My Top Ten Games of 2014

The holiday decorations are put away and New Year's shenanigans have come and gone. All that's left to put a cap on 2014 is my annual Top Ten Games of the Year list.

What makes my list unique and interesting is that it's soon accompanied by a Most Anticipated list for the following year. Then when it's time to do the end of the year list, I can compare it with last year's Most Anticipated list and see who well I can predict my favorite games. My track record isn't so great, but that's what makes it so interesting!

You can review my Most Anticipated Games of 2014. As a reminder I've posted them below:

 

  1. Starbound

  2. Broken Age

  3. Wasteland 2

  4. Dragon Age Inquisition

  5. Pillars of Eternity

  6. Titanfall

  7. South Park: The Stick of Truth

  8. Super Smash Bros. For 3DS

  9. MASSIVE CHALICE

  10. Transistor


Half of those games used Steam's Early Access program and/or Kickstarter for their funding, and six out of ten are indie games. Four of them did not release in 2014: Starbound (still in Early Access beta, over a year now!), Broken Age (Act 1 released in January, still no Act 2!), Pillars of Eternity (currently in closed beta) and MASSIVE CHALICE (currently in Early Access/beta).

My friends and I were super into Starbound at the time of this list, which had just released on Early Access. I'm a bit shocked to find the game still in Early Access beta after over a solid year, and we stopped playing around Feb/March to wait for bigger updates/changes. As a side note, the upcoming patch looks nicely massive and an overhaul to gameplay, and I'm ready to dive in again.

This was definitely the year of the Kickstarter game as many of the original 2012 multi-million dollar Kickstarter projects released this year. I was very excited for Broken Age, Wasteland 2 and Project Eternity, though the latter would be pushed to 2015.

Six out of ten games on my list were released in 2014, though one of them I still have not played... Read on to see which ones made my Top Ten Games of 2014!

Read my Top Ten Games of 2012 and Top Ten Games of 2013

 

My Top Ten Games of 2014

 

10) Dungeon of the Endless

The biggest surprise this year was the lesser known game that Amplitude Studios released (the big one being the fun but flawed Endless Legend). Dungeon of the Endless combines tower defense with a rogue-like dungeon crawler and somehow lets you play the whole thing in cooperative multiplayer. It's way more fun and addicting than it has any right to be as you navigate through doors collecting precious resources and fending off various creatures of Amplitude's sci-fi Endless universe.

 

9) Age of Wonders III

I'm normally more of a Heroes of Might and Magic fan but Triumph Studios' latest installment in the other venerable turn-based fantasy franchise has completely switched my opinion (not a big fan of Ubi's HoMM games either). Age of Wonders III is the total package with RPG stats, tactical combat, army management and dozens of maps, scenarios and campaigns. It's everything I want from a massively replayable turn-based strategy game.

 

8) Sid Meier's Civilization: Beyond Earth

Honestly the only reason the latest Civ game is above AoW3 is because my friends play it and I've gotten a lot of mileage out of multiplayer. That being said, I'm a huge Civ fan and even an okay Civ game is still a really great game. Beyond Earth wasn't even announced until E3 (or was it PAX?) of this year, and I knew it was going to be a Day One Purchase. Firaxis has done a phenomenal job with Civilization V and I while I'm enjoying the hell out of sci-fi Civ 5, I do feel that it will really hit its stride after an expansion or patch or two (just like Civ 5).

 

7) Super Smash Bros. for Nintendo 3DS/Wii U

I'm rolling both games into a single entry, as I didn't know I'd be getting a Wii U this year almost solely to play Smash Bros. based on how much fun I had with the 3DS version. The roster is gigantic, the gameplay remains solid and the new gameplay modes are a ton of fun (I actually like the 3DS version's Smash Run much more than Wii U's Smash Tour, however). Smash Bros is still the best thing to play when local multiplayer is an option, and now that all my friends got Wii U's as well, I look forward to playing Smash Wii U even more than the 3DS.

 

6) Legend of Grimrock 2

I loved the original Legend of Gimrock's nostalgic but modernly updated take on the first person dungeon crawler. It was one of my favorite games of 2012, and I was definitely looking forward to the sequel (though it oddly missed my Most Anticipated list. Had it been announced yet?). Legend of Grimrock 2 expands from a single massive dungeon into an open-world island filled with multiple dungeons, monsters, traps, puzzles and loot. Some of my favorite moments playing a game this year were from solving particularly dastardly puzzles and riddles, or discovering new secrets and hidden paths. Grimrock 2 is immensely rewarding for fans of that classic first-person party-based RPG.

 

5) Diablo: Reaper of Souls

If you had told me I'd spend over 100 hours playing Diablo 3 this year, I would have laughed. Sure my friends and I were addicted to it when it released in 2012, but I'd since shelved it with little desire to return. Suddenly a massive patch hit right before Reaper of Souls that managed to rebalance the game, remove the auction house and generally improve the entire experience. Reaper of Souls added an awesome new Act and the usual cast of new creatures, enemies and skills (and the paladin class), but the real treat was the new Adventure mode, which provided a much needed post-game mode for max level characters. Suddenly we were addicted to that classic Action-RPG formula all over again.

 

4) Hearthstone: Heroes of Warcraft

Hearthstone wasn't even on my radar going into 2014, but when it hit open Beta in February I had to check it out. Blizzard's never really disappointed me before, and they proved their competence with streamlining and perfecting genres with Hearthstone - in this case the collectible card game. It was free to play, well balanced and super addicting. It played fast with elegant, simple rules that were designed to keep each game moving quickly. You could spend real money on packs or earn gold through quests and wins to buy booster packs. We enjoyed it so much I hosted a weekly live streaming show for a solid eight months. While I'm fairly burned out of it by now, I have to recognize the sheer brilliance of my most played game of the year (and I never spent a dime).

 

3) Transistor

Though it predates my blog here on GIO, Bastion was one of my favorite games of 2011, and Supergiant's followup deserved a place on my Most Anticipated list. It did not disappoint, as Transistor immediately roped me into an intriguing and beautiful world of love, loss and a talking sword (voiced by the amazing Logan Cunningham). The real staying power for me was the ingenious real time with tactical pause combat, allowing you to set up intricate combos based on your customized skills. It's a rare game that I go back and beat again on New Game Plus and get 100% of the achievements, and with Transistor I did just that.

 

2) Dragon Age: Inquisition

A Bioware game is coming out this year? Well let me just make some room on my Top Ten list! I'm a big Dragon Age fan (2 had its problems but I still enjoyed it) and Dragon Age Inquisition combines the classic Bioware story and character-focused RPG with more open world Skyrim-inspired world building and level design. It's an interesting concept in creating a sprawling, yet grounded RPG. I admit I haven't yet finished as it came out late in the year and is pretty damn massive, but even just 30 hours in I know it's easily one of my favorite games of the year.

 

1) Divinity: Original Sin

There's some wonderful games on this list, but in the end there can be only one Game of the Year. Larian Studios' Divinity series had languished for years with consolized action-RPGs, but Original Sin promised a return to classic isometric cRPG roots. Divinity is the game Wasteland 2 should've been - a wonderfully updated beloved genre that doesn't just rely on rose-tinted nostalgia but actually builds upon what made those concepts so beloved in the first place. Combining spell effects with the environment, building your own party of adventurers and exploring a vast and punishing world (no level scaling here) is incredibly rewarding, and it's all wrapped up in some of the funniest and most enjoyable writing I've read in a video game. Oh and you can play the whole thing cooperatively with a friend. Divinity is an amazing experience and though it nearly drove me insane to finish it after nearly 90 hours and three solid months, I enjoyed nearly every minute of it immensely.

 

 

Honorable Mentions: The Banner Saga, Borderlands: The Pre-Sequel, Bravely Default, Mario Kart 8, Shadowgate, Shovel Knight, Wasteland 2


Most Disappointing: Tie - Bravely Default and Titanfall

Biggest Surprise: Divinity: Original Sin

Best Early Access/Beta Game: MASSIVE CHALICE

Best Original Music: Transistor

Best Soundtrack: Super Smash Bros. for 3DS/Wii U

Best Art Design: The Banner Saga

Best World Building/Atmosphere: Dragon Age: Inquisition

Best Writing: Tie - Dragon Age: Inquisition and Divinity: Original Sin

Best Cooperative Game: Borderlands: The Pre-Sequel

Best Game Nobody Else Played: Shadowgate

Favorite New Game Mechanic: Transistor's turn-based tactical pause

Most Innovative: Dungeon of the Endless

Best New Character: Cassandra Pentaghast (DAI)

Favorite Moment: Rooftop boss battle in Legend of Grimrock 2

Best Industry Trend: Successful Early Access and Kickstarter Games

Worst Industry Trend: Disappointing and/or buggy AAA releases

Didn't Have Time to Play: South Park: The Stick of Truth

Too Long; Didn't Finish: Dragon Age: Inquisition (but I will!)

Favorite 2013 Game of 2014: Saints Row IV

Only three out ten of my Most Anticipated Games made the list! Wasteland 2 I've been playing off and on since the beta (and while I'm loving many aspects of it, Divinity kicked its ass to the curb), Titanfall I played a bit with a friend after its E3 sale but it quickly dropped off for us and South Park I only just purchased in the Steam holiday sale as I waited patiently for its price to drop. It's not so much that I didn't enjoy these games, but more that there were lots of games I enjoyed a lot more. See my Honorable Mentions list for games that would definitely make a Top Twenty list.

I anticipated 2014 to be an amazing year for games now that new consoles were in full swing. Weirdly enough, while it was a great year it was also the year that indies surpassed AAA games in many aspects. Half of my list are indie games and I expect that ratio to hold steady as they provide bolder gameplay mechanics and new experiences. Of course as long as the likes of Blizzard, Bioware and Firaxis keep pumping out my favorite franchises, I'll be there to lap them up as well.

Hope everyone has an amazing 2015 and stay tuned for my Most Anticipated Games of 2015 list!