2014 was quite the curious year for gaming. There were plenty of low points throughout the year, but plenty of great games came out, as well. I was excited to see Nintendo start to come back into the game with some of its latest releases, finally giving Xbox and PlayStation some more competition again. Here’s a look at my favorites from 2014.
One of the most-hyped games to come out this year, when Destiny released, Bungie’s audience hoped to get another fantastic shooter from the studio that was known for Halo. The planets are inviting and made me want to explore all the game has to offer, and the shooting mechanics and the abilities of each of the classes all feel very balanced across the board. While the game does a lot of things well, it doesn’t quite hit live up to expectations. The meat of the story really isn’t even available unless someone has the Destiny smartphone app or a computer right next to them at all times.
9. Danganrompa 2: Goodbye Despair
Danganrompa 2 picks up a few years after the first game. Another set of students head to Hope’s Peak academy in order to be groomed into the best they can be. The story keeps true to its Danganrompa roots of being both inspiring and horrifying simultaneously. The hope of the world can overcome even the darkest depths of despair is a wonderfully cliché hook to any game, and the puzzles are challenging and kept me guessing all the way to the end. It’s a great choice for anyone who enjoyed the first game, but probably not the best to start off with.
Strider brought an old hero from the NES age to a new generation. The Metroidvania style seemed appropriate for a re-imagining of the technologically advanced ninja, and the graphics, whether on the latest generation or the previous one, are crisp and appealing. The entire game sticks with the principle of “simple is better,” and there’s nothing especially complex about the combat maneuvers, puzzles, or even the story. That’s nothing to be ashamed of, though. Strider still brought a fun game with a few fun challenge modes on the side. It is well rounded through and through, and definitely worth a second look for those who passed it by this year.
7. Persona 4 Arena: Ultimax
Persona 4 Arena Ultimax brings back all the characters from P4: Arena, as well as some new characters who could show off their abilities. Combining the cast of Persona 3 and 4 really brought the two worlds together, allowing players to see how some of those previous characters from Persona 3 developed while we were away from them. The fighting mechanics are very smooth, and putting in a few more features allows less-experienced players to give even the most seasoned veterans a run for their money in a fight. While fighting games are known for their shallow stories, Ultimax brings a more deep and engrossing narrative, as well.
6. Super Smash Bros. for 3DS and Wii U
Super Smash Brothers has always been a staple in fighting games, and the latest version really helps the Wii U become a system people want to play again. The new characters, along with reinvented favorites, brings relief to system struggling with a dry library of titles. Smash for 3DS and Wii U’s mechanics take the best things about Brawl and Melee and mashed them together along, with adding a few new modes of their own. The 3DS version is great game to take on the road, while the Wii U release is an excellent couch-competitive game.
5. Tales from the Borderlands
Telltale games has a knack for telling a good story, and this latest game is no exception. The studio’s art style is a perfect fit for the Borderlands universe, and Telltale has plenty of room to really carve out its own identity in the world. The characters are all fantastic and endearing, even though they’re all criminals. So far, there’s only one episode that’s been released, but I can’t wait to see the other episodes develop the story and the characters in the future.
4. Mario Kart 8
Nintendo’s other big hit of the year is no surprise. Mario Kart 8 is a massively very popular release that really brought life back to the Wii U, and the entire game feels a little more balanced than previous installments. No longer do veteran players have to fear the blue shells, and less experienced players have more opportunities to get back into the game. Bringing Mario Kart to an HD world makes the game look fantastic, and the new tracks are beautiful, while some re-imagined tracks like Rainbow Road are fantastic, as well. The amount of content that comes with the game is massive to start, and the DLC additions bring even more to it. It’s a great game to play with your friends, and the online servers are picture-perfect.
3. Child of Light
Ubisoft’s UbiArt Framework has had a lot of success with the Rayman games, and even more success with this year’s release of Valiant Hearts. Valiant Hearts didn’t grab me nearly as much, but their other game released this year, Child of Light, did. I instantly fell in love with the artwork from the first scene; the storybook fairy tale drew me in like I was a child falling asleep at night. RPGs have a tendency to have a specific team of characters that are better than the rest, but Child of Light actually makes it you’re more successful if you change between several different characters. It’s a bit of a sleeper hit compared to other games released this year, but it isn’t one to pass up.
2. Middle-earth: Shadow of Mordor
Tolkien’s world comes to life once again in Monolith’s latest release. It’s easy to see the inspiration from Assassin’s Creed and Batman: Arkham series, but the story and side-features really give the game a name of it’ own. The nemesis system is a crown jewel for this game, and the enemies you meet really do stick with you when you get to fight them multiple times throughout your adventure. It’s also helpful that it’s only loosely associated with the main story: you don’t need to be a hardcore Tolkienite to enjoy this game, which is just fine for me.
1. Sunset Overdrive
Insomniac Games didn’t really gain any fans when it put out their multiplatform shooter Fuse, but they certainly brought people back with their debut on the Xbox One. This game is simple, hilarious, crude, action-packed, and a hell of a lot of fun. Nothing is out of bounds, either. It makes fun of every possible outlet of society, be it medieval practices or obsession with cell phones, but it then makes fun of itself the moment after. The game drags you, kicking and screaming, through Sunset City without the relief of a fourth wall for protection. There hasn’t been a game that has brought me more joy, laughs, and fun this year. Not bad for a first start on the new-gen systems.
There were plenty of good games released this year. For every good one, there will be at least two or more that either fall short, or are just plain terrible. There are a few more, however, that deserve to be mentioned. These games didn’t make the top 10 list for one reason or another, but they are still worth noting.
Most Shamefully Japanese Game: Monster Monpiece
This RPG card battler, mechanically, is quite good. Japan really shines through with the significantly brighter color pallet and the “love and friendship conquers all” mentality. However, there is one giant problem with it: it’s grossly oversexualized. There’s a part of me that’s surprised it got past some of the censors US publishers have for their games. Every character on the cards is female, and you need to use the “First Crush Rub” function to give the cards more power. This requires players to use both touch pads simultaneously. I suppose I should give this game another award: “most creative use of the back touch pad for the Vita.”
Most Unique Multiplayer: Blade Symphony
This game is really for those who want something a bit off the beaten path. The four characters each have their own sword styles to them, and most swords are all unlocked right at the start of the game, which allows you to focus solely on the fighting itself. There are practice bots and a lesson mode which help facilitate that, but that only gets you so far. Even the most “difficult” bots are easy to defeat. While the game is centered around 1v1 or 2v2 fighting, the online arena can put up to eight players against each other. Unfortunately, the online community is pretty quiet, so it’s hard for the game to shine. If you can get this game for cheap, along with a couple of friends (hopefully the friends are free), it’s definitely worth a look.
This article is part of Invisible Gamer’s ongoing 2014 Game of the Year coverage. Stay tuned over the coming days for more top 10 lists, leading up to Invisible Gamer’s Official Top 10 Games of 2014.