Against all odds we made it to 2023! And while the holidays can be filled with travel and trips, family gatherings, and social obligations, it can also be a fine time to hunker down and play some games.
Not everyone gets a nice long holiday vacation, of course, but we hope you found at least a little time to ring in the new year with some extended PC gaming sessions. If so, what did you play? One of 2022's best games (opens in new tab)? A game that's been in your library for years that you finally had time for? An old favorite you wanted to revisit? Or did you just keep on playing the game you've already sunk dozens of hours into?
Either way, we'd love to know in the comments. Here's what the PC Gamer staff played over the holidays:
Cult of the Lamb, Melatonin, Dorfromantik, Bear & Breakfast
Jacob Ridley, Senior Hardware Editor: Through the magic of the Steam Deck I got through a handful of games over the break. My most played holiday videogame was Cult of the Lamb (opens in new tab)—turns out what I've wanted in a game this whole time is Animal Crossing with more ritual sacrifice. Or The Binding of Isaac but cuter.
Melatonin is just one of those rhythm games that you pick up and don't put down until you've finished it. And Dorfromantik (opens in new tab) offers such a chill vibe it's a perfect fit for the holiday season. I've also been getting into the Airbnb game in Bear & Breakfast, though I've still got a ways to go before I'm a woodland property magnate.
Generally what I've really loved about all the games above is how respectful they've been with my time. Even in the games I had expected more of a grind for resources or upgrades or what have you, there wasn't much of one. They're all so easy to pick up for an hour, maybe even thirty minutes, and feel like you've made progress and experienced something, you know, fun. Of course, the Steam Deck made it all possible. I doubt I'd have played any of them if I had to go sit at my PC all alone.
Cult of the Lamb
Tim Clark, Brand Director: It takes a lot to drag me away from the Destiny 2 loot grind/death march, but I've also been playing Cult of the Lamb, mostly on Steam Deck despite some slowdown issues. I can't get over how gorgeous and coherent the whole occult-meets-cutsie aesthetic is. It makes me want to lift the little animals off the screen and pop them into my mouth. Which would probably be more kind than what I have been doing. To be fair, I try to be a beneficent cult leader. The flock demand a mandated day of rest? Sure, I guess. A follower wants to try eating poop? I'll rustle that right up.
I've even used dark rituals to resurrect my favourite spouse several times, which has to be peak Mr. Wife Guy behaviour. But if you turn up at my polycule of anthropomorphized furballs preaching any form of dissent, expect a sacrifice before sundown. Honestly, though, had I not been too idle to write a 2022 Personal Pick, mine definitely would have been Cult of the Lamb. The blend of roguelite dungeoneering and satanic base management is pitched so perfectly that it's surely going to be a future classic.
XCOM 2: War of the Chosen, Midnight Suns
Lauren Aitken, Guides Editor: I want to say I played The Witcher 3 for two weeks solid but I bounced between XCOM 2: War of the Chosen and Midnight Suns. Stupid sexy Blade.
Divinity: Original Sin 2
Stevie Ward, Community Manager: Can you believe I’ve not played this absolute gem of a game already? Strategy, talking worms, and with Ice magic abilities and custom character creation I get to live out my Elsa fantasy. The co-op has been brilliant and I lost whole days to it over the holidays. I’m not much of a crafter so I’m going high wits and persuasion and hoping my partner levels up their archer and warrior to where I don’t need to worry about much other then triumphantly singing "let it go" while I ice those bad guys and smugly heal the party from a distance. A cold never bothered me anyway.
Warhammer 40K: Darktide, Battlesector
Jody Macgregor, AU/Weekend Editor: I had a very Warhammer 40,000 holiday. My zealot in Darktide has a boltgun now, ho ho ho. After hitting max-level with a sharpshooter, going through it again really made clear how front-loaded the story stuff is. The prologue's wonderful, then it dumps you into the actual game and from then on almost every cutscene is someone repeating that you're shit and they don't trust you yet.
It feels like the story's conclusion got punted off into the distance to be theoretically delivered via future updates, which is like every live-service game I guess. Not a fan of that, but the moment-to-moment bolter/axe action is intense and the mid-mission banter is better written than those cutscenes with the crew, so I'm still having a good time.
I also went back to 40K turn-based strategy game Battlesector. A horde survival mode versus daemons was added as a free update, and there's a new DLC that lets you play the Sisters of Battle. Combining the two is a good time, enhanced by the way Battlesector blends its musical themes together. While the daemons are rushing in it's all heavy metal chug, then it goes choral and uplifting for the nuns with guns. You hit end turn, and the guitars kick in again. It's like the musicians are dueling at the same time you are.
Space Marine, Metal Gear Rising: Revengeance, Stranger of Paradise: Final Fantasy Origin
Wes Fenlon, Senior Editor: Just before the break I updated our guide to the best Steam Deck games (opens in new tab) to include Metal Gear Rising: Revengeance... which, of course, just made me want to play Metal Gear Rising: Revengeance all break, slicing my way through every cyborg on earth while listening to nu-metal. First I had to finish 2011's Space Marine, which I started last month after Darktide stoked my interest in getting deeper into Warhammer 40K, to Jody's delight. Space Marine was a good time, but it's a bit simple as melee action games go and really just made me hungrier for Revengeance's action. Over the last few days I finally got a few hours deep into Rising and brushed up on my parry skills. A veteran Konami Metal Gear producer said ambiguously in Famitsu (opens in new tab) that 2023 will be a year of "many announcements," and I pray that one of those is Platinum making Revengeance 2. The world deserves it.
I've also dug into Stranger of Paradise with PC Gamer's Mollie Taylor as a co-op partner, and that game is a delightful mess. The story is confusing as hell—no one seems to agree on whether Chaos is a made-up fairy tale or some dude we can actually kill—but the action is just as good as I'd expect from a Team Ninja game. It really feels like Nioh Lite: breezy action-RPG combat where you accrue job levels at lightning speed and are constantly slotting in new abilities and gear. It layers on about a dozen combat systems that it doesn't explain to you at all, but once I started blindly feeling my way through I found a really fun game at the center. I expect to have more to say about this chaotic gem in a few weeks.
Hell is Others
Andy Chalk, US News Lead: It was a very non-gaming holiday for various reasons, and the little time I put into playing went entirely to Hell is Others, my personal pick (opens in new tab) for 2022. The queue times were occasionally brutal, the sad byproduct of declining player numbers, but the gameplay is ideal for short, sharp sessions where everything goes right or wrong in ten minutes or less. I even put some human hearts in my mini-fridge! Which is to say, I scored a couple PvP kills. I don't generally do PvP but other players picked fights and I got lucky. Made friends with one of them afterwards on Twitter, so that was a nice holiday bonus.
Horizon: Forbidden West, Hunt: Showdown, and D&D
Morgan Park, Staff Writer: My partner had the week off with me during this holiday break, so I spent most of my time away from keyboard. Other than a few great late night Hunt: Showdown sessions, it was a big week for me and my PS5. After 70 hours I finally finished Horizon: Forbidden West's story, checked off darn near every side quest, and then went after the platinum trophy since I wasn't ready to stop shooting parts off metal monsters yet. That's an incredible game if you're not yet sick of 2010s open world design. I was for a while, but Spider-Man, Ghost of Tsushima, and Horizon brought me back. Forbidden West is easily the best-looking game I've played, too, so I eagerly await a PC version.
Our weekly D&D session went pretty well—my ranger friend tamed a wyvern and I stabbed a guy in the back Dishonored-style.
Len's Island, Stranded: Alien Dawn, Poker World
Chris Livingston, Features Producer: I had planned to play open world survival game Len's Island (opens in new tab) through the break, but I started a few days before vacation and beat the third and currently final boss after about 20 hours of play. It's in Early Access, so hopefully more will be added soon because it's genuinely a lot of fun and I'd like to spend more time with it.
I moved onto Stranded: Alien Dawn (opens in new tab), the Early Access colony builder which I've gotten quite invested in over the break. Managing my four little former astronauts has been an enjoyable struggle as they craft and farm, improve their skills, battle giant alien bugs, and occasionally lose their tiny minds and go on eating binges before puking all over the floor of the base.
Also I played a lot of poker on my phone for the days where I was too lazy to even get off the couch and sit down at my desk. But that's what holidays are for.
Marvel Snap, Marvel's Midnight Suns
Robin Valentine, Print Editor: Honestly I didn't play many games this break. For the first week I was brought low by one of the countless winter bugs that's going round at the moment, and all I could manage was feebly earning a few cubes in Marvel Snap. I love that it's quick and simple enough for a disease-addled brain to handle, but still engaging enough to not just feel like a grind—it's the perfect thing for just dipping into for 15 minutes a day. Though I am getting pretty wary of its ever more shocking microtransactions...
After that, I spent a big chunk of time away from my hardware while I was visiting family, and I ended up reading a load of comics instead. I love using Marvel Unlimited on my tablet—it makes it so easy to jump around different series as I futilely try and catch up on all the different crossovers and events. I ended up re-reading a big chunk of Jason Aaron's Thor comics, which are excellent, even if doing so just makes me freshly angry about Thor: Love & Thunder.
I guess this is basically going to be an extended advert for Marvel and its many fine offerings, because when I was reunited with my PC, it was Marvel's Midnight Suns that sucked up all my gaming time. I'm at a point with it now where, much as I'm still enjoying it, I can sense that I need to start pushing for the end before I get sick of it. Slapping Hydra goons and flaming demons around is still as satisfying as ever, but the missions do repeat just a little too often—it feels like it's crying out for a big expansion that adds a third faction or something to really mix things up in the endgame. Anyway, I'm hoping to get that polished off before the rush of new 2023 games kicks off in earnest! Maybe after that I should get really into DC...
Warhammer 40K: Darktide, The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt, Return to Monkey Island
Robert Jones, Print Editor: My festive spirit has been on a bit of a rollercoaster ride this winter holiday. I've stuck a good chunk of time into Warhammer 40,000: Darktide, but not as much as I wanted to due to it crashing on me at every opportunity. My record for crashes in a single mission was seven returns to the desktop. I may have sworn more than once, too.
Elsewhere, I jumped back into The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt after its big ray-tracing patch in December, only to be frustrated that my rig's Nvidia GeForce RTX 3090Ti couldn't prop up my otherwise mid-range system enough to get a playable framerate when I turned the graphics up to Ultra+. At least Geralt's feet were nicely illuminated while he bathed in the tub.
Finally, I revisited Guybrush and chums in Return to Monkey Island, which is just as delightful as the classic original games in the series. Some of the puzzles have got me seriously, sometimes frustratingly, scratching my head for a solution, too, which is exactly as it should be for a point-and-click adventure game.
Total War: Warhammer 3 and The Witcher 3
Sean Martin, Guides Writer: I'd been holding off doing a crisis mode campaign in Total War: Warhammer 3 (with all of the endgame scenarios enabled) because I reasoned that the holidays would be the perfect time to buckle down and try to deal with the apocalypse. The problem is, I'm far too changeable when it comes to Total War.
At first I reasoned that Archaon would be the perfect pick; why not fight the new endgames with the old endgame? I vassalised most of the world and made it their problem instead. Then I hopped into an Imric campaign thinking that an army of legendary dragons might be better... then a Faye Enchantress host of Grail Knights... then a Gor-Rok and Lord Kroak Saurus stack. I came to the conclusion that I struggle to play Total War campaigns for more than 150 turns if they're not extremely fun, or some kind of weird experiment like that time I gave Fellhart 25 Black Arks (opens in new tab).
Luckily, the next-gen update of The Witcher 3 was waiting in the wings so I figured I'd play a little. Next thing I knew I was sailing to Skellige and the holidays were over. While there's so much to love about that game, I forgot how brilliant it is at weaving quests and characters to tell the story of a place and its conflicts/tensions. Even though I've played it before, I found myself engrossed all over again.
Disco Elysium, Stray
Katie Wickens, Hardware Writer: I'm finally save scumming my way through Disco Elysium, which isn't a very festive game to have been playing over the holidays, I know, but anyone who knows me will appreciate that every day is Halloween for me. I did have a little go on Stray over the break, which has been quite a welcome break from the morbidity of Revecholian life. Especially when the family cat, Tiddles, decided to join in (opens in new tab).
Phasmophobia, Disney Dreamlight Valley, Sky: Children of the Light
Lauren Morton, Associate Editor: I didn't clock too many hours actually gaming this holiday. Most of my time was spent on devouring an entire trilogy of books while I afk farmed pumpkins in Disney Dreamlight Valley and chased down Elsa to join my village. I put in an evening on Phasmophobia, which is still a great low-key way to spend a couple hours with my siblings even though every interface update it gets seems to be a 'two steps forward one step back' kind of affair. I also put in a bit of time in Sky: Children of the Light on my Switch after having my moan about wanting weirder MMOs to exist. I stand by it and I think Sky is a neat subversion of the genre even if it doesn't call itself an MMO. It's still allegedly coming to PC at some point, so I'll hassle you all about it harder someday.
Marvel's Midnight Suns
Jorge Jimenez, Hardware Writer: I beat Marvel's Midnight Suns and became obsessed with maxing out my relationship with each of the heroes. I was having a hard time bonding with Spider-man so I gave him a ton of snacks until we became best friends. 10/10.
Vampire Survivors, Death Stranding, Lego Marvel Superheroes
Richard Stanton, Senior Editor: Bit of a grab-bag, but I started off the holiday season by writing about Death Stranding (opens in new tab), which made me want to play Death Stranding again, and before you know it I was halfway up a mountain soothing a baby with a supermarket on my back. I'd also been meaning to check back in on Vampire Survivors, given the pace of updates, and found it even more frenetic and fun than ever: this really was the surprise package of 2022 for me.
But for most of the holiday it was kiddie time and a full house, which rather nixed any hopes of Elden Ring NG++. The festive go-to was Lego Marvel Super Heroes, which I bought on boxing day because my son likes a cartoon along the same lines. The game's nearly a decade old but it has split-screen co-op and most importantly the Hulk, so most of my gaming time this holiday season was spent suppressing the inner urge to gripe about the endemic design flaws in Lego games while having a brilliant time teaching my kids to fly around as Iron Man.
The Case of the Golden Idol and more Overwatch 2
Tyler Colp, Associate Editor: Everyone was right about The Case of the Golden Idol (opens in new tab). I finally sat down and poked around in it long enough to see it through. I'm not great at these types of games but I had the time to sit with each scene and scenario and think about it while on break. I didn't expect the game to have such a clear view on history, class, and faith and how all of those intertwine, and be able to communicate that through a rabbit hole of increasingly bizarre scenes. Oh, and the music is stellar, too.
I continue to play Overwatch 2 for some reason. I'm broken and can't be fixed. The game's second season and Winter Wonderland event are pretty mid, but it's fun to press the buttons in this game and I will never be free from that desire.