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Family-friendly games are often–and unfairly–labeled as low effort entertainment that only exists so that you don’t have to worry about accidentally showing your kids a gruesome Mortal Kombat fatality. In 2022, games of the friendlier variety weren’t just fun, but some of the best entertainment of the year and available on a wide variety of platforms. These were games that were designed to appeal to as many people as possible, regularly mixing up high-energy designs with deceptively complex gameplay systems while somehow still being approachable to everyone in the room.
Some of the highlights of the year include Mario + Rabbids: Sparks of Hope, the second ambitious crossover between Ubisoft and Nintendo that could leave you in stitches. Not just absurd fun featuring those rascally rabbids, Sparks of Hope is an amazing tactical game that pushes the genre forward in bold new directions. Tunic was also terrific fun, first rolling out on Xbox and PC and then eventually making its way to other platforms six months later to deliver classic fun with a few modern flourishes. Kirby’s move to 3D platforming in Kirby and the Forgotten Land was perhaps the most adorable game of the year, and it also pushed the franchise forward in fun and inventive ways.
For retro fans, 2022 was a buffet of old school fun that could appeal to the whole family. From classic Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles action to Atari 50’s wonderfully entertaining trip through history, it was a good year to have your nostalgia rekindled. We’ve rounded up the best of the best below thanks to the numbers provided by GameSpot’s sister site Metacritic. For more lists, be sure to check out the best PlayStation, Xbox, and PC games of 2022.
For those of you who still remember the glory days of Atari, then the recent Atari 50 collection is a treasure trove of games from a groundbreaking era. Simple but challenging, there’s a certain joy in not only revisiting games that helped pave the way for the gaming industry of today, but also sharing those experiences with younger and older members of the family. Come for the trip down memory lane, stay for the insightful commentary from legends who helped design these classics.
Rogue Legacy 2
Anyone who played Rogue Legacy when it first came out in 2013 knew that this roguelite dungeon crawler from developer Cellar Door Games was going to be something special. Almost a decade later, a sequel to the delightfully colorful game arrived to rekindle those feelings, and while Rogue Legacy 2 doesn’t innovate as much as its predecessor, it does improve on its formula with captivating new ideas. Vibrant fun with terrific combat and one of the most satisfying gameplay loops around in its genre, Rogue Legacy 2 is approachable action for the whole family.
Metacritic: 88 | Read our Rogue Legacy 2 review
Tunic draws you in with its vibrant world, adorable fox hero, and a landscape that’s evocative of The Legend of Zelda, but this is a game that will test your cunning and resolve. Challenging enemies await you as you descend into a more kid-friendly take on Dark Souls essentially, but this is a game where the journey is more rewarding than the destination. Inspired by some of the greatest franchises in gaming, Tunic manages to blaze its own path forward with striking visuals, exhilarating combat, and good old-fashioned exploration. And thanks to its accessibility options, players of all ages and skill levels can explore its strikingly charming world.
Metacritic: 86 | Read our Tunic review
Return to Monkey Island
If you had a prediction sheet for 2022, there’s a good chance that you didn’t have “Monkey Island for a new generation” on your list. While Return to Monkey Island is undeniably a game that has a target-lock on veterans of the series, there’s more than enough content here to rope in newcomers as well to the continuing misadventures of Guybrush Threepwood. The bold art direction complements the weird story perfectly, the writing is sharper than the saltiest insult from a sea dog, and with excellent voice acting on tap as well, the series makes a triumphant return that’s bound to please anyone playing and watching the game’s story unfold.
Metacritic: 87 | Read our Return to Monkey Island review
Gran Turismo 7
The future might be electric when it comes to cars, but for now, the siren song of petrol-powered mechanical beasts hitting the track is a tune that anyone of any age can appreciate. It may not have had a completely smooth start out of the gate, but with a few months of patches, tweaks, and new content, Gran Turismo 7 has become pure petrolhead heaven. You might need to be 16 to be allowed to get behind the wheel on your own, but this sophisticated and gorgeous driving simulator won’t ask for ID when you get behind its digital wheel.
Metacritic: 87 | Read our Gran Turismo 7 review
What happens when you toss Pikmin and Honey I Shrunk the Kids into a blender? You get Tinykin, a delightful adventure into the realm of messy, larger than life rooms that also has some Saturday morning 1990s cartoon flair to its visual design. It’s that mix of platforming, puzzles, and surprisingly heartfelt storytelling that makes Tinykin worth picking up for anyone in the mood for a playful adventure.
Metacritic: 87 | Read our Tinykin review
Roll7’s OlliOlli World is pure joy in a colorful world where every skateboarding run is both challenging and cathartic. Previous OlliOlli games felt fantastic to play, but with this third entry in the series adopting a 2.5 art aesthetic, the series pops with both kickflips and personality to dazzling effect. Far more approachable than its predecessors, meditative, and quirky, OlliOlli World makes side-scrolling skateboarding feel better than ever.
Metacritic: 87 | Read our OlliOlli World review
Mario + Rabbids: Sparks of Hope
Just as much fun to watch as it is to play, Mario + Rabbids: Sparks of Hope is clever tactical gameplay wrapped up in delightfully colorful design. The combination of Nintendo’s Mushroom Kingdom icons with Ubisoft’s raving Rabbids makes for pure comedy gold; the voice acting will have you in stitches; and the accessible gameplay becomes more rewarding the more you experiment with it.
Metacritic: 86 | Read our Mario + Rabbids: Sparks of Hope review
Two Point Campus
Two Point Hospital was heartwarming–darn defibrillators–fun when it first came out, and a few years later, Two Point Campus continues that tradition with a goofy look at academia. It’s a game that’s focused on shaping the minds of tomorrow, and while dealing with the paperwork to help build the ultimate university might sound boring, it’s a surprisingly fun game when you see all your hard work pay off with the creation of a college that runs on mayhem and clever civil engineering.
Metacritic: 84 | Read our Two Point Campus review
Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Shredder’s Revenge
No matter how old you are, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles is a reassuring presence thanks to the franchise’s ability to change with the times. Shredder’s Revenge is a great example of this, as it pays homage to the days of the Konami arcade games and chucks in several terrific updates to the action-packed formula. But what makes Shredder’s Revenge such a great family title is its superb co-op, as you’re easily able to fill the screen with the cult-classic ninja turtles, their master Splinter, intrepid reporter, and sports fanatic Casey Jones. Goongalah!
Metacritic: 85 | Read our Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Shredder’s Revenge review
A storybook tale about the power of narratives, Beacon Pines balances some of the most exquisite visual design of the year with a colorful cast of characters and a plot complex enough to make Tenet look like a Michael Bay movie in comparison. To say anything more would be to spoil what kind of a game Beacon Pines is, but if you’re in the mood for a story where consequences are real, the content gets surprisingly emotional, and agonizing over which path to take during a critical juncture, Beacon Pines is one to grab.
Shovel Knight Dig
You’re never too old to enjoy a Shovel Knight game, and in Shovel Knight Dig, the spade-wielding hero is back and better than ever with more detailed 16-bit designs, tough roguelite elements, and some of the best pixel animation of the year. Developer Yacht Club has become a master of its craft, and with Shovel Knight Dig, that craft is an energetic and skillful odyssey across a fantasy land that shows off some imaginative design.
Metacritic: 85 | Read our Shovel Knight Dig review
Forza Horizon 5: Hot Wheels
Take the high-octane racing action of Forza Horizon 5, throw in some Hot Wheels cars that have been sized up, unleash them on orange tracks that’ll have you gleefully defying gravity, and you’ve got a recipe for success right there. The Hot Wheels expansion for Forza Horizon 5 is pure childhood glee, a dream of racing the greatest cars in the world on tracks that speak to your inner child. A silly burst of high-speed fun, nothing compares to the sheer exhilaration of putting the pedal to the metal as you race into a gigantic loop.
Metacritic: 85 | Read our Forza Horizon 5: Hot Wheels review
Kirby and the Forgotten Land
If anyone doubted that Nintendo’s adorable pink blob could carry a 3D game all on his lonesome little squishy shoulders, then Kirby and the Forgotten Land is the game that will turn naysayers into true believers. It’s the idea of Kirby at its very best, a joyous exploration of a strange land that energizes players with its unbeatable positivity and also gets wonderfully weird when you see Kirby start to devour everything in sight as part of a crucial gameplay mechanic. Pure whimsical action, platforming, and secret-uncovering that’ll keep you hooked for hours, Kirby’s latest title is a tremendously fun showcase for one of Nintendo’s greatest icons. It’s also one of the best co-op games on Switch to play with your child.
Metacritic: 85 | Read our Kirby and the Forgotten Land review
Nobody Saves the World
When you’ve got the team behind Guacamelee putting a fresh spin on the apocalypse, you know you’re in for a good time. Nobody Saves the World reinforces that idea, as the combination of incredibly crisp graphics, a catchy soundtrack, and gameplay that revolves around a bunch of extremely varied and powerful forms is an absolute blast to play. It’s good-natured zany fun that’ll regularly put a smile on your face and feels even better with a second player along for the ride to help generate some synergy on your dungeon-crawling escapades.
Metacritic: 84 | Read our Nobody Saves the World review
Photo Credit: Pixabay