By: Mike Chen
Note: There are some big award-winning titles missing from my list. So take this as an admission that I didn’t play Bayonetta 2 (don’t own a Wii U) or Shadow of Mordor (simply ran out of time; thanks, baby Amelia).
TOP 10 GAMES OF 2014
10) Nidhogg — Prince Of Persia (classic version) meets football with a killer techno soundtrack and Atari 2600 graphics. It sounds absolutely insane, but it’s the most local vs. fun I’ve had since staying up way too late with my middle-school friends playing Mortal Kombat on Sega Genesis. Sometimes, you don’t need graphics or story, just a killer concept and Nidhogg delivers with white-knuckle tension.
9) BioShock Infinite: Burial At Sea — This two-part DLC acts as so many things: mini-sequel, mini-prequel, series-unifying bridge. However, beyond the story, its second half also tacks on a huge shift in series gameplay by integrating new powers, a different type of protagonist and stealth gameplay that feels somewhat inspired from Dishonored. Also, I never have to experience a virtual lobotomy again.
8) P.T. — Obviously not an official game release, the Playable Teaser for the upcoming Hideo Kojima/Guillermo Del Toro reboot of Silent Hill is one of the creepiest experiences you could have in 2014. From the atmospheric audio to brilliant lighting to the just-right combination of jump-scares and moody creepout, this one-hour experience was so effective and bizarre that I showed it to just about every horror fan that came by my house.
7) CastleStorm: Definitive Edition — Technically a best-of release, this new package effortlessly combined tower defense, real-time strategy and hack n’ slash combat into a fun and funny title. By mashing up genres, CastleStorm proves to be greater than the sum of its parts.
6) The Wolf Among Us — Demonstrating that TellTale’s success with The Walking Dead wasn’t a one-time thing, Wolf brings both fantasy and grit into a very adult scenario. The writing is fantastic, the characters are great and the art style is stunning. My only wish for TellTale is for them to start incorporating more traditional game elements into their titles.
5) Strider — The Strider reboot took the best elements of the original arcade/Sega Genesis game and its Metroidvania NES cousin, then dashed in all sorts of modern design and visuals to keep your future-ninja busy. While other 2D reboots failed this year, Strider was a shining example of how to utilize the best of classic design and bring it into the modern age.
4) InFamous: Second Son — The second InFamous game made a huge leap from the first in terms of narrative, gameplay and level design. Second Son, the third entry in the series, ups the superhero ante even further with a fully realized Seattle jam-packed with so much to do and a surprise ending that adds plenty of incentive for post-campaign destruction.
3) Far Cry 4 — For everything Ubisoft got wrong in 2014, they did some things very right, and that begins with Far Cry 4. While they didn’t add too much to the formula, Far Cry 4 is simply bigger in scope and more detailed on every level. The co-op isn’t the greatest, but other than that, Far Cry 4 is a huge success for open-world first-person games.
2) Dragon Age: Inquisition — Huge. Everything about Inquisition is absolutely huge, from the scope of the world to the sheer amount of stuff you can do. Add in flexible combat options, fantastic characterization and hours upon hours of recorded party dialogue, and you get one of the most complete RPG experiences in years. Bioware may have flubbed their legacy with Dragon Age 2 and Star Wars: The Old Republic, but Inquisition more than rights the ship.
1) South Park: The Stick Of Truth — Some games were deeper. Some looked better, some played better, some were longer or more technically challenging. Whatever. The most fun I’ve had in a video game in a long time came during my 15-hour journey through the sleepy Colorado town of South Park.
BIGGEST DISAPPOINTMENT OF 2014
From Watch Dogs to Assassin’s Creed Unity to Far Cry 4, 2014 was supposed to be a massive year for Ubisoft. Unfortunately, two of the company’s biggest IPs were hampered by poor design decisions and even poorer quality control. Watch Dogs came with a ton of hype, but its innovative core mechanic of hacking was overshadowed by far too much GTA-lite gameplay. Unity‘s troubles are well documented, and now that the game actually runs, it’s a shame that people are looking the other way because it’s pretty good, though not particularly groundbreaking. Far Cry 4, while generally successful, didn’t push the envelope like you’d hope a new iteration would. Let’s hope Ubisoft focuses more on creativity and quality rather than annual releases. (Yes, The Stick Of Truth was an Ubisoft title, but they essentially just purchased the publishing rights.)
MOST ANTICIPATED GAMES OF 2015
3) No Man’s Sky — Star Raiders for the 2600. Wing Commander for the PC. Rogue Squadron for the Gamecube. Ever since I was a kid, all I wanted to do was jump in a starfighter and zoom around the galaxy. No Man’s Sky promises just that with an insane procedurally generated galaxy filled with exploration, customization, dogfighting and who knows what else. Please, please, please don’t suck.
2) Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain — This Metal Gear fanboy is on pins and needles about the David Hayter-less Phantom Pain. Technically, the Ground Zeroes glorified demo was a sharp piece of work, but it was ultimately empty. However, all reports of The Phantom Pain call for a huge open-world game. Hideo Kojima was jealous of Grand Theft Auto V; we’ll soon know if he was able to top Rockstar’s latest efforts.
1) Uncharted 4: A Thief’s End — Since the launch of the last generation, Naughty Dog has probably been the most consistent developer on the planet. Visually, the early Uncharted 4 footage is incredible, but what’s even more exciting is hearing the development team talk about how lessons learned on The Last Of Us will be applied to Nathan Drake‘s new adventure. I can’t wait.
PlayStation Game of the Year: InFamous: Second Son
DLC of the Year: Burial at Sea (BioShock Infinite)
Best Story: South Park: The Stick of Truth