shouldn't buy the game, though. "Total War: Warhammer 1" and "2" both released broken, but the developers patched bugs and provided quality of life improvements. Now those games are fantastic, and history will most assuredly repeat itself with the latest edition.

  • Release Date: February 17, 2022
  • Genre: Action, Strategy
  • Game Modes: Single-player, online multiplayer
  • Metacritic Score: 86 (PC)