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by Jason Snell & Dan Moren

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By Jason Snell

Jason’s favorites of 2022

It’s the end of the year, but before we turn the page (or mount a new calendar) and move on to 2023, I thought I’d make a quick list of some of my favorite fun things from the year almost entirely gone by…

Games

Knotwords

I am not great at games. I want to play them… but never quite enough to play them as much as I’d like. Still, I did play and enjoy some games this year.

At the top of my list is Knotwords, which took a lot of my game time this year. It’s a crossword-puzzle-themed game that isn’t a crossword puzzle. It’s a word game, though. I love it.

I still adore the Apple Arcade game Mini Motorways, which got a nice update this year that added more game styles, including an endless mode—for when you just can’t say goodbye to the delightful city you’ve developed from nothing by laying roads, highways, and roundabouts. This one made my list last year and I kept playing it this year.

I spent many hours this year playing Alto’s Adventure: Spirit of the Mountain, an Apple Arcade release that extended my favorite iPad game franchise in new ways. (This was the second Alto’s extension, after last year’s Alto’s Odyssey: The Lost City.) It’s an endless snowboard game with challenging tricks, a very simple control scheme, beautiful graphics, and soothing sounds.

This year I got my Panic Playdate, a delightful handheld game toy gadget that I haven’t played nearly enough. But I do want to highlight my favorite Playdate games: Vertex Pop’s HyperMeteor, a spectacularly fun take on Asteroids; and Nic Magnier, Arthur Hamer and Logan Gabriel’s Pick Pack Pup, a delightful match-three puzzle game that manages to also be a critique of Amazon warehouses.

Books

This year I’ve managed to meet my Goodreads goal of reading 50 books. Here are the four I liked the best:

Adrain Tchaikovsky’s novella Elder Race is a stunning mix of science fiction and fantasy, all in the same story, all happening at the same time—which genre it’s in depends entirely on the perspective of the story’s two main characters. I didn’t want it to end.

Stephen King’s Fairy Tale is by far my favorite Stephen King, the one who wrote 11/22/63 and The Dark Tower. It’s right there in the title: This is mythic fantasy King, not horror-meister King. And, as with “11/22/63,” it’s also today’s older and wiser Stephen King, who sees the beauty and melancholy in the relationship between the story’s youthful protagonist and his older but not-quite-wiser adviser. It also manages to be a story about storytelling, which should come as no surprise to anyone who’s read The Dark Tower.

Naomi Novik’s The Golden Enclaves is the third book in her Scholomance trilogy. (Start with the first book, “A Deadly Education.”) The entire trilogy is superb, a riff on a lot of Harry Potter tropes—it’s set at a school for magical teenagers, but most of them don’t survive the experience!—that becomes a whole lot more than that. The third book expands the world of the trilogy in a bunch of interesting and surprising ways, and the parallels it draws with our own world couldn’t be more striking.

Daniel O’Malley’s Blitz is the third book in the Checquy Files series that began with The Rook. That first book is one of my favorites of the last decade or so, and while “Blitz” doesn’t quite live up to it, I couldn’t have enjoyed it more. O’Malley is so inventive in describing the various super-powered individuals who work for a secret British agency that protects the general public against supernatural threats. “Blitz” itself is just overflowing with ideas and details—perhaps to a fault, in that it’s really two books in one, with surprisingly little connecting the two storylines. On top of that, O’Malley is almost Neal Stephenson-like in going off on digressions that don’t have anything to do with the plot. But the digressions are so good, I didn’t care.

TV

There are so, so many TV shows. You can’t watch ’em all. Not even professional TV critics have time to watch ’em all. In fact, I haven’t yet gotten to my wife’s favorite TV show of the year, Hulu’s “Reservation Dogs.” She says she liked it so much she’ll re-watch it with me, so I guess that’s next up. In the meantime, of the stuff that I got to, here’s my favorite:

  • “Severance” (Apple TV+) was the best show I watched this year. The creepy sci-fi scenario, the deconstruction of workplace culture, the amazing sets, the great performances by a stacked cast of actors… the whole thing, really. It doesn’t get much better than this.
  • “Andor” (Disney+) is a “Star Wars” show but it’s really just a great TV show, period. Tony Gilroy’s slow-burn story about the growth of the rebellion against the empire uses what we know about the setting of “Star Wars” as a backdrop to tell a very specific story about what makes people choose to risk their own lives to rebel.

  • “Star Trek: Strange New Worlds” (Paramount+) does right by the classic “Star Trek” formula, re-using the original series’ optimistic, episodic format while instilling it with modern storytelling techniques and special effects. Anson Mount’s Captain Christopher Pike is just the best. By going back to the original “Star Trek” pilot of nearly 60 years ago, modern “Star Trek” has found its best iteration.

  • “The Bear” (Hulu) shows that both character drama and intense action can sometimes be found in the most unlikely of places: in this case, a family-owned sandwich restaurant in Chicago. Yes, chef.

  • “For All Mankind” (Apple TV+) went to Mars in its third season, and while it wasn’t quite as solid as the previous seasons, the show still manages some amazingly intense sequences. A bit too much time was spent on the ne’er-do-well Stevens brothers, but I’ll forgive it because of everything else, including the single most surprising plot twist I saw this year.

  • “Station Eleven” (HBO Max) aired late last year and into this 2022, and I loved it. It’s a story about the end of the world, but with Shakespearean actors instead of zombies.

  • “Slow Horses” (Apple TV+) is a British spy series based on a popular set of novels. The season-long stories are twisty and turny, the spies are failures trying to find redemption, and the spymaster is played by Gary Oldman. I can’t even begin to describe Oldman’s character, Jackson Lamb, other than to say that he’s smelly and awful and disgusting and also sharp as a tack and loyal to his people and his ideals.

  • “Mythic Quest” (Apple TV+) returned this year with a new season that twists the original series’ premise by putting a couple of characters out on their own, sort of? It’s not really about the video games—it’s about the people who work on the video games. It’s sweet and charming and ridiculous.

  • “Welcome to Wrexham” (Hulu). When Rob McElhenney isn’t doing “Mythic Quest” (or “It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia”) he’s busy doing things like convincing Ryan Reynolds to buy a fifth-division Welsh soccer team. It sounds like a setup for a fawning documentary vehicle, but this series ends up being more about the town of Wrexham and how the people who live there have invested so much of their spirit into the local, down-on-its-luck football club. The stuff with Rob and Ryan is fun, but it’s the people of Wrexham (and the people who work for the club) who are the real stars.

Movies

I didn’t see very many movies this year, but three stood out:

  • “Turning Red,” Pixar’s coming-of-age story that involves a teen girl in Toronto getting super red-panda powers.

  • “The Tragedy of MacBeth,” featuring a great Denzel Washington performance, stunningly directed by Joel Coen and photographed by Bruno Delbonnel.

  • “Wakanda Forever,” in which Ryan Coogler once again shows he can somehow make relevant art while working within the constraints of franchise machinery—and it’s a moving tribute to Chadwick Boseman and a fun superhero movie, too.

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