Normally our annual Game of the Year awards drop before the new year. But, given that a high profile released arrived in December with Marvel’s Midnight Suns, it was an easy decision to push the event until January. It’s a good thing we did too because the latest Marvel video game opus is massive and it took upwards of a month to properly play for review!
2022 was an odd year for comic book video games. With next-generation development kicking into high gear as machines become more widely available, there were more announcements for projects coming in the future than high profile releases. Still, there were smaller offerings that burned a lot brighter than titles with 10 times their budget and plenty enough to talk about for the purposes of our award deliberations so let’s get to it.
WINNER: Marvel’s Avengers
Marvel’s Avengers didn’t have an expansion like 2021’s War for Wakanda and, to be honest, outside of 2 new heroes that largely play like ones already in its small roster, it was a quiet year for the still kicking games as a service title. Since its release in 2020, Marvel’s Avengers has been somewhat schizophrenic, trying to be an ongoing title while still trying to appease those looking for a traditional single-player action title like Crystal Dynamics has been known for. In 2022, Marvel’s Avengers slowly transitioned away from short, 3 hour events with new heroes in favor of pushing cool costumes and content better served towards multiplayer. Is that disappointing for people who like to play by themselves? Sure, but so is splitting your limited resources trying to appease two vastly different player bases. Crystal Dynamics has a lot of irons in the fire now with a new Tomb Raider in the works and assisting on games like the Perfect Dark reboot among others, so who knows how much life Marvel’s Avengers has left in it. For now though, it’s the most confident it has been since its release and with the barrier to entry to low to access it, there’s no reason not to give it a shot.
THE MONKEY’S PAW AWARD
WINNER: Marvel vs. Capcom 2: New Age of Heroes
Marvel vs. Capcom 2 is back!…as a several hundred dollar Arcade1up release that many can’t either afford, let alone keep in their living space. It’s better than nothing of course, and for those with the coin and space, it’s a dream come true. MvC2 is a title that everyone, regardless of class or budget, should have easy access to though, and that’s true for other games locked to Arcade1up cabinets too. Arcade1up claims that this is it with respect to this landmark fighting game getting rereleased, but we still hold out hope against hope that their words are marketing tactics used to sell their latest cabinet.
WINNER: Gotham Knights
Batman: Arkham Origins got a raw deal when it released in late 2013, but the years have been kinder to the non-Rocksteady developed chapter in the Arkham franchise. Free of the shackles of another studio, it was exciting to see what WB Games Montréal could produce, but after playing their first shipped title in almost 10 years, maybe it was for the best if they stuck to what they knew.
Gotham Knights has its fans, and it has seemingly been selling well since its October launch, but after years of waiting for a new DC Comics video game, perhaps the expectations placed on it were a little too high. If you adjust your expectations that Gotham Knights isn’t the next Arkham it helps, but the quality bar has been set so high by the likes of Rocksteady’s previous work and the latest wave of Marvel games that it’s tough to settle for a game featuring a bland open world, tacked on RPG elements, boring combat and a mystery that has neither twists nor turns.
WB Games Montréal is capable of so much better than this.
WINNER: Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: The Cowabunga Collection
If you look back on your 2022 predictions bingo card, few probably would’ve had a compilation of every TMNT published by Konami in one amazing package on it, let alone that it would be announced AND eventually released within the same year. With the prices of many of the games featured in The Cowabunga Collection demanding over a $100 or more on the secondary market, this truly was one of the years best gifts that you should consider supporting if you haven’t done so already.
REMAKE/REMASTER/COMPILATION OF THE YEAR
WINNER: Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: The Cowabunga Collection
Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: The Cowabunga Collection is worth its low asking price just for the amount of included titles alone, but the package is so much more than that. Not only is it an inexpensive way to enjoy some of the best licensed games of the early 90s, a few titles can even be played online with friends. On top of all of that is a museum stuffed with never been seen behind the scenes content including design documents and concept art, coupled with retro ads and guides that pay homage to the days of Nintendo Power. The Cowabunga Collection has raised the bar for what all compilations now either have to meet or top.
RUNNER UP: Shadow Man Remastered
Not too long after the publication of our 2022 Game of the Year awards, Shadow Man Remastered finally left PC exclusivity and came to all of the major consoles. Like all Nightdive Studios work, Shadow Man Remastered is a loving update to an under appreciated adventure from the late 90s that never got the respect it deserved. It belongs in your collection whether you’re a fan of the source material or not, especially if you enjoy the many exploration style Castlevania titles that Konami has produced since Symphony of the Night.
DOWNLOADABLE GAME OF THE YEAR
WINNER: Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Shredder’s Revenge
For years, many have been trying to capture what made Konami’s TMNT games so great, including Ubisoft when they remade Turtles in Time, but with little success. Tribute Games’ Shredder’s Revenge is not only an homage to a bygone era, it also manages to best even Konami’s software with beautiful sprite work, an amazing soundtrack, deep but accessible arcade gameplay and a robust cast to choose from. This is game of the year quality work and a template that many should be studying with a microscope.
VR GAME OF THE YEAR
WINNER: Marvel’s Iron Man VR
In 2020, we awarded Marvel’s Iron Man VR our Game of the Year because there simply was nothing quite like it. You didn’t play as Iron Man when you donned the PSVR headset, you became Iron Man in what could only be described as a transformative piece of software. Still, what hurt the immersion somewhat was the platform it was built for, but now with its arrival on the Meta Quest 2, issues with load times, tracking, and pesky cables are a thing of the past. Marvel’s Iron Man VR, just as it was in 2020, is a title worth picking up the hardware for, and with Camouflaj now under the Oculus Studios umbrella, you’ll already be prepared for what they have coming next.
HARDWARE OF THE YEAR
WINNER: Xbox Series X
Microsoft doesn’t have a lock on characters like Spider-Man and Wolverine, but that doesn’t stop the Xbox Series X from being a great machine to enjoy comic book games on, especially considering true PlayStation 5 exclusives won’t arrive until late into 2023. Titles like Marvel’s Guardians of the Galaxy, Injustice 2 and Batman: Arkham Knight are available as part of the Game Pass subscription service, and the intuitive Smart Delivery system means cross-generation titles are effortlessly upscaled. Provided you have them in your collection, software like Batman: Arkham Origins and Mortal Kombat vs. DC Universe can also be enjoyed without the use of unreliable streaming. As the differences between the Series X and PS5 are so small as to be negligible, third-party software like Marvel’s Midnight Suns and future multiplatform releases make Xbox’s latest piece of hardware a terrific investment.
The world truly lost a legend when the sad news came out in November that Kevin Conroy had passed away. The voice of Batman in everything from animation to video games and feature length projects, Kevin just wasn’t the person many associated with the Dark Knight, he was also a wonderful human being who was beloved by all who met him, knew him, or had the opportunity to work alongside them. The world is simply a worse place with Kevin no longer in it and he is greatly missed.
WINNER: Suicide Squad: Kill the Justice League
We will never forget that Rocksteady, though responsible for the modern era of comic book games, fostered a culture so toxic it forced its talent to leave the studio. In October, Rocksteady co-founders Sefton Hill and Jamie Walker also exited the studio, so who knows that has been happening behind the curtains since the publication of Batman: Arkham Knight in 2015.
Marvel’s Spider-Man 2 is set to arrive in 2023, and while we can’t wait to get out hands on it, there’s also an expectation of what it will be. So much of Kill the Justice League is shrouded in mystery that that’s a curiosity to see what it actually is. There’s also the matter that this will perhaps be one of the last times we’ll hear Kevin Conroy voice Batman.
PUBLISHER OF THE YEAR
For the better part of a decade now, Konami has been the example of what a video game publisher shouldn’t be. In 2022 though, it was nice to be exited about their projects after years of misfires coming from the once prolific company. The Cowabunga Collection could’ve been just a compilation of games and still been worth the price of admission, but to their credit, Konami gave developer Digital Eclipse access to one of their offsite facilities that housed a fascinating look at their development process. With a commitment to new entries in the Silent Hill series, it’s not just their licensed output that has us hearing that Konami sound effect that accompanied their logo once upon a time in our head.
DEVELOPER OF THE YEAR
WINNER: Digital Eclipse
For years, Digital Eclipse’s name has been synonymous with high-quality collections, having worked on properties like Mega Man, Street Fighter and the Disney Afternoon Collection. In 2022, they stepped up their game even further with Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: The Cowabunga Collection that put similar retro throwbacks from the likes of Sega and Bandai Namco to shame. This is because of their commitment to not only offering high quality emulation, but also the historical value of whatever they’re working on. The context of what was happening around the release of a game is just as important as the game itself, and Digital Eclipse as a company appreciates this more than most. Before you would buy into a Digital Eclipse developed game because of the license or franchise, but after what they accomplished this year, their name alone sells a product even if you have no nostalgia for what’s on the cover.
GAME OF THE YEAR
WINNER: Marvel’s Midnight Suns
Let’s face it, I was going to pick up Marvel’s Midnight Suns regardless of my feelings on deck building, RPGs, and tactics, but I will admit I was nervous going into it because I was afraid that it just simply wasn’t going to be for me. Dozens of hours later and it turns out my fears were irrational as Marvel’s Midnight Suns was easily one of the most pleasant surprises in years. It’s deep without ever being confusing, its loops are addictive in all the right ways and when you find yourself just as excited to build friendships as what you are smashing Hydra skulls, you know you’re playing something special. With new characters coming via DLC in 2023, I simply cannot wait to get back into the world built by Firaxis Games.