Happy New Year! 2014 is officially behind us. It feels odd to say this, but we are past the one year mark of the PlayStation 4 and Xbox One’s release in the United States. Although there are some game titles that did not quite hit the mark of my expectations, 2014 turned out to be a solid year in gaming. In my eyes, all three console manufacturers enjoyed a great deal of success, with great titles that released on each platform. Here I will list my top seven favorite games of the past year, and why I enjoyed them with a quick summarization of my thoughts about each title, free of spoilers. Honorable mentions for games that did not reach the top seven will be posted at the end. Enjoy!
Transistor comes to us from Supergiant games, the creators behind Bastion, a critically acclaimed title that first released in 2011. The developer’s second title proves that their first game was no fluke; Transistor manages to take the isometric tactical gameplay that Bastion offered and expand upon it with a large breadth of combat choices, each one drastically altering the way you play and experience the game’s story. The powerful music, gorgeous visuals, smooth controls, and unique premise all come together in a way that captured me the moment I heard the first voice of dialogue speak to me from my controller. I should mention I played this game on the PlayStation 4, where the game makes great use of the speaker and light bar on the Dual Shock 4 controller. Character voices and sounds, even those that come through the controller speaker, sound crystal clear and feature fantastic dialogue. Although Transistor offers a rather short journey, it is one that is begging to be played through twice, if not more times afterward. Unlocking each of the combat playstyles and experimenting with each one’s unique effects has to be one of my favorite experiences in gaming in 2014.
Developed by the wonderful folk at Platinum Games, Bayonetta 2 is an awesome title that manages to outdo its predecessor in almost all fronts, providing us with intense battles, entertaining locales, and a cast that for the most part I absolutely adore. All of your favorite air combos, torture attacks, angelic weapons, and dodge offsets are here and better than ever! Be warned: Bayonetta 2 is not your average character-action title. Platinum knows character-action better than most, and boy, do they deliver with this entry. Bayonetta as a character is further fleshed out, uncovering more about her personality while sporting a new look and killer unique moves. Combos in Bayonetta 2 still require precision and patience to effectively pull off, but the rewards are well worth learning each unique attack. Umbran Climax is a new battle mechanic that causes Bayonetta to temporarily deal greater amounts of damage in its duration, being extremely satisfying and a treat to activate each time. Score counters and higher difficulties keep me coming back for more, even months after the game’s release. It offers a ride like no other from beginning to end. Oh, also: the alternate costumes in this game are the best that I’ve seen yet. Want to dress up Bayonetta as Link, Samus, Fox, and other Nintendo favorites? This is your chance.
Mario Kart 8
I have easily logged in over a hundred hours of Mario Kart 8, each moment filled with pure delight experiencing the brand new courses and anti-gravity tricks in the game. This game is a treat to have for when friends come by and want to do a few (or many) races in the thirty-two race tracks the base game includes. Each kart is very responsive, the graphics are crisp and colorful, and nearly every race track offers an engaging and fun experience. Online multiplayer is handled similarly to Mario Kart Wii’s online multiplayer races, with players accruing points that stack up as they win races against up to eleven other opponents. If I had to pinpoint a single missed opportunity with Mario Kart 8, it would have to be within the game’s battle mode feature. It has been said a million times before, but the game’s battle mode is simply lazily put together, not featuring any of the iconic arenas included in previous Mario Kart games, instead opting to throw players into one of the already included race tracks. Despite the lost opportunity in battle mode, the game delivers on all other fronts. I can see myself and friends playing this well into the future. Also, if owners of this game have their Wii U connected to the internet, they can download extra race tracks and characters. Playing as Link from The Legend of Zelda series in Mario Kart as a racer? Sign me up!
Super Smash Bros. For 3DS and Wii U
By this point, Super Smash Bros. needs no introduction. This is Nintendo’s premiere (and perhaps only) fighting game, and they deliver on all fronts with this entry. Gone is the universally-hated tripping nuisance from Brawl, as this game brings us more characters, stages, music, trophies, and game modes to keep us playing for years to come. Although I have owned this game for a little over a month, I have only just scratched the surface of what this title has to offer. The new fighters are an absolute treat to fight as, and are probably what I enjoy most about this game. The roster of fighters in Super Smash Bros. for 3DS and Wii U is my favorite among all of the games in the series. Aside from a few blemishes like Dark Pit and Lucina, the newcomers all offer a unique and fun playstyle. One thing I think that is important to mention is the time spent leading up to the game’s release; game director Masahiro Sakurai brought fans what he called a ‘daily picture’ via Nintendo’s Miiverse channel, which teased a particular feature of the game, exciting fans and reminding them each day why they should look forward to playing the newest Smash game. These daily pictures included character reveals, stage reveals, trophies, and other tidbits about the game before launch. I absolutely adored this non-stop hype train that lasted many months leading up to the game’s release, culminating in the release day of a fighting game I will play countless hours of over the course of years.
Wolfenstein: The New Order
I think this one surprised a lot of people, myself included. Wolfenstein: The New Order delivers satisfying action and shooter elements along with a surprisingly engaging storyline to create an experience I had to play through twice. The game moves at a fluid 60 frames per second, offering smooth controls and a solid choice of weaponry to play around with, if a bit limited in scope. Each weapon is loud and kicks, cementing the fact that the game’s protagonist, B.J. Blazkowicz, is a force to be reckoned with. The decision to focus entirely on an enthralling single-player experience, opting out of including a possibly shoehorned multiplayer mode is one that I greatly respect. We live in a generation of gaming where nearly every game with a gun is expected to feature some form of online multiplayer game mode, and I firmly believe Wolfenstein went the intelligent route by focusing on its strengths in single player, instead of spreading resources thin and causing its overall quality to potentially drop. The game does not do anything out of the ordinary for a first person shooter title, but what it does manage to do is deliver an extremely solid experience that does not tire from beginning to end.
The list of top-notch Nintendo games of 2014 continues on, eh? Well, joke’s on you! I played this one on Steam, and no matter where this title is played, it is an absolute blast. The retro graphics, solid platforming, and killer soundtrack are all reminders as to why I love platforming games to this day. Shovel Knight has many boss battles and stages that I continue to visit, humming each level’s tune along the way. If you’d like to read more about my thoughts on Shovel Knight, check out this previous post I made about the game.
D4 (Dark Dreams Don’t Die)
All right, let’s get this bit of truth out of the way: I do not own an Xbox One. None of my friends that own an Xbox One have yet played this game. So how is this on my game of the year list, you ask? I watched a play-through of the title courtesy of the fine gentlemen over at Super Best Friends Play, and it impressed the hell out of me, enough so that it deserves a spot on this list. At first, I was not a fan of the game’s visual style. The hair on character’s heads appears dirty and a bit too messy all around. David Young, the game’s protagonist, has a thick Boston accent which I could not stand the first time I heard it. However, as the game’s plot moved forward I began to appreciate the quirky nature of each character and their exaggerated reactions to events. I think that is part of what makes this game so enjoyable. Each scene is never what you expect to see coming, with hilarious dialogue and bizarre situations to lighten up the serious crime-thriller investigation the game’s narrative portrays. While it is only past its second episode, I hope this game receives the funding and love it deserves, because it manages to create an atmosphere unlike other titles before it.
Honorable Mention: InFamous: Second Son, OctoDad: Dadliest Catch, Dark Souls II, Metal Gear Solid V: Ground Zeroes, Shadow Warrior, Binding of Isaac: Rebirth, Far Cry 4, Persona 4 Arena: Ultimax
Thank you for reading!