Below are my nominations for games I played for 2014. Note that I merged games released this year and yesteryear to balance things out re: nominations. Without further ado…
BEST PLATFORMER: Super Mario 3D World
This (along with Bayonetta 2 & the upcoming titles) convinced me to buy a Wii U this past November given Nintendo’s struggling home console has finally hit its stride despite being in the market for over two years. For a 3D Mario that is a much-improved console equivalent to its 3DS predecessor, the level design, its SMB2 approach (Peach for the win!), and the [adorable] cat suit ability make for some fun times. I’d choose this over the New Super Mario Bros. series any day.
Runner-Up: Super Skull Smash GO!
Honorable Mentions: Castle of Illusion 2013, Archibald’s Adventures, Life of Pixel
BEST SOUNDTRACK: Anodyne
The so-called inspired NES Zelda/GBC Zelda hybrid has some subtle if not eerie chiptune tracks, which works to its advantage within the game’s equally subtle/eerie atmosphere. Tracks like ‘Fields’, ‘Hotel’, and ‘Go’ are good listens, but ‘Cliff’ is among one of my favorites.
Runner-Up: Dark Souls II
Honorable Mentions: Far Cry 3 Blood Dragon, Bastion, Fez
GUILTIEST PLEASURE: Sleeping Dogs (Vehicular One-Night Stands)
During my playthrough, I played around with the possibility of bringing my motorcycles inside one of my apartments. After trial-and-error, I successfully did so and set them on my bed. Then I slept. The bike that following morning would “grind” off the bed as I woke up. I did this “exhaust” of an experience several times throughout my playthrough. It’s just too bad the [male] NPCs I attempted to bring in my apartment didn’t work. Those cock-blocking doors sometimes… >:3
Runner-Up: Dark Souls II (Bino-Boosting/Gravity Walk exploits *patched*) Image 1 | Image 2
Honorable Mention: Saint’s Row IV (Complete vigilante mayhem)
MOST UNDER-RATED: DmC: Devil May Cry
This was my first foray into the Devil May Cry series despite being aware it was a reboot which lead to a divide on said fanbase since its release. The substance is where it’s at, making it a solid action title that has convinced me to play the previous entries of the original series.
Runner-Up: Sleeping Dogs
Honorable Mentions: Thomas Was Alone, Anodyne
MOST OVER-RATED: BioShock Infinite
While I agree with both sides on the narrative context and themes debating the video game medium’s storyline potential (or whatever it’s technically called) on the matter, I found the story-driven experience not as impressive as I hoped. It’s not to imply I oppose story-driven based games, but it seemed it overshadowed the already-generic FPS level design regardless. Despite all that, I plan to play the first BioShock despite my overall thoughts on my experience over Infinite.
Honorable Mentions: Tomb Raider 2013, Brothers
MOST UNDER-WHELMING: Brothers: A Tale of Two Sons
Another story-driven game I played this year on this list? Unlike BioShock Infinite, Brothers’ environmental storytelling wasn’t well refined nor developed whereas the platforming level design overshadowed it (despite saying that too had its shortcomings). The game tries so (if not too) hard to make me care about all of the characters in the game given the little brother had more emphasis than the others (and that isn’t saying much, to be honest). Well, at least I got the game for free on PS+, which isn’t saying much either.
Runner-Up: LittleBigPlanet PS Vita
[Dis?-]Honorable Mentions: Analogue: A Hate Story, Kirby 64, Fez, Floating Point
MOST DISAPPOINTING: DLC Quest
After the post-Steam Summer Sale, DLC Quest was on sale for $.75 or something. With my then-Wallet at $.50 at the time, I can perfectly say it was the worst $.25 I ever spent on a game, given it’s a supposed satire focusing on the “evil corporations nickel-and-diming the consumer no matter what”. Except the delivery both in context and level design were poorly executed and my playthrough felt more of a chore than appreciating the concept doing so. I would’ve been more pissed if the satirical game forced micro-transactions in order to finish the playthrough. I want my $.75 cents back, thank you very much. *sigh*
Runner-Up: Brothers: A Tale of Two Sons
Dis-Honorable Mentions: Floating Point, Sonic 4 Episode I, Claymates
BEST PLAYSTATION: Dark Souls II
Why am I not surprised by this? Is it because I clocked in 300+ hours since its March 2014 release? Or could it be that the online Co-Op experience is the best in the Souls series in my opinion? Or could it be that I just plain-right enjoy the entry? Whether or all the reasons (among others) mentioned, Dark Souls II was (and still is) enjoyable, multiple playthroughs and builds since then. And while I agree about the small things that From Software should’ve improved on (NPCs, matchmaking, etc.), here’s hoping Scholar of the First Sin will embrace those improvements given I plan on buying the game again for PS4 (regardless if I get a PS4 before then).
Runner-Up: Sleeping Dogs
Honorable Mentions: Metal Gear Rising, Assassin’s Creed IV, Saints Row IV, DmC
BEST NINTENDO: Super Smash Bros. 4 (3DS and Wii U)
Smash Bros. 4 is without a doubt a vast improvement over the slow and floaty Brawl (which I’ve been using the Project M mod since then). While the 3DS edition felt more of an introduction to what one was to expect for the console equivalent, the Wii U edition is the real deal. Expect 100’s of hours of playtime on my end, just like the previous entries. *heh*
Runner-Up: Super Mario 3D World
Honorable Mentions: Bayonetta 2, Kirby Super Star, Pushmo World
BEST STEAM/GOG/OS: Bastion
Despite still not comfortable with isometric-ish layout (had to resort to my mouse and keyboard after failed controller troubleshooting), Bastion was an intriguing Action RPG. Wanting to play the game since its release, it wasn’t until it arrived on Mac (along with the recent Steam Summer Sale) that I gave it a go. Because of my playthrough, I’m eager to play Transistor along with playing Bastion again on the Vita (whenever that will be).
GAME OF THE YEAR (NON-2014): Sleeping Dogs
As much as I enjoyed the bat-shit shenanigans that was Saints Row IV, Sleeping Dogs to me was a more-deserved choice for said award category. The protagonist, Wei Shen, a Chinese-American police officer was well written, especially when it came to his interaction with family, acquaintances, other officers, etc. And of course being re-acquainted with his Chinese roots after being home away from home for years. Of course it’s not just the story that worked to its advantage, the combat and driving sequences were spot-on as well; for a middle-of-the-road title surprisingly. Given it’s also available for 8th-generation systems, I would recommend Sleeping Dogs for those needing some form of GTA/city sandbox fix.
Runner-Up: Saints Row IV
Honorable Mentions: Metal Gear Rising, Bastion, Thomas Was Alone, DmC, Far Cry 3 Blood Dragon
2014 GAME OF THE YEAR: Super Smash Bros. 4 (3DS and Wii U)*
Smash Bros. 4 is what Brawl should’ve been from the start: An entry that caters to both casual and core players instead of focusing more on casual instead of core. The latest entry shares all of the positives and strengths from its predecessors while maintaining its own unique likeness. Since their respected releases, I’ve played more on the Omega stages (aka the Final Destination counterparts) than the Normal stages; that and I’m learning the more advanced techniques within an already basic-yet-balanced moveset, among others. Overall, Smash 4 is the best game I played from the series since Melee, and that is somewhat saying a lot on my end.
Runner-Up: Dark Souls II
Other Honorable Mentions: The Binding of Isaac Rebirth, Kirby’s Dream Collection, Donkey Kong Country 3, Castlevania: Harmony of Despair
Until next year!
*UPDATE: See my “re-visited” blog post for a change in the Game of the Year winner with further explanation on reasons/etc. https://danjstine.wordpress.com/2015/02/08/2014-game-of-the-year-re-visited/