2014 was a big year for video games. We had new consoles starting to take hold, Nintendo making a frantic comeback, and games not working upon release. Many games made waves this year, but our resident video game enthusiasts here at Monsters pick out their favorite games of the past year. We have Mario, Remastered Next-Gen editions of some classic games, and even an entry exclusive to our game brethren in Japan. Enjoy and comment on your favorite games of 2014 in the comment section!
In a time where games are constantly criticized for holding players’ hands, Drakengard 3 flips you the bird and kicks you off a cliff 300-style. Leading up to it’s insanely frustrating fourth, and final, ending that blindsides you in the form of a rhythm game on crack (I still can’t beat it even when synced up to a YouTube cheat video).
The gameplay is typical, clunky, and button-mashy, but its beauty in the game’s execution. While it never quite gets to the level of its masterpiece predecessor, NiER , the game innovates with deconstructions of role playing games as a genre and questions the mechanics of video games as a storytelling medium. It’s completely different from every other console game I’ve played this year.
While SEGA is finally bringing Yakuza 5 to the US in 2015, they missed out on releasing a fantastic brawler during the next-gen drought at the beginning of 2014.
The game is a perfect mix of Grand Theft Auto’s open world, Rurouni Kenshin’s revolutionary setting, Shenmue’s living world, and [the] attention to detail come together to forge one of the best Japan-only releases this year. Luckily, the PS4 is region-free and fans have pulled together an amazing online walkthrough.
Although I have my own issues with MK8 (primarily the lack of content compared to prior iterations), this game is practically the only thing I’ve played consistently for the past two months.
The game is beautiful, presentation is top notch, and the online is rock solid. It’s scary how quickly “one quick match” turns into hours of racing. My Wii U has become a MK8 machine and I’m totally fine with that.
Last of Us Remastered (PS4)
Believe me. I hate putting an up-res port in a list of favorites for the year.
But when it comes down to Last of Us, Infamous: Second Son, Smash 3DS and the Tomb Raider port, you give the nod to one of the best games of the decade. I wrote a little ditty about it in our August Rapid Reviews, and what I said still holds true. It’s the best version of the PS3’s best game. The tension is still there. The well delivered narrative is still there. The perfect voice acting. The perfect pacing. On and on. If you’re still holding out on this one, stop.
Bravely Default (3DS)
I reviewed this in my first ever piece for Monsters, but I’ll give you the short version here. At its highest, Bravely Default is the best Final Fantasy game since Final Fantasy X. At its lowest, it’s still a JRPG that stayed true to some ugly JRPG tropes. That battle system and soaring sound track though. The dungeon theme is an all-time game music track for me. The strategic layers built into the Brave/Default system really created an addictive rush that’s uncommon in a turn-based battle system.
It wasn’t perfect by any measure, but Bravely Default’s successes outweigh its mistakes. And it’s certainly the second-most memorable 2014 release I played this year. Bravo, Bravely Default. You beat out a slew of last-gen remasters and a downscaled portable version of a great fighting game!
Now to wait for Bravely Second.
I can already tell not writing a full review (available here on Monsters as well thanks to Colin Mullins) in this entry will be difficult, but I will try.
Destiny has run away with my personal Game of the Year award. In a year that saw the release of Smash Bros., I’m as surprised as anyone that a first-person shooter takes the top spot. But after hours of running around blowing up aliens and robots with nova bombs and axion bolts, that’s exactly what Destiny has done.
It’s not that the story is compelling. In fact, Bungie’s cloaked behind a veil of unapproachable read-it-in-your-web-browser digital trading cards approach to the story doesn’t compel me at all to learn what’s really happening in Destiny’s world – much like I couldn’t be bothered to read Halo novelizations to figure out what was going on with Master Chief. It’s just not worth it. And yet, I still play.
It’s not that the game is all that polished. In truth, Destiny – like so many other 2014 releases – was almost decisively released as an unfinished game, but updates here and expansions there have worked out several kinks. So I still play.
So why do we play a game with a hidden story and unpolished loot mechanic? Because it takes the crisp shooting mechanics we got used to in Bungie’s Halo entries and combines it with a grindy, get-to-the-next-light-level RPG element.
And because Destiny made online play not just tolerable to this single-player-only gamer, but fun. Not just because the shooting excels, but the actual act of plugging a microphone into my Dualshock 4 and cooperatively communicating with others to take down a big bad boss excelled beyond what I imagined possible. In particular, the addictive three-player strikes reach a level of well-executed co-op I haven’t experienced since Mass Effect 3’s multiplayer.
Like I said, I could go on and on about Destiny’s greatness. I could also go on and on about its putridity, especially given the purgatorial level of RNG (random number generation) I currently occupy within the loot system. But suffice it to say Destiny deserves a try if you’ve ever enjoyed an FPS.
I played maybe three days of the seven allowed on a Resurrection Scroll when Mist came out, and I swore to myself I would never play WoW again.
Blizzard and their darn cinematics do it to me every time!
I watched the first ad for Warlords and thought it looked great, but it will be a letdown. I watched again, then started reading on it, then it happened: I wanted to play it. But I was not going to be the only one to get sucked back in. I texted my best friend:
Me: “Have you seen this? I wanna play it.”
Friend: “Dude it looks sweet!”
Me: “I’ll get it if you get it”
And I was back on the Warcrack.
They have made a great new story line, raised the cap to 100, and made it fun to play again. Thanks to the holiday rush, I am not as bad off as I use to be when my brother would find me not slowing down after 48 hours and naked while tweaking, I mean, playing.
Shadow of Mordor would get the thumbs up from JRR himself.
It belongs in the Lord of the Rings world, unlike a certain made up love triangle. I was a bit worried when it was first announced, my brother will even tell you I may have complained about it a little when I first heard the news.
Was nerd loser fan boy, Yeti, completely wrong!
The game is amazing, the story is even better, and the controls are great! We need more games like this one. I was explaining, yet again to my best friend, how he needed to pick this one up and that he would not regret it. He did and loved it. Matter of fact, we both agreed ,after watching John Wick, that a Hitman or Star Wars game would be awesome with the controls scheme of Mordor.
If you like being BA, enjoy killing orcs, and messing up Sauron’s army, this is for you.
The Remastered: Grand Thrift Auto V (PS4/Xbox One) & The Last of Us (PS4/Xbox One)
I was amazed at GTA V when it was out for PS3. I was at awe that it even was released for PS3 and not held over for the next-gen. I brought it twice, and it [just as] fun the 2nd time around. While everyone flipped out over the first person [mode], and even though I am not personally a fan of it, it is one of the better first person views I’ve played. Now if we can get Rock Star to do a Red Dead game like GTA V, we will be in business.
The Last of Us falls into the same category as GTA V, games that really unleashed the greatness of the PS4 and that I was amazed they even put it out. The remaster is just as beautiful and playing it for a 2nd time around is just as emotional as the first. Naughty Dog really out did themselves and I can not wait until they tickle my eye sockets again (*cough* Uncharted 4 *cough*).
Mario Kart 8 (Wii U)
We all know the struggles that Nintendo has faced with the Wii U, so I’m not going to go in to the origins and reasons for those struggles. I’ve already discussed those issues, and some possible solutions, in the archives of this very blog.
Instead, I’m here to talk about Mario Kart 8. The glorious kart frenzy that saved the Wii U.
When history is written about he Wii U it will mention Mario Kart 8 fueled struggling system back to relevance. Reminding us what Nintendo develops so well: unique and creative games for all ages to enjoy.
And that is exactly what Mario Kart 8 is: Pure Enjoyment. Whether it’s sitting down to unlock all the creative and imaginative courses in single player, calling some friends over to battle in your living room, or (GASP!) playing online with players from across the globe, Nintendo developed the perfect blend of competitiveness and fun. It’s better than any other Kart entry that came before it, by giving us new courses with re-imagined favorites, more characters and carts to drive us to victory, and even more diabolical weapons to destroy our friends with. Not to mention, it’s one of the most graphically impressive games I’ve seen on any system.
Mario Kart 8 is the killer game that the Wii U needed and, more importantly, may have awaken the gaming giant we all know Nintendo can be.
Yacht Club Games’ Shovel Knight is retro gamers dream. It oozes so much nostalgia that you can picture it sitting on the shelf in a late 80s rental shop with cheesy box art that tells you nothing about what the game is actually about. In fact, it’s so retro, that the character on the front of the box looks nothing like the actually character in the game.
Shovel Knight takes the level selection screen from Super Mario Bros. 3, the interactive villages of Zelda II: The Adventures of Link, and the boss battles of Mega Man 2, mixes it together and delivers a modern game in retro footy pajamas.
The game looks great with it’s great colors and vibrant backgrounds, and the music makes the world come to life as it gives us great bit-tune music that will dance around in your head well after you stop playing. The game also gives us a world full of characters, from a singing storyteller who lost his music to giant singing fish that is the center to a new religion, the world is alive beyond the main characters. And the retro side scrolling is gameplay is challenging and engaging, but it never feels cheap when you die, unlike some of our retro classics due to game development limitations.
And what can I say about our hero, Shovel Knight. He is silent and honorable as he looks to save his best friend, Shield Knight, who has disappeared with out a trace. He is a great character and, even in all the retro glory, he plays with a sense of loss as he travels the land in your attempt to defeat the Enchantress and save his friend.
I never played the prior PS3 installments of Infamous and, after playing Second Son, I don’t know if I could. The game is gorgeous and really shows off the hardware the PS4 has under the hood. From the character models to the beautifully rendered Washington wilderness, the graphics are top notch and will make you stop to admire them. The cities are incredible as well as you traversing the rooftops is fun and fluid.
The game is mission based, something that can be hard to pull off without some monotony setting in. Even though developer Sucker Punch doesn’t deviate too much from the tried and true mission field formula, they did make me feel like I was actually advancing the game and continue my quest to be then people’s hero. Whether it’s blasting surveillance cameras and hovering drones or stopping drug dealers, you never feel like you quit moving towards the great goal of stopping the fiendish Department of Unified Protection (D.U.P.). Each grid can be completely freed from their control if you choose, and doing so made me feel like I was slowly taking away their power with each portion of Seattle I freed. The showdown with the D.U.P. forces when you bring their control down to 20% in an area are some of my missions in the game as they are both fun and challenging.
The main hero, or villain if you so choose, is Delsin Rowe. He is a punk kid who thinks tags billboards with his inspirational graffiti. His personality is a mix of Spider-Man and 90s Jack Knight Starman (Look it up kids. You can thank me later.), as he has funny quips with a bit of hipster cockiness to him. With both aforementioned characters two of my all-time favorite in comics, I actually like Rowe’s character quite a bit.
Second Son is a great looking game with polished game play accompanied by a mission system that never feels like you are spinning your wheels. You can be Dr. Doom or Superman, or a bit of both if you choose (Even a goody-good like myself likes to exterminate drug dealers and government backed protestors). But one thing is for certain, whether good or bad, you are sure to have a blast.