2014 has come and gone and with it came many games that are worth your time and many that are not. It was a year that some found disappointing due to several of the year’s most anticipated games being pushed back to 2015, while also being a result of many AAA titles shipping in bug-riddled states. While it may not have been the attention-grabbing year that had games that everyone was drooling over such as 2013’s The Last of Us or BioShock Infinite, I still feel that it was a very strong year that had some exceptional games to play, especially if you were willing to dig a little deeper into the pile of smaller-budget titles. So, without further ado or adon’t, I present you my top 10 video games of 2014.
10. Donkey Kong Country: Tropical Freeze (Wii U)
The Donkey Kong Country series returned in 2014 with Tropical Freeze, a game that improved upon the Wii’s Donkey Kong Country Returns in a lot of ways. The level designs were more varied, the soundtrack was phenomenal and the HD visuals were drop-dead gorgeous. Not to mention that the game had some of the year’s best boss fights that were extremely challenging and fun. It came out very early in the year, but Tropical Freeze is definitely one that more people should be checking out if they own a Wii U.
Read my review for Donkey Kong Country: Tropical Freeze right here.
9. Far Cry 4 (PlayStation 4)
Is Far Cry 4 more of an extension of Far Cry 3 rather than an entirely unique game in its own right? Yes! Does that mean that it doesn’t improve upon everything that game did and result in an even more satisfying experience? Hell no! Far Cry 4‘s Kyrat is one of the most beautifully-rendered open worlds I’ve ever experienced, with a fantastic and lush design that is overflowing with engaging content. Just roaming through the land while taking over outposts and the all-new fortresses or making your way to the top of radio towers to reveal more quests is always a blast, with each encounter feeling unique from the others due to unpredictable enemy AI and wildlife. Oh, and the story gets the job done, too, with Troy Baker delivering an awesome performance as Pagan Min. Ubisoft may have been at the butt end of a lot of jokes in 2014, but I can at least say that they got it right with Far Cry 4.
Read my review for Far Cry 4 right here.
8. Mario Kart 8 (Wii U)
Mario Kart 8 continues the trend of gradual refinements over previous games in the series, which is still a formula that works really well. Anti-gravity is a great new mechanic that results in some really impressive tracks, while Mario Kart TV adds a nice level of user customization as you can view and play around with race replays. The game also feels more balanced than recent games in the series, with an item that actually lets you fend off the dreaded blue shell. It helps that it’s also visually stunning, making it the best-looking Wii U game to date. More could have been done with the game’s battle mode, but the game’s core focus of racing is so damn-near perfect and the online modes so smooth that any shortcomings are easy to look. Mario Kart is back and better than ever.
Read my review for Mario Kart 8 right here.
7. Kirby: Triple Deluxe (3DS)
This is a game that people aren’t talking about nearly enough this year, as Kirby: Triple Deluxe is one of the best games that the 3DS has to offer. The Kirby platforming is as fun as ever, and sucking up enemies to obtain unique abilities continues to be extremely awesome. The fantastic single-player mode is a blast from start to finish, and the game itself is jam-packed with additional content to keep you playing for a long time. Apart from the singleplayer you have the awesome Super Smash Bros.-esque Kirby Fighters and the addictive rhythm game Dedede’s Drum Dash. It’s just one of the most feature-rich packages of the year that is filled with content that is actually worth your time and money.
Read my review for Kirby: Triple Deluxe right here.
6. South Park: The Stick of Truth (PlayStation 3)
The most hilarious game of the year easily goes to South Park: The Stick of Truth. This game actually feels like one really long episode of the classic TV show, with the show’s creators playing an active role in the game’s development. The game’s turn-based RPG gameplay is simple-yet-fun, taking a more action-centric approach that is similar to the Mario & Luigi games. There are many moments that the game had me laughing like an idiot, and the fact that there aren’t too many games that even go for that any more is what makes The Stick of Truth truly special.
Read my review for South Park: The Stick of Truth right here.
5. Wolfenstein: The New Order (Xbox One)
Definitely one of the most pleasant surprises of the year, Machine Games managed to bring back the Wolfenstein series in spectacular fashion. It has a much more retro feel to it compared to many of the other shooters on the market, with a single-player campaign that is consistently challenging and memorable. The alternate history where the Nazis won World War II and took over the world is horrifying, and being part of a small group of people trying to take back the world from such a ruthless regime is about as engaging as it gets. I have huge respect for Machine Games nixing multiplayer to focus entirely on the single-player, as that’s a notion that is completely unheard of in this day and age for shooter games. If you’re looking for the shooter of the year, you need look no further than Wolfenstein: The New Order.
Read my review for Wolfenstein: The New Order right here.
4. Bayonetta 2 (Wii U)
The most ridiculous game of the year, and I mean that in the best way possible. Bayonetta 2 relishes in absurdity as it constantly hurls over-the-top characters, set pieces and humor at the player that it’s impossible to not be in awe most of the time. Bayonetta is one of the best protagonists of recent memory, with her bad-ass demeanor and pistol heels resulting in many a moment of sheer brilliance. It’s as if the developers tried to cram as much action into every frame as they could, with so many intense sequences and boss fights happening from start to finish that I eventually lost count of them all. The game even features a surprisingly-good online mode, where you can take on enemies with one other player in a battle for the high score. It may not change a ton over the original game, but Bayonetta 2 consistently trumps its already excellent predecessor.
Read my review for Bayonetta 2 right here.
3. Dark Souls II (PlayStation 3)
From Software has been on a roll for years now, beginning with 2009’s PlayStation 3-exclusive Demon’s Souls, through 2011’s Dark Souls and now 2014’s Dark Souls II. Each game has taken the basic formula of throwing the player into a horrifying world that is filled with things looking to kill you at every corner, and ensuring that the only way the player will survive is by learning things the hard way. In others words: dying over and over and learning from your mistakes. While some may say that Dark Souls II may be more of the same, there is a lot to be said about a game that is just masterfully-designed, regardless of any lack of innovation. I felt that Dark Souls II blended elements of the first two Souls games into a package that firmly stood on the same ground as both of those titles, resulting in it being one of my absolute favorites of the year.
Read my review for Dark Souls II right here.
2. Shovel Knight (Wii U)
The fact that Shovel Knight is so high on this list speaks volumes about what the essentials are to make a great game. This is an indie game developed with 8-bit graphics that simply oozes personality and charm, but it’s the perfectly-tuned gameplay that makes this game infinitely replayable. You are a lone valiant knight whose sole weapon is a ShovelBlade, which is certainly a curious choice of weapon as you are able to not only take down enemies but dig through certain obstacles and perform various maneuvers with it. Couple this with fantastic and challenging level design and a simple yet surprisingly impactful story and characters and you have the year’s best platformer by far. This game could have easily released in the early ’90’s alongside the likes of Super Mario 3 and Zelda II: The Adventure of Link and would stand toe-to-toe with them, and that is soaring praise indeed.
Read my review for Shovel Knight right here.
1. Danganronpa: Trigger Happy Havoc & Danganronpa 2: Goodbye Despair (PlayStation Vita)
Okay, I know that there are at least two things going through your head right now:
1) How can he have two games as his #1 game of the year?
2) What the heck is a Danganronpa?
Alright, let me tackle the first question by saying that both Danganronpa 1 and 2 both released in 2014 and are both part of the same story, so I felt that, in this special circumstance, including them both would be justifiable.
Oh, and it also helps that both games kick ass.
Answering the second question will take a bit more detail, as both games have a lot going for them. The Danganronpa games are visual novels that have a court-room element to them similar to the Phoenix Wright games, but that is where any and all similarities end. In both games you are a student among a group of students that find themselves trapped in an area by a diabolical teddy bear named Monokuma, and the only way to escape the area is to murder one of the other students and get away with it. The quality of the writing in both of these games is some of the best that I have ever experienced, as all of the characters are so interesting and the murderous schemes and eventual trials that were a result of them constantly had me on the edge of my seat. Most of these kinds of games I can predict exactly where something is going, but both of the Danganronpa games proved me wrong and blew my mind time and time again. Plain and simple, these were the two games that I kept thinking about well after I saw the credits roll, which is why they both grace the top spot for my favorite video games of 2014 list.