Mike Drucker is a stand-up comedian and writer for The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon. His Twitter feed is like a years-long cry for help.
Wow! Did 2014 suck for video games and video game culture or what?
What a ruinous, nightmare year. Don't get me wrong--there were some great games that came out this year. And in the middle of a giant depression spiral, I finally bought a PlayStation 4, which I guess means I never need to buy a new system ever again. Right? That's the promise every time, right?
But overall, 2014 felt like a giant video game hangover from the party that was 2013.
Instead of Assassin's Creed IV: Black Flag, we got Assassin's Creed: Fuck You, We Got Your Money. And instead of Grand Theft Auto V and The Last of Us, we got Grand Theft Auto V and The Last of Us, but with better shadows.
Don't even get me started on GamerGate. If I knew being in the video game press was this fun and corrupt, I would never have left video game press. The best free thing I got out of a biz was a copy of Final Fantasy IV: The Complete Collection that I stole from IGN. Sorry, guys! I don't even know where that shit is anymore!
Here's what didn't suck:
Honorable Mention: Hyrule Warriors
Listen, I know Hyrule Warriors isn't a good game. I get it. It's repetitive and awkward and it's not canon in the Zelda universe, which I still care about at the age of 30 for some reason. But it's fun when I'm drunk. Have I been drunk a lot recently? Sure, I've been going through stuff and it's normal.
Despite feeling cheaper than it should and basically using fan service instead of actual gameplay, I loved this weird ass thing. It's like going into an arcade and putting quarter after quarter into a game you know is bad. You don't know why you want to play Lucky & Wild with a stranger, but goddamn it, you will.
Hey, EA! This is how you do a free-to-play game. You don't fuck with players. You don't make them wait to play matches. You give them the option to unlock things--but you don't cripple people who don't. And that's it.
I didn't even want to like Hearthstone. I wanted to be a giant Magic: The Gathering fanboy and point out every place the game simplified gameplay and took away nuance. But instead, Blizzard made matches more fun and interesting online. They polished the game until it was funny and bombastic and easy to get into and everything Duels of the Planeswalkers isn't.
Finally, an Alien game that's like Alien. How many years has it been--35?
Sure, we've had games that felt like Aliens, the sequel. That's easy. Shooting a bunch of monsters with a pulse rifle? No problem. Hiding from one monster while you try to not make a sound? That's a lot harder. And all the little touches like the old-future computer screens and using my microphone to catch the sound of my breath for alerting the alien immersed me in a world of shit pants terror.
You're a goat that blows things up.
You get Tony Hawk-style combos for blowing things up.
There's a free update that makes fun of MMOs where you blow things up.
It's not complicated.
7. Mario Kart 8
“WELCOME TO MARIO KART!”
That sound is etched into my fucking brain forever. Along with Toad's little asshole voice. Fuck you, Toad! You can't even jump in your own game!
Mario Kart 8 is the best game in the series. Even playing 7 on my 3DS feels weird after the smooth, loving cake that is 8. Except for the battle mode, everything is perfect. The sound is perfect. The balance is perfect. Online matchmaking is perfect.
I'm not really describing this well because I'm not sure what to talk about first. The customization of the cars is ridiculously deep--and fun. The use of Amiibos to unlock costumes for Miis feels like overpriced DLC, but I'm still into it. Everything just clicks together to create a flawless racing experience that's more balanced than before.
It's also the best-looking game of the year when Xbox One and PS4 were finally supposed to show the world why super-powered next gen consoles really mattered.
Like a couple other games on this list, The Binding of Isaac: Rebirth is a game I'll play for years. The first time I beat it, I went right back to see what I could unlock if I beat it again. Every new run is a chance at greatness and sorrow and it all fits into a few free minutes at work.
I was worried that the remake/sequel would just change the graphics and leave it be. Instead, they've reinvented the game and made it even crazier than before. Batshit crazy. Calling your ex after drinking for four hours and playing Hyrule Warriors crazy. Awesome crazy.
I'll never unlock everything in this game, but I love the chance to take 10 minutes out of my day for a pathetic run to try.
And did it suck a giant bag of balls or what? It loaded slow, it needed almost a full memory card to work (I'll explain what those were when you're older), it was ugly, and the controls were -- okay, the controls weren't that bad. So that's a plus, I guess. 8.5 out of ten.
Diablo III: Reaper of Souls fixes everything I hated about Diablo III and works way better on consoles than the PC version ever does. It's fast and beautiful and I can play offline like a regular human being who doesn't have some magic always-working Internet connection.
4. Super Smash Bros. (3DS & Wii U)
Here's the thing: I could parse out which version I like better, but I like them equally for different reasons.
The Wii U version of Smash lets me play against my friends, but the 3DS version is portable. The Wii U version of Smash has better levels and incredible graphics, but the 3DS version is portable. The use of Amiibos in Smash is fun and lets me challenge myself with difficult AI characters.
But the 3DS version is portable.
Of all the games on this list, you probably haven't played or heard much about Nidhogg. Or you've heard of it, but saw that it cost 15 dollars for a one-on-one fencing game and you thought it wasn't worth it.
But it's worth it. If you've got someone you can play against in person, it's the best 15 dollars you can spend on video games all year.
Fencing has never been easy to pull off in games--but it just works here. It looks like Prince of Persia, but it's smooth and easy and intuitive. Within five minutes of playing, you're already pulling off stunts and insane fencing strategies that might just--nope, it didn't--work.
And don't even get me started on the art style. Shit, you got me started. Nidhogg feels like it always existed, like some weird artifact from the early days of PC shareware games that we never stopped playing. The fact that it's just a one-on-one fencing game with minimal sound and graphics only makes it seem more detached from modern games.
Is it expensive for what you get in it? Yes. But it's a weirdly haunting game that is way, way more fun than it should be.
One word on why this is the funniest game I've ever played: Canada.
That Canada moment tied together everything I love about South Park: The Stick of Truth. Rather than falling into the “funny RPG” trap of being random and goofy, it sticks to its vision of the world and makes you feel like you're playing an episode of the show. Because you basically are. A really well-written, well-developed episode of the show.
Also, I'm really serious about you buying Nidhogg. Just do it and we won't even talk about it anymore.
You still haven't bought Nidhogg, have you? It's on Mac and PC and PlayStation 4 and Vita. You definitely own one of those. And it doesn't even take up that many resources, so it'll run on your stupid computer. Just do it.
And now buy Shovel Knight, because somehow we let that one sell like crap, too. 300 thousand copies? How does something as brilliant as Shovel Knight only sell 300 thousand copies?
I know it's download-only. And I know it's on limited platforms. And I know that's more than Yacht Club Games expected.
But 300 thousand copies? That's ridiculous. Where's #ShovelGate? It's about ethics in selling enough fucking copies of Shovel Knight to get more Shovel Knight.
Look--not all of us grew up in the NES era of games. That's cool. But it captures and improves upon everything that made that era great. This isn't some cheap nostalgia cash-in; it's a very well-done nostalgia cash-in.
It's like they took all our favorite games from the '80s and blended them together and came up with something even more fun. It's Mega Man. It's Castlevania. It's Duck Tales. It's Mario 3. And it's really, really good.
Nothing reminded me more of the fun of games than Shovel Knight. And after a garbage year like 2014, we could all use that reminder.