- Far Cry 4 (Xbox 360, PS3, Xbox One, PS4, PC)
I must confess from the outset that I haven’t played enough of Far Cry 4 to give an honest and complete critical assessment, so this is more going off the first impressions. It may not be ideal to list a game as one of the best of the year when I’m nowhere near finishing it, but from the very outset Far Cry 4 has managed to be a scenically gorgeous open world FPS that has piqued my curiosity and drawn me in more than most other games that have come out this year. For this it has earned a place at the bottom of my list.
- Super Smash Bros. Wii U/3DS (For Wii U and 3DS…duh)
Each new iteration of Super Smash Bros. has always been a highly anticipated game destined to shift units of whatever Nintendo console it appears on. While Brawl on the Wii was a highly divisive entry in the series for the more seasoned, competitive players I think that the speed and fluidity of Super Smash Bros for 3DS and Wii U will do a lot to win back favour from the Smash Bros community. It also marks a lot of firsts for the series. It’s the first time the series has gone portable. It’s the first time the series has gone for 3D and HD graphics. Perhaps most importantly, it’s the first time the series has up to 8 player combat options. Frantic and fun with your friends and family, even if there is a comparatively high count of fighters in the roster who are variations on the “anime sword guy” theme
- Mario Kart 8 (Wii U)
Mario Kart has always been an important and competitive fixture amongst my closest friends, and so far Mario Kart 8 has done a lot to foster that competitive passion. Mario Kart 8 has managed to refine and rework a lot of the hit and miss innovations introduced in the previous two games, built them up around the core Mario Kart gameplay, and then just balanced out all the subtle item and drifting mechanics before giving the whole package the highest level of polish I have seen in the series to date. The introduction of saving, editing and remixing highlight reels from your race and uploading them to the internet has done a lot to keep interest in the game alive, and helped birth the infamous “Luigi death stare” meme that even managed to find its way on to Fox News. With a fresh batch of high quality DLC characters and races, and another set for release in May of 2015, Mario Kart 8 has earned a spot on the list for simply being the game that refuses to take no for an answer.
- Dark Souls II (PS3 and Xbox 360)
It wasn’t easy putting Dark Souls II in the number 2 spot on this list and I want the record to show that in many ways the top 2 are on equal footing way, way, way up above everything else on this list. Dark Souls II is a game built around death and punishment, but also fairness and learning. When things go wrong in Dark Souls II you learn valuable lessons from it and grow better as a player in gradual and subtle ways that you might not even realize until your second playthrough. Each victory or breakthrough in Dark Souls II is well earned and worth celebrating. Each playthrough will bring about its fair share of loss and despair; but also ecstatic highs, cathartic victories and intense close calls. It’s a game rich in story and lore for those with the passion to seek it out, but it’s subtle enough to be completely ignorable if you’re only in it for the conquest. There has been only one game that has made me shriek and squeal this year, and that game has been Dark Souls II.
- Bayonetta 2 (Wii U)
Bayonetta 2 takes everything that made the original game fantastic, trimmed back the couple of dodgy bits and dialled everything else up to 11. Bayonetta 2 is my favourite game of this year for providing me with hours upon hours of thrilling action and “fuck yeah” moments served up in a suave, sexy, and cool package. Don’t fuck with a witch.