GOTY 2014

Another year, another GOTY on Giant Bomb.

Enthusiasm for gaming among those not already enthralled by our hobby seems to be on the decline recently, and we've done it no favors with a continuing pile of rereleases on consoles and thinly veiled Skinner boxes on phones. When games worked this year, they were great, but you were never guaranteed a jank-free experience for your hard earned $60, which is a problem I hope will fade away as developers adapt to the underpowered systems they're dealing with.

With that being said, I can't help but be optimistic looking at the list of great experiences I had this year. Games come out at such a volume nowadays that it's impossible to play everything you want to, much less everything that comes out. This guarantees that there will be undiscovered gems thrown out onto the market waiting to be celebrated years down the line. So hell, even if the industry crashes, we'll have some fun catching up with the backlog. In any case, on with the list!

(Special honor goes to Far Cry 4 this year. I would have played it if I didn't already catch up with 3 over the summer, and I imagine that it would have ranked highly. In any case, those games are great!)

List items

  • It's been quite a few years since I've played through an FPS story as thoroughly enjoyable as Wolfenstein: The New Order. The game was unapologetic in its gunplay and its storytelling in a time where that kind of over the top is fun is being pushed aside. Nothing felt as good this year as duel-wielding those heavy shotguns against a giant mech and coming out the other side bloodstained and satisfied. For fans of shooting and narrative in games, this is a must play example of the best that gaming has to offer.

  • The Binding of Issac was already a stone cold classic even though it was a flash game that ran at weird resolutions and featured many gameplay glitches. Rebirth updates the game to modern standards and adds so much more, which is really all you need in a rougelike. It still plays just as well as it did years ago, only now it looks and feels like the classic it already was. Pick up this game and watch the hours effortlessly fly by.

  • Shadow of Mordor combines the gameplay of Assassin's Creed and Arkham Asylum and throws it into Middle-earth, so I would have liked this game even if it turned out to be a stinker. Luckily, Mordor was instead a delight to play, a joyously violent open world romp with interesting mechanics and the magic of the Nemesis system. Even after defeating the main game, just toying around with the endlessly generating war chiefs is a blast, and I can't wait for every other game on the planet to steal this system just like Mordor stole from them.

  • Titanfall is the game that finally caused Call of Duty to react rather than stagnate, but I'd argue that it also outclassed Activision's shooter by the year's end. It launched with far too little content, but the constant updates (and steep discounts on DLC) helped it catch up and realize its gameplay's vast potential. Wall running across buildings and jumping into a giant robot is still the most "next-gen" thing I've done in the last couple years, and I don't expect that to change anytime soon.

  • I'm not someone who is great at Nintendo-hard games, which includes many of the pixel based indie games that have come out the last couple years. Shovel Knight shines because it offers something to players who are nostalgic for the days of old without also yearning for difficulty beyond imagining. It does have modes for those who are masochistic, but I can also enjoy it's amazing soundtrack and awesome boss fights while playing on a level that's a bit more manageable. Future updates with alternate playable characters and other modes will only solidify Shovel Knight as a standout among its peers in the years to come.

  • Call of Duty returns to the limelight with Advanced Warfare, a title that shakes up the core gameplay of the venerable franchise to great effect. Leapfrogging around maps and cloaking using your Exo suit is naturally inserted into combat and gives an advantage to players like me who like to rush around with shotguns and drop grenades everywhere. I spent many hours I thought I'd be spending with Halo: The Master Chief Collection here instead, and it changed the game so much that it brought back fond memories of Modern Warfare. Let's hope it doesn't get stale this time around!

  • We finally got to play Monolith's South Park game in 2014, and it was well worth the wait. No other game in history has more accurately translated its source material than Stick of Truth, which feels like an entire interactive season of South Park. The gameplay is simple, but the jokes and the atmosphere are amazing for anyone who enjoys the show, and it doesn't overstay its welcome, knowing exactly when to leave you begging for more.

  • Dragon Age is a long and complex console RPG in a year filled with long and complex CRPGs. It stands above its PC brethren by doing what Bioware does best, making the player feel like the star of an epic tale. The game is probably a bit too long for most people's liking, and its density might scare off some, but it was the perfect mix of action and dialogue wheels to keep me going.

  • Free Lives have quickly become my favorite indie developer over the last year as they kept busy creating Broforce. However, Broforce isn't out yet, it's still in Early Access, but it was still easily one of my favorite games of the year. To rectify this, I'll instead nominate The Expendabros to this slot, which is a free movie tie-in that plays exactly like Broforce. So if you're like me and yearn for the time of action heroes ruling the box office roost, or if you enjoy ridiculous side scrolling action, give some Broforce-related media a download and wait along with me for Broforce's glorious 2015 full release.

  • Fibbage, along with the other games in the Jackbox Party Pack, is hilariously fun and designed for the modern age, things that you don't expect from the "Board and Trivia" section of your gaming library. Its reliance on cell phones and how it takes advantage of live streaming is groundbreaking, and the stupid answers your friends will come up with rank right up there with the most riotous rounds of Cards Against Humanity.

  • Popcap's record of hits might have been tarnished a bit now that EA has instilled in them a love of microtransactions and exclusivity for their games, but they're still a very talented studio. Case and point is right here with Garden Warfare, a game that really should have been a mediocre shooter forever doomed to be nothing but a cynical cash grab. Instead, Garden Warfare is an engaging entry into the third person shooter genre, with interesting classes and weapons that stray far away from the standard Gears formula. In addition, it provides a palatable alternative to Call of Duty for parents. Anything that gets 10 year olds out of my ears when I'm on Xbox Live is a win in my book.

  • It's more Borderlands. While many grew tired of the formula after the second game, and many more found the new features that Pre-Sequel brought to the table confusing, I found a tightened experience that stripped away more problematic side characters and recalled more of the first game's sense of humor. It is by no means a great game on its own, especially with no context for its story, but it's a fine entry into the series and a fine victory lap for the Borderlands we know and a brief look towards what comes next for the First Person Looter.

  • This game technically first released in 2013 on the Xbox One, but I'm including the Steam release here which came out over the summer. Despite numerous glitches and quirks that kept it low on the list, no game is filled with more creative ways to kill hordes of baddies than Dead Rising. Each new weapon combo is satisfying to use, even if you might fall back on the reliable Sledgehammer/Power Saw team up during missions. It's not perfect by any means, but stripping away the more restrictive layers of the game also freed it of its frustration, and transformed the game into the great anarchic sandbox I always knew it could be.

  • The uniquely named Super Smash Bros. for Wii U and 3DS doesn't brake the mold. It's an iterative sequel to a fantastic series, piling on more modes, characters, stages and nostalgia. As Jim Sterling recently pointed out, Smash Bros retains its greatness where so many others iterative sequels fail because it is still novel. Nintendo puts out this game once per console, so that every few years we yearn for more. Simply put, there was no better time to be had with like minded friends this year than chucking Pokeballs and fighting over the Smash Ball as your favorite Nintendo heroes and villains.

  • Rougelikes and First Person Shooters are among my favorite genres, but it seems as if indie developers have had some trouble striking a balance between the two during the current Rougelike and Rougelite craze. Ziggurat finally struck upon the right formula, combining excellent gameplay with beautiful art design, unique enemies to fight, and the all too important controller support right out of the box. There were plenty of great entries into the genre this year, but no brand new rougelike caught my attention quite like Ziggurat.