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This article was published 24/12/2014 (2128 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.
There was no better character in games in 2014 than the titular alien of Alien: Isolation, which hunted you and your human brethren with such malice that its sudden appearance from a vent would fill you with stomach-churning dread whether you were two hours into the game or 20. This is a creature that's been so ingrained in our culture for 35 years it has lost all sense of mystery, remembered as much for its appearance in Spaceballs as any horror movie. Alien: Isolation made sure to punish you for ever taking its horrific design for granted.
Adult Swim earned a lot of praise for their brilliant Too Many Cooks viral video late in the year, but equally worthy of acclaim was Jazzpunk, the surreal '60s spy spoof released early in 2014 by Adult Swim Games. Imagine a John Le Carré novel being spoofed by Mad magazine in the far-distant future and you have a rough idea of what sort of goofiness awaits you in this unconventional adventure game.
From Shinji Mikami, creator of the Resident Evil series, came the best survival horror game since, well, Resident Evil 4, Mikami's last entry with that series. The Evil Within is the LSD-laced Resident Evil successor you never knew you wanted, an intense trip into the warped mind of a serial killer populated with chainsaw-wielding maniacs, ghoul-filled Victorian mansions and more freakish imagery than a David Lynch fever dream. To top things off, the game was presented in a 2.35:1 aspect ratio, confining all the action into such a small frame you couldn't help but feel a constant sense of claustrophobia.
There's epic and then there's Dragon Age: Inquisition, a sprawling RPG that felt like the condensation of a 12-part series of fantasy novels into a single game. Every aspect of the full-scale inquisition you launch was examined in intimate detail, from the appeasing of nobles who help sway the public opinion of your massive religious army to the individual soldiers who fight for you on the frontline and are looking to have their faith in your ideals affirmed. We didn't think we were missing an inquisition simulator at the start of 2014, but it's hard to imagine the gaming world without one at its end.
When a Nintendo game is firing on all cylinders, there's something unquantifiable in its ability to produce joy in the player. It's not nostalgia, as anyone of any age can pick up a controller from any classic Nintendo game over the past 30 years and instantly feel the immaculate touch in its design, yet it's also not like it ever feels like some ahead-of-a-century piece of groundbreaking design. A great Nintendo game simply is, and like hearing a song containing some melody you never could have hummed or viewing some breathtaking statue you never could have sculpted, you just have to give yourself into the idea that the artist holds the key to what makes something brilliant and all you can do is appreciate. Mario Kart 8 is well worth appreciating.
Mel Stefaniuk is a freelance writer whose love of both video games and writing have been intertwined since growing up with the text adventures of the '80s. He can be found on Twitter as @DisgracedCop.
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