Artwork by CitrusKing46
Well, 2014 was kind of a challenging year for video games, to say the least. Between the numerous bugs, delays, next-gen hype, and pissed-off audiences, it was rough on triple-A gaming this year. And while I almost skipped out on doing this list due due to the fact that the year’s highest-rated games are ones I haven’t gotten around to yet (Bayonetta 2, Shadow of Mordor, Super Smash Bros., etc.), I felt it was my duty to shine on a light on those that stood out the most. After all, there were indeed still a lot of quality games this year, both triple-A and indie (though I tended to lean more towards the latter myself), and while I’m guessing a good chunk of you have already predicted my top picks, let us still dive in and celebrate the best video games of 2014!!
First, some rules, though…
– Episodic games that finished this year were counted, but episodic games that still haven’t wrapped up yet were not counted, since it only seems fair to wait until they’re all done before celebrating the game as a whole (so sorry, Broken Age and Tales From The Borderlands).
– Games in Steam’s Early Access program or similar games still in the alpha or beta stage were not counted, since I don’t care how incredible they are so far – I can’t properly judge them until they’re officially completely finished and released (so sorry, Broforce and Crypt of the NecroDancer).
– As suggested above, this list is limited to games I have actually played myself, and while I tried to cram in all I could per TR tradition, there are some titles I did indeed miss and thus couldn’t include (so sorry, Child of Light and Shantae and the Pirate’s Curse…like, seriously, god I wish I the time and resources to get around to playing those games).
So with that out of the way, on with the show!
20 – 11. Honorable Mentions
Well, any Honorable Mentions I come up with are pretty much just extensions of the main list anyway, so why not extend it a little? We may not have time to go in-depth with them, but let’s see what other goodies popped up this year…
20. South Park: The Stick of Truth
19. The Vanishing of Ethan Carter
18. Freedom Planet
17. Ether One
14. inFamous: Second Son
12. Far Cry 4
11. This War of Mine
A terrific ten right there. An even more terrific ten, though, begins with…
10. 80 Days
Let’s face it, the world can always use more games where Jules Verne characters ride hovercars. Inkle’s steampunk take on the tale makes for a mobile classic that involves a ton of strategy as you and your companion attempt to plan and negotiate your way around the world from London to back in time. But the real star here comes via the game’s alternate universe and the stories it creates, where every decision you make could mean a comfortable ride in an airship from Singapore to Australia, or whether you wind up on the same airship, except now you’re inside of it saying your farewells to your friend as it slowly sinks to the bottom of the ocean because a riot got out of control.
Minimalist in presentation but filled to the brim with adventure, 80 Days is a fun little trip that everyone should experience.
Let’s face it, it was a near-impossible task for Supergiant Games to even come close to matching the glory of their legendary spawn that was Bastion, so the fact that their follow-up game Transistor still turned out incredible is quite the impressive feat indeed. Bizarre in some places but highly captivating in much, much more, Transistor’s unique programming-based combat, vibrant setting, rich, deep story and – of course – the tremendously beautiful soundtrack all blend together to create one unforgettable experience.
After all, the image of a popular songstress killing a huge snakelike creature with a giant talking sword as part of a quest to reclaim her stolen voice is the type of moment that doesn’t leave your mind anytime soon…
8. The Wolf Among Us
Well, with The Walking Dead Season 2 delivering a solid adventure game but dropping the ball quite a bit in the story department (or rather, picking up the idiot ball), it was up to The Wolf Among Us to stick the landing and deliver a truly terrific adventure game for the company this year, and by gum, did it deliver. A noteworthy noir tale soaked in neon and a surprisingly subtle and gorgeous ’80s coating that serves as a prequel to the beloved Vertigo comic Fables, The Wolf Among Us tells a terrific tale through every episode, chronicling the efforts of Bigby Wolf and how your actions determine how big and bad he actually is. Easy to play and mesmerizing at every turn, needless to say it’s a marvelous murder mystery and another feather in Telltale’s cap.
7. Valiant Hearts: The Great War
If we have to continue being saddled with countless war games, then Valiant Hearts is at least a shining example of how war games should be done. Namely, by actually educating gamers on the actual tragedies, casualties and horrors of war. Inspired by real-life letters from World War I, Valiant Hearts may look silly to some, with its cartoonish puzzle-platformer/adventure gameplay, but as the story goes on, the game starts to hit you harder and harder with just how chaotic WWI really was, depicting a captivating tale of four individuals caught up in a sea of increasing mayhem, right up until the final moments where you will honestly be shedding a tear.
Suffice it to say, this easily joins Spec Ops: The Line in the group of the most notable war games ever, and I salute it for that.
6. The Talos Principle
Dear Devolver Digital: Why, oh, why did you choose to release Croteam’s gem here in mid-December? I mean, that virtually guaranteed that no gaming outlets had enough time to but it on any “Best of 2014” lists they were already preparing. Luckily, I’m not among those outlets, so maybe I can get the honor of bestowing the first such honor on The Talos Principle.
After all, what we have here is the rare game that can best be described as a true successor to the Portal games: A unique first-person puzzler with some great brainteasers and an astounding story dealing with the relationship between humanity and artificial intelligence, not to mention eye-popping visuals and several sweet touches of wit and humor. Hopefully it at least makes several “Best of 2015” lists as well…
5. Road Not Taken
You wouldn’t think a video game built around a midlife crisis would be as terrific as it sounds, but the fact that Road Not Taken ranked so high here is proof that yes, you can make anything into a high-quality video game. Of course, it helps that this tale about such a crisis is wrapped up in a highly engaging, roguelike puzzler with vibrant, fairy tale graphics concealing a darker tale about a ranger forced to make hard choices while saving children from raging blizzards.
Not to mention the large amount of depth when it comes to exploring and experimenting with the world around you, which comes in handy considering the game’s extreme level of challenge. Hard as a brick but compelling in countless ways, just how I like ’em.
4. Monument Valley
I admit that I’m a bit of a sucker for games at least a little bit based around the works of M.C. Escher or other similar surreal artwork, so I was pretty much rooting for Monument Valley the moment I had first glimpsed it. Thankfully, all that rooting wasn’t for naught…far from it, as Monument Valley turned out to be an absolute stunner, a journey through a dreamlike universe packed with colorful, striking landscapes and bizarre architecture that tells an amazing story as you go along, filled with an assortment of fun puzzles and a perfect level of challenge to offer throughout.
It even managed to deliver a blow to my gut on an emotional level at one point, something I had once thought could never be achieved by a five-dollar mobile game. Simply put, a short but amazingly sweet tale not to be missed.
3. Shovel Knight
‘Twas a tremendous battle indeed between Shovel Knight and Monument Valley to determine who was the year’s top indie game, but in the end, Shovel Knight edged out the isometric puzzler to grab the top spot. Everything about it pretty much just makes for a perfect platformer: Eye-popping 8-bit graphics with a ton of detail, fun and charming character designs, a solid level of difficulty spread throughout every stage, and a central mechanic of shovel-based combat an maneuvering that makes for some insanely fun gameplay. Actually, that’s barely scratching the surface since there’s a lot more to love about Shovel Knight, but we’d be here all day if I were to list all that. A terrific, outstanding game first and a retro love letter to the NES days second, it is – again – truly is the best game 1991 never made.
2. Danganronpa 2: Goodbye Despair
Really, both Dangaronpa games deserve to be up here, but Danganronpa 2 emerged as the victor to steal the top spot. The series in general was a surprise niche hit among gamers this year, which, considering that this is a game centered around high school students forced by a killer teddy bear to murder each other in a deadly game, is kind of surprising. Then again, the fact that there’s a highly captivating story behind that game helps quite a lot, along with some puzzling investigations and a smorgasbord of fun courtroom games to play through in order to untangle each new mystery.
So why does the second game deserve to be up here over the first? Well, in my opinion, chalk it up to a roster of colorful characters that I loved and grew attached to even more than the original group…including, of course, Gundham Tanaka. Seriously, that dark lord is the f***ing champ.
1. Sunset Overdrive
…What else can I say here?
I mean, for the past year or so, I have been the biggest vocal supporter of Sunset Overdrive that I could humanly be, saying that this kind of vibrant, over-the-top, cartoonish action is exactly what triple-A gaming needs as an antidote to other major games trying to be overly serious. And when it came out, I raved like a lunatic over how incredible it all was, jammed with fast-paced, parkour-fueled movement and combat, insane weaponry, a gorgeous world brimming with personality, mounds and mounds of cathartic mayhem and things to do and collect…there was no doubt it would be my Game of the Year. But now that it is the Game of the Year – at least in my book – what else can say about such a triumph that I haven’t already said before?
…Wait, the first story DLC is out right now? Complete with new weapons?
Ummm…Something urgent just came up. Article over! Goodnight, folks!
Well, those are my picks for the best video games of the year. Agree, disagree, or plan to shout at me for not including any Nintendo games (look, I had to play with the cards I was dealt, ‘kay)? Let us know in the comments with your own picks and favorite games! So adios, and let’s hope that 2015 is a terrific year for video gaming as well!
Previously by Kyle LeClair:
TR’s 10 Best Indie Games of 2013
The 17 World Premiere Trailers From The Game Awards 2014
TR Holiday Gift Guide: 7 Types of Gamers and How to Shop for Them
The 25 Best Games of E3 2014