2014 Top 10 Gaming Favorites

7 01 2015

2014 was a pretty fantastic year for games, and as we are just over the horizon of 2015, it’s time to reflect back on the highlights of the recent past. Of the games I got around to play, these are my top 10 of 2014 in no particular order:

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Mario Kart 8

It’s a law of nature that a new Nintendo console brings a new Mario Kart game. Following suit to its predecessors, Mario Kart 8 brings the familiar easy-access racing gameplay with a colorful cast of characters and a fantastic collection of courses, both old and new, along with brilliant HD visuals. There was a merciful de-emphasis on the wacky powerful items in this entry of the series in favor of more focused racing gameplay and utilization of the courses and obstacles to get the edge on your competition. If there’s one sour note it’s that the battle mode is dreadfully uninspired where the battlegrounds are comprised of smaller loops of the normal courses than interesting free-roaming arenas. Other than that, Mario Kart 8 is a hit and a solid addition to the Wii U’s swelling ranks.

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Middle-Earth: Shadow of Mordor

Players take up the sword, bow, and dagger of Talion, a Ranger of The Black Gate in an era of Middle-Earth where Gondor occupied the outskirts of Mordor, filling the transition between the events of The Hobbit and The Fellowship Of The Ring. The gameplay is a mix of the Batman Arkham games and Assassin’s Creed in which players have multiple approaches to various situations, and any way you decide to engage your enemies is satisfying to execute. The real compelling hook of the game is the “Nemesis System” in which the various Orcs and Uruks remember their prior encounters with you and progress through their own ranks and society based on the outcomes of their meetings with you, maybe even turning to your side and becoming a powerful Warchief. Will you break down the walls of Mordor, or poison it from within?

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Alien: Isolation

It seems like a curse that the Aliens franchise can’t seem to get a decent game based on it. Depending on how you think about it, The Creative Assembly’s new vision and direction for the franchise in Alien: Isolation either breaks or circumvents this curse by theming their game after the first Alien movie rather than it’s successor, in the form of a survival-horror game where the player must defeat the eponymous beast with fast-thinking, cunning, and stealth rather than with blazing guns. Players assume the role of Ellen Ripley’s daughter Amanda Ripley as she relives her mother’s nightmarish escape from a gigantic space station, bridging the fictional gap between the first and second movies. Stark and terrifying, Isolation brings a new approach to the beloved franchise, harkening back to its roots in the first movie as a high-adrenaline horror experience.

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Hearthstone: Heroes of Warcraft

Blizzard’s venture into casual games shows that they can work their magic in any medium. Simple and easy-to-play but with compelling depth and challenge, Hearthstone is a resounding success in bringing the traditional card-game format to a digital platform in a unique but familiar way. Addiction-prone individuals beware.

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Titanfall

No, I’m not just plugging my studio’s own game. Titanfall stands up against fierce competition as a next-gen entry into the FPS genre and ushers in a new era of the “mobility shooter” with its dynamic movement and frenetic pace. It preserves the best parts of traditional shooter gameplay while integrating new concepts in an intuitive way to present a fresh but intuitive experience that is unlike any other. Whether you’re bounding through alleyways and across rooftops as a fleet-footed Pilot or smothering foes with relentless volleys of heavy weaponry as a massive armored Titan, Titanfall is always a great time.

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Shovel Knight

A quaint but masterfully-done throwback to the days of 8/16 bit platformers, Shovel Knight overflows with personality and excellent design. Playing through Shovel Knight is like rediscovering your old favorite NES game that you forgot had even existed.

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Hyrule Warriors

Tecmo’s melding of the Zelda universe with the gameplay of Dynasty Warriors stirred up some skepticism, but once it’s in your hands it is undoubtedly an experience worth having. Something like the “Avengers” movie of the Zelda franchise, it draws from characters and worlds from across the history of the series and puts them all in your control as you wipe out enemies by the hundred. It hits the right chords of fond nostalgia while at the same time presenting exciting re-inventions of classic characters and villains. Fairly mindless, but unquestionably fun.

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Super Smash Bros. for Wii U and 3DS

The new generation of Smash Bros. has arrived on Nintendo’s consoles and it was well worth the wait. Like a medley of the best aspects of games past, I feel that this new entry in the series has found the sweet spot between highly-competitive and casual play, with the presentation to back it all up. A fantastic cast of characters including honored guests like Mega Man and Pac-Man battle it out in the first true-HD entry in the series, and it plays as smooth and beautifully as it looks. There are many new subtle aspects and features which are uninstrusive and subtle but make available to the player a rich selection of options and customization that make it the most ambitious Smash game to date. With its new inclusions and solid construction, the new Smash Bros. is just about everything I had hoped for.

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Bayonetta 2

This is the best pure-action game I have ever played. And I’ve played a hell of a lot so that’s a pretty high mark. Bayonetta 2 is exactly the sequel that you wanted if you enjoyed the first entry in the series, which handles just like you would expect and introduces just enough new things to keep you rolling forward, obliterating legion after legion of angels and demons. Bayonetta 2 is a “pure-action game;” it doesn’t quite have the scope and majesty of something like God of War, or the creative puzzle-solving and sense of wonder of something like Shadow of The Colossus; there’s little else to do but fight. But you’ll be kicking major ass almost every step of the way from the corners of Inferno to Paradiso, having a hell of a time and looking damn good while doing it. Another gold (pure-platinum?) star for Platinum Games.

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Guilty Gear Xrd -SIGN-

The Guilty Gear series has had long-running status as a revered property amongst fighting game fans, but went without a proper true sequel for a long time, even since the days of Playstation 2. Guilty Gear Xrd heralds the arrival of a new era for the game, with a completely overhauled 3D engine built from the ground up but retaining the lightning-fast action and deep system and character mechanics that the series is known for. Although the cast is sparse in this first showing, there will undoubtedly be updates and revisions that bring back old favorites as well as flashy newcomers. A beautiful rebirth for a legendary franchise. Let’s rock.


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