I say this every year, but this list is ours. It is what we anticipate, we being the now-twofold editorial board of Paste’s games department. Assistant Editor Maddy Myers and I burned many hours in intense debate over the entries on this list, and in the end it reflects our own peculiar tastes. If you disagree, leave a comment. We promise not to respond to it.
Some of these games we’ve played, at least fleetingly. Most of them we haven’t. A few games we discussed were eventually left off due to timing issues—Nidhogg would be here, if it hadn’t been released earlier this week. I insisted upon OlliOlli, but the Vita skateboarding game is out in four days, and I already have a review copy, so the anticipation is not quite what it once was. Banner Saga, Broken Age and Octodad are all out before the end of the month. This is not a list of every game we look forward to, or the games we think will be the best of the year—it is merely a brief look at ten games that we are particularly excited for.
Last year’s list included some of our biggest disappointments of the year, along with some of the best games in recent memory. What will 2014 bring?—Garrett Martin
Supergiant’s follow-up to Bastion has a similar art style and use of narration, but the turn-based sci-fi adventure Transistor isn’t a retread. It swaps out that game’s action for a more strategic form of combat. Reflexes and button-presses are still important, but smart planning is just as vital. Think of it as a tactical RPG dressed up as an action game, with the same isometric view found in both Bastion and Final Fantasy Tactics. Bastion was a tremendous union of story, mechanics and art design, and what we’ve seen of Transistor promises a similar level of quality.—GM
Was Bayonetta a sexist travesty, a so-bad-it’s-good unintentional lampoon of lady videogame characters, or a joyful celebration of feminine power? That debate has been ongoing since the game’s release, and since even the game’s creators don’t all seem to agree on the answer, Bayonetta 2 should be an interesting re-exploration of this over-the-top gunslinger who wears her own hair and nothing else. Whether you love it, hate it, or are simply baffled by its unrestrained goofiness, Bayonetta’s next adventure will doubtless be a conversation-starter.—Maddy Myers
Dark Souls II
I anticipate Dark Souls II because I hate myself and deserve to hurt. Also because the extended Souls family of brutally difficult role-playing games has provided some of the most inspiring and indelible moments in gaming history. I can’t wait to get dropped into the world of Dark Souls II without any kind of direction, knowing full well that it’s entirely upon my own reflexes and intuition to figure out exactly what I need to do to survive. Dark Souls and Demon’s Souls trusted me, for some inexplicable reason, and although I abused that trust almost infinitely I still relish that poison cocktail of freedom and futility. Dark Souls II should fill that cup back up to the brim.—GM
Final Fantasy X/X-2 (HD Re-Release)
X and X-2 are not often cited as particularly acclaimed Final Fantasy games—not like FF7, 8 and 9, that is. X-2 in particular caused a lot of eye-rolling among players who were surprised that Square Enix built a battle system oriented around fashion and outfits. But why should that be seen as a bad thing? Perhaps reception to these games will be different this time around. Meanwhile, fans who secretly loved X and X-2 the best will now have the opportunity to replay them on newer consoles with better graphics.—MM
Lightning Returns: Final Fantasy XIII
Final Fantasy XIII’s laconic, tough-as-nails heroine resumes her place as protagonist once more in this third installment of Final Fantasy’s Fabula Nova Crystallis games. This conclusion to the series will hopefully provide an ending that isn’t inscrutable, plus more scenes of Fang and Vanille looking adorable and providing endless slash-fiction fodder.—MM
Maybe one day I’ll tire of doodly games with Eno-y music and vague goals that might be entirely optional. Probably not, though. I can see some skeptics dismissing Hohokum as a prefab “indie” wannabe, cynically courting the pro-Katamari, anti-Dew crowd with its colorful and cartoonish art, an ambient score that adjusts to the player’s actions, and a general sense of laid-back aimlessness. I can see a lot of misguided people saying a lot of misguided things. I also see myself spending way too much time with Hohokum in my own living room at some undetermined date in the future, idly tracing loops through the sky as I scoop up tiny bear-like creatures and their beehive noisemakers.—GM
I get why opinions are split on Call of Duty. Cookie cutters are cool for cookies, less so for games. Also we can never quite get on the same page as a species about war, guns and murder. Maybe they’re bad sometimes? But if you can hang with death then that first Modern Warfare game is a true classic. Some of the designers responsible for that game are responsible for Titanfall, a game where robots with people in them try to kill each other online. Titanfall promises a similarly thrilling jaunt through combat scenarios without Modern Warfare’s muddled and meandering shot at real-life relevance. That could be good.—GM
Eidos Montreal’s reboot of the Thief franchise has come under fire from fans of the original games throughout 2013, for everything from quicktime events to character designs. It’s always hard to please fans with a reboot, but 2013’s Tomb Raider faced similar resistance and ended up surprising everybody. Here’s hoping Thief does the same.—MM
Yep, we’re still waiting on The Witness, Jonathan Blow’s follow-up to Braid. It’s now skipping the 360 and PlayStation 3 and diving straight into the current generation of Xbox Ones and PlayStation 4s. I included The Witness on last year’s list, making sure to take a dig at “Blow’s portentous rhetoric in Indie Game: The Movie and the turgid, melodramatic writing of Braid”, but the guy knows how to design puzzles, and that’s apparently what we can expect from The Witness. If the puzzles on The Witness’s island are as sly as Braid’s, it could be one of the more infuriating games of the year, but in a good way. And although Blow’s supposedly deep thoughts can be a straight shot to goofsville, he at least has noble intentions.—GM
This upcoming space sim is almost as infinite as space itself—or, at least, its crowd-funding campaign seems to be. After earning $2 million on Kickstarter, Cloud Imperium Games deciding to keep going with the asking-for-money bit on their own; the company went on to raise a total of $36 million. With a game this huge, individual backers probably don’t feel as directly involved, so much as like tiny specks, floating in space … and the more backers join in, the bigger that virtual world will get, and thus, the more real it’ll feel. All according to plan.—MM