2022 Game Awards: A Breakdown of Contenders


Florian Victor, Staff Reporter

Earlier this month Geoff Keighley finally revealed their nominees for all the available categories in this year’s Game Awards. With the many amazing games that were released this year, it is no surprise that the topic of discussion and debate is primarily focused on which will win Game of the Year. This article will be going over these Game of the Year candidates (in alphabetical order) and my own opinion on the games themselves and how likely they are to win. I will also provide a brief synopsis of the game from the developer’s sites for you to decide for yourself what game you think should win. The other 30 categories and their nominees will be discussed at another time. 

A Plague Tale: Requiem
Developed by: Asobo Studio Published by: Focus Entertainment

Synopsis: Far across the sea, an island calls…Embark on a heartrending journey into a brutal, breathtaking world twisted by supernatural forces. After escaping their devastated homeland, Amicia and Hugo travel far south, to new regions and vibrant cities. There, they attempt to start a new life and control Hugo’s curse. But, when Hugo’s powers reawaken, death and destruction return in a flood of devouring rats. Forced to flee once more, the siblings place their hopes on a prophesized island that may hold the key to saving Hugo. Discover the cost of saving those you love in a desperate struggle for survival. Strike from the shadows or unleash hell, overcoming foes and challenges with a variety of weapons, tools, and unearthly powers.

Opinion: An impressive sequel to what is considered one of 2019’s biggest sleeper hits, A Plague Tale: Innocence. Admittedly, I have not played this game or much of its predecessor, but I have heard many great things, primarily about its performances. From what I have seen and the reviews I have read of Requiem, Asobo Studio utilizes its motion capture brilliantly. It has only improved in making the graphics even more lifelike. Playing the demo for the 1st game to seeing the gameplay of Requiem, it is incredibly impressive how they managed to make every blade of grass, every stone wall, and every piece of clothing, even more, detailed to the point where it can easily be mistaken for live-action, especially during the cutscenes. But a world is only as good as the characters that populate it and according to what I’ve heard, Requiem also excels in this category. The mocap only elevates the amazing performances of main characters Amicia and Hugo, growing their relationship together as well as with their group of allies. 

With all that being said, I DO NOT think this game will win for 1 reason only: gameplay. A Plague Tale’s gameplay mostly consists of sneaking around and taking our enemies slowly and methodically, as well as using swarms of rats and some occasional hand-to-hand combat. Using previous winners as a metric to judge A Plague Tale: Requiem by, it simply does not have enough exciting and action-packed gameplay for it to have a chance. Although not every game NEEDS fast-paced and lethal combat to be popular, it has been proven time and time again that the games that do take this approach to gameplay, do better financially, and critically, and remain in people’s minds for a longer time after completion. I have also taken into consideration that A Plague Tale: Requiem is going up against some of the most action-packed games in the last few years that have the player fighting against gods, giant robot dinosaurs, and alien monsters.

Developed by: Bluetwelve Studio Published by: Annapurna

Synopsis: See the world through the eyes of a stray cat in Stray on PS5. Roam the streets, defend yourself against unforeseen threats, and uncover the secrets of a city filled with dangerous creatures. Lost, alone and separated from family, a stray cat must untangle an ancient mystery to escape a long-forgotten city. Stray is a third-person cat adventure game set amidst the detailed, neon-lit alleys of a decaying cybercity and the murky environments of its seedy underbelly. Stray is developed by BlueTwelve Studio, a small team from the south of France mostly made up of cats and a handful of humans.

Opinion: I must again mention that I have not played this game at all, but I have watched a playthrough of the entire game and read multiple reviews that came out closer to the game’s release. From what I saw, this game is in serious competition to win the best indie game of the decade with its stunning visuals, bringing the fictional world and its inhabitants to life. This is ironic because most of the people in this game are sentient robots that somehow (no spoilers) gained sentience many years before the game takes place. In the game, we play as a cat. Of course, it isn’t as simple as we have a small robot companion strapped to our back that helps us communicate and make sense of the odd happenings of the city, hoping to regain its memories along the way as we try and uncover what happened so long ago. One thing that stood out to me immensely while watching this game be played was the incredible art direction. Every corner, rooftop, apartment, storefront, and sewer of this game is covered in detail that can tell its own little story to add to the wider narrative. This is further helped by the music of the game, because even though no particular track stood out to me, whatever was playing in the background during every second of gameplay added to the immersive experience, and somehow made me FEEL like a cat strutting through a cybercity filled with robots and the zurk (the enemies). Stray’s gameplay consists mostly of reading, slow platforming, and solving puzzles with your robot companion, however, there is some light combat with the zurk consisting of some running and some shooting sections. It is also this gameplay that I believe Stray will NOT win game of the year. While I personally do not have a problem with slower, much less action-packed, puzzle games with a heavier focus on story, I cannot deny that I enjoy games that strive to prove the “action” in their action-adventure title, which is a popular sentiment among most gamers and the previous winners. Another reason I think it won’t win is its length. According to the popular, and reliable site, howlongtobeat.com, Stray takes an average of 5 hours to complete the main story and 9.5 hours to do everything there is to do in the game. Again using previous winners as well as my own bias towards longer games, this seems to work against Stray’s chances of winning, also taking into consideration that the games it is up against are up to 12 times longer.

Horizon Forbidden West
Developed by: Guerilla Games Published by: SIE (Sony/Playstion)

Synopsis: Join Aloy as she braves the Forbidden West – a majestic but dangerous frontier that conceals mysterious new threats. Explore distant lands, fight bigger and more awe-inspiring machines, and encounter astonishing new tribes as you return to the far-future, post-apocalyptic world of Horizon. The land is dying. Vicious storms and an unstoppable blight ravage the scattered remnants of humanity, while fearsome new machines prowl their borders. Life on Earth is hurtling towards another extinction, and no one knows why. It’s up to Aloy to uncover the secrets behind these threats and restore order and balance to the world. Along the way, she must reunite with old friends, forge alliances with warring new factions and unravel the legacy of the ancient past – all the while trying to stay one step ahead of a seemingly undefeatable new enemy.

Opinion: I feel obligated to mention here that this is the sequel to one of my favorite games of all time and I have completed everything there is to do in it so far, so there will likely be some bias here but I will try my best to judge it fairly. Considered one of Playstation’s top exclusive franchises, Horizon Forbidden West strives to improve all the things people loved about the first game while also trimming the things that were unnecessary and expanding on all its systems in the process. Its predecessor, Horizon Zero Dawn, not only introduced a new and incredibly popular fascinating world to RPG fans everywhere but also managed to fill it with mysteries that kept players asking questions in the 5 years until its sequel was released. Many of these questions had to be answered in Horizon Forbidden West and I believe that the answers that were provided bring this game into the conversation of best video game sequels of all time. One of the most wonderful things this game does is simultaneously answer the questions from the last game while also providing new questions, ensuring that the game will occupy players’ minds for a very long time. Horizon Forbidden West also provides a seamless transition from the last game that players of its predecessor will feel right at home with all the characters they loved, helping introduce them to characters they will grow to love over the course of this game. Without spoiling anything, it also manages to be an incredibly entertaining experience that will keep players shocked, smiling, laughing, and crying for a while, taking roughly 28.5 hours to complete the story and up to 61 hours to complete the story and side quests unlocked along the journey. One of the ways it brings out such emotion is through its massively improved animations. With stale and glitchy animations being one of the biggest issues people had with the first game, Forbidden West completely overhauls how its cutscenes and dialogue are directed, bringing them to a level of quality and life, previously only seen in big-budget movies. Another thing that helps them do this is the improved graphics thanks to the game engine Guerilla Games created (Decima Engine). Words cannot describe how vibrant, detailed, and alive this sci-fi world looks in 4k 60fps, on a 77-inch OLED tv. It makes it easy to say without any bias that Horizon Forbidden West is one of the best-looking games of all time. Of course, there’s more to this game than just looking good, as it has also massively improved the combat to make it much deeper while also raising the skill ceiling and making it more fun. Firstly, without a doubt, the biggest reason this franchise sells is the robot dinosaurs. In Forbidden West they brought back fan-favorite machine enemies from the previous game while also adding dozens of new ones and even more variants of each machine, bringing the total amount of machines (including variants) to 103 (43 unique machine types), each with beautiful and brutal animations/attacks that make fighting each one of them a unique puzzle. Forbidden West also expanded on the skill tree of the previous game, providing more skills and also variation between the skills. One area many enjoy is the expansion of melee combat, adding the ability to perform combos on both machine and human enemies, no longer forcing everyone to play ranged all the time. Although there has been a big increase in ranged weapons and fighting styles as well for those that enjoy that type of play. Of course, I could go on and on about it but I must get to the question: Will it win Game of the Year 2022? While in my heart it already has, I am disappointed to say that I do not think it will. While it definitely has a chance (much more than the previously discussed nominees), there are simply other games that received even more attention and acclaim from critics and fans alike. Even though I consider it to be a great sequel, there are many who believe the opposite and are especially disappointed with its ending and what that sets up for (no spoilers). 

Xenoblade Chronicles 3
Developed by: Monolith Soft Published by: Nintendo

Synopsis: Broaden your horizons with Xenoblade Chronicles 3 on Nintendo Switch. Explore a massive world filled with discoveries and work with other characters to end an unyielding war.

Live to fight and fight to live in a warring world with a dark secret. Join Noah and Mio, members of the two opposing nations at the center of this conflict, on a heartfelt journey to end the cycle of violence. A group of six characters from these nations joins together to awaken the colonies of Aionios to the underlying threat both nations face. Traverse massive, fantastical sci-fi landscapes as you expose the true enemy pulling the strings behind the conflicts.

Opinion: I will again come out and say I have never played this game or any in the series or heard of it or watched much gameplay of it, but I have done some research to write about it for today. Being the final game in a trilogy of globe-trotting RPG adventure game beloved by a very devoted fanbase, this game had a lot to live up to. And from my research, it has lived up to expectations. Xenoblade Chronicles 3 uses its very long run time (61.5 hours for just the story and 100+ hours to complete everything) to tell a meaningful tale about war, family, and discrimination. Despite being on outdated hardware, Xenoblade uses the Nintendo Switch to its limit to render a world and character like never seen before in the series. Despite being a part of a series, the game is not afraid to divert, particularly in its combat. It now allows for up to 7 party members to participate in a battle at once, and for each party member to change their class, granting them access to completely new skills and abilities. The game was also received well by critics and fans alike, receiving an 8-9/10 on average. Getting to the main question, I do NOT think this game will win Game of the Year 2022. One reason I believe this is because of the style of the game it is. Xenoblade Chronicles 3 is a very traditional action-adventure JRPG, and when you look at the previous game of the year winners, this style of game is not common at all. Another reason is because of the issues this game had at launch due to being released on the switch which is using hardware that is close to a decade old at this point, causing the game’s graphics to be very behind all the other nominees and other games that released this year. This game also had many problems with frame rate and glitches at launch. Also, due to it being a JRPG and releasing on the Nintendo Switch only, it has a much smaller, more niche audience than other games that were nominated. However, it would be a huge victory for fans of the franchise and these types of games if Xenoblade Chronicles 3 did win so good luck to them.

God of War: Ragnarok
Developed by: Sony Santa Monica Published by: SIE (Sony/Playstation)

Synopsis: Embark on a mythic journey for answers and allies before Ragnarök arrives. Embark on an epic and heartfelt journey as Kratos and Atreus struggle with holding on and letting go.

Against a backdrop of Norse Realms torn asunder by the fury of the Aesir, they’ve been trying their utmost to undo the end times. But despite their best efforts, Fimbulwinter presses onward.

Witness the changing dynamic of the father-son relationship as they fight for survival; Atreus thirsts for knowledge to help him understand the prophecy of “Loki”, as Kratos struggles to break free of his past and be the father his son needs.

See for yourself how fate will force a choice upon them: between their own safety or the safety of the realms. All the while, hostile Asgardian forces assemble…

Opinion: While I would like this game to win the game of the year I just cannot see it happening in this current gaming environment. God of War: Ragnarok is a third-person action-adventure game with a heavy focus on the story. It also happens to be a sequel to the 2018 Game Awards winner, so it had huge expectations leading up to its launch. The interesting thing about it is how polarizing it was given the almost unanimous love for the first game. I can’t say much about it without spoilers however so you will just have to take my word for it that this game is the master of defying expectations and will go in many interesting directions while also continuing to do the things that players loved about the first game and expanding on them in multiple ways. And yes, it DOES set up for a sort-of sequel. Why I think this game won’t win Game of the Year going up against Elden Ring is less due to the faults of God of War: Ragnarok and more of a testament to the behemoth that is Elden Ring.

Elden Ring
Developed by: FromSoftware Published by: Bandai Namco

Synopsis: Danger lurks in every corner of this action RPG video game. Explore an open world rich with magic, ruins, and combat. Encounter the game’s secrets as you discover the mysteries of ELDEN RING.

The Golden Order has been broken. Rise, Tarnished, and be guided by grace to brandish the power of the Elden Ring and become an Elden Lord in the Lands Between.

ELDEN RING, developed by FromSoftware Inc. and produced by BANDAI NAMCO Entertainment Inc., is a fantasy action RPG and FromSoftware’s largest game to date, set within a world full of mystery and peril.

Opinion: Note: I did not play this game but I have read many reviews and watched dozens of hours worth of content on the world/lore of Elden Ring as well as people actually playing it.

Last but definitely not least, the almost guaranteed Game of the Year winner, Elden Ring. There isn’t much to say about this game that has not already been said. The very week this game came out, it was being considered a serious contender for best game of the 2020s and popular sentiment has not changed much since then. Undoubtedly one of if not From Soft’s best works, Elden Ring perfects every system FromSoft has pioneered in their unique “souls” or “souls-like” genre. One of the main things players keep repeating and can easily be seen in their gameplay is how masterfully the massive open world was crafted so that, without ANY guides, players are swept from one place of interest to another with almost no time in between, contributing to many players putting over 90 hours into this game. Even as someone who has not played a single second of this game or any other souls game, I can clearly see why so many new people have been enveloped by its world. Just the story alone influenced me to watch hour-long video essays on YouTube about just ONE aspect of the game’s lore (look up “SmoughTown” and “VaatiVidya” on Youtube for the best of this kind of content). It says something about how good this game is when people instantly forget the over 7-year wait for this game as soon as it releases. The phenomenon caused by Elden Ring’s existence is something that happens rarely in one’s lifetime, which is why it will clearly win Game of the Year 2022.