The Best & Worst Games of 2014

The Best and Worst of: 2010, 2011, 2012, 2013

2014 was a mixed bag. Our first full year of Wii U/Xbox One/PlayStation 4 saw better-than-expected hardware sales in the West, but quite the opposite in Japan. Twitter eggs and bored children moaned about "ethics in video games" and a hashtag became synonymous with abusive behaviour. Gamer was transformed into a dirty(er) word, but most of us ignored the drama and concentrated on playing video games. We played good, bad and broken ones, and all had a laugh at Tyrion in space. This was a year of ups and downs, one to celebrate and one to forget.

Personally, I had a great one, as I became a Dad in July. My 3DS and Vita proved indispensable during the difficult, early weeks of parenthood, something I could play in short bursts, often with a new-born asleep on my shoulder. As my daughter got a bit older, and a little easier to handle, I was able to return to console gaming, hunting moon wizards and wallet rhinos with her on my lap.

Considering how busy I've been over the last six months and the unnatural hours I've been keeping, I'm rather pleased with the number of games I managed to play in 2014. Despite all the negativity surrounding the industry, and the problematic transitional period from one generation to the next, I enjoyed the vast majority of the games I bought this year, and was never short of something to play.

PLAYED: Assassin's Creed IV Black Flag, Batman: Arkham Origins, Bayonetta 2, Bioshock Infinite, Bravely Default, Call of Duty Ghosts, Dark Souls, Dark Souls II, Destiny, Earth Defence Force 2017 Portable, Escape Plan, Far Cry 3: Blood Dragon, Far Cry 4, Fez, Fire Emblem Awakening, Hotline Miami, Infamous: Second Son, Joe Danger 2, Just Dance 2015, Killzone Shadow Fall, Luftrausers, Metal Gear Solid V: Ground Zeroes, Middle-Earth: Shadow of Mordor, Muramasa Rebirth, Need for Speed Most Wanted, Need for Speed Rivals, OlliOlli, Outlast, Pix The Cat, PixelJunk Shooter Ultimate, Resogun Vita, SteamWorld Dig, Surge Deluxe, Surgeon Simulator Anniversary Edition, The Legend of Zelda, The Walking Dead Season 2, Theatrhythm Final Fantasy: Curtain Call, Touch My Katamari, Trials Fusion, TxK, Velocity 2X, Yakuza Ishin (Ryu Ga Gotoku Ishin)

CURRENTLY PLAYING: Dragon Age Inquisition (20 hours in), Puyo Puyo Tetris

BOUGHT BUT HAVE YET TO PLAY: Alien Isolation, Assassin's Creed Unity, Freedom Wars, Shin Megami Tensei: Devil Survivor Overclocked, The Evil Within, Xenoblade Chronicles, Yakuza 1+2 HD

What follow are the best and worst games of 2014, according to me. Let me know what you think in the comments.

Enjoy your games and have a Happy New Year

1. Game of the Year: Dark Souls 2

2014 lacked a single, defining game. What we got instead was a handful of excellent and deserving titles, the best of which was Dark Souls 2.

Having only just finished Dark Souls a few weeks previous, I felt confident jumping straight into the sequel and pushing ahead with my preferred build. I knew exactly how I was going to approach things - find a big sword and swing it – and was better able to enjoy and appreciate the game from the get-go, something I initially struggled to do with the first Dark Souls. This new found accessibility wasn’t only due to my familiarity with the series, but also gameplay tweaks that made it slightly easier to grasp.

Fortunately, more accessible did not mean easier; you need only look at the punitive system that decreases you max HP each time you die as proof that From Software is as mean as ever. DS2 succeeds in making itself a little more inviting to the uninitiated without diluting the Souls experience. There’s plenty to keep the veterans happy too, with PvP and Covenants providing numerous opportunities to grief newcomers and let the world know that you are not to be fucked with.

A more generous scattering of bonfires, and fast-travel available from the outset, means that Drangleic lacks the sense of place that made Lordran so interesting, but it does allow for a far more varied selection of locations. Drangleic is bigger, prettier but no less dark than Lordran, and I explored it from top to bottom.

I had intended to revisit Dark Souls 2 and play the DLC before the end of the year, but I put my plans on hold once I heard about the forthcoming, current gen upgrade. With Bloodborne and a prettier Dark Souls 2 on the slate for 2015, I’m preparing myself for another year of despair and elation.

Honourable Mentions: Far Cry 4, Middle-Earth: Shadow of Mordor, Yakuza Ishin, Dragon Age Inquisition

2. Best Pre-2014 Game I Played This Year: Dark Souls

Dark Souls and Fire Emblem Awakening are far and away the best games I played this year. Fire Emblem reminded me how much I enjoy a well-made SRPG, but Dark Souls has to be my better-late-than-never winner for 2014. There have been several abandoned playthroughs since 2011, but this time we got along splendidly, as I paid more attention to character build and play-style, and came to better understand and eventually embrace its punishing ways. Praise the Sun and god speed Bloodborne.

Honourable Mention: Fire Emblem Awakening

3. Digital Game of the Year (digital as lead format): The Walking Dead Season 2

At it's very best, TWD Season 1 was the better game, but Season 2 is far more consistent, episode to episode. Clementine remains one of my favourite modern, video game characters and her transition to playable lead was flawless. Season 2 renewed my interest in The Walking Dead universe, a world that is perfectly suited to the Telltale experience.

Honourable Mention: OlliOlli

4. Biggest Surprise: Middle-Earth: Shadow of Mordor

I did not need another LOTR cash-in. Shadow of Mordor looked like a mauve Assassin's Creed, an unwanted addition to the oversaturated stealth-fight-clamber genre that I have just made up. I was, however, very wrong, as it outdid many of the games to which I had been so quick to compare it. Stealth is fun, thanks to your unusual prey, and Monolith succeeded in striking a balance between granting new powers while ensuring that your foes remain a very real threat, regardless of how many walls you can see through.

Honourable Mention: Hotline Miami

5. Biggest Disappointment: Assassin’s Creed Unity

Revolutionary Paris was my most hoped-for AC setting, but Ubisoft fucked it up. Their approach to the series is disgraceful and, despite this most recent embarrassment, they are already talking up next autumn’s entry, set in Victorian London. I for one cannot wait to tail a glitchy Jack the Ripper, as he slashes prostitutes through walls. "Shine your shoes, guv'na?" You’ll have to find them first, as they just fell through the floor along with one of my legs. Also, I have no skin.

Dishonourable Mentions: Big Boss Sutherland, MGSV Ground Zeroes; Destiny

6. Best New IP: Bravely Default

An ill-conceived and shockingly repetitive second half dulled what had been, for the first twenty plus hours, an outstanding return to form for Square Enix. In spite of a lack of new ideas in the latter half, I still enjoyed Bravely Default, thanks to its charming visuals and its use of FFV's ageless job system. I'm cautiously optimistic that next year's sequel will learn from the mistakes of the first game and avoid another second half collapse.

7. Standout Moment: Far Cry 4, when nature attacks

I was minding my own business, checking through my armoury before attacking the next outpost. I had a silenced sniper rifle for the alarms, my trusty bow for stealth murder and a grenade launcher just in case it all went to shit. As I left my car to approach the outpost, I noticed an eagle swooping overhead. Readying myself for yet another avian attack, I was surprised when it passed me by and instead tried to pick up a nearby mountain goat. Being hoofed and unable to use a firearm, the goat didn’t stand a chance and was soon being whisked away by the hungry eagle. Unfortunately, the bird had underestimated the weight of its prey and dropped the poor goat, which landed with a thud on my bonnet, scaring the shit out of me and ruining my ride.

This is just one instance of the unpredictable nature of Far Cry 4’s wildlife, and an example of how every excursion in Kyrat can reveal something new, surprising and dangerous.

Honourable Mention: The intro to Metal Gear Solid V: Ground Zeroes

8. Most Forgettable: Infamous: Second Son

With a couple of notable exceptions - Resogun and Yakuza Ishin come to mind - the first year of PS4 exclusives was rather forgettable. Three of Sony's highest profile exclusives fell flat: Killzone Shadow Fall was a god-awful bore, Driveclub didn't work properly and Knack was roundly panned. Infamous: Second Son might be the best of that bunch, but it still managed to disappoint. Neither the city nor the characters left any lasting impression, as I sleepwalked through both good and evil playthroughs. I wouldn’t say Second Son is bad, rather a non-event that has killed off any lingering enthusiasm I had for the series.

9. Most Outstanding Tease: Metal Gear Solid V: Ground Zeroes

Ground Zeroes is a peculiar game. It is a demo for the new Fox Engine and a tease for things to come; I found enough to keep me occupied for 10 hours, but the majority of my time was spent repeating missions in an effort to clear all the trophies. Its brevity, for a MGS game, is why it didn’t receive a GOTY mention, but it was very impressive all the same. There is some cause for concern, most notably Kiefer’s underwhelming turn as Snake and Kojima’s mishandling of subjects ill-suited to MGS, but on the whole it was a mouth-watering introduction to the next phase of my favourite series.

Honourable Mention: PT (Kojima with the double!)

10. Weirdest Moment: Ryu Ga Gotoku Ishin (Yakuza Ishin)

It starts with a simple drinking game with a courtesan, one which quickly descends into a few rounds of strip junken. Before you know it, you are sexually pleasing your now pissed and partially disrobed partner by shooting Japanese phrases out of the sky, with a head mounted laser, which apparently is how they did it in nineteenth century Kyoto. Yakuza, I hope you never change.

11. Best Multiplayer: Destiny

I didn't play much multiplayer this year. Of what little I did, Destiny was the best. Despite its many, many faults, it succeeds as a social shooter, a way to catch up with friends while partaking in some relatively mindless bang-bang. Once you have tired of chatting, you can always move onto something more challenging, such as trying to kill an extra-terrestrial bullet sponge. Destiny was good at being an interactive Skype, but pretty rubbish at everything else.

12. Best Character: Middle-Earth: Shadow of Mordor's Orc ensemble

Mordor’s Nemesis system is a stroke of genius, but it wouldn’t work nearly as well if the orcs that populate it weren’t so damned entertaining. The Uruks are grotesque and bloodthirsty; most are vile creatures but some are oddly sympathetic. Some struggle to string a sentence together whereas others display a wit as sharp as your blade; some lead from the front, others are cowardly, and they all have a face that only a mother orc could love. There is an impressive amount of variation on offer and each NPC displays a level of character and personality that is missing from most, if not all games of Mordor’s ilk. This is vital when even the most unassuming character may be promoted to a larger role, if he happens to be in the right place at the right time.

Honourable Mentions: Clementine (The Walking Dead S2), Pagan Min (Far Cry 4)

13. Most Satisfying: Bayonetta 2 - Dodging in Witch Time

I wasn’t the biggest fan of Bayonetta, so I was pleasantly surprised to discover that the sequel is a far more coherent and enjoyable game, one without the infuriating difficulty spikes that plagued the original. The most satisfying aspect of Platinum’s ever fluid combat system is Witch Time, a slow-mo dodge that, when triggered with perfect timing, makes even the most deadly of foes momentarily vulnerable and made me forget that I’m bloody useless at these games.

Honourable Mentions: Brawling in Yakuza Ishin; Taking down an outpost without raising an alarm in Far Cry 4; Exploding foes in Dragon Age Inquisition

14. Biggest Guilt Trip: Far Cry 4 - Rhinos for wallets

In 2014, I killed friends, the people of Seattle, space cockneys, well-intentioned revolutionaries, angels and heart transplant patients. However, nothing made me feel guiltier than offing endangered species in Far Cry 4. Kyrat is home to an array of exotic animals, many of which I gunned down in the name of equipment upgrades. As any fashionista will tell you, the only way to increase the size of your wallet is to slaughter a family of rhino, so that’s what I did. And it was worth it, even if it did make me feel a little queasy.

Honourable Mention: Countless life-or-death decisions in The Walking Dead S2

15. Fastest Shelving: Surgeon Simulator Anniversary Edition

I thought it would be funny shit, but instead it was just shit shit. I should’ve bought Octodad.

Dishonourable Mention: The Binding of Isaac, also shit

16. Wish I’d Played Twenty Hours More: Dragon Age Inquisition

I’m really enjoying Dragon Age Inquisition. However, at twenty hours in, I know I’m only scratching the surface of a much larger game. The more I play, the more I fall for it, though it’s possible that I may begin to tire of it all once the hours start to accumulate. For now, I think it’s one of the finest games of 2014, but I can’t award GOTY honours based on such a small sample. May Andraste forgive me.

17. Worst Use of Superpowers: Infamous Second Son - Searching portaloos

You are a super-powered badass. You've got blue shit coming out of your hands and you can vault hundreds of feet into the air with little effort. Basically, you are a god in a silly hat. So why not put your awesome powers to good use by searching some portable toilets for a guy who may or may not be hiding in one of them, for a reason I can't even remember. fUN!

Dishonourable Mention: Infamous Second Son - Tagging

18. The Only DLC I bought all Year: Resogun Heroes

A year on, and Resogun is still the PS4’s best exclusive. June’s Heroes DLC was the icing on the voxel cake, introducing two new modes, the best of which was Survival. The only downside was that it reset the leaderboards, removing my Arcade high score forever, which was not appreciated. DLC aside, my Resogun experience started again this month, as I discovered that the Vita version has a separate trophy set, so I’m saving the last humans all over again!

19. Best Nostalgia Trip: Metal Gear Solid V: Ground Zeroes’ Deja Vu Mission

Recreating MGS1 scenes in Ground Zeroes is Kojima at his self-referential best. The Deja Vous mission serves as a welcome reminder that, despite the inclusion of some questionable subject matter elsewhere, MGS is as daft as ever. With Alaskan field mice, a FOXDIE scare, howling wolves, codecs on cases and even a mission ending quiz, which I aced, there’s enough here to keep any MGS fan happy beyond the four minutes it takes to complete the main mission.

20. Best Japanese-Russian Fusion: Puyo Puyo Tetris

Puyo Puyo Tetris is the best of Japan and Russia, in one tidy package. Some of the mash-up modes miss the mark, but for the most part it’s great fun, especially in local multiplayer, even if I am beyond useless at both Tetris and Puyo Puyo. My wife is constantly wiping the floor with me, but I’m committed to improving and bringing an end to her living room dominance, sometime in 2015.

21. Wish I'd Made Time For: Alien Isolation

Since playing the flawed but entertaining Alien Trilogy on the Sega Saturn, I've wanted a great Alien game. I tried Alien Resurrection, suffered through Alien vs. Predator and even played through the appalling Colonial Marines, all in the hope of recapturing some of the magic of the first two Alien films. From what I can gather, Alien Isolation might just be the game I’ve been waiting for. I bought it in October, but have not been able to fit it in, though I hope to remedy that next month, once I’ve finished with Dragon Age Inquisition.

Honourable Mention: The Evil Within

22. Most Looking forward to in 2015: Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain & Uncharted 4

The line-up for 2015 is outstanding. Metal Gear Solid V and Uncharted 4 are my most wanted, but I’m also greatly anticipating Monster Hunter 4 Ultimate, No Man’s Sky, Bloodborne, Persona 5, Yakuza 0, Resident Evil HD, Final Fantasy Type-0 HD, Just Cause 3, Zelda Wii U, Xenoblade Chronicles X and so much more. 2015 is shaping up to be the year in which the new generation comes of age, and I can’t wait.


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