GOTY 2014

Another year, another GOTY list. Some really great stuff came out this year (although maybe not in the same volume as we've had the last couple of years). Below you'll find my favorite games from this year. I do regret not getting to Persona Q and Dragon Age: Inquisition before putting this list together (the latter because I have decided that I am a crazy person and am going to play through all of Dragon Age Origins, Awakening, and II before starting on Inquisition).

List items

  • Shadow of Mordor would earn a place as one of the best games of the year purely based on what it steals: Batman-style combat and Assassin's Creed traversal combine to form a package that, on its own, would be pretty fun to play. But throw in the Nemesis system- one of the most captivating and interesting ideas I've ever seen in a game- and you get this year's best game, hands down. Few games with purely scripted characters manage to have enemies as compelling and worthy of your hatred as Mordor does.

  • Dark Souls II is not as good as Dark Souls. Let's get that out of the way up front. But comparing this game to one of last generation's true masterpieces is one of the only ways to make it look bad. Fantastic level design (even if it isn't as interconnected as the first game's world), great enemies and encounters, and tightened up controls make this a worthy successor to the Souls name. The DLC packs that have come out since the game's release are even better than a lot of what's already there.

  • While the 3DS version is very good, I'm specifically talking about the Wii U version here. Nintendo has managed to have its cake and eat it too when it comes to catering to "casual" and "competitive" Smash players. Combat's tighter than in Brawl, and plenty of options are available for those who prefer a skill-based game. But there are just as many options directed towards making this game as chaotic as possible. Everyone should be able to find a balance they like. Most of the newcomers are great additions, too! I'm rather fond of Greninja and Shulk.

  • This is the best platformer of the current gen, hands down. It doesn't have the braindead easy levels that Mario games are shackled by these days. It's also got incredibly beautiful (and devious) level design, as well as one of the best soundtracks of the year.

  • The solid, somewhat simple turn-based combat is a good time in this RPG, but the game's real strength is its absolutely perfect ability to capture the essence of what makes South Park great. It's one of the funniest games I've ever played, and has a ton of stuff for long and short-term South Park fans to find and enjoy.

  • Destiny could have been my game of the year. I don't know that I've played any other game this year as much as I've played Destiny. It's got incredible visuals, fantastic and great-feeling combat, and it's definitely on my Best Soundtracks of the Year list. However, too many boneheaded design decisions (Grimoire cards not being in game? Incredibly lackluster story? Repetitive mission design?) sink this to quite a bit lower on the list than it could have been. I bet Destiny 2's going to be great. This game will have to settle for being very good.

  • It's probably the best Mario Kart since the original. There's a higher number of really great tracks than in previous titles in the series (especially when you count the fantastic stuff from the first DLC pack). It's an incredibly beautiful game that's a ton of fun to play alone or with friends. Too bad it's got the worst battle mode in the series. Seriously, how hard is it to bring back the bob-omb carts from MK64?

  • Everything about Shovel Knight is impeccably designed. The game does a fantastic job of evoking classic games of yore (most notably Mega Man), while doing a great job of being its own unique entity. Top-notch level design, visuals, and music earned this game a ton of affection from me.

  • This game wouldn't even have been on my radar if Patrick hadn't started covering it. I decided to try it out a couple of months after its release, and I'm very glad I did. The story's not as robust as many other RPGs released this year, but the turn-based strategic combat system is one of the best I've ever played. Learning to survive, then slowly bend systems to my will over the course of playing the game is one of the most satisfying experiences I've had this year.

  • Luftrausers sunk its hooks into me deep. I put about 20 hours into this game during the weeks after its release. The arcade-style high score hunting here is way more compelling to me than in most games of this type. I really enjoy how the planes control, and customizing the parts to find my favorite combination was loads of fun. And don't even get me started on the soundtrack. The modular soundtrack (various tracks are layered into the main music track depending on what parts you pick for your plane) is one of the coolest ideas I've ever seen (heard?) in a game. Don't forget about the part where it always kicks in to the good part (Dun, dun DUUUUUUUUUUN, dun dun dun duuun). No game could get me more pumped up this year than that music cue.