While December is historically a quiet month for the video game industry, that was not the case in 2022. Delays caused several AAA games to launch in the final month of the year, while some charming indie titles also tried to carve out a spot for themselves in what would turn out to be a surprisingly busy month. While a couple of this month’s releases were hit-and-miss, the December 2022 game lineup featured a diverse array of experiences that will please players of all kinds across all platforms.
In particular, seven titles stood out to us most throughout December. From an ambitious Marvel RPG to a simulator 20 years in the making, these are the games released in December 2022 that you should check out.
Marvel’s Midnight Suns
Superhero games aren’t a rarity nowadays, but few are as ambitious as Marvel’s Midnight Suns. Created by the former XCOM team at Firaxis Games, this is a full-blown Marvel RPG where players can spend a lot of time getting to know characters from the Avengers and beyond. On top of that, battles are fun turn-based strategy affairs where cards are used to perform special abilities, and players can explore a large open world around their Abbey home base in-between missions. At 40-plus hours, it’s a long game that takes a while to get going, but any Marvel fan will appreciate the solid worldbuilding and deep gameplay once they get into its rhythm.
“Even at a time where Marvel is more popular than ever, Marvel’s Midnight Suns finds a way to stand out by going the extra mile,” I wrote in a four-star review of Marvel’s Midnight Suns. “The boring level design and issues with Abbey exploration can dampen an otherwise fantastic experience, but my appreciation for these characters and the well-thought-out nature of the card-based combat encouraged me to play until the final hours.”
By finding a middle ground between XCOM 2, Persona 5, and Slay the Spire, Firaxis created a game that has all of the hallmarks of a solid Marvel experience, but in a way that still feels fresh. It’s worth checking out if you are a fan of Marvel, card games, strategy games, or RPGs. Marvel’s Midnight Suns is available now for PC, PlayStation 5, and Xbox Series X/S, and is in development for PS4, Xbox One, and Nintendo Switch.
Need for Speed Unbound
Need for Speed Unbound’s launch earlier this month might have been muted, but that has no bearing on the game’s quality. While its trying-way-to-hard-to-be-hip dialogue will get on your nerves after a while, this is a fun street racing game with a wide selection of cars, lots of customization, and tough AI opponents. Those latter three elements always make for an entertaining racer, and Need for Speed Unbound sticks out even further thanks to its distinct cel-shaded art style.
“The racer eventually hits its limits due to sometimes cringe-inducing writing and repetitive objects, but the ride there packs in a lot of fun,” my three-and-a-half star Need for Speed Unbound review explains. “Need for Speed Unbound is surprisingly challenging, making each race important and engaging, and it has a lot of style. During this gap between Gran Turismo 7 and next spring’s Forza Motorsport, this open-world racer refuels a series that has been running on fumes.”
While you’ll get the most out of Need for Speed Unbound in single-player, it also features an open-world multiplayer mode for those who want to race around a city based on Chicago with their friends. There haven’t been any major racing game releases this fall, so this game thankfully fills that void quite nicely. Need for Speed Unbound is available now for PC, PS5, and Xbox Series X/S.
High on Life
Rick and Morty creator Justin Roiland’s game studio Squanch Games just launched High on Life, a Metroid Prime-inspired sci-fi shooter where every weapon can talk (and spout quips). It’s a comedy game first and foremost, so your mileage will vary depending on your sense of humor. Thankfully, it’s also fun to play.
“Like Rick and Morty’s Pickle Rick episode, High on Life doesn’t build to a grand punch line,” Giovanni Colantonio writes in his three-and-a-half star review of High on Life. “It’s more focused on those immediate hits of fun that’ll keep players entertained in the moment — you probably remember “I’m Pickle Rick!” clearer than any actual plot details of that episode. Satisfying combat, smooth traversal, and a smattering of hilarious vignettes make for an admirable adventure game whose individual parts are more memorable than the full picture.”
If you enjoy watching a good episode of Rick and Morty or playing Metroid Prime, High on Life is one of the more novel and refreshing releases this month. Comedy games are inherently divisive, but it’s nice to see Squanch push the boundaries of what humor in a video game can look like. High on Life is available now for PC, Xbox One, and Xbox Series X/S via Xbox Game Pass.
The Callisto Protocol
The Callisto Protocol, Glen Schofield’s spiritual successor to Dead Space, finally released this month. While reception has been mixed due to some tech issues and divisive combat, it still provides lots of scares, gross gore, and top-notch visuals on current-gen platforms. It’s a fairly short experience, so you should see everything the game has to offer in under 10 hours. It also features a star-studded cast featuring the likes of Josh Duhamel, Sam Witwer, and Karen Fukuhara.
“The Callisto Protocol does more than enough to scratch the Dead Space itch that’s been lingering for a decade,” Colantonio claims in his three-and-a-half-star review of The Callisto Protocol. “It’s familiar without feeling like a rehash, putting its own creative stamp on the horror genre. It’s not without its fleshy weak spots though, as overworked combat and performance instability leave room for the new IP to mutate into something more powerful down the line.”
For those looking for one more solid horror experience before the year ends, The Callisto Protocol provides that in abundance. Although it doesn’t seem like it will outright replace Dead Space in horror gamers’ hearts anytime soon, playing through the game seems like a nice way to whet your appetite ahead of the Dead Space remake’s release in January 2023. The Callisto Protocol is available now for PC, PS4, PS5, Xbox One, and Xbox Series X/S.
Retro-inspired JRPGs aren’t a new concept, but the games that get it right can be just as fun as the classics. Thankfully, Chained Echoes is a nice throwback RPG. Solid pixel art backs up interesting worldbuilding that blends fantasy and sci-fi, and the battle system centers around an Overdrive meter. Using attacks will fill the meter, and moving into a certain sweet spot will buff your attacks; use too many though, and you’ll overheat and get debuffed, forcing you to use attacks that move you back down the meter.
It’s a clever way to balance the risk-and-reward systems seen in RPGs like Bravely Default, but it also keeps things engaging as players aren’t locked to just one attack or battle option with Overdrive. Of course, lots of other gameplay elements, as well as a hefty amount of story and overworld exploration, keep this RPG experience fresh over time. For an RPG mostly made by one person, it’s quite impressive. Chained Echoes is out now for PC, Mac, Linux, PS4, Xbox One, and Nintendo Switch. The game is also available via Xbox Game Pass.
Dwarf Fortress is a 20-year-old game that’s never looked this good. It’s hard to explain in its entirety, but in essence, Dwarf Fortress is a fantasy simulation game where players build and manage a colony of dwarves. Its open-ended nature makes it a great simulator for emergent fantasy storytelling. Previously, Dwarf Fortress was a freeware game with minimalist ASCII graphics that gained a cult following as developer Bay 12 Games slowly updated it over the past 20 years.
This month, a version of the game with more contemporary graphics hit Steam and itch.io, making Dwarf Fortress more accessible than ever. It’s a very daunting game to get into because of its complex systems and overwhelming UI, but once you get the hang of it, it’s really hard to put down. Dwarf Fortress is available now for PC via Steam and itch.io.
Aka is the best chill and wholesome game of this month. Players control a red panda living its life in a tropical archipelago after fighting in a war. The game can get quite somber in tone at times, but it typically has a positive, reflective outlook on life. It balances relaxing exploration with crafting and gardening to create an experience that might not be groundbreaking, but is always entertaining. This is a cute little indie game that’s not getting that much attention, but it should be on your radar if you enjoy wholesome games, life and farming sims, or red pandas. Aka is available now for PC and Nintendo Switch.