I think most of us can agree that 2014 was only an "okay" year for gaming. We have 2 new gaming consoles, but neither has that killer app that makes everyone and their mother run out and buy a new console. But that doesn't mean that there weren't any good games at all this year.
I should preface this list by saying that I am not a professional video game journalist and do not own all the gaming consoles. I have a PS4, Nintendo 3DS, a PC, and an iPhone. Therefore games like Sunset Overdrive, Super Smash Bros for Wii U, and Mario Kart 8 simply can't be on my list. I did the math and found out that I played 33 games across those platforms this year, so I did get a pretty good spread.
Notable omissions are Thief (PS4), Tomb Raider: Definitive Edition (PS4), Hearthstone (PC), Infamous: Second Son (PS4), 1001 Spikes (3DS), and Grand Theft Auto 5 (PS4). Each of these games are great (yes, even Thief) and ate up a good chunk of my time this year.
So without further ado, let's get to the main event!
Game of the Year
Middle Earth: Shadow of Mordor
Middle Earth: Shadow of Mordor is my favorite game of 2014 no matter what metric you use. It's the game I played the most (possibly behind Madden 15), the one that excceeded my expectations the most, and simply provided me the most delight. It's also possibly the most innovative game of the year, with the "nemesis system" being everything the developers said it would be.
While most games have one or two things in them you really love to do, Shadow of Mordor makes every single moment of the game fun. Stealth is fun, the swordplay is best-in-class, long-range combat is excellent, the upgrade system is engaging, the story is good, and exploration is a delight. The novelty of these elemets do not wear off either, as each one actually gets better the more you play.
This game would have been a real bore if the gameplay wasn't a blast, but Monolith crushed it on this game, and it's my favorite game of the new generation of video games.
Metal Gear Solid 5: Ground Zeroes
"It's just a demo!" they said. "You can beat it in 20 minutes!" they said. Yes, those are both sort of true, but they dismiss what is great about Ground Zero's: the gameplay. Much like my above-mentioned game of the year, this title lives and dies on the quality of its gameplay, and Ground Zeros thrives.
I wish my Playstation 4 tracked how long I played each game in my collection, because I feel like I spent more time in this game than other, much bigger games. I certainly re-played this game more times than anything else. The main mission took me just under an hour to complete on my first play through, but I've gone back and done speed runs on the mission, done the side missions, collected dog tags, gone for achievements, and created my own challenges along the way.
If this game is any indication of how good next year's The Phantom Pain will be, then we're in for a treat.
Monument Valley is a beautiful game visually. The levels themselves are wonderful works of arts in their own right, but they also serve as perfect little puzzles. Much like how the Portal games make you feel smart without over being too hard to make you feel dumb, Monument Valley stretched my creative muscles just enough to make me feel like I was challenged without ever needing to rage-quit the game in frustration. Monument Valley is a delightful game that you should buy right now if you have not already.
It's available on the iPad, iPhone, and Android.
This game may not count for a lot of people. Rogue Legacy released on the PC last year, but I never played it. I just don't get sucked into PC games the same way I do console games...even if they're the same game. Odd, I know, but I deal with it.
Rogue Legacy is where I experienced my highest highs and lowest lows of the year in games. I never felt better and more accomplished than when I finally beat that boss that was giving me hell. I felt so empowered when I was finally able to walk into the exterior section of the castle and hold my own against the previously-overpowered baddies out there. In the same play session, I would also feel like a dummy as I died in one of the first rooms to a damn floating skull.
But Rogue Legacy rewards you for sticking with it. I got better at the game. I learned how to play smart and that sometimes running in the opposite direction of a bad guy was the best solution. It also has an addicting gameplay loop where you always get something new when you die. Oh, I died? Well, that's okay, because I'm going to use my money I found on this run to boost my stats, I'm going to get a new heir to play as who will have his or her own quirks, and I'm going to get a whole new castle layout. This makes each run through the castle feel different and fills you with hope that "this time I'll do better!"
Destiny had a very weird reception when it launched back in September. The average review of the game went something like this:
Destiny is a poor game that is repetitive and doesn't give you a reason to keep playing. That said, the game is a lot of fun and I can't stop playing. 6/10
I get the criticisms, and I think Jeff Cannata put it best by saying the game is "more fun than it is good," but we're here to have fun, right? Destiny was a delight to play. I had more fun mowing down alien baddies with friends online than I did with any other shooter this year. The co-op gameplay is just fun.
The game has a lot of room to grow up from here, and I very interested in what the expansions will bring to this game. But as it stands, Destiny is a game that I keep hopping back into to get a quick dose of fun.