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YEAR IN REVIEW 2014

A year of adventure, exploration in video games

"Mario Kart 8" made Stars and Stripes' top 10 video games of 2014 list.<br>Nintendo/AP
"Mario Kart 8" made Stars and Stripes' top 10 video games of 2014 list.

It was a year of adventure.

In 2014, role-playing games returned to their place of glory. Gamers spent countless hours roaming large open worlds, usually wielding special powers and a blade or gun as they vanquished evil. The best included “Dragon Age: Inquisition,” “inFamous: Second Son,” “South Park: The Stick of Truth,” “Sunset Overdrive” and Wasteland 2.” But gamers also found some fun in such titles as “Assassin’s Creed: Unity,” “Borderlands: The Pre-Sequel,” “Lord of the Rings: Shadow of Mordor” and “Watch Dogs.”

It was also the first full year the Xbox One and PlayStation 4 were on shelves, and while proponents for both systems were busy arguing about parity clauses and Kinect, Wii U fans were happily feasting on “Mario Kart 8” and “Super Smash Bros.”

There were easily 20 to 30 games that could be numbered among the 10 best video games of 2014. After several heated arguments and not an insignificant amount of name-calling, we here at Stars and Stripes have narrowed down our list of the best games of 2014.

‘Bayonetta 2’

This was a contentious game. It’s a hyper-sexualized brawler that eschews any sort of sense and logic in its setting or characters for something that would have to be toned down considerably to be called “off the wall.” The absolutely pitch-perfect controls and combat simply can’t be denied, though. This is strictly an adults-only game, but those with an open mind may be able to find what made this a top 10 game of 2014.

‘Call of Duty: Advanced Warfare’

Although it sometimes feels like a “Titanfall” wannabe, “Advanced Warfare” is worthy of accolades. Set 40 years in the future, the characters sport gear that gives them almost as many abilities as a superhero. However, the game maintains the “Call of Duty” vibe in the campaign as well as online play. An added bonus: It actually has a good storyline.

‘Destiny’

Developers were aiming for the stars but only reached Mars — and that’s OK. Some gamers were disappointed when the much-hyped game from the creators of “Halo” didn’t deliver an astounding new experience. However, the game did many things exceptionally well in bringing elements from online role-playing games into a shooter. The best parts were smooth gameplay, solid solo missions and exciting cooperative events.

‘Dragon Age: Inquisition’

The term “epic adventure” was created for games like this. The fantasy role-playing game delivers a complex and compelling story set on a sprawling continent inhabited by interesting people and vicious animals. Even if you try to cut corners and sprint to the end of this tale, it’s going to take you longer than a marathon screening of Peter Jackson’s “Lord of the Rings” and “Hobbit” put together. And it would probably be more fun.

‘inFamous: Second Son’

The year brought us several action games that featured heroes with unusual abilities and were set in big cities. This tale of a slacker-turned-mutant was definitely the best. This PS4-exclusive let us zip across the Pacific Northwest using powers based on smoke, stone and neon light to pry Seattle from the clutches of a government agency run amok. The competition couldn’t quite keep pace. (However, if you have an Xbox One instead of a PS4, the hyperactive parkour/zombie-shooter “Sunset Overdrive” is an acceptable substitute.)

‘Mario Kart 8’

Besides being, colorful, beautiful and fast, “Mario Kart 8” was far and away the most accessible game Nintendo released this year, and for a family-focused system like the Wii U, that’s a major selling point. What it lacks in innovation – it borrows many mechanics from earlier Mario Karts – it makes up for in polish. From the characters, to the replays, it delivers a fast, fun racing for one player or four. On top of that, this is arguably the first console game that Nintendo has released compelling downloadable content for.

‘Might & Magic X: Legacy’

This early-year release heralded the return of the classic role-playing game. It’s a pure, unfiltered experience that harkens back to the days before “press A to win” mechanics and romance options. PC gamers who haven’t given this a try should pick it up immediately.

‘South Park: The Stick of Truth’

This was easily the most contentious entry on our list, and for good reason. If you’re a fan of “South Park’s” unique brand of humor, this is a must-buy. It perfectly captures everything that has kept “South Park” on the air for nearly 20 years. Conversely, if you hate “South Park,” “The Stick of Truth” perfectly captures everything you hate about “South Park.” Still, it’s a worthy entry onto the list.

‘Super Smash Bros.’

The “Smash Bros.” titles for Wii U and 3DS are in a boat similar to “Mario Kart” this year. It’s not necessarily about wholly new mechanics or gameplay as much as it is about the refined experience you’ve come to expect. Like “Brawl” and “Melee” before it, these “Smash” titles are about doing a little more of everything. From custom characters to control options, mini-games to unusual solo modes, both new titles have a ton of things to do while maintaining their own identities.

‘Titanfall’

This sci-fi shooter added easy-to-control jetpacks to the traditional formula, creating new vertical opportunities on the digital battlefield. It also took the lumbering mech of yore and turned it into an agile heavy-weapons platform. The combination made the fast-paced online-only “Titanfall” the most exciting shooter of the year.

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