I must have played hundreds of games this year. Maybe more. Maybe millions of games. I’m about to tell you which of them were my favourite. Keep reading to indulge me.
Some of the games that made the cut, like Assassin’s Creed IV and Gunpoint, were no-brainers. Easily two of the best games I’ve played in years. Others took a little more deliberation, but emerged from the steel cage of my internal discussions bloody and victorious.
The games aren’t in any particular order, so don’t go reading anything into that.
Note that I’m just the first self-absorbed cab off the rank; every Kotaku editor able to drag themselves near a keyboard during the festive season will also be sharing their 10 favourite games. Though they’ll call them “favourite”.
ASSASSIN’S CREED IV
I’ll be writing more about my feelings on this game in the days to come, but in brief, this is the kind of history game I’ve always wanted. One that doesn’t just give you an Assassin’s Creed: RedZone highlights package like other games in the series, but lets you really live your way through a moment in time, experiencing the highs, lows and all the kinda-OK-maybe-boring bits in between.
GRAND THEFT AUTO V
A game so expansive in scope, so professional in its execution that it’s staggering just trying to take it all in. There were moments in this game, moments so absurd and yet so exciting (FLYING A PLANE INSIDE ANOTHER PLANE), that I sometimes laughed out loud, high-fiving myself and telling the couch “Man, wasn’t that awesome?” Because it was so awesome that I had to tell somebody.
The saying “short, but sweet” might have been invented just for Gunpoint. Combining puzzle and stealth gameplay, it’s such a smart, tight experience. I found myself going back to it like I do with Mirror’s Edge; not to beat a score, just to blow through the game admiring how cool it looks when you can beat a level in one try.
EUROPA UNIVERSALIS IV
Yes, it’s clunky. And lifeless. And just less fun than Crusader Kings II. But whatever. Paradox’s big 2013 Grand Strategy experience was grand all right, giving you a strategic experience so daunting and unparalleled in size that 100 hours later I’m still not 100% sure how to play it. That’s a continuing problem with Paradox games, but in this case, I like to think it’s also an accurate simulation of government.
TOTAL WAR: ROME II
I’m kinda shocked this made it. It really rubbed me the wrong way at release, but months of hard work of patches and updates to the game have it playing at the standard I would have expected at release. And that was a lofty expectation. With the game now running properly, I’ve really grown to appreciate the cap on armies; previous Total Wars became a war of attrition as the map was flooded with armies, but limiting them really puts the emphasis back on, well, strategy.
SUPER MARIO 3D WORLD
In This, The Year Of Luigi, I Thoroughly Enjoyed A Game That Kinda Starred Luigi But Not Really.
There is no word in English for the way Super Mario 3D World makes me feel during even a single level. I can be happy, admiring, amused and terrified all at once. Maybe French or German can help me out?
FIFA 14 has the best menu in video game history. It’s smart, it’s fast, it’s pretty. If a video game has a menu you need to use for more than just starting the game, it should be looking at FIFA 14. The rest of the game is good too, sure, but boy, that menu is awesome.
THE LAST OF US
This will be on everyone’s list. I loved it for the same reasons you did. The mood, the visuals, the punch in the guts. I just wish it had a lot less combat and a lot more…walking around. The walking around was the best part.
I went into it thinking it would be a serviceable Uncharted clone. I came out of it having enjoyed it more than I had Uncharted 3. And it’s funny, but you know what stands out? The hair physics. OK, no, really, the voice-acting. The entire cast is fantastic, but for the first time in my life Lara Croft seemed like a human being, and not some bizarre carton character.
KENTUCKY ROUTE ZERO
While most adventure games are stuck looking backwards, Kentucky Route Zero (or at least its first two episodes) shot straight out in the other direction. Its wonderful art style will probably be its most lasting legacy, but its organic conversation systems are what really did it for me. Idle chit-chat can sometimes be a chore, but the way you could gently shape your own story in KRZ was just the best.