The Xbox Series X and Xbox Series S’s second year on the market was rough. While the consoles continue to sell well and Xbox Game Pass is still a great deal, the delay of Redfall and Starfield into 2023 decimated the Xbox consoles’ first-party 2022 lineup. While the lack of heavy-hitting AAA titles might initially make a list like this seem frivolous, Xbox Series X and Xbox Series S still had quite a few compelling exclusives.
Many of these games are highly experimental, pushing the boundaries of narratives in video games. All of the titles launched on Xbox Game Pass on day one, highlighting the strength of that subscription service. If you have an Xbox Game Pass subscription or are just wondering what 2022 Xbox exclusives are worth playing, these seven console exclusives stand out.
One of the best games of the year, period, was an Xbox console exclusive. Immortality is a highly experimental game where players scrub through the footage and behind-the-scenes footage from three unreleased movies to uncover the secrets of actress Marissa Marcel. The production quality behind the three films is admirable, and the game utilizes a match-cut system that lets players transition between scenes by choosing objects shared between them to craft a horror mystery that will leave you on the edge of your seat. There’s a lot more than meets the eye with Immortality, making it a must-play experience.
Pentiment, a narrative RPG from first-party studio Obsidian Entertainment, is one of the most unique games Xbox Game Studios has ever released. It’s a narrative adventure game set in 1500s Europe where players must solve a series of murders plaguing a small, religious farming town. Its deft writing grapples with intriguing concepts like what influences art and the unintended legacies that art can leave behind. Even the minor dialogue choices can feel like they have long-lasting impacts on this game. Its distinct art style, inspired by the illuminated manuscripts that its protagonist Andreas draws, also helps the game stand out and ensures that Pentiment won’t be a game you’ll forget anytime soon.
One of the year’s best time-killer games is currently an Xbox console exclusive. Vampire Survivors is deceptively simple as the main goal is just to survive hordes of enemies slowly walking towards you with idly fired projectiles. Over time, though, as the hordes get bigger and the player has more weapons at their disposal, it becomes a highly satisfying spectacle of pixel art. Vampire Survivors is this year’s Loop Hero, and for a somewhat idle game, it does a great job getting the player involved with the action. If you want a simple but satisfying game that you can lose hours to, check out Vampire Survivors.
Obsidian Entertainment once again proved its value this year with Grounded, a survival game about kids who were shrunk down and are now stuck in a large backyard. The game, which exited early access this year, uses the unique survival game setting to the fullest. Small materials like plant fiber become necessary crafting materials, and insects like praying mantises become some of their biggest enemies. The survival game genre is a little played out at this point, but Grounded proves that there’s still life to be found with the right premise. It’s the best multiplayer experience you can only get on Xbox this year.
Somerville is a slow-paced, atmospheric puzzle platformer about a father trying to find his family during a post-apocalyptic alien invasion. Its executive producer is Dino Patti, who helped create the critically acclaimed Limbo at Inside at developer Playdead, and the influence of those games can be felt through Somerville. Although it doesn’t quite reach the same heights as Playdead’s best, it’s still an excellent atmospheric puzzle platformer with outstanding sound design. The adventure is short but consistently engaging as players take in the sounds and overall aesthetic of each area they visit and uncover the secrets of this alien threat.
Yet another Xbox Game Studios published narrative adventure game, As Dusk Falls, presents itself uniquely. It’s a choice-based adventure game that plays out through a series of high-quality painted images instead of fully animated or live-action scenes. It’s a bold choice that won’t work for everyone, but those who can get on board with the style will find that it allows them to engage with the narrative even more as you must fill in the gaps between images. On top of that, As Dusk Falls tells an engaging story about generational trauma that feels like it would work as a Netflix limited series. It’s one of the year’s more experimental games regarding presentation, so it’s worth checking out on Xbox Series X/S.
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