When I said goodbye to 2013, my resolution for the new year was to play every game as it was released. I almost kept my promise, but I think I did well enough to stay up-to-date and have solid stances when Game of the Year voting time came. Some of these were no-brainers, some I warmed up to as time passed. But for all of you playing along at home, here are my 10 favorite games of 2014.
10. Dragon Age Inquisition: I know this game was placed a lot higher on others' lists than mine, so I kind of feel the need to defend why I ranked it lower. Don't get me wrong, I love Dragon Age. I loved Inquisition and I am STILL loving Inquisition (of course I haven't finished, do you know what I do for a living?). BioWare's love for what they make is always evident in their games and I have a soft spot for role-playing games, so I'm naturally a fan of the studio's latest. But it didn't tread very much new ground, which is why I loved it but didn't love it more than the other games on my list. It pushed the right buttons, it was all the Dragon Age I wanted and more. The experience is one I will continue to revisit until I finish my first playthrough.
9. Bayonetta 2: Bayonetta 2 is a mechanically perfect action game. This game is just pure fun, for me. It's satisfying to beat the crap out of enemies and it's gorgeous to watch. There are some obvious tonal problems with the game, and a lot of people consider the game sexist, and I agree there are a few too many boobs and butts flying around here. But that's actually why I love Bayonetta. She was created to be unabashedly blunt, brazen, butts and all. She's strong, and sometimes we forget that she's also pretty funny. She (well, and Lara Croft) is the woman I was hoping to be when I turned 26. I'm a nerd writing about video games for a living so that didn't really pan out, but I love what Bayonetta is and I love that the games don't pretend to be anything other that a super sexy, powerful woman in an excellently-designed action series. If you have a Wii U, you need Bayonetta 2. But I recommend playing the first game beforehand, for maximum Bayonetta enjoyment.
8. Shovel Knight: Yacht Club Games made a perfect iteration of a beloved genre, from its look to its sound to its mechanics, and I adore it to pieces. Playing the game feels like cuddling up with an old friend. It's comfortable but new and you get to beat people up with a shovel. Forget swords. Shovels are where it's at. It doesn't get much more perfect that this.
7. The Walking Dead Season 2: When a video game makes you play as a little girl in the zombie apocalypse, and the company making that game is Telltale... yeah.
6. Far Cry 4: I played Far Cry 4 at E3 and loved what I saw. Speaking with game director Alex Hutchinson made me drool with anticipation; the story sounded so cool, Pagan Min sounded awesome, I was super into the idea of co-op playing with pals. But when the game came out, I was initially kind of unhappy with Far Cry 4. I watched my boyfriend play for about four hours, and he was also initially disenchanted with the game. But then the game completed changed. For both of us. The story picked up: the stuff with the Golden Path became increasingly more complex, I wanted to uncover more about Ajay's family, and while the Shangri-La missions felt a little out of place, I just enjoyed that there was absolutely too much to do. The time I spent playing Far Cry 4 alone were some of the best hours I spent this year on games. Also you can set a tiger on fire and send it into battle.
5. Transistor: I had to sit in silence for a while after I finished Transistor. When I wasn't playing the game, it was all I was thinking about. I love that the story is revealed very subtly; giving your audience time and space to sort out what's happening was a great narrative choice. Also, that combat. Come on. So good. I'm a sucker for strategical stuff. Not to mention the music and art set the perfect atmosphere for a game equally parts sorrowful and hopeful.
4. Bravely Default: Bravely Default did Final Fantasy better than Final Fantasy has done in years. The job system sold it for me, and I'll forgive the copious repetition during the latter half of the game because of this. Also you can control how many random encounters you get. I'm spoiled now and need this in all RPGs from now on.
3. The Wolf Among Us:Another Telltale title on my top 10 list. This game got me into Fables. I replayed every episode multiple times to see all outcomes. I loved the way it looked and felt and Bigby is a beautifully complex protagonist to get behind. Balancing Snow's affections plus Fabletown's expectations and feelings towards you was nerve-wracking and I enjoyed getting super stressed out playing.
2. Child of Light: A perfect example of what happens when you let small teams in big studios get super creative with the resources they have. I've played Child of Light on all PlayStation platforms and I still cry at the end. This game reminds me of my relationship with my mom: I've embarked on this weird journey we call adulthood while she's still back in my childhood hometown with the rest of my family. She's constantly cheering me on, telling me to fly and face my fears. So I can identify with Aurora coming into her own -- afterall, this is the year I came into my own.
If you haven't figured out by now what my number one game of the year is, you don't know me very well.
1. Middle-earth: Shadow of Mordor: I wrote about this extensively here on Polygon. Also dat Nemesis system.