The new generation of consoles launched back in 2013, but it wasn't until this year that battle for our living rooms really kicked off. Cutting-edge games consoles weren't the only ones vying to give us RSI either, with tablets, phones and that old classic the desktop PC also getting in on the action. Between flying red shells, stomping death machines, Zoolock rushes and the occasional orc decapitation, there was something special for gamers of every stripe in 2014 and here are 10 of the very best.
Platform: iOS, Android
From Baldur’s Gate to Knights Of The Old Republic, tablet owners have been spoiled by the raft of classic desktop games now playable on the move. But it’s a very special moment indeed when one of the best games of 2013 pops up on the App/Play store less than a year after its console debut. The definitive version of 2K’s throwback strategy game, Enemy Within retains all the xenomorph-blasting of 2012’s XCOM, but adds psi powers and powerful mech suits into the mix. Unlike the PC/console versions, this is a standalone release rather than an expansion pack, but even so it’s worth every penny.
Platform: PC, XB1, 360, PS4, PS3
The first Dragon Age title was a gloriously grimdark tale that harked back to the RPGs of the late nineties. While the sequel was disappointing, Bioware thoroughly redeemed themselves with this third instalment. Set against an epic conflict between mages and templars, Inquisition throws players into a sprawling open world and invites them to have at it. Whether your thing is crafting weapons, closing rifts, sending agents on covert ops or just picking flowers (for potions – not for fun!), Inquisition has you covered. And with some genuine tactical thought required to navigate the game’s more difficult encounters (Dragons!) this one will keep you going for weeks.
Platform: PC, XB1, 360, PS4, PS3
Innovation in video games is a rare thing these days and while Shadow Of Mordor’s gameplay might not be the most ground-breaking - think Arkham City vs Assassin’s Creed - the game’s "Nemesis" system turned this Tolkien-themed hack-and-slash into something else entirely. Building grudges against particularly irksome Uruks is endlessly enjoyable, as are the gradually more extreme ways in which you learn to dispatch them. Frankly, you haven’t lived until you’ve subdued a giant Graug, ridden it into the heart of an orc stronghold and then used it to stamp on an unsuspecting warchief’s head. Good times.
Not only is this four Halo games in one, but the updating of the classic titles to make the most of the Xbox One’s horsepower reminded us all just how good they were in the first place. From your first encounter with The Flood in Combat Evolved to the moment you slip into the Arbiter’s skin in Halo 2, this is a nostalgic dream from start to finish. Throw in more multiplayer components than any sane person could conceivably play in one lifetime and this is the best value title of the year bar none. Matchmaking issues did rain on the parade somewhat, but everyone affected will get a free copy of the updated Halo: ODST in the new year. Hooray!
The greatest game of last year (and according to our readers of all time), The Last Of Us went from being the best title on PS3 to the most essential re-release on PS4. Gloriously enhanced with more detailed textures and atmospheric lighting, the remastered edition reminded all of us just how good the game really is as we re-lived the ballad of Ellie and Joel one more time. We could sing this game’s praises until the real zombie apocalypse comes but let’s just say that if you haven’t played it yet then it’s worth picking up a Playstation for the sole purpose of doing so.
Platform: PC, Mac, iOS, Android
A free-to-play trading card game? Based on Warcraft? Hearthstone might not boast the attributes of an ironclad AAA release, but it nonetheless crashed down as the most addictive title of the year. Keep your Candy Crush Soda Sagas, Blizzard’s card-based battler is crack in digital form. The perfect balance of easy to play but hard to master, Hearthstone’s advanced strategies and in-depth metagames will challenge even the most accomplished tactician, while the ranking system still allows casual players to dip in and out at will without getting their arses handed to them every time. Play it, if only to possess your very own Leeroy Jenkins legendary card, complete with battle cry: "LEEEEROOOOY!"
Competitive multiplayer shooters seem to make up every fifth release these days but it’s a rare title that dares to do something different with the FPS genre. In this case ‘something different’ equates to enormous mech suits that can be called in at regular intervals to rain death upon the opposition. Even unoutfitted, your Titanfall character has a (literal) leg-up over other shooters, boasting an impressive array of parkour moves that sees you leaping from billboards to rooftops before rodeoing the canopy of an enemy Titan and dropping the goliath with hot lead to the head. Unlockable kill cards add spice to matches and the sheer variety of situations you can get yourself into make this the year’s second most compelling multiplayer experience.
Platform: Wii U
For the most compelling multiplayer experience of 2014, look no further than the well-worn tyres of Mario Kart 8. The Kart franchise’s triumphant debut on Wii U not only reenergised Nintendo’s ailing console but brought us the single greatest party game to have emerged since… well, Mario Kart Wii. Hugely inventive tracks, underwater sections, airborne sections and even upside down sections, Mario Kart 8 pulled out all the stops and the vast array of Kart modifications (Frilly parasol? Teddy bear kart?) meant you never got bored no matter how many times the Star cup kicked your arse. It also brought us the marvel that was Evil Luigi – what’s not to love?
Platform: PC, XB1, 360, PS4, PS3
Movie-game tie-ins get a bad rap and rightly so, but not since Goldeneye 007 has anyone got it as right as Alien: Isolation. Perfectly replicating the seventies aesthetic of Ridley Scott’s original (complete with Jerry Goldsmith score), the game takes you back to the claustrophobic, white-accented corridors of the first film in the most terrifying game experience of the year. After the disaster that was Aliens: Colonial Marines, the franchise is redeemed entirely with a title that, like the film that inspired it, foregoes action in favour of creeping dread and rising panic. It might seem odd to spend half a game’s play time hiding in a locker but when the Alien first uncurls from an overhead vent to stand before you, teeth dripping with saliva, you’ll certainly understand why.
Platform: PC, 360, PS3
‘You Died’. Rarely have two words become so overwhelmingly inevitable as in Dark Souls II. A masochistic masterpiece without peer, From Software’s bleak yet beautiful game chewed players up and spat them out again, dishing out fatalities with maniacal glee. Whether you're bludgeoned by a Turtle Knight, three-wayed by the Ruin Sentinels or just poked to death by a Hollow Soldier, Dark Souls 2 has an ignoble end with your name on it and it’s impossible not to revel in every painful minute of it. Less frustrating than its predecessor but no less challenging, this was the year’s most rewarding gaming experience and proof positive that years of easy-mode faceroll titles haven’t made us all go soft just yet. So grab hold of a copy, chug that estus flask, burn a bonfire ascetic and pick up your Moonlight Greatsword. Drangleic awaits!