2022 could be one of PC gaming’s best years ever Elden Ring

It's been a spotty couple of years for PC gaming. Don't get me wrong, we've had plenty of great games to play and talk about, but there's no ignoring the big holes the COVID-19 pandemic has punched into the usual routine. Any optimism or curiosity during E3 this year was dogged by the worry that no matter what games were revealed or how great they looked, they'd be years away, million-dollar logos ripped straight from the pitch doc. 

But while E3 was an odd one—the digital format is total chaos—it also primed 2022 to be one of the best years in PC gaming ever.

In 2022 we're getting new games from beloved studios, sequels to all-time PC classics, and the indie scene is growing more incalculably large and surprising than ever. Every genre that's been declared dead at some point is gonna be alive and well in 2022, a big slate of live service games will still be kicking ass, the PC will have multiple Crysis-tier graphics pushers, and games will be more affordable and accessible than ever.

Now if we could only find a graphics card.

Beloved studios and series returning in 2022 

Some of 2022's biggest releases are from favorite studios making a long-awaited return. If all you play are The Big Games, 2022 is still looking stacked. 

2019's Sekiro was an excellent action game, but it's been five years since FromSoftware's last proper RPG. Elden Ring is finally coming, delivering with a mythos built by George R.R. Martin, FromSoftware's biggest world yet, and some major added depth to character progression. This isn't just the culmination of FromSoftware's signature RPG and dungeon design, but the natural progression of a heritage of dungeon-crawling on PC, from Rogue to Ultima Underworld and now, hopefully, Elden Ring. 

Stalker 2 is real. Call of Pripyat released in 2009, so it's been 11 years since we saw GSC Studios' unforgiving nuclear sandbox. While those older games poked at strong ideas, the technology and design never quite lived up to them. Stalker 2 is a proper sequel with new tech and seemingly bigger ambitions. While the debut trailer was tightly scripted, it definitely has us excited for another adventure with supernatural terrors propped up by modern tech in an open world that doesn't care about us. And campfire singalongs. Let's just hope it doesn't lose character under all that shine. 

It's been six years since Fallout 4 and Starfield has a lot to prove, but it already gets points for being Bethesda's first new setting since picking up the Fallout mantle back in 2008. We're tempering our expectations, but Starfield's been in the cooker for a while, and, love 'em or hate 'em, Bethesda RPGs have an incredible shelf life. Thanks to PC modders we're still living in Skyrim's world. Maybe the torch will be passed properly next November. 

Redfall is a double-whammy for PC players. It's a cooperative multiplayer game from Arkane, a studio that put out some of our favorite games ever in the Dishonored series. This is a team that knows how to smash systems together to interesting results, whether it's freezing time to make a guard kick their bud in the face or feeding an entire regiment to rats. Redfall is also leading a second wave of Left 4 Dead-likes, but with vampires. We'd still take a L4D3, but I'm glad its absence led to this timeline. 

Kerbal Space Program 2 has a tough act to follow. How do you do better than one of the best and most pure PC games ever made? Tough to say. So far, the answer is better learning tools and more stuff to build, but in multiplayer—we're making entire colonies now. If Private Division can make the additions match the quality and depth of everything in the original, KSP2's gonna be incredible. We hope. 

Wildcard 2022 releases

Nevermind all the games that we're eyeballing closely that could swing one way or the other. We'll be mad if the Avatar game is good, we've already established that, but everything here could blow our socks off. Is it likely? 

Nah, but if there's even just one great game among them, it'll be on top of a year that's already stacked. We hope they're all good, of course. 

Late 2021 releases we're hopefully still playing well into 2022 

Since time is a construct, we have to acknowledge that when 2022 begins, the games that came out in the tail end of 2021 do not simply disappear forever. These games will hopefully be part of the conversation for most of 2022, vying for as many free nights as anything coming out next year. 

Gorgeous games from small teams landing in 2022 

I'm not ignoring the endless stream of new games announced over the E3 weekend. Almost everything I saw looked like the kinda thing that we would've treasured as an indie gem 15 years ago. But here's a few that managed to stand out anyway. 

Somerville comes from a studio headed up by a former Playdead cofounder, makers of Limbo and Inside, if it wasn't already clear from the look. This 2.5D family drama moves through gorgeous panoramas depicting an alien apocalypse—and yeah, we're guessing the dog dies. 

Replaced melds old forms with the new, featuring pixelated sprites lit and overlaid with a dreamy, psychedelic array of modern lighting and post-processing effects. Suitable for a game about an AI downloaded into a person. 

More 2022 indies we're excited about:

Exciting games without a date, but a potential 2022 release

Darkest Dungeon 2 is entering early access in 2021, so 2022 for version 1.0 doesn't feel impossible. Throw a follow-up to one of our favorite tactical roguelikes ever into the mix for 2022, sure. 

I could be wrong, but Hollow Knight: Silksong feels like a sure thing for 2022. I played it two years ago at E3, so we must be nearing the finish line, right? 

Gloomwood is a systems-driven stealth action game that looks like it'll easily withstand a couple dozen playthroughs, just to see if our mad ideas work out. It's not confirmed for 2022, but we wouldn't be surprised if it came out in 2021 either.

Diablo 4 in 2022 is optimistic, but possible. Blizzard time doesn't make sense. 

Worst case (or best case), Path of Exile 2 might beat Blizzard at its own game. The ARPG sequel looks gorgeous and looks on track for a 2022 release. 

OK so Atomic Heart exists. We saw another trailer at this year's Xbox Showcase. It can't stay in purgatory for much longer. Let's settle on 2022. I'll shoulder the disappointment if we're wrong. 

More 2022 hopefuls: 

Live service games still (hopefully) kickin ass

Final Fantasy 14's Endwalker will have been freshly released, so we'll no doubt see some patches adding more raids, cool clothes, and hopefully story quests that allude to what's next for one of the best MMOs of all time. 

Sea of Thieves is still kicking, and kicking pretty hard. A damn Captain Jack Sparrow expansion is coming. Forza Horizon 5's heading to Mexico this fall, too, and hopefully giving us reasons to stay for a long time. 

Regularly updated games we wish good health in 2022: 

  • WoW / WoW Classic
  • Destiny 2
  • Hearthstone
  • League of Legends
  • Dota 2
  • GTA 5
  • Red Dead 2
  • Rust
  • Stardew Valley
  • Warframe
  • Rocket League
  • Dead by Daylight
  • Hunt: Showdown

It could be a golden age for competitive shooters

If you don't see competitive shooters in the list above, it's because they get their own special breakout. 2022 has the potential to be a year in which Halo, Call of Duty, Apex Legends, CS:GO, Fortnite, Battlefield, Valorant, and Rainbow Six Siege are alive, well, fun, and all on the damn computer. And a lot of them are or will be free-to-play. 

Read the previous two sentences to me in 2010 and I would've laughed and told you to please get out of my dorm room. I distinctly remember thinking free-to-play would never catch on, or that big studios would never adopt it. Eating my words. If you own a computer, you can just play some of the best shooters ever made for free. Wild.

Game Pass is such a good value you kinda have to subscribe. For $10 a month you can play every Yakuza game. Bethesda's entire catalogue, including Starfield on day one. The entire Halo series is there (sans 5 on PC), along with Psychonauts 2, everything Obsidian makes from here on, and plenty more. 27 upcoming games will hit the service the day they release. It may not stay a great value forever with inevitable price hikes, and we've yet to see how it works out for smaller developers in the long run, but there's no denying Game Pass is something you shouldn't pass on, for now at least.  

The Epic Game Store will still probably be handing out free PC games. Epic really wants to establish itself as a go-to marketplace for PC gaming and will keep throwing candy outta the float to make the EGS a thing. 

The weird, retro FPS movement will be in full swing with a whole catalog of New Blood- (Amid Evil, Dusk, Ultrakill, Gloomwood, Fallen Aces) and 3D Realms- (Ion Fury, Graven) published shooters out, with a few expansions on the way. Cruelty Squad, Golden Light, and Post Void headline a strong first wave of strange shooters, as if in direct response. It feels like every era of FPS is alive and well on the PC simultaneously, with new ideas sprouting from everywhere in between.  

More PlayStation games on PC! Another thing I never thought I'd hear, but we're already two deep in Horizon: Zero Dawn and Days Gone, with Uncharted 4 on PC leaked via a Sony investor presentation. Nathan Drake on PC is like Nintendo casually dropping a sanctioned Super Mario Sunshine port. We'll always be a little behind the PlayStation console releases, but the dam is breaking. Now give us the Demon's Souls remaster for christ's sake. 

Graphics are getting goooooood. Forza Horizon 5's amazing lighting and photogrammetry makes it one of the best looking games we've ever seen. Escape from Tarkov looks better with every update. Battlefield 2042 doubles the player count to 128, increases the map size, and throws in wild map-changing events. Stalker 2—well, just look at it

Ray-tracing support is spreading quickly too, with AI-assisted optimization features like DLSS juicing framerates, making the most ludicrous graphics settings feasible for less capable cards. We'll still be feeling the GPU shortage in 2022, though, a glaring caveat among all this excitement.  

There are more games that don't involve kicking, punching, or shooting than ever. We love a violent game as much as anyone, but the potential for game design is so much bigger than its action movie origins. The Wholesome Games Showcase is a convenient window into everything else games can do, from making an album in LA with your friends to running a tea house. 

PC gaming's 'dead' genres are accounted for. If Age of Empires 4 stands up, we'll be playing it well into 2021. Strangeland and Backbone are repping adventure games, and even FMV are still alive and well. So well that we're getting a horror FMV game from the creators of one of the best horror movies of the last few years. We don't see these genres dying anytime soon. 

It's simple math

Previous benchmarks for PC gaming's best years were largely defined by the usual slate of dozen or so good to great games coming out from big studios. 2015 had Metal Gear Solid 5, The Witcher 3, Kerbal Space Program, and GTA 5. 1993 had Doom, Day of the Tentacle, X-Wing, Sam and Max hit the Road, and The 7th Guest. But 2022's release calendar readily dwarfs them all, and that's without taking surprises social phenoms like Among Us and Fall Guys into account.

PC gaming is going to be so good in 2022 that I think it'll be difficult to recognize in the moment. If everything kicks ass, then nothing does, you know? With seemingly infinite games spilling out of the computer, we're living in an age of PC gaming where nearly everyone's specific tastes in nearly every sub-sub-subgenre are being met, as long as you know where to look. 2022 is going to be a busy one. 

And we'll do our best to curate and celebrate, to pull out and neatly frame the games you would've otherwise missed in all the noise. Can't wait. 

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