Number 5. – Alien: Isolation
This is a huge step up for the series to go in the right direction from the awful installment called Aliens: Colonial Marines. All the Alien games in the franchise have been action titles, but it has been a long time since the first Alien game for the Atari 2600, to actually go to the horror genre. Throughout the majority of the game, you’re being stalked by the Alien, and your first warning that it’s nearby is usually the sound. You can hear the thumps and rattles as it stalks down a corridor or slithers through the air ducts. You can hear a telltale noise as it triggers an automatic door by strolling past, or the sound it makes when it descends from a vent to hunt. Most horror games become a lot less scary when you turn the sound down; this becomes a lot harder. I can’t argue that Alien: Isolation wouldn’t have been improved by being a bit shorter, and there are one or two sections of the game which could’ve been completely excised without compromising the quality – but it’s an expertly designed, expertly paced stealth-horror game that relies more on tension and creeping dread than on jump scares, and pays loving homage to the film that started the series.
Number 4. – Five Nights At Freddy’s
It’s funny that I rate an indie horror game higher than an installment from a long-lived, horror franchise like Alien, but Five Nights at Freddy’s and its sequel revolutionized PC gaming in 2014. It’s been a long time since a PC title could ever say that since the popularity of PC has ever been so small. Five Nights at Freddy’s puts players in the role of night watchman Mike Schmidt, who takes a security position at Freddy Fazbear’s Pizza nightly between midnight and 6:00 AM. As taped messages reveal, though, not everything is A-Okay at good ol’ Freddy’s. As midnight hits, Freddy and his giant, animatronic pals are set to Free Roam Mode. As someone who has walked through Disneyland at 3:00 AM with no lights and no background music, that fact alone should be enough to make a horror hit. It gets worse, however. As night watchman, the player’s job consists of keeping an eye on Freddy Fazbear, Bonnie Bunny, Chica Chicken, and Foxy the Pirate, all the while making sure not to get caught. Getting caught, as the messages will tell you, results in a violation of the rules at Freddy Fazbear’s Pizza, since the characters will assume the player is an animatronic endoskeleton and will stuff the player into a spare Freddy Fazbear costume. This wouldn’t be all that bad, were it not for the internal wiring and structures already in place, which would crush a human. Five Nights at Freddy’s is horror done right. No slasher techniques, no gore necessary. The terror comes from simplicity; who hasn’t thought about giant characters coming for your blood? Plus, I do feel the need to mention value—the game can be picked up on Steam for only five dollars. It’s a great price for a great game.
Number 2. – Dark Souls 2
It is a well known fact that the Souls series have always been legendary for its difficulty and the sequel of Dark Souls is no exception. Like previous installments, Dark Souls 2 focuses on a centralized world that has little to no narration. It’s shrouded in a mist of shadow, leaving players to freely explore its world. There is no one to hold your hands, no markers to tell you where to go, and no right path to choose. Around every corner lurks danger and there is no such thing as a safe place. You are basically told right from the start that you are screwed in this forsaken world, and it’s for that reason (and others) is why I love this series. Dark Souls 2 isn’t for everyone, or even every moment. It’s a “sit forward” game that demands you be mentally present and adaptable. But for those who like to earn their victories — really earn them — this is a game in which winning means something more than I went through the motions and witnessed the end. If you do seek misery then on release, when the community is scrambling to uncover the mysteries of Drangleic lore, will be the most exciting time to play. Good luck — and don’t you dare go Hollow.
Number 2. – Dragon Age Inquisition
Another installment from an famous IP that put the series in the right track. And as far as things to do and see, there are lots of things to do in this very game. The number of quests that show up can seem overwhelming, and often whenever you turn a corner, you’ll see another exclamation point on the map that denotes another quest giver. Inquisition really is a huge game. The so-called critical path will take roughly 50-60 hours to complete. However, between side quests, getting to know your followers, customizing your Inquisition headquarters, and exploring the new and fairly deep armor and weapon crafting system, you could easily double the amount of time you spend on the critical path. If you like games that are time sinks, Inquisition is your game. To put it in as few words as possible: Inquisition is a splendid game as the next-console-generation successor to BioWare’s catalog of great action RPGs. It looks excellent. The story and characters are memorable. The gameplay lets you be almost as tactically minded as anyone could ask for. And it’s all tied together by a typically beautiful soundtrack and Hollywood-quality voice acting. No doubt it’s the best RPG of 2014!
Number 1. – Super Smash Bros. for Wii U
Super Smash Bros. for the Wii U is the ultimate video game battle royal. Nintendo unleashed its second monster franchise reboot of the year on Nov. 21, six months after “Mario Kart 8” came out of the gate. Both games are high-definition updates of popular series that drop favorite video game characters into a competitive format — high-speed racing for “Mario Kart 8” and Street Fighter-style arena combat for Super Smash Bros. And like “Mario Kart 8,” Super Smash Bros. is just about everything Nintendo fans could hope for. Retaining all the charm of past games and packed with upgrades, options and crystal-clear graphics, Smash is simply a blast. Super Smash Bros. pits iconic video game characters in battle arenas — and there are plenty to choose from, both characters and arenas. A good chunk of fighters come from Mario franchises, but there is a more than healthy sampling from other classic series such as Metroid, Legend of Zelda, Punch-Out, Pokemon, Mega Man, Pac-Man, Pikmin and Sonic. The Wii U version closely resembles the DS version, but the advantages over the handheld game are significant. First and foremost is resolution and screen size. Super Smash Bros. looks absolutely gorgeous in the Wii U’s HD format. The various animation styles, ranging from Pac-Man to Pokemon, that are mashed up in this game meld beautifully against the sharp and shifting backdrops.