2014 has been a busy year for me between gaming, dadddy blogging and testing out a lot of cool things for Plug In. I’d even say this is the least gaming I’ve done in a year since I stopped playing my PS1 and waited for the PS2 to drop in price. Still, if there was a “per-person” average, I was probably well above it. After all, playing them is part of how I make my living, and I wouldn’t have it any other way. Given that, I was asked to share my personal top 10 games this year. These aren’t necessarily the “best” or the biggest blockbusters, but rather, my personal top 10. This means that unfortunately for you shooter fans, you won’t see things like Halo: Master Chief Collection.
Here are my picks in no particular order….
Bravely Default (Read Review) Nintendo 3DS – The thing about Bravely Default is that as an RPG, I doubt it hit most peoples’ radars. Yet, the thing that made Bravely Default so great was that it was an RPG without being a traditional one. It integrated standard RPG play staples with modern touches (like auto-playing the same weaponry and spells over again, and the way it brought streetpass into the mix) so well that it could feasibly appeal to the action/adventure gamers looking for a lengthy 3DS title too. Granted, the Groundhog Day-esque wind-down into the last chapter was a bit tedious at times, but it still stands as not just one of my top games of the year, but as one of my favourite RPGs of all time, and probably my favourite since the first Wild Arms back on the PS1.
Sunset Overdrive (Read Review) Xbox One – Sunset Overdrive doesn’t have a lot of grey area fan support. You either hate the game, or you love the game. Me personally, I started out thinking the mechanics would be too hard to get invested in, but after only about 20 minutes of just dedicated learning, I was free to enjoy the game itself, and what a game it was. The need to keep constant movement is the biggest key to the game, and the one thing that makes or breaks it in peoples’ eyes. Unlike traditional shooters, you can’t camp or crouch anywhere, and even if you do try, the OD find you. The flashy graphics, the light sense of humour and the over the top jokes make Sunset Overdrive a winner in addition to the stacked gameplay.
Watch Dogs (Read Review) Multiple Consoles – This is a title that will inevitably end up on many peoples’ best and worst lists of 2014. In my entire life, I don’t know that I’ve ever seen a title that’s so hot and cold among gamers than Watch Dogs. Many people (including myself) liked what it brought to the table, and the fact that it gave us a new type of concept in the world of sandbox shooters. I liked using the hacking element much more than guns, even though inevitably you couldn’t do one without the other all the time. Criticisms were how dry the content was, how limited the next gen versions seemed to be graphically and mechanically, and the less than ample controls. Still, I quite enjoyed the game – Enough that it was one of my top 10s this year. The game’s falling in price now too, so now is a good time to pick it up.
Super Smash Bros for Nintendo WiiU (Read Review) Nintendo WiiU – It’s hard for me to pick an actual Game of the Year, but Super Smash Bros for the WiiU would be near the top of my list overall. We had to wait till almost the end of the year to get it, but it was well worth the wait. I enjoyed pretty well everything about Smash Bros from the unlocks to the battle stages to the amiibo integration. The controls took a long time to get used to, but that was really the only thing I had against the game. The game itself was HUGE featuring a massive roster, a ton of battle stages and hours of entertainment with mini-games and other gameplay modes, like the Trophy Rush. Super Smash Bros for the WiiU was the top of a class of a lot of quality first party Nintendo titles this year.
Note: I’ve purposefully chosen to omit Super Smash Bros for the Nintendo 3DS (Read Review) from this list. Though it was a worthy candidate, the games had too many similar features for me to include the series twice.)
Fantasy Life (Read Review) Nintendo 3DS – Fantasy Life was a complete dark horse pick in my eyes, and a game that wasn’t even on my radar until it came up for review. In it, you start a “life” from 12 possible choices, and take your place in the virtual society. However, you have the option to switch lives and keep skills you’ve obtained enroute to trying to become the best everyman (or woman) you can be. I really liked the concept, and the way that the skills complimented each other. You might also like the fact that there’s a TON of playtime in this title, so much so that you could easily log 100 hours of playtime and not finish the game completely. Once you think you’ve reached the pinnacle of all skill classes, there’s an inexpensive DLC pack waiting for you to bolster your game that much more.
Mario Kart 8 (Read Review) Nintendo WiiU – There are two constants in life when it comes to the Mario Kart series – It’s always fun, and it always cheats. Thankfully, Mario Kart 8 cheats slightly less than previous installments (I’m looking at you, copy of Double Dash sitting on the shelf smugly looking back at me,) but you’ll still be hit with the awkward mix of lightning and blue shells based solely on the fact that you’re in first place.
That aside, this is the best Mario Kart yet, blending a lot of new tracks with a a lot of previous favourites modernized for the WiiU. The game is ridiculously easy to get into, and will provide you, and the family with hours of entertainment. Mario Kart 8 also has a personal spot in my heart forever because it was how I used to pass the time when my then-2 1/2 month old went through an awkward phase where she needed to be carrier napped during the day, so I’d walk around the house playing it while she slept strapped to my chest.
South Park: The Stick of Truth (Read Review) Multiple Consoles – It’s hard to believe it’s been almost a full year since The Stick of Truth was finally released. It had been a long time since a South Park game had hit the market, and admittedly, it didn’t have to work very hard to be the best in the franchise. Stick of Truth was a creative RPG caste in the spirit, animation and scripting of your typical South Park episode. It was so true to form and so well done that it may as well have one 10-15 hour long episode of South Park. Referencing back to jokes as far back as the first season of the series, this was a true homage to long time watchers of the series, and a fun, not too intense RPG for gamers too. If you were ever a fan of the show at any point, this is a must have, and a definite must play. Everything from the graphics to the soundtrack scream South Park, and there are plenty of laughs along the way too.
Child of Light (Read Review) Multiple Consoles – The thing about Child of Light is – Well, there’s nothing else like it. Visually, it’s one of the neatest games I’ve ever seen, and mechanically, it plays really well too. The UbiArt Framework engine is one that I’m glad Ubisoft doesn’t abuse, because it makes all of the games that come out of it look all that more special. Child of Light is an adventure/RPG blend with elements of other Ubisoft games and other RPGs integrated to make a whole game. Since the game is structured to be a lot like a fairy tale, it’s also scripted a lot in cutesy rhymes, which you’ll either really like, or grow tired of over time, but if you can move past that, it’s a great romp through the mythical land of Lemuria.
Professor Layton vs. Phoenix Wright (Read Review) Nintendo 3DS – What was my dream crossover as a puzzle gamer finally came to fruition in North America late last summer. Professor Layton vs. Phoenix Wright had a bizarre story line, but hit on all the other aspects. The game was primarily a Layton title with Wright snippets mixed in, but the crossover couldn’t have been done any better, since it needed to maintain a lot of Layton’s elements to succeed (it couldn’t have worked as well in reverse.) If you like both series’, this is probably a crossover that was weighing in on your mind too, and it was well worth the purchase price.
NBA 2K15 (Read Preview) Multiple Consoles – NBA 2K13 angered me so much as a gamer (due to the MyCareer glitch that broke contact between your created player and the coin system permanently) that I didn’t even touch NBA 2K14. I went back for NBA 2K15 thanks in part to a 2K event I attended back in October, and boy, I’m glad I did. While many of the gameplay and control elements haven’t changed in the last 2 years, the game itself remains so much fun, and probably the most interactive and broadcast-like experience in all sports gaming. You can see that the WWE and NHL series’ are trying to do all they can to keep up, but 2K is still king in that sense. NBA 2K15 is so big that it may be the only sports title you end up touching all year since it has that much replayability and features overall. It’s a must for anybody looking for a good sports game to tie up their gaming year.
Other Honorable mentions:
That’s the year in a nutshell for me. I’ve read a few things here and there where writers were declaring 2014 to be the worst year in gaming in a long time, if not since Nintendo (and to a lesser extent Sega) revived the console market in the mid-80s. I don’t agree at all. It’s hard not to cut the year some slack with everybody starting to make the leap into a new gaming generation, but it wasn’t the worst by any means. There were a lot of disappointing and sub-standard games, yes, but that’s the way it goes once in a while.
If anything, it gives you more to look forward to in 2015.
Till next year my friends,