Right out of the clamshell box let me say that 2014 was a pretty decent year for video games. Those little digital bundles of button-mashing entertainment continued to push the boundaries of story and adventure. Thanks to the powered-up latest-gen consoles that were released at the end of 2013, some pretty impressive titles showed up packing more top-notch graphics and high-tech wow-moments than ever before.
Of course, we here at Plugged In wanted to explore which ones delivered all that techy sweetness without including the kind of bitter content that would make your granny gag, your mother glower and any nearby innocents gape? Well, here are the games that jumped out at me this past year (in no particular order):
Disney Infinity: Marvel Super Heroes (2.0 Edition): This collectable-character-with-a-built-in-memory-chip game isn’t a new idea, but it’s certainly one of the best renditions of this kind of play. And it’s got Avengers and Guardians of the Galaxy, too. (Oorah!) The superhero storylines and high-flying quests vary depending on which collectable figures you buy. And the wide-open play of the create-your-own-world Toy Box mode is, like, crazy fun. The drawbacks are a bit of superhero-style violence … and the price tags on all those many gotta-have-it figures. (Which look incredible, by the way.)
Civilization: Beyond Earth: Now, this Sid Meier game isn’t exactly an easy trifle to pick up. But it is the next generation of the famed Civ series and, as such, it’s a winner for those who love their games with an extra helping of thought-filled strategy on their digital plate. Beyond Earth takes the action into deep space, substitutes aliens for barbarians, and challenges gamers to turn a noxious planet of craters and unbreathable air into a thriving human colony ready to face tomorrow. Steep learning curve, to be sure, but a whole new lexicon of RTS (in the future) to explore.
Child of Light: Here we have a digital download game of visually stunning beauty. The flame-haired Princess Aurora finds herself on the other side of a mirror where she must struggle with an evil queen, restore light to that mystical land and try to find a way back to her grieving father, the king. There’s a bit of tearful loss, spell-casting and magic at play, but the world’s watercolor wonder and colorful adventuring lessons brings a whole lot of poetic light to those things of the dark.
Mario Kart 8: Everyone’s favorite wacky racer hits the screen with all the splashy color, kite-topped soaring and antigravity loop-the-loop that Mario and the high-def Wii U can muster. Banana Peel, Boomerang Flower and Turtle Shell traps abound. And the 30 different racers—including Mario, Luigi, Princess Peach, Bowser and Donkey Kong—and scores of tracks and karts will keep racers young and old yearning for one more lap behind the wheel.
Kirby Triple Deluxe: A video game about a vacuum cleaner, you ask? Well, in a way, kinda. This game is all about the heroic sucking power of an adorable little pink and bouncy guy named Kirby. His latest adventure starts out when a giant beanstalk takes root in Kirby’s home world of Dream Land and lifts his whole house up into the clouds. It’s up to Kirby to run up the “dreamstalk” as fast as his little stubby pink legs can carry him and make his way through six vine-suspended islands full of bashing minions and supersize puzzling baddies. This is the pick for those who’d love some fabulous old-school platforming adventure mixed with a whole lot of rainbow-colored cuteness.
Bursting to tell us some favs that I carelessly overlooked? I was told to hold it to a meager five by my mean old Scrooge of an editor! But you don’t have to. Feel free to let us know what you loved in the comment section below. Then we can all wait and see what those genius gamemaking gurus come up with for next year.