Another year, another massive list of games to pile under our belts. In a desperate attempt to keep up with modern day cliches in video game journalism, we’ll be taking a look at our picks for the best games of 2014.
Each of the Bros from What’s Your Tag? will be choosing one game to represent the best of the best for the categories listed below. Don’t bother listening to those “other guys.” These are the games worth checking out from last year.
Miles – Sunset Overdrive
I absolutely loved this game, but for some reason I couldn’t play it for more than an hour at a time. I think it was just a sensory overload. There was always so much happening all the time. It was like trying to rock a sick combo in Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater while trying to aim and shoot hordes of ridiculous mutants. No other game this year had so much style. Be warned though, the jokes are painfully bad.
Bradley – Middle-earth: Shadow of Mordor
In what I assumed would be nothing more than a dry Assassin’s Creed/Arkham clone, no game surprised me more this year than Shadow of Mordor. Its brilliantly designed Nemesis system, meaningful upgrades, and rock solid combat carried its dull story for the full duration, and I had way too much fun to care about its narrative shortcomings.
Paul – Sunset Overdrive
I didn’t care for the play style of constantly moving by grinding, but I recognize that it was built very well. The vibrant art style made it stand out against other games, but the controls and fight systems did not appeal to me. Many complained about the humor feeling forced, but I felt it was properly delivered given the tone and setting of the game.
Kayla – inFAMOUS: Second Son
inFAMOUS: Second Son was going to be a hit or miss for me. As a Seattle native and a fan of the inFAMOUS series, I came in ready to be disappointed. But the virtual Seattle was rendered so beautifully that I could happily point out landmarks or places I had actually been. It was wonderfully easy to switch between travel powers and nuking a bunch of D.U.P.’s, or switch between powers altogether, and the storyline, while following the traditional inFAMOUS formula, still kept me engaged. With First Light being free on the PSN in January, I can’t wait to pick that up and play the story of Fetch, one of the coolest and strongest female characters I’ve seen in a long time.
Miles – Diablo 3: Reaper of Souls (Ultimate Evil Edition)
Sure Diablo 3 isn’t technically a “new” game, but to anyone who’s been playing this title since launch, Reaper of Souls is a brand new experience entirely. If you were disappointed with the initial launch of Diablo 3 (I think we all were), this expansion more than makes up for it with an incredible addition to the end-game content. Something that was desperately needed.
Bradley – World of Warcraft: Warlords of Draenor
Despite its rocky launch, once I was finally able to sink my teeth in to the new content, Warlords of Draenor was a constant reminder of why I loved World of Warcraft in the first place. It brought a ton of welcome changes, emotional lore-filled storytelling, and some of the most well designed zones in the series’ history. I still find the lack of things to do at 100 a bit underwhelming, but it’s early enough in the expansion’s life cycle and I’m sure that’ll change over time. (Honorable mentions would go to Child of Light and Bravely Default.)
Paul – South Park: The Stick of Truth
Given how bad previous South Park games have been and the collapse of THQ, this game was set to fail but delightfully shined through. Fans of South Park will feel like they are watching a 20+ hour homage to the show. I don’t care for turn based RPG’s but this game kept me interested and entertained throughout its entirety.
Kayla – Lightning Returns: Final Fantasy XIII
There was a great deal of hate for the action-driven end to the FFXIII trilogy, but I shared none of it. To me, it was the perfect end to an amazing journey in the Fabula Nova Crystallis universe. I was driven to find out the fates of all my favorite characters during this 500 year stagnation, and found myself crying over minor characters who would make last requests of the Savior. The mystery of Lumina, the struggle of Lightning, and the impending fear of the clock hitting zero kept me playing it for hours on end, and not wanting to stop. Every detail in Lightning Returns was thought out, and no character’s story felt cheap or lackluster. I even enjoyed the strategy required by choosing the right Schema, weapon and shield for the tasks at hand. (Honorable mention to Tales of Xillia 2 and Final Fantasy XIV 2.0: A Realm Reborn for PS4)
Miles – Super Smash Bros. Wii U/3DS
It’s took almost seven years, but fans of the long running Super Smash Bros. series were not disappointed with the latest release. With an obscenely large roster containing almost 50 characters, there is a little something for everyone to love. I’m a huge fighting fan and the latest Smash Bros. caters way more to the hardcore scene, but it still manages to keep a fun and friendly balance for casual players. Hands down one of the best games of the year, and easily the best game on Wii U right now.
Bradley – TowerFall: Ascension
Even though I’m a big 2D fighter fan, I skipped out on 2 major releases this year with Super Smash Bros and Ultra Street Fighter IV, and I’m still pissed about missing out on Duck Game and Battle High 2 for OUYA. With that being said, I still had a ridiculous amount of fun this year with TowerFall: Ascension on OUYA and PS4. Its 4-player 2D arena combat is accessible enough to make it the ideal party game, but master it and it becomes a whole different beast. I’m also madly in love with its art style, character design, and soundtrack, which provide additional layers of depth to an already rock solid foundation.
Kayla – Super Smash Bros. 3DS
Sadly, I didn’t play many fighting games. Even though I got Killer Instinct for free (and it came out last year), the other games on my pallet meant that I didn’t have the time to sit down and play them. But I did play some Super Smash Bros. Even if it was my only fighting game played, I still enjoyed it immensely. SSB has come a long way, and it’s smooth, beautiful, and still the best game to play with friends.
Miles – Volgarr the Viking?
The closest thing I got to playing a sports/racing game this year was speedrunning Volgarr the Viking. I was trying to go as fast as I could and sweating, so I think that counts.
Bradley – MLB 14: The Show
As a huge MLB fan, The Show is a game that I buy every single year, and was the main reason I bought a PS4 in April. This year’s game improved on the series’ formula with new animations, physics, stadium details, and enough graphical punch to be another must-buy in 2015. I also enjoyed being able to battle it out with my friends in the Home Run Derby, regardless of their platform of choice. Those hair physics though.. yuck.
Kayla – Mario Kart 8
The newest addition to the Mario Kart family was deliciously smooth, delightfully beautiful, and enough of a challenge to keep it from getting boring. The kart customization was the best I’ve ever seen it. I honestly never wanted to set it down.
Miles – Shovel Knight
Let’s be honest here, many indie developers create “retro” style games as an easy way to cash-in on our nostalgia, which in some cases can work really well. Shovel Knight stands towering above other indie games in the same genre. The amazing and memorable platforming is accompanied by one of the best soundtracks of the year. It reminds you of the classic games you loved from the past, but manages to dig out its own spot in history.
Bradley – Donkey Kong Country: Tropical Freeze
2014 was a great year for fans of platformers, and although I really, really enjoyed So Many Me and Magnetic By Nature on the OUYA, and Shovel Knight on Wii U, I was just a little more impressed with DKC Tropical Freeze. With such an amazing soundtrack, masterfully crafted level designs, and challenging boss encounters, Tropical Freeze stands above the rest as my platformer of the year.
Kayla – Stick It To The Man
Stick It To The Man was not something I was expecting to love. The odd art style reminded me of one of my favorite games, Psychonauts, and the zany humor kept me chuckling as I navigated the levels. I am definitely a fan of the corny, fourth-wall breaking humor, and SITTM did it rather smoothly; without making it as blatant as, say, the Deadpool game. The controls took some getting used to, but once I got the hang of it, it was delightfully fun to swing across platforms and figure out the puzzles.
Miles – Among the Sleep
This is definitely one of the more unique games I played in 2014. Although the core concept isn’t anything entirely new (a first-person horror/adventure game) the fact that the Among the Sleep’s protagonist was an infant made everything feel completely fresh. The terrors of the world felt much more exaggerated as a small child and the team behind this wild horror game completely ran with the idea.
Bradley – P.T.
Sure, P.T. isn’t even a real game, it’s a playable teaser.. but of all the horror games that released in 2014, none were as memorable or as haunting as Konami’s glimpse in to the future of Silent Hill. I’ve honestly never been so terrified while playing a game in my life, and I’ll never, ever hear the words “turn around” again without feeling chills down my spine. I really wanted to choose The Last of Us: Remastered for this award, but my moral code wouldn’t let me choose a remaster over something brand new.
Kayla – P.T.
I swear to you that I am not copying Brad’s list. I have to wholely agree to him that P.T., despite only being a playable teaser, is probably the greatest horror game experience I have had the honor of enjoying. Not only that, but despite its short playtime, it was far more fulfilling than most games I played this year. P.T. was beautiful, and in that short few hours provided delicious, tantalizing hints about the story of why you’re being haunted. The psychological aspects of the game were on point, and I still can’t hear a traditional phone ring or a door slam shut without flinching and covering my eyes. The puzzles were difficult but not impossible, a throwback to the games of the ’90s and ’00s that had to rely on puzzles more than pretty graphic and gore. I have many difficulties playing horror games, but if this is a sneak peek at what Konami is going to bring us in the near future, then I will be throwing a good deal of cash at them.
Miles – Titanfall
I’ll be the first to admit that Titanfall was lacking content, especially at launch, but that barely detracts from the phenomenal gamplay and rock-solid shooting mechanics. Just like the original Modern Warfare, Titanfall completely changed what we expect from a AAA first-person shooter. You can’t really go wrong with parkour and mechs.
Bradley – Wolfenstein: The New Order
Wolfenstein is a series that’s been in steady decline for a while now, but Machine Games reignited my interest with The New Order. It was a gorgeous game to look at that proved a single-player focused FPS can survive without a generic, tacked on multi-player mode. Just an amazing game with fun weapons, an intriguing story, and tons of memorable moments. It’s also worth noting that this game narrowly edged out Far Cry 4 for the award.
Paul – Titanfall
Despite its lack of a true campaign, it was well made and well balanced in every aspect. Respawn has kept up support for the game and has continually made improvements, even outside of the DLC.
Kayla – Titanfall
When it comes to shooters, I’m a bit of a casual player. I’m not the person that will spend fifty hours on launch week trying to max my level and learn all the best spots to camp. With that said, Titanfall appealed to me in many ways. First, it was practically impossible to actually camp, with multiple entrances into any area. Second, even with maxed out players, casual players like myself weren’t completely gunned down and overwhelmed: The game was extremely accessible. And third? Giant robots. Really though, Titanfall was one of the few shooters that I felt comfortable playing and didn’t want to give up partway through because I felt like it was hopeless to even try playing against all the higher-leveled characters.
Miles – Diablo 3: Reaper of Souls – Ultimate Evil Edition
Most games are better with friends, but few went to the same extent as Diablo 3: Reaper of Souls – Ultimate Evil Edition to encourage you and your buddies to play together. Better loot, more experience, and a greater challenge are only a few of the things that made playing Diablo more enjoyable with some good bros. This was definitely my go-to co-op game of 2014.
Bradley – Diablo III: Reaper of Souls – Ultimate Evil Edition
I initially passed on Diablo 3 when it released for PC and last-gen consoles, but when Reaper of Souls launched on the PS4 and Xbox One back in August, it became the main reason to buy a 2nd controller. My girlfriend and I spent countless hours crawling through menacing dungeons, leveling the new Crusader class, and perfecting builds alongside our online friends. It’s one of those games that gets better the more time you pour in to it, and its loot pinata mechanic brings endless replay value to an already accessible game.
Paul – Titanfall
It was suspect to hear that a game was coming out with no true campaign, but the multiplayer action proved the game’s worth. With the balance between pilot and titan combatants, either could dominate or be dominated; but it was determined by the team’s skill and not its arsenal. Even months after its release, it is still worth going back to.
Kayla – Diablo III: Reaper of Souls (PC)
Diablo III was already amazing when it came out, and Reaper of Souls had me on Battle.net for hours at a time playing with friends. The saga to learn about that fifth and final angel was deliciously smooth, and endlessly replayable. I spent far too much time in front of a computer because of Reaper, and I fully intend to do the same on my Xbox One after picking up the Ultimate Evil Edition to play with fellow XBROs AMGfail and stspip.
Miles – Shovel Knight
Like I mentioned before, Shovel Knight is an incredible platformer. Very few games–even most AAA releases–captured my attention the way this unique indie title did. It’s everything you love about Mega Man and Castlevania with just the right amount of modern flair. It’s my highest reviewed game of 2014 and it absolutely deserves the 9.5 score.
Bradley – A Story About My Uncle
ASAMU is a game that was given to us on a whim to review for Gone North Games, and it’s one that I’ve been gushing about all year ever since. It combines the best aspects of games like Bioshock, Bionic Commando, and Gone Home, and the end result was one of the most memorable games I had the pleasure of playing. With breathtaking visuals, highly imaginative level designs, and a great story to uncover, ASAMU is easily my favorite indie of 2014. (Honorable mention to Goat Simulator.)
Paul – Valiant Hearts: The Great War
Short, sweet, but lots of heart sums up this game. The cartoonish style of the game takes nothing away from the harrowing story based in the first World War. A few mechanical and puzzle related problems can be overlooked when playing this game and it was a great value for the amount of playing time it provided.
Kayla – Volgarr the Viking
If you’ve ever watched Mileson’s streams, you know exactly what this game is, and you’re probably already singing “Speeeeed ruuuun citaaaaay” as you read this. I didn’t play many completed indie games but Volgarr was by far one of my favorites. It was difficult, but not impossible. The soundtrack was amazing, and it’s my go-to game for when I want a challenge. Miles made it look easy. When I actually sat down to play it, I found out how much of a challenge the game really is, and just how much fun it is as well. Who doesn’t love playing as a spear-tossing viking leaping and smashing his way to victory? (Honorable mention to: Among The Sleep, which I didn’t play but positively LOVED watching streams of.)
Miles – Shovel Knight
You probably already saw this one coming based on my two previous rants about the game’s magnificence. Shovel Knight was absolutely the best game I played last year. I played the game until my controller completely died… twice. It was one of the few games I beat with a 100% completion and immediately started playing again. If you own a Wii U and you don’t own Shovel Knight, that needs to change as soon as humanly possible.
Bradley – Middle-earth: Shadow of Mordor
While I wanted more of a story I could sink my teeth in to, and the final boss encounter was extremely disappointing, I can overlook those due to the game accentuating its positives. Meaningful upgrades, fluid combat, and 200 pounds of straight raw violence put Shadow of Mordor at the top of my list for 2014. My runner-up would easily be A Story About My Uncle, which goes to show just how amazing that game was.
Paul – Titanfall
Best all around game for my tastes this year. Good balance, good mechanics.
Kayla – World of Warcraft: Warlords of Draenor
It’s a bit odd giving this title to an MMO expansion, but the journey through Draenor has been amazing. I came back to WoW after an almost two-year absence, and was expected to be disappointed like I was with Mists of Pandaria; and, in a smaller way, Cataclysm. Instead, I was given beautiful visuals, a heart-stirring soundtrack, and a captivating storyline that including emotionally powerful cinematics. Blizzard once again sets the bar high for any other MMO out there, and any RPG as well. Anyone who’s played knows as well as I do that Khadgar is one of the best NPC characters ever introduced into the series. Oh Khadgar, you’re so sassy.
This is the part where we here at What’s Your Tag? want to thank you, the reader, for giving us your attention for yet another year. As we all know, you have to take the good with the bad, and we all saw plenty of bad in 2014. So without further ado, we present to you our two ‘Worst of the Worst’ awards.
Miles – The Evil Within
I’m not entirely sure why I was so disappointed with The Evil Within. The core gameplay was solid and it had plenty of over-the-top gore, but in the 20 hours I put into the game, I never really had fun. Everything about it felt forced and it suffered from an absolute identity crisis. It sort of fell into this ugly middle-ground between the more classic survival-horror inspired Resident Evil 4 and the action-heavy explosion fests that were Resident Evil 5 and 6. It unfortunately didn’t do either of the styles right and for some ridiculous reason tried to force stealth down your throat. The Evil Within came nowhere near meeting my expectations.
Bradley – Destiny
I was one of the many consumers out there who were excited to play Destiny, but was unable to do so for 10 straight days due to server instabilities. When I actually got to play, it was a shell of a game that overstayed its welcome rather quickly, thanks to its paper-thin story that required visiting the Destiny website to “enjoy”. It ended up being familiar to Borderlands, minus the loot and fun characters.
Paul – Destiny
Bungie can’t stop themselves from ruining their own game thus destroying its true potential. Somehow Games Radar already called this game of the year – I think they haven’t played it.
Kayla – Destiny
Destiny, I wanted to like you, I really did. Like that annoying cousin everyone has in the family tree, I knew on some level, I did love you. But the first and foremost emotions I expressed about you were annoyance and frustration. Destiny, you had amazing potential. I was ready to be blown away by your story. Your controls were very smooth, and you were very pretty. But for what was basically an MMO experience, you had very limited actual social interactions with others, trying to connect to parties was an absolute headache, and I felt like your story was a shell of what it could have been. That, to me, is the biggest disappointment: To have this grand story, this amazing lore that could have rivaled the vast legacy of Mass Effect series. Instead, every character comes from Russia, and the story is just a pretty bow to wrap on the “Go in and shoot everything” package. Maybe, like my annoying cousin, I’ll enjoy your company when you mature and solve your issues, Destiny.
Miles – Halo: The Master Chief Collection
Don’t get me wrong, The Master Chief Collection is still one of the greatest HD remasters of all time, but it didn’t come without it’s fair share of horrific launch problems. Having matchmaking that literally takes hours on launch day is one thing, but letting these problems continue for weeks and eliminating much of the online experience entirely is something Halo fans shouldn’t be forced to endure. Even now, almost two months after the game’s release, regular updates are rolling out to try to “fix” the issues. Matchmaking has improved in many cases, but online co-op is completely broken due to a crippling input delay. What was suppose to celebrate the legacy of one of the greatest video game franchises of all time instead became a brutal reminder of the harsh reality of video game deadlines. This collection was rushed into stores and the consumers were punished for supporting it.
Bradley – Destiny
I’m giving Destiny the Worst Launch award for the same reason I gave it Biggest Disappointment. Being forced to connect to highly unreliable Bungie servers, and then being told it’s our own ISP’s or connections isn’t the ideal response you’d hope for after dropping $60 on a game that’s been shoved down our throats for years. This was only made worse when Bungie seemed to be more interested in releasing new Destiny content, rather than fixing the old stuff. Battlefield 4, anyone?
Paul – DRIVECLUB
What was to be a console launch game still can’t get out of the garage. Two months after release it still doesn’t work and the PS+ edition has no release date.
Kayla – Destiny
I am the most relaxed person ever when it comes to video game launches. If I have trouble connecting to a game on launch day, I’ll always just have a good laugh about how the poor developers didn’t expect their game to be so popular, and keep trying. I am the saint that encourages others to keep trying, and to be patient. That being said, I shut off my PS4 and gave up on trying to connect to Destiny for about a week. Even when I tried to play it later, I had to quickly give up on trying to connect to another party, or someone else connecting to me. Let this be words of wisdom to all developers: Don’t hype your game up to be the greatest game ever played, require it to have internet, then make playing it a complete headache. If you want me to play with other people, then make that actually possible. Trying to play with others when Destiny finally actually launched was the Kobayashi Maru of the video game world: You can fight that battle as much as you want, but you will not win.
2014 was pretty polarizing in the world of gaming. On the positive side, we not only saw the revival of the horror genre with The Evil Within and Alien: Isolation, but witnessed some well-received licensed games in Alien: Isolation (again) and Middle-earth: Shadow of Mordor. The Wii U finally picked up steam with its boatload of exclusives, the Xbox One gained a ton of ground by dropping the Kinect (and the price tag), and this generation of console sales are well beyond what they were by this time last generation.
Then, of course, we had the GamerGate debacle, and DDoS attacks that rendered Xbox Live and Playstation Network useless during the holiday season. Let us also not forget the laundry list of launch woes that plagued the industry in which begging consumers to pre-order has become the norm.
At least now we can put 2014 behind us and look forward to all the 2015 releases coming down the line. Thanks again for following our odd brand of humor, as without you none of this would be worth doing. Feel free to let us know your picks down in the comment section, or even ridicule our choices.
We look forward to another year of games, comics, and shenanigans in 2015!