The 20 Best Videogames of 2014 (So Far)

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The best games of 2014 so far are a testament to the freedom and opportunity available to videogame designers. From a hand-drawn recreation of a century old war, to an often-cloned puzzle game with an elegant sense of design, to the HD debut of a lifelong local multiplayer favorite, videogames offer a range of experiences and aesthetics more diverse than the medium’s public image might indicate. We’re only halfway through 2014 and we’ve already seen great games for all tastes and sensibilities. Here are our 20 favorites so far.

20. Murdered: Soul Suspect

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I fell in unabashed love with the world Murdered: Soul Suspect presented. I loved walking through dumpsters, doorways and even people. I even loved the unexpected powerlessness of having no gun and no functioning muscles. Above all, as a person who often can’t play horror games due to being a total softie, I took particular joy in finally getting to play as a ghost. Just as Ronan got to see “the other side” of law enforcement, I felt like I was switching teams too by playing as that which I most fear in games. I hate when ghosts jump out unexpectedly in at me in other games, but in this game, every time a ghost appeared I would feel excited because it meant I’d get to talk to them and, soon, get to solve the mystery of their backstory and send them on to a better place. Instead of getting spooked, I got to be a savior—and not necessarily in the typical power fantasy way.—Maddy Myers

19. Kero Blaster

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Kero Blaster feels like Daisuke “Pixel” Amaya coming to terms with a kind of creative—and, given the semi-autobiographical nature of the comic that birthed these characters, maybe even personal—uncertainty. Cave Story was undoubtedly the product of a creator with a clear end-to-end vision. Kero Blaster might be Amaya proving to himself that you don’t need something so overwhelming in order to make something great; following your muse is equally valid, if a little scarier.—Joe Bernardi

18. Sportsfriends

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Sportsfriends [is] a quartet of independent games all focused on the type of local, living-room multiplayer that’s made a surprisingly potent comeback in recent months. Subsisting on goodwill and Kickstarter money, Sportsfriends arrives with a whole lot of heart. It’s a grassroots party game, with designs so simple and efficient they could’ve been Mario Party obstacles. Its charm will overwhelm you, but sometimes a back-to-basics approach can inadvertently turn up the barrier of entry.—Luke Winkie

17. Drakengard 3

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Drakengard 3 is wretched, trashy, and totally amazing, the pinnacle of a B movie of videogames from budget to dialogue to mechanics. It’s not Duke Nukem, wallowing in the worst of games without a second thought, nor is it Spec Ops: The Line, a critique of games that conveniently passes over its own complicity. Rather, Drakengard 3 is endearingly awful, with bizarre, out-of-place humor, extreme violence, and, when you least expect it, wrenching sincerity.—Aevee Bee

16. Broken Age

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Schafer has given us a more-or-less faithful recreation of the point-and-click formula that made him famous. Click on people to talk to them. Click on items to pick them up or use them on other items. Any formula that simple is going to rely heavily on details, and any fans of Schafer’s previous work will understand how much love went into the craft of seemingly every aspect of Broken Age.—JB

15. Tomodachi Life

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Nintendo’s goofy life sim caused me legitimate mental and emotional duress on at least two occasions. No matter how hard I tried to make a match, my Mii would not accept the love or friendship of my wife’s Mii. It’s heartbreaking to watch a tiny version of myself that looks like a Charles Schulz drawing repeatedly reject the woman that I love. Tomodachi Life might look like a silly lark, with its cartoonish Miis and surreal dream sequences, but it hurt me in a way no game ever has before.—Garrett Martin

14. Luftrausers

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Luftrausers does what all great action games do: It becomes irreducible and vital. High-scores and completed objectives aside, the real thrill is in the primal strain to survive by chaining a series of small miracles to one another, until you can’t any longer.—Joseph Leray

13. Titanfall

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The best thing about Titanfall is how little it cares for the laws of physics. Like every pilot in the game I wear some kind of rocket boot contraption that lets me jump obnoxiously high and far, and once I’m in the air I can jump again to get even higher/farther. (They call it a “double-jump”?) I can also wall-run like Mirror’s Edge, gliding along the sides of despoiled military buildings as if it’s my job. I can double-jump into a wall-run, leap across a gap and dance across another wall, and then double-jump again through a window into the opposing team’s command center, where I immediately get shot-gunned by two or three people at once. (Usually.) This commitment to fast, graceful, patently unrealistic movement is another factor that shreds whatever kind of verisimilitude might be expected from a modern-day shooter.—GM

12. OlliOlli

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OlliOlli is a skateboarding game, but it shouldn’t be viewed in the same light as a Tony Hawk or Skate. Roll7’s Vita exclusive (coming soon to PC and Playstation consoles) owes more to a variety of flash-fire mobile games, from the Ur-endless runner of Canabalt to the high score hijinks and level-specific goalposts of every other mobile game in existence. OlliOlli is a basically a skateboard-themed mobile game that gives your left thumb a thorough workout.—GM

11. Donkey Kong Country: Tropical Freeze

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Donkey Kong Country: Tropical Freeze is a beautiful game, in both appearance and demeanor. It is joyous in its joyousness, so happy to make us happy. Games should be beautiful and joyous. Games can be anything and can look like anything, and yet few games are beautiful or joyous—at least few games with the budget of Donkey Kong Country: Tropical Freeze.—GM

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