25 Best Video Games of 2014

Looking back, 2014 was a bang-up year for video games. Not only was it the year when Xbox One and PlayStation 4 started to come into their own, but it also showed how prominent iOS has become as a gaming platform.

Below, we take a look at the 25 best games of 2014. As for our methodology, we surveyed all of the 2014 games listed on Metacritic, creating a composite score that accounts for both critic and user ratings (e.g. a game with a 95 critic score and 9.3 user score would receive a 94 composite score). This should gives us the clearest picture of how well the games were received by everyone, between the time of release and now.

Source: velocitygame.co.uk

Source: velocitygame.co.uk

25. Velocity 2X

(PlayStation 4, PS Vita)

Composite Metacritic score: 79.5

When you play Velocity 2X, you get the impression that the game turned out exactly as the developers intended. It’s a game of constant movement, tight controls, and nonstop, well, velocity. It’s amazing how integrated the whole thing feels, because it’s divided into two types of gameplay. One is a top-down space shooter that has you blasting enemies and collecting gems. The other is a side-scrolling action platformer that sees you sprinting through caves, dispatching enemies, and flipping switches. Each half of the game plays like a dream, yet somehow the sum is greater than the individual parts.

GameSpot says: “Velocity‘s influences are clear from the outset — Metroid, Mario, and countless classic shoot-em-ups. Molding such disparate genres together isn’t easy, but Velocity manages to create a tight, focused experience with a stunning level of finesse.”

Source: Amanita Design

Source: Amanita Design

24. Botanicula

(iOS, PC)

Composite Metacritic score: 80

From the unique developer of Machinarium comes Botanicula, a downright adorable point-and-click adventure game starring a group of plant creatures and insects. Their goal is to prevent their tree from being overtaken by parasites, but you’ll have to solve a number of environmental puzzles before you can make that happen.

IGN says: “It may not be as hilarious as adventure games of yesteryear, but it’s persistently delightful, oozing character and grabbing hold of the imagination. Many games strive to be fun, and Botanicula not only accomplishes this, but also manages to use sound and visuals to stir up emotions ranging from sadness to glee.”

Source: DrinkBox Studios

Source: DrinkBox Studios

23. Guacamelee! Super Turbo Championship Edition

(PlayStation 4, Xbox One, Wii U, PlayStation 3, Xbox 360, PS Vita, PC)

Composite Metacritic score: 80

This side-scrolling platformer game was made in the “Metroidvania” style. That means you explore the game world one section at a time, gaining new abilities that allow you to access new parts of the map. By the end of the game, you’ve powered up your character to the max and can go anywhere you want.

It’s a great system for making players feel increasingly powerful, but Guacamelee always throws equally powerful enemies your way so you don’t get too big of a head. If you like twitchy platforming and beating the snot out of enemies from a 2D perspective, check this one out.

Nintendo Life says: “In addition to being a fun gameplay experience, it’s also an example of how artistic vision and clever, light-hearted writing can enhance an experience, an example of what can be achieved when development studios devote themselves fully to delivering a high quality product.”

Source: Inkle Studios

Source: Inkle Studios

22. 80 Days

(iOS)

Composite Metacritic score: 81.5

Billed as an “interactive adventure,” this game has you try to circumnavigate the globe in — you guessed it — 80 days. You pick which cities to visit and how to book your travel. The trick is not to run out of time or money. If it sounds like fun, prepare to read. The developers say this game has a 500,000 word script, which is about 400,000 more words than your average novel.

IGN says: “I had a spectacular, unforgettable adventure story to show for my three-hour adventure, and couldn’t wait to learn more about the world, its characters, and the human desire to discover.”

Source: Electronic Arts

Source: Electronic Arts

21. Dragon Age: Inquisition

(PlayStation 4, Xbox One, PlayStation 3, Xbox 360, PC)

Composite Metacritic score: 82

Dragon Age: Inquisition is a truly massive game — one that takes 85 hours to complete, features nine well-written main characters, and contains a fantasy world worthy of Tolkien himself. If you enjoy a good fantasy tale and have a decent amount of free time, this game is for you.

The game kicks off with a meeting between two warring factions to discuss a peace treaty. An explosion destroys the building, killing everyone but you. When you come to, you learn that massive rifts have opened in the sky all across the land, spilling monsters into the world. Luckily for everyone, whatever wizardry has caused all this upheaval has also left you with the ability to close the rifts. You have quite an adventure ahead of you.

PlayStation Universe says: “[Dragon Age: Inquisition is] easily the company’s greatest achievement. The expertly crafted story and the massive world meant for your exploration are just the tip of the iceberg… Easily the best RPG of the year.”

Source: Ootpdevelopments.com

Source: Ootpdevelopments.com

20. Out of the Park Baseball 15

(PC)

Composite Metacritic score: 83

This isn’t your average baseball game. Instead of directly controlling the action on the field, you play as the team’s general manager, setting up rosters, drafting new players, and calling plays on the field. It’s a much higher-level look at the game than you’ll find in even the most realistic baseball sims, and by all reports, it’s a ton of fun.

Killscreen says: “My memories of playing Out of the Park are all couched in numbers — the 0.2 OBP, 0.8 OPS hitter that almost never hit, but when he did sent it out of the titular park… I have come to love baseball for this. And since a sport that turns people into statistics makes great fodder for a game that turns statistics into people, I have also come to love Out of the Park.”

Source: thelettervsixtimes.com

Source: thelettervsixtimes.com

19. VVVVVV

(iOS, PC, Ninendo 3DS)

Composite Metacritic score: 83

VVVVVV is a standard platformer in that you can move left and right as usual, but when it comes to jumping, things get a little wonky. Instead of doing normal jumps, in this game you actually flip gravity, so your feet will leave the ground and you’ll go sailing toward the ceiling, where you can run around until you flip gravity again to come back down.

It’s a great idea, and the controls respond as quickly as you can push the buttons. However, flipping gravity doesn’t come natural to us humans, so expect to strain your brain as you try to navigate between fast-moving enemies and avoid spikes at the same time.

Slide to Play says: “VVVVVV is a platforming masterpiece. The only thing that could make it better is if it were longer.”

Source: Sirvo LLC

Source: Sirvo LLC

18. Threes

(iOS, Xbox One)

Composite Metacritic score: 83

Threes is a unique matching game that, like the best puzzle games, is easy to play but tough to master. It’s one of those games where you’ll feel really good about your high score until you look at the stratospheric scores on the leaderboards, at which point you’ll probably just curl into the fetal position and weep quietly all night. Regardless, you’ll have a lot of fun matching and combining numbers until the cows come home.

MacLife says: “Unlike many iOS puzzle games, Threes isn’t meant to merely kill time or fill spare moments in your day. As you absorb strategies and labor over every little action, it’ll consume not only your time, but also your attention and brainpower. If that’s not the mark of an excellent puzzler, then we don’t know what is.”

Source: Ubisoft

Source: Ubisoft

17. Child of Light

(PlayStation 4, Xbox One, Wii U, PlayStation 3, Xbox 360, PS Vita, PC)

Composite Metacritic score: 83

Child of Light follows a princess named Aurora who goes to sleep one night and wakes up in a strange world. As she tries to get back to her normal life, she meets other lost characters along the way. The graphics are like a watercolor painting, and the turn-based combat is fun and inspired. Also, every line of dialogue in the game rhymes, which adds to its otherworldly feel. RPG fans will find Child of Light to be a strong addition to their game library.

Slant Magazine says: “Someone will likely prove this statement wrong, but there hasn’t been a game that’s run this far with the storybook conceit, and if there is, it’s a near-certainty it wasn’t executed with this much beauty, heart, and care.”

Source: Ubisoft

Source: Ubisoft

16. Rayman Legends

(PlayStation 4, Xbox One, Wii U, PlayStation 3, Xbox 360, PS Vita, PC)

Composite Metacritic score: 83

In all the world there’s nothing quite like Rayman Legends. Like the best Pixar movies, this run-and-jump platform title is overflowing with personality. From the hand-painted backdrops to the lovingly exaggerated animations, Rayman and his pals bring nothing but joy into the world.

You’re always trying to make your way from point A to point B, but what you’ll find in between is always totally bizarre and charming — whether it’s a tickle monster, a giant luchador, or “Eye of the Tiger” being played on a kazoo. If that doesn’t brighten your day, nothing will.

GameSpot says: “It uses absurd scenes to imbue this feisty adventure with enough variety to keep you continually amazed, and presents every disparate scenario with expert care. Rayman Legends’ off-kilter identity serves as the foundation for this wild and crazy journey.”

Source: Blizzard

Source: Blizzard

15. Hearthstone: Heroes of Warcraft

(iOS, PC)

Composite Metacritic score: 83

What do you get if you take all the lessons learned from decades of playing Magic: the Gathering and use them to create an all-new digital card game? If you’re as talented as Blizzard, the company behind classics like Starcraft and World of Warcraft, you get Hearthstone, a finely tuned title that stormed onto the card game scene in 2014 and hasn’t let up since.

USGamer say: “Hearthstone is easy to play, yet it delivers an astonishing breadth and depth of strategy. If you’re looking for a fascinating, involving and highly addictive cerebral gaming experience, there are few finer than this.”

Source: Subset Games

Source: Subset Games

14. FTL: Faster Than Light

(iOS, PC)

Composite Metacritic score: 83.5

FTL doesn’t look like much from a distance, but if you buckle down and give this game a shot, chances are you won’t come up for air for a long time. This is a strategy game of resource management — which admittedly sounds super boring, but in fact it’s incredibly fun to play. Just make sure you clear your schedule before diving in. You wouldn’t want to miss an important meeting because you couldn’t tear yourself away.

MacLife says: “FTL’s seat-of-your-pants strategizing hits the sweet spot between careful planning and unpredictable action. This survival sim can be a heartbreaker at times, but it’s one of the most thrilling downloads you’ll find on iPad.”

Source: Ustwo Games

Source: Ustwo Games

13. Monument Valley

(iOS)

Composite Metacritic score: 84

Have you ever looked at the impossible architecture of an M.C. Escher painting and wondered what it would be like to explore it? That’s the unlikely premise of Monument Valley, a jaw-droppingly beautiful game full of pastel colors and tricky exploration. If you have an iPhone or iPad, you won’t want to miss this one.

Slide to Play says: “Monument Valley is bright and colorful, with a beautiful soundtrack and intuitive touch controls. They all work together to keep you immersed in the experience.”

Source: Naughty Dog

Source: Naughty Dog

12. The Last of Us: Left Behind

(PlayStation 4, PlayStation 3)

Composite Metacritic score: 85

Left Behind is actually a piece of downloadable content you can buy if you have the PS3 game The Last of Us. Or, if you have a PS4, it comes packed in with The Last of Us Remastered. It takes place during a flashback, before the events of the main game, and follows the main character Ellie and her friend Riley as they sneak out of their military boarding school and go on an adventure.

GameSpot says, “Left Behind crams more memorable moments into its short running time than you find in most full games, and it understands that some of the most important moments we share with others are the smallest: a brief glance, a fleeting smile.”

Source: Blizzard

Source: Blizzard

11. Diablo III: Ultimate Evil Edition

(PlayStation 4, Xbox One, PlayStation 3, Xbox 360)

Composite Metacritic score: 85.5

If you’re into hack-’n-slash RPGs, then look no further than Diablo III: Ultimate Evil Edition, the latest installment of the classic series from Blizzard. This edition of the game comes with the Reaper of Souls expansion built in, so you get an additional chapter in the story, a new Crusader character, and a level cap of 70 rather than 60. If you want to play Diablo III, this is the way to do it.

USGamer says: “Perhaps the definitive version of Diablo 3, Reaper of Souls Ultimate Evil Edition is streamlined, buttoned-down and an absolute joy to play – especially so when you start adding friends.”

Source: From Software

Source: From Software

10. Dark Souls II

(Xbox 360, PlayStation 3, PC)

Composite Metacritic score: 85.5

Do you hate yourself? If so — or if you’re up for a supreme challenge — then this is the game for you. Known primarily for its brutal difficulty, Dark Souls II will show you humility as it punishes you again and again for not being good enough to handle the powerful enemies it throws at you. But if you stick with it, you’ll find one of the most rewarding games of recent memory.

The Escapist says: “Everything that made Dark Souls into a cult success carries over: complex game mechanics, punishing but fair gameplay and a richly detailed setting if you dig a little deeper. To keep things fresh, this is peppered with a mix of new elements, from improved graphics and game engine to a better designed starting sequence and new mechanics. Dark Souls II is a perfect sequel to Dark Souls.”

Source: 4A Games

Source: 4A Games

9. Metro: 2033 Redux

(PlayStation 4, Xbox One, PC)

Composite Metacritic score: 86.5

After the apocalypse strikes, many survivors wind up living in the tunnels beneath Moscow. That’s the bleak setting of Metro: 2033 Redux. It’s been remastered from its last-gen origins to look great on the Xbox One and PS4. If it sounds like the type of thing you’ll want to spend a lot of time playing, you can buy this game bundled with its sequel, Metro: Last Light, also remastered. Grab the bundle if you feel like going on a dark but riveting journey.

Cheat Code Central says: “Metro 2033 Redux is remaking done right. This isn’t a cash in in any way shape or form. It’s simply a much better version of the original Metro. It’s a perfect purchase for either newbies who haven’t experienced the first game, or vets who want to experience the game again in a brand new light.”

Source: Yacht Club Games

Source: Yacht Club Games

8. Shovel Knight

(Nintendo 3DS, Wii U, PC)

Composite Metacritic score: 87

This retro-inspired action platformer is like a mash-up of the glory days of the NES. With obvious inspiration from games like Super Mario Bros. 3, Castlevania, Mega Man, and DuckTales, Shovel Knight has you hack, slash, and shovel jump your way through a series of gorgeously pixelated levels, fighting innovative enemies and massive bosses along the way. But don’t mistake this game for a thoughtless rehash of the classic games of yore. It adds in a bunch of new ideas and gameplay mechanics (like checkpoints and a risk-reward system for accruing coins) to keep any modern gamer happy.

Polygon says: “Shovel Knight is so much more than a love letter to the genre — it is, in fact, the kind of game people write love letters about.”

Source: Nicalis

Source: Nicalis

7. The Binding of Isaac: Rebirth

(PlayStation 4, PS Vita, and PC)

Composite Metacritic score: 87.5

Perhaps the strangest game of 2014 was The Binding of Isaac: Rebirth, a souped up rerelease of a 2011 PC game. This biblical oddity stars Isaac, a boy who hears that God has spoken to his mother and demanded that she sacrifice him to prove her faith. Isaac immediately retreats to the basement of their house, where he finds floor after floor filled with monsters he must dispatch — using his tears as projectiles.

Depressing stuff, to be sure, but the levels look like the dungeons in the original Zelda, and the weapon upgrades are zany as all get-out. Throw in some shopkeepers, boss battles, and permanent death (you always start from scratch at the beginning), and you’ve got yourself an addictive retro-style romp.

GameSpot says: “The Binding of Isaac: Rebirth may first catch your attention with its insane setting, surreal monsters, and irreverent references to Christianity, but the speedy, varied gameplay and seemingly never-ending new features (which include multiple endings and new bosses after you take out mom the first time, so the replay value is nearly infinite) are what keep you coming back for more.”

Source: Rockstar Games

Source: Rockstar Games

6. Grand Theft Auto V

(PlayStation 4, Xbox One)

Composite Metacritic score: 89

Sure, GTA V came out for Xbox 360 and PS3 in 2013, but developer Rockstar has beefed it up substantially for its debut on current-gen systems. The graphics are better, with new missions and a first-person view that transforms the game into another experience entirely. Whether you’re new to the open-world crime game or you’ve already played it and want more, this is the definitive edition of the game.

Hardcore Gamer says: “More than just a gimmick, the first-person mode really does change how it’s experienced by adding a new layer of gameplay. It won’t be for everybody, but the sheer fact that the option is there is commendable. More still, multiple new vehicles, weapons and animals have been introduced. If none of that were enough, over a hundred new songs have been added to the already robust radio stations.”

Source: Nintendo

Source: Nintendo

5. Mario Kart 8

(Wii U)

Composite Metacritic score: 89.5

Mario Kart games have always been about cartoonishly impossible courses, a wide cast of characters, and shell projectiles you can blast at your friends just as they’re about to cross the finish line. The latest installment remains true to everything fans love about the series, while bringing it into the high-def world of 1080p graphics. The graphics really are incredible, filled with enough bright colors and minute details that it’s a shame Nintendo didn’t make the jump to HD a console generation ago, like Sony and Microsoft did. Nintendo is all caught up now, and just in time: Mario Kart 8 is one of the best games in this highly acclaimed series.

Eurogamer says: “Bold, accessible, deep and rich, Mario Kart 8 is premium video game development. It feels expensive. But this isn’t the vacuous lavishness of the Hollywood blockbuster; its excesses and indulgences work towards a common goal – or rather, finish line.”

Source: Lucas Pope

Source: Lucas Pope

4. Papers, Please

Composite Metacritic score: 91

(iOS)

Papers, Please sounds like an awful game in theory. You play as a border control officer in a fictional dystopian country. Your job is to assess whether visitors to the country should be allowed in. You do that by going through documents like their passports and visas, and subjecting them to degrading security scans. It sounds like drudgery, but it’s actually kind of fun, and it makes you think deeply about real-world issues like immigration, politics, and who’s worthy of special treatment and why. Papers, Please is a rare thing indeed: It’s an important video game.

TouchArcade says: “Papers, Please may not be what you’d typically describe as a fun video game, but it’s an incredibly clever experiment in storytelling that succeeds in what it sets out to do in ways you won’t expect. I’ve never played anything like it, and it’s hard to think of many other games which similarly explore the highly political themes the game approaches in such a thought provoking manner.”

Source: Naughty Dog

Source: Naughty Dog

3. The Last of Us: Remastered

Composite Metacritic score: 91

(PlayStation 4)

Sure, The Last of Us was a PlayStation 3 game, but this remastered version is exclusive to the PlayStation 4. The game takes place after a fungal outbreak has destroyed the world, but the focus is really on the relationship between two protagonists as they make their way across a post-apocalyptic U.S. Thanks to the extra horsepower of the PlayStation 4, the game now runs in full 1080p resolution, with 60 frames per second. This edition also comes with all of the DLC released for the original game, plus a commentary track you can listen to as you play through the campaign.

EGM says: “While The Last of Us was one of the PS3’s most impressive, engrossing releases, The Last of Us: Remastered feels like the version of Naughty Dog’s post-apocalyptic story of survival that the developer always intended us to play. Its story and characters are just as strong as they were before, but they’re now reinforced by far more amazing visuals, consistent framerate, and a nice selection of new bonus features and DLC inclusions.”

Source: Nintendo

Source: Nintendo

2. Bayonetta 2

Composite Metacritic score: 91

(Wii U)

Bayonetta 2 stars a buxom witch who fights demons using an array of martial arts moves, swords, and firearms (including guns built into her high heels). The game’s combat is some of the best around, with finely tuned mechanics that will come to feel like second nature before you know it. If you’ve been itching for a new Wii U game, this is a great deal, especially since it comes with the original Bayonetta for no extra cost.

Giant Bomb says: “Bayonetta 2 doesn’t drastically change the already wacky formula that the first game introduced, but it’s a bigger and more nuanced version of its predecessor. It’s also the best game of its kind in years. If you’ve ever enjoyed this breed of reflex-heavy, hyperactive, ludicrous action game, Bayonetta 2 is a no-brainer.”

Source: Nintendo

Source: Nintendo

1. Super Smash Bros. for Wii U

(Wii U)

Composite Metacritic score: 91

One of the year’s biggest Wii U game, Super Smash Bros. did not disappoint. In case you’re unfamiliar with the series, it’s the only place you can watch Mario, Link, Pikachu, and Kirby pound the snot out of each other using special attacks from their own individual games.

New modes this time around accommodate players of any experience level, from total newbies to hardened pros. The graphics are better than ever, and the roster spans four decades of Nintendo history. According to Metacritic, this is the best game to be released in 2014.

GamesRadar says: “Same great Smash Bros. gameplay, amazing new presentation on the Wii U. Whether you’re looking for technical depth or enjoyable chaos, you’ll find it here.”

Follow Chris on Twitter @_chrislreed

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