It’s been one hell of a year. Definitely not the best year we’ve had in recent memory, but we’ve still gotten some seriously good games in 2014. So without further adieu heeeeere’s my top 10! Lemme know if you think I’m an idiot in the comments below!
10. South Park: The Stick of Truth
I’ve been a long-time fan of South Park, and frankly just about anything that Matt Stone and Trey Parker touch. And so when I heard that not only was a South Park game being made but also that it was being made under their guidance, I was ecstatic to say the least. And while the numerous delays made me nervous, it was clear that whatever they did with the extra time, they did it right. As expected the game is hilarious, but what surprised me was how well it held up from a gameplay perspective as well. The Stick of Truth’s great RPG mechanics and the way it made feel as though I had been dropped into an episode of the show are the reasons why this Obsidian Entertainment title made my top 10.
9. The Wolf Among Us
The Walking Dead: Season 1 put in a hell of run for my game of the year in 2012, and even with such high expectations, Telltale Games’ follow-up did not disappoint. I did not find the game’s relationships to be as compelling as Lee and Clem’s, or the overall story to be as strong (it’s still brilliant). But without a doubt, The Wolf Among Us improved upon The Walking Dead mechanically, particularly with regard to the action sequences. The fights and moments of violence in The Wolf Among Us feel sharp, impactful, and weighty. I also felt as though my decisions had a nice resonance, and that my Bigby was a nuanced character that I had managed to craft through not only dialog but action as well. It’s an excellent game and a must play for anyone who cares about interesting and unique story telling in games.
8.Valiant Hearts: The Great War
Part puzzle game, part interactive history lesson, Valiant Hearts, surprised me and stole my heart. Even with the simple art-style and limited dialogue, Valiant Hearts: The Great War told a heart-breaking story that managed to capture both the personal and larger scale tragedies of World War One. It’s not a hard game by any stretch of the imagination, but it will make you think, and not just about the puzzles. I don’t want to spoil anything for those who haven’t yet had the opportunity to play this game, so I’ll just say that Valiant Hearts: The Great War is one of the truly special games of 2014. It also happens to feature the best in-game dog since Fallout 3’s Dogmeat, and that’s saying something.
7. Shadow of Mordor
Ah the ‘Nemesis System.’ If I had a top 10 industry buzz-terms of the year, this would definitely top it. I largely agree with all the issues that Sean had with this game, however on my personal scoring scale I would weight them differently. The game definitely has an issue in that its climax does not deliver on the promises it makes during the rising action, but for me the ‘rising action’ is just so good that I was able to forgive the pretty weak ending. Cutting through the ranks of Orcs and forging my own personal rivalries and alliances was a blast. And I don’t think I’ve ever experienced a combat system that made me feel like more of a badass in any other action-adventure game. Once you start to unlock your full powers you fly around the battlefield murdering anything that so much as looks at you sideways. I’m desperately hoping for a sequel to Shadow of Mordor, because with just a tiny bit of refinement this is a definite contender for game of the year.
6. Mario Kart 8
I love couch co-op and in that regard, Mario Kart 8, in my opinion, is second to only one other game in 2014. This entry is Nintendo’s racing franchise’s first foray into the HD era, and it does not disappoint. Mario Kart 8 is friggin’ beautiful. It’s bright, it’s colorful, and just a joy to drive around in. Add to that great kart and bike variety, awesome tracks (particular shout out to Mount Wario, a downhill skiing level), and great item balance and you just might have the best Mario Kart game to date. My only bone to pick with Nintendo on this game is the rude, cruel, and blatant exclusion of the best Kart racer of all time: Diddy Kong. RIP Diddy, I’ll pray for you to arrive in DLC.
5. Sunset Overdrive
Fun. That’s my one word description for this game. With Sunset Overdrive, Insomniac Games essentially created a pure fun engine. A little tricky to get the hang of at first, the movement system is genuinely brilliant. I bounce, I grind, I wall run, I bounce, I grind, and I sure as hell don’t touch the ground. The movement becomes fluid and exciting as you plotyour next leap, hoping to approach hordes of brightly colored mutants as quickly as possible in order to rain death upon them with a brilliant array of weapons and skills. Much has been made of the humor in this game and while it doesn’t always hit, it’s pretty damn funny most of the time. I loved the breaking of the fourth wall and the games excellent sense of self, plus other little touches like the ability to change gender at any time and the numerous pop culture references (particularly the Big Lebowski reference in the bowling ball launching gun named ‘the Dude’). If you would like to indulge your potty-mouthed inner child, there is no better fix.
Ah Destiny, I tell the group of people I play Destiny with every week that I hate it. I tell them I’ll probably never play it again, but then for whatever reason I find myself still running around the Tower, waiting for people so I can go raiding for the third time that week. Yes, the loot system is unrewarding (exceedingly frustratingly so) the multiplayer is pretty damn unbalanced, and the amount of content was disappointing; but the gameplay is just so friggin’ satisfying that I can’t seem to pull myself away. This is beyond a doubt the game that I have played the most this year, and for at least awhile it will be the game I play the most next year. It’s the game I hate to love, but I love it all the same.
3. Super Smash Bros. for Wii U
Best couch co-op of 2014. Super Smash Bros. for Wii U is awesome. Nintendo found a near perfect balance between their previous iterations in the series, and the result is skillful, fast-paced, but still fairly accessible to the casual gamer. The stages are wonderful, and the graphics are outstanding. The addition of the Omega stages (turning any stage into final destination while maintaining the level’s theme) is excellent as well. This is also probably the best roster of any Smash game, and contains more well-balanced fighters than ever before. I’ve already spent a ton of hours playing with friends and am more interested than ever in mastering a bunch of characters rather than just sticking to a couple, like I had in previous iterations. There is plenty of single player content to enjoy as well, a buttload of cool challenges and things to unlock will keep you playing with or without friends for weeks on end. Plus the online multiplayer ain’t half bad either. This game alone is reason enough to go out and get yourself a Wii U.
Titanfall is such a good game its ridiculous. It was an amazing game when it launched and it’s even better now. It sometimes feels as if Titanfall was built around the “Xbox, record that” feature. Every 30 seconds, you and your team are doing something ludicrously cool and the stories that would come out of the game were amazing. There was a day at work where I was standing around chatting with a few of my friends who were also playing Titanfall, and we swapped stories of awesome kills and game victories for an hour. I have to admit I was skeptical about the lack of a single player campaign, but once I touched that multiplayer I knew that the incredible speed and movement system wouldn’t have translated well. I believe that had this game been released a little later in the year it would be in contention for more journalists’ game of the year. People said in previews that it was something you really needed to play to understand how great it is, and when other games started releasing I think people forgot just how unique and cool Titanfall is. Well, I didn’t forget old buddy.
1. Dragon Age: Inquisition
Massive, immersive, rich, compelling, challenging, and a hell of a lot of fun. Dragon Age: Inquisition is my game of the year. The combat is outstanding, switching between tactical camera and the action camera, makes each fight interesting and varied. The characters are more lifelike than ever. I absolutely love the progression from a rag-tag group of do-gooders to a badass fighting force that goes around saving the world and killing dragons. DRAGONS. Dear game developers, you wanna win my heart? Let me fight and kill dragons. Sincerely, Sam. In addition to the fantastic combat, you have everything you would expect from a BioWare game: fascinating characters, great dialog, genuine emotion, and a compelling story. Every time I step in to that world I get completely lost (in a good way) and every time I leave spend a ton of time thinking about what I’ll do when I can play again. Dragon Age: Inquisition has, and will continue to suck hours of my life away, and I fully expect this game of the year will dominate much of my next year as well. Many congrats to BioWare and the Dragon Age: Inquisition team, you guys and gals have made a truly, truly, excellent game.