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2022 has been the year of the gaming backlog

Image of Xbox One S and an Xbox Wireless Controller in Robot White.
(Image credit: Daniel Rubino | Windows Central)

The video games industry continues to expand at an astonishing rate, with more studios and developers than ever before passionately working on new and upcoming projects. Global changes and regular game delays have led to rippling effects in the industry, however, leading to a slight lull in the influx of new titles in the first half of 2022.

Not to be deterred from playing more games, I immediately began diving into my perpetually extending backlog (seriously, how does this list never shrink?) to experience some of the best games I missed from the last two decades. 2022 has been one of my favorite years for gaming ever, with an increased appreciation for older games raising my anticipation for the deluge of new games heading to players in the latter half of 2022 and beyond.

The state of gaming in 2022

Image of Starfield with character standing on a planet's surface.

(Image credit: Bethesda Softworks)

Burgeoning talented developers and creators are flooding into the video game industry, and it seems that every other day brings another announcement that a new games studio is opening its doors and working on its debut project. There are more video games in the works than ever, especially from indie developers that constantly push the boundaries on creativity and ingenuity in video games. That being said, the first half of 2022 has seen a slower stream of new releases than the preceding year, due to a variety of factors and reasons.

The effects of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic that began in 2020 are still being heavily felt today. The necessary shifts in development strategies, workflow, and team organization have resulted in many games that began development pre-2020 to today being delayed beyond their initial release windows, even in the background away from public eyes.

A push for bigger, more ambitious games has also led to longer development cycles for titles. Forza Motorsport (2023), for example, is following its predecessor over five years later, when previous entries were separated by only two years. Shifting plans from larger publishers like Ubisoft, EA, and Activision Blizzard have also led to delays and restructurings, as the lumbering behemoths struggle to keep up with the rapidly changing industry.

Redfall Layla uses her purple magic umbrella

(Image credit: Bethesda Softworks)

The terrible invasion of Ukraine by Russia has had outstanding effects on the video games industry, as well. Detailed in-depth by our own Samuel Tolbert, the Russian invasion of Ukraine has heavily affected many studios and developers, with repercussions even affecting the industry outside of Ukraine. Ukraine and surrounding regions house many studios and support studios, and every team is struggling to adapt to the ongoing crisis and the constant threat to the lives and livelihood of their members.

Many of my favorite games played this year didn't release in 2022.

All of this and more has contributed to a widespread wave of delays across the industry. Many games originally slated to release in 2022, like Starfield and Redfall, are now pushed into 2023. Other games with release windows that occupied the first half of 2022 are now arriving alongside a plethora of other games during the latter months of the year.

That isn't to say there has been a shortage of games to play during the opening months of 2022, with releases like Pokémon Legends: Arceus, Elden Ring, Dying Light 2: Stay Human, and more ensuring gamers have plenty to play. Still, as we enter into the second half of 2022, I've found that it's my backlog that has helped solidify 2022 as one of my most memorable years in video games, with many of my favorite games played being from previous years.

Diving into the backlog

Concept art from NieR:Automata.

(Image credit: Square Enix)

At the time of writing, I have played and completed a whopping 30 games in 2022. This is already the greatest number of games I've finished in a single year (my previous best was 26 in 2021), and we're only halfway through the year. Apart from being able to experience so many wonderful games and stories, it's also a testament to the improvements I've made managing my ADHD and fighting the burnout that has prevented me from finishing games in the past.

What's relevant to this article, however, is the overwhelming number of games I've played this year that weren't released in 2022. Broken down by the periods in which the games were originally released, this is how my 2022 has looked so far:

  • 2010 and earlier — 3
  • 2015 and earlier — 6
  • 2020 and earlier — 9
  • 2021 — 5
  • 2022 — 7

Of the 30 games I've played this year, only seven were released in 2022. Of those seven, three games were titles I reviewed and otherwise likely wouldn't have played. For most of the last six months, I've been diving into my carefully cultivated backlog to play indie classics and hidden gems, legendary AAA masterpieces, revolutionary franchises, and more.

This dedicated effort to scratch my ever-growing backlog has led to some of my favorite moments in gaming, even comparing at times to the "good old days" of Halo 2, Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic, and Tony Hawk's Underground 2 on the original Xbox.

2022 has given me some of my favorite moments in gaming, even compared to my childhood.

I fell in love with the survival horror genre with games like Metro 2033 Redux, The Evil Within, and RESIDENT EVIL 2 (2019); I was blown away by the wonder and mystery of Outer Wilds and the humorous, expectation-subverting Undertale; I played Xbox One-era Microsoft exclusives like Ryse: Son of Rome, Quantum Break, and Sunset Overdrive; I submerged myself into the intricately detailed worlds of RPGs like NieR:Automata and Mass Effect; I began my journey through new franchises like Mirror's Edge, Wolfenstein, and DOOM.

The Stanley Parable: Ultra Deluxe Hero Image

(Image credit: Crows Crows Crows)

I've still played several 2022-released games that I adored, of course. Nobody Saves the World and The Stanley Parable: Ultra Deluxe immediately come to mind as personal favorites (both these games earned a perfect 5/5 from Windows Central). There are also other brand-new games that have since joined my backlog as titles I fully intend to play in the future. At the end of the day, though, older games have dominated my 2022 — in the best possible way.

Any moment I was left without an obvious choice for my next video game obsession, my backlog was always quick to offer an exciting title to expand my gaming tastes and experience. During periods when large game releases were scarcer or weren't to my taste, or the perpetual stream of incredible indie games failed to catch my attention, older titles that I had missed or was simply never exposed to occupied my time.

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The anticipation of new and upcoming games can be addictive, but older titles still have so much to offer. There are still dozens of games I have yet to play, including BioShock, Gears of War, Dragon's Dogma, Octopath Traveler, and so many more. I keep track of each game I play on my Twitter, and I'm always happy to discuss the games I've played or take suggestions for games or DLC I should play that I may have missed. Gaming is a wonderful way to escape the mundanity of everyday life, and I have experienced so many emotions through this art medium.

That being said, the brief lull in the maelstrom of video game releases has compressed even more highly anticipated games into the latter half of 2022 and 2023.

Looking forward to the future

Official screenshot of Forza Motorsport (2023).

(Image credit: Xbox Game Studios)

It appears that the efforts of dozens of developers and studios are coming to fruition in the same period, ensuring that 2023 is shaping up to be one of the most packed years for video games in a long while. The second half of 2022 appears to be a fitting opening salvo to the following year, as well, with a myriad of intriguing game releases. Our list of upcoming Xbox games is packed to the brim with releases arriving over the next 12 months and beyond, and many are also slated for a day one arrival on Xbox and PC Game Pass.

I can't wait to play games like the rebooted Saints Row (2022), the official and final release of Obsidian's shrunken survival game Grounded, the console release of Pokémon-like TemTem, the heavy metal rhythm shooter Metal: Hellsinger, the humorous alien shooter High on Life, the disease-riddled adventure A Plague Tale: Requiem, upcoming horror games like Scorn and The Callisto Protocol, indie releases like Slime Rancher 2, and so much more. Oh, yeah, did I mention all of the aforementioned games are arriving in the second half of 2022?

We're about to have a lot less time to chip away at our gaming backlogs.

I haven't even brought up the 2023 heavy hitters like Starfield, Redfall, Forza Motorsport (2023), Resident Evil 4 (2023), Dead Space (2023), Lightyear Frontier, The Last Case of Benedict Fox, COCOON, Star Wars Jedi: Survivor, and more. I could easily list dozens of games for which I'm excited, and we wouldn't extend beyond the brief 12-month period we're dubbing "2023." The best Xbox games are about to get a lot of company, and I can hardly contain my eagerness to play them.

On one hand, diving into my backlog in the first half of 2022 has allowed me to play some incredible games for the first time, long after most people already fell in love with them. On the other hand, with the amount of games heading to players in the next year and beyond, I'm grateful I played so many games on my backlog — it's only going to get bigger from here, and I'm not certain when I'll have time to chip away at it.

If you're left feeling like you're without something to play until your most anticipated games release in the future, consider looking back in time to the ever-present backlog over your shoulder. There may be some excellent games you've missed, and now is a great time to play them. Pretty soon, we'll be swimming in new games to discover. No matter your preferences, this is a pretty incredible time to be a gamer.

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Zachary Boddy
Zachary Boddy

Zachary Boddy is the Minecraft Expert and a News Writer for Windows Central, Android Central, and iMore. They have been gaming and writing for most of their life, and have been freelancing for Windows Central and its sister sites since 2019, with a focus on Xbox and PC gaming. You can find Zachary on Twitter @BoddyZachary.