You should play 2022’s most underrated game on Xbox Game Pass now

When I think back to 2022, there are a ton of critically acclaimed games that stick with me. Naturally, I spent countless hours adventuring through the Lands Between in Elden Ring. Splatoon 3 and Vampire Survivors ate up my entire summer, while I still think about Pentiment and Immortality months later. There’s one lesser-known game, though, that was a go-to I kept coming back to throughout the year despite the fact that it wasn’t talked about nearly as much as any of those games.

That would be Arcade Paradise, a quiet 2022 standout that’s now available on Xbox Game Pass today. Developed by Nosebleed Interactive, it’s a unique simulation game that balances 90s nostalgia with a thoughtful look at the line between hobby and work. If you spent any time during your youth hanging around arcades, you’ll want to give it a try while it’s on Game Pass.

Arcade cabinets stand in a room in Arcade Paradise.
Nosebleed Interactive

In Arcade Paradise, players control Ashley, a woman who’s just inherited her family’s laundromat. The early moments of the story play out like a mundane business simulation game, where she has to move clothing from washer to dryer, pick up trash, and unclog toilets. It’s not glamorous, but that’s what makes its sudden twist hit hard. When Ashley discovers some arcade cabinets locked in a backroom, she decides to give the laundromat a second life by turning it into a full arcade.

Thus begins an intricately designed juggling act, in which players need to manage the laundromat efficiently, keep the cabinets in working order, and keep earning quarters by bringing in more enticing games. There’s a satisfying, machine-like gameplay loop to it all, as players need to work out a daily routine that optimizes their time so everything can get done.

What’s especially notable, though, is that all 35 arcade cabinets created for the game are fully playable. Not only that, but they’re legitimately addictive too. Strike Gold is a fun Mr. Driller clone, while Line Terror is a genuinely challenging, minimalist title that has me filling up the screen with squares while outrunning enemies that travel through any lines I create. Each one is a well-design riff on a classic game that I spent hours playing between laundry loads so I could work towards challenges that would earn me more money.

I wanted to spend all day playing a game like UFO Assault. But I couldn’t — and that’s the point.

An arcade cabinet in Arcade Paradise shows a 2D brawler.
Nosebleed Interactive

Despite building an arcade full of fun distractions, Ashley ultimately has a job to do. Whenever I find myself getting deep into an arcade game, her watch goes off telling me that it’s time to empty the dryers. The longer I wait, the more money I’m leaving on the table, making it harder to bring in new machines or get gear that’ll let me run the shop more efficiently. I frequently have to wrench myself away from games just as I’m racking up a high score … or ignore my responsibilities and keep playing. The whole game is built on that clever dynamic, bouncing me between light-hearted retro fun and tedious chores. Even the games themselves become work at a point as I find myself grinding out challenges as a source of income.

It’s a high-concept idea, but one that’s executed incredibly well. In an age where content creators have quite literally turned play into a job, Arcade Paradise is a smart visualization of that tension wrapped up in a thoughtfully constructed business simulator. Come for the neon nostalgia, but stick around and you may find yourself reassessing your relationship with video games in a healthy manner.

Arcade Paradise is available now on Xbox Game Pass.

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