My Top Picks from 2022 Wholesome Direct

I usually skip most of the gaming conferences, but last year I discovered Wholesome Direct, and it felt for the first time like someone finally made a game show that was specifically tailored to my interests. So this year, I blocked out the time to sit and actually watch it live, but it’s still available to watch on YouTube for anyone who might have missed it. If you’re into this type of chill game, you’re likely to find something to get exciting about in the 94 new and upcoming games featured during the hour-long run time.

There were quite a few titles I was already aware of – several of which have had a place on my wish list for a year or longer – but there was also a handful of news-to-me games that I can’t wait to find out more about.

I actually took notes during the show – I knew from last year that they would be covering far more games that I could hope for my middle-aged brain to remember. There were eighteen titles on my notepad at the end of the hour. One of those turned out to be a VR-required title, which means that I won’t be playing it. From the remaining seventeen, I managed to whittle it down to a short list of seven titles that I’m really jazzed to find out more about.

From the Steam page: An Action-RPG that’s (not-so) secretly a Personality Test. Use Physics-based telekinesis to make your mark on a strange world of Spirits. You will not be told when you are making decisions. You will never be judged in terms of Good or Evil. You will simply face the consequences of your actions.

Can I just say how much I love the idea of Freeride? It seems like a natural progression of the tried-and-true RPG trope of good versus evil. There’s no demo currently available, but there’s a short play test build. Even knowing what the gimmick of the game was, I got drawn into the very brief mechanical tutorial, and was surprised when the game judged me based on my actions.

From the Steam page: After losing your job you end up in a small town far away from home. As luck would have it you get to stay in an vacant witches house and start building your new life. Build your own garden, grow plants for your potions and spells and build friendships with the town’s folk.

There are quite a few games already out, and oodles more in development that are putting alchemy, magic, and farming into a neat package, but this one stood out to me. Part of that is the gorgeous 3D graphics, and part of it is the feel that – for me – they’ve got the ratios for this recipe just right. There’s no demo (yet) and the devs have recently stated that they are not planning an early access release, so it might be quite a while before I get my hands on this one, but it looks like it will probably be worth the wait.

From the Steam page: A wholesome, non-linear adventure game, where a lost soul and his dog set out on an otherworldly trek through the afterlife. Pass into the world beyond, commit acts of kindness for other souls, and mend mistakes from a forgotten past life. All with a very good boy by your side!

Cats seem to be the more popular video game pet, but personally, I’m a sucker for anything with a dog. I also really enjoy this type of adventure game, where you’re not saving the world, just making it a little bit better. It looks absolutely beautiful. Hello Goodboy does have a demo available, which I plan to dive into soon.

From the Steam page: Discover new beginnings after crash-landing on an undiscovered planet. Join Kokopa and Pollimero as they explore, build, garden, and meet new friends — while uncovering the mysteries of this unknown planet!

Kokopa’s Atlas is another one that checks a lot of boxes for me. A little farming, a little bit of social sim, and a whole bunch of exploration and scanning in a strange land. As weird as it sounds, give me a scanner in a game, and I will contentedly walk around scanning things for hours. The developers are currently polishing up a new demo build; maybe it’ll be ready in time for the Steam NextFest later this week? I hope so!

From the Steam page: Lonesome Village is a puzzle-solving adventure with social simulation.

The description for Lonesome Village is short and to the point – the primary focus for this one is going to be on making friends and solving mysteries. You’ll also be able to customize your house, grow a garden, and do some fishing. There’s also a demo for this one, but I’m almost hoping it won’t spoil too much in the way of story.

From the Steam page: Paper Trail is a top-down puzzle adventure about leaving home, set in a foldable, paper world.

The thing that drew me to Paper Trail was most definitely the paper-folding puzzle-solving mechanic. I’m not sure why the look of actual book pages, and the ability to fold things captivates me, but I have a hard time resisting any game that makes use of this gimmick. This one also has an active demo, so I’m planning to check that out and see how I feel about the actual puzzling part of the game feels, because I’m already in love with the aesthetic.

From the Steam page: Bring kindness and light to the people of Sainte-et-Claire as Lila—a tiny mouse with a big heart! Explore a quaint French village, make electrifying new friends, and do good deeds for those in need in this lush narrative adventure game.

Really, who doesn’t want to be a do-gooder mouse? The art on this one blew me away, and I love the idea of being a tiny force for good in an uncertain world. Add in some collectibles and mini-games, and I feel like this could come together into a gloriously relaxing package of happiness. The Spirit and the Mouse also has a demo available on its Steam page, but I can’t imagine not liking this one.

Did you watch this year’s Wholesome Direct? What games were you most charmed by?

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