Every year is different. You’d think I’d figured that out by now, but apparently not. 2012 was an incredibly easy year to rank. Every game I played I could just feel where it fit on my top 5. 2013 was different because while I knew what my #1 would be, the rest took a great deal of ruminating on. 2014 has been different in that games #5 and #4 were easy, but figuring out which of the top 3 went where has been a nightmare. Each of my top 3 could be my #1 and I’d be okay with that. I’ve never had a year where 3 games simultaneously vied for my affection so strongly. And I can only see that as a good thing. It may not have been the best year in terms of quantity and yes, we’ve had our share of broken games but it has been another strong year for video games. Just, different.
Favorite Game Released be 2014, Played in 2014: Ratchet and Clank: A Crack in Time
When I got a PS3 this year (yes, a PS3, not a PS4), there were a number of games that I was sure that I would love. Those didn’t turn out so well. But then there was this little series about a lombax and a robot that completely enraptured me for a month. I went from owning no Ratchet and Clank games to own all of them (even the PS2 ports) in less than two weeks. And I owe all that to A Crack in Time. If Pixar made a game, it would be this. From the humor, to the visuals, to the oddly deep weapon customization, Ratchet and Clank: A Crack in Time in an amazing title and if it had been released in 2014, it would probably be my game of the year. Oh, and those time puzzles. Those are phenomenal!
5. Valiant Hearts: The Great War
I am the man that didn’t cry at the end of The Walking Dead Season 1. I am the man that left Duck hanging in that same game. I have never cried at a movie or game in my entire life. That is, not until I played Valiant Hearts. It’s easily the most heartfelt experience I’ve had this year, game or otherwise.
4. The Talos Principle
I love Portal. I, well, really like Serious Sam. The Talos Principle is NOT Portal meets Serious Sam. It is, however, the best first-person puzzle game this side of Portal. I say that not because it looks like or plays like Portal but because it embodies that same spirit Portal invokes. There is an incredible unity to The Talos Principle's gameplay and story. Cerebral, philosophical, charming and damn hard, The Talos Principle hits all the right notes in making a truly compelling experience.
3. Wolfenstein: The New Order
If you had told me that a Wolfenstein game could contain one of my favorite stories in a video game, I’d have thought you nuts. But not only does The New Order have the balls to do such a thing, it’s got fantastic graphics, satisfying stealth mechanics and silky smooth shooting. It really is just one of best shooters out there.
Yep. Never thought I’d say that.
2. 80 Days
I don’t know what to say about 80 Days that I already haven’t. 80 Days is a deceptively simple game. You select text in dialogue and destinations on a screen… and that’s pretty much it. But what it does with those little mechanics is astounding. 80 Days could be on this list just because it’s a minimalist’s dream. But that’s not why it here. 80 Days is here because with those two mechanics I travelled the world five times. With those two mechanics I felt more connected the Passepartout and Phileas Fogg than almost any other characters this year. With those two mechanics 80 Days exemplifies what was good about 2014: quality, not quantity.
1. Dragon Age: Inquisition
I struggled putting this here. Those that know me could have easily guessed what would be my top game. Then they could have guessed again once The Witcher 3 was postponed. But Dragon Age doesn’t sit at the top of this list because I’m an unabashed fan of Bioware. It doesn’t sit here because I liked Dragon Age 2 more than Origins. Dragon Age doesn’t sit here because they finally got the console/PC balance right. It’s not here because it’s enormous and utterly beautiful. And it’s not here because it’s incredibly addictive. Oh look,there’s a shard! Dragon Age is my game of the year because of the characters. Because of Varric and Cassandra. Because of Blackwall and Dorian. Because of all the others. And in a year with the likes of 80 Days, Valiant Hearts and even Wolfenstein, Dragon Age stands above the rest in creating real, compelling and wonderfully odd characters. Dragon Age is what Bioware does best.
Honorable Mentions: The Vanishing of Ethan Carter, Transistor, Ether One, Middle-Earth: Shadow of Mordor, Goat Simulator
Jonathan is the host of the DarkCast, DarkCast Interviews, and Gamers Read. He loves books, video games, and superheroes. If he had to pick favorites, they would be Welcome to the Monkey House, Mass Effect, and Superman respectively.