Ten Best Under The Radar Games Of 2014

December 30, 2014
As 2014 comes to a close, now is the time to look back on the games that you played this year, and marvel at your accomplishments. Whether you poured days in Call of Duty's multiplayer, or beat down your friends in Smash Bros., it was a pretty solid year for AAA releases. But, what about the games you didn't play? Every year a ton of video games get released that fly under the radar for one reason or another. On a release calendar with hundreds of other games, the titles with the biggest budgets typically get the spotlight, while smaller titles, like independently-developed releases fight to play second fiddle. It's a shame, since sometimes those are some of the best games. You don’t have to have a million dollar budget to be a great game, and because of that, amazing releases fly right by, never to be heard from again. In an effort to drum up a little more attention for a handful of games that really deserve a second look, we've put together our picks for 2014's brightest hidden gems. Each of these titles is well worth your time, whether you know about them or not.

PS Vita
Developer: Digital Dreams | Publisher: Digital Dreams

Metrico was a unique name on a long list of indie-developed games that made a splash on the PS Vita this year. As one of Digital Dreams' first titles, Metrico blurred the line between enjoyable and informative as they created a virtual world of infographics tools and turned them into puzzles for players to platform on. You never would have guessed how much fun bar charts really can be as you're running and jumping, trying to piece together just how to get to the next screen. Metrico will test both your skills and your patience as you try and solve each and every one of its twisted puzzles.

Killer Instinct Season 2
Xbox One
Developer: Double Helix Games, Iron Galaxy Studios, Rare Ltd., Microsoft Studios| Publisher: Microsoft Studios

When the Xbox One launched, Season One of the updated fighting franchise Killer Instinct roared onto the scene as the console's premiere venture into free to play gaming. Even with the fighting game community's acceptance of this new take on the classic combo-heavy brawler, Season Two came out to less fanfare this October. Mixed in with some of the biggest releases of the year, Season 2 expanded the first season's roster with eight new characters (which included classics like TJ Combo, Riptor and Cinder), and proved to be a solid continuation for the series, for both longtime fans, and newcomers alike.

Shantae and the Pirate's Curse
3DS, Wii U
Developer: WayForward | Publisher: WayForward

The team at WayForward have done it again, crafting another enjoyable adventure for their little half-genie, Shantae. The Pirate's Curse picks up some time after her last adventure, Risky's Revenge, but this time Shantae must join forces with her nemesis, Risky Boots, in order to save Sequin Land. Invoking a wonderful sense of nostalgia through its classic platforming levels, mixed with enjoyable gameplay Shantae and the Pirate's Curse is one of those games you might overlook at first, but it is absolutely worth going back and picking up.

The Jackbox Party Pack
Xbox One, PlayStation 4, PlayStation 3, Steam, Amazon Fire TV
Developer: Jackbox Games | Publisher: Jackbox Games

The Jackbox Party Pack really has it all ... no, seriously, it does. There's five different games packed into the compilation that can be played by up to 100 people. This collection of Jackbox Games' latest releases includes the 2015 version of their flagship series, You Don't Know Jack, as well as four more recent releases from the company: Drawful, Fibbage XL, Lie Swatter, and Word Spud. All five of the games span different genres and play styles, but as long as you get a group of people that like to have fun together, the games should serve as the life of the party. As an added bonus, you don't need to have enough controllers for everyone to jump in, they can play along using their smartphones (any smartphone), because no one should be left out of a fresh round of insults from Cookie Masterson.

The Wolf Among Us
PlayStation 3, PlayStation 4, PS Vita, Xbox 360, Xbox One, PC, Mac, iOS, Android
Developer: Telltale Games | Publisher: Telltale Games

After the success of The Walking Dead games, Telltale Games decided to tackle another beloved comic series, for their next game. This time around it came in the form of Vertigo Comics' dark series, Fables. The comics are a twisted take on some of the most well-known characters from fairy tale literature that live amongst normal people. The Wolf Among Us plays out over five solid episodes, and tells the tale of Bigby Wolf (also known as The Big Bad Wolf), the sheriff of Fabletown, who is just trying to keep the peace, while keeping the community safe and hidden. It's a much more mature take on the stories that you likely heard when you were a kid, but it makes for a really great gaming narrative.

Project Spark
Xbox One, Xbox 360, PC
Developer: Team Dakota, SkyBox Labs | Publisher: Microsoft Studios

Project Spark is one of those rare games that truly subscribes to the idea that the experience is what you make of it, since you literally get to make games with this software. Part development engine and part digital testing ground, Project Spark gives players all the tools they need to make their own digital creations. The interface was developed around the Xbox controllers on consoles and a mouse and keyboard on PCs, making it easy to use for even novice, wannabe developers. Once you're done creating your own worlds, you can upload your creation for other Sparksters to enjoy, share, and edit. It's a serious set of tools wrapped up in an accessible package - the only thing that "players" need to bring to the table is their own imagination.

Retro City Rampage DX
3DS, PlayStation 3, PlayStation 4, Vita, Xbox 360, PC
Developer: Vblank Entertainment | Publisher: Vblank Entertainment

Retro City Rampage DX is the updated and expanded release of 2012's Retro City Rampage. If you've already played the original game, the DX version should be familiar, but it comes packed with tons of new stuff that makes it feel more like RCR 1.5 than anything else. There's updated vehicles, missions, challenges, graphics modes, difficulty options, parking garages, and even a jukebox so that you can enjoy all of the game's kick ass chiptunes. If you still haven't played Retro City Rampage, now's the time, and if you have there's enough stuff crammed into DX that makes it worth another go, no matter what system you're playing it on.

Kingdom Hearts HD 2.5 ReMIX
PlayStation 3
Developer: Square Enix | Publisher: Square Enix

The core of Kingdom Hearts HD 2.5 ReMIX was originally released in 2007 in Japan as Kingdom Hearts II Final Mix+. The PlayStation 2 two-disc compilation included the definitive version of Kingdom Hearts II, alongside Kingdom Hearts Re:Chain of Memories, an update to the GameBoy Advance release, Chain of Memories. The 2.5 ReMIX took the content from the Final Mix+ release, expanded upon it, and rebuilt the entire experience from the ground up. This time around, 2.5 ReMIX includes updated versions of the PlayStation Portable release Kingdom Hearts Birth by Sleep Final Mix, and the Nintendo DS release Kingdom Hearts Re:coded. In other words, if you're a Kingdom Hearts fan, this package really has more high def Sora and Disney characters than you can shake a Keyblade at.

Yaiba: Ninja Gaiden Z
PlayStation 3, Xbox 360, PC
Developer: Team Ninja | Publisher: Tecmo Koei

It's hard not to enjoy Yaiba: Ninja Gaiden Z: it's just so ridiculous. From the plot, to the gameplay, to the enemies, there isn't any part of this game that isn't over-the-top, and that's what makes it such a standout title. There aren't many games on the market, particularly here in the U.S., that are proud to not take themselves too seriously, but Yaiba does it exquisitely. From start to finish the game is full of outlandish scenarios, gross out zombies, and a foul-mouthed anti-hero, proving that it's really got everything. Sure, it isn't going push games forward as a cultural touchstone, but it doesn’t have to, sometimes it's okay for games to just be stupid fun.

Bravely Default
Developer: Silicon Studio, Square Enix | Publisher: Nintendo

Bravely Default helps to answer the question, "What if the classic RPGs of the 8 and 16-bit eras were developed on today's platforms?" The 1980s and 1990s produced some of the most beloved, creative, and overall amazing role playing games to ever land on consoles, and Bravely Default upholds the tradition of these classic games. With turn-based battles, a robust job system, and an epic story, this game will really strike a chord with many gamers of a certain age that can remember the good old days of gaming.