At first glance 2014 was a pretty rotten year for gaming, what with all the delays, broken games and high-profile disappointments, and yet if you actually look closely a lot of surprisingly good stuff came out over the past 12 months. At this point the video game industry is large and diverse enough that the whole triple-A sector can fall flat on its face (as it largely did this year) and there can still be a ton of good stuff to play. Indies, handhelds, hell, even licensed games stepped up to fill the gap this year and make 2014 more tolerable than it had any right to be.
And now, the finale of our week-long, sort of thrilling journey through the best games of 2014…
First, here’s a quick recap of our list so far.
25) Donkey Kong Country: Tropical Freeze
24) Five Nights At Freddy’s
22) Valiant Hearts
21) Broken Age
20) Watch Dogs
19) Bravely Default
18) Super Smash Bros. for Wii U
17) The Walking Dead: Season Two
15) The Last of Us: Left Behind
13) Dark Souls II
12) Wolfenstein: The New Order
11) Goat Simulator
10) Civilization: Beyond Earth
9) Captain Toad: Treasure Tracker
8) Mario Kart 8
7) Far Cry 4
6) InFamous: Second Son
5) Child of Light
As I mentioned earlier in this list when discussing Valiant Hearts, there’s still a creative soul glowing somewhere deep within Ubisoft, and Child of Light is further proof of it. Featuring a beautiful hand-painted art style, Child of Light is essentially a western attempt to do a Japanese RPG, and the result is a fascinating and thankfully fun combination of styles and sensibilities. Child of Light may feel like a light game when playing it, but it will stick with you far longer than many bigger, grander productions.
I didn’t expect to see OlliOlli place this high on this year’s best of list either, but both myself and Dan ranked it solidly on our respective lists, so here we are. OlliOlli basically boils the Tony Hawk formula to an super simple, endlessly addictive formula, and hey, since Activision doesn’t want to give gamers a real Tony Hawk game, we’ll more than happily take the grind-happy fun of OlliOlli.
3) South Park: The Stick of Truth
South Park: The Stick of Truth is the most accurate TV/movie/book to video game adaptation of all time. The game looks and feels exactly like an episode of South Park (and a pretty good episode at that) except you control the characters. Isn’t that what we’ve always wanted licensed video games to be ever since we were kids? Thankfully Stick of Truth isn’t just a remarkably true to its source material, it’s also a pretty solid, Earthbound-esque little RPG in it’s own right. Stick of Truth is so good, I may finally have it in my heart to forgive Chef’s Luv Shack.
2) Alien: Isolation
Over the years gamers had come to terms with the fact that there was never going to be a truly great game set in the Alien universe. Sure, there might be some solid shooters now and again, but nothing that truly captures the spirit of the series. And then Alien: Isolation happened. Alien: Isolation is not only the best Alien game of all time, it’s the best Alien-related thing of any kind since Aliens. The makers of Alien: Isolation capture the look and feel of Ridley Scott’s original movie perfectly, and bravely toss aside modern gaming expectations, and sometimes even fun, to craft a gut-churning, genuinely terrifying experience. Alien: Isolation is, all at once, a big step forward for Alien games, licensed games in general and the whole survival horror genre.
1) Middle-Earth: Shadow of Mordor
Yup, three licensed games top this year’s list, which would usually signify a weak year, but honestly 2014’s top three games could stick it out against the best from almost any year. Middle-Earth: Shadow of Mordor would have ranked highly on this list based solely on it’s beautiful world and its well-honed mechanics and battle system, but what rockets the game to the #1 spot is the Nemesis System. Basically, the orcs you fight in the game are persistent characters who level up and advance as you do, especially if they manage to score some major experience by knocking you off. By bringing their enemies to life, the makers of Shadow of Mordor bring their world to life, and I expect the Nemesis System, or something similar to it, to be one of the major trends in games of this generation.
And with that, we are officially at an end for this year. What do you folks think of the finished list? Any major omissions? Anything you’d boot off? Hit the comments and let’s chat.