Top five play-to-earn NFT games in 2022

It is going to be an action-packed year for NFT games, with plenty of updates and new releases

A virtual simulation of a man on a hoverboard                                 
1.54 million unique wallets are playing crypto games daily, according to DappRadar – Photo: Shutterstock


Play-to-earn NFT games soared in popularity last year with games such as Axie Infinity attracting a hefty userbase. This year is likely to be another exciting year for the industry with many highly anticipated games set to be released.

The charm behind play-to-earn NFT games is that players can have real ownership over their virtual items, whether that is swords, spaceships or creatures. Blockchain technology is motivating players, and it is working. A DappRadar report found there were 1.54 million unique wallets using crypto games daily in Q3 2021.

As well as new games being released, already established ones will be releasing game-changing updates. Not sure which to play first? Here are five of the best play-to-earn NFT games for 2022.


Scheduled for release early this year, Illuvium is potentially the most highly anticipated upcoming NFT game. The game is inspired by Pokémon, and players are tasked with capturing creatures called Illuvials. After the Illuvial is nursed back to health, the player can add it to their collection and compete with other adventurers.

Every Illuvial is an NFT and can be customised by the player. The main gameplay mechanic is focused on collecting and customising these creatures. Players are rewarded with more powerful abilities depending on the selection of Illuvials on their team.

The cinematic look of the game differs from its inspirations, but the gameplay bears close resemblance to Axie Infinity, another successful blockchain game. Axie Infinity requires players to capture unique creatures and battle with them. Sound familiar? 

Illuvium’s similarity to Axie Infinity is not to be looked down on. The AXS token has started to wane as the in-game rewards are becoming rarer, setting the stage for a competitor like Illuvium to take its place.

In anticipation of Illuvium’s early 2022 release, its native ILV token has skyrocketed. It launched in March 2021 below the $100 mark and by 1 December it had raced to $1,901.87. The price has corrected since then and is hovering around $998 at the time of writing.

Spider Tanks

It is easy to get hung up on the play to earn mechanics of a blockchain game, but gameplay is equally important, at least according to Gala Games. Gala Games is a blockchain game studio “making blockchain games you’ll actually want to play”. Spider Tanks is one of the games in its portfolio, a brawler where steampunk-style tanks fight it out.

Although it was due to be released in the last quarter of 2021, the Spider Tanks website says the game is still under development. Users can start playing the game now, however. Every tank is an NFT that can be customised and  players who already own a tank can start testing out the game, according to a blog post.

On the Gala Games marketplace, users can purchase different weapons and outfits for their tanks. From glancing at the marketplace, Spider Tanks is already making an impact as it has sold out items worth more than $1,000 (£738) in the GALA cryptocurrency.


Card games have been a staple of the entertainment industry for centuries, with some dating them back over a thousand years. Splinterlands is a newer arrival, taking the fantasy card game concept, which was spearheaded by Magic: The Gathering, and combining it with blockchain technology.

Despite their virtual nature, players can own the cards as NFTs. Cards can be bought on the marketplace and the prices can go beyond $25,000. Players are not restricted to buying expensive cards; instead they can rent them for much less. The Splinterlands website says 554,534 cards are rented out daily at a total price of $11,387.

The SPS token logo on a smartphone in front of a laptop displaying the Splinterlands web page
Splinterlands launched its own token last summer, which is used to purchase cards on the marketplace – Photo: Shutterstock

Splinterlands is a worthy contender for any best NFT games list. It only launched in March 2021 and is already one of the top play-to-earn games. The fantasy card game is the third-most popular crypto game, with a monthly user count of 597,980 last October, according to Statista.

The play- to-earn NFT game is looking to keep its userbase engaged in 2022 with the introduction of land, a new gameplay mechanic. This is part of an expansion coming to the game this year that will allow users to create their own items and spells.

Thetan Arena

MOBAs (multiplayer online battle arenas) have dominated the gaming industry for some time now. The hits League of Legends and Dota 2 created a unique arena-based gameplay and combined it with the addictive mechanic of collecting characters. It was only a matter of time before there was a blockchain alternative and Thetan Arena seems to have occupied that space.

Thetan Arena is a MOBA that is playable on mobiles, Macs and PCs. Players can buy NFT heroes on the marketplace and use them in a variety of game modes. Thetan coin, the in-game currency, can be earned by playing these game modes. The coin launched at $0.93 on 29 November 2021 but has lost a sizeable amount of its value: at the time of writing it is sitting at $0.11.

However, it is expected to be an active year for Thetan Arena. The multiplayer game plans on introducing a range of new game features, including guilds that are clans created and managed by players, and a new tournament mode. Thetan Arena has its eyes set on becoming an e-sports hit, an industry that is booming right now. With the introduction of these new game features, Thetan Arena is inching closer to its dream.

Star Atlas

Play-to-earn NFT games in 2022 are starting to shift towards AAA games, the term used for higher budget, higher profile and more cinematic experiences. Star Atlas is a space strategy game that will use the Unreal Engine 5 technology to develop what the maker claims will be immersive and hyper-realistic gameplay.

Users are able to join one of the three factions that compete with each other for Star Atlas’s valuable resources. The game is aiming to develop a self-sustaining economic system in its digital world.

Star Atlas has two tokens. POLIS is a governance token that allows players to have a say in their guilds. Anyone who holds POLIS can contribute to the game’s decisions. ATLAS is the in-game currency that can be earned via mining ores and other activities. This token can be used to purchase items, such as spaceships or land.

These items are stored as NFTs and can be bought on Star Atlas’s marketplace. CEO Mike Wagner told Solana’s publication: “There are very few items in the game that aren't owned by players.”

So far, Star Atlas has released mini games to test the functionality of the game. The full game is expected to launch this year and will enable players to take part in ship missions, mining, and exploration.  

The future of play-to-earn NFT games

Crypto gaming has come a long way in the industry’s short existence. CryptoKitties was one of the first, created in 2017. Although it is admittedly cute, its simple graphics and mechanics are easily being succeeded by the new generation of NFT games.

The direction of play-to-earn NFT games is heading towards an exciting future. Games such as Illuvium and Star Atlas are bringing higher budgets and cinematic experiences to the blockchain industry.

Further reading

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