As in years past, I’ve compiled a list of the best games I played in 2014. While some might say 2014 was a slump year for gaming, I felt the case was quite the opposite – granted, some of the titles on this list were not released in this year, but a large chunk of the titles I played this year were released in a window between late 2013 through 2014. In each year prior to this one, I narrowed my ‘games of the year’ down to a select five. However, I felt that doing so this year would serve a great injustice to many of the titles I found to be simply exceptional this year. As such, this year’s list will consist of the ten best games I played in 2014, and will be split into two parts. Keep in mind that the order of these games on this list is not necessarily representative of the score I gave each of them in my reviews, rather a ranking based on which games were the most enjoyable and impressed me the most.
#10) Persona 4: Mixing up many staples of the JRPG genre, Persona 4 offers very deep and rewarding quests both inside dungeons and Inaba’s small town locales like the market, high school, and riverbed. Persona 4 requires you to choose your path wisely, as the social links between characters which will grant you the ability to summon stronger Personas attributed with specific Arcana as well as pave the way to a greater understanding of your friends and party members, cannot all be completed in a single playthrough. There are plenty of ways to boost your stats, from sports and after-school activities, to visiting a local restaurant during one of their rainy day promotions, and each player will naturally prefer certain party members based on skill set and personalities. The game’s greatest flaw unfortunately arrives during the endgame stretch, wherein the story and gameplay become so streamlined and uninvolved on the part of the player, that it becomes a dry, monotonous routine of highlight segments, with no downtime to specialize or focus on specific characters or tasks in-between – perhaps this lull would have been less jarring if the game provided any implication that it was coming.
#9) Grand Theft Auto V: My first proper exploration of Rockstar’s long-running open-world series, GTA V provided me with hours of entertainment, whether it was Trevor’s off-the-wall psychotic antics, Michael’s spiral back into the criminal lifestyle, Franklin’s dreams of grandeur, or simply barreling through downtown Los Santos in a newly-acquired sportscar. The radio chatter and classic rock and hip-hop tunes give Los Santos and its surrounding areas as much in the way of specific flair and identity to the experience as conversations with NPCs and the crazy drug runs, heists, and assassination gigs do. These elements not only steer the direction of the gameplay, they shape the satirical cast of characters and story. While there is a ton to do in GTA V and its easy to get lost in side missions, races, or simply the adventure of exploring this fictional world, Rockstar has done a maginificent job in providing a solid balance of both quantity and quality in what is believed to be their biggest game yet.
#8) Kid Icarus: Uprising: The hybrid between on-rails flying/shooting sections and ground-based action/adventure segments comes across as a bit strange at first glance, but both portions of game design handle quite well, if not with some notable differences. Kid Icarus: Uprising is a game that offers plenty of freedom in selecting and upgrading weapons, and incorporates a smart risk/reward system through its higher difficulty settings. The aesthetic of Greek and Roman mythology is apparent from the outset, but the real charm comes from the humorous interaction between the characters and references to other retro Nintendo properties. Kid Icarus: Uprising could have been a quick and enjoyable experience had it capped out at its initial false ending, but the fact that its lifespan is extended nearly three-fold and it manages to incorporate so much variety into its level and enemy designs makes this 3DS exclusive a real treat – its biggest hindrance being the tax that the frenetic gameplay and somewhat unorthodox control scheme takes on your hands after playing a few stages in succession.
#7) Kirby: Triple Deluxe: Of all its design points, I never expected to be so thoroughly impressed with the manner in which Kirby’s latest outing utilized the 3DS’ internal gyroscope. Puzzles are more immersive as a result, while the 3D effect enchances the implementation of foreground and background items and foes immensely. The story of Kirby: Triple Deluxe is not terribly complicated, though I do wish it had been just a tad longer. Still, its visual presentation is superb, its soundtrack more experimental than what fans might expect of the series, and the final battle intense and challenging, albeit more in line with the tones and aesthetic of something like Final Fantasy.
#6) DmC: Devil May Cry: A bold reimagining for the Devil May Cry series, this new entry, handled by Ninja Theory, boasts what is easily the most fast and fluid combat in the series. Enemies sport varying grotesque statue designs, and the entire world drifts back and forth between a punk Eastern European metropolis and an ethereal realm where the forces of hell sport their true colors. This new, younger Dante spouts profanities left and right, along with cheesy insults, and the dialogue from his more calm brother Vergil as well as any given one of the demonic bosses is similarly cliché, but it is nonetheless entertaining and works well for a series that always opted for the spectacular and over-the-top.