MjHealy

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Best of 2014

What is this? Why, of course, it is my sixth annual game of the year list! Exciting, I know. It was last year that I said "hey, 2013 wasn't an amazing year for video games." In retrospect that statement seems a bit suspect. There were some serious heavy-hitters last year. Why am I saying this? Hey, 2014 wasn't an amazing year for video games. This time I'm serious. While there were a plenitude of diverse video games released all year long, there were very few that were top-tier GOTY material. Plenty of solid entries on this here list but bear in mind that my #1 this years ranks lower when compared to GOTYs of yore. I played helluv video games in 2014, across a whole bunch of genres and had a whole lot of fun. 2015 should be a great one with (hopefully) less broken-ass games.

Indies comprise a fair chunk of the list this year, as has been the case for a couple years now. This is indicative of the creative trends in this ever-changing industry. With the rise of re-releases, we are getting less big budget games than ever before. This is not a problem, mind you, due to independent development being home to some of the most unique and creatives minds working in the industry today. Whilst 2014 will not go down as an all-time classic year for video games, there were still myriad great experiences to enjoy. From wolves who solve crimes, knights clad with shovels, talking swords, Troy Bakers, painted elephants, Ratbags, banned abortion mini games, evil Kevin Spaceys to whatever the nonsense that Jazzpunk was... 2014, you and I had some pretty cool times.

HONOURABLE MENTIONS

DOTA 2: Congratulations to my 2013 GOTY as well as my 2014 GOTY In My Heart. I played this more than anything else this year, but since it is a 2013 release, it will not be my #1 for the second year running. I mean, it is, but like not really. DOTA, after all, is THE game and we all already know this. Hours Played: 1110 hours.

Kentucky Route Zero: For the second year running, KRZ fails to make the list due to not being done yet. Kentucky Route Zero is an amazing experience that will hopefully be finished at some point before I die. If it qualified to be on this list in would be... first? Second/Third at the very least.

Metal Gear Solid 1,2,3 and 4: Damn you Dan Ryckert. You made me play through a game series I had little interest in. Now I love it. How did that happen? A shout out to Super Metroid and Singularity as well, for being cool games that I played through this year.

Octodad: Dadliest Catch: Octodad is a very charming little game. Its humour warmed me nicely and it is a fine slice of indie gaming. That charm does not get it onto the final 10, however, thanks to those nasty sections the game leans into later.

OTHER COOL VIDEO GAMES: Nidhogg, InFAMOUS: Second Son, Velocity 2X, Broken Age, Crypt of the NecroDancer.

DISHONOURABLE MENTION

I also wish to point a large middle finger in the direction of Watch_Dogs and Destiny for being disappointing. Especially you Watch_Dogs. You are an incredibly mediocre product.

List items

  • Jazzpunk. Jazzpunk. O' dearest Jazzpunk. I would not have seen this coming 12 months ago. I first laid eyes on Jazzpunk when the trailers hit about a month before it came out. One brief look at the Thunderbirds-flavoured madness and I was ready to punk. Jazzpunk completely nails what I wanted and created a truly rare beast: a hilarious video game. While there are few mechanics to speak of, Jazzpunk brings warmth in my soul. Thinking back to one of the games dozens (hundreds?) of visual gags brings a goofy smile to my face. Jazzpunk is a tour de force of farcical insanity; there is quite literally nothing else like it. 2014 may have seen a swelling a darkness around the gaming community, but its best game (by my book) was a laugh riot. Jazzpunk is a wonderful experience; one that will keep great memories as the years pass. Best Use of Hunter S. Thompson! Game of the year!

  • At first glance, Shovel Knight appeared to be the sum of its parts. It was pretty straightforward: a 2014 re-imagining of a NES game. I was sure it was fun but how much? It was a whole lot, apparently. Shovel Knight is an excellent game that doesn't let go. Once I hit that town after the first level, I was hooked. The controls have the tactile, undefinable "feel" that just seems right. The soundtrack is perfect for a game of its ilk, as are the retro graphics. Shovel Knight is ultimately a game to be played. Once you get shovelin', it is very difficult to stop. Such a delightful time.

  • I do not care for Lord of the Rings. I am not opposed to it by any means, I am just very indifferent towards it. Some mildly enjoyable memories with EA's Return of the King game is all I can claim in my LOTR game canon. Shadow of Mordor seems uncaring about LOTR. What matters here is that it is a very, very good video games. Thousands of words have been spoken and written about the acclaimed Nemesis system and I will continue that: it is truly excellent. We get a completely new concept (a delight to see in this "new generation" of video games) wrapped around a variety of excellently crafted aspects of other popular video games: like the traversal of Assassin's Creed or the combat from the Batman: Arkham games. Shadow of Mordor takes all these pieces and confidently molds them all together. This game is a triumph, even with a weak story and overall world. It is the combat and the weight of that combat which draws me in. Those incredibly well-realised orcs are so much fun to murder. I barely know what Mordor even is and I can confidently call this Lord of the Rings game one of the best of the year. This will not be the last we see of the Nemesis system.

  • While not being the biggest South Park fan in the world, I have got plenty of respect for the show. Stick of Truth compelled me since it was announced due to its faithful recreation of the show in question. By wrapping itself in a straightforward RPG system, South Park: SoT is a laugh riot in a year of humourous video games. The combat was sharp, the dialogue and plot were excellent, there were some truly, er, original set-pieces throughout. I un-friended Al Gore on Facebook, which I feel is a first for video games-at-large. Obsidian nailed the South Park experience that becomes the first good South Park games. Any game where you can fight meth heads in a turn-based scenario is fine by me.

  • ONCE AGAIN, the opposing opinion is being held by me. I think Transistor is better than Bastion. While Transistor does not tell as neat a story as Bastion, I much prefer its look, sound, atmosphere, and mostly importantly, its combat. I am in love with the Transistor combat. Everytime a battle started, I would get excited. I delighted in getting to use the tools the game provided for me. On top of that, Transistor is gorgeous and the soundtrack is something else. Supergiant make some quality video games, with Transistor being a great sophomore effort.

  • Contrary to the popular opinion, I actually prefer Far Cry 4 over 3. Partially I place this on the combination of this game telling a better story as well as not having to suffer through another poor 360 port. While Ubisoft suffered greatly this year; this game shows how their open world formula can work. FC4 is heaps of fun, in all of its silly glory. While liberating outposts and climbing towers will grow weary if we see it in a fifth games, Far Cry 4 packs a lot of glorious moments in its 20-hour adventure. Many of those moments may even contain a rocket launcher or two.

  • I thought that dog was going to die. He didn't! Hoorah! Oh wait... that ending. Despite some tonal inconsistencies as well as occasionally repetitive gameplay, Valiant Hearts has charms for days. It is damn beautiful game which depicts a rapid romp through World War 1. Hell, you even learn a thing or two. Nonetheless it all comes down to the gut-punching, one that nearly had me shedding a tear. Even if Valiant Hearts contains SOME missteps, it is still bursting with originality and heart.

  • The Fall has got STTTTYYYYLLLLLEEEE to burn. While it echoes back to last year's The Swapper, The Fall is a unique experience all to itself. It balances some interesting combat with engaging puzzles wrapped in a mysterious narrative thick in atmosphere. Atmospheric games do a lot for me and The Fall provides this in spades. I greatly look forward to see how the story progresses but for now, The Fall is one of 2014's little gems.

  • It has been an AGE since a Call of Duty game has graced a top 10 of mine. You would have to reach right back to 2009 where Modern Warfare sat pretty at #3. (Black Ops deserves some retrospective plaudits, but I didn't play that in 2010.) I haven't bothered to pick up a CoD game in the year it was released since MW2. While Call of Duty 4 is a seminial piece of work, and Modern Warfare 2 to a lesser extent, Advanced Warfare is a pleasant return to form for the series. The exo-suit is an interesting addition that mixes things up both online and off. The campaign provided lots of the usual bombast but also plenty of quieter moments that I appreciate. Well done Sledgehammer Games, a very good first attempt.

  • Super Time Force is a fun very concept. While it is certainly a puzzle game rather than a Contra-clone, this makes no difference to me. With a solid pixel art look and unique approach to design and bosses, I am happy to see this game make its way into my top 10. A major complaint I have is the humour, which I find to be actively unfunny. Capy Games were trying way too hard with a style of comedy that is not for me. That being said it is ultimately a very fun time. Time. See? I am making these jokes now. Goddammit.