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Gamasutra's Best of 2014: Simon Carless' Top 5 Games

The top 5 (well, 6 in 5 slots!) games of the year from GDC and Gamasutra overseer Simon Carless, including plenty of replayable goodness from all ends of the gaming spectrum!

Simon Carless, Blogger

December 18, 2014

5 Min Read

[This is excerpted from the fourth issue of my new TinyLetter email newsletter, dealing with ‘musings on games, tech and life’ – go ahead and sign up if you dig it!]

Since my colleagues at Gamasutra will be rolling out their personal Top 5s for 'video games wot they played in 2014' over the next few days, thought I could have a hack at my own. I'm super happy that lists of best games are getting a lot more personal nowadays, btw - as games widen their appeal, everyone should have different, personal lists of their favorite games.

Now, bear in mind that I tend to like certain times of titles which appeal to my borderline ADD issues - quick, (sometimes) replayable games that have some interesting skill elements in them. But then, that may be much closer to what all of you have time to play, vs. gigantic 150-hour RPGs or 'games that are also your social life' - see LoL, DOTA, WoW, not that there's anything wrong with that.

So without further ado, here's the 5 games (OK, 6 games but I'm lumping two together!) that I dug this year:

- 80 Days (Inkle; iOS/Android)

I believe I've already raved about this Inkle-developed title in a previous newsletter - for anyone who missed that, it's featured here. As I said at the time about the interactive fiction adventure:

"The writing - from Meg Jayanth - is beautifully done, with clever snippets of character development, incipient mini-romances, and evocative prose abounding. The world is fascinating just because you have a lot of context, and the deadline is so seminal... and the gameplay is _very_ cleverly done."

(Oh, and Meg will be talking at the Indie Games Summit at GDC 2015 about the game's writing, and you are the first people to know about this, yay! Apart from, uh, Meg. And the IGS board :P)

- Trials Fusion (RedLynx/Ubisoft; PS4, Xbox One, Xbox 360, PC)

I'm a renowned Trials-a-holic - largely because I love perfecting times on the easier levels. (I have no fun with the later, super-hardcore bunnyhop difficulty - so frustrating.)

But the physics-based motorcycle game continues to level up, and this latest version has even gorgeous-er graphics, a lot more diversity in minigames, and a _lot_ of good custom user levels.

And competing against friends for fast times can get seriously addictive. (I did try making some YouTube videos playing through random user levels, actually!)

- Monument Valley (Ustwo; iOS/Android)

You're all aware of this gem, I would imagine. But I love Ustwo's Escher-like puzzle title because it looks beautiful, there's a _fair_ amount of mental challenge in there, and it gets to a Zen-like level of gameplay progression.

Sure, it doesn't layer in much complexity, and it's not massively long (at least previous to the new DLC!), but I consider both of these things a relative good thing.

I've occasionally seen gripes that the title - made by a small game division in a large boutique ad agency - is in some way faux-indie. But I realized that's kinda elitist - it's whether it's a great game that _actually_ matters. And it is.

- Geometry Wars 3 (Lucid Games/Activision; PS4, Xbox One, PC, Mac, Linux, PS3, Xbox 360)

Much like Trials Fusion, this twin-stick shooter scratches my 'quick repeat, beat your friends' high scores' itch in a wondrous way. However, it doesn't seem to be nearly as popular on my PSN friends list as, say, Trials.

I've had some conversations with Metanet's Raigan Burns (N++) about how it's maybe not _quite_ as well done as the prequels in terms of gameplay crispness, but the quest modes 100% make up for it. (And the bosses and old modes make it super fun. There's lots more diversity compared to previous titles in the franchise, and lots of high scores to improve for extra stars/against friends at all times.)

- 1001 Spikes/Binding Of Isaac: Rebirth  (Nicalis; Edmund McMillen/Nicalis; LOADS of platforms - I played 'em on PS4)

I'm lumping these two titles together because they're both retro-ish pixel remake/update things masterminded by Tyrone Rodriguez' Nicalis.

1001 Spikes updates an Xbox Live Indie Game to even greater levels of masocore, and Binding Of Isaac: Rebirth expands Edmund McMillen's evil twinstick procedural-ish adventure shooter with even crazier powerups and more depth (sorta topdown Spelunky+++).

Although Nicalis sometimes has delayed releases, when they come through with something, they _really_ deliver. 1001 Spikes is too difficult for me, and BoI: Rebirth may be almost _too_ deep.

But I aspire to be better at both of them - and that's a key things you see relatively seldom from games nowadays.

Concluding - you may or may not agree with these five (six!) games, but I think you'll agree that, despite some troubling times, there were a heck of a lot of amazing, intelligent, beautiful, fun video games released in 2014. And I'm just as excited to see the diversity and excellence in gaming that I know is coming for 2015. Happy holidays, and avanti!

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About the Author(s)

Simon Carless


Simon Carless is the founder of the GameDiscoverCo agency and creator of the popular GameDiscoverCo game discoverability newsletter. He consults with a number of PC/console publishers and developers, and was previously most known for his role helping to shape the Independent Games Festival and Game Developers Conference for many years.

He is also an investor and advisor to UK indie game publisher No More Robots (Descenders, Hypnospace Outlaw), a previous publisher and editor-in-chief at both Gamasutra and Game Developer magazine, and sits on the board of the Video Game History Foundation.

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