Despite what people may say, I thought 2014 was an excellent year. Heck, nearly every year is great for gaming. I played over 300 titles across all platforms, a little more than last year — but mostly that’s because of my promotion to Reviews Director at Destructoid.
It took me weeks to narrow down my top selections, a process I started in earnest in November. There was so much to play this year, with offerings all across the spectrum of gaming.
Here are my top 10 picks in no particular order.
Yacht Club Games unequivocally proved its worth with its first title, and wow was it a bombshell. Shovel Knight looks and feels like a retro adventure that would have been considered a classic in that time period, but it has all the bells and whistles of modern game design.
Nearly every platform and enemy is painstakingly placed to provide a near-perfect experience, and the bosses themselves are so wonderfully designed that I can recall their patterns and palettes in my head right now. When Yacht Club re-releases the game on Sony consoles next year I can’t wait to get lost in it all over again.
Oh, and don’t forget about all that free bonus content that’s still coming.
Super Smash Bros. Wii U
After being disappointed by Super Smash Bros. Brawl in a multitude of ways, the new Smash was what I needed. The physics feel greatly improved, the cast has a ton of additions that are some of my favorite fighters yet (like Villager), and it just looks beautiful on the Wii U.
It also helps that there’s a ton of content to sift through, including the eight-player mode, amiibo distractions, Smash Tour, and of course — trophy hunting. I love that I can take a break from the typical four-player format and have an all-out eight-person brawl. It really helps break up the monotony, and is perfect for casual and hardcore fans alike.
It may be my favorite Smash to date.
What can be said about Bayonetta 2 that hasn’t already been said? Although I stated that this list was in no particular order, I’d be lying if I said Bayonetta wasn’t first. It does nearly everything right, and in what could be considered an outlier for this year, it worked at launch and had more stuff to do than most games have a year later with DLC tacked on.
Platinum remains one of the best purveyors of action games to this day. I hope the studio stays independent and continues to align itself with companies like Nintendo — I’d hate to see it run into the ground when it’s been so consistently brilliant.
Dark Souls II
Although I was worried about Dark Souls II (especially after the easy beta), my fears were unfounded. I absolutely loved the third iteration of the Souls series, and I became addicted all over again with searching every nook and cranny for the tiniest upgrade or glimmer of hope.
Although there were some parts that could be considered “cheaper” than the past two games, I enjoyed the challenge and thought the environmental diversity more than made up for it. There’s also a lot more under the surface, and I probably won’t find everything even years later as I replay the base game and the three DLC packs.
From Software still has it.
D4: Dark Dreams Don’t Die
I didn’t expect much from D4. Heck, I didn’t expect anything. Although I’m generally a fan of Swery and his studio Access Games, the trailers for the Xbox One-exclusive adventure game were so erratic that it was hard to get excited for it.
Alas, it ended up surprising me, as many games did this year. I loved the characters, the setting, and the entire concept of jumping into objects to relive moments. It had a very Lost feel to it all, on top of the hilarious and wacky Swery touch that I’ve come to enjoy over the years.
I really hope subsequent episodes come sooner than later.
Hyrule Warriors, how do I love thee? Let me count the ways — 300…hours that is.
While I am a Dynasty Warriors fan at heart, I’m an even bigger Zelda fan, and this game delivered in all the ways I needed it to. From the amazing soundtrack to a playable rogue’s gallery, I was able to live out my dreams of playing as some of my favorite Zelda characters.
The fact that Omega Force thought to add the Adventure maps to the game is genius, because although the campaign is rather short, the need to do “just one more” map space is undeniable. This is easily one of my most played games of the year.
While I’ll give any game a chance, there are certain games that come around at just the right time. Cloudbuilt was one such title, as I really felt an itch for a good speedrunning experience. One part Mirror’s Edge and another part Mega Man, Cloudbuilt was not only a gorgeous-looking experience, but it was well-crafted and had a ton of depth.
The development team also took the time to listen to fans, and fixed a multitude of issues over the course of the game’s launch period, augmenting the already strong package into one of my favorites of the year. I still go back and try to best my times, and I think I’ll be doing that for years to come.
Plants vs. Zombies: Garden Warfare
As yet another surprise, Garden Warfare took over my living room for a good four weeks straight. I never thought that Electronic Arts could have devised something that broke the shooter mold like this, and although I feel as if most class-based shooters tend to blend over time, Garden did so much to make itself feel unique.
From the giant Sunflower defense missions to the sniping cacti, every game was different. In another “not really EA” move, a great deal of free content was released to keep the title relevant, including new modes and maps.
This is one game this year that definitely needs more recognition.
Deception IV: Blood Ties
It’s no secret that I love trap games. The joy of setting up a great plan and executing it perfectly is why I enjoy games like Monaco, and I’ve been wanting a new Deception game for years on end. Blood Ties was able to satisfy me in a particular way that most games just can’t, as the gameplay is unique to the series — there’s still almost nothing like it.
Similar to Bayonetta 2 and a few other eastern titles this year, there’s so much content to dig through it would take you days to uncover it all, and the mysterious and occult nature of the franchise makes it perfect for hiding secrets. I can’t wait for the upcoming expansion and the newly announced follow-up.
Lightning Returns: Final Fantasy XII
Wait, what?! Yep, Lightning Returns is up here. I bet you never expected that, right? Well too bad, I enjoyed it!
While I’m right up there on the rooftops yelling with you in regards to the stark drop in quality of Final Fantasy XIII, Lightning Returns was a much more fun experience in nearly every way. For starters, the developers embraced the silliness tenfold, and gave us ridiculous quests like one man’s adventure to become a top chef, and of course, the Lady Gaga-esque Moogle suit.
My favorite part though had to be how well each sandbox was designed. Every realm was huge, and distinct on its own terms. I spent hours getting lost in them, searching for new fun sidequests and items, which to me, is what JRPGs are all about.
It also had a really kickass battle system and an infuriating (in a good way) final boss that I haven’t seen the likes of since the first Prinny game.
The Wolf Among Us, Strider, Donkey Kong Country: Tropical Freeze, Bravely Default.