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16th Dec 2022

In defence of 2022’s most unforgettable video game

Rory Cashin


Sorry Elden Ring. Apologies Ragnarok. But this might actually be our game of the year.

2022 has been a great year for games giving us what we know we already want.

God Of War: Ragnarok and Horizon Forbidden West both pushed their respective technical envelopes to their limits, but did still very much feel like an expansion of the worlds from the original games. For all of its new world building and additional mechanics, Elden Ring very much belonged alongside Dark Souls, Bloodborne and Sekiro: Shadows Die Twice.

While some other games did toy with ingenuity, most of them felt immediately too off-putting to be enjoyed by 99% of gamers, with the likes of Scorn and Immortality immediately coming to mind.

One game managed to walk that line between originality and accessibility, and that game is Stray.

Admittedly, the premise doesn’t sound all that enticing: you play as a cat in a post-apocalyptic world, and one day you fall a long, LONG way down from the surface, and find yourself lost and alone in a massive subterranean city completely populated by sentient robots. As you try to find your way back to the surface, you also uncover the truth behind the apocalypse, and help the robots to find their true place in the world.

First off, the game is so staggeringly beautiful that the trailer above scarcely does it justice. As you journey across the neon-drenched city to filth-clogged sewers to forest-based villages, the game is never less than jaw-droppingly gorgeous.

The gameplay itself is incredibly easy, as you run and jump your way around platforms, with the action leaning less towards combat and more towards stealth and, when the moments come, sprinting for your life.

But what helps Stray to lodge in your brain and remain there even all these months later is the story, the atmosphere, the world we’re exploring. The mood feels like it is somewhere in between Wall-E and Half-Life, capable of flipping the whimsy of a fun conversation with shy robot on its head in a heartbeat, turning into a creepy – at times properly scary – biological horror.

Of course, none of that actually gets in the way of the game itself, so if you just wanted to plough through with the fun platforming, then you can have at it. But if you take your time and truly want to immerse yourself, Stray is overflowing with hints, nods, junctures and subplots that help to colour in this ruined world, while leaving just enough blank to allow your mind to wander with the possibilities of its meaning.

There have been countless online breakdowns about what the game’s ending could actually mean, inspiring more “What If…?” conversations that just about any other source of media this year.

But there has also been a Twitter account created called @CatsWatchStray, in which, yep, you see real cats watching and reacting to people playing Stray. Such is its power. Such is its uniqueness.

Stray is available right now on PS5, PS4 and PC.