Well here we are, 2022 is past us and we’re now on our way into 2023. As is always the case in the world of mobile gaming, there were A LOT of really great mobile games released in 2022. And it’s not just the games themselves but the landscape of mobile gaming always seems to be changing as well. Back in 2019 Apple Arcade launched and ushered in the subscription gaming format into the App Store. With Apple always holding its cards so close to its chest it’s hard to gauge how successful the service actually is, but one thing I can say for certain is that the Apple Arcade library is stuffed with some truly excellent games, both re-released classics and original stuff.
But something pretty interesting happened in 2022. Well, technically it started in late 2021, but 2022 was really where it came into its own. Netflix, known for their streaming video content service, launched their own gaming initiative on mobile devices. The deal is basically that anyone with an active Netflix subscription would be able to download a variety of games published under Netflix’s label in both the iOS and Android app stores, and then use their subscription login to be able to play those games in full with absolutely no ads or in-app purchases. While the Netflix Games service started off a bit slow on launch, in 2022 they seriously pumped out some hits, and it was common to see both them and Apple Arcade trading blows by announcing high-profile games headed to their respective services.
Of course this competition to outdo each other with big game releases meant that we gamers got to sit back and bask in all this gaming goodness. It also presented a problem in terms of an article like this one. We’ve long treated Apple Arcade like its own separate thing from “normal” App Store game releases, even giving it its own Game of the Year award in years past. So should we treat Netflix Games the same? It feels weird to give something like a Game of the Year award to a game locked behind a subscription since not everyone has the means or desire to subscribe to a service like that. So it’s always been very important to make sure our iPhone and iPad Games of the Year are normal releases that anyone can just download or buy, but we’d be excluding a lot of truly wonderful games if we didn’t have a way to consider games in subscription services.
So all this overly wordy explanation is to say that for this year’s Game of the Year we have an iPhone entry, an iPad entry, an Apple Arcade entry, and a brand new Netflix entry. All four of these categories had plenty of great games to choose from, and we’ll be putting together a big list of all the best games of 2022 across all of them in the very near future (we really ran short on time this year). For now just kick back and enjoy our various Game of the Year picks, and if your own picks differ from ours then feel free to sound off with what you would have picked down in the comments below.
iPhone Game of the Year 2022: ‘Marvel Snap’
MARVEL SNAP, Free
– [Review] – When some key members behind the most popular digital card game of the past decade, Hearthstone, decide to strike off on their own and bring something new to the CCG genre, chances are pretty good that they’ll come up with something pretty good or, at the very least, unique. In the case of Second Dinner’s Marvel Snap, they accomplished both. Hearthstone proved that there was an appetite for a digital card game that could be played on mobile that wasn’t dumbed down to the point that it was no longer strategic, but it’s still a pretty complex game at its core, meaning it required a certain level of dedication to learn that a lot of more casual mobile gamers just didn’t have.
This I think is the main problem Second Dinner set out to address with Marvel Snap. Each player’s deck features just 12 cards, which is very easy to manage and just enough cards to still offer strategic variety. Games revolve around trying to win 2 of the 3 territories in each game, and each territory has its own special effects or parameters that also add to the strategy of the game. Finally there’s the “Snap” mechanic which is a risk/reward element that adds tremendous drama to every game. This simple set of core mechanics provides games that are competitive, exciting, and strategic, and the icing on the cake is that they only last a few minutes each.
All of this comes together to make for a pretty close to perfect mobile gaming experience. And that’s not even touching on the Marvel license that’s in play which means there are hundreds of well-known characters to draw from for cards, each with multiple versions perfect for upgrading those cards. This is all done within a free-to-play system that is very (perhaps overly) friendly, which also doesn’t mess up the balance or competitive nature of the game.
It’s hard to find much bad to say about Marvel Snap, at least at this point in time. I guess if you just plain don’t like card games this might not be for you? But also if that’s the case you might be pleasantly surprised to see how Marvel Snap can pull you in, even if you haven’t clicked with competitive card games in the past. I also suppose that there’s the possibility that too much new content or modes could muck up the simplicity of the game (Hearthstone has suffered from this a bit), or some new monetization method could muck up the current free to play system. But right here, right now, Marvel Snap is almost too good for words, and has risen above the many other great releases in 2022 to earn our Game of the Year nod. – Jared Nelson
iPad Game of the Year 2022: ‘Total War: MEDIEVAL II’
Total War: MEDIEVAL II, $14.99
– [Review] – [Kingdoms Review] – While we try to keep the iPad Game of the Year for iPad-only games like with Divinity Original Sin 2 last year, Total War: MEDIEVAL II surpassed our high expectations when it arrived earlier in 2022. Total War: MEDIEVAL II is one of Feral Interactive’s best conversions for iPad and mobile yet, and the Kingdoms expansion cemented it as one of the best strategy experiences you can have on iPad. It is playable on iPhone, but feels perfect on iPad with the larger canvas. It even excels above the PC original which is hard to go back to after experiencing the iPad version.
Feral Interactive is known for amazing conversions for mobile platforms, but Total War: MEDIEVAL II with its Kingdoms expansions feels like a cut above everything else so far. It may not be as graphically impressive as Alien: Isolation from the same publisher, but the deep strategic gameplay and all the new enhancements for the iOS version make it an easy recommendation to not only fans of the genre, but also newcomers looking to sample the best it has to offer. I can’t wait to see what Feral Interactive has in store for us in 2023. Total War: MEDIEVAL II is easily our favorite iPad game of 2022. – Mikhail Madnani
Apple Arcade Game of the Year 2022: ‘Horizon Chase 2’
Horizon Chase 2,
– [Review] – The original Horizon Chase first launched the better part of a decade ago, and it has seen a constant barrage of new content via frequent updates over the years. It’s the kind of game that’s difficult to top, but somehow Aquiris Studio did just that with Horizon Chase 2. The first thing you’re likely to notice is that this sequel features a more realistic and impressive visual style over its predecessor, but somehow it manages to still feel neo-retro the same way that first game did. For my money this is one of the more graphically impressive games on Apple Arcade.
Next is an online component that many fans of the first game had clamored for, as well as some robust vehicle customization and upgrade options. When it comes to the gameplay though, they didn’t try to fix what wasn’t broken. This is an arcade racer through and through, with a tremendous sense of speed and a massive new World Tour to play through featuring tons of excellent new tracks to race. Horizon Chase 2 can be described with just two words: More and better. That is generally my favorite approach for a sequel to a game I adored, and that formula worked perfectly to make this our overall favorite Apple Arcade game of 2022. – Jared Nelson
Netflix Game of the Year 2022: ‘Poinpy’
NETFLIX Poinpy, Free
– [Review] – Following up Downwell was never going to be an easy task, but developer Ojiro Fumoto pulled it off with Poinpy. In some ways it’s the obvious twist on its spiritual predecessor. Instead of going down a well, you’re going up one. But even that choice was going to be a more difficult thing to sell players on. Falling is easy, falling with style slightly harder. Climbing takes a bit more work, and climbing with style hasn’t been successfully pulled off since Sylvester Stallone rocked the box office with Cliffhanger in 1993.
Poinpy isn’t as easy to take to as Downwell as a result, but it’s equally rewarding to stick with. At first you’re just trying to stay alive by climbing up as quickly as possible, hoping to stay ahead of the pursuing beast as long as possible. Then you start making combos. Then you start making specific kinds of combos. Then you unlock some new abilities and upgrades. A steady curve up the hill, and one that consistently makes you feel the mastery you’re slowly building up. Throw in some extra modes to keep the good times rolling after you’ve finished the game and an incredibly charming presentation, and you’ve got a fantastic reason to subscribe to Netflix. – Shaun Musgrave
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