"Tumultuous" is perhaps the one word that could be used to sum up the video game industry in 2014. We've seen some of the highest highs (PlayStation Experience, an E3 where virtually all of The Big Three "won," etc.) and also some of the lowest lows (Gamergate, broken games on launch, etc.); clearly, it was a divisive year for many.
2014 also saw another challenge in the way of being the first full year of life for the Xbox One and PlayStation 4, as well as the second full year for Wii U, and all three experienced growing pains in some fashion. For Xbox One, Titanfall came and went and—for the most part—now largely remains untalked about, and Sunset Overdrive, while critically acclaimed, was not the sales success Microsoft had hoped for. PlayStation 4 was the best-selling and fastest-selling new console for much of the year but struggled to release any great first-party exclusives beyond inFamous: Second Son and First Light due to several delays (not to mention running into huge issues with DriveClub). Wii U sales still lagged far behind the rest despite Nintendo releasing some of the most critically acclaimed games this year and selling the most units this past holiday season since its launch in 2012.
Still, the beat goes on, as they say, and as 2015 looms large in front of us all and we look forward to an onslaught of fantastic-looking game releases, here are the top 10 games that the GP staff found to be the best during 2014.
10. Cho Dengiki Stryker
In a world where Western gamers are still mostly getting used to the concept of "visual novels," it seems impossible that any of them would plunk down for 40+ hours playing Cho Dengeki Stryker. Yet, thanks to the excellent cast of characters, heavy emphasis on action, and storyline it's impossible not to become engrossed. This superhero tale plays out with a good mix of camp and drama and paces itself wonderfully. Even after you've experienced it once, playing through another few times reveals new layers of the story. Working to a complete understanding of Cho Dengeki Stryker is immensely enjoyable and very much worth the time commitment.
- Marcus Estrada, Managing Editor
9. Velocity 2X
Velocity 2X may not seem like a big deal at first, but that's one of it's strengths. The classic gameplay elements of top down shooters are polished until they shine like pure diamonds while Velocity/Velocity Ultra's teleport mechanic spices up the mix, giving originality to the experience. Add finely crafted levels and a difficulty progression that is nothing short of masterful, and you may start to understand what I love about this game so much. It's hard to imagine how this game could be improved at all, but considering I said that about Velocity Ultra as well, I think the folks at Futurlab will think of something. If you have a Vita or a PS4, I can promise you that Velocity 2X is a stand out experience on either system.
- Chris "WildCardCorsair" Garcia, Staff Writer
8. Donkey Kong Country: Tropical Freeze
The Wii U saw tons of great games during 2014, and while it can be easy to see Super Smash Bros. and Mario Kart 8 as the console's big ones, one mustn't forget the masterfully-crafted platformer that is Donkey Kong Country: Tropical Freeze. What Retro Studios did right when reviving the Country series with Donkey Kong Country Returns (which is everything, basically), they did even better when they froze DK Island over and catapulted Donkey Kong, Diddy, Dixie, and Cranky into some of the most cleverly-designed levels you'll ever play through. Add the game's fantastic level design to David Wise's stellar soundtrack, fun co-operative multiplayer, beautiful backdrops, and a level of challenge befitting of the Donkey Kong Country name, and you've got yourself one of the finest video games of the year.
- Jordan Haygood, Video Manager
7. Persona Q: Shadow of the Labyrinth
When you have a title (or more) that has as passionate a fanbase as the Persona titles do, it can be tough to create something that offers fanservice without feeling too cheap. Persona Q: Shadow of the Labyrinth melds the Persona 3 and Persona 4 casts with the gameplay mechanics of the Etrian Odyssey series, and it works so well. You have the two familiar teams as well as newcomers Rei and Zen in addition to a storyline that is set during both games, yet isn't connected to either. It's a great fanservice title that gives us that opportunity to see the two groups interact together as they work to solve that mystery behind both aforementioned characters' memory loss as well as the formidable tower that looms above the world they were teleported to.
- Elizabeth Burnette, Moderator
Transistor is an incredible experience not just because its aesthetic expertly necessitates its drama, but because it is proof that (quite literally) placing the narrative into the hands of the player is a highly evocative means of eliminating the player/game dichotomy. Additionally, over the course of the last decade, seldom is one able to recall a game that transmutes the tropes and cliches of its genre(s) in order to successfully capacitate an end result that is both reverent and neoteric.
- Ciel, Moderator
Attempting to explain why Steins;Gate is one of the best game of 2014 presents a a bit of a quandary. With the game being such a plot driven experience, as most visual novels are wont to be, it means many aspects of it must be glossed over or left unmentioned entirely in risk of providing unwanted spoilers. But it is these aspects which make it such an intriguing and piquantly flavoured dish, one you must sample for yourself lest you won't get the complete experience.
Is Steins;Gate for everyone? Not at all, the visual novel aspect of it is very much a "love-it-or-hate-it" kind of deal and slow starting plot often filled with incoherent technobabble could definitely turn some people off, but ultimately none of that truly matters when discussing one the most poignant experiences ever displayed on a monitor.
- Julian "Ludono" Rittmayer, Moderator
4. Mario Kart 8
Mario Kart 8 exceeds at just about everything it sets out to do while somehow managing to be the best-looking game Nintendo has created to date. In addition to having the best and most exciting tracks the series has ever seen, a plethora of characters to play as, and tons of customizable kart parts, a robust online multiplayer mode helps make it the definitive version of Mario Kart. As far as kart-racing games go, it doesn't get any better than this.
- Jason Clement, Editor-in-Chief
3. Shovel Knight
Independent developers have produced many memorable characters and moments. Games like SteamWorld Dig, Mutant Mudds, Velocity 2X, and more have managed to breathe new life, characters, stories and designs into genres that "triple A" publishers and developers have all but left for dead. As you're playing through some of the titles I've mentioned, you can see how they've taken the titles that inspired them and created some sort of unique spin that brings the dated concepts of their retro-gaming "ancestors" to the modern age.
And then there's Shovel Knight. There are many reasons why Yacht Club Games' labors couldn't have actually been possible on the Nintendo Entertainment System. But I'll be darned if playing through it didn't have handfuls of people singing praises regarding how this game belongs on the NES, standing alongside games like DuckTales, Adventures of Link, Mega Man and the games that motivated YCG and their backers to create this truly unique world. It's one thing to evoke the golden age of gaming in your work. It's another thing entirely to create a game that so many could actually see playing back in 1993 when the NES was at its most evolved.
Here's to Shovel Justice. This game has done a solid to anyone looking to relive days gone by.
- Jonathan Higgins, Staff Writer
2. Bayonetta 2
From the threat of non-existence Bayonetta 2 was saved by none other than Nintendo. What's more is it became much better for it on the Wii U. Everything about the original Bayonetta“s stylish, frantic gameplay carries over to its sequel and then a whole lot more. It ups the ante with its incredibly tight combat system, stellar bosses, crazy personality, and an absurd amount of content to work towards. Bayonetta 2 is in such a class of its own among character-action games that many are unlikely to even come close to it for years to come, regardless of the system hardware that they appear on.
- Barrel, Moderator and Staff Writer
And GP's Game of the Year for 2014 is...
1. Super Smash Bros. for Wii U
The most recent Super Smash Bros. incarnation is nothing short of a masterpiece. Nintendo created a product that is immensely entertaining and can even be used to help decide if Thursdays should be a â€œno pantsâ€ day. An obscene amount of care went into every aspect of the game, from the balance of fighters to the amount of unique information on each in-game trophy.
Smash Bros. for Wii U brought back many familiar characters and added a healthy dose of newcomers from Pac-Man, Xenoblade, Duck Hunt and Fire Emblem: Awakening. Players do not need to be Nintendo aficionados to appreciate the healthy roster or amazing compilation album. The new modes like Smash Tour and 8-Player Smash turn Super Smash Bros. into an even better party game for those who are not feeling particularly competitive. It offers something for just about everybody, and that's why it is GP's Game of the Year for 2014.
- John Kidman, Staff Writer
And that wraps 2014!
Are you surprised at the outcome of the list? Let us know what you think!