Despite some bizarre developments and downright harrowing stories, 2021 ended up being a relatively solid year for gaming, all things considered. It may not have produced quite as many heavy hitters as the famously legendary year that was 2017, but it still left us with plenty of worthwhile experiences and even a few surprises. And although only time will tell if 2022 will end up as strong as 2021 in this regard, it seems that everyone has at least a few highly anticipated games slated to come out next year.
This list will go over some of my personal picks.
Cuphead: The Delicious Last Course
This may be a DLC expansion rather than a full new game, but that does not make the prospect of playing it in 2022 any less exciting for me. I loved the original Cuphead back in 2017, as it was essentially the perfect game for me. I already held a fascination for the wonderfully insane “rubber-hose” era of cartoons, so getting to look at Cuphead‘s close approximation of that style was already a huge treat. But I also loved Treasure, a studio that, for a time, made a name for itself through its long list of challenging, boss battle-ridden action games. Cuphead brought back that company’s gameplay and design sensibilities in a big way, albeit with some tweaks. This peculiar combination of elements got me extremely hooked on the game, and it stayed fun even when I worked toward S-ranking every boss on Expert mode.
With this in mind, it’s no wonder that I have found myself incredibly stoked for The Delicious Last Course. We still don’t know much about it, but judging by the trailers that have come out so far, it seems to offer exactly what I would want — which is more Cuphead. The new boss designs shown up to this point look as zany and inventive as ever, and the addition of Ms. Chalice promises to shake up the gameplay a decent amount thanks to her double jump. The wait for this DLC has been a long one, but it feels reassuring to know that, if everything goes according to plan, we will finally get to play it in just over seven months.
Getting excited about a new Sonic game always feels like a gamble. Even though the series has seen some genuinely fantastic entries in the last decade or so, it has also seen enough duds to make it hard to completely trust Sega with any new Sonic project on the horizon. Having said that, I can’t help but look forward to Sonic Frontiers, the new 2022 Sonic game that Sega has been drip-feeding news about since May. Even though Sega has yet to show any gameplay of Sonic Frontiers, its most recent trailer makes it clear that Sega’s mascot is going full open world this time. This alone makes Sonic Frontiers a big deal for the franchise, but it also makes the project a risky one for Sonic Team since it has never developed anything of this scale before.
The prospect of an open-world Sonic game may excite some and terrify others, but I happen to believe that Sonic as a character is uniquely suited to this style of gameplay. Traversing open worlds in other games can often feel tedious since the movement options of the player character are usually slow and limited, but Sonic’s speed could make even the most drawn-out stretches of land look like child’s play. Of course, a major factor that goes into making open-world games fun to play is the world design itself, and whether or not Sonic Team will manage to offer a compelling open world to explore is still up in the air. Ultimately, though, it’s an idea rife with potential, and I can’t wait to see how Sonic Team tackles it.
I have always loved PlatinumGames’ brand of electrifying, over-the-top 3D beat ’em up action, and even just thinking about games like Metal Gear Rising or The Wonderful 101 can bring a big, dorky smile to my face. Having said that, I always like to see developers stepping out of their comfort zone and trying out different genres, and as of late, PlatinumGames has done so admirably for the most part. Even though a game like Nier Automata may have some of the studio’s trademark action game DNA, it still plays out more like an RPG than an action game, which is why it remains impressive that it turned out so well. And although it seems unlikely that Sol Cresta will shake up the gaming landscape in the way that Nier did, it still represents another bold step by the studio into a genre it has never tackled before.
Admittedly, I know next to nothing about Moon Cresta and Terra Cresta, the games that Sol Cresta serves as a follow-up to. And I don’t play many shoot ’em ups, although I did enjoy the few that I have experienced, like Black Bird and Pop’n TwinBee. Despite this, Sol Cresta looks like the kind of arcade action experience that’s right up my alley.
The firefights appear incredibly crisp and fun to engage with, and it has a specific kind of retro pixel art style that I rarely see in today’s gaming market. It helps that Hideki Kamiya, one of my personal favorite gaming directors, is heavily involved with this one, and so is Yuzo Koshiro, the composer behind the effortlessly iconic Streets of Rage soundtracks. If the game ends up hooking me when it drops in 2022, then I will look forward to replaying it and improving my skills with each playthrough.
River City Girls 2
As of this writing, I have not yet tried out the original River City Girls, even though it is readily available for me to play. I also lack any experience with River City Ransom or any of the Kunio-kun installments for that matter. But I feel comfortable in saying that I greatly enjoy 2D beat ’em ups, particularly the Streets of Rage series. I got a surprising degree of mileage out of Streets of Rage 2 despite not having grown up with it. Streets of Rage 4 sits comfortably among my favorite games in recent years. After playing over 250 hours of Streets of Rage 4, I feel ready to jump into another beat ’em up franchise.
River City Girls 2 looks appealing in the same way that its predecessor did, with its expressive and fluid pixel art animations as well as its fast-paced, impactful action. As someone who enjoys experimenting with different playable characters in games, the addition of four new controllable heroes already makes the prospect of multiple playthroughs so much more enticing for me. And even though the game does not seem to differ much from its predecessor at first glance, developer Way Forward has actually promised quite a few new features on top of the expanded playable roster, which include additional combat options as well as a day-and-night cycle, of all things.
Even though I still need to play the first game, based on everything shown so far, I predict that I’ll pick up the second as soon as it becomes available. And I’ll probably do the same for the rest of the games I’m anticipating in 2022.