Will is the editor of Tested.com. Alex will likely insert a Will Smith, the actor joke here. [Editor's Note: You don't know me. You don't know what I'm going to do.] He's @willsmith on Twitter if you'd like to complain about his list.
Here are my favorite games released in 2014, in no particular order. I have a kid, so I automatically skip most games that you can’t pause (Dark Souls II, most multiplayer stuff) or anything that’s going to take more than a handful of hours to complete. On that tip, I should have put Assassin's Creed IV: Black Flag on my list last year, but I didn't get to play it in time. If you forced me to pick a favorite game that I played in 2014, it would probably be Spelunky.
Humanizing the bad guys made Shadow of Mordor much more entertaining than the kind of cannon fodder you face in most open world games. Mordor's Nemesis system let me build a lasting relationship with many of the bosses. The first time I met an orc I thought I had slain and saw the results of our last meeting on his face, literally, I was taken aback.
The open-world nature of combat in Mordor works perfectly with the Nemesis system. Fighting orcs who call for help resulted in some ridiculous, five-way boss battles, and distinguished Mordor’s combat from its Batman origins. Despite killing seemingly hundreds of unique bosses, there were always more orcs waiting to be promoted, and they seemingly all had a unique character design and set of voiced lines. Shadow of Mordor punched way above its weight.
The folks at SuperGiant Games make the best tech trees. At first glance, the tech tree in Transitor is terrifying. Each Function you find can not only serve as a weapon, it's also can be a power up for other weapons, an active effect for the player, or a passive bonus for the player. It starts out simple, but I felt like the choices provide enough variety to construct a character that suits any play style, and the challenge rooms encourage you to experiment while providing some basic guidance. And I’m always a sucker for games that include a new game plus mode. I would have played Transistor for its mechanics alone, but the gorgeous art, haunting soundtrack, and exceptional voice acting made this one of my favorite games of 2014.
There's a thing that happens after you've played enough Super Time Force, where you stop seeing the platforms and bullets and bad guys and instead actually see through time. STF requires you to use time travel and cast of kooky characters to traverse levels using your past lives as cover. That makes for a compelling game on its own, even if you just use brute force to mow through the levels. But once you suss out the full implications of time manipulation, the game shines. It's just satisfying to navigate a level with finesse and end the level with a bunch of extra lives.
South Park came out in February, which seems like about 200,000 years ago. It’s been so long since I played the game that all I remember was that it was delightfully offensive and hilarious, frequently at the same time. There’s a sex scene that will be etched in my memory forever, and I enjoyed the surprising wealth of meta jokes about Skyrim.
As Phileas Fogg's valet, Passepartout, you must help your master circumnavigate the world to win a wager. 80 Days turns the classic Jules Verne adventure into an expansive mash up of a Choose Your Own Adventure book, a Japanese dating sim, and a Dope-Wars-esque economic simulator. The challenge of managing your finances, keeping Fogg's spirits up, and making route decisions with limited information have kept me playing 80 Days, even after successfully completing my journey.
The board games I love the most are quick to learn, include random elements in the initial game state, and allow for complex strategies to develop in each game. Five Tribes' meets all of my criteria. Its rules are simple enough to pick up in about five minutes, and the goal is easy to understand--collect territory by clearing workers from the board while preventing your competitors from doing the same. Whether you win or lose, the game is eminently satisfying. Five Tribes is quick to set up and each game taking about an hour, which makes it the perfect length for a quick game after dinner with my wife.
This year's Wolfenstein reboot was a pleasant surprise, despite some tonal dissonance. Even though the hyper-serious dialog and the generally grim setting (alternate-history Europe where the Nazis won World War II ain’t fun) don't really gel with the kitschy settings and cartoonish weapons that pop up late in the game, Wolfenstein is notable for its execution. The addition of commanders who summon reinforcements when they spot you adds some light stealth gameplay to most combat scenarios without being a hindrance to having fun. And of course, the actual shooting is exactly what I expect from a modern Wolfenstein game, complete with over-the-top weapons and the ability to dual-wield pretty much any of them. Pew, pew, pew indeed.
This is the first Mario Kart I've played for more than a couple of weeks since the N64 edition. The tracks are brilliant and the mechanical changes to the game have improved it. I started playing Mario Kart on the SNES and fell in love with it on the N64, but after several months of regular play, I'm confident enough to say that Mario Kart 8 is my favorite entry in the series.
Octodad is my favorite co-op game this year. The absurd tale of the octopus disguised as a man, who in actuality is a secret agent. The premise is ridiculous. Even sillier? The controls. The game frequently asks you to perform relatively precise actions using controls that are intentionally unwieldy with hilarious results. It gets even better in two-player mode, when one player takes control of Octodad's right tentacles and the other picks up the left side. Unfortunately, I haven't been able to finish Octodad in co-op, because my co-op partner can't stop laughing hysterically long enough to actually play the game.
This is what a Mario Bros. game would be if your character couldn't jump. Instead of leaping over obstacles, you have to figure out a way to bypass them. Removing Mario's focus on jumping makes Toad accessible to people who aren't capable of the unforgiving platforming of a modern Mario game, but collecting all the items on each level is just as fiendishly difficult as it is in Super Mario 3D World. While I haven't had time to finish the game yet, I love what I've played so far, and hope it was successful enough that Nintendo will continue making more.
Golf. Golf never changes. No really. It never changes. Desert Golfing is an existential cry for help. I'm just not sure if it's me crying or the person who made the game. What I do know is that I'm a thousand holes into a game of golf and I don't think it's going to finish, but I can't stop playing. The core game loop is satisfying, and I usually play between 5 and 10 holes before I move on to something else. On the plus side, Desert Golfing hasn't inspired the kind of I-can't-stop-playing-please-let-me-stop dread that I've experienced after playing other super-sticky iOS games.
Games that I thought came out in 2014, but really came out in 2013: Super Mario 3D World, The Legend of Zelda: A Link Between Worlds
Games that I thought came out in 2014, but really come out in 2015: #IDARB