It was a bad year for video games, folks. I have no doubt you all have heard the many complaints about this lackluster year. Many games were delayed to 2015, and many games proved they should have been delayed into 2014. That being said, we still had a few bright spots this year, whether it be in the simple pleasures of Threes or in the heartbreaking adventure, This War of Mine. While you can complain about 2014 all you want, there were some great titles released by some very talented minds in the video game industry. Without further ado, lets highlight a few of them, shall we?
10. NBA 2K15
The NBA 2K series has long been the dominant force within the basketball video game genre. Many would call it the dominant force in the entire sports genre, and Visual Concepts further cemented that this year with yet another solid release. The in-game addition of the shot meter that fills up below your player helped gameplay tremendously. It made it to where even people who do not know the player’s signature shot motion can pick up the game know how to sink 3’s within a few minutes. Of course, the veteran players were not forgotten as it helped them further perfect the shot animations.
Some of the other big additions came in 2K15’s MyStory and MyGM modes. NBA 2K14 had a solid premise for their individual story mode which sees you take a draft pick and guide him through the NBA, increasing his skillsets along the way. That was built upon further this year as you could finally simulate games and there were fully voiced NBA players that you would interact with along the way. The GM mode added some UI and smaller changes which really helped the overall feel of the mode. It also became much more difficult to flip a franchise from a loser to a winner, something that is obviously very difficult to do in real life. These changes coupled with many others resulted in the best sports game released this year.
There is something to be said for simplicity. Threes! was the perfect example of that as it combined simple addition on a 4×4 board and turned it into something brilliant. If you are unaware, Threes! has you sliding tiles around and attempting to combine numbers that are the same. For example, you combine six into six and make 12, 12 into 12 and make 24, and so forth. You start out with a 2 and a 1, those two being the only ones you can combine that are not the same number. Threes! spawned a whole host of clones, many of which unrightfully gained popularity, but none of which are more enjoyable than the cute, whimsical vibes put off by the brilliant Threes!
8. Sherlock Holmes: Crimes and Conspiracy
Easily the most overlooked game of the year was Sherlock Holmes: Crimes and Conspiracy. I had never played one of the Sherlock Holmes games before but decided to dive into this one thanks to David’s positive review and Justin McElroy’s consistent excitement about the product. While the visuals leave a little to be desired, Crimes and Conspiracy features some truly interesting stories that get you hooked. Finding the killer in these situations makes it all the more exciting.
The mechanics for finding the killer is another one of the better things to be found within Sherlock Holmes: Crimes and Conspiracy. Through finding different pieces of evidence, you eventually piece together certain pieces of the story using Holmes’ intuition. These mechanics, along with the ability to analyze evidence, interrogate suspects (similarly to LA Noire), and recreate certain aspects of the crime come together to make one hell of an interesting Sherlock Holmes adventure.
7. This War of Mine
This War of Mine has been my most anticipated game of 2014 ever since I got hands on with it at PAX East 2014. The game pits you in the middle of a city at war. The city has been torn apart and is now but mere ruins for the few people still inhabiting buildings. You take control of three survivors who have setup in a large house. You must then manage your time between scavenging and taking care of your survivors. Taking care of them entails acquiring medicine, bandages, food, and a large assortment of other materials. Scavenging for these items and building upon your home becomes the two biggest focuses of your time in This War of Mine. Doing so encompasses a dark, at times horrifying atmosphere that runs throughout your time with This War of Mine.
You run into a variety of situations that force you to choose between two awful situations. During one of my playthroughs, I made the call to rob a barely functioning hospital. During which I was caught and shot at, I then had my player return the aggression that ended up killing the opposing force. The result of this was one of my characters being overrun with depression and leaving in the middle of the night to find a long lost friend of his. Despite its dour tone, This War of Mine is a great experience that really draws you into the unfortunate experience your three characters have found themselves in.
6. Wolfenstein: The New Order
I tend to not like first-person shooters. That being said, I have three of them in my top five? Why, you ask? I have no clue, but I do know that Wolfenstein: The New Order is the perfect example of a first-person shooter done correctly. Wolfenstein puts you into the shoes of a former soldier on his revenge tour. The biggest positives to be found within Wolfenstein come in the exciting gameplay that has you dual wielding (or not dual wielding, if you are a crazy person) your way across multiple levels. The action is fast and frantic, it never lets up for one second to let you breathe up until the very exciting climax.
While the story is far from the best told in a video game, The New Order does feature some very well written characters. These character all reach a fitting end, which is nice as most games tend to forget about all the characters minus the main one or two that are present on screen for every cut scene. Wolfenstein: The New Order is far from a perfect experience, but it makes for one hell of a stupid-fun time.
5. The Walking Dead – Season 2
I’m not sure if it is a testament to how poor of a year it was in video games or a testament to the quality of The Walking Dead Season 2 that despite it being one of the most disappointing games of 2014, it remains in my top 5 of the year. The Walking Dead Season 1 was a truly amazing moment in video game history. It created a cast of believable, heartfelt characters that the player grew attached to before the end of the first episode. It did this with strong writing and a great dialogue direction that had characters memorizing nearly every line you said.
The Walking Dead Season 2 captures some of that same magic as it also introduces a brand new cast of characters (minus a few carry overs from season 1). These characters are built very well throughout the five-episode season. The major disappointment in this season came in episodes three and four where certain characters began to head down paths that not only made little sense, but were very frustrating to see. That being said, the dialogue still produces many intense moments plus the action sequences are improved upon greatly.. Not to mention it still stars one of the best characters in video game history, Clementine.
4. Far Cry 4
While Far Cry 3 was very enjoyable, it did not hook me like it did everyone else. I enjoyed it quite a bit, definitely, but the story left a lot to be desired. This go around, the story was improved as Ubisoft Montreal brought about yet another fantastic main villain. Of course, the gameplay is what truly puts Far Cry 4 over as one of the best games of 2014. The same great gameplay mechanics have returned from Far Cry 3 and were built on in all the right ways. While at the end of the day, Far Cry 4 really is just more Far Cry 3 but with improvements being placed upon everything, that was exactly what the game needed.
You want to talk about a video game I did not expect to care about, Titanfall is high on that list. I ended up giving it a try based solely on the fact that no other game was out that I wanted to play. After giving it a few hours, it began to sink its teeth (mech teeth) in me. Once I was hooked, I ended up spending upwards of 20 hours with the game within a one week period.
Titanfall ended up being the first multiplayer experience that hooked me since Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare. The variety added via the mech combat was not even the best new addition to the multiplayer genre. By far the most enjoyable part of Titanfall was the lightning fast movement that helped propel your player across every map with exciting speed, wall jumping from building to building. Agility was key, and was one of the main reasons Titanfall was an unforgettable experience.
2. Middle-earth: Shadow of Mordor
Sometimes a game introduces a mechanic that makes you truly turn your head and think “how has anyone not thought of this before?” Middle-earth: Shadow of Mordor did just that with its Nemesis System. Of course, even the concept of the Nemesis System seems like an impossible task to complete. An ordered list of adversaries that is ever evolving as you continue along the expanding story within Middle-earth: Shadows of Mordor, there is no way that could work. Fortunately, it does just that.
Apart from the Nemesis System, you also get a very well done open-world experience on top of that. Middle-earth features a very welcoming story (even to people not familiar with Lord of the Rings) and a wide variety of side activities to keep you playing for hours. Middle-earth also features a very Batman: Arkham Asylum inspired combat, but one that does not just rip those same mechanics but instead builds upon them. The detail within the Nemesis System and combat work together and end up taking hours and hours of your time.
In a down year for video games, Transistor shined as easily the best game of the year. The combat mechanics were new and clicked perfectly. There was a vast amount of depth to each and every encounter you come across. After the success of Supergiant Games’ Bastion, many thought there was no way they could top that in Transistor. They did just that by giving the player pinpoint control over the main character, Red. Not to mention the fact that Red, herself, was one of the best characters this year.
The characters are where Transistor really hooked me and would not let go until the credits rolled. You are thrown into this mysterious world knowing only two souls, Red and her sword. You then begin to see that these two have a relationship, a relationship that continues to develop beautifully throughout your time in Reds shoes. The way that Transistor slowly introduces the player to, not just the characters, but the entire world is something few games have ever achieved.
Simply put, Transistor picks you up from the beginning and promises to take you on a ride. The ride is filled with excitement, curiosities, and pure heartbreak. It will make you smile just as many times as it makes you look down in sadness.
Storytelling is one of the hardest things to perfect in gaming, but Supergiant Games has come closer than anyone in this masterpiece.
For more of the Gaming Trend staff’s favorite games of the year, check out our GOTY coverage hub.