5 - MIDDLE-EARTH: SHADOW OF MORDORShadow of Mordor adds yet another tally to the long list of licensed properties that have been surprisingly excellent. While the game treads ground thoroughly molded by the likes of Batman and Assassin's Creed, the Nemesis is the driving force here; as long as you're willing to use your imagination and play around with the orc captains, a lot of hilarious & crazy moments can pop up. It's one of the few instances where the organic experiences are native solely to the medium, and this is hopefully a sign for things to come. I wish that the combat was a little more invigorating towards the end, but that aspect doesn't mar just how entertaining the whole journey is. RIP Grublik.
4 - DARK SOULS IIIt's hard living in the shadow of your more popular older siblings—Dark Souls II can well attest to this. At times it looks to rise above the legacy crafted by Demon's and Dark, but ultimately plays it too safe for its own good. Despite this, the Souls experiences are few and far between, and I walked away from Dark Souls II feeling like it was a worthy successor to Dark Souls—it's certainly the most consistent in quality out of the three games thus far. The only thing keeping me from placing it higher on the list is that I haven't touched the DLC yet, and I look forward to diving into those waters come Scholar of the First Sin in 2015.
3 - SHOVEL KNIGHTBeing a child of the 8-bit era, there were a lot of things that Shovel Knight could've done to upset me. Thankfully, Yacht Club's knew what made the NES classics click, and their kickstarter baby is a massively fun package from start to finish. From the music to the visuals, the powerups to the bosses, and the level design to the shockingly great story, Shovel Knight is a fantastic entry that earned itself several playthroughs from me. Shovel Knight is the best oldschool throwback fans of the NES have gotten in a long time.
2 - WOLFENSTEIN: THE NEW ORDERThe New Order delivers a solid one-two punch of both action and masterful writing. Not since The Last of Us have the two been married so thoughtfully together—and from a Wolfenstein game, no less! The bulky BJ Blaszkowicz may be out of his era but the dystopian narrative is stronger than it's ever been, and the gunplay is immensely satisfying too. It may be a game that doesn't do one particular thing exceptionally well, but the entire package is just so polished and riveting that I had to place it high on my personal list. It's one of the few games this year that, as soon as the credits started rolling, I thought "there's absolutely nothing they could have done better".
1 - FAR CRY 4Far Cry 4 earns its place at the top of the heap a bit undeservedly—much of my adoration for the game stems from my time with Far Cry 3, which was my true (non-2014) game this year. However, that still doesn't take away from the fact that Far Cry 4 does what it knows best; the freedom offered to the player in the combat and the world are still greatly unmatched in FPSs today. There's multiple instances of fast-and-loose combat combined with spontaneous hilarity (like when you're sneaking into a base and a random boar has you [and only you] on its hitlist for some unknowable reason), which solidified it as my favorite game this year. On top of that, the gunplay, story, fan-made content and general moment-to-moment fun of this title is something that many games strive for and few achieve, and I have to bow painfully low just to express just how much gratitude I've had for a series that has given me some amazing, spontaneous memories. And it has an ending that, just like with Wolfenstein, is pitch-perfect.
GREAT GAME I PLAYED THIS YEAR - FIRE 'N ICEFire 'n Ice is a great, great puzzler. There's really not much to add behind what I already said in my "Thoughts" entry—the mechanics are simple but wise, the puzzles are numerous and challenging, and the presentation is charming and cheerful. I honestly got very excited every time I turned on the NES to dive back into this title, and even with its +100 levels, I still hunger for more. Plus the game continues to teach you new mechanics even after you've finished it!
WORST GAME I COMPLETED THIS YEAR - FAHRENHEITI railed against this title last week but I have to say it again—Fahrenheit is not good. If you have to pause the game and ask yourself "why would a human being write this?", then it's likely that there's little the game can do to turn itself around. Fahrenheit goes so far beyond the pale that whatever strengths it had going for it are etched away, and all that remains is the baffling, puerile nonsense that's left bubbling beneath. Heavy Rain's silly plotholes ain't got nothin' on this behemoth.
GAME I WISH I PLAYED THIS YEAR - DESTINYSo much controversy! I'm a sucker for anything that can get people gossiping and bickering loudly, so I'm a little sad to miss the Destiny train this year (though I know it'll be around for quite some time). I've listened to a lot of discussions regarding its grindiness and lack of depth, but experiencing the gameplay first hand and knowing just how Strange Coins and Helium work within its currency is still something I wish I had knowledge of. Perhaps I'll get around to it eventually, or just cut my losses and jump in on the series whenever the inevitable sequel launches.
WHAT'S MISSING? - BAYONETTA 2Bayonetta 2 deserves to be on the top 5 list, but unfortunately isn't—yet. I've split time between the first and second titles messing around with the combat and trying to get a good feel for Dodge Offset, which is taking a while. Seeing as I have yet to tackle anything above normal, or complete all the optional side arenas, it feels improper to try and place Bayonetta 2 on the list above with so much left to understand. I thoroughly enjoyed the Umbran Witch's return to form, but this is something I have to invest a bit more in before I can properly come up with a summary on what my thoughts are. Safe to say, it's definitely the best action game I've played since Ninja Gaiden 2.
Other images obtained from: kekkai.org, gamesradar.com, joystiq.com