This may be an entry in a highly specialized and generally unfriendly genre, but you'll be hard-pressed to find a better example of the type. Heartless, demanding, infuriating, yet seemingly boundless in the depth of its content and mechanics, the latest Shiren the Wanderer adventure wraps taxing game design in just-one-more replay appeal. Think of it as the Wolverine of console roguelikes: It's the best there is at what it does, and what it does isn't very nice.
While it has a few rough patches and may prove too slow and drawn-out for some players, Isolation does an amazing job of capturing the essence of a classic film and recasting it as a video game. It can be a little too easy to see the man behind the curtain at times, but this is nevertheless one of the finest film-to-game adaptations ever... and a fantastic stealth adventure in its own right.
There's not really enough distance between the PS3 version of The Last of Us and this new Remaster to make it worth double-dipping, unless you're simply that fixated on counting lines of resolution. If you missed out the first time around, though, you really shouldn't let it slip past again. While it often works better as a movie than a game, it still stands at the state of the art. And the writing is good enough to enjoy even if you hate zombie genre fiction (like I do). The Last of Us is about refinement, not innovation, and this version takes the art of refinement another step forward.
As fun in this beefed-up incarnation as in its original release, Guacamelee Super Turbo Champion Edition offers one of the best-designed and most original takes on the well-worn metroidvania phenomenon you'll ever find. The new material may not quite bring enough to the table to warrant a second purchase, and the game doesn't exactly push PS4 or Xbox One to the ragged edge of their capabilities, but once again excellent game design has less to do with technical specs and more to do with creativity and thoughtfulness: Features Guacamelee possesses in spades.
Great combat mechanics and excellent writing help Transistor transcend the familiarity of its individual components. A gorgeous, intriguing, and ultimately moving tale, Supergiant's sophomore effort builds on the strengths that made Bastion so memorable without feeling like a mere retread.
Treasure Tracker may be relatively budget-priced, but it doesn't feel like a cheap, throwaway creation. Every inch of its nearly 100 stages and bonus levels has been buffed to a spit-shine finish, and the Nintendo content factory has produced dozens of one-of-a-kind stage concepts to explore here. Alternately a test of observation, reflex, planning, and deduction, Captain Toad's first standalone title (of assuredly many) demonstrates that spinoffs don't have to feel phoned in... and that there's room in gaming to give top-class love and attention to family-friendly creations, too. A perfect video game sorbet to finish up 2014.
A spot-on exploration of what Nintendo really does best: Create varied and surprising twists on concepts and ingredients you thought you knew inside-out. The fact that 3D World remains lively and interesting despite calling back to so many well-loved classics serves as a succinct reminder as to why Mario remains successful after so many years and so many games: At its heart, the series is ultimately just about having simple, unpretentious fun.
Halo: The Master Chief Collection clearly sets out to be one of the videogame tributes ever assembled; and in doing so, its hard not to be impressed by the scope and ambition of its efforts. This is the definitive collection of Halo: Combat Evolved through Halo 4, effectively presenting both classic and remixed content in a way that makes it feel like more than a simple trip down memory lane. Assuming it avoids issues with multiplayer stability, it's possible that it will end up being relevant as a shooter for a long time to come.