Despite some controversy, there’s no question that 2014 was a great year for console gaming. For every technical mishap, there was a bevy of fun and interesting titles waiting to be discovered. We reviewed as many of them as we could, and came up with some results that might be surprising. Compiling this list was harder than originally expected, since we gave so many games a score of 9 out of 10, so I let Metacritic be the judge in case of ties. With that, here are our 5 highest scoring games of 2014.
- Far Cry 4 (9/10, PS3)
Crytek’s open world first person shooter entered with a bang, creating controversy as soon as its cover was revealed. But it didn’t take long for gamers like David Logan to discover that there’s so much more to the country of Kyrat. The game won over critics with its unique environment, enigmatic characters, and violent wildlife. In his review, David praised the game’s rich world and excellent graphics, saying, “You are definitely getting the biggest bang for your buck with a purchase of Far Cry 4.” In a world of dark and gritty first person shooters, it’s nice to see that brighter and more diverse games are taking the spotlight.
- Fairy Fencer F (9.5/10, PS3)
Japanese RPGs are a staple, particularly on the PS3. As the name suggests, it features characters known as “fencers” who wield powerful weapons called “furies.” With the newer consoles out, it’s important to remember that the previous generation systems still have some excellent software.
In his review, David Logan called attention to the game’s graphics, fast-paced combat, and music. As he put it, “It all comes together to create a fast-paced, fun experience that I thought we wouldn’t see anymore on a last-gen console.” Clearly, if fantasy RPGs are your thing, the PS3 should still be your system of choice. That is, at least until the newer systems come into their own.
- Thomas Was Alone (9.5/10, Wii U)
This one is cheating a bit, since Thomas Was Alone originally came out as a browser game way back in 2010. However, Noe Ponce’s review of the Wii U version (and that version itself) came out in 2014, so it still fits. The game is deceptively complicated, featuring artificial intelligences that somehow gain personalities and unique abilities. With the story told by a charming narrator, the player must guide these AIs (who appear as single colored rectangles) through a puzzle-platforming adventure.
Noe praised the game for the amount of depth it gets from this concept, especially the personality it injects into these simple shapes, which he called “astounding.” As he put it, “The shapes have an element of humanity. They have a voice, thoughts, and feelings. You aren’t just controlling them…you’re helping them work together and stay together.” That’s a lot for a game that looks so simple. Often, indie games that try to add too much to a simple concept fall flat. Fortunately, Thomas Was Alone dodged that trap.
- Alien Isolation (10/10, PS4)
Despite some early success in the FPS genre, the fate of videogames based on the Alien movies looked grim after 2013’s Aliens: Colonial Marines. Unlike its predecessor, though, Alien Isolation is more of a first-person survival horror game than a traditional FPS. Players control Amanda Ripley, daughter of series protagonist Ellen Ripley, as she searches a dark space station to learn what happened to her mother. Though there are other enemies, there is only one alien, and any loud sounds will attract her attention.
The game’s atmosphere really sets it apart, as David Logan noted in his review. He also praised the alien AI, noting that it almost seemed alive: “The Alien is a dynamic and reactive creature that is using its heightened senses and abilities to hunt you down…There is not a single moment where you are not agonizingly aware of this fact while playing.” The Alien franchise is back in a big way, and I won’t be surprised if future games stick to this format.
- Danganronpa 2: Goodbye Despair (10/10, VITA)
“Visual Novel” games have never been as successful in North America as they are in Japan, but they do tend to have a following when they make their way across the ocean. Like the original Ace Attorney games, the Danganronpa series came to North America one hardware generation later than it did in Japan. There are some similarities between the two franchises, but Danganronpa is definitely more bizarre.
The story boils down to this: amnesiac Hajime Hinata and his classmates are trapped on a dangerous island, and they’re told the only way to get off is to murder one of their classmates and get away with it. After someone is murdered, you have to investigate the scene and find the truth in a “class trial.” Explaining a game like this would take an entire post, and fortunately, David Logan did so with his review. He praised the writing and artwork, saying, “This mix of mystery story elements, outrageous characters and bizarre locations made for an awesome trip that I will not soon forget.” It’s important to remember that even if it doesn’t have the strongest sales, the Vita is still home to some amazing games.
This was a difficult list to make; as mentioned previously, a lot of games ended up with a score of 9. Clearly, console gaming is far from dead. Please feel free to check out all of our reviews for more excellent titles, and enjoy 2015.
For our other Top 5 lists of 2014, see: