Top 10 Video Games
From impossible geometry to glitching goats, it's our favorite games of the year
1) Kentucky Route Zero (Cardboard Computer) This episodic tale was our No. 1 game of 2013, but we couldn't have foreseen the transcendent Act III that revealed itself this year. The creators expertly tug players between the role of spectator and participant while whispering its magical realist secrets in their ears. It's as if an advanced race visited, handed us KRZ, and said, "This is how you tell a story in the future."
2) Monument Valley (Ustwo) For those who want to reach into an MC Escher painting to explore, Monument Valley offers mind-bending puzzles around beautiful and impossible architecture. The totem is our vote for best nonplayable character of the year.
3) Desert Golfing (Blinkbat Games)
It's a golfer's nightmare: a never-ending fairway without mulligans. Intuitive controls and minimalist design can only stave off existential dread for so long as you traverse the barren landscape. Hole 1,000 is just the beginning.
4) Middle-earth: Shadow of Mordor (Monolith Productions)
This installment of the LOTR franchise cribbed the fighting style of the Arkham series and the environments of Assassin's Creed and made a world and narrative that was so open you barely felt its guidance.
5) Threes (Sirvo LLC)
None of Threes' many imitators matched the balance of replayability and difficulty or the charm of the original. Obsessions rarely feel this rewarding.
6) Sportsfriends (Die Gute Fabrik)
This suite of four local-multiplayer games has been years in the making and shows its polish. The highlight is Johann Sebastian Joust: a full-contact, screenless mixture of tag and jousting that finally put those PlayStation Move controllers to use.
7) Secret Habitat/Abstract Ritual (Strangethink)
While we wait for No Man's Sky to take procedurally generated worlds to the next level, content yourself with these two smaller experiments. Explore new cities, new buildings with new art, and new soundtracks every time you play.
8) Nidhogg (Messhof)
Who would have guessed Messhof's surreal and liquid pixel style would work so perfectly with a fencing game? Nidhogg is easy to pick up, difficult to master, and a joy to watch.
9) Bayonetta 2/Sunset Overdrive (Platinum Games/Insomniac Games) While many big-budget games strive for realism, two titles went over-the-top to make players feel like badasses. Whether it was grinding on a wire to gun down foes or strapping chainsaws to your shoes to level a demon, there was always a sense of pure (if somewhat guilty) joy.
10) Goat Simulator (Coffee Stain Studios) In a year rife with glitches, only one game was built with them in mind. As if goats weren't already the wild card of the animal kingdom, this game added Tony Hawk-style scoring and let players explore (and lick) everything in sight. Needless to say, things get weird.