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  • 13_Banner.png?_cb=1670540662

  • This year didn't have quite the public hype of last, but that can be deceiving -- the volume of releases didn't really drop off a huge amount. So we still ended up really wanting to round out the feature with more of our favorites. While it was slated to be a consistent 20 going forward, we decided 22 would make it easier to name! No promises about the pattern being 23 for '23 and so on, because at some point you have to imagine that might get really long…


    This is a collection of wads that narrowly missed Silver as well as some personal favorites. It's in no particular order, like everything else (yes, there has never been such a thing as "the #1 Cacoward"). Hope you enjoy.

    - @rd.


    14_occula.png?_cb=1670540680Occula - Bemused and Tourniquet

    Doom 2, Boom-compatible, 7 maps


    Like ashes and entropy, smoke and stardust, blood and black lace comes Occula, a collaborative foray into ominous ruins littering the sunscorched and soulscarred deserts beneath the sanguine stars of yet another forgotten corpse-planet by Bemused and Tourniquet, two veteran hardworlders from the darker side of the Doom netherverse. Occula's primary campaign is visceral and densely packed, an unguided tour through a triptych of metallic mausoleums whose dizzying array of hidden chambers, barren courts, and sordid undervaults are host to a gauntlet of intense, intimate battles against the burgeoning tombhordes whose mechanical inventiveness is matched only by their impressive lethality. This heady juxtaposition of elements -- spinecrushing CQC where every inch of floorspace feels like mana from beyond on one hand, and incredibly elaborate, vertically-oriented layouts mined with secrets and hidden avenues on the other -- makes for an intoxicating cocktail of claustrophobia, mystery, and grandeur. Just like peanut butter and chocolate, if you ask me.


    - @Demon of the Well

  • 14_atonement.jpg?_cb=1670540898Atonement - Moustachio

    Doom 2, vanilla-compatible, 33 maps


    A cross-planetary odyssey of redemption, encompassing a wide range of locales and more than five years of the author’s mapping career, Atonement might well be Moustachio’s magnum opus. Variety is the order of the day here, in contrast to the tiring uniformity that so often afflicts one-man megawads: from tiny minimaps to grand non-linear adventures, martian bases to gothic castles, casual basecrawlers to slaughterlite bloodbaths, this set has it all. This range, compounded by deft management of the rise and fall of challenge and pace across the six episodes, plus a fantastic and wholly original soundtrack courtesy of Dial-up for murder, allows Atonement to maintain a high level of engagement throughout, making the set a joy to blast through despite its considerable length. Do not sleep on this one, dear reader. Face up, and atone for your sins in a baptism of fire and bloodshed!


    - @Omniarch


    14_infection.jpg?_cb=1670541005Infection - Exl

    Doom 2, Boom-compatible, 7 maps


    When a UAC research facily conducting dubious experimentation suddenly goes dark, there is only one possible remedy, of course: a lone space marine armed with a pistol. Exl's latest tour-de-force may seem conventional from its outset, but the veteran mapper's mastery of techbase design allows Infection to shine through its seemingly predictable premise. Powered by the ever-versatile OTEX texture pack, Infection features gritty, yet colorful visuals coupled with immersive sound effects seldom encountered in mapsets of this kind. Its seven maps are fairly short yet packed with enemies, and the gunplay can best be described as extremely brisk and smooth: Exl does not hand you the super shotgun until five maps in, yet you will never feel its absence thanks to plentiful ammo and high numbers of zombies and imps to waste. There is more to this facility than meets the eye, but you'll have to get to the core of the problem to find out what Exl has in store for you...


    - @Dynamo

  • 14_poogers_map24.jpg?_cb=1670541119Poogers - Various

    Doom 2, Boom-compatible, 35 maps


    From the enthusiastic (and twisted) minds of the Doom Twitch-streaming collective comes a jokewad for a new generation.  The project originally conceived to be a collection of memes and shitposts grew beyond its modest mission statement into a full 36-map megawad sporting unrestricted combat, precarious platforming, perplexing puzzles and... more memes and shitposts, but with many clever twists and turns. While some players will find it inaccessible for disregarding traditional gameplay balance or progression, it's presented with respectable passion, infectious personality and enough variety to provide a truly unique Dooming experience.  Your mileage may vary, but the path of the frog will undeniably change you... in what way is uncertain, but classic Doom is an adventure of many flavors and Poogers samples them all, so dig in and good luck - you'll need it.


    - @Vile

  • 14_pocket.png?_cb=1670541336Pocket Slaughter - SCF

    Doom 2, MBF21-compatible, 32 maps


    SCF shared Pocket Slaughter with the tongue-in-cheek question "Did you enjoy Micro Slaughter Community Project, but wished the maps weren't so long?" Accordingly it's full of tiny, energetic slaughter crumpets that can be finished in 1-3 minutes and play a lot like self-contained mini-games, where combat scenarios are often defined by rather specific structure ideas and core objectives. The concepts and humor are fantastic -- two of my favorite ideas are "Content Delivery Platform," a factory that pushes its hordes around comically on huge scrollers, and "Carnival," a rigged carny game with barrels and a Romero head. The visuals offer a masterclass in stock-textured material craft. Even with its brevity and quick development time, Pocket Slaughter is one of the most idea-rich megawads of the year


    - @rd.

  • 14_warpspeed.jpg?_cb=1670541336Mapping at Warpspeed - Bluepineapple et al

    Doom 2, Boom-compatible, 32 maps


    Originally billed as a monthly speedmapping event, riding high on the colossal wave of mapping enthusiasm that came to define 2021, Mapping at Warpspeed has finally emerged from cryptosleep, having since cosmically inflated into a full 32-map space odyssey, sporting a dwarf galaxy’s worth of interstellar adventure for the whole family (and Zoidberg). Zorglo Blaskowicz IX, our plucky green protagonist, must contend with a smorgasbord of outer-spatial offerings from a variety of authors, ranging in intensity from casual moonwalks to brutal slaughterlite brawls and everything in between. Skillsaw’s gorgeous AA-Tex is on full display throughout, helping bring to life alien worlds of every description, demonstrating once again its versatility and volumes of as-yet untapped potential, while a selection of groovy midis underscore and elevate the frenetic action. Truly, a must play for any fan of Ancient Aliens.


    - @Omniarch

  • 14_nostalgia.jpg?_cb=1670541468Nostalgia - Myolden

    Doom 2, limit-removing, 32 maps


    An intravenous shot of distilled Doom action, courtesy of one of the community’s finest up-and-coming creators, Nostalgia is the platonic ideal of a coffeebreak megawad. In contrast to its title, this set is modern to the bone, with every element of its design working harmoniously towards providing the player with a quick rush of adrenaline: linear, expertly telegraphed progression, unobstructive and utilitarian visual design and tight, well-balanced encounters compound to make this set one of the most straightforwardly enjoyable outings of the year. In this busy world of ours, quick and simple pleasures should not be taken for granted, and Nostalgia is, for those inclined, a perfect example of such.


    - @Omniarch


    14_nensha.png?_cb=1670541583Nensha - RJD

    Doom 2, Boom-compatible, 1 map


    I find RJD's use of scale irresistible -- in Literalism map08, 1000 Lines Community Project 3 map26, and now Nensha, he sculpts these titanic superstructures and landscapes that feel like they were made by ancient gods. For my money, he's on that Xaser tier of commanding awe through architecture. In Nensha, the architecture is not just backdrop, but home to a vertically expansive progression scheme: steep drops, scenic climbs, and elegant loops. It comes with a sorrowful MIDI and an electric, driving pace, in the form of a gauntlet of fun, manic fights that pound one after another like drums, which all combines into a distinct blend of melancholy and intensity. Something about it haunts me.


    - @rd.

  • 1734878805_14_signoftorment.jpg?_cb=1670Sign of Torment - Kain D.

    Doom 2, Boom-compatible, 32 maps


    If I were to sum up Sign of Torment in just a few words, it'd be "dread inducing". This it accomplishes not through predictable jumpscares, but via a much more existentially sinister feeling that you are going to die alone and horribly in this cursed land. In comes a one-man-megawad that one can only assume is a depiction of the struggles against mental illnesses, imposter-syndrome and self-doubt. This strong theme is divided into three episodes of main colors – red, white and black, each more grim than its predecessor, with the third episode being particularly spine-chilling in no small part thanks to the accompanying inhuman, distressing music that perfectly fits the associated maps. The slow burn of Sign of Torment makes the player come to the realization that while the monsters try to kill you physically, the very walls and floors are trying to kill you mentally. While the gameplay doesn't veer far off the likes of Plutonia, the package as a whole is an entirely unique experience few other mapsets can provide.


    - @Terminus

  • 14_wretched.png?_cb=1670541837Wretched Flesh - HALFCOOL

    Doom 2, Boom-compatible, 6 maps


    For someone still in love with the classical era of the Doom PWAD scene, there's something immediately cozy and nostalgic about the filthy prison cell in which Wretched Flesh begins, and violently wresting the weapon away from the obligatory braindead jailer tasked with keeping you feels like the beginning of a story as ageless as "Once upon a time." The daring escape which follows leads to a trek through demon-haunted towns, a derelict smelting plant, fallen military outposts, and on into the churning cloaca of Hell itself on a fated journey into the heart of darkness. But whereas Wretched Flesh's framing and presentation are as comfy as an old pickup truck, there's a beast chained beneath the hood, and proceedings quickly rev up into some of the fiercest fever-pitch action of the year, driven by Boom-injected, elaborately scripted setpiece battles which unfold organically in increasingly chaotic stages and with real cinematic flair. Praise the old blood, hail the new flesh!


    - @Demon of the Well

  • 14_prcp2.png?_cb=1670541992Plutonia Revisited Community Project 2 - Joshy et al

    Doom 2, Boom-compatible, 32 maps


    A lot of the potential fun of a community project with such a well known theme is perpetual anticipation, that feeling of "What angle will the next map use?" This is a promise that PRCP 2 relays early, around the stellar "Agarthan Anomaly" with its Doomcute spaceship and secret alligator inlet, and then delivers on with countless twists and turns and unexpected takes on Plutonia that mostly just work. We're in an era I think of as The Great Synthesis 3, where if there's one oddball skill a mapper could have in your wildest dreams, you can count on someone to have it. 


    A few more of my favorites are "Calamity Valley" and its moody directional lit ambiance, impressive macrostructure, vicious, inventive setpieces and long-ranged combat; the small, austere "Ironclad" for how it turned dickish chaingunner squads and closer-quarters heavy-hitter barrages into joyous fun; "Wrong Turn" and its libraries and lush, blood-soaked junglescape and sense of mystery; "Orestruck," built around a cave harbor packed with violent action. But even beyond the individual maps, it's cool how the late stretch started to channel this undercurrent of ominous energy, a horror that is recognizably Plutonian but also…something else.


    - @rd.

  • 14_hydrosphere.png?_cb=1670542121Hydrosphere - Bri

    Doom 2, Boom-compatible, 6 maps


    If you like barrel explosions, bloody scuffles with scads of fodder, and tight, looping layouts, Hydrosphere, one of the year's best chill-and-play-Doom Coffee Break sets, is well worth a download. The relentlessness with which it pursues this amusing combo of sensory pleasures is commendable -- as is the way it's stuffed into industrial facilities with serious, meticulous craft behind them. It came out before Overboard, and without any direct inspiration connecting them, but the lightness of tone, the cerulean colors, and the bright naturalist settings give them a good amount of mood appeal in common.


    - @rd.

  • 1416005485_14_antemortem.jpg?_cb=1670542Ante Mortem Episode 1 - Snaxalotl

    Doom 2, GZDoom, 5 maps


    Sometimes, when mixing and matching texture packs and mods, you end up with a formula that works together like peanut butter and jelly. And so by merging the beautiful OTEX with the adrenaline machine that is Supercharge, we obtain Ante Mortem, bringing forth five large maps that feature tech and hell themes alike – another wombo combo we all know and love. Snaxalotl utilizes GZDoom for all its worth, with multi-story buildings, portal shenanigans, shapes so unrecognizeable they can only be achieved with intricate slope trickery, and of course hundreds of beefed-up enemies to blast into pieces with the rapid-firing arsenal that Supercharge provides. Ante Mortem has the hallmarks of a true modern classic, and we look forward to seeing where Snaxalotl takes it in Episode 2.


    - @Terminus

  • 14_caffeine.jpg?_cb=1670542384Caffeine Injection - Misty

    Doom 2, MBF21-compatible, 5 maps


    Caffeine Injection is a set defined by stark contrast between sombre presentation and manic action. This seeming contradiction is however the set’s greatest strength; the combat - unrelenting, effortlessly shifting gear from freeform brawl to choreographed encounter and back again - takes on a more contemplative tone when framed against the backdrop of a desaturated, almost autumnal hell, a moody techbase shot through with vivid and colourful highlights, or one of Misty’s more otherworldly settings. Whatever part of the mind is not occupied by trying to stay alive will doubtless appreciate the atmosphere, allowing the set to shine all the brighter even in the rare moments of quiet between the storms. Despite what its title may imply, Caffeine Injection is a little more than a simple shot in the arm: it is stimulant and sedative rolled into one, the perfect distraction for Doomers with a love for both challenge and ambience.


    - @Omniarch

  • 14_ethereal.jpg?_cb=1670542487Ethereal Breakdown - Immorpher et al

    Doom 64, 33 maps


    Ethereal Breakdown ranks as one of this year's more innovative and interesting releases. A community project for Doom 64 is already a rare feat, but this is not merely a retread of Community Chest 64. We get 33 new levels selectable via a hub map, and only after Doomguy manages to win the battle against the demons in his brain - by finding the artifacts of Mind, Spirit and Body hidden in some of the maps - can the final level be tackled. While some of the maps stick close to the Midway/Williams formula, several contain offbeat and creative setpieces seldom seen in Doom maps - 64 or otherwise. Add to that a slick presentation and some new and modified music to ensure that whether you're a 64 aficionado or someone who has more of a passing interest, you're bound to find much to like in Ethereal Breakdown.


    - @Dynamo

  • 14_cistern.jpg?_cb=1670542590Corrupted Cistern - Chris Lutz

    Doom 2, GZDoom, 1 map


    Get ready to don your flippers, as Corrupted Cistern immerses you into the world of ancient watery caves and catacombs. Although you'll be doing very little swimming as a matter of fact, you will be surrounded by waterfalls and pools which, coupled with the map's expert use of lighting and detailing, call to mind the water temples of Unreal's Na Pali - understandably cited as the main influence. Chris Lutz utilizes the Ancient Aliens texture pack skilfully here, and the map flows well enough that you'll have no problem navigating the catacomb's labyrinths in search of the two keys needed to exit. Finally, with Jimmy's excellent, atmospheric MIDI in the background, you won't be missing Siren and M.C.A.'s music as you explore the Cistern. Chris Lutz stated that this map began as an experiment with the UDMF format and the UDB editor. We are pleased to say the experiment is a resounding success, and we'd be delighted to see more where that came from!


    - @Dynamo

  • 14_azazel_map25.jpg?_cb=1670630316Azazel's Second Descent - Bloodbath Giraffe

    Doom 2, GZDoom, 32 maps


    With only one prior published work, Azazel's Second Descent represents a massive leap in ambition for Bloodbath Giraffe with its 32 massive maps (plus one credits map).  The influences are worn proudly - the episodic structure of Scythe 2 and Eviternity, the punishing combat set pieces of Sunlust and the Stardate series (with some obvious tributes), even the grand architectural spectacle of Sunder are combined with new custom threats to deliver an engaging and lengthy journey to defeat Azazel and his demonic army.  There's hints of a larger story, such as when you stumble into a chaotic throwdown between two warring factions of hellspawn, but the endgame remains the same - one demon's descent is ultimately a marine's ascent, if you have your way, so enjoy the sights and put both sides of this conflict to rest.


    - @Vile

  • 14_100line.png?_cb=1670542785100 Line Massacre - NinjaDelphox & Arsinikk

    Doom 2, vanilla-compatible, 35 maps


    The two authors of 100 Line Massacre play a game of mapping tennis with one another, lobbing rowdy, action-packed micro-Hell Revealed massacres, returning with puzzly, enigmatic, or downright silly vignettes -- whizzing pack and forth until you realize you're a third of the way into the megawad already and don't feel like stopping yet. The 'duet' format has historically shown to be a compelling way of giving a mapset both diversity and a stable authorial signature. In this case, the very stringent limitation of 100 linedefs makes for a unique type of cohesion -- maps that can look similar in form and function but have different philosophies under the hood. 100 Line Massacre shows how to do such tiny, constrained maps well: in the maps with discrete areas, just about every fragment builds off of each other or interfaces in some way, making the stages more than the sum of their parts.


    - @rd.

  • 14_elysium.jpg?_cb=1670542900Elysium's Curse Episode 1 - Bri

    Doom 2, MBF21-compatible, 6 maps


    Bri has been positively on fire this year, releasing a series of short episode WADs that each looked more stunning than the last. Elysium's Curse, however, feels the most complete and inspired in its confidence, a beautiful OTEX-based piece that, while immediately eye-appealing to anyone looking at the screenshots in its release thread, benefits from an additional level of polish and mettle, as if Bri was a landscapist adding those few small and not readily apparent touches to a painting that elevate an already stunning work to unparalleled heights. You will come to learn and appreciate these aspects soon after basking in the splendor of Elysium's Curse visuals: for one thing, Bri makes a point of keeping the levels short but tightly connected, as by having each map stars off from where the last left off, and even making the player revisit earlier areas from previous maps, it provides a major sense of atmospheric continuity. Bri brings forth castles, temples, underground caverns and ruinous jungles in a coherent and cohesive world that make you question whether you are not actually playing one large map. And to think this is just the first episode of what is certainly shaping up to become a very promising megawad.


    - @Terminus

  • 14_boa2kd_map20.jpg?_cb=1670630316The Box of a Thousand Demons - Thelokk

    Doom 2, Boom-compatible, 32 maps


    Competently designed Doom wads intended for mass appeal are always welcome, but there's something special about a wad with a unique flourish, one presented by an artist as much as a mapper.  The Box of a Thousand Demons further establishes Thelokk's distinctive style in an OTEX-packing megawad, with maps intended as a series of isolated and varied challenges rather than a cohesive whole.  Players will traverse shadowy ruins, grimy technological remnants and hellishly abstract constructs, but there's more to this wad than meets the eye.  There's no story text to give context to the trials - each map exists as a catharsis for the author as much as a challenge to be conquered.  Considering this, the wad can be experienced through a different lens, one that can be easily forgotten in the midst of demon-killing and appreciated for what it offered both creator and player.


    - @Vile

  • 14_relyctum.png?_cb=1670543091Relyctum - BeeWen

    Doom 2, Boom-compatible, 32 maps


    Relyctum presents an odyssey of ineffably Doom-y unlikeliness, sprawling perpetually outwards in a seemingly endless array of courtyards, crypts, nukage-sluices, warehouses, freightyards, cathedrals, techno-chambers, cathode-towers, temples, basements and boweries. Earnestly beautiful, in an understated, neo-classical sort of way, Relyctum is a showcase of artfully composed and intricately layered stock texture usage accentuated by attractively subtle lighting, and in the imagination coalesces as a vast, surrealistic cityscape conjured in a dreaming mind. It's far from a serene dream, however, and experiencing it firsthand reads as an interminable pilgrimage through an endless dungeon. Incredibly elaborate, highly interactive and ever-transforming layouts host deadly traps and byzantine progression schemes in equal measure, and real resourcefulness, wit, and razor-sharp navigational skills are necessary to clear each layer of the labyrinth. The definition of a slow-burner, Relytcum stands apart in pace and tone from most modern experiences, instead exploring and reveling in the intricacies of level design to which 'simpler' shooters of Doom's vintage are uniquely suited.


    - @Demon of the Well

  • 14_irkalla.jpg?_cb=1670543209Irkalla - Stormwalker et al

    Doom 2, Boom-compatible, 11 maps


    Irkalla comes in as a love letter to the third episode of The Ultimate Doom, reimagined with as many attractions as Hell can conjure in 2022. Spearheaded by Stormwalker, who's blessed us with Flashback to Hell a few years back, this mapset is an experience both old and new. The familiar structures of old have been deftly modernized as gothic castles, bloody hellscapes providing striking vistas and decorated with insignia and corpses on the walls, and with as many patterns of flesh and blood as the eye can see. This type of craftsmanship is not the only thing Irkalla excels at – the levels are just at the right level of difficulty to keep you on your toes but not have you sweating bullets or feeling like you're talking a walk in the local, albeit very Hellish, park. I highly recommend Irkalla to any Inferno fan – it is undoubtably one of the best reimaginations I've seen.


    - @Terminus

  • 2022 Cacowards


    Espi Award for Lifetime Achievement

    • Frans P. de Vries


    Top Ten - Page 1

    • The Magenta Spire
    • Jumpwad
    • Ozonia


    Top Ten - Page 2

    • Elementalism: Phase 1
    • Dust Devil
    • Malevolence E1
    • Don't Turn Your Back on the City


    Top Ten - Page 3

    • KDiKDiZD
    • The 10x10 Project
    • Overboard


    Special Features

    • Doomkid's Jamal Jones contest
    • Greenian
    • Doom CE
    • Promising Newcomers


    22 More for 2022


    Multiplayer Awards

    • Horde and Hordamex
    • FrantikDM2


    Gameplay Mod Awards

    • Gun Bonsai
    • Voxel Doom


    Other Awards

    • Mordeth Award
      • KDiKDiZD vanilla tech
    • Codeaward
      • Ultimate Doom Builder / DoomTools
    • Machaward
      • Doom RPG port
    • Dootaward
      • Ozonia OST
    • Creator of the Year
      • Deadwing



    The original Reelism, unleashed unto the world in 2011, has stood the test of time as one of the wackiest arcade mods ever released for Doom. And now, 11 years later, Kinsie, Shadsy and guest contributors have returned to deliver an even more zany and outlandish package in Reelism 2. Truth be told, if I had to describe Reelism 2 using two words, it'd be... "more Reelism". Indeed, those familiar with the original package will be instantly familiar with what's on offer here, including the return of fan-favorite maps such as Gutrot Island and Abridged Too Far™. For the uninitiated, however, Reelism's core gameplay revolves around waves of randomly selected monsters to fight using randomly selected weaponry in the middle of randomly selected conditions... all three of which can be different on each turn depending on how the reel decides for you! Now, despite being Bigger, Badder and Better, Reelism 2 this time also offers a town map where you may acquire new armaments and supplies, chat it up with the locals who, I assure you, are truly a fascinating lot, and maybe discover a surprise or two along the way... It's an excellent attempt at adding a modicum of progression without compromising the game's arcade-oriented sensibilities which are strongly geared towards replayability. To top it all off, Reelism 2's success in the community has led to an outpouring of community add-ons for it, so in case you ever felt like there just wasn't enough wackiness or randomness in your reels, you've got even more explosive content to look forward to! It wouldn't be unfair to look at Reelism 2 as more of a replacement for the original Reelism than a proper sequel, although that hasn't stopped people from taking apart the original Reelism and amping it up to bring it up to speed with the second iteration, which, when all is said and done, is a testament to Reelism's fun gameplay and strong impression on the community back in 2011 and even more so today.


    - @Dynamo