2014 sure had a lot of ups and many downs, so check out what games were on the up-and-up this year to make my Top 10 of 2014.
Hot off of the record-setting launches that the Xbox One and PlayStation 4 had last year, it was great to see their post launch droughts be mitigated a bit by indies, though Sony obviously got the better end of that straw because they have nothing to discourage developers to work on their system like Microsoft’s parity clause. That simple little clause is what causes Microsoft’s console to miss out on so many great games, four alone on my Top 10, and it’s a shame that there are plenty of developers with actual Xbox One development kits that just don’t have the resources to simultaneously make games for Xbox One and any other platform they hoped to release on at launch, which causes their customers to become second class citizens despite what Phil Spencer claims is the entire reason for this clause’s existence. I really hope Phil stops being so blind to what the ID@Xbox parity clause has done to impact its digital library and his customers and rightfully opens up the floodgates to more developers since that is the whole point of his job.
I also wanted to talk a bit about one of the biggest issues we’ve seen this year in games and that is GamerGate, which is an incredibly disingenuous movement that started this past summer by claiming it was about fighting corruption and unethical elements of gaming journalism but has accomplished nothing in pursuit of that goal. Instead, they’ve falsely recruited innocent people to this cause that probably had genuine concerns about the real issues we face in this line of work and are usually pretty open about them, but they’ve been mostly used to fight a war against feminists in games development and games journalism. As much as those in GG that try to claim anti-GG as a side, they fail to realize that its GamerGate versus the rest of the World that lives in reality where the issues they obsess about are somehow worth all of the harassment and terror that they’ve caused for many others that dare oppose them. Luckily, they’ve burned so many bridges that their typical route of emailing/bombarding advertisers no longer works as the people on the fringe of the gaming industry that weren’t in the know before are fully aware of the shenanigans of GamerGate and won’t punish those that manage to offend the overly sensitive hate group.
Back to a much lighter note, let’s get to my top 10 games of 2014:
10. The Swapper – PS4, PS3, Vita, Wii U
The puzzle platformer genre is one that has been overly saturated by indies over the past few years, so when a game like The Swapper stands out above the rest, you should pay it some attention. This game is full of the same sorts of “Holy Crap!” realizations about what my abilities really allowed me to do, such as in Portal, that changed how I could play the game and solve puzzles, which makes it such a special game that more of you need to check out.
9. Sunset Overdrive – Xbox One
While Insomniac Games may not have had the best time transitioning from making great Ratchet & Clank games to doing other things outside of their norm, Sunset Overdrive was a great return to form for them as this open-world sandbox game just oozes fun and chaos all over the place. Not many developers can make it fun to get around an open world, but Sunset Overdrive is built on that foundation and encourages you to do the most ridiculous things possible to take down zombies, monsters, robots, and scavengers and survive to expose the evil energy drink company for what it really is.
8. Velocity 2X – PS4, Vita
The original Velocity was such a great game that it should’ve been tough for the team at FuturLab to top themselves with a sequel, especially one that took the risk of adding platforming to its excellent shooter mechanics since most games struggle to mix two different genres in one and come out anywhere close to games that focus on one. Velocity 2X instead turned out to be an amazing game that blends these two genres in an awesome way that heightens the adrenaline rush you get as you try to beat par times and do everything else needed to get the best marks on every level.
7. Transistor – PS4, PC
Strategy RPGs have been very slow to evolve over the past few generations once Final Fantasy Tactics hit the stage and encouraged everybody else to just copy its approach to the genre endlessly, so Transistor was a huge breath of fresh air to play with its freedom to combine your various abilities into new attacks, buffs, and other skills to radically change how your version of Red takes down enemies.
6. Persona Q: Shadow of the Labyrinth – 3DS
I wasn’t sure what to expect about this mash-up of the Persona world and battle system with Etrian Odyssey’s dungeon crawling system, but it was obvious early on that this was a match-made-in-heaven as Persona Q is a great melding of the two franchises that works extremely well on the 3DS.
5. Middle-earth: Shadow of Mordor – PS4, Xbox One, PC
I may feel like this game didn’t do enough to solve the convoluted parkour control problems of the Assassin’s Creed games, but the fact that it drew me in to playing it for 60 hours before writing
up a review on it says a ton about how fun it is to just BS in Shadow of Mordor and still feel like you’re accomplishing something.
4. Shovel Knight – Wii U, 3DS, PC
While there are many, many indie games that try to emulate that retro-style experience with their games, few really accomplish that while having an identity of its own like Shovel Knight has done. It feels like an amalgamation of many ideas from games both retro and modern, but it comes together in such a way that it feels like something that is one-of-a-kind in its execution and depth. I have a feeling that this game is only getting started in terms of recognition with the upcoming content updates that are planned and its expansion to new platforms next year.
3. Rogue Legacy – PS4, PS3, Vita
If you want to know how good of a game Rogue Legacy is on the Vita, I am terrible at this game with hundreds of generations dying in this wretched castle while I struggle to beat bosses, but I cannot stop playing this game with that addictive “one more try” feeling that keeps me going. I may never actually beat the game, but I’ll be okay with that as long as I can still buy some upgrades and some new equipment to continue trying.
2. The Binding of Isaac: Rebirth – PS4, Vita, PC
It was nice to finally see The Binding of Isaac be freed from its overbearing Flash engine with Rebirth to reach its full potential on PS4, Vita, and PC. The mash-up of dual-stick shooting and Zelda-style dungeons within a Roguelike-style framework works beautifully to make the disturbing and disgusting subject matter palatable because it’s so much fun to see what each run has to offer and make new discoveries every single time.
1. Diablo III: Reaper of Souls – Ultimate Evil Edition – PS4, Xbox One
I had never played a Diablo game until this past summer when I grabbed the PC version and the new PS4 version, so I was surprised at just how good of a job Blizzard had done to improve this game since the troubled launch of server troubles and the real money auction house that plagued its image then. Now on PS4, Blizzard made an amazing action RPG that has a ton of content, a really smart control scheme that fits the DualShock 4 really well, and is just as addictive as it is fun to play whenever I get some free time to spend hacking down enemies for more loot to make my Crusader a stronger force to be reckoned with.
It was hard to cut down my list of favorite games this year to just these ten, but it’s the sort of hard work we have to do this time of year. I appreciate everybody that manages to read this part of my article and hope you enjoy the remaining festivities in our Game of the Year presentation.