What a strange year 2014 was. Compared to the previous one, this year ‘felt’ like kind of a bummer. While sifting through my list of played games to prepare this top I discovered that there were a lot more games that I liked this year than I had previously thought. Enough games that I had to make some unfortunate cuts. 2014 might not be the best videogame year ever but, looking at my list now, I feel pretty good about it. Here it goes:
"Standby to Titanfall."
I don’t do multiplayer shooters anymore. The last one I played intensively was Call of Duty: Modern Warfare (2007) back in the day when having a level up guitar riff felt new. Titanfall does not change the formula at all, but it makes things ever so much crazier that it got me back into multiplayer shooters for a short while. There is never downtime in Titanfall, and the fact that everything happening in the background is legitimately other players’ doing is exhilarating.
9. Forza Horizon 2
"On the count of ten, you will be in horizon."
I am not a car freak by any means. That being said, I love me some open world racing games, and Forza Horizon 2 is the best example of the genre we have seen in a long time. There is such a great variety of stuff that it is hard to pin down what I like so much about this game. Sometimes I just like to drive slowly and watch the scenery. Sometimes I prefer a good old-fashioned checkpoint race. Sometimes I prefer to go off-road and crash into a poor European man’s vineyard with a two million dollars McClaren. Simple pleasures.
8. The Binding of Isaac: Rebirth
"I will do my best to save him my Lord."
The original Binding of Isaac was a surprise for me as much as it was for its creators. For a small game made in a mere three months, it is a tremendous success — It is also broken in pretty major way. Well, Rebirth fixes all of that, and then add so much new stuff that what you have is essentially a new game. It’s not different enough from the original for me to invest hundreds of hours in it again, but it is a better sequel than most.
7. South Park: The Stick of Truth
“He is a new kid?”
Hell, I don’t even like South Park. It’s OK, I guess. That said, South Park: The Stick of Truth presents such a well realized universe that I totally enjoyed it. It is about the town of South Park, and giving the player a chance to live in that world. The Stick of Truth is a lesson in pacing, rarely reusing assets or gameplay segments over the course of the entire game. It’s also funny, sometimes…
6. Broken Age (Part One)
“When you tire of child’s play, come see me.”
There is a lot of controversy around Broken Age being an unfinished story. If right now I could say Broken Age without the “Part one” addendum, it would probably be my game of the year (granted that the second part is as good as the first one). As it stands now, it still feels like a complete game to me, in the same way The Fellowship of the Ring is a complete book. And for presenting what is probably my favourite game story of the year, Broken Age: Part One totally deserves its spot.
5. The Vanishing of Ethan Carter
“If you’re a kid like Ethan, you write. Plenty do."
Individual parts of this game are what classics are made of, so it is kind of disappointing to say that The Vanishing of Ethan Carter can be inconsistent. While the world building, atmosphere, and some of the surprises of the game are stellar, the story is merely good and the puzzles are all over the place. It is a game that falls short of being a true masterpiece, but is still incredible in its best moments. It also is the best looking game of the year, bar none.
4. Dragon Age: Inquisition
"Have you been in the valley lately?"
As I’m writing this, I haven’t finished Dragon Age: Inquisition game. It is massive. Not that any of the elements of the game are bad –the combat system is good if not a little repetitive and the writing can be great, but can also be completely bland– however it is the sheer scope of the world redeems Inquisition’s lesser elements. It plays like an infinite pack of Matryoshka dolls, where you are constantly uncovering new stuff and you have no idea when it is going to end. If anything, Dragon Age: Inquisition is making me unsure of what is going to happen next, because every time I think I am done, something new appears and I’m off exploring for hours again.
3. Valiant Hearts: The Great War
“Through the evil noises of artillery, tanks, and planes, I remember our adventures, your friendship and your pain.”
You often hear how emotional the story of Valiant Hearts is — I feel like saying this is missing the point. What makes this game so great is how it uses well-worn gameplay tropes like collectables or quick-time events and add emotions to them. It is not always successful but, when it is, Valiant Hearts packs a massive emotional punch. Even better is that it is smart about it. It succeeds at showing a disgusting part of history without ever feeling exploitative. It is actually a positive, hopeful game which is such a rare, precious thing. A gem, as they say.
“Do you have the McGuffin?”
You could say first person exploration games —or: ‘Gone Homelikes’— are now a full-blown genre. Hell, there is one of those at number 5 on my list. Jazzpunk is the best one of these this year. It often gets described as the Airplane! of videogames, which is a good way to explain how the rhythm of the game works, but fails to encompass what make it so special. Jazzpunk is extremely funny for sure – granted you have to like stupid humour– but what makes it unique is the way it uses videogame language to make you laugh. The best gags of the game are those that you couldn’t see in any other medium because they use the interactivity or perspective in clever ways. Because of that, it feels like one of the games with the most auteurship this year — without all the seriousness usually associated with that description.
1. Dark Souls II
“Are you… the next monarch?”
Dark Souls II feels like a classic. Sure, it’s way too early to say if the game will live through the ages and be regarded with reverence later, but it feels like an old dusty book from a long-lost writer who lived in a cold country (“Tolstoï? Never heard of him.”) telling you a massive, completely arid but extremely captivating story. There is gravitas in this game that can only be found in the other Souls games. It is harsh, for sure, but it is with intent, creating a world where everybody –the player included– is fighting exhaustion just hoping to prevail. And when you finally do prevail it’s one of the best gaming moments you will ever have.
- Dark Souls II
- Valiant Hearts: The Great War
- Dragon Age: Inquisition
- The Vanishing of Ethan Carter
- Broken Age (part one)
- South Park: The Stick of Truth
- Binding of Isaac: Rebirth
- Forza Horizon 2
Don't forget to check back on Friday to see Castle Couch's overall Game of the Year, and listen to our 5+ hour deliberation podcast. Tomorrow: Andrew's Top 10 Games of Year 2014.
Visit our 'canon' page to see how 2014 looked compared to years past.