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The Best 2022 Games Where You Play As Animals

Running through the forest, feeling the raw power of being a beast – that's the appeal of playing a video game with an animal protagonist. Then again, maybe the appeal comes from the cute character designs and potential for adorable interactions. Or maybe it's nice to step away from being human for a while.

Titles where players take on animal personas have long proven favorites in the industry. It's simple fun to swing through the jungle as Donkey Kong – despite some of his more questionable activities – or swim swiftly through the ocean as Ecco the dolphin – until you get to that disturbing machine section. Okay, maybe it's not fun to be an animal in video games all the time. Still, animal mascots remain a popular main character choice, and their lasting appeal must come from somewhere.

No different than previous years, 2022 featured many animal-centric games that offered pleasing aesthetics and enjoyable premises. Whether delivering intense messages or allowing for escapism via a charming mystery, these titles put players in the minds of animals as they embark on daring adventures across a variety of settings.

Frog Detective 3: Corruption at Cowboy County

Gamers have likely never encountered something like "Frog Detective 3" – unless they've picked up "Frog Detective" and "Frog Detective 2," of course. The third installment sees the titular amphibian journey to Cowboy County, where someone has stolen all of the locals' hats. That sentence alone embodies the tone of the game, which treats players to a whimsical ride as they perform good deeds for residents and uncover clues about the missing hat mystery.

Rock Paper Shotgun summed up the charm of "Frog Detective 3," explaining that the gameplay centers on a network of trades between locals. "But, like '1' and '2,' it's the characters and their dead-pan humour that make these games great," wrote the reviewer. "Locals vary from being super sweet to socially awkward to comically blunt, and the results are always funny." Fans of narrative titles and mysteries won't want to miss taking a walk in this Frog Detective's cowboy booties.

  • Release Date: October 26, 2022
  • Genres: Adventure, Indie
  • Game Mode: Single-Player Only
  • Metacritic Score: N/A (PC)

Super Kiwi 64

It looks like the developers made "Super Kiwi 64" on ancient technology, but that's the point. The game attempts to invoke the feeling of waking up on a Saturday morning, pouring a bowl of sugary cereal, and cozying up with N64 platformers like "Banjo-Kazooie" or "Donkey Kong 64." Players progress through a series of platforming levels full of collectible goodies, all while piloting an adorable kiwi bird.

For the most part, gamers have reacted positively to the indie title. One reviewer explained that "Super Kiwi 64" feels true to the time period it aims to capture, but that more contemporary features, like achievements, would improve the experience. Another reviewer lamented that "the only issue with ['Super Kiwi 64'] is that it's done before you know it. The game is so charming that you want to keep playing more of it." Luckily, players only have to part with a few dollars to pick up the title on the Nintendo Switch or Steam – a small price to pay for some good old fashioned nostalgia.

  • Release Date: December 2, 2022
  • Genres: Action-Adventure, Platformer
  • Game Mode: Single-Player Only
  • Metacritic Scores: 63 (Switch), N/A (PC)

Sonic Frontiers

The new direction taken by "Sonic Frontiers" left critics and fans with a mixed response, with just as many people enjoying the fresh take as despising it. Unlike past "Sonic" entries, "Frontiers" experiments with an "open zone" concept – similar to open world (via IGN). Instead of progressing through distinct levels, players have access to the entire landscape of "Frontiers" right at the beginning of the story, although they may require certain skills to access particular areas.

According to the writer for the game, the biggest difference between "Frontiers" and other "Sonic" titles is that "Frontiers" was written for fans by a longtime lover of the series (per IGN). The team that worked on the game felt passionate about doing something new with the project, departing from older installments in the franchise. Whether that attitude paid off or not remains up to the community to decide.

  • Release Date: November 8, 2022
  • Genres: Action-Adventure, Platformer, Open World
  • Game Mode: Single-Player Only
  • Metacritic Scores: 75 (PS4), 71 (PS5), 75 (PC), 69 (Switch), N/A (Xbox One), 61 (Xbox Series X)

Goat Simulator 3

"Goat Simulator 3" doesn't feel like it should be a real game, and yet it exists. Players take on the role of, well, a goat, as it spreads mayhem and madness throughout a fictional city. The title has multiple small goals, most of them silly or nonsensical, which add to the feeling of chaos. To fulfill some of the quests, players have to do some pretty terrible things, but it's all in good fun and often easy to laugh at the outcome.

IGN's review of "Goat Simulator 3" highlighted the enjoyability of the game, noting that players never know what the wild sequel will throw at them next. The goat protagonist can't die, which IGN identified as both a good and a bad thing. It's a blast to rampage around the city, but some areas suffer from a lack of challenge.

"Goat Simulator 3" still provides a good time, mostly because it breaks almost every rule of what players expect from a video game. Teaming up with friends can make the experience even more frantic. The follow-up also has a much bigger scale than the original, so it makes sense that developer Coffee Stain skipped "2" and went straight for a threequel.

  • Release Date: November 17, 2022
  • Genres: Simulation, Action, Sandbox
  • Game Modes: Single-Player, Online and Local Co-Op (Up to 4 Players)
  • Metacritic Scores: 68 (PS5), 71 (PC), 78 (Xbox Series X)

Endling: Extinction is Forever

As its title suggests, "Endling: Extinction is Forever" strikes a somber tone. One Steam reviewer even described it as "the saddest game [I've] ever played." Despite this, gamers can find a great deal of beauty in "Endling," with lovingly painted backgrounds and rich colors. The plot focuses on a mother fox who must shepherd her three pups through a dangerous world full of violent humans. As human society creeps farther across the world, the fox finds herself and her kits the last of their kind, making her mission to protect them all the more important.

The title forces players to find safe places to sleep, obtain food, and teach their little ones new tricks and abilities so they'll be better prepared for life in the world of man. While seeing the realities of what humans have done to the environment can prove heartbreaking, "Endling" contains an important message. As "The Verge" reviewer Ash Parrish pointed out in their discussion of "Endling," the game doesn't shy away from delivering bleak truths, and its nuanced portrayals of both animals and people are stunning.

  • Release Date: July 19, 2022
  • Genres: Adventure, Survival, Simulation, Indie
  • Game Mode: Single-Player Only
  • Metacritic Scores: 80 (Xbox One), N/A (Xbox Series X), 82 (PS4), N/A (PS5), 75 (PC), 82 (Switch)

Stray

Every cat owner desires to be a cat, at least sometimes. "Stray" nails the essential parts of catdom that humans want in on – scratching at carpets, luxuriously stretching, rubbing on folks' legs in appreciation – while also including a moving story and creative platforming levels. Critics agreed with fans, and many adored the final product, praising everything from the game's design to its commentary on humanity at large.

"Stray" follows an unnamed orange cat – who is just as adorable in real life – as it attempts to reunite with its family. Along the way, it meets a society of robots wishing they could see the sun one more time. But the setting isn't all peaceful, and the cat must consistently run from alien creatures that threaten its life.

"Stray" uses excellent environmental storytelling to show players what happened to the world, and an immense amount of care went into the tiniest details, like decorative objects in houses. While the game, at its core, is about humanity seen through the perspective of an animal, it has also helped real cats through charity projects.

  • Release Date: July 19, 2022
  • Genres: Adventure, Platformer, Indie
  • Game Mode: Single-Player Only
  • Metacritic Scores: N/A (PS4), 83 (PS5), 82 (PC)

Cult of the Lamb

Do you want to be a cult leader? The protagonist of "Cult of the Lamb" doesn't have much of a choice if they want to live. After a mysterious elder god saves them from sacrifice, a tiny lamb sets out to build a cult that worships a power beyond itself. Along the way, it explores various biomes in roguelike combat to defeat other deities and amass new cult members.

Back at the cult's homebase, players must manage followers by assigning tasks, performing rituals, and disciplining wayward members. Part action title, part resource management, "Cult of the Lamb" combines two types of engaging gameplay to create something new. Although "Cult of the Lamb" has a relatively short runtime, it boasts considerable replay value. As the lamb grows its cult, it can make decisions as to what type of organization it will become. Will the group engage in human sacrifice? Will it fill with cannibals? Will it hold sweet funeral services and believe in an afterlife? Customizing one's cult is all part of the fun.

Fluid and easy to understand, combat comes with a variety of methods for leveling up weapons and getting the best loadout. With so many options, players can return to this cult for years to come.

  • Release Date: August 11, 2022
  • Genres: Action-Adventure, Roguelike, Simulation, Resource Management, Indie
  • Game Mode: Single-Player Only
  • Metacritic Scores: 82 (PC), N/A (PS4), 86 (PS5), 79 (Switch), N/A (Xbox One), 88 (Xbox Series X)

Beacon Pines

The narrative-based "Beacon Pines" consists of richly rendered illustrations of each character and a gloomy, dark world to explore. Players read the story of Luka and friends in a giant picture book. Using special charms, they rewrite history and help shape the story, driving it towards a thrilling conclusion. Players know what happens to the kids, but can change the past and alter the events of the tale, making "Beacon Pines" an interesting game of branching pathways and decisions.

In their review for Kotaku, John Walker pointed out that the lush visuals contradict, or hide, the darkness of the story. It's not difficult to lead Luka and his friends to their deaths, but players always have the possibility of righting bad decisions. Most interestingly, players uncover much of the information by making poor choices, adding depth and allowing for multiple perspectives of the same event. Those who enjoy decision-based games like "Life is Strange" might want to try out "Beacon Pines."

  • Release Date: September 22, 2022
  • Genres: Adventure, Visual Novel, Indie
  • Game Mode: Single-Player Only
  • Metacritic Scores: 84 (Switch), 83 (PC), N/A (Xbox One), 88 (Xbox Series X)

TMNT: Shredder's Revenge

For some gamers of a certain age, nothing surpassed hitting the local arcade and blowing a few quarters on a round of "Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles." The arcade classic featured memorable beat 'em up gameplay, a rad soundtrack, and unique animations to illustrate each turtle's fighting style. 2022's "Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Shredder's Revenge" offers a huge boost of nostalgia for fans of that original arcade title, but it also packs in plenty of new surprises. One look at the cinematic opening, and many gamers will understand the tone of the game completely.

Though "Shredder's Revenge" has its flaws, critics enjoyed it, acknowledging that nostalgia played a big part in its overall appeal. It boasts a clever and upbeat soundtrack and its pixelated graphics capture the fun of arcade gaming while updating the experience with bright colors. "Shredder's Revenge" even offers two modes; in Arcade Mode, gamers can mow through hordes of Foot Soldiers without worrying too much about the plot, while Story Mode adds in side quests and optional activities to each level. Instead of the arcade, modern gamers can kick back with some pizza, a group of pals, and a set of controllers around "Shredder's Revenge." Cowabunga!

  • Release Date: June 16, 2022
  • Genres: Beat 'Em Up, Action-Adventure, Indie
  • Game Modes: Single-Player, Local and Online Co-Up (Up to 6)
  • Metacritic Scores: 85 (PS4), N/A (PS5), 87 (Xbox One), N/A (Xbox Series X),  84 (PC), 87 (Switch), N/A (iOS)

Tunic

Finji's "Tunic" garnered tons of praise when it released in 2022, and for good reason. The isometric adventure game takes all the best parts of old-school "Zelda" titles and incorporates them into a puzzle-centered exploration experience. In addition to its status as one of 2022's best games featuring animal protagonists, "Tunic" also established itself as one of the best open world offerings of the year.

"Tunic" combines Soulslike mechanics with intense exploration. In order to understand the puzzles scattered throughout the world, players must explore every inch of ground available, picking through the details of the terrain to find buttons, switches, and new tools. Unlike some "Zelda"-themed games, "Tunic" presents a true challenge, and the answers to puzzles aren't always clear. Andrew Shouldice, the creator of "Tunic," even made a whole new language to make the title feel unfamiliar, yet understandable. In an interview with TheGamer, Shouldice revealed that he intended for the language to hint at a deeper meaning just waiting for players to unlock it.

Eurogamer's review of "Tunic" suggested that "Zelda" entries have developed a formula of features that gamers expect, while "Tunic" feels fresh. Instead of wondering when they'll get the Hookshot or the Master Sword, players can fully enjoy exploring a world that's both new and familiar. If that's the vibe you're looking for – and you want to play as a cute adventuring fox – "Tunic" could be a new favorite.

  • Release Date: March 16, 2022
  • Genres: Action-Adventure, RPG, Soulsike, Open World Elements
  • Game Mode: Single-Player Only
  • Metacritic Scores: 85 (PC), N/A (PS4), 86 (PS5), 88 (Switch), 85 (Xbox One), 85 (Xbox Series X)

Mario + Rabbids: Sparks of Hope

One of the best games for the Nintendo Switch in 2022, "Mario + Rabbids: Sparks of Hope" also established itself as a top title featuring playable animal characters – well, sort of. Developers originally invented the rabbit-like Rabbids to serve as villain for Rayman, a popular character with his own set of titles published by Ubisoft. However, the Rabbids outshined Rayman for certain reviewers, and the rest is history. Rabbids and Mario originally crossed over in "Mario + Rabbids: Kingdom Battle," a strategy game that released in 2017, but "Mario + Rabbids: Sparks of Hope" perfected the formula.

"Sparks of Hope" takes place in a world where the Mario crew and their Rabbid counterparts regularly interact with each other. Players must navigate through a winding, somewhat complex story, but the strategy mechanics serve as the real highlight of the experience. "Sparks of Hope" uses turn-based strategy that doesn't look crunchy, but most definitely is. As IGN's review explained, players might not be able to see the gridded maps common to so many "XCOM"- styled offerings, but they're there. The title does a wonderful job of hiding the grittier parts of the strategy genre to deliver the smooth, polished product that "Mario" fans have come to expect.

  • Release Date: October 20, 2022
  • Genres: Action-Adventure, Turn-Based Strategy
  • Game Mode: Single-Player Only
  • Metacritic Score: 86 (Switch)