Greg Kasavin is a writer and designer at Supergiant Games, the small independent studio behind Transistor and Bastion. Prior to joining Supergiant, Greg worked at 2K Games, Electronic Arts, and GameSpot. He's @kasavin on Twitter.
If there's one game that occupied most of my mental capacity and waking hours throughout much of the year, that game is Transistor. Once we finally got it out the door back in May, I started to regain a sense of normalcy (slowly) and catch up on all the great games released this year. The weird three-list format I used last year once again best represents my gaming experience in 2014, so here we go again!
LIST #3: HONORABLE MENTIONS
These are games I really enjoyed but quite didn't make it into my top 10, though in many cases are just as interesting as those other games, and this is my one opportunity to plug them since I don't work in the gaming press anymore, so cut me some slack already will you?
Video game comfort food. This latest installment of the excellent tower defense series doesn't take a lot of risks but I enjoyed it a whole lot anyway.
This visually stunning first-person mystery game has some memorable surprises and a really beautiful setting.
It may not look like much but this furious kung-fu action game is elegantly designed and deeply satisfying.
This was my go-to game for the first half of the year, and for dozens of hours it reminded me why I loved the classic games in the Final Fantasy series before they went all angsty and 3D.
Souls is my favorite wall to bash my head against a wall. Can't call this my favorite Souls game but it's still a whole lot better than just about everything else.
I had to include this because it's just so strange in every ounce of its being, and the first game I've ever seen that seemed designed to resist the Internet hivemind's ability to pick it apart. Best advergame of all time (sorry Chex Quest).
4. The Fall
A very cool narrative action / adventure / puzzle game about an AI-driven power suit trying to save its pilot. Great setting and characters, and would be even higher on my list if not for the promise of a next chapter.
3. 80 Days
Dynamic narrative version of Around the World in 80 Days, this is a fascinating game and a significant achievement in nonlinear storytelling in games.
Beautiful and thought-provoking first-person puzzle game with a rich, layered narrative, made all the more interesting since it's from the guys who made Serious Sam.
Beneath the gleefully ridiculous veneer and good-natured light-heartedness is a smart and inventive shoot-'em-up that puts a very different spin on classics like Contra.
As ever, it was painful to construct this list due to a variety of omissions, the most painful of which might be Flappy Bird, which I thought deserved all its insane popularity.
LIST #2: Top 10 Games Recommended to Me by Future Me
Basically my list of shame. These are games I keep telling myself I really ought to play, and will likely tear through a number of them over the holidays.
10. The Evil Within
Heard nothing but great things about this lovely surreal isometric puzzle game, which looks like a pleasant experience through and through.
I love that this got made and feel compelled to play it if only as a show of support. Everything about this is up my alley, and I'm ready to play a scary game again after Amnesia: The Dark Descent several years back.
Fell in love with this World War I-themed game in a matter of minutes but barely scratched the surface and need to go back to it.
I still haven't played this beautiful JRPG-inspired game in part because I fear it'll make me sad but since when has that ever stopped me from doing anything?
A new chapter for my favorite non-Dota 2 game of 2013. The world of The Last of Us is so harsh I was reluctant to return but I know it'll be worth it.
This year Telltale cranked out smart, high-quality narrative games much faster than I've been able to play them, between Wolf Among Us, Walking Dead Season 2, Tales from the Borderlands, and Game of Thrones. Telltale's stuff is so good it hurts.
This modern call-back to my all-time favorite Ultima series of role-playing games is deep, ambitious, and right up my alley, but I haven't yet found occasion to dig into to it as much as it demands.
I really like Persona and I really like Etrian Odyssey, and this mashes the two of them together in just the sort of weird crossover I tend to like even more than the sum of the parts. Heard great things.
Everything I've seen and played of this makes it out to be easily one of the best fighting games in years, but it came out just days ago so I haven't yet played the full version yet. But I intend to fix that!
The moral of this story is, it's hard to keep up with all the games I'd like to play. I'd say the blame falls squarely on the shoulders of my wife and children, though perhaps the #1 game on the next list is also partly at fault here.
LIST #1: My Top-10 Games of 2014
The rankings here don't matter much at all save for the #1 spot, and some of these spots I reserved for games I'm still in the middle of playing but savoring every minute. Just goes to show how much solid stuff come out this year! Here we go:
Have I ever mentioned that The Chronicles of Riddick: Escape From Butcher Bay is one of my all-time favorite shooters? Some of the same folks who made that game made this one, so maybe it shouldn't come as a surprise that this Wolfenstein has a surprisingly big heart, great characters, and lots of attention to detail.
9. Broken Age
This point-and-click adventure game packed in everything I loved about Tim Schafer's classic games from the LucasArts era, namely an imaginative setting, endearing cast of characters, and wonderful sense of tone.
I never really got into Smash before this year, but now, I get it. This is Nintendo design brilliance applied to the fighting game genre, and one of those rare games I enjoy as much as my kids do.
While I would not go so far as to say stabbing Uruks never gets old, I can say it does not get old for a very long time thanks to this surprisingly excellent game from Monolith. Though I cooled off on it a bit by the time I reached the end, it made one tremendous first impression, and that Nemesis System really is all it's cracked up to be.
You know how when you go back and play a game you're nostalgic about, it's sometimes not near as good as you recall? Shovel Knight is basically designed around your wistful memory of the golden age of games, and becomes something much greater in the process.
Almost hurts me to play this gorgeous and soulful strategy RPG, because just about everything I love about games is in here. It's like they ran a brain scan on me and made me a game. It took me a little while to get into but then it grabbed me by the throat.
My favorite BioWare game since Mass Effect 2, which was one of my favorite BioWare games ever. A stunning amount of good stuff to do and interesting places to see, and with BioWare's signature touches, including a rich cast of interesting characters.
It's hard for games to be funny but South Park pulls it off in this cross between an homage and a parody, filled to the brim with South Park's biting insight. Even the mere act of rummaging through people's stuff--a grand RPG tradition--is much more entertaining here than just about any other RPG I've played.
2. Bayonetta 2
A flat-out spectacular game, with easily some of the best and most finely tuned action I've played since the original. It's a master class of combat design, and exhilarating and challenging from the first moments. I love Bayonetta as a character, too, for being so cool, and funny, and clever, and anything but stereotypical. I bought a Wii U mostly so I could play this, and it was worth it.
Hearthstone is my number one game this year by a wide margin, and my favorite Blizzard game since World of Warcraft came out 10 years ago. Over the past couple of years, I played Dota 2 for hundreds of hours (making it my Game of the Year two years in a row), but then this came along and took over that spot in my life in a more comfortable and convenient way. It is almost scary how easily you can fire up a quick match of Hearthstone... and then another after that. Gameplay is all about reversals, mind games, surprises, and just a touch of luck--the core building blocks of many great competitive games. It gives you as much to think about as your brain can handle, and the basic interactions are surprisingly fun and satisfying. I've been playing this almost daily since May and don't see myself stopping anytime soon.
Whether I'm trying to scrape together a competitive deck for ranked ladder matches or drafting a random deck in the arena, Hearthstone has provided for me a limitless source of deep, fun, and interesting gameplay.