This is it—the big winners of 2022! The moment you’ve all been waiting for. But don’t forget the other moment you were waiting for, which is the little winners, which was yesterday.
Readers’ Choice Award
Chris Centofanti: An open-world Dark Souls sounds like something an executive would come up with by mashing together trends and buzzwords, risking trying to please everyone but ultimately pleasing few. Thankfully, From Software’s collaboration with fellow titan of the dark fantasy genre—author George R. R. Martin—is yet another crowd-pleaser. Elden Ring expands upon the familiar tough-but-fair gameplay and horror fantasy aesthetic with new modes of travel and exploration as well as a new pantheon of monsters and fallen heroes. With the Dark Souls trilogy having come to a close, Elden Ring proves that there are still new challenges and adventures ahead from From Software.
Honorable Mention: Pokémon Legends: Arceus
Best Indie Game
Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Shredder’s Revenge
Alex Jedraszczak: You know, I’m something of an indie developer myself. I appreciate the freedom an individual or a small team has when working on a project, and I’m really glad that a major world-renowned license was handed to an (established, respected, well-known) indie developer like Tribute Games. A major AAA studio working on a major franchise would likely have sought out the broadest appeal with the most trending styles. Instead, we’re able to enjoy a game made by fans that grew up with the series, for fans that grew up with the series. And you know, I’m something of a Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles fan myself.
Honorable Mention: Signalis
Best Mobile Game
Alex Jedraszczak: There’s only so many times you can guess a five-letter word in six guesses or fewer. What am I supposed to do during Zoom meetings now that Wordle has grown tired and stale?! Heardle didn’t last, and Nerdle and Semantle just don’t pack the same punch.
What if I told you there was a game that was like Wordle times four.
That’s right! Play four Wordles—at the same time.
Maybe it’s a sign that the GameCola staff is aging, but I can understand why Quordle won. Now if you’ll excuse me, I have to go finish today’s 64ordle.
Honorable Mention: Marvel Snap
Best Game of 10 Years Ago
Zero Escape: Virtue’s Last Reward
James Pelster: Virtue’s Last Reward takes almost everything about its predecessor and kicks it up a notch. A more wacky and zany villain? Check, and she reminds me a lot of Monokuma from the Danganronpa series. A colorful and eccentric cast of characters, now with voice acting? Yep, and they’re a wild bunch. Mind-bending puzzles that make you either feel like a genius or a complete idiot? In plentiful supply. Fantastic music that emphasizes emotional moments and, even during puzzles, perfectly accentuates the current mood? You better believe it; one of my favorite tracks is “Monitor” which was apparently so good they brought it back in the next game! And of course, we can’t overlook the awesome writing and twisty-turny, topsy-turvy story. I personally wish they’d stuck with the 2D character art instead of moving to 3D models, but when the rest of the game is so darn good it doesn’t bother me much. It’s still my favorite game in the Zero Escape trilogy, and you should definitely check it out if you haven’t already!
Honorable Mention: Little Inferno
GameCola’s 2012 Game of the Year: Journey
Best Game of 20 Years Ago
Blu Ryder: What is there left to say about Kingdom Hearts? That action-RPG gem that got a generation of children growing up on Disney movies to get hooked on anime and the beginning of a franchise that acts as Baby’s First House of Leaves. As crazy as it is that Disney and Square had this love child, the passion that was poured into it is overwhelming. A Dearly Beloved LOVE child, if you will. The start of a franchise that was strong enough that fan demand for a third mainline game almost rivals Half Life. Here’s to Kingdom Hearts, and the 20 spinoffs I’m probably going to have to play before KH4 is released.
Honorable Mention: Animal Crossing
Best Game of 30 Years Ago
Super Mario Kart
Alex Jedraszczak: If you’ve followed GameCola for any length of time, you’ll know I’m not a Nintendo fanboy—but I can still acknowledge an amazing classic when I see one. Easily one of the most-played games of my youth, I poured hours into Battle Mode against friends, family, and neighbors even after later releases in the series were available. While something like Soul Blazer might have had a more of an effect on me personally, Super Mario Kart laid the foundation for the kart racing genre and has a lasting mass appeal that the staff can agree on.
Honorable Mention: Kirby’s Dream Land
Staff Member of the Year
Alex Jedraszczak: So much more than just Podcast Commander, Joseph Martin is the brain behind most of the activity seen on our web presence in recent times. Those great polls and discussion topics on the GameCola YouTube Channel? All Joe. Our very own Robot Master even has all the data about the Mega Man franchise, if you’ve joined our Discord—as well as data about Pokémon, the Super Mario Bros. movie, and a surprising number of other topics. It’s no surprise to see him reclaim the crown from his arch-nemesis Martin Joeseph won last year.
Honorable Mention: Blu Ryder
Game of the Year
Return to Monkey Island
Paul Franzen: What a year for reboots, huh? Between Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Shredder’s Revenge, Return to Monkey Island, and Mother 4, the era of original IPs is over, and I, for one, welcome our fully remastered in 1080p overloads.
Return to Monkey Island reunites Guybrush Threepwood, a mighty pirate (“mighty pirate”) with his daddy developer Ron Gilbert for the first time in 30+ years. That is, literally, longer than most of the readers and writers of GameCola have been alive. And despite a…let’s say “contentious” art style, the game brings back everything we loved from the original two titles, plus even the games Gilbert had nothing to do with. Fun (and funny) characters! Challenging (but never too frustrating) puzzles! An underlying sense of melancholy and ennui!
Monkey Kombat no not that.
Return is like meeting up with an old high school friend decades after graduation; if nothing else, I breathed a big sigh just seeing how Guybrush’s life has turned out for him, and what adventures he’s still yet to see. All that, plus a confusing ending that we’ll be arguing about for the next 30 years, just like Gilbert’s last foray into the deep Caribbean. What more could you want in an adventure game?
Honorable Mention: The Quarry