Best video games of 2014: the ones that got away

PS3 controller and games

Although the general consensus is that 2014 was not a vintage year for games, there were easily enough blissfully entertaining experiences for us to fill our top 25 with ease – and with leftovers.

Here then, are the games that didn’t quite make it, all of them definitely still worth a look, especially if you find them in a post-Christmas sale and have already broken/completed everything Santa bought you.

Mainstream misfits

There were plenty of big budget treats that we couldn’t quite agree on this year. Jordan Erica Webber, Cara Ellison and I all played and thoroughly enjoyed Sims 4, despite the removal of some key features from previous titles. The intuitive character modelling and house building systems, together with some hilariously unpredictable AI, led to plenty of laugh-out-loud moments of social awkwardness. It’s basically an interactive version of The Only Way Is Essex, but with charm.

A couple of our games writers also put in votes for Sunset Overdrive, Insomniac’s crazily effervescent action adventure about energy drink mutants. It’s beautiful to look at, runs at about 100 gags a second and has some lovely ideas, including an in-game TV show that regularly updates with new content.

Another of our regular reviewers, Rich Stanton, loved Plants vs Zombies: Garden Warfare, an action-packed shooter spin-off from Popcap’s popular “tower defense” series. He also played the hell out of Metal Gear Solid: Ground Zeroes, the fascinating prequel to MGS: Phantom Pain, due next year. It’s an ostensibly brief open-world adventure, but one that hides hours of extra content and side-missions. And it’s Metal Gear.

Steve Boxer wanted us to acknowledge the size and scale of Halo: The Master Chief Collection, a mammoth collection of the first four Halo titles. However, my “no re-boots, no re-releases” rule disallowed it. Sorry Master Chief!

Oh, we’ve also got to mention D4: Dark Dreams Don’t Die, the latest title from one of Japan’s most eccentric designers, Hidetaka “Swery” Suehiro. It’s a typically bizarre time-traveling murder mystery which makes extensive and often really strange use of the Kinect controller.

Digital delights

So many great games are delivered via online app stores these days that it’s easy to overlook really strong titles. PlayStation 4 and Xbox One have both bolstered their burgeoning software libraries with decent digital treats, and on PC, Steam is a constant source of fresh gaming experiences.

Ubisoft’s haunting World War One adventure Valiant Hearts is a wonderful story of love and sacrifice, and it’s definitely worth a look; like This War of Mine, it provides a very different perspective on War.

Several of our writers also really enjoyed the latest episodic adventures from TellTale Games: The Wolf Among Us and Walking Dead Season Two – both crammed with intriguing puzzles and difficult moral conundrums. The first episode of Game of Thrones came in a little too late for us to consider, but looks promising.

I also really enjoyed the side-scrolling hack-’em-up Strider , a reboot of the classic Capcom arcade series. You’re an assassin and you... assassinate things – in a rich and frenetic sci-fi environment. Our writing team also picked out two other similarly fast-paced, retro-tinged digital releases: the PS4 and Vita platformer/blaster Velocity 2X from Futurlab and Llamasoft’s latest Tempest-derivative TxK on PlayStation Vita.

Another one picked out by several members of our writing team was Transistor, the gorgeous futuristic RPG from San Fran-based Supergiant Games, creators of Bastian. This small team has developed its own singular approach to the genre, and the soundtrack is absolutely beautiful.

Indie iconoclasts

With Sony and Microsoft’s new consoles struggling to find themselves, there were plenty of idiosyncratic independent titles lining up to steal some of the attention and discussion.

On PC, we had Nina Freeman’s clever and funny How You Do It, in which a young girl tries to learn about sex by manipulating her dolls into interesting positions. There was also Jazzpunk, a luminous comedy adventure set in 50s Japan and EtherOne, an unsettling psychotherapy adventure in which you explore the memories of a disturbed patient. I’m also going to cheat by mentioning the visual novel Steins;Gate, about a group of friends who invent a way of communicating with the past. It was originally released in Japan four years ago, but got its Western PC debut this year and is well worth a look. And if we’re on the subject of great English translations of odd Japanese titles, pigeon dating sim Hatoful Boyfriend is essential. Because it is a pigeon dating sim.

We’ve managed to neglect the Wii U in this list so far, so let’s chuck in the gorgeously nostalgic role-playing adventure Shovel Knight and the compulsive puzzle title, Art of Balance.

Finally, I’m only just getting to grips with Croteam’s engrossing PC strategy puzzler Talos Principle, a sort of cross between Portal and the Steven Spielberg movie, AI. You’re a newly created robot getting to grips with the idea of existence through a series of challenging puzzle tests involving lasers, patrolling guards and force fields. Released in early December, this is the perfect winter diversion for thinking gamers who don’t want to go outside until the spring.

Powered by Guardian.co.ukThis article was written by Keith Stuart, for theguardian.com on Monday 22nd December 2014 11.41 Europe/London

guardian.co.uk © Guardian News and Media Limited 2010

 

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