The past year in video games have certainly been interesting.  It is definitely characterized by many promising titles falling flat, or just flat out not working, and games that saw little by way of expectations dominating the pack in the race for excellence. A year where some of the most standout titles were re-releases of fantastic new titles like The Last of Us and GTA V, which eclipse most of the year’s offerings makes compiling a list not as clear cut as in years past. However, there are plenty of fantastic games to look back on in 2014, just maybe not all of which are the most apparent.

We discussed it, and here are our top 10 games of 2014:

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10. Bayonetta 2 

Nintendo Wii U, October 24th

Chaotic, crazy, and awesome are three words all together don’t give enough credit to Platinum Games’ Bayonetta 2. The original was a cult classic that felt perfectly tailored for fans of japanese action games. Now, the sequel – coming to us at all courtesy of Nintendo – brings all of that up to the next level. Even better level design, more over the top action, and more visiting the awesome world of the badass heroin Bayonetta. This was a title that some of us expected to flop, but it hit all the right notes in the chorus of insane Japanese action.

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9. Danganronpa (Series)

Playstation Vita, February 11th, September 9th

A quirky Japanese murder mystery fell seemingly out of nowhere earlier this year. Danganronpa: Trigger Happy Havoc combined a great anime story with lovable characters and cool and interesting gameplay mechanics to make a title that really stood out, especially on the struggling Vita platform. The sequel, Danganronpa: Goodbye Despair is largely similar, equally great, and adds even more to the Phoenix Wright meets Persona formula that is super easy to get lost in. With both games being so similarly good, and both coming out this year, combining them both on our list seemed the most fair.

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8. Transistor

PS4/PC, May 20th

Art in motion. Supergiant Games’ Transistor is notably the most gorgeous game of the year. The amazing visuals, both in and out of cutscene, mesh with the fantastic soundtrack to create a truly captivating, albeit short, experience. Hitting all their strengths, the Bastion developer brought their big guns with top notch narration, and tight, interesting isometric gameplay. Using the namesake sword, protagonist Red fights robots in a fascinating turn-based system that rewards experimentation and combining power-ups in unique ways.

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 7. Mario Kart 8

Wii U, May 30th

Mario Kart came back this year as strong as ever with one of the series’ most fun titles to date. While the suite of characters isn’t the most exciting, it includes the strong return of the Koopalings, as well as one of Nintendo’s strongest forays into DLC so far. Tons of tracks, fantastic online play, and plenty of ways to play using the gamepad or otherwise, Mario Kart 8 feels right at home during parties, or just any old family game night.

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 6. South Park: The Stick of Truth

PS3/360/PC, May 4th

Sometimes you really don’t want an intense, super long RPG to sink days into. For those times, South Park: Stick of Truth works perfectly. Simple gameplay style ushers in an immaculately designed experience brought together by Obsidion Entertainment under the watchful eye of South Park creators Trey Parker and Matt Stone. The art style and animation makes it feel like you are playing an actual episode of the long time comedy series. The Paper Mario like system feels welcoming, and while very shallow, is totally redeemable due to its quirkiness and relaxing nature. Even for those who steer clear of the show for any reason, this game is not one to miss.

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 5. Dragon Age: Inquisition

PS4/Xbox One/PS3/360/PC, November 18th

If you wanted to lose your life to a game this year, look no further than Dragon Age: Inquisition. The third game in BioWare’s “Fantasy Mass Effect” series brings out new conflicts surrounding an all-threatening being and your protagonist’s ability to combat it. Featuring great characters, a cool, deep combat system, and most importantly, an insanely massive world to explore, Dragon Age: Inquisition is the most breathtaking title of the year. Just remember to leave the Hinderlands.

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 4. Shovel Knight

PC/Nintendo 3DS/Wii U, June 26th

Yacht Club Games’ Shovel Knight is the most exciting new IP of the year. A kickstarter darling, Shovel Knight has been captivating contributors with its promise of a game that celebrates everything about the fantastic games of old. Shovel Knight contains humor, action, insanely well designed levels, and an art style and soundtrack that are some of the best I’ve experienced in years. What might be best about Shovel Knight, however, is how well it portrays the feel of classic games it takes inspiration from. Ducktales, Mega Man, Castlevania and more are able to live on through Shovel Knight.

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3. Middle Earth: Shadow of Mordor

PS4/Xbox One/PS3/360/PC, September 30th

Easily the most surprising game of the year, Monolith’s Middle Earth: Shadow of Mordor took a license with no stand-out titles and turned it on its head. The game excels by taking all the best aspects of WB’s Arkham games and fits it all comfortably in the hellish landscapes of Mordor. The most interesting aspect is the game’s nemesis system, which makes the world feel alive as you target orcs, and orc target you in return. Shadow of Mordor hits all the marks of a great action game, and while they are respectably borrowed from other series, they come together to create the best Lord of the Rings related game ever made.

 

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2. Super Smash Bros. for Wii U and 3DS

Nintendo 3DS/Wii U, October 3rd, November 21st

While Mario Kart 8 took over our living rooms for most of the year, it was quickly outranked by Nintendo’s most amazing title this year. Super Smash Bros. for Wii U and 3DS did what the series had never done before, go mobile. The 3DS version of the game, while a great deal weaker graphically and etc., is still an excellent Super Smash Bros. game, taking advantage of the great roster, encompassing more of Nintendo’s history than ever before. The Wii U version ups the ante even further with fantastic graphics, great online functionality, and even more new modes (not to mention the return of the classic gamecube controller). Between the two games, you can play Smash at home, at work, at school and more. It’s a Smash Bros. world and we are just living in it.

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1. The Binding of Isaac: Rebirth

PC/PS4/Playstation Vita, November 4th

Pure addiction. While I can play Super Smash Bros. anywhere, it always seems to be overcome by The Binding of Isaac: Rebirth, the sequel to the smash hit PC game (that pretty much everyone owns) The Binding of Isaac. While largely the same game, this title saw a new overhaul by way of Nicalis, a top tier independent developer. Finally getting its own engine, Edmund McMillen’s brainchild has developed in extreme ways, such as obtaining a brand new art style, double the items, and a huge variety of challenges, from secret characters, to new pathways to take. While a single playthrough of Isaac takes no longer than an hour, the game has us coming back again and again. No game was capable of capturing our attention more, and with much more to still accomplish, for quite a while longer.

Honorable mentions: Far Cry 4, Monument Valley, UFC 2015, This War of Mine, Child of Light

What were your favorite games of 2014? Leave a comment below with your picks. Here is to a great 2015!