3. Trials Fusion (Red Lynx / Ubisoft)
Red Lynx keeps making Trials games, and we keep lapping them up (with the exception of Trials Frontier, which we'd rather forget). Fusion is no different, and we've spent hours and hours playing the latest offering from the Finnish studio.
This latest entry adds a few new features to the mix, and their introduction is largely seamless. Now there's a variety of skill moves that have been added, allowing for greater showboating. However, it's still very much the lure of chasing high scores that's the major draw here, and once again the series doesn't disappoint. We played primarily on PS4, and the relatively low count of games meant that plenty of people picked up the game and that there was always a friend's time to beat.
It's here - chasing down the best times set by your friends and completing flawless runs through the different courses - that Trials stands apart from the crowd. This is the third core release in the series, and for us it's the best. The formula might be starting to wear just a tiny bit now, but that doesn't stop Trials Fusion being a hugely addictive game and one of our favourites of the year.
2. Shovel Knight (Yacht Club Games)
There's something very 8-bit about Shovel Knight, but that doesn't really tell you everything you need to know about Yacht Club Games' platformer. It harkens back to the days of the NES, a golden age for platformer fans, and a period that the studio draws on heavily for this delightful offering.
This particular adventure stars the titular Shovel Knight, who's out to track down his lost love and defeat the evil Enchantress. As his name implies our hero heads into battle carrying nought but a shovel, which he uses to dig up jewels and to hop on enemy's heads. It's a simple enough concept, but it's executed to perfection.
Along the way there's a selection of tricky boss battles, some amusing characters to talk that you meet on your journey, and of course there's plenty of platforming challenges that will have genre fans purring. All in all this is a near-perfect platformer, with quality art, great music, and memorable design. Shovel Knight is so much more than just homage to a bygone era.
1. Hearthstone: Heroes of Warcraft (Blizzard)
Much has been written and said about Hearthstone already. The addictive nature of the game forced several Gamereactor editors to quit playing it after a few months as they simply needed the time to play other games. At its core it offers all the same trappings as Magic the Gathering, it's just got that special Blizzard touch (that has seen them rise to the top in the genres they've attempted). Naturally it appeals to fans of World of Warcraft - and older Warcraft games for that matter - but it doesn't exclude new fans as it's very inviting and easy to get into.
The innovation that Curse of Naxxramas brought - a single-player campaign for a collectible card game - was also a stroke of genius. But perhaps the biggest appeal is the dramatic last minute turnarounds that the cards themselves offer. Ragnaros is one such brilliantly designed card, one that doesn't do normal attacks but randomly deals 8 damage at the end of the turn. Random effects, perhaps the main theme of the Goblins vs. Gnomes expansion, does split community opinion. While it may be frustrating to deal with, with random effects, the skilled player will use them in ways to maximise their potential effect. And it does make for spectacularly exciting games.
What Hearthstone does so well is it takes advantage of the foundation that is Battle.net, and then adds to that the potential benefits of being purely digital as opposed to a card game conjured with physical cards, and the end result is one of 2014's best digital games.