With 2014 about to hit the rear view mirror at the end of today, we thought it was time to take a look back at the year in gaming and examine our favorite titles over the last twelve months. We have had a range of games on every console and of course with a team as diverse as ours, there are a lot of different opinions - but we had a few of the same ones as well. Usual suspects like Dark Souls II and Dragon Age: Inquisition meet less likely candidates such as Samurai Warriors 4 and Danganronpa: Trigger Happy Havoc. Here is our list of the top games of 2014.
Not everyone played each game on the different consoles, so we thought we would do something a bit different this year and ask those wishing to contribute to this list what their favorite titles were and why.
While there are a lot Indies that I would have loved to put on this list such as Sweet Lily Dreams, Last Dream, Memories of a Vagabond, and DarkEnd, my top three titles this year are pretty much AAA titles. Without further ado, here are Samurai Warriors 4, Dynasty Warriors Gundam Reborn, and Dark Souls 2.
Samurai Warriors 4
While I have plenty of experience with the Dynasty portion of the Warrior Series, this was my first entry into the Samurai Portion and it was really something for me. The tweaks to the overall system from one series to the other with having not one major move set, but two, is something that I’m going to find hard not having access to when the next Dynasty Warriors comes out. The graphics engine and the power behind the PlayStation 4 made this for one super smooth experience. Now that I’ve finally played a Samurai series, I need to get out there and try the Orochi series.
Dynasty Warriors Gundam Reborn
While Samurai Warriors 4 was something, Dynasty Warriors Gundam 4 *coughs* sorry Reborn was a dream come true. On release I spent a good 8.5 hours straight and none of it was regrettable. The finer touches done to the systems from the original 3, and the new story modes to the new graphics engine and new suits made the entire experience feel quite refined. Going back to the larger maps was a refreshing change allowing a more seamless approach instead of a tiny compartmentalized one. The DLC was a good added bonus with its suits, maps, and wonderful bundled option. The only thing missing now is a Reborn 2 to continue on.
and for my number one game of the year….
Dark Souls 2
It doesn’t get much better than this! Well maybe… but sadistically? Not really. Everything from start to finish for me within Dark Souls 2 for me was perfect. While I loved Demon’s Souls and Dark Souls there was always that little something that I had felt was missing. The latest and sadly what may be the last with the upcoming release of Blood Borne going in another direction just felt like they did everything right. I loved how Dark Souls 2 took a much more open approach as to how one could go about completing the various portions. The only thing that I am missing from Dark Souls 2 is that I actually, and sadly, have yet to play the DLC portions. This will be my Christmas present to myself as I replay it… for the third or so time.
I spent more time on the PC and 3DS than probably anything, but that is not to say I did not have a chance to play plenty of other good games. I sunk a lot of time into Bayonetta 2 on the Wii U, Far Cry 4 on the PlayStation 4 and Destiny on Xbox One. Still, none of those make my top three.
Grand Theft Auto V
I completely missed this the first time around (not because I didn't want to play it, I just was not writing here at the time and lacked the money and time to invest in it when it came out for the Xbox 360 and PS3). Luckily when it hit the PS4, I had the chance to play it and I absolutely love everything this game has to offer. There is so much to do and see and while the story was interesting enough on its own, it was wandering around the world that suited me best.
Call of Duty: Advanced Warfare
Yes, a Call of Duty game - but hear me out. I was done with Call of Duty. I played Ghosts, I played Black Ops II and... I didn't really care for either. I loved Modern Warfare 2 and Black Ops, but just about every other entry since has left me underwhelmed. I had no interest in Advanced Warfare, but I finally got around to playing it - and many hours later, I am still logging in for multiplayer mayhem. Titanfall was solid, but Call of Duty is better in every way.
Super Smash Bros.
I had this day one for the 3DS. I was still playing it when day one for the Wii U struck. Now I play it on both systems constantly. I can play on my 3DS when I am on the go, or just want to play online with people but not occupy the living room. If I am going to play with my family? Living room brawl it is. The insane number of characters, modes, options, unlockables and more make this my game of the year, hands-down.
Forza Motorsport 5: Racing Game of the Year Edition
I love racing games and one of my favorite games of all times was Top Gear for the Super Nintendo. When I was young I would rent Top Gear just before Christmas as something to do while my parents would head out to the airport to pick up my brother as he would come home from college. I spent hours upon hours playing Top Gear ... My exposure to racing games goes even farther back though, to titles like RC Pro Am (which was great) and F-Zero, but it Top Gear that laid the groundwork for my fanboy-ism. After that, with the launch of games like Gran Turismo, Forza, Test Drive, Need for Speed and Ridge Racer (some of the best arcade-style racing outside of the Burnout franchise) always brought new levels of excitement out of me as I could sit around and dream about all of the things I could do to the car as I am sliding sideways around some of these hairpin curves. While there are excellent racing simulations and games out there, and even more on the horizon, Forza Motorsports 5 is to-date, the best of the best. With a massive array of automobiles and the ability to fine-tune each and every one of them, any gearhead or car aficionado such as myself will have a virtual playground filled with the best toys one could ask for. Absolutely gorgeous graphics show off the power of the Xbox One and huge, real world circuits meticulously recreated in digital form give you no end of pleasure when it comes to your burning desire to roast some tires. It is, without a doubt, the best racing simulation of the year.
Dark Souls II
While I grew up with in an era where dungeon spelunking was difficult where you did not have maps, easy access to merchants, or any real instruction, I still found the Dark Souls and Demon Souls games difficult and a little more than intimidating. Dark Souls II changed all of that with a story that was coherent and fantastical, combat that was brutal, addicting, and simply excellent, and characters that were actually interesting without being too over the top. The overall sense of hopelessness and the oppressive atmosphere is downright amazing and the dark, dangerous dungeons where you will test your mettle are genius. Best of all, though, the brutal aspects that Dark Souls II's predecessors reintroduced to the world are in full effect, but tighter controls and better response open up the game to gamers that were skittish about the previous games (or, those like me, who were more afraid of giving themselves a heart attack due to frustration) as its focus is more on combat, albeit devastatingly difficult combat at times. Out of all of the games that came out in 2014, I spent the most time with Dark Souls II and its amazing three DLC (Crown of the Sunken King, Crown of the Ivory King and Crown of the Iron King). Dark Souls II would have, without a doubt, been 2014's Game of the Year for me, were it not for Elite: Dangerous being released...
This is my game of the year. Space-faring games have been making a comeback. With titles like Elite: Dangerous and Star Citizen having wildly successful crowdfunding campaigns other developers recognized that gamers are not only interested in space combat, space exploration, 4X space strategy games, or even space-based runners and tower defense. 2014 is, in my opinion, the "Year of Space" and Elite: Dangerous is the absolute perfect end to what is arguably one of the best years in gaming that we have seen in quite some time. When most people think of "sandbox games" their minds are (rightly) turned to titles like Grand Theft Auto, MineCraft, Read Dead Redemption and Skyrim, but Frontier Developments, the development studio behind Elite: Dangerous stepped up to the plate, all other "sandbox games" fell by the wayside. With over 400 billion star systems to visit there is no end of things to do; want to be a pirate? You can do that. Want to be a passenger hauler? Sure, no problem. Want to live out your life mining? You can do that too. Want to bring criminals to just? Easy, just outfit your speedy little Viper Mk. III with some gimbaled Pulse Lasers and a powerful Cannon or two and head out to the great unknown collecting bounties. Want to dominate the known universe but do not to go through the hassle of gunning down would-be predators? Simple, make your fortune trading on the open market or, for the riskier types, the black market. Ship designs are stellar, graphics are stunning, music is spectacular (with a few classical tracks that most people will recognize), and best of all, for a space combat/trading/mining simulator, it is actually quite easy to pick up and play. Released on December 16, 2014, Elite: Dangerous is by far the best space-based game that I have played in many years...
My list is probably a bit more... extensive than most. Benefits of being Editor-in-Chief here, but I spent a lot of time on a number of systems playing games from a variety of genres. This has been my favorite year in gaming in some time. I am going to try and make sure I touch on each system in some way here.
Persona 4 Arena Ultimax
This fighter gave me plenty of reason to keep going back to my Xbox 360 this year. I had some great Telltale games like The Wolf Among Us and the start to Tales from the Borderlands in there as well, but for me Persona 4 Arena Ulimax came out on top. The combat was slick, the characters I adored from the Persona games were back and there were enough modes to keep me coming back for more. Not really an exclusive to the Xbox 360 (it showed up on PS3 as well), but easily my most played game on that platform this year.
Battle Princess of Arcadias
I used my PlayStation 3 for a ton of different games, but many of them were cross-platform. While that does not necessarily exclude of them, I tried to think of something I enjoyed on PlayStation 3 and came up with this action title loaded with strategic gameplay and RPG elements. It has quirky characters and an enjoyable visual style that helped make Battle Princess of Arcadias memorable to me months later.
Danganronpa: Trigger Happy Havoc
The sequel was technically better, but Trigger Happy Havoc had a slightly more memorable story and conclusion. Mechanically speaking, Danganronpa 2 was an improvement, but there is something about the core tale and characters found in Trigger Happy Havoc that stand out to me even today. Parts point-and-click adventure and visual novel, there is a dark humor present throughout the game that makes it an almost guilty pleasure. It is worth mentioning that Disgaea 4: A Promise Revisited is an absolutely outstanding game for the Vita, but seeing as it is a remake of the PS3 title, it feels a bit less 'must own' to those who played its previous iteration.
The Vita had a pretty strong year, but so did the 3DS. Smash Bros and Persona Q were excellent reasons to open up your 3DS, but Bravely Default still stands as one of my favorite overall games this year. It feels like an old school Final Fantasy game, but with plenty of modern amenities that makes Bravely Default worth investing dozens of hours into.
Halo: The Master Chief Collection had potential, but launch problems and the fact that the games really are just remakes of prior ones make me feel like it does not quite hold up as the best Xbox One title this year. I also enjoyed games like Child of Light and Titanfall. Lords of the Fallen also stands as a great deal of fun for me, but at the end of the day (or year in this case), Sunset Overdrive's quirky humor, bright visuals and unique style of mobile combat stood out to me in a way no other game on the Xbox One did this year.
Divinity: Original Sin
Like Bravely Default, there is something decidedly old school about the way Divinity feels, yet plenty of modern interface design choices make it a pleasure to play and not a chore like so many older titles. Decisions have weight. Combat is suitably deep and strategic. The inclusion of the companion NPC (or the ability to play cooperatively) flesh out the package.
Samurai Warriors 4
I am going to agree with pretty much everything PY had to say above. There were some other titles that came close. Velocity was an excellent downloadable title, though an update on a game that had shown up on prior platforms. Ditto The Last of Us, which is one of my favorite titles of all time to this point. Samurai Warriors 4 has so much to be done within the confines of such a large game, but it also takes the tried-and-true 'Warriors' formula to new heights along the way. The best 'Warriors' game of any sort I have played yet. It was not specific to PS4, but that was the console I played it on the most.
Mario Kart 8
Last of my platform specific titles here, but I cannot overstate how important Mario Kart 8 was to Nintendo this year. Hyrule Warriors, Bayonetta 2 and Super Smash Bros were excellent titles, but Mario Kart 8 gave the Wii U all new life right before summer arrived and its DLC has kept the fun alive and well. I spent nearly three hours playing this with every member of my family on Thanksgiving eve - including my oldest daughter and wife who do not even really play video games most of the time. It has that much broad appeal.
So, to wrap up my rather huge list... my top three games of the year:
3rd place: Dark Souls II
I enjoyed this one enough that I played it on both PC and Xbox 360 - and was still excited to hear that it may be coming to Xbox One and PlayStation 4 later. It is dank, scary, intense and (mostly) fair as it teaches you its rules in often brutal fashion. Adapt or lose. I chose to adapt time and time again. Three excellent DLC packages kept me coming back for more as well.
2nd place: Middle-earth: Shadow of Mordor
This was a close one. This easily could have been my game of the year. Batman's combat meets stealth from Assassin's Creed with plenty of open world Skyrim-like exploration. The Nemesis system was brilliant and I never got tired of hunting for new captains and war chiefs. Even better, I still recall the thrill of taking on multiple ones at the same time.
1st place: Dragon Age: Inquisition
You know a game has staying power when I was over seventy hours in and still realizing that I was maybe roughly halfway through the storyline. Most side quests felt organic, the characters were interesting, the decisions I made often felt important and while there were some things I wish it could have done better (like jumping about on the map when trying to reach difficult locations), these feel like minor nitpicks next to the enormity of the overall game. Even with all of the time I sunk into it, I found myself wanting to start up a second game after my first one drew to its conclusion. A fitting third title to one of my favorite gaming franchises.
We want to thank all of our readers for not just making their way through this massive article (seriously, we hope you enjoyed it!), but also for spending so much of your time with us in 2014. Chalgyr's Game Room posted more reviews and articles than ever, and if 2014 was any indication, 2015 will be even better for everyone involved!
We will be taking a bit of time off from articles this week and will resume our normal articles on January 5th. We wish you all a safe and fun New Year!