2022 had its fair share of blockbuster releases, pushing the envelope of modern hardware to the brink. However, in the sea of big-budget titles, there were a handful of games that called back to the retro era with evocative success. We obviously love retro games, so when modern releases (indie or otherwise) manage to blend old-school vibes with cutting-edge technology, it’s something worth celebrating. Luckily, the best retro-inspired games of 2022 hit the spot in more ways than one, at times even commanding our attention for longer than the hottest new mega-hit.
Whether through their artistic style, gameplay, or nostalgic sense of wonder, the best retro-inspired games of 2022 expertly combined the past and present. As is common, many of these smaller games fell through the cracks, so we hope you’ll discover something new as we list off our favorites! To keep things fresh, we’ve included games from a variety of genres, ranging from boomer shooters to beat ’em ups. Addictive, funny, and full of charm, these retro-inspired gems from 2022 should not be missed.
The Best Retro-Inspired Games of 2022
It’s wonderful to see indie developers thrive, which is why we’re happy to highlight CULTIC on our list of the best retro-inspired games of 2022. Developed by Jason Smith under the moniker of JasozzGames, this violent and dark FPS lets players go wild as they mow down cult members and try to uncover mystical malfeasance. Similar in style to retro shooters like BLOOD and DOOM, CULTIC is fast, bloody, and lots of fun. It also gets the badge of approval from publisher 3D Realms, who previously released iconic shooters like Duke Nukem 3D.
4. Return to Monkey Island
The Monkey Island series was a staple in early-1990s point ‘n click adventures, but after a few sequels, the franchise mostly disappeared. Back in the saddle with Return to Monkey Island, the creators of the original game once again prove their mastery in the sub-genre. 2022 was a strong year filled with nostalgia, but there was something special about Return to Monkey Island, as it modernized the gameplay formula while retaining its retro roots. Endlessly funny and with a fresh evocative art style, Return to Monkey Island definitely deserves a spot on our list of the best retro-inspired games of 2022.
3. Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Shredder's Revenge
It’s no secret that we’re big fans of classic TMNT beat ’em up games, so we were more than excited for Shredder’s Revenge, the newest arcade-style action game from developer Tribute Games. Supporting up to six players at once and packed to the brim with more fan service than you can throw a pizza at, this retro-inspired beat ’em up delivered on all of its promises. The music, graphics, and gameplay feel simultaneously nostalgic and fresh, offering a mesmerizing celebration of all things TMNT. Simply put, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Shredder’s Revenge is a top-tier beat ’em up that never sacrifices quality for easy nostalgia, perfecting a balance of old and new.
2. Vampire Survivors
Retro games are often remarkably difficult, but thanks to their straightforward concepts and limited control schemes, are addictive enough to warrant dozens of hours of play. The same sentiment rings true for Vampire Survivor, a retro-inspired, top-down roguelite action game that basically invented a new sub-genre in 2022. In the game, you simply move your pixelated hero around the screen as they destroy enemies with increasingly powerful weapons. The graphics are decidedly old school and the gameplay is as simple as can be, but it still provides enough challenge and interesting unlockables to keep you hooked. It also helps that the game is insanely cheap, and you can purchase it on the platform of your choice for just a few bucks.
A defining part of the retro gaming experience often revolved around learning how to even play the game, whether through the help of a game’s included manual or a handy Nintendo Power magazine. While that sort of gameplay discovery has been mostly lost to time, the isometric adventure game Tunic replicates it in a wildly effective fashion. Starring a heroic fox on a journey to save a mysterious world, this fantastic indie title includes lost pages of a virtual manual at various points of the game, teaching players key gameplay concepts. In addition to being a fantastic adventure that unabashedly pays homage to The Legend of Zelda, Tunic expertly captures the essence of playing retro games in a pre-internet era.