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Game of The Year 2014 Users Choice

I wasn't going to make a game of the year list. I found myself enjoying games more without the need to critique and think about their top 10 ranking. But since Giant Bomb made this template for us for user voting, how could I not?

List items

  • I don't know how this happened. I played some Wolfenstein 3D back in the day, but Doom was out by then so Wolf just felt like a historical document. Never played Return, never played the 360 one, and I didn't have many expectations for this aside from MachineGames making it (being a fan of Starbreeze, this was enough to keep my interest). They've done some awesome stuff, but the gameplay was always my least favorite part. Turns out they learned how to make combat feel absolutely incredible. The stealth felt worthwhile, the cover and lean controls were intuitive, the guns had impact, and it just felt better than any shooter I played this year. The trademark Starbreeze direction was there, with great characters and a neat story that melded emotion with brutality and insanity. The pacing of the campaign felt like Half Life to me, except a little tighter. It looked nice, they spoke Polish and I understood a foreign language in a game for once, the ending and the credits music had me tearing up a little, and Wolfenstein proved to be an incredible game. As I put this list together, turns out it made the biggest impact on me. Unexpected, but I'm ready for more.

  • I've been a fan of character action games since... I don't know, Dino Crisis 2? Devil May Cry has always been a top tier series for me, so playing Bayonetta was an enjoyable time. But something was missing. Don't really know what that something was, but Bayonetta 2 has it. The game still feels great and has style for days, but somehow it just felt more complete. A couple levels in, they're doing Asura's Wrath level of insanity. The story didn't do much for me until I got to the end, in which the ties to the original made everything feel cohesive and well thought out. But the gameplay is still the star, and Bayonetta 2 makes enough adjustments to make it play even better than before. Hell of a game.

  • Another game that had me interested solely because of the developer. Monolith has made some great games, and F.E.A.R. is still one of the best playing shooters of all time. And that legacy continues, because Mordor is on this list because it just feels great. I keep talking about feel because 2014's games didn't blow me away in terms of spectacle or technical prowess. This was a year in which gameplay won the day. I'm not an Assassin's Creed guy, and I'm always weary of jumping into an open world, but I enjoyed all 19 hours and 56 minutes I spent in Mordor. It's not at the top of my list because there's a lot to improve (mainly, the story and environmental variety) but the sheer amount of combat options I had, coupled with how natural and useful everything was, just made this a joy to play. The stealth was fun and not overly strict, the character models were very impressive, they nailed the atmosphere they were going for, and there's the whole Nemesis system. After 10 hours, that system lost its impact as I grew more and more powerful, but the warchief mission showcased just how well done it was. I expected this to be my top game, but upon further reflection I moved it down two spots. But it was still a wonderful time.

  • I did every single thing in the first Donkey Kong Country Returns. Took me a week or two. But I've been playing Tropical Freeze ALL YEAR because I don't want it to end. I beat a world, put it down for months, then come back (I have one island left!). This could've topped my list because of the great gameplay, incredible art, and perfect music. But I just haven't finished it because I want it to keep going. An absolutely amazing platformer that I originally thought was unnecessary. But Retro really topped themselves and continues to solidify their place as one of Nintendo's best developers.

  • South Park's great. I don't watch it every week, but it's always there for me and I always feel good about watching an episode. I don't play many RPG's these days and I didn't know what to expect here, but this was a game I played over a summer when I tried spending every day outside. I just needed to keep playing. The combat was simple and I eventually broke the system, but every encounter was fun. The writing was exactly what it needed to be, it had some of the most memorable sequences of the year, and the whole story just felt like this big grand thing. Lots of stuff to do, lots of places to explore, and the most tightly-paced RPG I've played in a long time. I honestly can't think of anything negative to say about it. We finally got a better South Park game than Let's Go Tower Defense Play! (!)

  • I love all the Halos. I didn't want to put rereleases or slight updates on this list (and I damn well could have. Spelunky, Rogue Legacy, Tomb Raider, Last of Us, Diablo III: Reaper of Souls, Theathrythm, Dust: An Elysian Tale, Binding of Isaac: Rebirth, to name a few). This is an amazing collection. It stumbled out of the gate, but after a month of patching it's everything I could have hoped for. Even gave me more of an appreciation for Halo 2. I've collectively beaten these games more than any series outside of Sonic or Streets of Rage. And the MCC makes me want to do it over and over again, while getting the chance to dip into the classic multiplayer whenever the hell I want. I love it, and this could've been my top game, too. Just took a couple patches. I chose to include this because of all the work that went into it. If I included all my reissues, Tomb Raider: Definitive Edition would be here as my game of the year (again). Let it be known!

  • The Shantae games are fun, but always had some design flaws holding them back. Pirate's Curse tightens up the experience, with the split into distinct levels being a change for the best. So yeah, Shantae plays super tight. The levels are expertly designed with some nice variety. The art is nice. The music is wonderful. The characters have a ton of charm. The story is breezy and fun. And the game has its heart in the right place. Wayforward continues to churn out solid games every year, but it's the Shantae games that demonstrate the subtle improvements the studio keeps making. This wasn't a popular game or anything, but I had a great time with it and think it's one of the best games on the eShop. Looking forward to the HD Shantae from Kickstarter as they keep taking this series to better places.

  • What an epic adventure, man. This game just felt huge for a throwback 2D action-platformer. I really felt like I was on this grand journey, filled with pixel-perfect gameplay and one of the best retro soundtracks in recent memories. What surprised me most was how much the story did for me. It had a nice progression as your character improved, the level design stands out and keeps up with some of the classic NES-era platformers, the bosses were fun to learn and take down, and there was plenty to keep you busy (which is great, because I wanted to stay in this world). I wasn't taken by the hype this game was getting months before release, but I'm glad I picked it up and look forward to that team's next thing. Best throwback since Angry Video Game Nerd Adventures.

  • I played Oddworld back in the day, but this was the first time I really grasped the scope of what Lorne Lanning was up to. The puzzles are still fantastic, the redone graphics and gameplay modernize the game impressively, and the world still has a completely unique feel. I really hope they give Exodus this treatment someday, because revisiting this game was a nostalgic treat that still felt like a superb puzzle platformer in a market filled with puzzle platformers. I commend JAW and Lanning for treating Abe with such reverence after all these years. Hopefully some new fans came on board, but anyone that liked the game before just had even more reasons to like it now.

  • Look, it's EDF but better than ever. This is the reason I didn't play Lords of Shadow 2 this year (despite my love of that version of Castlevania). It's just great fun anytime I pick it up and it's still the most technically impressive janky game you could play. Cities getting leveled with a ton of guys on screen, giant robots and creatures... this game just goes for it. I mentioned that 2014 was a year where gameplay reigned supreme for me. And EDF is some of the purest action gameplay you can get these days.