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Kan Gao's Top 10 Games of 2014

The creator of To the Moon and A Bird Story recounts the gaming experiences that meant most to him in 2014.

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Kan Gao is the director/composer at Freebird Games, which released A Bird Story earlier this year. He is currently working on "Finding Paradise", the 2nd episode in To the Moon's series. He writes stories and turns them into games, and then he eats them. Om nom nom. Follow him on Twitter.

There’s been a lot of brilliant games this year, and I still have an enticing backlog that’s asking to be cleared. Out of the ones that I’ve gotten to play so far, here are some of the most memorable ones for me:

Shovel Knight

This feels like it came out of a time capsule, with accommodating modern tweaks that manage to remain subtle enough as to not tinker with the said experience. Wicked fun and takes one back to a simpler time, with some fantastically fitting audio to boot.

Steins;Gate

This is quite a captivating meld of sci-fi and drama, with an intriguingly woven story that utilizes the character arc structure of visual novels wonderfully. A very welcomed addition for the time-travel theme enthusiasts.

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Transistor

I’m always fascinated by the choice of directions that folks take following their previous projects, and this was definitely a highly respectable step from Supergiant. It kept the sense of a solid mechanical core that just feels right, yet still manages to traverse new territories. And as usual, the music sets the atmosphere brilliantly.

Plague Inc: Evolved

Fun as the base game was when it first released, with the additional features feeling quite complementary and giving more concrete impact compared to the completely arbitrary display of a numbers game. Something I also appreciate about the game is its ability to arouse interest in actual applicable knowledge about its subject, which is always welcomed and something of an educational game done right.

Octodad: Dadliest Catch

Hilarity aside, halfway through playing, I got up and went to the washroom--and felt so relieved (no pun intended) that I did it in one try. An oddly unexpected reminder to not take things for granted; it ain’t easy being octopi.

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The Vanishing of Ethan Carter

It’s rare to find the kind of immersion of a virtual world that this game delivered, from its treat to all the senses to the desolation that it allowed to take everything in. Giving way to an intriguing mystery to witness and partake in, this is quite an experience to sink into.

The Swapper

While only released for additional platforms this year and technically originally released last year, this game doesn’t seem to be deservedly wide-spread despite its acclaim. It’s a wonderfully thought-provoking and cleverly designed sci-fi puzzle piece; definitely recommended.

The Walking Dead: Season 2

Not much to be said at this point; still hasn’t lost its grip!

South Park: The Stick of Truth

One of the more successful translations of a world from one medium to another. As a whole, it felt very “in-character”, complemented with solid gameplay that felt more classic than revolutionary; which I feel like is probably for the best given what it offers.

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Divinity: Original Sin

On top of its wonderful designs and slick mechanics throughout, this is one of the most charismatic games of its kind for me. I’m also oddly fond of its execution of selectable dialogues for not just one character, but the reacting character/dialogues as well. With some imagination thrown in, it actually felt reminiscent of one of the more fun parts about making a story-focused game, where you get to play out and build the characters’ interactions in your head.