One Freelancer’s Favorite Games of 2014

games

2014 had a lot of games. Lots and lots of games. All of the games. I did my best to play as many as I possibly could, and I’m actually impressed with myself: 60 total 2014 releases passed through my fingers on one console or another (not including mobile, sorry Hearthstone) in the calendar year 2014, with 40 of them being played to completed. That’s a 66% completion rate, which ain’t bad.

I’ll share the entire list in a second, but first I want to mention up front the 2014 games I didn’t get a chance to play between January 1st and December 31st of 2014. There are a few big ones unfortunately, because I just can’t play them all:

Middle-Earth: Shadow of Mordor – I wanted to include this on the “played” list after starting it on Monday, but Monday as we all know was 2015 and I can’t do that.

Far Cry 4: I own this and have since the day it launched and have yet to place the disc in my console.

Dragon Age: Inquistion: This one too.

Assassin’s Creed Unity: This too, though I’m waiting until all of the bugs are eventually ironed out…should be good by March, right? (JOKING.)

Borderlands: The Pre-Sequel: Another one I own, though I did buy this as a Black Friday deal so it hasn’t been sitting since October.

Murasaki Baby, The Banner Saga, Gods Will Be Watching, The Vanishing of Ethan Carter: A few off-beat games I really wanted to try and never got around to. Soon…soon.

Hatoful Boyfriend: I never did make time for the pigeon dating simulator.

Five Nights At Freddy’s 1 and 2: Never played them, but I know all about them thanks to Game Theory‘s two-part series and I’m content with that. I don’t think I could handle those games.

Alien Isolation: I had planned to play this for the first time as part of my Extra Life marathon, livestreaming myself playing a horror game for charity and pure entertainment value. Maybe in 2015.

Killer Instinct Season 2: This is burning my ass but I just haven’t gotten around to purchasing the Ultra Edition on Xbox Live. I really need to do that.

Grand Theft Auto V Next-Gen: I had enough to play without worrying about a game I beat in 2013, thank you very much. Same goes for Last of Us Remastered.

Captain Toad’s Treasure Tracker: I may go buy this tomorrow actually, not sure what I’ve been waiting for.

 

and that’s just the list I didn’t play!!

 

As for what I actually played last year, these 60 games came from every genre imaginable, from nostalgic platformers to big-budget shooters. I’ve turned my list of 60 into a ranked list, 60 to 1, but I promise to go into detail for the top ten. Stick with me, I promise I won’t drone on about why I hated game #60 for hundreds of words. I’m sure someone on the Internet somewhere already did that for me anyway, go find that rant when you’re done. Also, I want it to be know that I genuinely enjoyed most of the games on the list (with the exception of the last few), so a low ranking doesn’t mean I hated it, I just liked it less than  others. Here we go!

 

60. Drakengard 3.

It doesn’t take much to make me cringe, but the repeated innuendos and flat-out forced humor made me put down the controller in disgust at points. I never had to will myself to finish a game like I did with this one.

 

59. Magical Beat

A weird Vita puzzle game I reviewed for PocketGamer that had a lot of style, but very little substance.

 

58. Warriors Orochi 3 Ultimate

If you like pressing the same button over and over again with little variety, look no further.

 

57. Hohokum

I might catch some crap for this, but this game soared over my head like the creature I controlled. I want to give this another go, but right now I just don’t understand it.

 

56. Thief

Yikes. I had high high hopes for this one, but buying it two weeks after launch for half off should have told me everything I needed to know.

 

55. Always Sometimes Monsters

This is another one I think I have to give another chance. I went in hoping it would rock my world like To The Moon, but it just didn’t.

 

54. Oddworld: New ‘N Tasty

It’s not the worst remake in the world, but those PS1 controls are just bupkis. I didn’t hate this when I reviewed it, but I really would prefer a new Abe game.

 

53. Hyperdimension Neptunia Re:Birth1

Way way too cute Japanese waifu otaku craziness for me. I’m not opposed to such things, but I have a tolerance threshold and this game flirted with it a lot. It’s not a bad RPG, but only the anime faithful need apply.

 

52. Arcana Heart 3 Love MAX!!!

Same basic idea as above, though the fighting genre appeals to me more in general than the RPG. Again not a bad game, but very anime-heavy for those not into Japanese animation.

 

51. Volgarr The Viking

Holy crap this game is hard, but I really liked the Rastan-style throwback angle when I didn’t want to throw my controller across the room.

 

50. 1,001 Spikes

This one’s even more difficult that Volgarr, the only reason it’s a step higher is because I had more long-term success with it.

 

49. Road Not Taken

File this with the really hard games, especially with its roguelike qualities, but it did have its charms throughout.

 

48. Assassin’s Creed Liberation HD

The oft-forgotten HD remake that came to consoles last January. Despite the fresh paint job, it still played like it belonged on the PSP.

 

47. Mario Golf: World Tour

Like Mario Tennis before it, this Mario sports outing felt like it was over before it even started. There just wasn’t enough to keep me interested.

 

46. Plants vs Zombies: Garden Warfare

I thought this would be more than standard tower defense in a 3D world, but it’s not. I still enjoyed it a lot, but I wanted a bit more than what the package offers.

 

45. Super TIME Force

This game is manic and action-packed and awesome but none of that helps if I can’t beat the freakin’ levels. Getting shot multiple times by the same enemy with multiple characters sucks, and those who’ve played it know what I

mean.

44. Final Fantasy X HD

It’s the same classic game with pretty new HD graphics, and I found myself falling right back in love with it after all these years. This is how I like my HD remake: on a game that’s more than a year old.

 

43. Kingdom Hearts 2.5D HD Remix

Another example of fine HD remastering, even if Kingdom Hearts 2 contains the most annoying intro sequence of all creation. Stupid Twilight Town chore bullshit.

 

42. Kirby: Triple Deluxe

Kirby is just so damn cute and his 3DS adventure makes him even cuter, but it seemed more like a primer for children starting out than a challenging platformer.

 

41. Octodad: Dadliest Catch

What a weird, charming little game. I showed this to my family and they couldn’t stop laughing. Great, now the song is stuck in my head. Octodaaaaaaaaaad….nobody suspects a thing, Octodaaaaaaaaad…

 

40. Strider

Strider is a blueprint for how to bring Metroidvania-style games back into the limelight. The world needs more of this, game developers.

 

39. NHL 15

If you had asked me last January where NHL would rank this January, I would have predicted Sports Game of the Year. Instead EA forgot to ship most of the game on the disc and patched it in later. EA, I am disappoint.

 

38. EA UFC

On the flip side we have UFC, which is such an improvement on that EA MMA game that I never will doubt EA Sports making a UFC game again. I really enjoyed it.

 

37. Fantasia: Music Evolved

A dying genre got one more jolt from Fantasia, which focuses less on playing the instruments and more on creating music from the world around me. It was hard not to get lost in it.

 

36. Metal Gear Solid V: Ground Zeroes

Don’t get me wrong, I love a lot of things about Ground Zeroes. In the end, however, it was too damn short! Three hours is not enough Snake time for me, I sure hope Phantom Pain makes up for it.

 

35. Professor Layton and the Azran Legacy

Our final farewell to the good professor and his apprentice was a fitting end, rife with tough puzzles and a great story that gripped right to the end…even if that end was a bit too out of left field.

 

34. Bravely Default

The hardest boss in this game was trying to find some time to devote to it, because I didn’t want to stop playing. I wish more RPGs went back to the old ways too.

 

33. Donkey Kong Country: Tropical Freeze

The Donkey Kong game I didn’t know I wanted but damn if I didn’t enjoy every minute of it. Retro does Donkey Kong well and we’re all better for it.

 

32. Watch_Dogs

Open-world revolution it was not, but Aiden Pearce’s top-notch hacking ability was still a ton of fun to pull off as we ran around Chicago. I’m keeping an eye on the future with this one.

 

31. Titanfall

The game that made me realize that first-person shooters only click with me when there’s a campaign to play through. I liked Titanfall, but I missed that campaign feeling.

 

30. Ultra Street Fighter IV

It’s the same damn Street Fighter IV just with new balances and all of the extra content from Street Fighter X Tekken thrown in. This is in no way a bad thing.

 

29. D4: Dark Dreams Don’t Die

I need to see more of this twisted tale before I come to a full conclusion, but these first episodes were a sordid smash. That Swery’s got quite the creative mind.

 

28. Madden NFL 15

The gridiron goodness was plentiful in Madden 15, but there are still more strides to be made before it’s a perennial championship contender.

 

27. Phoenix Wright Ace Attorney Trilogy

If you’ve never played these games and you own a 3DS, the instant you finish reading this blog you download and play. Classics, all three of them.

 

26. WWE 2K15

The first foray into the next generation ring was a good start for WWE 2K, but technical issues and missing fan favorite modes put a damper on things.

 

25. Danganronpa 2: Goodbye Despair

Danganronpa is the biggest surprise of the year in my eyes, but the sequel doesn’t quite live up to the first game. It’s still great, don’t get me wrong, just not as good.

 

24. Valiant Hearts: The Great War

Not much to be desired on the gameplay front, but one of the best video game stories of the year more than makes up for it.

 

23. Guilty Gear Xrd -SIGN-

Odd name, strong return for a cult classic fighting franchise. The graphics engine here is one of a kind, and I don’t normally get excited about visuals over gameplay or story.

 

22. NBA 2K15

I haven’t been hooked into a NBA video game like this since NBA Live on the Sega Genesis. This is a basketball fan’s dream.

 

21. Assassin’s Creed Rogue

The Assassin’s Creed game no one cared about turned out to be one of the more interesting entries in recent memory. Also, I think Shay is the best Assassin since Ezio.

 

20. Tomodachi Life

This silly little game garnered a little bit of my attention every day for two solid months. If that’s not a feat in this age of digital ADD I don’t know what is.

 

19. Child of Light

One of the most underrated games of the year, this is fantastic storytelling and classic RPG gameplay in one glorious package. This child of light will lead you to a great time.

 

18. Persona 4 Arena Ultimax

I can’t explain how Atlus turned this storied RPG into a fantastic fighter, but they did it and we should all be grateful for it. Hours of content will keep you around for a while.

 

17. Pokemon Omega Ruby

Great to see Ruby make a return, but just as I wasn’t interested back then (R/B/S are the only Poke generation I skipped entirely) Omega Ruby didn’t grip me all the way. I expected this to be higher.

 

16. Professor Layton vs Phoenix Wright Ace Attorney

A perfect hybrid of both Layton and Ace Attorney’s signature style with an interesting story to boot. This is a must play for fans on either side of the fence, and a total no-brainer for fans of both.

 

15. Infamous Second Son

A criminally forgotten gem from the beginning of 2014, the newest Infamous is the best in the whole series to date. Delsin makes a great hero and Seattle a great playground.

 

14. South Park: The Stick of Truth

I haven’t laughed at a video game like I did with Stick of Truth. It’s my new favorite episode of South Park, even if it’s eight hours long instead of a half-hour.

 

13. Hyrule Warriors

The joining of Zelda and Dynasty Warriors could have been a colossal flop, instead it’s the most interesting Zelda game in a long time. If this isn’t proof that shaking up a formula can be a good thing, then I don’t know what Nintendo is thinking.

 

12. Halo: The Master Chief Collection

I would have liked this a whole lot more if I were able to play it online with my buddies. When it works, it’s wonderfulWhen it doesn’t, it’s awfully frustrating.

 

11. Super Smash Bros for 3DS

Portable Smash Bros is awesome, but including exclusive stages and other features makes playing this just as essential for Smash Bros fans as its Wii U counterpart.

 

The top ten approaches! Now with more pictures!

 

advancedwarfare

10. Call of Duty: Advanced Warfare

Lots of explosions are the norm, but the excellent story and Kevin Spacey made this a really good year for the annual juggernaut. Hopefully 2015 continues the trend.

 

walkingdeads2

9. The Walking Dead: Season 2

Telltale is the master of torturing yet beautiful story-telling, and The Walking Dead: Season 2 is a crowning achievement. There are five different endings, but to me there’s only one true ending. You’ll have to figure that one out for yourself.

 

danganronpa

8. Danganronpa: Trigger Happy Havoc

One of the weirdest and most surreal games I’ve ever played, yet one of the most addicting at the same time. Kids trapped in a school forced to kill each other for a chance to escape…it’s an amazing tale wrapped around a horrible nightmare. More Danganronpa would be lovely, Spike Chunsoft, and soon.

 

wolfenstein

7. Wolfenstein: The New Order

Wolfenstein plays like the original version way back on my first PC, but the story it tells is much more modern and grown up. The hero BJ Blazkowicz might also be my favorite character of the entire year, as he’s more human than any other person I’d run into in my gaming last year.

 

wolfamongus

6. The Wolf Among Us

Who’s afraid of the big bad wolf? In my story everyone, but you can play it however you wish. Where The Walking Dead makes us sad, The Wolf Among Us makes us hunger for clues and answers in every scene and at every turn. Bigby Wolf and company make for one hell of a series.

 

mariokart

5. Mario Kart 8

Luigi Death Stare aside, MK8 is the best Mario Kart game I’ve played since the N64. It handles like a dream even with the Wii U GamePad, the tracks are beautiful and brimming with color, and the action is even more insane than ever before. Love live Mario Kart.

 

destiny

4. Destiny

I don’t like MMOs, and I rarely get into online shooters, but Destiny hooked me for a long time and kept me coming back when I should have been playing other games…until my PS4 farted out and I had to get it repaired. I haven’t had a chance to jump back in since I got it back, but when I do…look out, Guardians.

 

bayonetta2

3. Bayonetta 2

Did I think Bayonetta 2 would be in my top 3 for 2014? No freakin’ way. Did I expect this much from a game where its predecessor was little more than a button masher in my opinion? Nope. Yet here we are, with the sultry Umbra Witch taking the bronze. I’m more than shocked, but the game deserves every bit of praise it gets. I’d even say that it’s a great reason to purchase a Wii U all on its own.

 

smashbros

2. Super Smash Bros for Wii U

A lot of my friends are shocked. Surely a game I rated a perfect 10 would be my favorite game of the entire year, yet it was beaten out. Which game took the top prize remains to be seen, but for now know this: if you’ve ever liked Nintendo or any game Nintendo has made, you owe it to yourself to play Smash Bros Wii U and see if you like it. It’s a Nintendo museum in disc form, packed with history and references and lore and everything else a Nintendo fan treasures. Look no further than this game (and Bayonetta and Mario Kart, I suppose) when starting a Wii U library.

 

…and coming in at number one….drum roll please………

here it comes…

 

 

 

shovel-knight

1. Shovel Knight

Shovel Knight. A game that started on Kickstarter, was successfully funded, and made its way to my 3DS has stolen my heart and become my favorite game of the past year. How? It’s pure nostalgia mixed with a modern feel that’s hard to explain but an absolute joy to play. It’s Mega Man and Ducktales and more of my NES favorites rolled into one but made with love in 2014 and playing it brought back some fond memories of simpler times when all I cared about was beating Bowser and saving the Princess no matter what castle she was in. The little kid in me came out when playing Shovel Knight, and only a few special games can boast that. Thank you Shovel Knight for the awesome trip down memory lane, and congratulations on being my personal Game of the Year for 2014!

 

Here’s to you, 2014. Now let’s see what 2015 has in store for us.

 

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