2014 was a rough year. Not because there were a lot of bad games, rather because there were so many disappointments. Between the countless botched AAA releases, stupendously large patch updates, and recent system hacks, 2014 wasn’t filled with particularly good gaming memories. On the other hand, there were quite a few unexpected surprises, and several indie games that put the big developers and publishers to shame. My top ten list was tough to select, mainly because there were still a few titles that went under my radar. Having said that, the following list is a selection of my personal 2014 favorites, and is only based on titles I actually played. The list is completely subjective, so the best titles may not be perfect by any means, but they gave me personally the most value and entertainment for the money.
10. South Park: The Stick of Truth
The Stick of Truth is undoubtedly one of the best licensed games in years, if not ever. In an industry where games based on films or TV shows are generally failures by default, The Stick of Truth shows us that having franchise creators directly involved in the process makes all the difference. The entire game feels like an interactive season of South Park, and it not only captures the show’s tone perfectly, but it delivers superb RPG gameplay mechanics and an immersive, explorable world. Obsidian is a superb developer when granted creative freedom, and I can only hope Ubisoft keeps supporting them in upcoming years.
9. Dragon Age: Inquisition
BioWare has done it. They listened to their fans, and they’ve finally given us an honest DA sequel. Dragon Age: Inquisition may lack Origin’s narrative depth and character development, but it combines the best elements of both predecessors into a massive role playing adventure with beautiful graphics and a ton of quests. Whether you’re a longtime fan or newcomer, Dragon Age: Inquisition is an excellent RPG that no fan of the genre should miss.
8. Samurai Warriors 4
I spent more time with Samurai Warriors 4 this year than any other game. Admittedly, the Dynasty games aren’t for everyone, but Samurai Warriors 4 may be the first entry to appeal to gamers typically dismissive of the series. The gameplay is smoother and faster than ever, there’s enough content to keep gamers busy for a lifetime and the graphics are surprisingly gorgeous for a Warriors title. Dynasty Warriors 8: Xtreme Legends Complete Edition is another superb entry in Tecmo Koei brawler line-up, but Samurai Warriors 4 is the most polished, and most addictive entry yet.
7. Child of Light
When Ubisoft isn’t trying to “appeal to the masses”, they certainly know how to make real gems. Child of Light is a remarkable blend of traditional turn-based RPG combat and 2D side scrolling. The game boasts a breathtaking art style, a captivating narrative and a spectacular soundtrack. At a time when turn-based RPGs are being considered ancient, Child of Light breathes new life into the genre and reminds us of what makes these games so fun in the first place. Let’s just hope Ubisoft continues investing in smaller studios, as Child of Light is better than most of their AAA releases this year.
Transistor is a masterpiece. It takes core gameplay mechanics from Bastion and blends them with creative strategy elements. Playing through Transistor is an ethereal experience, enveloping players with a mesmerizing soundtrack, jaw dropping visuals and a beautiful storyline. Supergiant Games is an extremely talented studio, and Transistor deserves a spot next to Journey, Braid and Fez as one of the most influential indie-games of the last decade. Considering it’s only $5.99 on Steam right now, there is no reason not to play through this fantastic adventure.
5. Forza Horizon 2
The Xbox One may still be playing catchup with the Playstation 4, but when it comes to racing games, Sony’s platform has yet to deliver something decent. Forza Horizon 2 is the best nex-gen racer, and one of Microsoft’s best exclusives. Its Mediterranean landscape is packed with varied championships and a plethora of collectibles. The driving blends arcade and simulation racing beautifully, and the mix of single-player and multiplayer is nearly flawless. To racing game fans, Forza Horizon 2 alone is reason enough to own an Xbox One.
4. Shadow of Mordor
While heavily borrowing gameplay mechanics from Assassin’s Creed and the Batman Arkham games, Shadow of Mordor somehow manages to put both series to shame. The gameplay is a flawless mix of stealth and action, and the Lord of the Rings setting serves as the perfect playground for sneaking around and assassinating orcs. The nemesis system is one of the most creative gameplay elements in modern gaming, giving every single enemy a sense of personality and individualism. Shadow of Mordor is challenging, beautiful, well narrated and an absolute blast to play.
3. Far Cry 4
Not everything was bad for Ubisoft this year. Far Cry 4 is their finest AAA release in years. It’s a technical marvel, and one of the best looking games on Playstation 4. It improves upon Far Cry 3 in nearly every area, while adding a ton of new content, and a larger, more life-filled world. Even the narrative, which has never been Far Cry’s strongest feature has its highlights. Far Cry 4 is massive, beautiful and incredibly fun. There’s still time for Ubisoft to right their wrongs, and Far Cry 4 is the perfect example of what the publisher can accomplish when they’re not trying to screw their customers.
2. Wolfenstein: The New Order
This was a big surprise. Aside from a few trailers, Bethesda did little to promote this game, and it’s a shame, because Wolfenstein: The New Order is the pinnacle of first person shooters. In a way, it plays like a greatest hits venture through the history of FPS gaming. Every gameplay element that has made the genre popular is presented through beautifully designed levels, buttery smooth gameplay, and a surprisingly enjoyable storyline. Forget tacked on multiplayer modes and pointless DLCs, Wolfenstein: The New Order delivers a lengthy, satisfying, single-player campaign that’s packed with more value than the last couple Call of Duty titles combined. I’m on my fourth playthrough already, and I still can’t get enough of Wolfenstein’s fantastic action.
1. Alien: Isolation
Alien: Isolation isn’t just the first game that does the Aliens franchise justice, it may very well be the greatest survival horror game ever made. From its nerve wrecking hide and seek gameplay, to the expertly crafted levels and intelligent AI, Alien: Isolation is SEGA’s finest release in decades. If you’re looking for a lengthy, atmospheric campaign filled with pure terror and challenging gameplay, Alien: Isolation is a must have. Sega has definitely redeemed themselves after the horrid Aliens: Colonial Marines, and I’m just crossing my fingers for a Predator entry with a similar tone and structure.
Article by: Tin Salamunic