2022 was quite a year, both for better and for worse, among the turmoil we regained our freedom from pandemic lockdown and our daily lives returned to a sense of relative normality. The inexorable wheel of progress also kept turning in the gaming industry as it does everywhere, seeing a bevvy of fantastic new releases that further refined and innovated upon our beloved slot machine experience.
As we look forward to 2023, let's also take a quick glance back at 2022 and six of the year's standout games, in no particular order. Maybe your favourite is among them, or if not maybe a new favourite that you're yet to discover.
Money Train 3
The much-anticipated sequel pulled into the station in September and this instalment saw Relax Gaming's weird west future get more advanced, moving from the ramshackle Mad Max-like style of the second game to a sleeker cyberpunk level of tech. This advancement was also reflected in the gameplay, with the already superb mechanics fine-tuned even further, creative new symbols adding even more excitement to the game's Money Cart Bonus Round and a win potential of 100,000x the bet, double that of its predecessor.
"The name's Megaways, Max Megaways". Ignoring the implausibility of Megaways being someone's surname, Big Time Gaming nail the classic Bondian spy movie theme in a slot that delivers thrills worthy of 007 himself. The game boasts enough features - a horizontal extra reel, wild modifiers to spice up both the base and free games, a win exchange option and more - to make you feel like you've taken over the control panel of an evil megalomaniac's secret missile silo and the ultracool winning potential of 139,200x the bet is certainly worth celebrating with a few vodka martinis.
Coin Quest 2
Slotmill outdid themselves this year and demonstrated the value of listening to what player feedback with their rapid follow-up to their ancient temple-raiding adventure Coin Quest. For Coin Quest 2, the grid is expanded from the previous 5x5 to a new 6x6 grid, making more space for winning clusters to form and plenty of fun gameplay quirks to take place without the game ever feeling cluttered or overstuffed. Coin Quest 2 delivers everything a good sequel should, it's bigger, better and sharper in every respect.
If you've ever wanted to feel like Russell Crowe, standing over your slain enemies and basking in the applause of bloodthirsty romans while playing a slot game, then Hacksaw Gaming has you well catered for. Gladiator Legends matches its gritty sword-and-sandal theme with brutal, high-volatility gameplay, cramming the classic 5x4 game with a host of features that can take the player swinging between extremes of harsh hostility to triumphant showers of glory in the blink of an eye.
Now to another post-apocalyptic wasteland. In Push Gaming's Mad Cars, Instant Prize Car symbols turn up on the board to transform this slot game into a top-down racer as the cars make their way up the grid to pay off their cargo with various boosters applied along the way. In keeping with its rusty, tough setting, Mad Cars provides players a rough but exhilarating ride with high risk-reward gameplay paying as much as 25,000x the bet. It's as enticing as it is dangerous and definitely not for the faint of heart.
Cygnus 2 updates its predecessor's image from ancient Egypt to an Age of Enlightenment private observatory, emphasising the astronomical theme. The game has an avalanche mechanic with a difference, columns of spherical symbols are offset from one another, meaning that when new symbols tumble in, they'll fall either left or right of any protruding symbols they land on, behaving like actual objects affected by gravity. With a win potential of 50,000x the bet, ten times more than the original, ELK Studios have really taken things to new heights in Cygnus 2.
Nolimit City released so many games this year that could have been worthy of a place on this list as they continue to wow players with their creativity, provocative themes and wildly volatile gameplay. Remember Gulag harnesses many of Nolimit City's favourite mechanics - xWays, xNudges, and xSplits - to brilliant effect, creating the kind of solid gameplay experience fans of the studio expect but it's the boldness and brilliant execution of the game's weighty historical theme that elevates it above the crowd and at the risk of sounding pretentious, perhaps makes the case for slots as art.