We asked some of our writers what their top 5 games of 2014 were, and have since compiled them into five parts. They will be released every two days, with each writers top 5 counting down through successive entries. These are our writers’ top choices.
1) Dark Souls II
Following in the footsteps of its divisive forebears, Dark Souls II is an incredibly challenging and endlessly atmospheric action-RPG. Now, with three expansions under its already sizable belt, Dark Souls II is about the most bang a player can expect for their buck for this gaming year, and even though it lacks the power and punch of the original Dark Souls, it has enough new elements and content to easily justify itself. A brutal and beautiful ride, Dark Souls II is an easy pick for my favorite game of the year. (Mike Worby)
1) The Wolf Among Us
Telltale proved that their success with The Walking Dead Season 1 wasn’t a fluke with this fantastic follow up. Copying that game’s template nearly to the letter (and given how closely Tales from the Borderlands and Game of Thrones did too, it seems to be their new style of adventure), The Wolf Among Us was an episodic title set in the world of the comic book Fables.
It didn’t matter if you hadn’t ever read the books (this writer hadn’t), and this was mainly due to the strong narrative, excellent sense of world and wonderful characters that populated it. Numerous fairy tales are represented here: Beauty and Beast, Mr Toad, Ichabod Crane – each living amongst everyday humans in secret. It’s a fantastic premise, and Telltale crafted a great detective story around it, with their trademark difficult choices and stellar voice acting. Meanwhile, a lovely Drive-like sheen means fairy tales have never looked so good. Bring on Season 2. (Tariq Ashkanani)
1) Shovel Knight
8-bit retro aesthetic, check. Catchy tunes, check. Shovel? Check. Shovel Knight is definitely one of the quirkiest games of the summer. It has charm, puns, romance, cheat codes and more. In an effort to save his beloved Shield Knight, Shovel Knight faces off against the evil Enchantress and her minions, the Order of No Quarter. The odds are stacked high against Shovel Knight; after all, a shovel isn’t much of a weapon. Or is it? Shovel Knight’s ShovelBlade is nothing to be laughed at, especially when combined with other items.
This game is pure fun to play whenever you aren’t wiping the tears of laughter from your eyes. Nothing is taken seriously. There is even a cheat code to turn recurring nouns into “butt.” And here it is: WSWWAEAW. You’re welcome. (Elizabeth Rico)
1) The Wolf Among Us
The Walking Dead struck critical gold for Telltale Games after years of poorly received titles, and so whether it was a fluke or not was a genuine concern. The Wolf Among Us, a follow-up in the same gameplay style as Dead, based on the graphic novel series Fables, proved that Telltale were masters of their craft. Like the Walking Dead, the game features basic puzzle solving and compelling choices, but where it differs considerably is in tone. One part Sin City style neo-noir, one part ABC’s Once Upon A Time’s fish-out-of-water fairy tale cast, and stylistically akin to something directed by Michael Mann in the ‘80s, it couldn’t be further from the bleak post-apocalyptic hell of Dead. Wolf takes familiar fairy tales we know from childhood, subverts (and often perverts) them, and weaves them into a neon-hued, synthesizer-scored, hard-boiled detective story that frequently surprises and delights right up until its final moments. (John Cal McCormick)
1) Far Cry 4
Games, like any other form of storytelling, are only as interesting as the characters presented in their universe. Why should we care about the actions of the protagonist unless they are interacting with an appropriate villain? For every Sherlock there is a Moriarty, for every one hostage Batman saves ten more are placed in harm’s way by the maniacal Joker. Lately the Far Cry series have tapped into this important creative device and made some excellent villains, from the massively popular Vaas to the King of Kyrat, Pagan Min. In terms of gameplay all the features of the previous installment are present with obvious adjustments to the quality of graphics and shooting mechanics. Most people know what to expect in a Far Cry game, the run-and-gun series has some key activities that are traditions of Ubisoft products. Capture the outpost, diversion quests and collectible items scattered throughout the map are just some of the more predictable elements. The unpredictable element, on the other hand, is the story itself. Famed German philosopher Nietzsche once said “If you gaze for long into the abyss, the abyss will gaze into you.” This one quote perfectly sums up the plot when comparing the actions of Pagan Min to that of Sabal and Amita, none seem innocent but all seem guilty. (YZC)
1) Shovel Knight
From its early days as a Kickstarter project, Shovel Knight showed some great promise. Developed by Yacht Club Games, Shovel Knight was a passion project inspired by Ducktales, Mega Man, Zelda 2, and Dark Souls. Following the adventure of Shovel Knight himself, players must navigate through eight boss levels and conquer the boss at the end. Shovel Knight is a combination of a lot of different elements and they all seem to work effortlessly together. Truly a gem and a showcase for proving that gameplay trumps graphics any day. (Max Covill)
1) Shovel Knight
I’m a simple man. I like simple pleasures in life and I like simple games with easy to understand control schemes. I’m also a huge fan of the original NES and so it shouldn’t be a surprise that Shovel Knight is my favourite game of 2014. 8-bit retro aesthetic indie games aren’t exactly new, but you’ll be hard pressed to find one that matches the quality found in Shovel Knight. The premise is simple: you play as the eponymous Shovel Knight, a small knight with a huge quest to defeat the evil Enchantress and save his lost beloved. This sweeping classic action adventure game takes an amalgamation of elements from the who’s who of Nintendo’s expansive roster and combines them to make a unique and fun action and platform side scroller. Shovel Knight doesn’t just imitate classic NES games from the past, it understands what made them work and finds time for improvement. Shovel Knight is packed with challenging level design, and fun theme boss encounters and weapons inspired by the Mega Man franchise. Its combat system is inspired by Duck Tales, Ninja Gaiden, and Legend of Zelda – and in fact Shovel Knight’s weapon works a lot like Link’s, except the actual combat is more refined. Shovel Knight features excellent controls, gorgeous graphics, a catchy soundtrack (from one of the original Mega Man composers), endearing characters, top-notch level design, varied gameplay, hidden rooms, optional challenges and a world map lifted straight out of Super Mario Bros. If you love 2D platformers like Megaman or Castlevania, Shovel Knight is a must-buy, and one of the most charming and satisfying experiences on any console. (Ricky D)