The Most Surprising Video Games Of 2022

What makes a video game a surprise? For some, it can be that one game that came out of nowhere and dominated the conversation. For others, it’s a game that defied their expectations and maybe even proved doubters wrong. For this writer, it’s a game that did something I never expected. Most games we know about ahead of time now, although we do get the shock indie here and there, and I think you can find anyone out there who would say a bad game is good or vice versa. As such, a surprising game has to be something that, either through its gameplay or the conversation around it, was caught me off-guard.

To make it more simple, you know something is surprising when you see it, and if you didn’t think any of the games on this list are surprising, that’s okay, because what we all see as a surprise is different in our own eyes. So with that in mind, here are some games that were surprising this year.

Sonic Frontiers – PlayStation 4, PlayStation 5, Xbox One, Xbox Series X/S, Switch, PC

When an open world Sonic the Hedgehog game was first announced, there was a mixed reaction. There was optimism over a world to explore. At the same time, there was confusion on how Sonic, in particular, was going to traverse that kind of environment. His games are about getting from Point A to Point B at high speeds with quick reactions rewarding skilled players with better rewards. An open world exploration game doesn’t exactly fit that mold, and when the first few gameplay trailers came out, there was definitely some concerned that SEGA was going to miss the mark big time here.

Instead, what we got was a perfectly fine, if not good, new direction for the franchise. The open world aspects were a little dull at times, and the high speed levels would sometimes lead to really frustrating deaths that feel out of the player’s control, but none of this took away from the enjoyment of the overall experience. It was a fun game and the reason this is a surprise is that it was starting to feel like Sonic was losing his way again. But against the odds, this latest game is just as fun as everyone wanted it to be and should be an exciting new step in the franchise.

Stranger of Paradise: Final Fantasy Origin – PlayStation 4, PlayStation 5, Xbox One, Xbox Series X/S, PC

Stranger of Paradise: Final Fantasy Origin should not be a good game. Honestly, if you only watch the cutscenes, you might be inclined to believe that it isn’t one. Every piece of dialogue is nonsensical, the characters feel like they are just talking to say words instead of speaking to each other, and there are random large blocks of text to signify moments that at one point in development were definitely going to be playable. This is one of those games that, as you play it, you genuinely can’t believe what you are seeing on screen. Take this cutscene that is, without question, the best moment in video games this year.

Everything is like that, and yet smashed between all these cutscenes are some really fun action setpieces. Stranger of Paradise: Final Fantasy Origin is a dungeon crawler with big bombastic boss fights and loads of customization options. It has gotten a lot of comparisons to Dark Souls gameplay but it’s actually closer to Nioh, which makes sense because Nioh and Stranger of Paradise have the same developer, Team Ninja. It’s a genuinely very fun game to play, and if you’re someone that likes games like Elden Ring, you might want to give it a try. Just be ready for one of the most bizarre stories you have ever seen. Stranger of Paradise is on this list because you can’t believe it’s real.

Madden NFL 23 – PlayStation 4, PlayStation 5, Xbox One, Xbox Series X/S, PC

I can hear everyone screaming now, but before you finish typing that angry comment, please allow an explanation. The Madden games have been largely and unfortunately bad for a very long time. Launch day has traditionally been synonymous with glitches, angry fans, and calls for the NFL to strip EA Sports of their exclusivity license. Things were different this year. Yes, there were glitches, and fans did review bomb places like Metacritic, but the usual outrage was quieter than normal. It wasn’t out of apathy, though. Fans and critics by and large acknowledged that for the first time in a long time, Madden got better this year.

The idea of Madden improving is such a surprise, so unusual from the expected status quo, that it is this lone writer’s opinion that it is one of the most surprising games of the year. This, like others on this list, does not mean Madden 23 is a great game, nor is it a sign that this year’s Madden has improved to the level that many of us fondly remember. But it’s one of the first positive steps the franchise has taken in a long time and one that, if the series does manage to turn around, fans can point to as a great step back in the right direction.