Here at GameReviewPad we acknowledge that we have not played every single game that was released in 2014, which is why these are called “Favorite Games of the Year” instead of “Games of the Year”. Accuracy is much more important than hyperbole.
GameReviewPad’s Favorite Games of 2014; Contributor Top Selections:
1. Fantasy Life (3DS)
If you haven’t heard of Fantasy Life (developed by Level-5), I can’t blame you. This is the English version of a Japanese version of the game, but it’s not a direct 1:1 port either. The versions are different because the English version has features in the base game that were only available in the DLC for the Japanese version. While the hype train was in full throttle for the release of Super Smash Bros. For the Nintendo 3DS, Nintendo neglected to put enough resources to promote Fantasy Life, which ended up releasing quietly for the Nintendo 3DS a couple weeks after Super Smash Bros. The trailer caught my eye because the game had RPG elements and multiplayer, but I didn’t know what an addicting game it would turn out to be until I would plan on playing for an hour, only for it to turn into 2-3 hours.
I would best describe this game as having a combat system similar to Zelda: A Link Between Worlds, quests like World of Warcraft, a single-player experience and crafting system similar to The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim, and a multiplayer experience similar to a MMO. You can pick as many as lives (classes) as you want to license in, meaning you can possibly be a paladin, hunter, carpenter, miner, blacksmith, angler, and an alchemist (and more), but you can only be active as one life at once. There is no penalty for switching lives, so rank up as many classes as you want! You only have to be certain lives for certain quests, but generally you can complete multiple quest tasks at once. Although the story dialogue in Fantasy Life can be a drag, this game is the exception to the rule in regards to how much a story impacts the game experience in a RPG. Every life can complete the main story easily, and the story only prevents you from entering certain areas. Once the story ends, the game is pretty much an open world. What cements Fantasy Life as my favorite game of the year is the multiplayer experience, but more importantly, the communication within multiplayer. You can text chat with your friends as you quest alone, quest with up to two friends, trade items, and set an item as something to give through Streetpass. There is DLC for Fantasy Life that splits vanilla players from playing with DLC owners, but I found that chat is still possible. When I got my 3DS earlier this year this game wasn’t even on my radar, but after putting many hours into it I have no problem saying that this is a must-own game for 3DS owners. Don’t miss this gem!
– Andre Calvert
1. Donkey Kong Country: Tropical Freeze (Wii U)
Why I chose this as my favorite game of 2014 is based on how my reaction was to the game back at E3 2013. Back then I was bummed that Retro Studios wasn’t making a rumored new IP game. Once I played the game, I took back everything I said. From the beautiful soundtrack to the level design, I was hooked on the game and had a hard time turning the game off. Though some found the game to be hard, I didn’t have any rage quit moments with the game.
– Louis Hughes
1. Bayonetta 2 (Wii U)
Bayonetta 2 further improved from it’s predecessor with fun and frantic combat, responsive controls, gorgeous graphics and over the top action sequences. Not to mention, the soundtrack was on point and meshed well with all the chaotic action. The voice acting was memorable as well, providing numerous entertaining and humorous back and forth dialogue between Bayonetta and other various characters. Bayonetta 2 kept me fully engaged throughout my experience; there were no noticeable flaws and I felt that the urban climax attacks added a nice touch to an already reasonably steeped combat system. This game constantly wowed me and had me on the edge of my seat just trying to figure out what’s coming my way next. These reasons I listed are why it’s not only number 1 of my list of top 3 games of 2014 but also my 2014 game of the year.
– Christopher Joseph
Other Selections by Andre Calvert:
2. Super Smash Bros. (3DS)
Count me as a card-carrying member of the Super Smash Bros. For Nintendo 3DS hype train! Super Smash Bros. was the game that ultimately pushed me over the edge to want to buy a Nintendo 3DS, and it didn’t disappoint. The last Smash Bros. game I owned was Super Smash Bros. 64, so a lot of the characters were new to me. I was skeptical going into this game about how the controls would work on a handheld console, but the demo erased my doubts immediately. When I judge my experience in this game, I’m judging it based on the context of it being on a handheld console. With that criteria, the game is nearly perfect.
Although the game has many modes that I don’t care about, all I care about is the meat and bones of the gameplay in a Smash Bros. match. I was very impressed with the customization options for each character that, admittedly, I haven’t even begun to scratch the surface of. Smash Run, the 3DS exclusive game mode, turned me off initially but eventually I found interest in the many customization options that go along with each Smash Run session. The multiplayer experience is pretty good in the context of a handheld game, but what holds this game back from being perfect and my favorite game of the year is the lack of multiplayer communication options. All in all, this is an amazing game that should not be overlooked by Super Smash Bros. fans just because it’s on a handheld console.
3. Path of Exile: Forsaken Masters (PC)
When 2014 started, I couldn’t see myself adding this game to any favorite game lists because the game had already been released in October 2013, but what Grinding Gear Games did this year with Path of Exile is amazing, considering they are an indie developer. In 2014, Path of Exile released three different expansions or updates; Sacrifice of the Vaal, Forsaken Masters, and a PvP update in that order. Forsaken Masters was the update that had the most impact because it helped bridge the gap between the hardcore players and casual players by adding options to help players mod their existing items so that they are viable enough to avoid using the open-ended and confusing Path of Exile trading market. The Forsaken Masters themselves are NPCs that can be found randomly in the world that give random quests, crafting benches, and eventually turn into daily quest givers if leveled up.
The Forsaken Masters expansion was also impactful because it added the ability for players to create their own hideouts (mini-towns). This added much more customization options to an already very customizable game. Players can decorate and design their hideout however they like within the limitations of their progress in the game, and also can choose a few Forsaken Masters to put in their hideout to level up with daily quests. The Forsaken Masters are all different and offer different types of items for sale. When leveled up, they increase crafting options for that given master’s crafting tool that they gave you, as well as sale options. Hideouts also brought additional non-intrusive microtransaction opportunities that will no doubt make sure Path of Exile exists for years to come. Path of Exile continues to be a shining example of how microtransactions should be in the video game industry, and a game that has developers that actually listen to their players. If you were put off by the itemization or confusing trading market before, I recommend you jump back in and give Path of Exile another try all for the great price of free!
Other Selections by Louis Hughes:
2. South Park: The Stick of Truth (PS3)
From someone who has played most of the South Park games, I thought this would be your average licensed game. After learning that Trey Parker and Matt Stone were overseeing the game it made me think twice. After staying in development hell, (Thanks to THQ), I played the game and enjoyed every second of it. The game’s visuals helped me feel like I was in an episode of the show. The biggest shock would have to be that Obsidian Entertainment (Fallout: New Vegas) had little hiccups throughout my playthrough. The game froze on me twice, but was playable unlike their previous game.
3. Bayonetta 2 (Wii U)
Once we learned that Nintendo was the reason the game was saved, I couldn’t have been happier to own a Wii U. After a fresh change in the hack and slash genre from the first Bayonetta game, I knew what was in store for the sequel. Heck, if you played a Platinum Game (Metal Gear Rising, Madworld, Vanquish, Wonderful 101) you already know what to expect. It’s a case where you can turn your brain off and enjoy the ride. This game is the classic example of the game saying, “We are a video game. We are here to entertain you. Please enjoy the show.”
Other Selections by Christopher Joseph:
2. Transistor (PS4)
3. Middle-earth: Shadow of Mordor (PS4)