Everyone on the Gaming Trend staff has had the opportunity to make a case for our personal top ten games of the year, but we still had to come to a consensus on what the site’s top ten was going to be. Below you’ll find the result of multiple e-mail chains, Google Hangouts, and podcasting. It was a bloodbath. But we did manage to narrow it down to ten games that we thought deserved recognition as the best 2014 had to offer.
10. South Park: The Stick of Truth
South Park: The Stick of Truth was a game that had no business being as good as it was. For starters, the game was announced several years ago, and suffered from multiple delays. Then, when original publisher THQ filed for bankruptcy, the game’s future was in jeopardy until it was picked up by Ubisoft and delayed again from its 2013 release date. Add in the fact that most South Park games that have ever released have been nothing more than “okay”, and the fact that The Stick of Truth was releasing on last generation hardware despite newer consoles having released, and it seemed like South Park was destined to disappoint.
Not only did South Park not disappoint, it turned out to easily be one of the best games of 2014.
South Park was a shining example of how to handle a licensed game; the spirit and humor of the show was the main focus here, and gameplay catered to that theme wonderfully. Matt Stone and Trey Parker’s involvement is immediately evident from both the writing and the voice acting, and the fact that the HUD is minimal makes the game look identical to an episode of the show.
Even the gameplay was fun. The RPG mechanics were easy to learn, but once time-based attacking and blocking is thrown in, the game requires a considerable amount of focus to succeed. The story was just the right length too, and even once that was finished, players could still explore the town to go on plenty of side quests while collecting Chinpokomon and continuing on your quest to become cool.
South Park: The Stick of Truth was pure fan service and a game that anyone who loves the show should experience. Don’t forget to bring a towel! – Matt Welsh, Staff Writer
9. Shovel Knight
Shovel Knight is not only our Indie Game of the Year, but was a strong contender for our Game of the Year overall, because it’s one of the most unique and well-rounded games we’ve seen in a long time.
Clearly inspired by the old school side-scrollers like Mega Man, Shovel Knight is retro, hilarious, and completely unforgiving. The gameplay is rock solid and levels are challenging without being unfair, the music is incredibly good, and the story is surprisingly deep while still being rooted in comedy.
Challenging but not cheap, retro but not simple, and comical but not lacking in depth–Shovel Knight defies the player’s expectations every step of the way. – Travis Northup, Staff Writer
8. Elite: Dangerous
2014 marks the new beginning of the space sim genre, and Elite: Dangerous is the start of this new era. Star Citizen’s kickstarter showed that there was still interest in this type of game, and Frontier Developments decided to capitalize. While I won’t say they pulled it off perfectly, it’s nice to be able to fly about space in the first great space flight sim in a very long time.
Elite isn’t a masterpiece, but the options and scale it provides are unparallelled in any type of game. You can be a trader, scouting the best routes to carry cargo to stations that will buy your wares to provide you with a profit. You can be a miner, finding the richest asteroids in space to make your fortune. You can be a pirate, stealing the fortune of others. You can be a soldier, completing missions for the faction of your choice. You can be an explorer, charting space and seeing what can be found.
There are so many things to be done in Elite: Dangerous that it’s unlikely that you can even run out of things to do. This 1:1 interpretation of the Milky Way Galaxy might never be fully explored, but it won’t be for a lack of trying. I’m sure that many of you will be exploring the depths of the galaxy for years to come, plying whatever trade you have decided fits you best. Yes, Elite may not be a masterpiece, but it is a very fine example of the resurgence of a genre too long silent. – Niko DelValle, Contributor
7. Middle-Earth: Shadow of Mordor
Middle Earth: Shadow of Mordor was one 2014’s huge surprises. The game’s developer, Monolith, had some pretty great games under its belt with the Condemned series and the first two F.E.A.R. games but the company didn’t have much of the background and open world action RPG’s at all. But, seemingly against all odds, Monolith knocked it out of the park with Middle Marth: Shadows of Mordor.
The game tailors to the desire of hardcore players, using just about every combination of buttons the controller can supply, but introduces those mechanics at a digestible rate. The nemesis system, which in addition to creating a great narrative running in the background, makes players feel like death has consequences without punishing them too severely, while also feeding the player with the desire for revenge. The features in this game are just too many to name. The game’s tense combat, truly innovative nemesis system, and emergent open world are why Middle Earth: Shadow of Mordor ranks as one of the best games of the year.
The only thing keeping Shadows of Mordor from scoring any higher is its story, which fizzles and pops at best, and falls flat at its worst. The game’s narrative is a good excuse for the high-intensity battling that goes on around it, but not much else.
We here at the Gaming Trend are always in favor of a dark horse overtaking the pack, and Shadows of Mordor is a very, very dark horse. – Spencer Campbell, Editor
6. Hearthstone: Heroes of Warcraft
Few games have inspired the same cultural shift that Hearthstone has in such a short span of time. The card game genre has long had difficulty gaining any sort of major traction, and it seemed that while many games might try, none could come close to recreating the magic of physical card games.
Blizzard saw this problem and decided not to translate the physical to the virtual, but rather create an experience that only video games could deliver. Multiple classes, hero powers, crazy RNG and game-changing Legendaries, Hearthstone was a hit before it officially released.
By the time it opened to the public, Hearthstone’s legacy was set. Hundreds of Twitch streamers spent all day theorycrafting and playing, new personalities and terminology grew out of the community (WELL MET), and within less than a year, World Championships were held at Blizzcon.
It isn’t about the spectacle and glamour, though. At the end of the day, Hearthstone is one of the most well-constructed card games ever made. It adapts to the computer just as well as the tablet, and a steady stream of new boosters and new Arena runs means that you never have to spend a penny on it to enjoy playing. Hearthstone is a Blizzard classic, and will likely stand in alongside franchise mainstays like Diablo, Starcraft and Warcraft as a historic title. – Eric Van Allen, Editor
5. Bayonetta 2
There’s bonkers, and then there’s Bayonetta 2.
Where most games are simply content with ratcheting up the Ridicul-o-meter (patent pending) to 10, Bayonetta 2 takes that dial and twists it’s until it’s broken off the machine. Then, instead of looking around and trying to find something to fix it, it kicks the machine a couple times, makes a pithy, innuendo-laden remark, then shoots it with the infinite-ammo-filled pistols attached to its boots.
Guns. Attached to boots. And that’s probably the least crazy thing about it.
Bayonetta 2 is a ballet of expertly-timed action and mayhem, helmed by its powerful lead heroine. Sure, it’s titillating (at times head-scratchingly so), but Bayonetta is one of the most badass female leads ever found in a video game, and she totally owns it. From the soundtrack to the cutscenes, the game just has a certain bounce in its step that’s simply infectious.
Even if it were a string of insanely wacky scenarios, Bayonetta 2 would be worth playing, but you’ll continue to come back for the perfectly polished gameplay. Dodging attacks and responding in kind is a dance that never grows old, and the Wii U never skips a beat, delivering its blistering madness at 1080p and 60 frames per second — something many games this year can only dream of.
Thank you Nintendo, for taking a chance and publishing one of the most stylish games to come along since… well, since the first Bayonetta. – David Roberts, Managing Editor
4. Danganronpa: Trigger Happy Havoc and Danganronpa 2: Goodbye Despair
Danganronpa is not just a murder mystery.
The story that takes place within the walls of Hope’s Peak Academy and on the shores of Jabberwock Island is one that consistently aims to defy your expectations.
Even in a situation where students are trapped and told they must end another’s life in order to leave their confinement, escape is almost never the goal. In a cast full of hopeful students banning together to survive and overcome their captor, there are those who are willing to holistically betray them in order to save themselves. And in a setting where deception appears to be the worst, most despair-inducing threat, Danganronpa again undercuts the player by showing that the entirety of what they believed to be true was false the entire time.
The feeling of despair and fear that Spike Chunsoft’s visual novel instills in you is only underscored by the hope it persistently implores that you maintain through to the end. It will shake your belief in your friends to the core while enticing you to sympathize with them after they stand unmasked for a betrayal you’ve exposed.
Danganronpa is bleak, painful, and full of tragedy. But even so, it requires that you push forward believing that this situation will not overcome your ability to see the good in others.
Danganronpa is not just a murder mystery, it’s a test of your ability to see the worst in yourself and your friends and still be able to move forward. – Kenneth Shepard, Lead News Editor
3. The Talos Principle
Well, this kinda came out of nowhere, didn’t it?
Releasing mid-December is usually a recipe for unadulterated ambivalence. Everyone’s so tired from reviewing game after game that December becomes the light at the end of the tunnel, the final gasp of air before the end of the year. So it was with some amount of trepidation that I initially approached my review of The Talos Principle.
I am so glad that I got the chance to play it.
It’s brilliant in the way that Portal’s best puzzles are, but The Talos Principle’s open-ended nature ensures that you’ll find something to chip away at, even when you’re stuck elsewhere. It’s gorgeous to look at, representing some of the best work Croteam has thrown at a computer.
But the best part about The Talos Principle is its writing, the story those words tell, and how that story gets you to ask questions about the things you hold dear. You’re an AI, and a God named Elohim has created a world filled with puzzley delights, just for you. But… is he telling the whole truth? Is there something hidden in this world worth discovering? The voice from the computer screen fills you with doubt, but does it hold the answers? Or is it leading you down a path that simply leads to more questions? Also, if you think, and feel, and act, are you as much a person as real flesh and blood? And what the hell does that mean about humanity?
It’s a story that’s equal parts Isaac Asimov and Milan Kundera. It seems like it’s tailor-made to give you a headache, but it never comes off as needlessly intimidating or pretentious. You’ll chew on it’s metaphysical quandaries while you’re working out whatever stumper is driving you crazy. You’ll savor its philosophical musings when you’re not playing. And its implications will stick with you long after you play it. I’m so glad I was able to get a bunch of the staff to play this game (many experiencing similar levels of burnout), because we were all able to agree that The Talos Principle is something truly magnificent. – David Roberts, Managing Editor
2. Super Smash Bros. for Wii U
Super Smash Bros. for Wii U didn’t take its seat in second quietly. He was gunning for first. The back and forth debate between this classically inspired Nintendo fighter and the epic, fantasy RPG, Dragon Age: Inquisition, shook the halls of Gaming Trend to its very core. It was great. Wish you coulda been there.
A few of the points that came up against Super Smash Bros. being our G.O.T.Y. choice included its general lack of innovation and how it’s basically the same game but with more characters and plastic amiibo. And we understand if you feel that way.
But the reason many members of Gaming Trend were so vehemently backing Nintendo’s brawler for the number one spot is because, unlike some games that you play once and you’re done with, Super Smash Bros. for Wii U has all the makings of a timeless classic that can be played by many different types of gamers across the board for countless years to come.
At the end of the day, games are as much about the player as they are about the game. Super Smash Bros. won’t be for everyone, and that’s okay, but for those of you who understand the appeal of slamming eight friends together on a single screen in a frantic battle of over 50 unique and customizable characters pulled from across history’s most memorable games, this one’s on our list for you. – Stefan Alexander, Staff Writer
1. Dragon Age Inquisition
2014 may have been a rough year for some games, but no game felt more complete, compelling, and at times powerful than our game of the year — Dragon Age Inquisition.
It appears time and time again in our annual countdown, and with good reason. Incredible voice acting, difficult choices, hilarious dialogue, and tackling some of the most difficult and controversial topics that other games wouldn’t touch with a ten foot pole are simply the stock-and-trade for Bioware, but Dragon Age Inquisition is Bioware at its best.
They’ve set a new standard for open world RPGs, and for themselves with this title. A hearty and well-deserved congratulations on this incredible win. – Ron Burke, Executive Director and Editor-In-Chief
For more of Gaming Trend’s Best of 2014 coverage, check out our Game of the Year hub.