Each year, thousands of games are released. It’s only natural that, sadly, some titles get left in the dust while bigger and more prolific titles take the limelight. Checkpoint Gaming’s top ten is, after all, obviously only able to fit ten. So we thought we’d take the time to highlight some of those deeper cuts that may just miss out.
Continuing on from our trend last year, here are Checkpoint Gaming’s hidden gems of 2022.
Betrayal at Club Low
Citizen Sleeper may be the most prestigious and known dice game to release in 2022, but it wasn’t alone. Flying entirely under the radar is a little indie hidden gem by the name of Betrayal at Club Low. Players control a secret agent disguised as a pizza delivery person. Tasked with infiltrating, blending in and then extracting a target at a club, quite the challenge is ahead of players. Choices, character interactions and actions throughout are all determined by dice. The dice in this game, however, reflect not just your typical RPG skills (Deception, Wit, Athleticism, etc) but also the skin of pizza. No, I’m not kidding.
Betrayal at Club Low already paints a weird world with bizarre characters to interact with such as a tightly wound and exploitative manager to the club DJ or the coat check that definitely is hiding a few secrets. Hilarity and nerves ensue as you’re earning money to buy skill points to level up your character to pass skill checks. Adding a spanner to the works are these pizza dice where characters can customise them at an oven to give buffs (or maybe even debuffs) to your rolls to come up on top. Hard to explain but entirely worth experiencing, Betrayal at Club Low is one of the most memorable, underrated and charming games of the year. – Charlie
Beacon Pines might look cute on the surface, but don’t let the adorable exterior of its humble town full of chatty woodland creatures fool you. Something sinister is going on underneath it all that will keep you on the edge of your seat as it all unravels in front of you.
The game doesn’t have a lot of gameplay other than exploring the town itself and having conversations with its residents, but important choices come up that must be made to progress, and the narrative branches out in some intriguing ways. Then, if you get a bad ending (which you most certainly will at first), you can go back in time, make a different choice and see how the butterfly effect could have played out differently. It’s a simple but compelling premise, with strong writing and great voice acting from the main narrator, that makes this cute-but-creepy storybook truly come to life. – Luke
I Was A Teenage Exocolonist
There hasn’t been a single other game this year that grabbed me as much as I Was a Teenage Excocolonist, which made it devastating when it didn’t make the splash I feel it deserves. You control a child from age 10 to age 20 as they grow up as part of Earth’s very first colony on an alien planet. It’s a story-rich RPG with branching paths all controlled by you — what you choose to learn in school, what you choose to do with your time off, and what you choose to care about. Whether you succeed or fail in life is determined by card battles coloured by the life you’ve lived so far. The cherry on top is a time-loop twist that encourages multiple playthroughs. The art style and music are gorgeous, too. Our full review is available here for my full thoughts on this masterpiece. – Edie
An adventure game with a beautiful art style and a cute fox protagonist on the surface, and a deeply cryptic experience with its own decodable language under the sheets. TUNIC is a game for people who love taking some extra time to dig into the gritty bits and pieces to learn and reveal secrets.
Besides its hidden elements, TUNIC is also incredibly well-made with smart level design. You’ll often turn a corner and return to an area you thought otherwise unreachable, when in fact the perspective of the camera hides a ladder from you in plain sight. So many magical moments like this made TUNIC such a delight to play and one of, if not the, best adventure game there is.
Read our full review of TUNIC to learn more about this charming Zelda-like. – Omi
Soulstice was a very pleasant surprise of this year, taking the challenging and stylish action gameplay of Devil May Cry, Bayonetta and Nier Automata and putting its own twist on it by having the players control two sisters simultaneously in combat. The mixture of Briar’s hack-and-slash gameplay and Lute magical counter spells and aura abilities felt far more intuitive and enjoyable than it had any right to be. Adding in a surprisingly deep and engaging narrative, worldbuilding and a great lead performance by Stephanie Joosten, Reply Game Studios might have a franchise on its hands with Soulstice, and I for one am interested in seeing what is coming next. – Tom
I don’t think I enjoyed any game this year as much as Tinykin. To be fair, it’s a short game that I inhaled in less than two days, so my brain only had time to retain the good stuff. But even as I played it, I came away having very little to criticise about it – you should read David’s review if you want a proper rundown. Tinykin is a wonderful experience that does everything it sets out to do and doesn’t overstay its welcome.
As a relative newcomer to 3D platformers, Tinykin seemed to predict and resolve my anxieties the more I played. While I was initially concerned at the lack of a map, I quickly found I didn’t need one, since the levels are so uniquely designed and laid out. Considering each level is an easily identifiable type of real-world room (kitchen, bathroom, etc), it’s easy to keep track of where everything is, and even the largest levels let you see the entire breadth of them from a high point. Similarly, I usually get fed up when games require you to grab every single collectable to unlock the next level. In Tinykin, each level deliberately has more collectables than you need, which makes finding new secrets a stress-free reward rather than something you’re penalised for not doing. While certain elements aren’t as strong as others (the later types of Tinykin aren’t nearly as useful as the first ones, for example), I will definitely play Tinykin again one day, just because it’s so fun. A joyful little treat that’s over before you know it. – Pedro
Nobody Saves The World
In the action RPG Nobody Saves The World, the premise of playing as a nobody isn’t exactly an exciting one; especially a nobody with amnesia. However, if any studio was able to make this idea exciting then it would have to be Drinkbox. These Canadian devs are behind the colourful Metroidvania platformer that celebrates the vibrancy of Mexican culture, Gucamelee and Gucamelee 2.
The legacy of these two playful, comedic games may not be apparent straight away in Nobody Saves The World; it takes a while to dig up these past themes that make Drinkbox’s games so much fun to spend time with. The bland, white ghost-like Nobody finding a magic wand that turns them into any of 18 different characters is the catalyst to an extremely fun ride filled with an ever-expanding skill tree and chaotic and colourful dungeons. To traverse the world of Nobody you’ll come across a number of enemies that will require you to take the shape of one of your 18 forms. These include a horse, a scary mermaid, a monk, a knight, and even an egg, each with its own kooky and unexpected skills.
The world of Nobody is vast and as you level up, more characters and abilities will unlock and allow you to uncover more of the world’s map. Surprises await around every turn, becoming more and more outrageous as you advance. Because although your starting form of Nobody is boring, this game with its irreverent humour, ever-changing abilities and weird NPCs is anything but. – Lisa
I’m always looking for a new game to tickle the satisfaction portion of my brain. Whether it be a farming sim, a puzzle game or even something hyper-specific like PowerWash Simulator. I first jumped into this game early in the year when I saw a short gameplay video and bought it on the spot. Powerwashing Simulator is incredibly simple, you are given an area or object that needs cleaning, and you clean it with your powerwasher. What the game does brilliantly though, is adding satisfaction. The thick dirt sloughs off surfaces easily, and every time you clean a whole section, there’s a happy little pop-up to let you know it’s done.
The game is even better multiplayer, especially when tackling some larger spaces. Taking one side each and slowly working together to meet in the middle while occasionally taking a few minutes to shoot water into each other’s faces. After a hard day of work, there has been nothing like unwinding with a few hours of power washing an entire skatepark. I am so close to dropping hundreds of dollars on a real powerwasher to make PowerWash Simulator a reality. – Bree
Fans of classic monster-collecting games may have been thrown for a loop with the last few Pokémon releases, but Coromon developers TRAGsoft showed that there’s still plenty of appetite for a more traditional critter-battling RPG experience. Taking its cues from Gameboy Advance era titles like Golden Sun, The Legend of Zelda: The Minish Cap, and especially Game Freak’s own Pokémon entries on the system, Coromon presents an incredibly vibrant 2D world to explore. It’s packed full of quirky characters, gorgeously rich pixel art, and dozens of weird and wonderful Coromon to collect and raise.
At times, it feels like really, really good Pokémon Emerald fanfiction come to life (in the best way possible). The turn-based battles are dynamic and often tough as nails, while quality-of-life features have been positively crammed into the gameplay, modernising the experience while maintaining its nostalgic appeal. If you’re looking for a pure, classic monster battling RPG, definitely check out Coromon. – David
Not For Broadcast
Releasing at the start of the year, Not For Broadcast is a seriously smart and different gaming experience that shines a lens on the influence of media on the wider population. A bit of a puzzle game and a bit of a visual novel, Not For Broadcast doesn’t simply engage through unique storytelling methods, but it also has surprising mechanical depth to it as you watch the news media broadcast and alter things live to how you see fit, with influence from other sources.
A full-motion video game that isn’t afraid to pave its own path and do things its own way, Not For Broadcast is an exciting release that may have gotten slightly lost in the shuffle of bigger releases. Don’t sleep on this game, because it tells a story worth hearing via one of the most strangely effective storytelling techniques I’ve ever seen. – Elliot
What do you think of our list? Any other hidden gems for 2022 we may have missed?