For every game like Elden Ring that smashes the doors off sales records and gets the gaming world abuzz for months, there are dozens of smaller games that don’t make quite as big of a splash. Here in the closing moments of 2022, it’s a great time to look back at the the year and see what hidden gems you may have missed.
Below you’ll find five games that may have flown beneath that radar this year but are still absolutely worth your time. There’s a third-person shoot-’em-up on rollerskates, a relaxing yet immensely satisfying puzzle game about trains, a wonderfully funny FMV game set in a dystopian future, a pixel adventure about avoiding disaster in ridiculous ways, and a game about running a collectible card shop frequented by the sexiest customers you’ve ever seen.
Here are 5 hidden gems from 2022.
Not for Broadcast
Release date: January 25
2022 kicked off in a bizarre way if you played this FMV television studio simulator. And if you didn’t, you owe it a look now. In Not for Broadcast you’re a custodian at a TV studio who makes the mistake of answering a ringing phone, and now you’re in charge of deciding what viewers across the country see and don’t see when they turn on their televisions. On the fly you manage different news feeds, switch to commercials, keep the camera on live broadcasters, cut to different angles, attempt to bleep swear words, and eventually start making decisions on how much propaganda to feed the rapt television audience.
While it sounds like it could hit a bit heavy with social commentary, Not for Broadcast is far more silly and slapstick than serious, though it does satirize issues like wealth, political parties, the police, and even the pandemic (though in this game the lockdown is due to killer toy robots). The writing and performances are sharp and there’s lots of laughs as you struggle to keep viewers from changing the channel.
Release date: February 10
Running a collectible card shop doesn’t sound like it’d be super sexy, but oddly enough your little store in Kardboard Kings is frequently visited by hotties. As the shop’s new owner, guided by an extremely helpful parrot, you buy cards online, put them out for sale in your shop, and try to turn a profit by buying low and selling high. Along the way you meet and flirt with characters through branching text-based conversations.
And don’t let the sexy customers overshadow the fun of the business sim, either. A daily news feed can tip you off to trends in the card market, letting you capitalize on scandals or events that boost or crater the value of certain types of cards. The cards themselves are all beautifully done, too, making me wish the fictional games they’re made for actually existed. There’s romance, humor, intrigue (a mysterious masked visitor sometimes appears), and the day-to-day bustle of managing customers and your shop’s appeal. I don’t play card games, but I love this game about card games.
Release date: August 16
The premise sounds familiar: a dystopian future where a lone hero has to fight to the death in arena. But this time you’re on roller skates and style is just as important as success. You’re not just knocking off heavily armed goons, you’re putting on a show, racking up points with sick tricks and taking out enemies with panache. Roll7 (maker of the OlliOlli series) have built a slick, stylish, fast-paced action game where combat feels almost like a dance and the goons trying to kill you are your partners. Throw in some bullet-time and you’ve got a violent ballet on wheels.
Rollerdrome is pure in its vision and ambition. “No skill trees, no unlockable abilities or experience points to grind,” says Sam Greer in our review—and it’s one of our highest review scores of the entire year. “No obstacles between you and the exhilaration on offer. It’s a game that knows exactly what it wants to be and lets nothing get in its way.”
Release date: September 6
Sometimes you just want to kick back, relax, and help some adorable little trains get where they’re going. Railbound is a chill puzzle game from developer Afterburn where you’re presented with tiny train cars and some broken pieces of track. You place and reroute the little track segments so the train cars can link up with the locomotive, and then—choo choo—watch them steam happily away. With 150 levels to beat, the challenge will progressively rise, and different environments introduce new puzzle elements like tunnels, gates, and switches that automatically change direction when a train car passes over them.
“Each click of the mouse lays down a piece of rail with a satisfying little thunk, and the pieces elegantly snap together when you drag the mouse in the right direction,” Wes wrote when he played Railbound in September. “I find clicking on everything in Railbound delightfully tactile, to the point that I’m now a little worried I’m going to be a model train guy in 20 years.”
Release date: November 14
Capping off our list is a heavy dose of utter silliness. McPixel 3 (there was no McPixel 2, by the way) is an adventure with 100 levels, each presenting you with a particular situation to solve. Maybe you’re in a speeding train headed for a cliff, or you’re stuck in a burning house, or you’re a dinosaur moments before a massive meteor strikes the Earth. You only have seconds to decide: What will you do to save the day?
Well, what you’ll do is completely unexpected and ridiculous. “It’s an absolutely bonkers collection of puzzles in which McPixel saves the day in astonishingly bizarre ways, like disarming a cruise missile by peeing on it, saving people from a car bomb by kicking a man in the nuts, or crashing a barbecue and stuffing bratwurst into his paints,” Andy wrote. “If that doesn’t sound like it makes sense, well, believe me, it doesn’t.”