The Top 5 Video Games of 2014

By December 29, 2014
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Since we’re now in the final few days of 2014, we’ve reached an opportune moment to reflect on the year’s video games, and give you our top 5 picks for video gaming for the year. This year, we expanded our coverage with more video game reviews of blockbuster titles on consoles, and of all the games we played, it was these 5 that made the biggest impression on us. While there were many other great games worthy of this list that we didn’t get around to critiquing for one reason or another, we did get to take a look at what many consider to be the best examples of the video game medium, hands down.

So, let’s take a look at our 5 choices, and see where the cream of the crop would come from when it comes to 2014 in games.

 

The social element is one of the best parts of playing Destiny, but its unfortunate that story missions can only be taken on by teams of three. Four would've been better.

5) Destiny

Bungie’s ambitious massively multiplayer first-person shooter experience was undeniably impressive immediately upon its release this past September. With brilliantly realized worlds filled with lush landscapes and mysterious ruins, a carefully crafted mythology, a wide array of abilities at the disposal of every class, great opportunities to play with your friends, and an impeccably designed player vs. player component, Destiny was easily the year’s hottest new gaming IP. It was also the first step in a much larger, if pretty convoluted story. While for many this game was more “acceptable” than extraordinary, its difficult to deny the sense of fun and excitement that can be had by journeying into the Vault of Glass with the right fireteam, or using a new weapon or ability that you’ve spent a lot of time trying to acquire.

Destiny is the type of game that demands to be examined and re-examined as the world continues to develop, because unlike many other MMO-type games, it feels like its alive. A great deal of this is due to the community of players, of course, but much of it is also due to the ravaged and overrun solar system envisioned, built, and programmed by the fabled developers and creators of Halo. On those merits alone, Destiny demands to be experienced and appreciated for what it is.

Read our review of Destiny.

 

While perhaps not as graphically advanced as some may hope, Titanfall is still beyond the capabilities of the last console generation, and "has it where it counts."

4) Titanfall

Crafted by many of the creators of the blockbuster Call of Duty franchise, upstart Respawn Entertainment’s freshman effort Titanfall is a shockingly polished and fast-paced first-person shooter experience. First releasing in March for Xbox One and PC and for Xbox 360 the following month, Titanfall has continued to see a surprising number of updates to the game in the form of both paid DLC, as well as free updates that have added a wealth of new game modes. While many initially critiqued the game for being a thin experience that was light on customization, Respawn deserves a great deal of credit for expanding the features of the game to include a lot of requested — and nicely surprising — new additions that add to both the complexity and fun of the experience.

Still, though, the core game as it was received in March of this year shouldn’t be discounted. Titanfall is a bold first-person shooter experience that is already having active impact on the FPS genre of video games, since its locomotion and verticality mechanics are surprisingly finely tuned for being the first major effort of a new, triple-A development studio. Titanfall is absolutely one of the best shooters of the year, if not at the top of the pile, and only represents positive things to come for this brand new franchise.

Read our review of Titanfall.

 

While introducing the concept of "anti-gravity" to the racing mechanics of the game, Mario Kart 8 has also polished all of the existing tropes of the series into an experience that both iterates and expands on the things that make the series so beloved.

3) Mario Kart 8

The latest installment of Nintendo’s semingly timeless racing series, Mario Kart 8 is, quite possibly, the best released entry in the series thus far. The game makes the jump into the era of high definition graphics in grand fashion, with a silky smooth 60fps framerate and very high resolution showing off the game’s immense amount of detail, confirming to anyone with functioning eyeballs that the Wii U isn’t exactly a graphical pushover. This is before even getting to the actual game, which feels very much like the cumulative result of every entry in the Mario Kart series before it, borrowing elements from several previous games to create one massively fun whole.

New mechanics to this entry include “anti-gravity,” which basically just means that your kart will be defying the laws of physics in passively travelling through the very cleverly-designed tracks. With the addition of DLC support adding even more tracks and playable characters, as well as the surprising tactical setups of certain racers, karts, and upgrades, it becomes pretty easy to see why Mario Kart 8 is one of our favorite video games of 2014.

Read our review of Mario Kart 8.

 

The motion tracker is your best friend, but also adds to the overall sense of tension found in the game.

2) Alien: Isolation

A true spiritual successor to Ridley Scott’s 1979 film, Alien: Isolation truly helps to emulate the experience of watching the Alien film for the first time: it’s tense, it’s claustrophobic, it’s atmospheric, and in many places it’s genuinely frightening. There’s nothing quite like the feeling of moving through the decks and bowels of a malfunctioning space station, looking over your shoulder for disgruntled humans or murderous androids, before coming face-to-face with a deadly Xenomorph. Add to that the game’s carefully crafted saving and progression mechanics, and this isn’t exactly a space-faring adventure: it’s a fight for survival.

Beyond the structure of the actual gameplay, though, everything around that element of the game is meticulously crafted. From representing the 1979 conception of the future in the production design and costumes, to the returning members of the cast from the original film, all the way down to the toy birds on the desk and the chestbursters in the nest, Alien: Isolation is absolutely one of the best licensed movie games ever made. It’s also, easily a standout for 2014.

Read our review of Alien: Isolation.

 

Classic 4-player Smash is back, and just as intense as ever, with specific tweaks made to the balance of the existing characters in addition to the plethora of new fighters introduced.

1) Super Smash Bros. for Wii U

Perhaps one of the single most highly anticipated games of the year, the fourth home console-based iteration of the popular Nintendo fighting game series has returned bigger and better than before. With a full-HD resolution at 60fps, Smash on the Wii U is a beautiful sight to behold before even picking up one of the many controllers compatible with the game. Smash is notorious around the world for its fighting mechanics, often labelled as “simple” by fighting game enthusiasts. They’re actually deceptively complex, and the attention to detail for all of the represented characters from multiple video game franchises — both within and outside of Nintendo — easily make this an all-star experience, and one of the single most finely crafted video games that Nintendo has ever released.

With a vibrant and growing community, an expansive roster of nearly 50 characters, a wealth of fun and creative stages, and hours upon hours of content to unlock, Super Smash Bros. for Wii U takes the top spot in our games of 2014 for one, primary reason: unlike so many anticipated games in a similar position over the years, Smash is one of the few that actually managed to surpass expectations. Now, if only Link’s down stab could be changed a little bit…

Read our review of Super Smash Bros. for Wii U.

 

So, there you have it! It was a tough call to decide our top 5 video games of 2014, but what were yours? How did we do? Be sure to leave a comment below, and keep an eye on GeekNation throughout 2015 for the latest on the hottest video games!

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Chris Clow
As a former comics retailer at a store in the Pacific Northwest, Chris Clow is an enormous sci-fi, comics, and film geek. He is a freelance contributor, reviewer, podcaster, and overall geek to GeekNation, Batman-On-Film.com, The Huffington Post, and Movies.com. He also hosts the monthly Comics on Consoles broadcast and podcast. Check out his blog, and follow him on Twitter @ChrisClow.