Blimey, is it that time of year already? 2014 has flown by for me, mostly thanks to lots of travelling and working in various places, culminating in a move from London to Edinburgh at the end of the year. All that to-ing and fro-ing left me with very little time to play this year’s video games in the end. And when I have had time to play games, I’ve mostly been attempting to whittle down my games backlog – this year I finally got to the end of the Mass Effect trilogy and caught up with a ton of great 3DS games, as well as sinking dozens of hours into Monster Hunter 3 Ultimate, a game I’m still hooked on a year and a half after its release.
But having said that, 2014’s harvest of games has left a little to be desired, certainly compared with last year’s bumper crop. I’ve still yet to buy a PS4 or Xbox One, but there’s not a lot out there to tempt me right now. Most of the handful of 2014 games that have peaked my interest are still available on the Xbox 360 and PS3, and many of the big hitters for the PS4 and Xbox One have been delayed to 2015. Then there’s the fact that a whole litter of AAA games have met with mixed receptions, or have even been released in an embarrassingly broken state – Assassin’s Creed: Unity, DriveClub and Halo: The Master Chief Collection to name a few. Perhaps the biggest success story of the year is Nintendo, which is rather surprising considering the poor state in which it began 2014. With a slew of brilliant new games under its belt (Mario Kart 8 and Smash Brothers to name two), a fantastic E3 presentation and a rock-solid reputation for quality, bugless releases, Nintendo has ended the year on a high. I’m even thinking about buying an Amiibo. [Update: I finally caved in and bought one – Link, natch. Although a few others are tempting, too…] [Update 2: OK, I bought Marth as well. I mean come on, it’s Marth!]
The Best Games of 2014 That I Actually Played
Mario Kart 8
Undoubtedly the best Mario Kart game ever. This was one of a handful of games I’ve rushed out to buy on day one, and it’s barely left my Wii U since I bought it. The track design is amazing (particularly Mount Wario), the music is sublime and it looks simply stunning. Plus the DLC was reasonably priced and actually offered a lot of extra content, not least of which was the ability to play as Link – Nintendo showing other companies how DLC SHOULD be done.
South Park: The Stick of Truth
Flippin’ hilarious – I haven’t laughed so much while playing a game since Monkey Island back in the nineties. If you’re at all a fan of South Park, you need to play this game – it’s one of those rare TV tie-in games that’s actually good. Very good in fact. Some criticised it for being short for an RPG, but after finishing the Mass Effect trilogy this year, I was crying out for a game of manageable length for people who, you know, have to work for a living.
When I got my iPhone a few years back, I played through dozens of mobile games. But over the last year or two, my mobile gaming has dwindled to nothing with the realisation that most games on offer are either incredibly repetitive and shallow or have dreadful controls that don’t really work on a touch screen. Oh, and they try to get you to buy things every five flippin’ minutes. But Threes isn’t like that – there’s no hard sell, just wonderfully deep strategy that’s also perfect for playing in short periods. So there are good games on mobile after all…
The Best Games of 2014 That I Would Have Played If I’d Had The Time
This one is winging its way to me as we speak – a little Christmas present to myself. I love the idea of the game – recreating the 1970s sci-fi feel of the original Alien film but with an unpredictable AI xenomorph that’s constantly hunting you. The idea of being hunted by an unstoppable monster has cropped up a handful of times in gaming – 3D Monster Maze on the Spectrum was probably the first one to do it – but the idea of merging that mechanic with the Alien universe was genius.
Wolfenstein: The New Order
As Sir Gaulian said on his list, this one took many people by surprise by actually being very good indeed, especially after the last few Wolfenstein games have been a bit sub-par. The idea of setting it in an alternative 1960s is brilliant: it reminds me of one of my favourite PS2 games, Ring of Red.
I’ve only ever played a couple of Dynasty Warriors games, and even then only for a very short while, but I really liked what I saw. They’re criticised for being repetitive, but there’s a lot of fun to be had in ploughing your overpowered characters through armies of assailants, and I have a soft spot for Chaos Legion, which is in a similar style. Hyrule Warriors seems like the perfect introduction to the Warriors series: can’t wait to play it.
Another Wii U game on my list of must plays – the Wii U has really had a brilliant year. The original Bayonetta was a non-stop rollercoaster ride of bizarreness and surpisingly deep fighting mechanics, and by all accounts the sequel is even better. I wonder what the end-game sequence will be like this time? Surely it can’t top the last one…
Super Smash Bros. for Wii U
This should actually be in my house right now, but annoyingly it’s currently lost somewhere in Post-Land. Hopefully it will turn up in time for New Year so I can soothe the January blues by punching Nintendo characters in the face. When this game was first announced I wasn’t particularly bothered about playing another Smash Bros., but I’ve been truly impressed by the level of detail and fan service they’ve put into this. And it’s got the Dog from Duck Hunt in it! Didn’t see that one coming.
BUBBLING UNDER: Professor Layton vs. Phoenix Wright Ace Attorney, The Banner Saga, Shovel Knight, Child of Light, The Wolf Among Us, Destiny (although the more I read about Destiny, the more it sounds like a slightly broken, never-ending cycle of joyless grinding: feel free to correct me if I’m wrong).
[As written by Lucius Merriweather while preparing manically for Santa’s arrival. Merry Christmas everyone!]