Alright, 2014 was a pretty bad year, generally speaking. That doesn’t mean the games had to be! Let’s do this.
10 – Call of Duty: Advanced Warfare
Call of Duty is one of those franchises that I play every year and enjoy every year. Advanced Warfare felt like a true breath of fresh air in a series that was beginning to stagnate — because let’s face it, Ghosts sucked. The Exo Suits, which at first blush seem like a fairly pedestrian addition, actually change the core CoD formula in some significant ways. It’s the best Call of Duty game since CoD4, and I’m really unsure how they’re going to handle the series going forward. And, oh man, Kevin Spacey’s performance. You gotta play that campaign just to experience it.
9 – Hyrule Warriors
Who knew that a Legend of Zelda Dynasty Warriors mashup would produce a game that’s so much pure enjoyment? The weird modes they added (like Adventure mode) in addition to a sizable roster (including Zant, a.k.a. The Best Legend of Zelda Villain Ever) and a TON of little customization secured Hyrule Warriors as one of my favorite games this year.
Oh yeah, and you can play as Midna. Who doesn’t wanna slap pig dudes around with a giant shadow hand? Nobody. At least, nobody I wanna know.
8 – Bravely Default
It’s a badly-kept secret that I am all about some Japanese Role-Playing Games. I even genuinely enjoy Final Fantasy XIII, a game that’s almost universally loathed. Bravely Default is reminiscent of a time when JRPGs were simpler, but still contained an incredible amount of depth in the character customization and world building. Bravely Default grossly overstays its welcome, and the story isn’t anything to write home about, but it’s an intensely enjoyable experience.
7 – World of Warcraft: Warlords of Draenor
When Mists of Pandaria — the fourth expansion for WoW — was announced, I was pretty tepid. I ended up enjoying it because it’s more World of Warcraft, but when Warlords of Draenor was unveiled, I was on board immediately. Instead of creating a new class or race, they instead focused on content, story, and interesting things to do at max level — something that Mists sorely lacked at launch.
6 – Infamous: Second Son
I didn’t care much for Infamous. I played about three hours of Infamous 2 and got bored. I played all the way through Infamous: Second Son in two sittings, because I enjoyed it so much. The incredibly detailed world, the quirky characters, the incredible facial detail and animation, and the best use of color this side of the console generation kept drawing me back in.
5 – Nidhogg
Nidhogg is one of those couch competitive games where the players’ attitudes rapidly vacillate between “NO FUCK YOU” and “Oh, man, that was a really nice sword throw.” It’s this kind of intensity and chaos that makes Nidhogg something extraordinarily special. It’s funny that it came out at the beginning of 2014, because it feels like it’s been around for much longer.
4 – Binding of Isaac: Rebirth
Every year I have a game on my list that I say I come back to every week or so and play obsessively for a couple of days. Rebirth is one of those games. I never got too into the original Binding of Isaac, because engine limitations made it feel and play somewhat awkwardly. Rebirth addresses this and makes the game a treat to play, while keeping all that delicious design that makes it incredibly addictive, rewarding, and infuriating — often in the span of 10 seconds.
3 – Dragon Age: Inquisition
Frankly, I’m surprised I liked any games this year more than DA:I. Incredible world-building, terrific voice cast, oodles of mechanical depth, and the amazing characterizations that Bioware is so well known for easily make this one of the best games of 2014.
2 – Diablo III: Reaper of Souls
Okay, look. I know, Diablo III came out in 2012. And yeah, I know that Reaper of Souls isn’t a completely new game.
But that’s fine, because it feels like it. It brings innovation to loot and progression in some key ways that Diablo III seemed to fail so miserably. I played Diablo III for maybe fifty or sixty hours; I spent well over two hundred with Reaper of Souls. From Adventure Mode, to an entirely new seven hour Act of the game, to Seasonal progression, Reaper of Souls has a disgusting amount of content for $40.
1 – Luftrausers
Yeah. Luftrausers. It surprised me, too. I wasn’t super hyped about Luftrausers when it was close to release; I’d heard that it was a kind of arcade-style score-based game, and I usually don’t get too deep into those. I hate NiGHTS. But Luftrausers has that special something, what is being called “one more game syndrome” — you just don’t wanna stop playing it. Racking up a high score, completing personal objectives, and unlocking new airplane parts are just the surface of what Luftrausers has to offer.
It also has a dope soundtrack. Like, seriously. Grimy, disgusting bass underlining grinding, sliding synth. It’s incredible.
And it’s $10!
Honorable Mentions: Jazzpunk, Grand Theft Auto V Next-Gen (piss off Gary!), Divinity: Original Sin, Wasteland 2, Banished, Transistor, Tropico 5
So you’ve seen them. My favorite games this year. Several games surprised me; others I was pretty sure would be on this list before they even came out. Here’s hoping 2015 will be a better year!