With games, release dates have long been more of a suggestion than a firm commitment. You know how every big movie of the last two years has been pushed back multiple times due to Covid? Games have always been like that. Delays are a constant, expected part of the game development cycle, and something all players have long gotten used to. I wouldn’t be surprised if half the games on the list below don’t actually come out in 2022, and not just the ones that don’t have an official release date yet. (Yes, I’m talking about Starfield. I’d legitimately be shocked if that makes its November release date.) So you should always take lists like this with a massive grain of salt. We know some of the games that are expected to come out this year, but many of those will get bumped to 2023 or beyond; meanwhile, many exciting and excellent games that will rank high in our 2022 year-end list aren’t even on our radar yet, and probably won’t be until they’re actually out. That’s how this whole thing goes. Our list of the most anticipated games of 2022 isn’t in any way an authoritative preview; it’s merely a snapshot of what we think, to our best knowledge as of Jan. 6, 2022, will be some pretty good games coming out this year.
Release Date: Feb. 25, 2022
Platforms: PlayStation 5, Xbox Series X|S, PC, Xbox One, PlayStation 4
The long-awaited collaboration between From Software (the studio behind the Dark Souls franchise) and Game of Thrones creator George R. R. Martin is finally coming out in February. We played a little bit of Elden Ring during a “closed network test” last year, and the similarities between it and Dark Souls are unmistakable: the combat is weighty and deliberate; the way you collect and lose the game’s currency resembles the souls system; and if you attack somebody you shouldn’t, like that merchant I tried to roll early in the test, you’re basically screwed, as that pissed off NPC will just kill you dead anytime you get near it. I didn’t see a lot of Elden Ring’s world, but early on in the test there was a great reveal moment of the game world’s landscape that almost felt like Breath of the Wild more than a Souls game—like it was pulling the curtain apart and letting you see the massive space you were about to adventure through. And then I died, like, 50 times right after that. The appeal of this team-up between two fantasy masters is that perhaps Martin will be able to graft a slightly less oblique story than what From’s games are typically known for; we’ll see how well that works out when Elden Ring comes out in February.
Release Date: Feb. 18, 2022
Platforms: PlayStation 5, PlayStation 4
I remember sitting in an E3 demo of Horizon Zero Dawn in 2016 and feeling singularly unmoved by almost everything about it. Everything about the post-apocalyptic action game seemed uninspired and overly familiar, and the lackluster track record of its developers, who were behind the Killzone series, didn’t really help. Our initial review for Paste reflected some of my concerns, and so I never bothered to play it myself. As the years passed, though, Horizon’s stature started to grow; even our critic came to like it more than her original review indicated. I’m finally giving Zero Dawn a shot in advance of its upcoming sequel, and I can confirm that it’s an exciting game so far. Horizon Forbidden West should be out in the middle of February—one week before Elden Ring—and I’m far more interested in this one than I was Zero Dawn when it came out.
Release Date: TBA
Will Breath of the Wild 2 actually come out in 2022? We have no idea. That’s Nintendo’s current goal, but they’ve never been shy about delaying games in hopes of getting them just right. The follow-up to one of the greatest and most influential games ever made is the rare Zelda that’s a true sequel, picking up on the same Hyrule and the same versions of Link and Zelda that we met when the Switch launched five years ago. The original struck a perfect balance between action, mystery, and exploration; it’s a true epic that lets you dictate the pace, never pushing or cajoling you into any specific direction, and content to let its story gradually unravel for you at your own time. I can’t imagine the sequel will feel as ground-breaking as the original, but I also have no doubt that it’ll be as fun and fascinating to play as the first one. Hopefully Breath of the Wild 2 comes out in 2022, and if not, well, I’ll be doing another one of these columns this time a year from now, and will have no problem writing about this one for a third year in a row.
Release Date: TBA
Platforms: Switch, PlayStation 5, PlayStation 4, PC
It’s been several years since the release of Oxenfree, an adventure game that was inspired equally by YA lit and mystery series like Lost. Most of its designers have returned to work on the sequel, Oxenfree 2: Lost Signals, which more deeply explores the core mystery of the original. Its characters, slightly older than the original’s high school students, are researching unexplained phenomena in a town near the island setting of the first game, and come into contact with a forbidding group of masked cultists who are deliberately trying to open the same kind of temporal rip that threatened Oxenfree’s characters. The first game was a well-written adventure with legitimate emotional depth, and hopefully the sequel can carry on that tradition.
Release Date: TBA
Platforms: PlayStation 5, Xbox Series X|S, Switch, PC
I loved A Plague Tale: Innocence. It was one of my favorite games of 2019, and remains one of the best games of the last few years. One of the rarest attributes in videogames is originality, and here’s a game that’s a true original—one set in the Middle Ages, during the plague, with little combat, and a story that parallels the corruption of church and state with the rise of the black death. Seriously, it’s on Game Pass, go play it if you haven’t. It’s now getting a sequel, which should be out in 2022, and although A Plague Tale: Requiem obviously won’t feel as original as Innocence, I’m interested to see how Asobo Studio can expand on both the mechanics and the emotional impact of the first game. We should find out some time this year.
Release Date: Feb. 8, 2022
Platforms: PlayStation 5, PlayStation 4, PC
I won’t lie: I wasn’t that aware of Sifu until Moises Taveras previewed it for Paste last month. I’m glad Moises hipped me to what looks like one hell of a stylish beat ‘em up, and one that takes clear inspiration from movies without trying too hard to be a movie itself. Too often games that want to be “cinematic” get weighed down with unnecessarily long cut-scenes or camera angles and plot points that hew too closely to specific movies. Sifu appears to pay tribute to the kung fu revenge flicks that inspired it without ripping them off, while also trying to incorporate a cinematic language within its actual mechanics, and not just in cut-scenes. Add in a novel aging system, where your character ages (and thus becomes weaker) after every “death,” and you’ve got one of the more promising games of 2022.
Release Date: TBA
Yes, Nintendo’s colorful multiplayer paintball shooter is an absolute blast to play, whether you’re with friends or strangers. It’s also keenly focused on the details, though, in the way you’d expect from a Nintendo game. Part of Splatoon’s appeal is the unique world the game is set in; it combines street fashion, pop music, Japanese youth culture, and an almost mythical century-old war with a race of octopi into a vibrant and timely setting that feels like nothing else Nintendo has ever made. I love Nintendo but you usually wouldn’t use the word “cool” to describe its games, and yet that totally fits with Splatoon. Splatoon 3 promises to delve into how all the mammals (save one lazy cat who’s somehow over 10,000 years old) disappeared from this world, so fans of Splatoon lore are anxiously awaiting this one. No release date has been set, and it’s always possible it’ll be delayed out of 2022, but hopefully we’ll be splatting it up on our Switches again some time this year.
Release Date: Nov. 11, 2022
Platforms: Xbox Series X/S, PC
Not a lot is known about Starfield, a new action RPG from the folks behind The Elder Scrolls and the first-person Fallout games. Even if it just takes the standard Bethesda RPG structure and drops it into a sci-fi story, we’d be intrigued; for all their flaws, games like Skyrim and Fallout 4 remain some of the most engrossing and entertaining games we’ve ever played, and we’d be all for a sci-fi twist on that formula. Starfield will also be the first major Bethesda game to be an Xbox exclusive after Microsoft bought the studio and its publisher.
Release Date: TBA
Platforms: PlayStation 5, PC
Like Breath of the Wild, Stray is making this list for the second year in a row. Unlike Breath of the Wild, which is the close sequel to one of the greatest games ever made, we have little to go on with Stray beyond its premise and a couple of trailers. It’s got a concept we believe in, though: a stray cat has to make its way through a post-human city ruled by robots and find its family. We’re down for any game in which we play as a cat, and the dystopian puzzle business is just the icing on the cake with this one.
Release Date: March 16, 2022
Platforms: Xbox Series X|S, Xbox One, PC
Tunic, an adorable adventure inspired by the early Zelda games, is expected to come out in March after a long period of development. It makes sense that it took a while to complete, though: it’s the work of one designer, Andrew Shouldice, who’s been laboring on it since 2015. The early Zelda influence is obvious, between the green tunic of its fox hero and the isometric view (you can make it top-down if you really want that NES Zelda feel). Tunic isn’t on this list out of nostalgia, though; we love a good adventure, one that slowly grows and unravels as you get deeper into it, almost as much as we love adorable foxes with swords.
Senior editor Garrett Martin writes about videogames, comedy, travel, theme parks, wrestling, and anything else that gets in his way. He’s also on Twitter @grmartin.