What were the best games from last year? The Endless Backlog staff slugged it out, and when the dust settled, these games were the ones left standing. Also you can listen to our podcast to see how we came up with this top 10. 


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Here are our Top Ten Games of 2014:

10. Danganronpa: Trigger Happy Havoc

It took 4 years for this game to come to the US, but the fan translation made the rounds long before that. Whether evangelism for that version finally led to the official localization is up for debate, but what isn’t up for debate is that Danganronpa stands as one of the best games in the Visual Novel genre. In an industry plagued with bad writing, tropes, and overall cliched, this game subverts all of that and comes out on top. The game tells a slick story with unpredictable twists and turns with some genuinely unique gameplay in-between. Fans of Phoenix Wright or Zero Escape owe it to themselves to check it out.

 -Philip Hartmeyer

9. Divinity: Original Sin

 Divinity Original Sin doesn’t just bring you back to the glory days of the computer role playing games of yesteryear like Icewind Dale, but it also offers new ways to make isometric turn based combat fun. The game's combat system provides a sandbox where positioning, environmental props, hazards, and traps play an important role, especially for those willing to think outside the box with how they plan on using their spells. Those thinking on a more primitive level can just set up poison gas traps before igniting them with fireballs. For those more devilish? How about giant flaming spiders? Yeah Divinity Original Sin is that kind of game, a turn based RPG with actual tactical elements to its gameplay.  It’s like falling in love with PC RPGss all over again. 

-Gagandeep Singh

 

8. The Talos Principle

It’s surprising enough that Croteam, the developers behind the Serious Sam franchise, made a contemplative, philosophical puzzle game. What comes as an even greater surprise is that it’s excellent. The Talos Principle is built around some of the most basic building blocks of puzzling, with its fair share of switches, boxes, and refracted light beams, but the game’s gradual iteration upon those mechanics is engrossing. It’s a meaty, 15 hour first-person puzzler, filled with headscratchers that never fail to satisfy when one makes that final logical leap. The story proves as challenging as the puzzles, leaving the player free to piece together its hodgepodge of philosophy, mythology, and snarky library-managing AI into a satisfying whole. It’s a fascinating journey of discovery. 

-Ben Minkoff

7. Hearthstone: Heroes of Warcraft

 It’s a free-to-play trading card game based on Warcraft, and it is basically interactive crack. Hours have been spent by different Endless Backlog staff members doing mini quests in Arena, competing online, competing with each other, and making heart-stopping comebacks that inspire an hour's worth of trash talk...only to get crushed in the next match. Throw in a simple but pleasant presentation, one of the catchiest tunes of the year in Hearthstone’s menu music, and an all around fantastic set of mechanics and systems that make the game a pure joy to play. It may be Magic The Gathering light, but that’s actually a pretty cool thing. 

 -Gagandeep Singh

 

6. Shovel Knight 

It’s one thing to imitate, another to iterate. Shovel Knight shows up other retro imitators by bringing in lessons learned across the decades of game design while replicating the magic of Nintendo-era classics. Developers Yacht Club Games married to the classic principles of simple, pick-up-and-play controls, single screens, and challenging pattern-based bosses to modern concepts of storytelling through gameplay and checkpoints with risk and reward. The soundtrack is top-notch. It made me feel like a kid again. 

-Ben Minkoff

5. Guilty Gear Xrd -SIGN- 

Guilty Gear Xrd -SIGN- is a game that shouldn’t exist. As the first game that Arc Sys would make with the full rights to the series restored to them, the first totally new 2D fighter in the series since Guilty Gear XX, and as a title that would basically determine the fate of the series, Xrd -SIGN- had a lot to live up to. Throw in the fact that the game featured a completely new engine, 2.5D character models, and only about half of the series’ regular cast, and there’s absolutely no way that Xrd -SIGN- should have succeeded.  But it does. It features the best core combat in the series since XX #Reload, a number of streamlined and rebalanced mechanics (all for the better), a gorgeous visual style and a completely new, rockin’ soundtrack by famed composer Daisuke Ishiwatari. Point is, you can count the number of other fighters that play this well, with this much depth, on one finger and it’s called Street Fighter. Welcome back, Guilty Gear. We missed you.

-Will Borger

4. South Park: The Stick of Truth

This game should have been a disaster. Years of delays, a publisher closure, a storied license, and a team splitting focus onto other projects, everything that could possibly go wrong during development went wrong. And yet South Park: The Stick of Truth actually released and turned out to be one of the best games all year. Everything fired on all cylinders, from the fantastic turn based gameplay to the hilarious writing and use of the series' extensive lore. It is clear that Obsidian and South Park Studios had a vision for what the perfect South Park game would be, and this is it. 

-Philip Hartmeyer

 

3. Wolfenstein: The New Order 

It was easy to look at The New Order before release and dismiss it as just another shooter. But I liked what I saw, and believed that the team at MachineGames, made up of guys who worked on The Chronicles of Riddick: Escape from Butcher Bay and The Darkness, could make it work. My faith was not misplaced. Wolfenstein: The New Order combines an unsettling premise, great characterization, and some excellent old-school shooter gameplay to deliver a long, compelling shooter that didn’t skimp on quality or gameplay ideas. Seriously, the sliding technique and the ability to dual wield automatic shotguns? So freakin’ good. 

It’s a game that constantly surprises, offers a ton of player choice and customization, and never serves up anything less than excellent gameplay segments. As soon as I was done, I knew I had to get the rest of the Endless Backlog crew in on it (and promptly began praising it endlessly at every opportunity), and you know what? They liked it, too. If you haven’t turned Nazis into soup as B.J. Blaskowicz yet, you really should get on it.

-Will Borger

2. Alien Isolation

When we think of games associated with the Alien franchise, we think of games based on James Cameron’s Aliens, not Ridley Scott’s Alien, because few games based on the latter exist. But if there was ever an argument for how great a game based on Alien could be, Alien Isolation is it. The Creative Assembly painstakingly recreated every aspect of the original movie’s visual aesthetic, including frame accurate versions of the movie’s sets and audio style. Everything in Isolation comes together perfectly: the visuals, the stellar audio design, the crafting mechanics that encourage you to both use your items and simultaneously horde them for the next big sequence, the stealth mechanics, even the story, all combine to form one fantastic, coherent whole. 

The icing on the cake, however, is the Alien. Creative Assembly has created what is quite possibly the single most impressive enemy AI ever seen in a video game. It’s so detailed that you’ll often forget that the thing stalking you isn’t really a creature out for your blood. It’s just an incredibly well-programmed illusion. And when you’re hiding in a locker, motion tracker at the ready as the door to the room you’re hiding in opens, and a huge, alien creature walks in looking for you, that illusion is both incredible and terrifying.

-Will Borger

1. Bayonetta 2

The original Bayonetta is an excellent action game, so excellent in fact the game made it to #2 on our best games of the generation list. So to say the sequel had a lot to live up to would be an understatement, and apparently not that daunting of a task for Platinum. Because with Bayonetta 2 they hit the ground running with the same vivacious and enthusiastic penchant for spectacle that the developer is known for and created a sequel that is leaner and meaner than its predecessors. 

It’s a mechanically more satisfying title thanks to a variety of new weapons, enemy types, and attack animations, as well as a new bag of tricks such as the Umbran Climax that provide an emphatic oomph to show just how powerful Bayonetta really is. And it still offers the same eye-searing and dazzling display of insanity that make the games opening boss fights worthy of being gratifying climaxes to lesser experiences. 

There is a level of combat variety here that even the original would struggle to match, and a consistency in how well executed it all is. Unlike the original, Bayonetta 2’s attempts at mixing it up are met with more enjoyable results, as it rarely lets sequences overstay their welcome long enough to let them become tedious. Instead those moments offer brief stretches where the player can catch their breath, before sending the player into their next impressive combat sequence. 

All of that creates an action game that is about more than just making it to the finish line. Instead, like the absolute best the genre has to offer, Bayonetta 2 is a game that demands that you not only beat it, but master the game, and learn to play it well. It’s a deeply rewarding experience that rewards those willing to learn about everything the game has to offer. 

If the original was mastering a ballet of badassery, the sequel is learning the somewhat more complex steps of a tango. It’s elegant, lively, frisky, and above all else sublime. In other words? It’s the game most deserving of being called our 2014 Game of the Year. 

-Gagandeep Singh


Community:

You know, for all the disappointment over the amount of great games this year, we still received votes for 42 different games. I think we can put that one to rest. Just think what it would have been without all those major delays? Without further ado, your Endless Backlog Community Top Ten Games of the Year.

1. Dark Souls II

2. Alien: Isolation

3. Bayonetta 2

4. Super Smash Bros For Wii U

5. South Park: The Stick of Truth

6. Mario Kart 8

7. Transistor

8. Shovel Knight

9. The Last of Us: Remastered

10. Wolfenstein: The New Order


Honorable Mentions: Valiant Hearts, Shadow of Mordor, Titanfall, Danganronpa, P.T., Guilty Gear Xrd -SIGN-, Metal Gear Solid V: Ground Zeroes, and Velocity 2x.

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