Best games of 2014 – reviews
A rolling round-up of the best games of the year, with new reviews added as they come out
THIS year is shaping up to be a vintage one for video games, with two console launches and an explosion of new games tailor-made for mobile devices.
So which new titles should you get?
Below are some of the best games of the year so far, according to Metacritic, with a snapshot of what the critics are saying about each of them. We will update this list with newer, better games as the year goes on.
Dark Souls II – Metacritic score 92
Release Date: 11 March | Publisher: Namco Bandai Games | Platform: PC, PS3, X360
Dark Souls II is an action role-playing game that carried an enormous weight of expectation on its shoulders. The critical acclaim and enormous popularity of its predecessor meant the 2014 sequel had plenty to live up to. The game is set in a vast “Tolkein-esque” world, filled with terrifying creatures and the omnipresent threat of death. The Guardian says that the game is simply “extraordinary”. Eurogamer Germany agrees, saying that a perfect 100 was the only score their reviewers ever considered: “When the prospect of the adventure eventually ending causes you nothing but grief, there's only one score to give.”
Threes! – Metacritic score 92
Release Date: 5 February | Publisher: Sirvo LLC | Platform: iOS
The surprise hit of early 2014 is the maths-based puzzle game Threes! Built for mobile phones, the game challenges you to push numbered blocks together to try to build multiples of three. The higher you go, the higher you score. TouchArcade says “Threes! is about as close as it gets to a perfect mobile game”.
Fez – Metacritic score 92
Release Date: 24 March | Publisher: Polytron Corp. | Platform: Vita
A two-dimensional platform game set in a three-dimensional world? Sounds complicated, but Fez looks and plays effortlessly, fans say. Critics have been charmed by its simple presentation, and mind-bending puzzles which update 8-bit games of old for twenty-first century gamers. IGN Associate Editor Mitch Dyer says “Games like Fez challenge us to think in unique ways, solve complex problems with basic interaction and play an active role in something extraordinary. Above all Fez reminds players why they began playing gaming in the first place: to have fun.”
Rayman Legends – Metacritic score 91
Release Date: 18 February | Publisher: Ubisoft | Platform: XONE, PS4
Rayman Legends is evidence (in case any was needed) that platform games can still aspire to greatness. Eurogamer says “Rayman Legends is still the same enchanting, cheeky and all-around wonderful platformer, made by people who are absolutely in love with the genre. These guys still can think of something to say where most everyone else is content to endlessly quote the classics”. The game still asks you to do plenty of running and jumping, but Rayman’s charm and the developer’s palpable flair for invention make the game feel contemporary.
Final Fantasy VI – Metacritic score 91
Release Date: 6 February | Publisher: Square Enix | Platform: iOS
Not all games make the transition from console to mobile smoothly, but this loving adaptation of the 90s classic Final Fantasy VI is regarded by most gamers of a certain age as a great success. The “epic, world-changing story, real character development, and killer soundtrack” have all made the leap intact, but the game is let down, Touch Arcade says, by “iffy controls” and an imperfect new art style. Still, this classic role-playing game holds up, and is, according to Slide to Play a “worthy port of one of the best games ever”.
Bug Heroes 2 – Metacritic score 90
Release Date: 19 February | Publisher: Foursaken Media | Platform: iOS
The original Bug Heroes was rated as one of the best mobile games of 2011, and its sequel looks set to reach the same giddy heights. Your mission is to help your bug stockpile food, defend its territory and build and fortify its base to defend against attackers. The game is played from a third-person perspective, with handsome graphics and simple controls. AppSpy says: “The creepy-crawly carnage of Bug Heroes 2 provides some of the best third-person combat we have seen on mobile in a while.”
TowerFall Ascension – Metacritic score 90
Release Date: 11 March | Publisher: Matt Makes Games Inc. | Platform: PS4, PC
Towerfall is an unassuming-looking party game where up to four players duke it out in a single screen arena. Each player picks an archer and then heads into the fray for short matches that leave one player standing. To kill an opponent you must hit them with an arrow or stomp on their heads. Polygon says: “I can say, without an ounce of hyperbole, that I have never shouted, cheered or laughed so much playing a game in my life”.
Monument Valley – Metacritic score 89
Release Date: 3 April | Publisher: UsTwo. | Platform: iOS
This elegant adventure will probably take you little over two hours to complete, but what it lacks in length it more than makes up for in style, ingenuity and heart. You play as Princess Ida, a girl on a quest for forgiveness for an unknown crime. The game plays out in a beautiful geometric world inspired, unquestionably, by Dutch artist M.C. Escher, whose mathematical lithographs created unreal shapes and impossible architectures. Exploring these geometric monuments is a marvel - each has its own secrets to unlock, and levels are solved by twisting the landscape and moving blocks to connect in unexpected ways. “The game has a wistful quality quite unlike anything else that has come before”, says Sunday Times reviewer Arion McNicoll.
The Last of Us: Left Behind – Metacritic score 88
Release Date: 14 February | Publisher: SCEA | Platform: PS3, X360
Left Behind is a “blazingly intelligent and thoughtful” addition to the Last of Us franchise, the Daily Telegraph’s Tim Martin says. Where most games are about shooting people to death, Last of Us games are about relationships. Left Behind tells a story concurrently from two moments in time. This means you see your character in different stages of her development. The writing is “superb”, the combat enjoyable and the story “immersive”. The Digital Fix has some simple advice: “Do yourself a favour and turn off your phone for a few hours and get lost in the best gaming relationship you’ll likely ever have. Stunning.”
Castle Doombad – Metacritic score 88
Release Date: 9 January | Publisher: Adult Swim | Platform: iOS
It has been a while since an evil character has kidnapped a princess and sent a hero on a quest to get her back. Oh wait, no it hasn’t, that is the plot of pretty much every game ever. But Castle Doombad manages to do something new with the hoary old genre by putting you in the role of the wicked Dr. Lord Evilstein. In Castle Doombad you have to stop the heroes from getting into your fortress with as many fiendish traps as you can devise. Touch Arcade says Developer Grumpyface Studios does “nearly everything right”.
Hearthstone: Heroes of Warcraft – Metacritic score 88
Release Date: 11 March | Publishers: Blizzard Entertainment | Platform: PC
Warcraft began life as a series of real-time strategy games which challenged players to take control of an army of orcs or elves and destroy their opponents. In 2004, Blizzard released World of Warcraft – a huge open-world game that allowed players to meet each other and collaborate online. It was, briefly, the world’s largest subscription game of its kind. Now, Warcraft has reinvented itself again with a free-to-play trading card game that most reviewers agree is great. IGN says “the elegant simplicity of Hearthstone’s rules, its impressive attention to detail and personality, and the true viability of playing completely for free make it easy to fall under its spell”.
Titanfall – Metacritic score 87
Release Date: 11 March | Publisher: Electronic Arts | Platform: PC, PS3, X360
Titanfall is the first new game from former key members of the team who made Call of Duty one of the biggest gaming franchises on the planet. The game puts you in charge of a fleet-footed soldier who can skip nimbly around the environment or call for backup from a heavily-armoured robotic “Titan” exoskeleton. Microsoft nabbed the game as an exclusive in the hope it might encourage old Xbox devotees to get the Xbox One when they upgrade rather than switching to the PS4, and maybe convert a few PlayStation fans to their cause as well. In spite of offering no single-player campaign, “Titanfall earns a seat at the table with the genre’s entrenched powerhouses”, IGN says.
Have the critics got it right? Or have they missed out your favourite game? Leave a comment below and tell us which games you think deserve to be in the running for game of the year.