The 10 greatest games we played in 2014

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Photo: Activision
2014 gave us the most fun Call of Duty in recent history. Photo: Activision

We’ve argued on many occasions before that 2014 was a superlative year for iOS games. But it was also a fantastic twelve months for video games in general, as the last generation’s consoles were pushed to their max, and the PS4 and Xbox 360 hit their stride.

So now that the dust has settled what are our picks for games of the year? Check out our choice of the ten titles you must play after the jump.

Call of Duty: Advanced Warfare (PS3, PS4, Xbox 360, Xbox One)

Just like the holiday season, a new Call of Duty game is one of those annual traditions we’ve come to love. Taking place in the 2050s, Advanced Warfare adds a sci-fi twist to the otherwise immediately recognizable Call of Duty formula. There are mech suits, hover crafts, and magnetic gloves that let you climb up walls. And that’s without mentioning any of the guns available for your firing pleasure.

Underneath the new sheen is a classic CoD title, however, complete with Kevin Spacey as appropriately crazed villain. I’m a sucker for Call of Duty games, but this year’s entry might just be the most fun I recall having with the series. The multiplayer mode alone is worth the price of admission.

Photo: Nintendo
Mario Kart was back and better than ever. Photo: Nintendo
Photo: Nintendo

Mario Kart 8 (Wii U)

And speaking of long-running franchises, Mario Kart is approaching the quarter century mark, but still as fresh as ever, if you’re taking Mario Kart 8 as evidence. The big trick this time is the anti-gravity game mechanic, which lets players drive upside-down as well as on walls, and a variety of other surfaces.

Far from being a cheap gimmick, however, its perfectly-judged inclusion adds another skill to master in what feels like the most competitive Mario Kart game we’ve played yet. (Although, let’s be fair, when hasn’t this series felt ridiculously competitive?)

I’m going to go out on a limb here and say that this is the year’s most fun game.

Photo: Nintendo
The ultimate video game face-off. Photo: Nintendo

Super Smash Bros. (Wii U, 3DS)

Running Mario Kart 8 a close second in the fun stakes is the latest Super Smash Bros. title, for Nintendo’s Wii U and 3DS systems. Each version of the chaotic cartoon brawler plays to the strength of its individual platform, while offering you the chance to duke it out among your favorite video game characters from Nintendo, Sega, Bandai Namco and Capcom.

It’s a slightly more restrained affair than the previous game in the series (Melee), but all of the changes are for the better. And like Mario Kart, Nintendo has seemingly embraced the idea of hyper competitive battles, without feeling the need to even the playing field for everyone.

Photo: Sega
Few experiences are tenser than playing Alien Isolation in the dark. Photo: Sega

Alien Isolation (PS3, PS4, Xbox 360, Xbox One)

It’s no exaggeration to say that Alien Isolation is the game I’ve been hoping for since 1993. Why 1993? Because that’s when I first watched (and became oddly obsessed with) Ridley Scott’s terrifying suspense thriller Alien. Had I been alive in 1979, when the film came out, I would have been waiting for it since then.

Alien Isolation’s not perfect. It’s got a ponderous middle section, there are too many humanoid enemies, and it can sometimes tip over too far into “go to X location, pick up Y object, and use it open door Z” shenanigans. So why is it on this list? Because what it does best — the superb AI of a terrifying xenomorph out for nothing less than your total and utter demise — is pitch perfect. If you enjoy the movie Alien, this is your chance to live it. I really mean that.

Photo: Tango Gameworks
The plot was silly, but the gameplay was terrific. Photo: Tango Gameworks

The Evil Within (PS3, PS4, Xbox 360, Xbox One)

If you don’t get your survival horror fix with Alien Isolation, you’ll certainly manage it with The Evil Within, another title which offers not just cheap scares (although you’ll get those too), but a suspenseful, dread-filled atmosphere that will keep you on the edge of your seat for as long as you play.

You play a detective named Sebastian Castellanos, who is called in to investigate a spate of nasty murders at a local mental hospital. What follows is an entertainingly nonsensical plot, plenty of ghosts and monsters, and… probably not very much restful sleep on your part.

Photo: Obsidian Entertainment
The most fully-realized South Park game yet. Photo: Obsidian Entertainment

South Park: The Stick of Truth (PS3, Xbox 360, Windows PC)

Given that South Park is more than willing to poke fun at rivals Family Guy and The Simpsons for putting out money-grabbing tie-in games, creators Matt Stone and Trey Parker must have spared a moment’s thought about the possible hypocrisy in the event they failed to create the perfect South Park game. Fortunately they did TK TK TK

Photo: ustwo
This is what would happen if M.C. Escher became an iOS developer. Photo: ustwo
Photo: ustwo/Cult of Mac

Monument Valley (iOS)

My pick (and just about everyone else’s) for the best iOS game of the year, Monument Valley is what would happen if M.C. Escher took a Swift-coding class and became an iOS game developer. From its gorgeous isometric to the surrealistic landscape it depicts, ustwo’s breakthrough hit is, quite simply, the greatest iPad gaming experience I’ve ever had.

If you haven’t played it for a while (or, more egregiously, if you’ve never played it at all), now’s the perfect time to revisit it, too, since the developers just released 8 more jaw-dropping levels. For those who want to find out a bit more about the story behind the game, they can also check out our in-depth behind-the-scenes feature here.

Threes
Quite simply, addictive fun. Photo: Sirvo

Threes! (iOS)

Anyone who thinks Tetris-style “it takes a moment to learn but a lifetime to master” games went out with the 1980s should pick up Threes!, a numerical card card which challengers players to come up with multiples of 3 by sliding and matching pairs of cards. Trust me, they won’t be putting it down again any time soon.

Leo's Fortune
The most beautiful iOS game of the year. Photo: 1337 & Senri LLC

Leo’s Fortune (iOS)

A gorgeous iOS platformer, Leo’s Fortune puts you in control of an animated Star Trek Tribble with eyes like a Muppet. Your aim is to recapture your lost money, by travelling through levels that include physics puzzles, classic platforming stages, and the odd bit of high-speed Sonic the Hedgehog-inspired action.

Highly recommended.

Photo: Rockstar Games
GTA V looks even better on next-gen. Photo: Rockstar Games

Grand Theft Auto V (PS4, Xbox One)

Including a game that came out in 2013 on a best-of-2014 might sound like cheating, but as great as the original GTA V most certainly is, the title I’m referring to here is the next-gen PS4 and Xbox One refresh that arrived in the latter stages of 2014. You don’t need me to tell you that Grand Theft Auto V is an undisputed gaming masterpiece.

However, if you want to see just how great the game can be, check it out on the new crop of consoles. If this were just a graphical exercise to show off 1080p graphics, gorgeous textures and superb lighting effects, it would still get a recommendation from me. The fact that it’s one of the best games of all time is just icing on the cake.