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Game Informer Best Of 2014 Awards

by Jeff Marchiafava on Jan 07, 2015 at 11:36 AM

Even as the PlayStation 4 and Xbox One gained a firm foothold in the industry, 2014 lacked the masterpiece titles that gamers have grown accustomed to in previous years. Don't get us wrong – there were plenty of great games to play on our new- and old-gen systems alike, but every title seemed to have its drawbacks and detractors, making this year's Top 50 list harder than ever to put together.

While you can check out our full Top 50 list in the latest issue of Game Informer, we're giving you a peek at the best of the best. Below are our Top 50 award winners, which include platform exclusives, genre standouts, the best multiplayer experiences, and much more, as decided by the Game Informer staff.

Best Xbox One Exclusive: Sunset Overdrive
Sunset Overdrive is Insomniac Games' best effort in years, and one of the most unique experiences of the year. Although the focus is squarely on slaying mutants in the face of an apocalypse, the action blends Ratchet & Clank's gonzo weaponry with Tony Hawk's combo-laden city traversal. This odd amalgamation works well for the wacky missions and free-wheeling city exploration.

Best PlayStation 4 Exclusive: Infamous Second Son
New series lead Delsin Rowe is a superhero sponge, capable of absorbing the powers of any Conduit that crosses his path. His personality is grating, but Rowe's combat prowess dazzles. Second Son is one of the most visually stunning games of the new console generation, painting Seattle vibrantly as particle effects dance amid the frenzied battles.

Best PC Exclusive: Divinity: Original Sin
With a tactical combat system and excellent party customization, Larian Studios' epic RPG is all about freedom of choice. Move through the world as a destroyer of townsfolk, a hero, or something between the extremes. Discovery is around every corner as you master the satisfying elemental combat interactions, and you can even bring a friend along to play co-op.

Best Wii U Exclusive: Bayonetta 2
Platinum Games' stylish witch returns for another action-packed adventure that defies reason. Why are you fighting on a jet? Why are burning chainsaws strapped to your feet? Don't worry about it – instead, relish the precise and polished combat that provides all the depth and variety you could ask for. It may look like mayhem, but you're always in complete control.

Best 3DS Exclusive: Persona Q: Shadow of the Labyrinth
Persona Q combines two of Atlus' popular series, Persona and Etrian Odyssey, for thrilling results. The charismatic Persona characters keep things entertaining as you crawl through harrowing dungeons with fun themes. Throw in hard-fought victories and a complex battle system and Persona Q is strong on all fronts.

Click the next page to see our best handheld exclusives, competitive multiplayer, and more.

Best Vita Exclusive: Danganronpa: Trigger Happy Havoc
The PlayStation Vita has continued to transform into an indie and Remote Play machine, but Sony's flagging handheld scored one big exclusive in the form of Danganronpa: Trigger Happy Havoc. Spike Chunsoft's unpredictable murder mystery kept us glued to our touchscreens, despite the psychological toll of the dark narrative.   

Best Mobile Exclusive: Monument Valley
In a year where most mobile titles served up stale formulas and endless microtransactions, Ustwogames' vivid puzzle game reminded us that art and creativity still have a place on our smartphones and tablets. We wouldn't have minded if the puzzles were more challenging, but the striking graphics and cohesive vision have us eager to see what the developer does next.

Best Competitive Multiplayer: Hearthstone: Heroes of Warcraft
Hearthstone is built on competitive multiplayer, and its overwhelming popularity proves the free-to-play collectible card game's foundation is strong. The right mix of strategy, luck, and an exceptional matchmaking infrastructure has kept players continually butting heads in the arena and ranked, and coming back for more.

Best Cooperative Multiplayer: Destiny
Destiny has received no end of flak from some gamers, but others can't pry themselves away from Bungie's sci-fi shooter. Why? The grind-focused loot and leveling systems all funnel back into the exceptional cooperative multiplayer. Destiny's challenging raids will test even the most disciplined teams, and we look forward to tackling future expansions with friends.

Best MMO: World of Warcraft: Warlords of Draenor
WoW's latest expansion refines and refreshes the 10-year-old MMO. The new Garrison feature allows players to develop their own fortresses alongside traditional dungeons, raids, and questing. Many of the old systems have small-but-significant changes that keep things fresh during the leveling process and beyond, and new players can jump right into the game at level 90.

Click the next page to see our best action, adventure, and shooter awards.

Best Action: Middle-earth: Shadow of Mordor
The legendary Lord of the Rings series finally got the video game treatment it deserved thanks to Monolith Productions. Set between The Hobbit and The Fellowship of the Ring, Talion's adventure focuses on mutilating orcs with bad-ass, Arkham Asylum-style combat and manipulating their ranks thanks to the ingenious Nemesis System.

Best Adventure: Danganronpa: Trigger Happy Havoc
The demented bear Monokuma locks 15 students in a school and promises freedom to anyone who kills a classmate and gets away with it. Players watch as the colorful cast cracks under the pressure and backstabs each other to avoid becoming the next victim. The great writing, unpredictable characters, and tense courtroom trials make Danganronpa an intriguing and surprising experience.

Best Simulation: This War Of Mine
War is a bleak, awful thing that affects far more people than the gun-toting soldiers often glorified in games. This War of Mine focuses on survivors of a war-torn Eastern European city, scavenging for food and supplies just to survive the fighting. Decisions have deep repercussions, potentially driving your survivors to suicide. It's a grim yet important look into the realities of war.

Best Racing: Mario Kart 8
Mario Kart is practically required ownership alongside every Nintendo console; the series is always popular and high quality, but Mario Kart 8 tops all its predecessors. With solid racing, new weapons, gravity-defying courses, and a replay mode that highlights the fantastic visuals, Mario Kart 8 is easily among the best of the Wii U's offerings.

Best Shooter: Destiny
After much anticipation, this year finally brought us the new shooter franchise from the creators of Halo. A confusing story and grind-focused leveling turned some players off to Destiny, but millions of others flocked to it night after night for months. With patches and expansions changing the experience, we foresee a long life ahead for Bungie's shared-world social playground.

Click the next page to see our best role-playing, strategy, and remastered game awards.

Best Role-Playing: Dragon Age: Inquisition
BioWare is one of the most respected RPG developers in the industry, and the latest installment of Dragon Age reminds us why. While many elements of the series have changed over the years, the memorable characters, nuanced storyline, and ability to create your own character and shape the future of Thedas with your decisions remain as strong as ever, making Inquisition the best Dragon Age game yet.

Best Strategy: Civilization: Beyond Earth
Strategy gamers have longed to launch their civilizations into outer space for years, and Beyond Earth finally gives them the chance. Firmly rooted in the mechanics that made recent Civ games so engaging, Beyond Earth adds new complexities built around confronting an alien world, growing a new society, and building technology light years ahead of today's world. 

Best Rhythm/Music: Fantasia: Music Evolved
Kinect support has all but dried up as developers tried and failed to make sense of the peripheral. Harmonix has held out, and we're grateful. Fantasia drops players into bizarre soundscapes, letting them manipulate songs with their bodies. You may think you know what to expect from a music game, but Fantasia is unlike anything you've played before.

Best Sports: FIFA 15
The FIFA series finally plays as good as it looks, giving players unprecedented control and producing both more realistic and surprising outcomes. This is wedded to one of the best feature sets in sports games, with more friendly match options and a bolstered Ultimate Team via loans and mock concept squads. The ball, and the world, is at your feet.

Best Remastered Game: Grand Theft Auto V
Improved visuals are one thing, but Rockstar's new-gen re-release of Grand Theft Auto V literally gave us a new perspective on the action. In addition to sharper textures and greater draw distances, the developer reworked the entire game to support a new, optional first-person, mode while fleshing out the already impressive open world with new flora, fauna, and hidden activities.

Click the next page to see our best fighting, platforming, and DLC awards.

Best Fighting: Super Smash Bros.
Smash is back, and it was worth the wait. Nintendo's fighting mashup was in rare form, whether you went portable or played on console. The crazy action and wide selection of Nintendo-themed characters is a fan's dream. The Wii U's addition of 8-player matches is truly a game-changer, but on either platform it is one of 2014's best.

Best Puzzle: The Talos Principle
Croteam's beloved indie project challenges you to introspectively look at the world while you solve a series of environmental puzzles. While exploring a virtual reality simulation after the extinction of the human race, you use high-tech gadgets to conquer a maze of exploding droids and force fields. This brain workout is one of the best first-person puzzle games this side of Portal.

Best Platforming: Donkey Kong Country: Tropical Freeze
Nintendo's reputation for releasing the best platformers in the business continues with the latest DK entry from Retro Studios. The inventive levels give veterans a run for their money, but bring casual players to their knees. Every death feels fair once you learn the flow of a given stage or boss. Combine this with gorgeous backgrounds and lighting effects and you've got a must-play.

Best MOBA: Smite
Hi-Rez Studios' third-person MOBA eschews the isometric RTS roots of the genre and innovates in interesting ways, offering fast-paced arena battles alongside traditional 5v5 battles. With an extensive roster drawing from classical mythology and combat that's essentially all skillshot-based with shooter elements, Smite is an excellent change of pace from the traditional MOBA format.

Best DLC: The Last of Us: Left Behind
Naughty Dog's harrowing masterpiece easily won our Game of the Year award last year, and its follow-up single-player DLC similarly stood out as the best of the best in 2014. The look back at Ellie's relationship with her BFF Riley shows players another side of the precocious survivor, while serving up more of the stellar gameplay that we fell in love with last year.

Click the next page to see our 2014 Game of the Year.

Game of the Year: Dragon Age: Inquisition
The third entry in BioWare's Dragon Age franchise learns from its predecessors, but strikes off in a new direction for the series. Players build the power of their Inquisition, shaping the world while saving it from the clutches of evil. Everything you do contributes to your progression, and the vast open environments, memorable cast members, and mix of strategy and action ensure that you always have something interesting to accomplish. As an expansive and impressive adventure that sets the bar for the next generation of RPGs, Dragon Age: Inquisition earns its place as our Game of the Year.

Want to see what other games made our Top 50 list? Check out the rest of our 27-page look back at 2014 in the latest issue of Game Informer. Click here to read all about what else is included in the February issue (like our in-depth look at Uncharted 4: A Thief's End). Print subscribers should see their issues arriving in the next week or two, but it's available now if you subscribe digitally (available on PC/MaciPadAndroid, and Google Play). You can also get the latest issue through third-party apps on NookKindle, and Zinio. To switch your print subscription to digital, click here, or to create a new subscription to the digital edition, click here.