Crunchyroll staff and contributors pick their favorite games of 2014!
After yesterday's look at CR's favorite anime, Crunchyroll's 2014 Favorites continue! In terms of gaming, there were some high highs, some depressing lows, and a whole lot of in-between as "next-gen" became "current-gen" on consoles, and system requirements for PC games were surprisingly lenient. It won't be like that next year with The Witcher 3, though... anyways, let's get started and check out CR writers', contributors', and staff members' favorite video games of 2014!
NATE MING (Man of Many Hats--Support, Features and Reviews, Newsletter)
Bayonetta 2 - I played Bayonetta 2 for all of ten minutes before declaring it my game of the year (even though we're technically not doing that for this feature). Ruthless, demanding action, gorgeous design, and a heavy emphasis on challenge and replayability really give Bayonetta 2 legs.
Super Smash Bros. for Wii U and 3DS - I'm usually a pretty nice guy when I play video games. I want everybody to have fun, I keep the trash-talk to a minimum, and I try not to needlessly aggravate anyone. All that goes out the window with the raw chaos of Smash Bros., brought back on two fronts with a hilarious anything-goes party brawler that has enough technical fixes to satisfy all those weirdos who turn off all the items and only fight on Final Destination.
Ultra Street Fighter IV - Of course, more traditional fighting games got to shine in 2014 as Capcom closed out the Street Fighter IV series with some fresh(ish) faces. The real selling point was under the hood, as new mechanics made a six-year-old game feel fresh, and made me feel more than ready for...
Guilty Gear Xrd -SIGN- - ...the return of Arc System Works' beautiful and stylish Guilty Gear franchise. Sure, it only just came out, but once again, new mechanics have the gears in my head turning. It's missing some of my favorite characters, but there's a lot to learn and a lot of practice to be had. LET'S ROCK!
Middle-earth: Shadow of Mordor - I've spent enough time in Shadow of Mordor that I should've finished the game at least twice over by now, but I enjoy the thrill of the hunt and striking fear into Uruks' hearts so much that it's almost a chore to do story missions. The rich, living rivalries provided by the game's Nemesis System give you stories to tell about the ones that got away, and the ones that just won't freaking die.
Dark Souls II - FROM Software brought us to the dying kingdom of Drangleic, a truly awful place where death lurks around every corner--it's fair to say "second verse, same as the first," but when it's as good as Dark Souls, familiarity is a welcome thing. Much like Shadows of Mordor, Dark Souls II gives gamers their own stories to share, and you learn just how much it helps to have friends going through the same trials and trbulations as you.
Dragon Age: Inquisition - BioWare has a great habit of letting you do more actual role-playing than a lot of role-playing games, and this time instead of just being any old leader, you take on the role of a full-fledged messiah in Dragon Age: Inquisition. In a nice change of pace from other AAA titles, this isn't a fast 20-hour romp--instead, Inquisition is a massive, sprawling 75-80-hour epic that gets you invested. This is one I'll be playing well into 2015.
Tales of Xillia 2 - Usually when I play a (long) game for review, I spend about 10-15 hours on it, and very rarely go back. While Tales of Xillia 2's plot is pretty by-the-numbers with a ton of great fanservice for fans of the first game, I was mostly drawn in by the constant need for my input in the game's dialogue, once again letting me actually role-play in a role-playing game, keeping me hooked until the game's finale. There's hope for JRPGs yet!
The Wolf Among Us and The Walking Dead: Season Two - Don't listen to anybody who says these don't have any actual gameplay--the dialogue is the gameplay. Characters remember what you say and do, and you have to be smart to play people against each other, or work situations to your advantage, to say nothing of the sheer emotional wallop these games are capable of. It takes a lot for a video game to force me to stop, walk out to the kitchen, get a drink, and process what I did before I start playing again. For 2015, Telltale is bringing that same urgency to the next level with an episodic Game of Thrones adventure--all the practice and roleplaying so far has been excellent training for this moment.
Defense Grid 2 - I can't tell you how obsessed I was with the original Defense Grid, which I never would have heard of if not for the freebies from Xbox Live's Games with Gold. It's one of the rare games where I bought and religiously played through all the DLC, so of course I was going to grab the sequel... which I promptly powered through in three days, and there's still plenty more to play. A flexible, fun tower defense game with great banter and character, Defense Grid 2 takes the already-solid original and improves upon almost every aspect.
PETER FOBIAN (Man of Few Words, Newsletter and Features)
Dark Souls II - Although FROM Software has been releasing mysterious, extremely difficult titles for years, Dark Souls seemed to finally hit the market at the right time to develop a following necessary to get the franchise (sort of) some serious attention. Dark Souls II is the beneficiary of that success and, while a bit easier than its predecessors, still faithfully brings the same dark atmosphere, amazing environments, and controller-throwing difficulty back. Definitely one of the best releases of the year.
Guilty Gear Xrd -SIGN- - At long last, we finally see a new Guilty Gear release from Arc System Works and one that really brings the series to the modern standard for 2D fighters established by Street Fighter IV. The game is visually beautiful, mechanically complex, blisteringly fast, and feels just like Accent Core. The changes to Roman Cancelling really lower the skill floor for new players while keeping the ceiling as high as it has ever been. The only thing we can really ask for is the return of some more of the old cast as DLC.
Dragon Age: Inquisition - It's like Mass Effect with dragons! The newest Dragon Age title is simply massive in scope and complexity, really standing out in the market for the sheer amount of work they put into world-building. It's not just the size of the game, but the creation of a huge historical foundation to add context and believability to the game's events. Probably most impressively, the game presents you with an amazing number of decisions which actually matter, changing both the course of the story as well as your individual relationships. BioWare has really made a name for themselves when it comes to player choice and consequence, and Inquisition is no exception.
SARAH VAUGHN (Happy Helper, Newsletter and Features)
Fantasy Life - Even though it was a brand-new franchise that there wasn't much English info on, I'm so glad that I gave Fantasy Life a try. I actually thought it was a Sims-type game when I got it, so I wasn't incredibly excited, but it's a JRPG! Yeah, it's easy and simple, but so fun--I wrote the review for it here on CR, and while it sounds almost too positive, that's because I loved almost everything about the game.
Professor Layton vs. Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney - I'm a weird person who hasn't played more than a tiny bit of the Professor Layton and Phoenix Wright franchises, but I think that may have to change--I've already bought Ace Attorney Trilogy! This game was incredible--the art was spectacular, the story inventive, and the gameplay excellent. it's also pretty hilarious and I really like the witch trials with their twists and turns.
Puzzle and Dragons - I may need an intervention. I've got 450 monster boxes and it's never enough. I'm rank 125 and I've played for over 150 consecutive days. This game... it's a mobile puzzle game with monsters that have some really great art. I actually spend time researching how to build teams and which monsters I should keep and bother levelling up and stuff. For a phone game. And I don't care. And I totally think everyone should play.
Peggle 2 - The first Peggle had a unicorn named Bjorn, and played Ode to Joy when you beat a stage. The sequel is somehow even better. It's the same gameplay, with shooting a ball to hit pegs and stuff, but there are new characters with new abilities, and each character has a different piece of classical music when you complete their levels! I don't know why that's so awesome, but it is. I've spent hours and hours on my Xbox shooting balls. [Editor's Note: Uhhhh...]
The new theme shop thing on the 3DS - I don't know what else to call it. I like having the themes to customize my 3DS home screen more. So far, I've got the three holiday Animal Crossing themes in rotation, though it's kind of weird to see a Halloween theme in January. I know they're $1.99 each for most of the good themes, but I think I'll definitely buy one or two every couple months, especially since they've got themes for so many different series. I actually just now saw a Slowpoke theme, and I think I need it.
Amiibos - Nicely made little Nintendo figurines with good bases? YAAAY! I don't have a Wii U or a New 3DS, so their use in games doesn't matter to me at all right now, but I love the I've got. I was given Villager as an incredible Christmas present, and Kirby (my Smash Bros. main) as a slightly less impressive, but still awesome present. If you want any specific Amiibos, you might want to preorder them--I know Toon Link and Mega Man are coming up, and very likely limited.
The Wolf Among Us - Confession: I didn't actually hold the controller once to play The Wolf Among Us, but I helped Nate make decisions, and he said that counts. I may actually need to buy a copy, since it's a game that doesn't take a whole lot of skill or dexterity, other than some QTEs (which I'm admittedly horrible at) and conversations that are the real meat of the game. It's really like playing through a full, fleshed-out story, with a darker nod to well-known and loved childhood fairy tales.
Pokemon Alpha Sapphire - I'm a horrible Pokefan. I've beaten the first gym of Alpha Sapphire... and that's it. It has more to with waiting for my to get the game and start playing too, as well as being pretty burnt out from Pokemon X, than with it being boring or bad or anything. But it's Pokemon, and it's amazing, and there are 719 Pokemon for me to catch. I don't understand how to build a good team for competitive battle or how to breed. I'm totally a straight-up Pokedex filler, and I love this game.
EVAN MINTO (Front End/Professional Anime Snob Connosseuir)
Super Smash Bros. for Wii U and 3DS - Not only do the new Smash Bros. games have the usual roster of new characters (including my new favorite, Duck Hunt), but they also introduce a number of new wrinkles to the formula. The ability to create Mii Fighters and custom movesets means I can create the entire Earthbound party, which is possibly the only thing you need to get my Game of the Year spot, if we were doing that sort of thing here. Wi-fi play between 3DS's means I can start up a game of Smash anywhere, and support for up to eight players broadens the game's appeal as a true party game. Sure, there have been connectivity issues with both local and internet wireless play, and the custom movesets barely get used, but if the past few months have been any indication, my friends and I will be playing a lot of Smash in 2015 and beyond.
Nidhogg - I actualy never bought Nidhogg, but a few nights at SF Game Night (a video game event at a local San Francisco bar) were enough for me to fall in love with the two-player side-scrolling fencing game. Tight, twitchy controls and creative map design (with doors, tall grass to hide in, and more) make the experience surprisingly rich, and invite lots of rowdy matches, especially when players are so closely matched that each one continually snatches victory away fro the other. I was so impressed by Nidhogg's ability to create a competitive atmosphere among people watching it (let alone playing it) that I wrote a whole column about it!
Check out Evan Minto's complete thoughts on his favorite games of 2014 at Ani-Gamers!
JEFF PINEDA (Baddest BA in QA)
Dragon Age: Inquisition - I like talking about Dragon Age: Inquisition with people because all of our stories are different. In my world, the Inquisitor is a female Dalish Elf rogue named Jasper Lavellan who doesn't stop reminding people that she thinks all their "Maker" and "Andraste" legends are nonsense and has a thing for executing every person brought before her for judgment. My Inquisitor is different from your Inquisitor, and while our paths are going to be similar, they'll be varied enough so that anyone can indulge in their personalized medieval power fantasy. The game is massive, gorgeous, and has a kickass soundtrack. There's a lot of bang for your buck being printed on the disc.
Destiny - Destiny is the game that I hate the most that I also have over 120 hours on. I sigh with frustration every night as I put on my headphones, go to the Tower, collect my Daily Bounties before embarking on the Daily and Weekly Missions. I curse Bungie as I kill my 3000th Dreg, throwing a knife into the head of a Fallen Captain and seeing his very essence evaporate before me. I'm so tired of doing the same things over and over again but I can't stop. I am compelled to keep killing all the denizens of this universe because, for whatever reason, I absolutely love it. I love killing these creatures in hopes of finding another armor piece or a new gun, levelling it up just to continue the endless cycle. I love the music and the lore (what little they tell you), I love the world that has been built up. I just happen to hate it at the same time. And I'll keep complaining about the game as I continue to play it every day for the next several months.
Infamous: Second Son - This whole new generation of consoles could be marketed as "DO YOU LIKE PARTICLE EFFECTS?!" and Second Son has been marketed as "BUCKLE YOUR SEATBELT BECAUSE YOU'RE ABOUT TO HAVE YOUR ASS BLASTED TO PARTICLE EFFECTS LAND!" The game's effects are absolutely stunning, as is the game's ability to keep itself locked at 30fps while there are men shooting laser rocks at you from every direction. These effects would have been moot without a decent game underneath, but Infamous: Second Son was my go-to shining example of a fun game on a next-gen system for months. Travelling around Seattle as a smoke monster and being able to swap powers nearly on the fly by touching other objects in the world never stopped being fun.
Transistor - A beautiful game with an outstanding soundtrack brought to us by the same crew that made Bastion, Transistor feels like a puzzle game where combat is the puzzle, and if you don't figure out how to solve each combat scenario, you're going to have your ass handed to you. Combat is furious and varied, as each ability you pick up can have its behavior changed by another ability stacking on top of it, as you're free to mix and match as you desire. The game also wins heavily in the atmosphere department; the game has a dedicated humming button.
Suikoden/Suikoden II - This is a reminder to anyone that has a PS3 or a PSVita that Suikoden and Suikoden II are available for purchase on the PlayStation Store. My personal favorite RPGs from the original PlayStation era, the Suikoden games tell an epic story of protagonists who raise armies to go beat on evil emperors. They're almost like JRPG versions of Game of Thrones starring you, and they're full of drama and consequence. Also, Suikoden II has its own version of Iron Chef, and if you don't understand why that's so awesome, we're no longer friends.
KIM CAMERON (From Another Planet)
Dragon Age: Inquisition - Favorite game of the year, period. If you've been missing Skyrim and desperately need an epic, massive-scale fantasy fix, Dragon Age: Inquisition is it. I've spent countless hours wandering a desert wasteland at dusk, a stormy coast laden with seaweed, an aristocratic city and many other locales, and 100+ hours in, there's still plenty to do. Worth an immediate purchase if RPGs are your cup of tea.
Picross e5 - My name is Kim, and I am addicted to nonograms--really fun puzzles that involve columns and rows and a dash of OCD. All of the Picross titles are cheap (~$5) and available in the 3DS eShop, with fall's e5 being the newest of the bunch. The best part about them is that you get extra puzzles for buying previous games. Perfect for the doctor's office, a bus ride, slacking off in class, you name it!
Outlast - SCARIEST GAME EVER. If you want to soil yourself while wandering the halls of an insane asylum, with a night-vision camera and extremely terrifying stitched-up men ready to beat you to death, this PS4 re-release is for you. Tons of shocking jump-out-of-your-chair moments, over-the-top tense audio, and overall lots of fun.
P.T. - SCARIEST GAME EVER--okay, fine, I know what you're thinking, I just said that about Outlast. P.T. isn't technically a game, it's a PS4-exclusive playable trailer for the upcoming Silent Hills by Hideo Kojima and Guillermo del Toro. You'll be able to get through it within the hour, and it is the most uncomfortable, terrifying experience you'll have in a game to date. While Outlast thrives with shockfest moments, P.T. is just genuinely creepy as hell in a subtle, brilliant way. Don't spoil the fun by wathing a YouTube video, play through it yourself.
Lego: The Hobbit - I am a serious sucker for Lego games. The format is always the same, the key combos are the same, yet I love 100%ing them every time. Lego: The Hobbit wasn't quite as fun as last year's Lord of the Rings, but the mining aspect and Benedict Cumberbatch's voice make this one a solid choice. Supposedly the last movie will come out as DLC for the game, so here's hoping that happens soon!
ARIEL CHAN (Surly Shopkeep)
Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney - Dual Destinies - It's the return of Phoenix Wright! I cannot say enough how much I love his sweating/nervous pose, it just brings a happy feeling in my heart. I wasn't a fan of his new ensemble, but the new characters were definitely a draw. Apollo was way too serious, though--I miss his loopiness. What I liked abou tthis game over all the previous ones were the cutscenes. Seeing them animated really brought the game together and made way for a potential AA animated movie. Oh lord, I hope there's an animated movie, even if the live-action one was funny.
Be My Princess 2 - 2014 seemed to be the year whre English ren-ai mobile games started gaining momentum, and Be My Princess was the highlight of the year for me. The music was happy, the stories were cute and touching (Wilfred's route made me cry), and I couldn't get over how darn good-looking these princes were. Soon enough, I went through all of their stories, their sequels and even some side stories. Along comes Be My Princess 2 and the whole vicious cycle starts again. All in all, I jumped off a cliff into a pool of otome games and I have no hope of getting out of them anytime soon.
iblessall (The Man with No Real Name, Features and Newsletter)
Love Live! School Idol Festival - I ended up quitting almost all the video games I was playing this year as anime and blogging and real life demanded more and more of my time, but I'm proud to say that the one game I'm still playing is Love Live's mobile rhythm game, School Idol Festival. Addictive, fun, just challenging enough, and with a dangerously good balance between luck, skill, and hard work. School Idol Festival is now a bigger part of each day than I'd like to admit. Or maybe I will admit it. After all, everything is for Best Girl Maki Nishikino...
BRITTANY VINCENT (System-Shocking Horror Hound With A Penchant for Glitter, News and Features)
Bayonetta 2 - After a multiplatform release for the original Bayonetta, Nintendo shocked everyone by claiming its sequel as a Wii U exclusive, though the series couldn’t have found a better home on another console. Its unique brand of slick, sexy, and utterly addictive action is positively unmatched, even among genre greats like DmC or God of War.
You don’t control the lithe and lethal Umbra Witch so much as become her, chaining together a mixture of buttery-smooth combos and over-the-top moves that feel as natural as your very own movements. It’s a joy to watch the action unfold onscreen, and even more so to participate. From every Wicked Weave attack to the punishments that rain down upon the unsuspecting Angels, it’s clear that excellence oozes out of every single pore.
Gorgeous level design, frenetic boss battles, and a wide array of costumes and unlockables combine to make Bayonetta 2 one of the greatest games of this console generation, and by far an exemplary experience for the genre. And I can't wait to see more.
JOSEPH LUSTER (CR News Associate Editor and Eternal HOTT GAME BOY)
Shovel Knight - In what was definitely an odd year of gaming for me, Shovel Knight stood out above everything else. Yacht Club Games managed to go above and beyond your typical indie throwback NES-style game—which are a dime a dozen at this point—and actually delivered something that felt instantly nostalgic. The mechanics are white hot and pixel perfect and it really does seem like something that would have hit the shelves at the tail end of the NES lifespan.
Dark Souls II - Due to a crazy, hectic year that had me all over the place geographically, I'm still somewhere near the end of Dark Souls II, but man have I enjoyed the hell out of it along the way. There are some things about it I don't like as much as Dark Souls, but the series is all about that special sense of foreboding for me, and From Software continued a proud tradition in that regard. Bring on Bloodborne (because I finally got a PS4 a couple months ago...).
Middle-earth: Shadow of Mordor - Ugh, I might as well just kiss Nate's list on the lips! I'm really glad I gave this one a shot. Shadow of Mordor was the first game I played through on PS4, and I was hooked from the very beginning. I made the mistake of goofing around too much too early, though, only to discover that you get the REALLY fun powers after playing through a substantial amount of story. I'm not really into every game ever aping things like "climb x structure to reveal the map" and other unimaginative crap, but Mordor's blend of Assassin's Creed and Arkham gameplay worked really well. Still, it wouldn't have been anything without the Nemesis system, and that's something I hope more games build upon in the future.
Still in the mood to read Favorites lists? Check out last year's triple feature!
And that's everything for Part Two! Be sure to drop by same time tomorrow for Part Three - Everything Else, featuring movies, TV shows, and more! What are your favorite games this year? We're talking your favorites, not your "best of," so there are no wrong answers! Sound off in the comments and let us know!