As 2014 winds itself down and we all celebrate some of respective holidays and get tired of all the holiday cheer (annoying family members) it’s nice to reflect on the year that was. As someone who takes his videogame opinions slightly seriously I’d like to sit down and talk about what games were released this year and how great they were. 2014 was a solid-yet-quiet year for gaming, and while I haven’t named a 2014 GOTY yet (come back around New Years), it’s a good time to figure out which games will duke it out for 2014 GAME OF THE YEAR! Take a look at this list, I hope you enjoy it. I HEREBY DUB 2014 THE YEAR OF THE WIIU!
Bravely Default (3DS)
Nintendo’s 3DS has been on FIRE since late 2011 and early 2012. I’ve often said that the 3DS is the best console on the market and Bravely Default is one of the reasons why. Developed by Square Enix, BD is a love letter to the classic era of JRPGs, especially Final Fantasy. Job classes are back, class-mixing is more fun than ever, and you have a simple-yet-poetic story that circles around four young warriors. The story mimics that of Final Fantasy and Final Fantasy V as these characters must re-ignite the elemental crystals. We once again have Warriors of Light. While the story is somewhat derivative and quite repetitive, the gameplay puts the proper spin on the old formula. I always have a great deal of fun mixing classes and seeing what type of insanity will ensue. It feels great to be playing this style of game again, As Final Fantasy has ventured onward into the next generations, Bravely Default has become the “series” that will stick to the basics. Here’s to seeing Bravely Fifteenth in twenty-five years.
Donkey Kong Country: Tropical Freeze (WiiU)
It’s always nice to see what The King of the Jungle is up to. As a huge fan of the classic Donkey Kong Country series, I really love what Retro Studios has done with their two “Returns” installments. Tropical Freeze continues where Returns left off as DK and crew (Diddy, Dixie, and Cranky) must team up to defeat The Snowmads, an evil group of snow animals who want to turn the Kongo Jungle into perpetual winter. The frantic gameplay and impossible difficulty from Returns finds its way back on the WiiU. You’ll collect 100s of lives, but you’ll burn through them in just a few stages. DKC:TF is difficult, but in a rewarding manner. Retro knows how to make them and if you needed any more reasons to own a WiiU in 2014, this is one of them!
Diablo III: Reaper of Souls (PC/MAC)
I really enjoyed Diablo III. Core fans of the series weren’t the biggest supporters of the main game, but once the expansion hit Diablo mania came back in dribs and drabs. While it may be difficult to name an expansion pack as GOTY, Reaper of Souls feels like it’s a full and complete game. The additional chapters are just a great excuse to get back into that world and click-kill everything in site. Diablo is always so refreshing, it’s a great stress reliever. The true shining star of RoS is Adventure Mode. A mode that makes Diablo III a bit more like the past games, Adventure Mode is an absolute blast. It’s completely worth the price of admission. Adventure Mode alone can make Reaper of Souls earn my GOTY award, just for it’s continued frantic insanity and overall fun factor.
Hearthstone: Heroes of Warcraft (PC/MAC/iOS/Android)
The virtual version of cardboard crack. In Blizzard’s infinite wisdom, intelligence, and marketing prowess they have found a way to beat Wizards of the Coast and Magic: The Gathering at every turn. Hearthstone is fun, easy to play, and infinitely less expensive than an actual Trading Card Game. Sadly, we cannot yet trade our virtual cards, but the overall accessibility of Hearthstone is what makes this game a GOTY contender. I’m playing Hearthstone while I write this. Blizzard has crafted a card game that is equally as addictive as any of its RPGs and has somehow found a way to translate the rush of TCGs into a virtual format. You can play with people in the same room or across the world in a matter of seconds. Expansions and new adventures are properly paced and have been released at the perfect time. Hearthstone is a perfect game for many people who game virtually or non, especially if you have a tablet. You’ll never need to carry a Magic deck again. Hearthstone is changing the game for all competitive card players, and I believe that it’s laying the foundation for a completely virtual market. It’s ambitious, fun, and Free to Play. Amazing.
Mario Kart 8 (WiiU)
I didn’t love Mario Kart for Wii. Often Mario Kart is just the previous Mario Kart with updated graphics. Mario Kart Wii felt that way, as did Mario Kart 7 (3DS). I wanted to play Mario Kart 8 because it’s Mario Kart and I always play the newest game in the series. Then I bought it and while it did feel similar and familiar, there’s something about this installment that feels different. Online play (that works!), video capture with Mario Kart TV, and one of the best rosters in Mario Kart History (Save for Dry Bones and King Boo…), I’ll take it! I’ll take 8! The WiiU has finally given us what we wanted HD Mario and HD Mario Kart. Never has a Mario Kart game looked and sounded this amazing. The soundtrack is brilliant and continues to illustrate the whimsical and magical world of Nintendo games. I have marathoned this game with friends multiples of times, and it never gets old, dull, or boring. Mario Kart 8 has continued to be a fun time no matter when it’s fired up. It’s also justified my WiiU purchase. It’s a great time to own a WiiU.
Shovel Knight (WiiU/PC/MAC/3DS)
I grew up playing and loving games like Mega Man, Super Mario Bros, Castlevania, and Duck Tales. Yacht Club games found a way to combine all of those games into one, Shovel Knight. With the rise of indie-retro games finding their way into our hearts, Shovel Knight is the perfect NES platformer. It introduces you to the titular character in his Boba Fett inspired armor as you use his mighty shovel to face off against the Enchantress in the Tower of Fate to save your beloved, Shield Knight! With a classic 8 bit story and beautiful 8 bit graphics, Shovel Knight is a must own for any retro-naut. The gameplay is the perfect spin on the NES era and offers plenty of locales to explore and even gives the player and upgrade system. It also has one of the best video game soundtracks of the year. I cannot wait to see what Yacht Club games gives us next. This one is a classic!
Tales of Xillia 2 (Ps3)
This is an unpopular pick, but I’m a Tales series fanatic. I’ve been a Tales diehard since Tales of Symphonia on the Gamecube. Since then I’ve gobbled up every last Tales game the second it comes out of Japan. 2013’s Tales of Xillia dominated my PS3 for almost a year, which perfectly works with the timing of its sequel. Released only 54 weeks after Tales of Xillia, Tales of Xillia 2 offers a great continuation of the original story. Tales of Xillia is left with a rather open ending as the main cast go out and live their lives. While in the first title you play as either Jude or Millia both return in ToX2 as supporting characters. In Tales of Xillia 2 you play as Ludger, a newcomer to the story and a guy who’s been gifted with some pretty amazing powers. The entirety of the game is spent stopping infinite parallel dimensions from leaching off of the “prime” dimension. So get ready for some plane jumping! What has always been the draw of the Tales games is their ability to blend great anime-style visuals with excellent combat. Tales of Xillia does the same. It’s the comfort food of JRPGs, you know what you’re getting and you know it will taste like nostalgia. Definitely one of my top pics for 2014.
Super Smash Bros. (3DS/WiiU)
Enter the battered brawler. As if Nintendo needed to be better this year, they release Super Smash Bros. on both 3DS and WiiU! Both games play almost identically, with one of the best cast of characters around. The addition of classics like Pac-Man, Mega Man, and Little Mac scratch the old school itch, while newcomers like Robyn and Greninja make you understand that Nintendo knows what people are digging. It’s hard for me to tell you why Super Smash Bros. is so great because it’s what you’re familiar with. It’s fun and insane, while still being refined and addictive. Smash hasn’t been this good since the Gamecube days and that game is over 13 years old. With the addition of reliable and existent online play, you can hone your skills and not have to spend all of your time in vs. mode with bots. It’s great that Nintendo has finally found their own way to embrace the Internet and push their products into the future. I love playing Smash with friends, online, and on the go. Just like Hearthstone, you can now play Smash just about anywhere and against anyone. This game could win GOTY on the premise of 8 Person Smash alone…It’s pure insanity.
Bayonetta 2 (WiiU)
2014 is the year of the WiiU. Bayonetta 2 is the best action game I’ve played in years. I very much enjoyed the first Bayonetta but its sequel takes the cake. B2 is fast, insane, and incredibly addictive. I have not had this much fun button mashing since God of War III. While Bayonetta has found its own spot among the action game royalty, it is quickly becoming it’s queen. A violent queen with machine gun heels with a demon sickle for a scepter. What’s upsetting is that Bayonetta 2 may get lost on it’s console, though I think the WiiU is oddly a perfect home for it. The WiiU represents the quirky, strange, and niche games. B2 fits all those requirements. It’s ridiculously crafted character models and wonderful J-Pop soundtrack would fit in any Anime series. It’s leading lady is hilariously hyperaware of the bombastic sexuality of the game, almost to the point that Platinum Games is making fun of itself. Bayonetta 2 does NOT take itself seriously and is as refreshing as any of the games on this list. In the end it’s about having a good time, and B2 delivers.
What will win? Check back around New Years! Happy Holidays Everyone!!