Published on December 30th, 2014 | by Jeff Derrickson2
Jeff’s Top 10 Games of 2014
2014 was a year in which the games I never expected to like wowed me, and the ones I was sure I would love ended coming up short (sorry, Captain Toad). There may not have been many truly great games, but there were plenty of very good ones to go around.
10. LittleBigPlanet 3
LittleBigPlanet 3 ultimately makes the list for being one of the games I used this year to turn my girlfriend into a gamer. Not that it’s a bad game or disappointment by any means. If you were worried about the series’ reigns being handed to new developer Sumo Digital, let go of your fears, for they have crafted arguably the best LittleBigPlanet game yet. New playable characters with new abilities (such as wall-jumping) really open the level design up in interesting ways. In fact, characters such as Oddsock actually control better than Sackboy, which makes me wonder why Sackboy continues to have such limp platforming abilities. On top of the new characters, new items and tools open up the creative possibilities even more for community level creators. The game is also a lot of fun to play co-op, probably even more so than previous entries.
9. The Walking Dead Season 2
Season Two of The Walking Dead is arguably better than the first, which was a huge GOTY winner in 2012. It lacks the initial impact of actually playing a video game with great storytelling, and it certainly lacks the emotional punch of the first season’s finale, but it makes up for those unavoidable shortcomings by telling a better story. This is a richer, denser, more complex morality tale about what it takes to survive and how easy it is to cross the line to becoming one of the bad guys. The game’s story is elevated with inherited investment from season one and the irresistibly lovable Clementine returning this time as the main character. That said, it is accessible to newcomers. I “played” it by watching my girlfriend (who had never played the series) and accepting her choices, essentially viewing it as a TV show. Not only is that an awesome way to experience these games, but she loved it, too.
8. Sunset Overdrive
Although Sunset Overdrive is currently sitting on a backburner in my library, what I have played of it was enough to make my top 10 games of 2014. Combining some of my favorite genres, it’s a bright, colorful mix of Tony Hawk and Ratchet & Clank from Insomniac Games. Crazy weapons, imaginative boss fights, and a distinct sense of style set Sunset Overdrive apart from the pack of typical third-person shooters. And perhaps the coolest part is a combo system that has you tricking off of objects—grinding, jumping, and generally staying off the ground—Tony Hawk-style to stay alive and increase your attack power. Who knew two of my favorite flavors would taste so good together?
7. Alien Isolation
Survival horror has experienced a bit of a resurgence due to scary indie games like Outlast and Amneisa. Alien Isolation is essentially Outlast with a big budget and a beloved movie license that hasn’t seen many good video game adaptations. If you’re a fan of Alien or survival horror, you can’t help but appreciate this gem, despite its numerous faults, including length and pacing issues. Creative Assembly went against the grain and made a bold choice; instead of making an action game based on Aliens, they opted to seek inspiration from the original film and craft a true survival horror experience. You backtrack, manage resources, and solve rudimentary puzzles that involve pulling lots of levers. Every encounter with the singular Xenomorph is terrifying, and if it sees you, you’re probably going to die. Nothing in your arsenal can stop it; you will eventually get a flamethrower, but it will only scare the alien away temporarily. The best film in a great series has finally received a fitting video game tribute.
6. Super Smash Bros. for Wii U
I hate fighting games, but the Super Smash Bros. series has always been accessible for everyone, even people like me. You can enjoy the simple pleasures of beating up your friends without having to master a bunch of tricky combos. Super Smash Bros. for Wii U is the most polished entry in the series (much like Mario Kart 8), and there is a ton of modes to choose from, whether you’re playing solo or with friends. Many a nights have been spent bringing my local roommate online to fight another team of two players.
5. Call of Duty: Advanced Warfare
I haven’t liked a Call of Duty game since Modern Warfare 2. That was 2009. Working in retail made me hate the series even more, because the day it released every year was like Black Friday and Christmas combined, all for a cookie-cutter shooter than had grown stale over the years. And you probably won’t be surprised by this, but a large portion of the COD fanbase didn’t make for the best customers. After I escaped from retail last year, I bought COD: Ghosts, and guess what? It confirmed my long-held belief that the series was garbage now and maybe always had been. What a difference a year makes! Advanced Warfare is still very much a COD game, and it will bro you up, but it’s better than the series has been in a long, long time. The campaign, while short, doesn’t feel like an afterthought, and the story is actually surprisingly good, campy fun. It’s the first time I’ve ever enjoyed the story in a COD game, and that’s in part due to a wonderful performance by Kevin Spacey as the villain. The multiplayer is also as good as ever, especially the co-op Exo Survival mode, which is a great take on horde mode. The inclusion of Exo Suit abilities (jet packs, essentially) spices up a formula that had stagnated long ago.
4. Mario Kart 8
Track design and a high level of polish save Mario Kart 8 from being just another Mario Kart. The game looks and plays great on Wii U, and the anti-gravity sections of tracks inspired creativity in the design team in much the same way spherical levels did for Super Mario Galaxy. Add in DLC and online multiplayer, and you have a game that I’ve played all year and will continue to play in 2015. The DLC, in particular, breathed new life into the series by moving outside of the Mushroom Kingdom to make Mario Kart closer in spirit to Super Smash Bros.
3. Bayonetta 2
Button-mashing action games are just not my cup of tea. The most I’ve enjoyed one is a night I spent with the original God of War long after it originally released. It took Bayonetta 2’s level of polish and insanity to make me fall in love with a genre I generally avoided. The combat is incredibly tight, and touches like witch time and umbran climax sold it to a non-believer like me. The levels are also short, fun, and inspired, taking place anywhere from on top of a fighter jet to riding a giant wave. There is always a new surprise waiting just around the corner. Bayonetta 2 is easily the biggest surprise of the year for me. I continue to play it. There is plenty to do after its brief campaign, from replaying levels to get higher scores to playing online co-op to (my personal favorite) unlocking new costumes for Bayonetta.
2. Wolfenstein: The New Order
They don’t make games like this anymore, except when they do. In an era dominated by realistic multiplayer shooters, or shooters with futuristic technology, Wolfenstein: The New Order revitalizes a classic, dormant franchise and the genre that it helped to popularize in the first place. It is a lengthy single-player shooter in which you shoot Nazis and collect health and ammo. The throwback is so overdue that it feels fresh, and great production values and a fun story go a long way toward making this type of first-person shooter relevant again. An alternate future in which the Nazis won World War II is a great premise, but the execution is even better. The story somehow delicately walks the line between insanely silly and ultra serious; it shouldn’t work, but it does. As it went on, I realized I actually cared about these crazy, over-the-top characters, and the ending still sticks with me more than half a year later.
1. Dragon Age: Inquisition
Dragon Age: Inquisition is the game I didn’t know I had been waiting for all year: a long, deep, big, and beefy RPG for our shiny new consoles. As someone who was never able to get into previous Dragon Age games, I was not anticipating Inquisition at all. On a whim, I picked it up, and I don’t know if it is greatly improved over its predecessors, or it finally just clicked with me, but it is quite simply the best (and most addictive) game I played in 2014. I can’t tear myself away from it. As I set out on new quests, I constantly stumble upon new, compelling things to do, and the minutes slip into hours. The amount of stuff you can do and have to manage is absolutely staggering; it will overwhelm you with hours of learning. After roughly 20 hours, I just got past the prologue, but fatigue hasn’t set in yet. I love this game. It’s Mass Effect meets Diablo. It’s ice cream, titties, and crack all rolled into one. It’s my Game of the Year 2014.
Honorable Mentions: Donkey Kong Country: Tropical Freeze, Shadow of Mordor, Captain Toad, Titanfall, Watch Dogs, Quiz Up, Lords of the Fallen, South Park: THe Stick of Truth, Diablo III: Ultimate Evil Edition, Halo: The Master Chief Collection, Far Cry 4, The Wolf Among Us.