2014 will go down as a year in gaming where so many of the larger titles struggled with technical issues at launch. From the beginning of the year all the way through the holiday season, so many games were full of bugs and were even unplayable when they launched. Sadly, these issues will most likely overshadow the games that stood out and were worth giving a shot. For me, 2014 was a solid year. I was able to experience every console (home and portable) during that year, and overall, I'm very pleased with the first full year of the Ps4 and Xbox One. There weren't many titles that attempted to shake up the industry, and innovation took a back seat as developers and publishers were still a little too shy to dive right in to the new consoles. Still, I had plenty of new games to play on a weekly basis. The consistency of quality titles is something that is becoming common within the industry, and gamers almost always have a new game on the horizon to play. The downside to this consistency though is that very few of those games are industry shaping titles, and several of the titles in my top five list had some pretty big flaws. Overall though, 2014 was a year that had plenty of fun games to enjoy, even though there were plenty of unplayable AAA games.
Favorite Game Released Before 2014, Played in 2014: Mass Effect 2
For those that know me, including the Darkstation staff, Mass Effect 2 somehow making this list shouldn't surprise anyone. Mass Effect 2 is a title that made such an impact on me that I reference it almost anytime a video game discussion comes about, and it's one of the few games that is on my annual play rotation. In my early years as a gamer Super Mario Bros. 3 on the NES shaped how I view the video game industry, and it helped guide me towards this hobby that I've had for about 25 years. OoT turned that hobby into a passion, and changed my perspective on gaming and what it can do for people. Mass Effect 2 was another game that has had a major impact on how I view gaming. It's a title that I place close to OoT when I look back on it, and that isn't something that I take lightly. I have the Mass Effect 2 itch once again so I'll have to dust my Ps3 off and play through the game for a seventh time.
5. Mario Kart 8
Not many games can bring people together like a Nintendo game can. Anytime I speak with people that play video games casually it's always difficult to recommend the games that I play on Xbox and PlayStation. Nintendo has done a great job in the past eight years with bringing gamers and non gamers together utilizing a single title. Mario Kart 8 is another one of those titles that breaks down those barriers and brings everyone together in the living room. A few months ago we had friends and family over and we all crowded around the television and fired up some Mario Kart 8. Beautiful visuals, fun and familiar gameplay, and an easy to pick up control setup makes Mario Kart 8 one of the best games of the year.
4. Conception II: Children of the Seven Stars
Conception II is a very quirky Japanese role-playing game that gives North American gamers the first taste of the series. With plenty of innuendo, double meanings, and a harem story line; Conception II has a pretty defined niche. For me, Conception II was like a refreshing cold drink after waking up in the middle of the night dehydrated. I might not have grabbed my favorite drink to chug, but it still hit the the spot right when I needed it. When it was all said and done, I had put close to 70 hours into Conception II. And while it certainly had its faults, it was still a unique game that made an impression on me in 2014.
3. South Park: The Stick of Truth
Not many games surprised me in 2014. In fact, this past year has been pretty standard in the industry when it comes to video game releases. We saw the 8th generation fully kick off and attempt to establish itself in the homes of gamers, but overall, there weren't too many shocking occurrences. South Park: The Stick of Truth ended up being an early surprise however, because in all honesty, this game shouldn't have been good. It was in development for close to five years, and it also saw its original publisher go bankrupt (I still miss you THQ). Ubisoft picked up the game so that it could release in March of 2014. The Stick of Truth is a turn based role-playing game based on the South Park universe. The crass humor and satire that the series is known for is on full display, and many scenes are hilariously shocking to say the least. Like many games this year though technical issues plagued the title. In many aspects, South Park: The Stick of Truth would be a game I would give the highest score to. But due to so many glitches and bugs it becomes a brilliant, but severely flawed, title.
2. Dragon Age: Inquisition
The Dragon Age series has, in my opinion, always struggled to really deliver a title that reaches the greatness that some of Bioware's other titles have. While Dragon Age shares similarities to the Mass Effect series, it has always felt a little odd due to some decision making from the esteemed developer. Dragon Age: Origins has a combat system that was a little boring, character interactions that were a little confusing due to the like/dislike system, and choices that felt like I was losing regardless of what I decided. Dragon Age II felt like it was really rushed, and although it fixed up the combat system from the previous title it felt much less epic in comparison. Dragon Age: Inquisition however, kicks some major ass and bring a Dragon Age experience that I have always been wanting. The combat system is revamped and is really engaging, but still offers a tactical setting for those that like to slow the combat down. The story is also much more focused and does a better job at making the characters in the party feel fleshed out and important. Inquisition came late in the year, but it's easily one of the best games of 2014.
When it comes to new video games I almost never follow any of the pre release news and information (crazy, right?). Most of the games I play I don't really know much about in terms of how the game actually plays. Destiny was never really on my radar, but every once in awhile one of my close friends would remind me of the title, and how he was excited for it. I stayed cautious because I try to avoid the surrounding hype of a big title. Once the Alpha released for the Ps4 I decided to download it and give it a try. Those few opening moments of the game captured my attention, and any worries I had about the game were long gone. Within the first hour of playing it I could tell this was a game I would consider giving the highest score I could if I reviewed the title. Some games have an "it"factor about them. Elements that make the game so fun that any detracting issues are overridden by the quality of the title. Destiny has some flaws of course, the biggest being that Bungie seemed confused on how to present the title to gamers. Regardless, Destiny is really unique title that blends Phantasy Star Online structure with Halo gameplay, creating an experience that encourages player cooperation and interactions.
Honorable Mention: Pokemon Alpha Sapphire, Super Smash Bros. 3ds, Kirby: Triple Deluxe, Infamous: Second Son, Middle-earth: Shadow of Mordor