Wednesday, January 7, 2015

Top 5 Best Video Games of 2014

Through the fire and flames, here are 2014's best video games!

2014 was an... interesting year for video games. We're currently in the middle of a rather rough transition from last gen to current gen. Companies don't want to phase out old systems because they can release games for a large audience, yet don't want to fully support new systems until they have more of an install base. That being said, first party developers were really lacking this year and there were barely any console exclusives, just next gen exclusives. In a time where companies needed to get the attention and respect of gamers, this year had the pinnacle of shady business practices, broken games at release, and gamers just getting fed up with nearly every single developer. EA is still hated by pretty much everyone, but Ubisoft had a downright awful year with awful business decisions, awful controversies, and underwhelming games. Toss in not much word from Microsoft or Sony about games releasing this year, and you have a year that showed how flawed the Triple-A gaming industry is and how much the underdogs won this year.

This wasn't a year for big developers. This was a year dedicated to the little guys, and maybe that's why despite all of the terrible things that happened this year, I was glad that 2014 happened. Games like Watch_Dogs, Assassin's Creed: Unity, Dungeon Keeper Mobile, Destiny, and Metal Gear Solid: Ground Zeroes showed the lowest that the Triple-A industry could get, but some games came out of nowhere and captured our hearts and minds. That's what I'm going to focus on today; the games that captured our attention and are my personal games of 2014. Now not every list is going to be exact, but these are the five games that I will play constantly and will remember the year for. These may not be the best fundamental games of the year, but these are the games that defined 2014 for me in the best way possible.

Honorable Mention: Shovel Knight
Shovel Knight was a game that nearly everyone was looking forward to this year. It was a freshman outing for Yacht Club Games, a company composed of former Wayforward employees, and was one of the most prominent Kickstarter games last year. Shovel Knight had a lot of hype to live up to, and it delivered on nearly all fronts. The gameplay is simple, yet addictive. The stages are linear, but hard as nails. The bosses are some of the best designed bosses of the year, and the soundtrack is sublime. Everything about this game is pure amazement and is the gold standard of modern retro games. Games that attempt to get by on 8-bit graphics alone now have to contend with Shovel Knight, a game with legitimate depth and complexity. It released back in June for Steam, 3DS, and Wii U, and it's an absolute blast.

So why is it an honorable mention? Honestly, this game was too short for me. After waiting for it for so long, I best it in about 3-4 hours. It's a perfect length for the game, but it's still incredibly short for my liking. However, the developers have promised to release a ton of free DLC in 2015, so I'll still be coming back to this game for months to come. I haven't unearthed everything in Shovel Knight yet, but I plan on doing it this year.

Number 5: South Park: The Stick of Truth
It's a natural assumption that if a video game is based on a pre-established property, chances are it's going to suck. There are more disaster adaptations than there are successes, and the disasters are some of the worst video games ever made, the worst being Superman 64 and E.T the Video Game. On the other end of the spectrum, some of the best licensed games are Goldeneye 007, Spider Man 2, and now South Park: The Stick of Truth.

At it's core, its an RPG with the same gameplay mechanics as Nintendo's Paper Mario series, but with even less complexity. You travel around a world as a flat character, used action based attacks to hit enemies, and travel around a rather large overworld with a ton of nooks and crannies. But saying just that would be a disservice to the game. This game is a perfect representation of South Park. It was written by Matt Stone and Trey Parker, it has their signature humor, voice acting, and animation. It's pretty much watch a full interactive season of South Park.

The story is hilarious and knows exactly which jokes to make for the biggest laughs. Nothing is too extreme in this game, whether it's going inside a man's ass for a level or being crushed by your father's testicles, nothing is sacred in this game. You can interact with hundreds of characters from the show, some being major characters like Stan, Kyle, Kenny, and Cartman, while others are lesser known characters like the Sparrow Prince, the Woodland Critters, and the Prime Minister of Canada. It's a meticulous love letter to the show that doesn't overstay its welcome, but stays long enough to the point where it's liking you're hanging out with one of your best friends after not seeing them for years. The good times just roll. South Park: The Stick of Truth  may not be the most complex of games, but as a love letter to the show and to its fans, it's a damned good game.

Number 4: Danganronpa AND Danganronpa 2: Goodbye Despair

Look, I tried. I tried to pick only one Danganronpa game to make the list, but I couldn't. I physically could not. Both of these games are just so damn good and so much fun to play. They both have the same premise, classroom trials to discover who among them is a murderer, but both of them have strength and weaknesses that perfectly compliment each other. As soon as I say "Alright, this is why 2 is better than the original!", I stop and remember one thing about the other that I love to the death, which puts me back in my stalemate. So let's take them each bit by bit.

Danganronpa is a shorter, but much better told story. The story is a lot cleaner and more interesting to read, and the central mystery is much better than the mystery in Goodbye Despair. However, the gameplay can be pretty boring after a while, especially due to the fact that this game is pretty easy, effectively making trials more of a hassle than they should be. Goodbye Despair has the exact opposite problem. While it's story takes several cues from the original and doesn't have as many good twists, the gameplay is far more interesting and varied. Class trials are difficult and are easier to lose, though they can be incredibly long, sometimes going over two hours for a single trial.

Technically speaking, I would say that Goodbye Despair is a better game, but Danganronpa is a much better told story. It's not too long, but it leaves us with a pretty satisfying mystery game. So this is one of the few times where I will bend my rules and account for two games taking up the same slot. They're both on the Playstation Vita, have the same gameplay, several of the same themes and idea, the same development team, and are nearly identical in nearly everything besides its main cast. Both Danganronpa and Danganronpa 2: Goodbye Despair are the same game fundamentally, so instead of tell you to play one and not the other, just play both games and have a great time. You'll be hooked in the first hour.

Number 3: Five Nights at Freddy's
First off, props to this great picture I found on deviantart! I actually had a tough time trying to find an image to use as my header for this entry, but this sums the game up nicely. In fact, I found a plethora of FNaF fan art on DA and on Google, so give it a look if you want to see just how dedicated the Five Nights at Freddy's fan base is.

Indeed, FNaF is the epitome of the unknown game that became bigger than most Triple-A games released this year. No one expected it, but it hit the world by storm and is still talked about to this day. Hell, my Five Nights at Freddy's 2 review is the most popular review I've ever made, solely based on how dedicated the fan base is. And at the end of the day, whether you like the game or not, this game has one of the best horror atmospheres in recent memory. It's dark, lonely, and is just you and the animatronics. No fancy gore effects or violence. It's just you, a security camera, some lights, and two doors.

I've said it plenty of times before, but horror is at its best when it's simple. The simpler the premise, the easier it is to scare people. Complicate things too much, and we have to tap into our higher level thinking, which initiates further analysis, which can sometimes ruin immersion and fear. Here, you create the fear yourself. You stress yourself out over the game and the animatronics that are roaming the halls. You go to see where they are, fully aware of the risk you're taking doing so. You drain power, other guys can move while you look, and some can even get inside your room and kill you.

I've played this game with several groups of friends, and we've enjoyed it every time. Everyone was huddled up, afraid of what the game could bring out to scare us, as we all were scrambling to look for Bonnie and dreading if Freddy ever showed up. I could play this game for hours and never get tired of it, because no matter what I do, I'm still going to be afraid when I play this game. Games like Silent Hill and Eternal Darkness: Sanity's Requiem lose their fear factor the more I play them, because I remember the scares. I still think that they're great horror games, but their atmosphere is what really scares me and not the things that jump out and go boo. Five Nights at Freddy's may jump out and go boo, but only after you pissed yourself out of the fear that they're watching you and ready to kill you, and you can't do anything about it...

Number 2: Bayonetta 2

This game is so good that it's almost impossible for it to exist. It takes one of the best action games ever made and makes it even better by polishing nearly everything about it. Want more precise combat? Here you go! Want to have a mode where you attacks become even stronger? There you go! Want to remove the quick time events? I thought you'd never ask. Add in an adjustable difficulty setting and you have one of the best actions games not only made this year, but in any year period.

I know some people that can't get over how sexualized Bayonetta is, and how too out of control the combat is, but here's how I see it. If you don't like Bayonetta 2, you're just not good enough. It's a tough action game with a lot of powerful enemies that can only be beaten by mastering the controls. You find weapon combinations that work best for you and add that with abilities, items, and perfect dodge mechanics. This is a game where you need to time everything perfectly to win, but those wins are more gratifying than anything else.

Not only that, but this game has charm up the wazzoo. In the first five minutes of the game, I'm fighting angels on a fighter jet while a black Santa Claus that may or may not be Lucifer is driving along the sides of buildings with a fat Joe Pesci throwing me guns. I shit you not, that actually happens, and it is beyong beautiful. Speaking of beautiful, this game just looks better than nearly everything else released this year, even though it's on the Wii U. The action that happens in the foreground and the background are simply stunning and are oftentimes more visually interesting than what Bayonetta herself is doing, and this is a woman who's hair turns into medieval torture devices. Plus you have a great challenge mode and costumes that actually change the way you play the game and can even make it better. You can fly an Arwing from Star Fox in this game!!!

I know not many people have played this game, but it is by far one of the best games released this year. It has been nominated for numerous game of the year awards and has won a fair amount of them. Even on sites like Destructoid, it was voted unanimously as the best game of the year by the staff, the community, and by the site overall. It's rare for a game to reach this amount of universal acclaim, but Bayonetta 2 has done that because it deserves it. It deserves to be one of the best games of the year. And yet, it can't be number 1. We all know what number 1 is, so let's get it out of the way now.

Number 1: Super Smash Bros for Wii U/3DS
If you're surprised, then go home. As soon as this game released and I played my first round, I knew for a fact that this would be my GOTY. And why shouldn't it be? It's literally everything that I look for in a game. It has an incredible amount of replayability, graphics that are jaw dropping, modes that are perfect for local parties, and some of the simplest gameplay to figure out, yet difficult to master. This game is the equivalent of sex in my eyes.

The effort that was put into this game alone is mind boggling. With over 700 trophies, over 50 characters including Miis and Mewtwo, over two dozen single player, multiplayer, and online modes, and challenges that keep gamers coming back for more, this game has consumed my life when it released. It's been over a month now, and I still play it all the time. I've had several parties where all we did was play Smash. My friends and I have unlocked 120 of the 140 challenges by only using one hammer, and we've fought each other so many times in this game. It's just an experience like no other.

Plus, the 3DS version deserves some mention too. It's Smash Bros on to go, some of its stages are better than its Wii U counterpart, Smash Run is a ton of fun, there are plenty of challenges to compete in, and it's designed for multiplayer in mind. Both of these games together are just so good and so much fun that there was no way I could leave them off my list.

A great game isn't a game that you play once, remember the experience, and then move on. A great game is a game that you constantly go back to, no matter what. Even if it's been years down the road, a great game is a game that I would play on a yearly basis. I would look forward to playing it all the time because I know that it's a game that holds a special place in my heart. I got this game the day it released, with two of my friends and I driving a half hour to my Gamestop to pick up the Collector's Edition. When we got back, we raced back to my room playing the theme song to Brawl as I was running. As soon as we got there, we hooked it up and played it for 10 hours straight. We unlocked all of the characters, had a tournament between fourteen people, played eight player smash, had copious amounts of food, and found new mains for each of us. We bonded like never before, and it was one of the greatest gaming experiences I have ever had in my life. Super Smash Bros for Wii U and 3DS is by far the best game of the year and is one of the most perfect fighting games I have ever played in my life. Also, I'm an amiibo addict because of this game. Sue me.

Well that was a fun little list to put together! I hope you enjoyed my choices, I hope you have games that you loved to play in 2014, and we'll see what 2015 has in store for video games. It should be a big year, so fingers crossed! For more reviews, come like my facebook page to stay up to date with everything that happens on the site!

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