Released back in 2014, Valiant Hearts is a puzzle-adventure game that’s set during World War I. While war titles are far from uncommon in modern gaming, it’s the brilliant character study and visuals that make this title stand out amongst others. Instead of focusing around the actual action, Valiant Hearts uses the combat between armies as a way to tell five very small, personal stories across the globe. These offer a varied perspective on the war itself and help drive the player forward into each person’s outcome.
The gorgeous visual style works best in conveying the atrocities of this war. While it may have a pop-up book aesthetic, Valiant Hearts does a wonderful job in showcasing a variety of locations that range from the French Countryside to a trench full of dead bodies and gunfire. Couple this with a narrator who helps lend context to each scenario, and you have one of the most memorable games of 2014.
Just Dance (Series)
Okay, yes, we are technically cheating by just including the entire series, but which Just Dance is best really boils down to musical taste, given each title offers a wide variety of songs.
As a whole, this franchise may lack in complexity or intriguing narratives, but it more than makes this up with pure fun. These are simple games, but that’s the beauty of Just Dance — it’s a game meant to play with friends at a party or social gathering.
Even though this rhythm-based game may not win any awards, it’s the mentality behind it that really sells this type of title. Games are meant to be fun; Just Dance is a series that truly embraces that idea, and we couldn’t be happier with that.
Tom Clancy’s Rainbow Six: Vegas 2
Considered by many to be one of the best tactical shooters ever produced, Ubisoft’s Rainbow Six: Vegas 2 was a fantastic title that offered both an engaging single and multiplayer scene. While the story was fairly straightforward, the strategic, squad-based gameplay made every encounter feel like an elaborate puzzle to solve. Complementing this were incredibly tight and polished controls that felt as if Ubisoft went over every section with a fine-toothed comb. Guns were fun to use and the game had a great sense of challenge that organically grew with each mission.
Yet, once players took their experience online, Rainbow Six: Vegas 2 moved from good to great. Maps were well designed and many of the weapons were quite balanced, which helped cater to a variety of playstyles. For those looking to play nice, this title offered some truly fantastic co-op modes that had a sliding scale of difficulty, allowing players to tailor each experience to their skill level. While there have been other Rainbow Six games, none have truly delivered a complete package like Vegas 2.
One of Ubisoft’s more colorful titles, Rayman Origins embraces its classic 2D platforming roots and delivers an incredibly entertaining experience. Even though the actual story doesn’t really explore uncharted territory, it’s the endearing and lovable characters that will win over most players. There’s a real charm to the world of Rayman Origins, which is reflected nicely through the cartoonish art style that makes every action and environment pop.
Along with this fantastic visual direction, Rayman Origins featured tight controls and challenging platforming sections that never felt too simple. However, it was the wonderful level design offering a variety of unique situations and gimmicks, that kept each encounter fresh and interesting. One area saw players clamoring across a world made of flutes and clarinets, while another had users running through a spike-filled cave. Rayman Origins was never afraid to poke fun at itself, either, and the humor helped make it an incredibly memorable experience that spawned an equally solid sequel.
Assassin’s Creed IV: Black Flag
One of the more unique entries in the Assassin’s Creed series, Black Flag decided to drop the Desmond storyline in favor for a more direct and light-hearted approach. This helped the fourth entry stand out among its predecessors, as it simply used the Templar/Assassin conflict as a backdrop for the crazy missions around newcomer Edward Kenway. While the usual combat and stealth sections were implemented, it was the variety of side missions and activities that helped breath new life into this series. Hunting whales and diving for treasure worked wonderfully, and made for nice breaks between the sections of combat.
Yet, it was controlling a pirate ship that made Black Flag feel like something special. Sailing across the gorgeously rendered high seas while your crew sings a variety of songs helped sell the idea that you were in the Caribbean hunting for treasure. Boat to boat combat was engaging and surprisingly well laid out, allowing players to make use of the environment, storms, or their varied arsenal of weapons. There hasn’t been another Assassin’s Creed game that felt so wholly different from the series, but we can only hope that someday we’ll return to this time period.
Prince of Persia: Sands of Time
While it has been years since we last heard from Ubisoft’s Prince of Persia, the 2003 entry is by far the best in this long-running series. Unlike the original 2D platformer, Sands of Time moved the franchise into 3D, allowing users to climb, fight, and solve a variety of puzzles scattered about various temples. Making your way through these environments felt rewarding, as each one offered players a series of great challenges that were complimented nicely by the tight platforming mechanics.
The big difference between Sands of Time and other platforming titles was the use and manipulation of time. Users gained the ability early on to rewind events, allowing them to either complete puzzles or make adjustments if they missed a jump. While you had a limited number of charges, this elevated Sands of Time beyond a simple action-adventure game and made us address our own mistakes while playing.
Watch Dogs 2
As Ubisoft’s newest entry in their hacking IP, Watch Dogs 2 is a game dripping with personality and style. The follow-up to the rather bland 2014 installment, Watch Dogs 2 offers a more quirky and upbeat narrative that is full of memorable moments and level design. Characters feel fully fleshed out and explored, with each one offering their own unique perspectives and personalities to a wide variety of scenarios that the game throws at you. Each mission brings a new set of challenges that can be completed in a variety of ways, with many of them revolving around your use of a computer and two drones.
Combat feels tight and responsive, while players are able to go about fights in their own way without feeling punished for it. Watch Dogs 2 wants you to exploit the system and make the most of the opportunities your hacking skills can create. This mentality carries nicely into the multiplayer, which allows users to not only explore a truly stunning recreation of San Francisco together, but have shootouts with other players. It’s rare that a sequel will surpass the original, however, we couldn’t be happier with how this second installment turned out.
Far Cry 3
While many games like to offer players a choice between stealth or direct confrontation, Ubisoft’s Far Cry 3 is a game that involves creating as much wacky, inventive chaos as possible. If you want to strap C4 to a jeep, drive it into a tiger cage, and release these vicious animals upon your foes, then you’re more than welcome.
A game about freedom, Far Cry 3 is the third open world game in this FPS series and is by far one of the most entertaining. This is largely thanks to a wide variety of tools and gear you can use to bring death upon your foes across different missions, ranging from clearing an outpost to getting high while setting a field of marijuana on fire.
However, it’s the characters and story that may surprise most players, as there is a surprising amount of depth to its narrative and themes. While the insane villain Vas has already cemented himself as a legendary gaming bad guy, it’s watching protagonist AJ’s transformation from bro to cold-blooded killer that’s truly fascinating. There are ramifications for his actions, challenging our perceptions of what a person can become in order to be a savior. Far Cry 3 is a wonderful title that shouldn’t be missed, and still stands as one of Ubisoft’s best games.
Beyond Good and Evil
This 2003 action adventure game is one of the greatest single player titles released in the modern era thanks to its near flawless blend of memorable characters, well-paced storylines, and engaging gameplay. Revolving around a world where anthropomorphic animals coexist with humans, the player takes control of Jade and must attempt to stop the spread of parasite known as DomZ. Even though this sounds rather simplistic, there is a surprising amount of depth and exploration within each character that allows players to get invested in their struggles.
While Beyond Good and Evil offers users a healthy dose of platforming, it’s the stealth mechanics that help it truly shine. Jade can sneak by patrols or knock enemies off balance if push comes to shove. Users can also control companions and give them a variety of commands to help even the odds in a fight. One of the most unique features is Jade’s camera, which she can use to scan the environment or snap photos of animals that can be exchanged for currency. Beyond Good and Evil is a title that delivers on every front, offering a total package that still holds up today.
Assassin’s Creed II
There are a lot of games that tried to imitate the Assassin’s Creed formula, however, none have truly come close to the near flawless design of Assassin’s Creed II. Bigger and badder in every way, this sequel offered users a more dynamic story, great combat, solid traversal system, and a surprisingly detailed world to explore. Even though the modern sequences may have some rolling their eyes at the ham-fisted dialogue, the interactions and development of assassin Ezio more than makes up for this. Ezio’s struggle with going from Italian playboy to a cold-blooded killer is engrossing to watch, especially given that voice actor Roger Craig Smith does a wonderful job of bringing him to life.
Yet, it’s the solid and fantastic gameplay that made Assassin’s Creed II an iconic staple of the action adventure genre. Running across the rooftops of Florence has never felt better, as the parkour-based movement system fluidly carries players through the environment, and combat is full of different avenues for objective completion. Assassin’s Creed II helped rewrite the entire formula for this series, and its successes can be felt throughout the entire industry.
Even though Ubisoft gets a fair share of grief, there is no denying that the company has developed some truly amazing games. Titles such as Rayman Origins and Beyond Good and Evil helped define their respective genres, and there’s little doubt that their influences have inspired a plethora of titles both big and small.