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Giant Bomb's 2014 Game of the Year Awards: Day One

Our Game of the Year coverage begins. Today we're covering the Old Game of the Year, the Best Surprise, and more.

2015 is nearly upon us, and we're celebrating the break between Christmas and New Year's with five days of awards, videos, and deliberations. This article quickly recaps the winners, but don't miss our daily video, which breaks up this info with silly stuff, and our daily podcast, which contains our full deliberations for all 20 of our award categories. Let's go!

2014's Old Game of the Year

Mount Your Friends

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In a year filled with broken, disappointing, and delayed games, we had to look to years past for much of our gaming enjoyment in 2014. On numerous episodes of Unprofessional Fridays this year, a clear frontrunner emerged from the drecks of 2013’s Xbox Live Indie Games. Mount Your Friends proved to be more than another wonky QWOP-esque physics game, thanks to its genuinely challenging and wildly entertaining multiplayer.

When it came to Steam this year, it included a variety of new modes. We tinkered around with them a bit, but always kept coming back to the controller-passing, dong-swinging, goat-mounting classic that ends with one competitor standing atop all others (literally) as king of the fleshy hill. Perhaps no moment was more dramatic than Dan’s last-second fall from grace in front of a full house on December 5th (LINK).

Mount Your Friends may be 2014's Old Game of the Year, but the smart money is on seeing more of it in years to come.

Runners-up: FTL, WWF Wrestlemania 2000

Most Likely To Be Frog Fractions 2

Velvet Sundown

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We live in a post-Frog Fractions world, and know Frog Fractions 2 is (eventually) coming. But when, how, and in what form it appears remains unclear. Until Frog Fractions 2 reveals itself, we must be cautious. To that end, just about anything could be Frog Fractions 2, and that includes these games.

Is Velvet Sundown an elaborate chat room? A role-playing adventure? Elaborate trolling by a group of bored game designers with nothing to lose? It's certainly the best implementation of text-to-speech in a video game to date. Truth be told, Velvet Sundown must be experienced to be understood. It shouldn't work, and in many ways it doesn't...but that's also part of the charm, and helps underscore the few pieces that do work so well.

Velvet Sundown, an online conversation game where people are randomly assigned roles and a slate of nonsensical objectives, lives and dies by its participants. That's the reason it's so brilliant. There's barely anything to Velvet Sundown. It's a loose premise and nothing more, providing you with just enough reason to hang out on a virtual boat with a bunch of weirdos aaaaaand not much else. Players decide where it goes from there, and if that happens to involve Vinny Caravella or Dave Lang, it's usually insanity.

Oh, we almost forgot something! Fuck Boyle.

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Runners-up: Jazzpunk, D4: Dark Dreams Don't Die

Best Surprise

South Park: The Stick of Truth

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Let's just run down the list of factors that were potentially working against this latest South Park game's chances of being good.

  • It's a licensed game. (Sure, there are some decent ones these days, but it's still an aggravating factor.)
  • The last South Park game, Tenorman's Revenge, was really, reeeeeeeally bad.
  • Trey Parker and Matt Stone presided over the development in a very intense and hands-on way. These are the guys who have their studio working 100-hour weeks to turn around episodes of the TV show in a matter of days.
  • Obsidian made it. Obsidian is great, but whatever the reason, their track record for shipping solid, bug-free games without any issues is spotty at best.
  • For the majority of its development, the game was published by THQ and had not yet been finished at the time of that company's spectacular implosion.

Add up all those facts, and throw in a series of delays that saw the game finally coming out a full year after its initial release date, and you can see why we would have been more than a little skeptical about the final state of this rickety production.

And yet, the stars aligned and The Stick of Truth did come out, and it wasn't bad. On the contrary, it was very, very good. It was, in fact, possibly the single finest piece of video game fan service ever crafted. The influence of the show's creators is plainly evident in every single minute of this game; it's like playing a sort of greatest-hits of South Park that lasts for a dozen hours. The game is so incredibly dense with good, funny material that there's practically zero filler. Even when old standbys--crab people, Al Gore, aliens, Canada--pop up frequently, the game manages to tell enough new jokes with them that you don't ever really feel like you're being pandered to.

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Considering Parker and Stone are a stone's throw away from becoming EGOT holders, maybe we should have had higher expectations for Stick of Truth right up until release. But when you weigh that big list of giant flashing red warning signs against the sheer quality of the final product those guys and Obsidian delivered, it's not hard to see this as the most profoundly surprising success story of the year.

Runners-up: Wolfenstein: The New Order, P.T.

Best-Looking Game

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Guilty Gear Xrd: -SIGN-

Despite some footage of the game getting out and about before this, E3 was the place where Guilty Gear Xrd made its stand. That's not to say that it was some big, main stage production with fireworks and splendor, but Arc's latest fighting game made the rounds quietly, with each person who saw it going on to ask everyone they ran into if they had seen this crazy polygonal anime madness. The final version of the game squeaked out the door recently, and it's possibly the last retail release of 2014. But wow, it looks amazing.

Arc's output has always been of high quality, at least artistically. The company's anime fighters are beautiful, with tons of frames and lots of flash. Xrd manages to maintain that level of quality... but it's a 2D game that's still polygonal, like Street Fighter IV or Injustice: Gods Among Us. Here's a fun trick: Find someone who knows what these games usually look like, and sit them in front of Guilty Gear Xrd. They'll probably think that it looks like just another one of these games. Then hit someone with a Dust attack or finish the match with an overdrive or instant kill move. Watch their minds break as the camera starts swinging around all over the place, revealing the game's true nature. It's a trick that looks great every time you see it, and though you might not be the sort of person who actually wants to play Guilty Gear Xrd, there's no denying that it looks positively incredible. Wow.

Runners-up: Neverending Nightmares, Destiny