For me, 2014 is when good stopped being good enough. Though I played a lot of well-designed games from a wide variety of genres, most of them felt like extensions on a theme rather than original works, refining formulas mastered by earlier pioneers.
Jazzpunk is one of the few exceptions that felt truly original. An adventure game in the loosest sense, the game has phenomenal artwork, an impeccable sense of style, and some of the funniest humor I’ve ever encountered in a video game. Jazzpunk used player interaction to set up every joke and punch line, and I hope more games learn from its example.
While Jazzpunk was the most unique game I played this year, Framed was a close second. The interactive comic book boasts nearly flawless presentation – the artwork and animations are fantastic – that kept me hooked despite the somewhat limited narrative (the game is basically one long chase scene).
Framed also deserves credit for exploring new forms of storytelling, demonstrating how order and story progression can drastically alter the interpretation of a scene. A complete experience in its own right, the concept still has a mountain of untapped potential and I look forward to seeing how it evolves.
3. Threes! (Coincidence not intended)
While the rules of Threes! can be fully grasped within the first two moves, the gameplay is so deep that it can keep you busy for hours. That’s no small accomplishment. The elegant system is easy to learn and difficult to master, and I respect the developers for making such an efficient and enjoyable time sink.
I also appreciate that Threes! is the rare mobile game that doesn’t nudge the player towards microtransactions. Threes! may lack the strong narrative that defines many of my favorites, but I played Threes! more than any game on this list and that has to count for something.
4. The Talos Principle
I was skeptical when I started playing The TALOS Principle and remained so throughout large portions of the game. The narrative and the gameplay never really come together and the protracted structure almost outstays its welcome.
The game is eventually able to overcome those issues because Croteam knows what it wants to accomplish. The final few stages of the journey are phenomenal, and the payoff at the end is doubly satisfying when you understand how you got there. The game has something meaningful to say about individuality and free will, allowing The Talos Principle to stand out despite some minor imperfections.
Die Gut Fabrik
There’s been a resurgence of local multiplayer over the past few years and Sportsfriends might be the best of the bunch. Each of the four games can stand on its own – I would have bought Sportsfriends just for Hokra – and the sheer variety keeps Sportsfriends fresh when game night starts getting impatient.
The compilation gets additional bonus points for its simplicity. All four Sportsfriends titles games can be picked up and played immediately, and the appeal translates regardless of experience level. Sportsfriends is the rare local multiplayer title that can bring gamers and non-gamers together, making it the ideal choice for every kind of social gathering.
Watch the trailer for Sportsfriends:
Agree with Eric? Want to mention another game you loved in 2014? Use the comments section below!