17 Fantastic Games That Went Under The Radar In 2022

17 Fantastic Games That Went Under The Radar In 2022

Haven’t heard of any of these games before? Let’s fix that

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A triptych shows art from three recent games: Butterfly Soup 2, Railbound, and Betrayal At Club Low.
Image: Brianna Lei / Afterburn / Cosmo D / Kotaku

A lot of fantastic games came out in 2022. Maybe not as many as we would have liked, especially with blockbuster after blockbuster getting delayed to 2023. But push beyond the Elden Rings and God of War Ragnaröks and you’ll discover a cornucopia of overlooked, underrated gems that run the gamut from text-adventure RPGs to card-based city builders. Below are 17 of Kotaku’s favorite under-the-radar games of 2022, and an otherwise strong GotY list in its own right.

A demon prepares to get slain while surrounded by prismatic colors.
Screenshot: Sorath

If you can get through just 30 minutes of Hyper Demon without wanting to hurl, it’s well worth the trip. Developed by Sorath, the indie team behind 2016’s stunning Devil Daggers, the score-chasing arena shooter is trippy, haunting, and unrelentingly intense. It’s about killing monsters as fast as you can with runs that last anywhere from a few seconds to a few minutes, but a transcendent interplay of sound, space, shapes, and color make it feel more like jumping between dimensions than slaughtering hordes in a small, dark box.

A pale DJ spins pizzas for the crew at Club Low.
Screenshot: Cosmo D

Cosmo D, maker of the sublimely absurd but evocative adventure games Off-Peak and The Norwood Suite, has gone mainstream with an RPG. Betrayal At Club Low has dice rolls, the occasional upgrade, and even a hit-point system of sorts. You’re still in Off Peak City, navigating the fringes of reality with pizzas and pulsating house music as your guides, but this time around the logic of numbers and chance offers a fixed North Star on which to hang your hopes. It’s a one-of-a-kind experience, like setting Hitman’s Agent 47 loose inside a mini David Lynch-inspired D&D campaign.

A menu shows text prompts next to an isometric view of a pixel art village.
Screenshot: Moral Anxiety Studio / Assembly Entertainment

2022 was a banner year for visual novels with an RPG spin. While praise has been heaped on the likes of Citizen Sleeper and I Was a Teenage Exocolonist, Roadwarden also deserves the spotlight. Sending you to sort out the frontier of a grim fantasy world at the behest of a powerful merchant group, Roadwarden combines pretty pixel art and branching dialogue choices to weave a compelling mystery of solidarity and intrigue. Your choices and their hidden dice rolls cascade through the game as you try to complete quests to unlock new resources and information with your limited time and energy. It’s a management sim played out with the ease of a choose-your-own-adventure game and the stakes of a slow-burn thriller, and it will probably end up being one of 2022’s most underrated gems.

Gif: Patrick Traynor / Kotaku

Patrick’s Parabox, like many great puzzle games, takes a simple concept and teases out all of the ingenious possibilities, slowly layering them on top of one another until you don’t even realize the somersaults your brain is doing to parse them. You are a box moving other boxes. The wrinkle? Moving one box through the opening of another will take you inside it. Sometimes the same box can even be taken inside itself. And that’s just the beginning. There are hundreds of levels, each more mesmerizing to solve than the last.

A cartoon dog swings over a fireball.
Screenshot: Medallion Games / Super Rare Originals

Don’t let its pastel colors and straightforward presentation deceive you: Grapple Dog is all business. Pound-for-pound one of the tightest arcade games of the year, it puts you in control of a canine with a grappling arm that lets it swing from one surface to another. Its neatly calibrated momentum shifts make traversal tricky but rewarding, and boss fights occasionally border on greatness when they aren’t feeling overly punishing. Absolutely, flipping fantastic.


7 / 19

A person armed with dynamite and a lighter confronts some cultists.
Screenshot: Jasozz Games / 3D Realms

Cultic is the kind of hidden gem that’s far too hard to find on Steam. But if you did stumble upon indie FPS Cultic, well lucky you. It’s a fantastic retro-inspired shooter that is worth checking out, especially if you were a fan of the original Blood back in the day. Like that classic (and also lesser-known) shooter, Cultic has creepy, rural action vibes, complete with tossable TNT, too. Yet, Cultic sports its own extremely crunchy, retro look with large, open-ended levels and tough-as-nails combat that might challenge at times, but will reward those who don’t give up. — Zack Zwiezen

Gif: Tann

I had no idea about Slice & Dice until Waypoint’s Renata Price wrote about its clever approach to remixing turn-based combat earlier this year. Released on PC and mobile in 2021, it received a massive 2.0 update in 2022 that I’m using to backdoor its way onto this list. Controlling a party of five warriors, you battle your way through increasingly difficult encounters using dice. One side might have a powerful attack while another blocks damage. A wizard’s die will contain spells and mana, while the rogue’s will have long-range and poison attacks. Upgrade the warrior and their die improves as well, with relics dropped by enemies adding further customization. It’s an incredible combination of probability, strategy, and tactics that puts the battle systems in most other turn-based RPGs to shame.

Friends sit around a midcentury modern office exchanging ideas.
Image: Team OFK

If you’d asked me back in January what I expected to see on my Spotify Wrapped this year, I wouldn’t have guessed the soundtrack from a game I’d only seen glimpses of in various indie presentations. But We Are OFK’s take on an interactive musical biopic has been a constant in my 2022, because I haven’t been able to get its indie pop earworms out of my head since I played the game. As a video game, We Are OFK is an odd one, as it’s more akin to an animated miniseries than what most would consider a traditional video game, but while the player’s involvement is mostly tied to text messages and interactive music videos, We Are OFK is still a lovely, effortless queer meditation on creativity, belonging, and trying to love what you do in the inescapable grind of capitalism. Oh, and all the songs on the titular band’s EP are bangers. — Kenneth Shepard

An explosion of guts is rendered in first-person arena shooter view.
Screenshot: Blazing Bit Games

First released in 2021, indie shooter Nightmare Reaper finally left Early Access this year, and that’s when I finally played it. And boy oh boy, am I happy I stumbled upon this under-the-radar FPS! Nightmare Reaper might look a lot like other, similar retro-inspired shooters—like the previously mentioned Cultic—that have become more common in recent years, but it’s so much more than that. It’s a roguelike with smart level progression, awesome music, and hundreds of powerful and zany weapons like whips and spell books. It’s a weird game, too. But in a good way. For example, to improve your character’s stats you play through different, elaborate Game Boy-like mini-games. It’s weird, it’s sometimes creepy, and it’s only $25 on Steam. Go play Nightmare Reaper! — Zack Zwiezen

Farmers sit around a table beneath a white blossom tree feasting on their harvest.
Screenshot: YiFang Studio / 2P Games

Since it’s still in Early Access, Immortal Life isn’t the most polished game on the list. It’s janky. Some of the flavor text was still in Chinese when I played it. But it’s by far the most charming farming RPG I’ve played this year. Neither Rune Factory 5 nor Harvestella come close to Immortal Life’s romantic atmosphere. The gorgeously bespoke environments feel like a callback to Rune Factory 3, the characters are genuinely likable, and it has some of the most beautiful video game music I’ve heard this year. I rarely return to farming sims after reviewing them, but the world of Immortal Life kept calling me back during the most stressful periods of time this year. — Sisi Jiang

Friends laugh while laying on the grass together.
Image: Brianna Lei

2017’s visual novel Butterfly Soup made waves with its heartwarming and deeply human story of queer Asian high-school girls playing baseball and falling in love. In 2022, artist and writer Brianna Lei finally released a sequel, once again demonstrating her knack for giving us characters who are more emotionally and psychologically complex and real, more funny one moment and heartbreaking the next, than just about any you’ll encounter elsewhere in games. The new game didn’t get quite as much attention as its predecessor, though, perhaps because Lei is only continuing to prove what we already know: that she’s in a league of her own. But her work is no less vital now than it was in 2017. Games this alive and human are still all too rare, and Butterfly Soup 2 deserves to be recognized as one of the year’s great game achievements. — Carolyn Petit


13 / 19

An 8-pixel looking knight fights demons in a narrow corridor.
Screenshot: Berzerk Studio / The Arcade Crew

Infernax does nothing to hide its homage to Castlevania. From the chiptune-style soundtrack and 8-bit aesthetic to the heart-pounding platforming and that one enemy that totally fucks up your jump, playing Infernax is like being transported back to 1989. In some ways it’s even better. A crusader who’s returned to a countryside overrun by demons, you smash and slash your way through a 2D metroidvania map peppered with dungeons in search of salvation and an end to the horror. While it doesn’t feel revelatory, it does prove the formula can age like fine wine when placed in the right hands, which in this case happens to be Berzerk Studio.


14 / 19

A sketch-art character in front of neon-colored reflections runs through a cobble stone street.
Screenshot: Santa Ragione

Saturnalia is like a 3D Maniac Mansion set in Stanley Kubrick’s Eyes Wide Shut. Set in the Italian village of Gravoi in 1989, you navigate a nighttime bacchanalia as one of four characters. Scampering along its maze-like streets, you try to uncover the secrets that bind them while searching for a way out of the village and away from the mysterious, malevolent entity that stalks it. Beautiful to look at and unsettling to witness, Saturnalia has plenty of flaws but none that stop it from being one of 2022’s more unusual and most memorable games.


15 / 19

Gif: Afterburn / Kotaku

Use a limited number of tracks to connect a train with its stranded cars: That’s the premise of Railbound and it’s utterly delightful. As Kotaku’s Luke Plunkett described in his September write-up, Afterburn’s transportation puzzler is taxing without being too frustrating, and wonderful to look at. “The trains don’t just move, they lurch,” he wrote. “You don’t just put tracks down, they pop on landing. Everything is cute and fun and has a real sense of tangibility to it, as though we were messing with a board game, or a chunky children’s toy.”


16 / 19

Cards depicting difference resources and objects are assembled on a beach.
Screenshot: Sokpop Collective

Sometimes you mix and match Steam categories and get games that never really come together. Other times you get ones like Stacklands, a deck-building management sim in which you raise a village by playing a twisted variant of Solitaire. Resources and commands are managed with cards, while combining them in various arrangements yield recipes for food, shelter, and weapons to fight the enemies that occasionally harass your residents. It cuts the clutter out of your average city building and streamlines it into entirely different and uniquely satisfying.

Illustrated teens stand in front of their school arguing.
Screenshot: Three Bees

Did you sleep on Perfect Tides? You shouldn’t have. It’s one of this year’s best games, as staff writer Levi Winslow explained back in May. The point-and-click adventure from Three Bees documents the ups and downs of a teen internet junkie in the year 2000. Mara Whitefish expresses herself by writing online fanfiction in between navigating daily life on an island of rich peoples’ summer homes. Meredith Gran’s writing is both clever and scathing, providing an unflinching look back at our own lives in the process. As Levi wrote earlier this year, “Even if you didn’t grow up in the early 2000s, the complexity, compassion, and humanity with which Gran captures adolescence transcends its period setting, capturing something real and true about the excitement and anguish of growing up.”


18 / 19

A small bird prepares to rocket itself off the wall for some bananas.
Screenshot: Moppin / Netflix / Devolver Digital

Poinpy might not be quite as perfect as developer Ojiro Fumoto 2015 GotY contender Downwell, but it’s damn close. Last time around, Fumoto had players chasing high scores while falling ever deeper toward certain doom. In Poinpy you scale ever higher in search of fruit to keep the beast below you fed. It’s reductive to call it a mashup of Celeste and Angry Birds, but it nails the twitchy joy and compulsive puzzles of both. A Netflix-published mobile game that’s been praised plenty throughout the year, Poinpy might not be as under the radar as some of the other games on this list, but it deserves all of those accolades and more.


19 / 19