While the whole editorial staff contributed to our 2014 awards, we wanted to allow everybody the opportunity to publicly name their personal top 10 games of the year. While many did play the majority of releases in 2014, please remember that unlike our main awards, the editors are not naming the *best* games, but their personal favorites out of the selection they played.
10. Dark Souls II
(PC / PS3 / 360, Namco Bandai / From Software)
Oh, Dark Souls II. How many sleepless nights I’ve spent in your grasp, unable to pass an area, but unable to shy away from my destiny of beating you. The Souls series has quickly gone from a niche game to a descriptive term used when people mean “roguelike” and the release of Dark Souls II came at us like a speeding AAA bullet. The game takes everything we’ve loved about the series, makes it harder, and gives us more of it. The great thing about it is that it truly lets you carve your own adventure. There’s hardly any story and the ordeal can be tackled in numerous different ways. It truly feels like you’re in the adventure. Thankfully you don’t die for real when you die in the game, however, as I’d be dead at least 7,152 times.
(PS4 / XBO / PS3 / 360, Activision / Bungie)
I remember coming out of my meeting with Bungie at E3 2012 and being enamored with Destiny, but having no idea what it was. Was it an FPS? MMORPG? Action game? Transcendent experience that will revolutionize everything? If Activision was to be believed, it was the last of those possibilities, but when Destiny dropped the disappointing truth became obvious: it was a game and one that we’ve experienced many times before. Those who have played titles such as Monster Hunter or Phantasy Star Online had played the basic formula years before Destiny came out and the end result was undeniably disappointing. That being said, however, although a victim of hype, what was here was great and highly addictive. Venturing off with friends and taking down enourmous baddies is as fun as it ever was and Destiny offers the act in a highly polished package. It’s hard to not look back at what could have been, but what Destiny is remains better than the bulk of games in 2014.
8. South Park: The Stick of Truth
(PC / PS3 / 360, Ubisoft / Obsidian)
Honestly, I’m about as surprised that this game actually exists as I am that it’s not awful. The victim of a franchise that has produced garbage video games during its existence and a publisher that went defunct before it was published, South Park: The Stick of Truth could have been an unmitigated disaster. Instead, however, Ubisoft picked it up out of the ashes and proved that Obsidian and Matt and Trey actually put their all into the product and produced a game that truly feels like playing through a season of South Park. The gameplay is solid and the jokes are mostly hilarious and quite honestly top most of what has been produced in the past few seasons of the television show.
7. The Evil Within
(PS4 / XBO / PC / PS3 / 360, Bethesda Softworks / Tango Gameworks)
Looking around at our other editor’s Best of 2014 lists, I’ve noticed a glaring omission: The Evil Within. Although released only a few months ago, Shinji Mikami’s return to horror has seemingly been largely forgotten. That’s a shame, because it’s far and away one of the most interesting games of the year. The atmosphere created is suitably creepy and the gameplay is solid. It’s also painfully hard if not played on the lowest difficulty, which makes it reminiscent of the survival horror of old. It has shortcomings and it doesn’t come close to matching Resident Evil 4, but it’s a great old school survival horror experience in a world where games of its ilk seem to be dying off.
6. Fantasia: Music Evolved
(XBO / 360, Microsoft Studios / Harmonix)
A Kinect game based on Fantasia? That doesn’t exactly sound like it’d be in our wheelhouse, but within seconds of first experiencing the game at GDC 14 it became clear just how special this was. Developed by Harmonix, Fantasia: Music Evolved takes the best of what the developer has learned from its years in the genre and adds a layer of Disney magic thin enough to get its original IP across without pandering. Forget the Disney angle altogether and you’re left with far and away the best use of the Kinect for a rhythm game since its inception. Not only does it work beautifully, but remixing songs on the fly is a great experience that let’s you feel like you’re composing your own music. If you have ever had fun with a rhythm title, you owe it to yourself to experience Fantasia.
5. Captain Toad: Treasure Tracker
(Wii U / Nintendo)
Toad has always been a loveable associate of Mario, but I never realized just how gosh darn adorable he was until his guest role as a Treasure Tracker in Super Mario 3D World. Nintendo realized how solid these levels were and decided to make a spin-off title. Instead of being a cash-grab, however, the adorability and playability were ramped up to 11 and we’re left with a game that you want to hug at all times. Simply seeing little Toad walk around with his headlamp is worth the price of admission alone, but its clever puzzle design makes it reminiscent of the clever games of the ’90s. Addictive, simple (but challenging) and fun, Captain Toad is what gaming is all about.
4. Middle-earth: Shadow of Mordor
(PS4 / XBO /PC, Warner Bros. Interactive Entertainment / Monolith Productions)
Leading up to its release, everything we’d seen from Mordor had looked great, but we feared that it might not come together. Maybe it was the fact that it wasn’t being hyped or that it was a licensed property, but Mordor could have easily been a passable action game to cash in on its namesake. Instead, however, Monolith developed an experience that culled from the best of action gaming from the past several years (including a heavy influence from the Arkham games) and added a highly innovative “Nemesis System” that even got some of the best and brightest minds in the industry excited.
3. Danganronpa: Trigger Happy Havoc
(PS Vita, NIS America / Spike Chunsoft)
I remember when I posted the first article about Danganronpa: Trigger Happy Havoc, I literally had to fact check what I was reading. A killer teddy bear takes over a high school and forces the students to murder each other? That is one bold plot (especially in 2013) that could only come from Japan, so it’s a minor miracle that NISA was willing to take the risk of publishing at all. Instead of being a one trick gimmick, Trigger Happy Havoc ended up being a huge visual novel experience chocked full of intrigue, humor and twists at every corner. It captivates the same way a good book does, where a few minutes before bed soon turns into sun creeping into your bedroom. With a great plot, well-written dialogue and identifiable characters, Danganronpa proved accessible enough to bring visual novels to gamer’s attention in 2014.
2. Danganronpa 2: Goodbye Despair
(PS Vita, NIS America / Spike Chunsoft)
What what what!? Two Danganronpas on the same list? That’s exactly right. Instead of focusing on the better Danganronpa and leaving the other one out in the cold simply because they were released the same year, I’m treating both equally. Although they came out in rapid fire succession, both were 30+ hour fully formed experiences that easily stand on their own. Both were similar, but Dangronpa 2 was the Aliens to Dangnronpa 1’s Alien, meaning that it took the basic formula and expanded upon nearly every aspect. A bigger world, more characters, more action, bigger surprises. There wasn’t a moment in the game where you weren’t at the edge of your seat and Monomi (AKA Usami) was an absolutely adorable addition. If we could have two Danganronpas every year, the world would be a better place.
1. Call of Duty: Advanced Warfare
(PS4 / XBO, Activision / Sledgehammer Games)
Call of Duty: Advanced Warfare is what the series is all about; finding ways to improve upon a tried and true formula. I’m a passionate defender of 2013’s Ghosts because I felt that it offered up one of the tightest multiplayer experiences since the first Modern Warfare and some of the best designed maps of the series, but it did admittedly have a flaw: it didn’t add anything fresh. The campaign was a blast, but poorly structured enough that it didn’t really give the game an identifiable vibe it could take into multiplayer. Advanced Warfare remedied that by adding exoskeletons that make the core experience different enough to sink more of your life into. Although not a monumental change, quite frankly it’d be hard to go back to playing the series without the new abilities. Adding leaping into the proceedings simply makes it more fun and all of the ancillary abilities added add more strategy. Combine fantastic multiplayer with one of the better single player campaigns and Call of Duty: Advanced Warfare is an undeniable success that managed to keep the series fresh whilst toppling all challengers in its wake.