It has been a great year for gaming. Here we recap some of the highlights of 2014.
This list was compiled out of titles released this year that met several criteria. First, that it was the first year they were released. Secondly, that they were not remakes or reissued versions or expansion packs etc. Thirdly, the nature of sequel titles was heavily analyzed, with preference given to titles that had special relevance to their series as a whole; either building onto it or expanding their series in some meaningful way.
10. Five Nights at Freddy’s/ Five Night’s at Freddy’s 2
Horror in any genre is one of the hardest things to get right, and that is especially true in videogames. In a medium where we have been conditioned to act as the most powerful being in the universe, capturing the correct level of helplessness necessary can be a tough move. Five Nights at Freddy’s (and its sequel, also released in 2014) manages to not only be genuinely scary, it does this by placing the player into a very different role than they might expect in a game, and it creates the horror in a very classic and always impressive way: by taking something cute and childish, and showing how it can be terrifying when placed in a different context.
9. Divinity: Original Sin
Showing that sometimes Kickstarter can be leveraged to create something beautiful, Divinity was funded by fans of the early 2000’s series of the same name, and what we got was a wonderful old-school RPG. We were also reminded that maybe there’s nothing wrong with how things were done back in the day, once you update the graphics and smooth out some of the gameplay with modern technology. An isometric style RPG with endless tactical opportunities, a detailed and multi-leveled quest system, and the ability to make it all for yourself again when you’re done with an advanced Game Editor tool give plenty of reasons to put this game on this list.
8. The Wolf Among Us
It’s been a busy year for Telltale Games. Their signature style of modern adventure game has spawned a second Walking Dead season, a Borderlands season, and a Game of Thrones season, but my pick of the litter regarding quality from them has to be this adaptation of the long-running Fables comic series. Set in an urban fantasy world where children’s stories meet noir-style detectives, playing as the Big Bad Wolf to investigate a crime is not only a sentence you never thought you would hear, it’s actually far more cool and engrossing than you might expect.
7. Super Smash Bros for Wii-U and 3DS
Super Smash Bros continues to perfect a formula that keeps on bringing us back, namely, finding different ways to allow us to destroy our favorite classic games characters. With an array of new modes, a larger character pool, and interaction across two platforms at once, Smash Bros has set itself up as the party game of the year. And while we may endlessly debate online about which game in the series is the best, whenever a new Smash Bros does arrive, it’s an event for that year.
6. Far Cry 4
Taking the FPS-Adventuring route that was sculpted in Far Cry 3, the sequel doesn’t mess with the formula much. Minor issues are smoothed out, and the setting is changed from generic tropical islands to a magical and breathtaking Himalayan world. If Far Cry 3 didn’t exist, this would probably come near the top of the list, however, repeating a few elements and a weaker plot place it here on the list, but it’s still an exciting and great game for 2014. Plus you can ride an elephant while firing a machinegun.
5. Bayonetta 2
In the absence of any decent Devil May Cry game coming out recently, I’ll take it’s crazier younger sister instead for a while. Now on Wii-U exclusively, Bayonetta 2 takes a game that was ridiculous enough already, and sends it to places you didn’t know it could go. I’m sure that you’ll never play an action game quite like this, and the gap of a few years since 1 has given them plenty of time to sort out some of the gameplay issues, making combo-ing far more addictive throughout the time played. With Bayonetta 1 remastered and included in the package as well, there’s even more incentive to get this title.
4. South Park: The Stick of Truth
A labor of love from two creators to their fans, The Stick of Truth is a must-have for fans of the series, but one that manages to be an amazingly fun game in its own rights as well. With a great sense of humor, albeit one that is definitely not for children, The Stick of Truth is an RPG set straight into the mind of today’s twisted youth. Utilizing the same game style as Paper Mario, The Stick of Truth is one of the best game adaptations of a franchise ever, showing that it is indeed possible to get right, if you put some effort in.
3. Middle-Earth: Shadow of Mordor
With a willful lack of pandering to Tolkien fans, Shadow of Mordor manages to take a setting that most fantasy fans know, and places one aim above all: to make the experience fun. There’s very little relation to the legendary books that it’s based on, but in a videogame context, the Nemesis system and the combat taken from Batman and Assassin’s Creed manage to make the entire experience exception. Raising your own army of orcs, or trying to track down the ones that have crossed you across the vast plains of Mordor adds a whole new element to the classic system of faceless-enemy and player interactions. The sort of game that feels like a power trip, but also shows that there’s nothing wrong with that from time to time.
2. Dark Souls 2
Endless internet flame wars have raged over the first direct sequel in the Souls franchise, but that doesn’t stop it from being a remarkable game. Taking a formula that we all know by now, there’s that same feeling of progressing from a tiny speck of nothingness, and eventually reaching a point where you can slay even the most powerful of monsters. And once again, this feeling is created by pure effort from the player, as the difficulty level remains as pointedly high as always. Giving us another dark, dismal world to explore, Dark Souls 2 has settings and gameplay opportunities that will keep bringing people back for hours upon end. Added to that is 3 very good DLC expansions, and there’s even more reason to stay in the world of Drangleic this year.
1. Dragon Age: Inquisition
Now this was hardly a surprise, was it? I’ve put a lot of effort into trying to decide whether this title deserves the top spot, or whether I’m clouded by it being the most recent release of the top few games here. However, after endless debate between this and Dark Souls 2, I think Dragon Age has earned the right to take the number one spot for the year. Correcting nearly all of the problems that people had with Dragon Age 2, Inquisition is awesome in scope, with beautiful, detailed settings, a huge, memorable collection of characters, multiple play styles possible, great RPG elements and enough content to keep the player coming back for hour upon hour. Dragon Age: Inquisition is the kind of game that I’ve heard people talk about in social settings, even outside of the videogame community, where even non-typical gamers have picked it up, and join in to share their story about what happened that one time while they were playing. That for me is a sign of a successful game, one that can be shared between people to that extent. While later years might show Inquisition to be a set-up for an even more expansive Dragon Age title or franchise from Bioware, at the moment, in the here and now, it’s a remarkable game in its own right.