GAF Games of the Year 2014 - Voting Thread [voting closed]

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Jan 8, 2007
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In retrospect my favourites list is definitely WiiU heavy this year as I'm waiting on a PS4 and Nintendo was hitting constant home-runs. That said the PC still gave me hours of multiplat entertainment -


1. Bayonetta 2 ; I'd played through Bayo1 numerous times on PS3 and even with all its warts the game was fantastic. The sequel improves upon this foundation in droves and sits as the king (-- sorry, queen) of the genre mountain. The Platinum game of my heart.

2. Mario Kart 8 ; Would have taken the top spot if not for the lack of a robust battle mode. The DLC for this game is also sublime. My most played entry in the series after N64 and leagues better than the missteps of the Gamecube/Wii console entries.

3. Super Smash Bros. for WiiU ; Akin to MK8 as a return to form. Probably the best local multiplayer out there right now.

4. Bioshock Infinite Burial At Sea Episode 2 ; This will probably be forgotten in the crowd but I preferred this to vanilla Infinite. The tone, shift in gameplay and links to the original Bioshock were pitch perfect. Props to Irrational for this last hurrah.

5. Donkey Kong Country Tropical Freeze ; Best DK and best 2D platformer of 2014. Wise also delivers the goods.

6. Transistor ; Beautiful game and a worthy successor to Bastion but sadly a bit too short.

7. Captain Toad Treasure Tracker ; Highly inventive bite sized fun.

8. Super Smash Bros. for 3DS ; Good but outclassed by its big brother.

9. The Walking Dead Season 2 Episode 5 ; The season as a whole was a bit hit and miss but I loved the ending to the final episode. Can't wait for the inevitable season 3.

10. Strider ; A quality Metroidvania hampered by a lack of replay value.
 
Jan 12, 2011
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Previously, on..."why am I doing this?"

Episode 2: Remembrance



6. Kero Blaster - Memento - a package of office supply paper - I'm incredibly envious of someone who can not only program and design his/her own game, but also compose the music and provide the art assets at the same time. Daisuke Amaya ("Pixel") is definitely one talented dude. Kero Blaster was one of the most no-nonsense games I played all year and I loved it for that. Instead of creating yet another "Metroidvania" (as they seem like a dime a dozen these days), Pixel opted for a more straight forward, traditional action/platform shooter. It's hard to describe, but Kero Blaster somehow feels even more genuine than Shovel Knight at times. I guess one could say, Kero Blaster does so much by saying so little. Stages are dense and packed with small ideas and they most certainly do not overstay their welcome. While the bosses may be basic, they're just fun to fight and satisfying to take down. The simple currency/upgrade system at your disposal provided just enough of a hook to keeps things slightly more interesting than your traditional run n' gun, Contra-like too. I would love to see more games like this from not only Pixel, but from other independent developers as well.

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7. Crimson Clover: WORLD IGNITION - Memento - a busted engine - Shooters ("SHMUPS") is a genre I wish I could devote more of my time too. Despite thinking they're just some of the coolest games out there, I can't get myself to willingly devote the time necessary to learn the ins & outs of these particular games. While I've been playing these types of games since I was a kid, I don't feel like I know them well enough to hold an in-depth conversation on the topic. What I do know, however, is that Crimson Clover is one of the most engaging shooters I've played in the longest time and it's also simply some of the most fun I've had in the genre. This game was sort of an end-of-the-year revelation for me. I felt so compelled to learn the game that I ended up 1CC'ing the Novice difficulty (which may seem like a laughable feet by some, but not for me). Arcade mode, which I've dipped my toes in, is on a whole other level, however (something I'm clearly not ready for). The game's break/bomb system is simple, but tuned well enough to offer that perfect risk/reward structure too. Though there are only a few stages, the levels are perfectly paced with good enemy variety, proper mini-bosses and challenging end-stage encounters. The music, while nothing phenomenal, is above average and suits the stages well. What's also cool is that the true final boss only reveals itself once reached/beaten on one credit, so there's plenty of incentive to get better. There are even a few additional modes if one tires from attempting traditional runs. Like Kero Blaster, this game was also apparently developed by one guy, so that's quite the accomplishment, given the polish and labor of love that appears to be present throughout.

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8. Kirby: Triple Deluxe - Memento - a rotten tomato - I don't have a whole lot to say about this game other than the fact that it was simply some of the most fun I had all year. What I will say, however, is that Triple Deluxe has the best animations in the series, period. Kirby's inhale ability and how the enemies/environment react to it has never looked/felt as good as it does here. The player feedback is just so on point and there's a lot of clever usage with some of the stage gimmicks and set-pieces too. The addition of the background/foreground planes added a nice layer of depth and the usage of 3D made enemies/hazards pop on screen. The mini-games, although not what I usually come for when playing a Kirby game, are great too. In fact, they're apparently so good that they warranted individual releases on the eShop, so that must be saying something. The soundtrack is also phenomenal, but that's always given when playing a Kirby game. This is the only title I managed to complete on my 3DS all year and for good reason, I suppose.

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9. Castlevania: Lords of Shadow 2 - Memento - a rusted chalice - Mercury Steam and their Castlevania titles are what I like to call one of the few "exceptions to the rule". I typically don't like it when franchises/series I grew up with get handed off to different developers (typically Western), but these games just resonate with me for whatever reason. I think I just straight up like the setting and the characters too much. The art direction is almost always incredible and the games just feel classy and genuine, despite feeling misguided at times. Lords of Shadow 2, particularly, did a lot of good things. The combat strikes a fine balance between being just interesting enough, but not overly complex or deep yet improves upon the original in subtle ways. The boss battles in this game were some of the most memorable fights I had all year too. Óscar Araujo's score is as epic and as appropriately fitting as it was in the original. Even though this style of music typically isn't my cup of tea, I couldn't help but to be mesmerized by some of his work. The game is definitely not without its faults, however. The stealth portions are most certainly questionable, as are the proportions of particular objects/models in the environment. At the end of the day, I put nearly 60 hours into this game (including its DLC) because it was just fucking cool and I had to see how it ended (which was rather disappointing, if I had to be honest). Mercury Steam does enough of the things I value well enough to keep them on my radar and I can't wait to see what their next project is.

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10. Shantae & the Pirate's Curse - Memento - a hooped earing - The third iteration of Shantae is the best one yet. Wayforward has come a long way since the original. This is easily the most fleshed out, realized Shantae title to date. The sprite-work/animations are better than ever and the dungeons and bosses are more competent than they've ever been. It's interesting to note that this is the first Shantae game without transformations too. Wayforward managed to create some of the most well designed dungeons and layouts the series has seen despite not relying on direct ideas from their older games. Each dungeon has its own tile-set and theme as well, something the second game was missing (but the first one had for some reason). While some of the tracks are remixed from earlier games, Virt's original compositions are some of his best work yet (they may even rival some of his best pieces from Shovel Knight). There's still a lot Wayforward can do with these games and they're definitely not perfect (I could do without some of the between-dungeon fetch quests and the game is a bit too easy), but I can see the progress and that's all that matters. Half-Genie Hero is around the corner and I can't wait to see what's next for this series.

Credits:

1. D4: Dark Dreams Don't Die ; SWERY and AG's best game to date. Most memorable experience of 2014.
2. Donkey Kong Country: Tropical Freeze ; Best platformer from last year. Scorch 'N' Torch was something else.
3. Dark Souls II ; Begrudgingly showing my From Software support. Majula could quite possibly be my favorite hub-area in any game.
4. Bayonetta 2 ; Personal disagreements/differences aside, this sub-genre is still one of my favorite wheelhouses in gaming.
5. Shovel Knight ; Most genuine attempt at capturing what was so great about games from the good old days.
6. Kero Blaster ; One of the most pure, no fluff run n' guns I've played in the longest time.
7. Crimson Clover: WORLD IGNITION ; A highly addictive and engaging shooter with all the right ideas.
8. Kirby: Triple Deluxe ; Best animations in the series, great music, and a whole lot of fun.
9. Castlevania: Lords of Shadow 2 ; A somewhat questionable but overall cool return to Dracula's castle.
10. Shantae and the Pirate's Curse ; The latest Shantae title is the best and most realized title in the series to date.

Honorable Ass-holes:

x. The Evil Within ; The highs were not high enough and the lows were too low. Not the "return to survival horror" I was looking for either. The entire game should have been Chapter 9.

x. Alien: Isolation ; Probably the best Alien game I've ever played, but it was a bit too padded/long for my tastes. I would have much preferred a more cohesive/condensed ship to explore with less filler. The Alien AI was interesting though and worked well enough, most of the time...

x. Mario Kart 8 ; Probably the most time I've spent with a Mario Kart game since the N64 title. Looks amazing and the soundtrack is definitely awesome, but it's still Mario Kart and I can only feel as jazzed about as I can.

x. Drakengard 3 ; SPOILERS AT LINK Hey, Taro Yoko, how about you go fuck yourself. In all seriousness, Drakengard 3 almost made my top 10 list. I loved the characters and the story, but between the performance issues and some design decisions, I couldn't really decide on whether or not if this game was an improvement over the PS2 titles. It's certainly not NIER. Ironically enough, this game was also developed by Access Games, so you could probably throw out everything I said about them in my D4 piece!
Just kidding...maybe they have two internal teams...?

x. Captain Toad: Treasure Tracker ; Another game that would have made my top 10 list, but I 100% completed the game so quickly that it felt like "in one ear, out the other". The moment I thought I was digesting the game, it was already out of my system. I do hope to see more from this game down the road, however. Good frame-work for a more realized sequel.

x. Elliot Quest ; A great action RPG on its own and an excellent tribute to Zelda 2. This game had some really impressive mapping/dungeon design, but it wore its inspirations on its sleeves a little too closely. Some enemy/environment assets bare too much of a resemblance to their source material and that's a big turn off for me. It was still one of the best independent games I played from 2014, however.

The Three Games That Broke Me Into F2P:

x. Steel Diver: Sub Wars ; The original game might still be my favorite 3DS game. I haven't played as much as I would have liked of the sequel yet, but I liked what I saw and I want to go back for more.

x. Rusty's Real Deal Baseball ; The sound/crack of the bat is just way too crunchy and satisfying to not mention this game. I only played a few of the free games so far, but I'm looking to invest in the entire package down the road. I feel bad for not being able to say more about this game because it's really fucking good.

x. Ace Combat: Infinity ; One of the better Ace Combat titles as of late. Played it off on for about a month and got my fix, but it was some good times and I can see myself booting this up from time to time. Game's got the return to those sweet AC-base lines too! Gotta love it for that.

Fastest Turn-Off of the Year:

x. Bravely Default: Flying Fairy ; If there was one game that featured a gameplay mechanism that I completely disagreed with on a fundamental level it would have to be Bravely Default and its debug room-like options. Having the ability to turn encounters on/off at my will, straight out of the gate, was the fastest turn-off I've experienced all year. It's a shame too, because I I love traditional, turn-based RPGs, and Bravely Default's art & music are right up my alley, but when you attempt to design/include traditional RPG elements (such as dungeons with Point A to Point B structure) only to give the player the ability to completely bypass all of it; I just can't help but feel like what's the big fucking point to even playing the game? Sure, the battle system appears to be sound and all the class/job stuff is interesting, but why not just make the game completely menu-driven if that's where all the focus went? I've read/been told that I have the option to turn encounters on/off, so it's more about what I make of the game, but I just don't personally agree with that design philosophy in this specific circumstance. If you're going to give the player the ability to reduce/remove encounters, do it like Wild ARMS IV & V where you have to beat a mid-dungeon mini-boss to disable battles or games like Shin Megami Tensei where you can learn a spell to reduce the encounter rate. Christ, just make it an accessory! I still would like to give this game another shot one of these days, however.

Games I Wish I Made Time For:

-Danganronpa 1 & 2, Freedom Wars...and anything else I missed exclusively on Vita. I didn't sit though a single game on this platform last year!
-Deception IV: Blood Ties
-Final Fantasy XIII: Lightning Returns
-Shin Megami Tensei ios
-Atelier...whatever, been putting these games off for far too long and they look/sound cool.
 
1. Driveclub ; I never expected a driving game to be my GotY, and I still don't really know why I preordered it. A glitch in the system made it so that I actually earned money buying Driveclub, which may be why I didn't go ballistic when the launch perido proved quite rough. It didn't prevent me from earning all stars, swearing profusely along the way and giving up many times before getting back to it for one more attempt. All of this to say that Driveclub is just fun, no matter your skill level, and that is enough in my book.
2. Infamous: Second Son ;
3. Mario Kart 8 ;
4. Resogun ;
5. OlliOlli ;
6. The Walking Dead: Season Two: Episodes 2-5 ;
7. Assassin's Creed Unity ;
8. Valiant Hearts: The Great War ;
9. Velocity 2X ;
10. Luftrausers ;

Honorable mentions
x. Infamous: First Light
x. The Last of Us: Left Behind
x. Metal Gear Solid V: Ground Zeroes
 
Oct 24, 2008
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1.Super Smash Brothers for Wii U - Ive had more fun playing this game with friends than any other game this year bar none.
2. Bayonetta 2- Crazier and more intense than the first game. Loved it to death.
3. Dark Souls 2- I know alot of people bag on it for not being enough like the first game, but I still loved it.
4. Dagonronpa- Great Story. I was always guessing what was going to happen next.
5.Forza Horizon 2- Not much to say just a great open world driving game.
6. South Park the Stick of Truth- Hillarious RPG, I didn't think they could pull it off.
7.Smash Brothers for 3DS- Great Edition but overshadowed by its big brother.
8.The Evil Within- Great Atmosphere, and incredibly tense gameplay.
9.Bravely Default- Great old school JRPG but half way through it goes to shit.
10. Shadow of Mordor- Nemesis System is fun but I think im done with open world games.
 

Zia

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Oct 15, 2011
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Completely forgot about this, so eh...

1. Bayonetta 2 ; Sexy, sassy and triumphantly video game-y. I'd rank it alongside Ocarina of Time, Super Mario 64 and Super Mario Galaxy as among the best thing(s) Nintendo has ever touched, and I'm super grateful that they decided to work with Platinum.
2. Mario Kart 8 ; A game so perfect and spirited it ruined the new Super Smash Bros for me. A beautiful and generous box of wind-up toys.
3. Dark Souls II ; Majula and better PvP make this my personal favorite Souls, if not the best.
4. Transistor ; The first great post-XBLA indie sophomore effort.
5. Nidhogg ; The best of the local MP renaissance.
6. 80 Days ; A more interesting world and better writing than anything released on consoles this year or the last (and probably the year before that).
7. This War of Mine ; Oof. A gut punch of a sim to make Papers, Please seem pleasant by comparison.
8. Metal Gear Solid V: Ground Zeroes ; The best demo ever made.
9. Jazzpunk ; Airplane! as adapted for the pages of Mondo 2000.
10. The Sailor’s Dream ; A gentle disappointment but still a really lovely thing. Simogo is still the most consistent indie on Earth. Geniuses.
 
Apr 5, 2010
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1. Driveclub ; For whatever reason, this game grabbed me the most. I never expected it, but it was my first real platinum trophy. GT7 has its work cutout for it.

2. inFamous ; Second Son: Really enjoyed the first PS4 installment of this series. The visuals and performance capture were brilliant. I really enjoyed the evil story line I took.

3. The Last of Us Remastered ; A great upgrade of one of my favorite all-time games.

4. Shadow of Mordor ; Really enjoyed this game, which I didn't even realize was about LoTR lore until a friend had to tell me. The gameplay was varied and rich, I just wish the main character was like 20% more agile.

5. Velocity2X ; An awesome sequel to one of my favorite Vita games. The side-scrolling missions were fresh and well done.

6. Pix the Cat ; I was glued to this game for like 2 weeks trying to beat high scores. The visual style was really cool and engaging.

7. LBP3 ; I was surprised how much I enjoyed this sequel. The new gameplay variations weren't just tacked on. The created levels are as good as ever.
 
Jun 10, 2004
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My list for 2014. I had a hard time organizing my list this year so the order kept changing, but this is what I've settled on:

1. Alien Isolation ; I don't think I loved and hated a playing a game more. Such great atmosphere and being an Alien junky, this game is one amazing experience.
2. Last of Us: Left Behind ; Best. DLC. Ever.
3. South Park: Stick of Truth ; I've loved South Park since year 1 and I love RPGs, so this is a perfect match. I hope we see a sequel.
4. Destiny ; So much wrong with this game, but it's still so much fun to play. My most played game of 2014
5. Drive Club ; Even before the rain and the working online component I really liked DC. It just keeps getting better. Japanese tracks soon!
6. Dragon Age: Inquisition ; This might have placed higher on my list but --after 60 hours -- I'm still playing it. Great game.
7. Dark Souls 2 ; Not as good as its predecessors, but still loads of fun to play.
8. Diablo 3 ultimate evil edition ; Diablo 3 was a huge disappointment, but the ultimate evil edition fixed everything and more. Also, playing with a controller is fantastic.
9. Far Cry 4 ; My GOTY two years ago was Far Cry 3, this is the same game again in a different location with a few tweaks. It's good ... real good, but it felt like a bit of a retread. If Far Cry 5 is more of the same, I'm out.
10. Middle earth: Shadow of Mordor ; Big suprise; fun game to play.
 

Papercuts

fired zero bullets in the orphanage.
Sep 1, 2007
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Same as last year, I’m intentionally breaking the proper format and having the normal list at the very bottom.



X. Captain Toad: Treasure Tracker
Nintendo EAD | Wii U

While playing through Super Mario 3D World, it was hard to not have your attention grabbed by the levels that put you in control of Toad, set in diorama-esque levels levitating in the middle of the sky. Being a twist on standard Mario gameplay, Toad is unable to jump, which makes these all their own little puzzles on how to progress through the obstacles ahead and grab the star. They were a cute concept and a break from the norm, and it’s only natural that a dedicated game was made taking the concept further in every way.

The biggest initial change is that, while generally defenseless against enemies, Toad can pick up turnips along with a pickaxe powerup that gives him a few options for thinning out hordes—assuming the level provides any, that is. The cherry powerup from 3D World also makes a few appearances, doubling Toad and adding more each time you grab another, which naturally gets pretty fun to work with. Along with this are three hidden gems in every level, and an optional objective to go after.

While still a smaller package of a game, Nintendo still ends up putting in a lot of effort into the production. Going for a book theme in the menu, handfuls of illustrations can be seen as you page your way through the levels, completing each episode and moving onto another book. It’s cute and fits the game well.

Throughout all the levels, there are a lot of constantly engaging ideas and frequent mixups of scenery that Nintendo games all seem to excel at lately. A moving train pushing through a snowstorm, giant slides, beach levels, desert levels, and much more are just a small amount of the locales you’ll see. Levels generally only take a handful of minutes making it easy to pick up and play for a short session, and despite not being all that long it manages to cram a lot of gameplay scenarios to toy around with.

What holds the game back for me is what I can only describe as ignorant forcing of the gamepad in ways that you have no options to change. The game at times feels like a 2006 DS title as you will touch the screen to move platforms, blow into the mic, and most annoyingly have the camera constantly controlled by the wii u gamepad gyro. The right stick also works, yet you cannot disable the gyro, making it a pulling force on the camera if you dare move your wrists at all. It’s generally not a huge deal if you can sit still…but why in the unholy fuck should I have to consciously and continuously do that? Why can’t you just add a simple option to disable the gyro, as I never want to use this? When do more options ever hurt? Why. Why. Whyyyyyyy.

I’m glad after the small taste of this style of gameplay we got in 3D world that they decided to make this, as it just works damn well in an expanded format. I was ready for adventure, and Captain Toad was happy to oblige.​



IX. Super Smash Bros. for Wii U
Sora Ltd. | Wii U

When I initially booted Smash Bros., I wanted to immediately go into Classic mode and try out one of the new characters. I got lost in the menu for a bit before realizing they shoved it a small submenu called Games & More. This confusion will be a continuous thing I feel about many parts of this game.

Starting off positively, coming off the back of Brawl I really enjoyed the general feel of the characters. Even old veterans I never really touched like Bowser and Mario have been incredibly fun for me to play, and the gameplay loop is as fun as ever. Great sound design with punchy hits, additional effects that both serve to empower blows further and inform the player that you’re nearly guaranteed to KO off of this hit, all at a blistering 60fps despite putting out 1080p and up to 8 players in a stage. Online being improved from Brawl would be one hell of a backhanded compliment, so instead I’ll just say it actually works well. I’ve played in 4 player rooms with gaffers and it managed to be perfectly playable throughout, and it’s rare to get a choppy game while venturing against randoms. Many of the new roster additions are bursting with character, with picks like Wii Fit Trainer and Duck Hunt Dog being particularly inspired and well animated. Really, those reasons are enough to get a spot on my list, as I had a lot of great times with the game already.

But frustratingly enough, for nearly every element I can praise there is some niggling issue. Most pressing is the custom moves and equipment and the mindboggling implementation of them. Custom moves are cool! Pretty nice variants of moves that actually seem balanced as they have drawbacks and advantages over the standard moves instead of being flat out better versions of them. Each slot has 2 extra moves per character, so everyone has 8 custom moves to get. Equipment, however, is not at all like this and is generally just used to make an unstoppable character to rip through the AI. Oh, and both of these are grouped under the same setting of “custom characters” so you can’t just play with the custom moves, it will have both on, so in the case of making buffed up characters with equipment you need a separate slot and make sure to only put on the custom moves. You also have no actual way to specifically obtain custom moves and given the sheer amount of everything you will get tons of barely varying equipment that isn’t even easy to cycle through, as specific types may only work for characters in the Mario franchise, or the fire emblem franchise, etc.. And you can get duplicates of equipment and custom moves. And you can only use custom moves online with friends. I played for well over 60 hours before getting my first pop up in game saying I have obtained all of the moves for ONE character, which was R.O.B., who I never play with, so the game doesn’t even try to weigh the moves more towards characters you use a lot. There are something like 45+ more characters to get all of these moves for and I still get duplicate moves for R.O.B. during this. Basically shooting the potential in the foot and wasting a whole bunch of time on a feature that is now bullshit. Beyond that, Smash has great music! But some franchises just have strange choices; hope you enjoy around seven different Island Swing remixes, with some Mute City sprinkled on top. While the multiplayer works well, it’s impossible to play the 2v2 for glory mode with an online friend, which feels archaic as hell. I could pretty much make a bullet list of things like this but instead would rather hit broader targets.

The single player is pretty poor in this game. Classic mode has been pretty much revamped to showcase the 6-8 player capability constantly. Even if you try to pick fights with smaller amounts of people, the bigger rewards tend to always be in the big fights (which ties into equipment being a pain in the ass to collect). I enjoy the insanity these large fights put out, but it’s mainly a mode for friends to play as against AI that don’t have to worry about being lost in the screen, along with having an amazing tendency to gang up on you, they get old very fast. It doesn’t help that you’ll end up on the same handful of stages that are selectable for this playercount, some of them like Yoshi’s Island being so incredibly small and ill-fit for this many people that it almost feels like luck at times to make it past. As a special addition to the wii u version of the game, we have Master Fortress. Going through this quickly reminded me on why Subspace Emissary was cut; pairing a gameplay style of smash that has no actual healthbar relies entirely on the camera to lock in place to put in a condition for the kill you. Without that, like in the Master Fortress, they basically toss acid pits around that you can ping around in and instantly die after 100%. The layout is the same, but ends up being the antithesis of fun while using slow characters or someone like little mac who can barely complete the jumps needed for this. All Star is another slog, moreso because you fight the stages more than the characters. The best addition to the game for single player are the Master/Crazy orders, which embark you on a series of challenges for rewards. For Crazy in particular it’s a survival with a 10 minute timer to keep going and see how many levels you can get through. Naturally, for this game, it has some oversights like when the later stages make team battles or FFAs loaded with characters on the entry ticket, it blocks out being able to really see what stage you’re playing on. Great times when you get placed on a MASSIVE stage like Palutena’s Temple because of this, as it kills your run right there. Still, I do enjoy these modes and would like to see them return in the future.

On the plus side, the above options are all simply in Games & More, so maybe I’m just overly harsh. The clear meat here must be Smash Tour, since it’s on the main menu outside of this, right? Get some friends over and roll up into that mode! Within five minutes you will retreat out, never to touch it again, as I genuinely have no idea who that is meant to appeal to. Shown as a board game mode, it could have potential…but moves at a blistering place that is highly unclear to properly follow, tossing you into many gimmicky fights where it will hail bombs, toss battering items everywhere, etc. capped at one minute. Players obtain characters that will swap all over the place and the game itself never lets you select which one you want to use when it rolls around for a fight, which is intended but unclear. Basically, the fights aren’t satisfying, the mode moves too quickly, and while there are actual strategies to potentially learn and use it’s too much of a blur to really get people into it when Smash is being played to actually fight, meaning people will just go right there instead. When Smash 5 comes out, I foresee this never getting mentioned again until someone makes a LTTP thread and everyone is reminded at the same time that Smash Tour was a thing.

That’s a pretty negative tangent for a game that still made it on my GotY list, but it mostly serves to show that the base game of Smash Bros. is fun enough to still make it here. It just frustrates me that it feels like a confused jumbled mess that didn’t know who or what to cater to, with head scratching decisions all over. It ultimately feels like it could and should be much better than it is, even if it’s still good enough to offer a lot of great times regardless.​



VIII. D4: Dark Dreams Don’t Die
Access Games | XB1

Deadly Premonition is one of the more interesting games I’ve ever played, and while that was more of a game I liked in spite of itself due to some truly horrendous gunplay, I really admired SWERY’s wacky ideas. One of the clearest things I took away just after a few minutes of D4 is that he still has it, and if anything is even more insane than before. Luckily, instead of spending the bulk of the time playing like a janky third person shooter, D4 plays it smarter and is a point and click game. This allows the story and characters stand front and center, which works much better for his style. The general premise is that you are David Young, a private investigator whose wife was murdered, but he can’t remember the events surrounding it. So, naturally, he has the ability to dive through time to try and figure it out. The game is setup somewhat like a TV show and currently only season 1 is out, but there’s a lot of potential with the idea that he can essentially jump into any environment and get to know a different cast of characters. To fully set up the mood, the intro is so incredibly on point to push this idea in further, as this plays at the start of the multiple episodes within the season. That intro immediately put a smile on my face, and that never waned throughout playing. The game is loaded with quirky humor through cutscenes, and even while you pan your cursor around to highlight objects in the environment as little pop ups show up and expand into a handful of details about anything you could possibly think of.

While the meat of the game takes place while ‘diving’ into an area(season 1 mainly being an airplane), David’s apartment serves as a hub and has a lot of little things to see and find. The biggest here are optional weird ass scenes where everyone has dinner and talks about a myriad of topics, but you can also talk to a girl who thinks she’s a cat who serves as the game’s merchant to buy clothes, food, or CD tracks to listen to the soundtrack in the apartment. Which you will probably want to do, as the OST in this game is really damn good. It takes on a quasi-open approach as despite having clear trigger points on moving forward, you can dive back to the apartment whenever you want, and there are a slew of sidequests to do for the colorful cast.

Initially being Kinect-only and opting to add controller support, I only played this with a controller. You have no direct control over David and instead have foot circles to click on when you want to move forward, and in each section you stand you can turn in each direction to see more of the level. Interacting with objects consumes stamina that can be refilled with food when you get low, and beyond that there’s not much to it. A handful of action scenes are spruced about which ultimately are like a big QTE, though, again, the main appeal is just to actually see the wackiness of these scenes on the screen itself.

D4 was a really enjoyable and charming game that manages to be silly and over the top just as much as it can be endlessly thought proving. I seriously hope more seasons come out; it would be a damn shame if this small chunk is the last we saw of it.​



VII. Wolfenstein: The New Order
MachineGames | XB1, 360, PS4, PS3, PC

There once was a time where it felt like game developers sat around thinking “what should we do with our new shooter?” and just went “fuck it, nazis”. Funny enough, once we finally strayed away from that era, we entered the new MP focused one that generally gave a hit to the proper campaigns. Wolfenstein unabashedly returns to the old focus, bringing along a lengthy SP campaign where many Nazis get killed real good.

Plopping the player down in the shoes of BJ Blazkowicz in an alternate WW2 timeline, the game follows his efforts working along a small group of rebels to overthrow the nazi regime. Surprisingly well done, it treads the line on being on over the top adventure while still having a sincerity and down to earth feeling from the characters. It works on enough levels to make you want to really root for the protagonists, on top of a few scenes that make your enemies easy to hate. A small wrinkle included early on is a moral choice that has some additional changes with characters you’ll encounter, and minor changes in progression as it gives BJ a different mechanic to play with regarding picking locks or hot wiring electrical boxes, along with getting different health or armor upgrades.

On more than one occasion the game’s progressions reminded me of Half Life 2, which is to say this game has some damn fine pacing. It hits the roughest spot right at the beginning as it tosses you into some weird janky rail shooter plane sequence, but after that it’s smooth sailing. Knowing when to slow down the action or go balls to the wall, Wolfenstein doesn’t wear out its welcome over its ~12+ hours with great usage of setting mixups--going anywhere from a concentration camp to the literal moon.

Shooting itself worked out well, letting you dual wield anything your heart desires, even if it’s as clunky as a sniper rifle in both hands. More great picturesque moments happen on the fly when you do something like slide past a corner with a shotgun in each hand, never letting go until ammo fully depletes and you see nothing but a painting of smeared blood and chipped walls all about. Entire hallways can be absolutely destroyed and…well, it just feels good. Sadly something was a bit off with the sound design as instead of appropriate chunky feedback it mostly pitters out, and the music was frequently drowned out for me.

Stealth is another big part of the game, frequently being a possible route instead of going guns blazing. However, instead of feeling tightly designed to accommodate both, it hinges more towards the path of AI being pretty dumb to your most basic of stealth abilities. The silenced pistol in this game is an absolute monster and can make easy work of a lot of fights, to the point where I would sometimes hold back just to force it into a bloody gunfight. Because who needs stealth when you have an automatic shotgun in each hand?

Wolfenstein ended up being one of those games that comes out of nowhere and really impresses you by the time the credits roll. If you’re the type of person who enjoys FPS games and is sick of MP being shoehorned into everything, and don’t have a copy of Wolfenstein sitting next to you…ya fucked up, and in the words of BJ Blazkowicz, I'm coming for you, you Nazi fuckin' spaceman.​

Continued here.
 

Papercuts

fired zero bullets in the orphanage.
Sep 1, 2007
30,407
0
1,015
Pennsylvania
www.neogaf.com
Continued from here.



VI. Titanfall
Respawn Entertainment | XB1, 360, PC

I’ve had a lot of trouble getting into MP shooters lately. They tend to just feel like bars rising everywhere with a multitude of unlocks that are mostly pointless, serving to quench some weird OCD instead of being a game that is genuinely great to play and learn. While Titanfall still does have leveling up like every other game under the sun, it still managed to grip me in a way a shooter hasn’t in quite a long time.

Starting from the top, the initial start of Titanfall can be pretty rough with the ‘campaign’. In what I could best describe as a failed experiment, there are two factions and a set of missions for to play as both sides, with the plot happening primarily through pop ups on the screen while you’re actively playing a match. It is damn near impossible to actually focus on what they’re saying beyond all of the explosions and chaos, and the matches themselves ultimately just play like a normal MP round, not even taking full advantage of all the modes the game has. The worst part was how this seemed like a natural starting point, so high leveled people all would go in here like hungry wolves trying to get easy wins, making a lot of new players first experience with the game getting absolutely destroyed for a string of games. It was not something that could be easily ignored as aside from the default Titan chassis, the other two were unlocked through this. There’s that arbitrary unlock everything seems to have. Luckily Respawn came to their senses and patched it so they no longer need to be unlocked, though it also means you have no reason to touch this mode…which I suppose is for the better.

The most striking part of the MP is, as expected, the Titans--how they impact the playing field, and how the maps are designed around them. As the game has no destructible environments, buildings serve as a roadblock Titans must navigate around. While Pilots instead see buildings and walls as a springboard to get around quickly, it is not always advantageous to be slowed down. This ends up feeling flipped on its head for Last Titan Standing, which is a no respawn mode where everyone starts and fights from Titans. The same levels aren’t modified at all, but now all these previous obstacles now feel like giant blocks of cover as you dash in and out to get hits in. I have a great deal of respect for the map design of this game as it cleverly works in multiple modes, being well routed for Pilots to have nice ways to get around the map without ever touching the floor, making it so titans can fight eachother with natural cover, and even make it work for objective modes. Generally for Hardpoint Domination(where there are three points to capture), the titan chassis can fit inside an area where only one of the points are placed, which make these pretty hectic battlegrounds if everyone pushes towards them in a titan while working well for general map flow as titans can still try to defend other points, where pilots will be running around.

Titan on pilot combat is another important part of the game they nailed. While titans can take a beating considering they have a layer of shields and a healthbar(though that part takes permanent damage), it’s not some unsurmountable fight. A player that knows his way around the game can single handedly take down a titan with proper use of the map and their arsenal, even having some hilarious moments such as jumping on the Titan’s back, jumping off and running around like a bat outta hell making the player in the titan lose track of you until they just get out and try to chase you on foot. One of my favorite small mechanics is that a Titan that is boarded without a pilot will kneel down and be stationary, so I used this a lot as I summoned my own titan in the field to instantly crush other titans. Likewise, Titans are still very powerful in the right hands, and this is where the loadouts work in the game’s favor without feeling like a hodgepodge of mostly useless tweaks. You don’t have a ton of choices, but each one has a significant impact on how you will approach scenarios. For example, the Titan’s chaingun is AMAZING for ripping apart pilots on the field as it does a lot of damage and is easy to precisely aim, but it’s weak against another titan if you’re locked in a fight together. The 40mm is a decent middleground as it can be powerful against both, but it’s harder to get pilots with it. The triple threat is a grenade launcher that lobs three grenades at once and was generally my weapon of choice using the speedy Strider chassis, as it was incredibly effective when backing up to toss shots around making you a lethal minefield for titans following you, and while it was hard in a lot of areas to kill pilots I still found it very effective on certain maps like Colony which is filled with smaller buildings to run around and shoot grenades in windows as I passed by. I still frequently changed up my loadouts more than I tend to for a game like this, as I found nice synergy and viability with nearly every weapon.

The other element of the game are the inclusion of AI bots, which took some time for me to wrap my head around. In many cases it looks like they just tend to go into the battlefield and stand around barely doing much, when I imagined it being some sort of MOBA-esque element that would give a team an advantage if their bots pushed forward. But instead they serve as a sort of fuel to knock down cooldown timers, giving something to do while you run around the map. It will speed up how quickly you can call your titan in, and within it will cooldown whatever the ability that chassis has. I mentioned above that I used the Strider most of the time, which has the ability for infinite dashes, so I would frequently move towards packs of bots and crush them to try and have it as much as possible, as it was incredibly useful in fights. They don’t give nearly as much of a boost compared to killing a normal player, which is natural, but there were still some chances to pull off neat things with them such as kneeling down within a pack to confuse a player you know was coming through the door. They are at their most important in a mode like Last Titan Standing as they can come equipped with Rocket Launchers that are capable of doing surprisingly big damage.

All in all, I had a blast with Titanfall throughout the year. It has a simple to grasp parkour system that rewards on the fly thinking and had a steady cycle of me feeling I was improving as a player by eventually getting to the point where I would visualize maps differently and just see how to best optimize movement paths. The combat was hectic and fun, the maps were well designed without having any that caused me to groan when they popped up, and I look forward to seeing where the franchise goes in the future.​



V. The Evil Within
Tango Gameworks | PS4, PS3, XB1, 360, PC

Leading up to the release of The Evil Within, I was constantly unsure how to feel. Being a horror game backed by Shinji Mikami was more than enough to grasp my interest, but videos always looked unpolished and pretty rough all around. It turns out in the final product that TEW is certainly not the smoothest ride out there, but still has enough to make it stand out above most games I’ve played this year.

Right from the moment you start the game, the rough patches become quite clear. Black bars that take adjusting to adorn the top and bottom of your screen for the remainder of the game, and the framerate is already fluctuating out in the rain. The intro itself becomes more of a basic stealth section, and a pretty slow rolling tutorial take place during the first two chapters. During this time you will also quickly realize that Sebastian can sprint for roughly two seconds before keeling over, and starts with a melee attack that is akin to slapping a raging bull with a damp tissue. Chapter to chapter gameplay in TEW tends to be all over the place and doesn’t really find much of a groove until chapter 3, where you have your first ‘real’ segment to undertake, mixing in a fairly open environment with stealth and a multitude of approaches. It’s hard to nail down exactly what the evil within plays out like, as it’s not quite resident evil 4, but it’s not quite silent hill either. There are frequent setting changes as psychological events happen and shift everything around, but the moment to moment gameplay is more akin to a RE4 style shooter, with elements of stealth wrapped in, though it isn’t a mechanic that is always possible. It has a handful of puzzles dashed about to mix things up a tad, but they’re nothing that will ever require all that much thought.

Something noticeable right when you get your gun are the hit reactions of enemies which in large part makes this some of the most satisfying gunplay I’ve seen in a game. Chunks of head, pieces of arm, etc. all rip off as the enemies continue to push forward with a giant hole in the middle of their face. It is endlessly entertaining to just fight through hordes in this game, accompanied by blood splashing over the walls and Sebastian. It’s a damn shame this has no equivalent of a mercenaries mode as I would have loved to have an easy to access area with pure combat.

One of the biggest strengths of the game is the pacing as it takes you from one area to another. My personal favorite stretch of the game is from chapter 5 through chapter 10, which taken as a single chunk might be one of my favorite few hours of a game this whole year. The trap filled chapter 10 in particular was especially devious and tense, and stood out as a special highlight in the game. Within the above chapters you get everything from a chapter highly reminiscent of RE4 battle encounters, a fight with a crazy 4 legged girl straight out of the ring, a heartbreaking adventure to recover a pair of glasses, a giant circular room full of traps and a massive sawblade beheading everything, and muuuuch more. You really do see a wide range of clever encounters constantly keeping you engaged in one way or another, which is something Mikami has always excelled at. Additional props go to having a decent amount of unlockable items, model viewers, etc., on top of having remixed enemy encounters on nightmare difficulty and above to give replay value. Though I don’t foresee me ever trying out Akumu mode (where you die in one hit) if only due to the unfortunate load times after each death. There’s a few clunky spots that actually obstruct with the game’s mechanics at times as well. This is mainly while trying to pick something up or throw a match onto an enemy, but not having the prompt show up correctly due to the angle of the camera. It lacks a certain precision required to properly due a one hit kill mode, and just sounds like something you’d have to unnecessarily fight against.

Coupled with the levels changing and general psychological element, the plotline of the game was something I expected to be hard to follow. Unsurprisingly this ended up being the case—not helped all that much by the main character Sebastian who constantly felt unnatural in his mostly uncaring reactions to everything going on around him. Though you can get a handful of good quotes out of the game, it’s done in both a way that makes the player not very invested in figuring out what’s happening, yet also falls short of being self-aware enough to appreciate in some hilarious campy way ala RE4. As with any horror game, there are notes to read and blanks to fill throughout the game, though the bulk of them just give more of Sebastian’s backstory even if he feels disconnected from the same person in the diary. Unfortunately one of the side characters who doesn’t get much screen time seems to have an important role in the overall plot, which is going to tie into DLC launching in the future…while the baseline game, even in specific spoiler threads, have yet to really figure the entire thing out. It’s likely going to be necessary to purchase the DLC to make heads or tails of what the hell actually happened which is a bummer.

Being completely honest with myself, the game does have clear issues, and is not going to be for everyone. This really came out to be a case of a game being more than its sum of parts, where I can’t deny that this weird ass rollercoaster of a game meshed with me pretty damn well.​



IV. Donkey Kong: Tropical Freeze
Retro Studios | Wii U

Retro’s back again and about time too,
And this time they’re in the mood.
David Wise'll make you smile when he plays his tune,
But Kremlings penguin people beware 'cause he's after you!​

If you managed to not cringe to death, props. As it turns out, Retro was working on fucking Donkey Kong. And they worked. Taking the lessons they’ve learned from Returns, it’s put most simply to say that they made a really damn good platformer and outdone themselves yet again. Still filling in its own special type of platforming feel, DK has a lot of weight and momentum to control. Doing roll jumps off the sides of ledges, bouncing off of a chain of enemies, not dealing with garbage motion controls…life is pretty alright sometimes. Levels are masterfully designed to take full advantage of these abilities, particularly with the use of rolling jumps which caters damn well to speedruns of the game. Joining DK are Cranky, Dixie, and Diddy which all work in tandem to his normal abilities. Now try rolling off of a ledge into a jump, then pogo off of a small ledge to quickly propel forward. It’s a great example of simple to learn yet hard to master, and is an endlessly satisfying gameplay loop.

Speaking of satisfying, the game is an audio/visual buffet. The levels all burst with detail and character while your ears are assaulted by David Wise massaging your ear to the point where your very soul is cleansed. It’s the type of game where you can genuinely respond to someone who would like an example of a good song and just give them the entire OST. He went above and beyond all expectations to the point where the game could be a trainwreck and I would likely still have it on my list just for this fucker’s serenade within.

Of course, there’s still more to it than good mechanics coupled with a nice artstyle and a jammin’ ost. Level to level you will see loads of mechanical variety. Using Horn Top Hop as an example, it takes place in an autumn forest and right at the start of the stage there’s a high ledge and big leaves falling down over ground. Clearly showing you can jump on them, the player can get higher and continue on. Right afterwards is a spike pit with the same leaves falling over it, and you need to link two jumps together (or roll jump off the edge of one while it’s high up). Third time, these leaves are now over a bottomless pit—this type of gradual, steady progression is akin to an unspoken tutorial that effectively drills a mechanic into your head without the player realizing it, but is present constantly throughout the game.

There is only a few areas where I feel the game doesn’t live up the great design seen otherwise. These tend to mainly be within the boss battles, which even at their best I could never find all that enjoyable to fight. They to still abide by the earlier philosophy, but tend to take too long to ramp up and by the time they reach a level of actual challenge, they’re one hit away from dying. Or, if you do actually die at these parts, you have to go through the long ramp up once again. This hits the breaking point at the final boss, which wasn’t necessarily challenging but had a pretty big focus on making the fighting platform icy, having overly long windups to some of his attacks, and having the hardest part be actually landing on him while he runs around. The game deserved a better send off than that, frankly. The other obvious one would be the lack of variety in bonus rooms, especially for how many times you can potentially go to them within levels.

Finally, the balance of Dixie, Diddy, and Cranky always struck me as odd when you’re just naturally playing through the game. If there was a poll on this, I would bet the majority of people who played through the game used Dixie a vast majority of the time—she ends up having constant one-ups over everyone else. Her jump serves as an assurance if you screw up to give you some time to land safely, is a nice extender, and gains you height. Her special ability gives golden hearts to double your health while the other two are pretty useless. She is actually necessary for a few water levels to unlock special exits to other levels while the other two, unless I’m forgetting something, never are. So she excels in boss fights, tricky platforming segments, general progression…the others can’t really hold a candle to that. Cranky naturally has some levels where he fits well in as he can jump off spikes and hit certain enemies, but it didn’t amount to a huge amount. Meanwhile Diddy for most of the game feels like a worse Dixie. With that said, I DO know they all actually have more applications than that; it’s odd in that it feels as if they were all designed with speedruns in mind. Dixie then starts to have drawbacks, as you lose momentum while using her. Diddy maintains it much better and travels farther horizontally, while Cranky has similar benefits. It’s not something really bugged me all that much, but I always found it to be a headscratcher how Dixie pretty much had everything going for her.

All in all it’s hard to argue with what Tropical Freeze offers. Sublime platforming with the soundtrack to match, I’m more than okay with Retro working on fucking Donkey Kong.​



III. Mario Kart 8
Nintendo EAD | Wii U

The next bend is approaching fast as everyone repeatedly performs tricks over the spine of the eel. A Shy Guy hurls a bomb backwards. Narrowly avoiding it, you hear the screams of terror behind you as your opponents go flying off. You pull out of the water and sick nasty sax kicks in. Taking the bend as tightly as possible, you take the lead heading towards the ramp over the whirlpool. Lightning strikes, taking you for a swim. Dropped at the final turn with no momentum, a flurry of characters whizz on by. 12th place.

Mario Kart has always been known for being a rollercoaster of emotions, and Mario Kart 8 stays true to its roots in that regard. The latest twist added to the franchise is done through antigravity, which turned out surprisingly impactful upon both the way races are approached and the track design. This is best shown in a track like Shy Guy Falls, which tasks the players to drive straight up a waterfall, take a sharp turn and descend back down it at blistering speed—clever, inventive stuff like this shows up through many of the games tracks. Even moreso than previous games, as despite this still sticking to 32 tracks with 16 of those being retro courses, they heavily reworked a lot of the older ones to incorporate antigravity, underwater, and gliding on top of given a visual makeover to match the gorgeous locales seen in the rest of the game. The tracks themselves are at their strongest here they have ever been, with only a few duds like Toad’s Turnpike.

The other wrinkle added with antigravity is the ability to collide and boost off of competitors, so those people you plan to soon betray with an army of koopa shells will have an unspoken temporary alliance as you both smack off of eachother repeatedly to fly down the course. It even serves as a hazard of sorts, played around with in tracks like the new Rainbow Road which is always in antigravity, making moments like the opening bend a deadly obstacle course as people go too fast to actually stay on the road. It’s such a simple change that actually had a bigger impact than I expected, and I genuinely can’t see Mario Kart not having this mechanic in future iterations.

Beyond track design, there is always the general feel of the game. Mario Kart 8 once again stands above the rest in the series and is just...fuckin’ fun, man. The sense of speed and weight feels great, drifting around corners and mastering all of the small time savers throughout the courses never got old. This is compounded exponentially by the online mode, which had a perfect setup for a place like neogaf groups. The time inbetween each race is JUST short enough to make a quick post or grab a drink, and due to the quick nature of the game it’s very easy to get lost in a series of “just one more” until you realize hours have burned away. I had some of the best gaming time of the year in these neogaf lobbies, full of absolute bastards that make playing online with randoms feel like a breeze in comparison. The room was always very competitive and fun, and you could never really tell everyone often enough about you playing with tilt controls. I’ll never forget some of the photo finishes that lobby had, or the times that I would lap ViewtifulJC’s replacement AI Donkey Kong after he inevitably rage quit the GAF session.

MK8’s biggest failings would be its general lightness on content. Battle Mode is best described as missing in action, and the single player is the same as always, though the AI opponents aren’t nearly as ridiculous as they were in previous outings. It’s a game that you really need to be invested in the MP for it to really work, and while arcade style racing like this isn’t exactly booming, there is atleast some competition in the form of games like SASRT(sonic racing with a giant acronym) which had a lot of meat to it. Hopefully the next entry in MK fleshes out a bit more. The character roster is also weak as hell, which isn’t all that important, but I still wanted to use my man Dry Bones. It’s almost like the opposite of Smash Bros. to me, where while it ends up being a content thin product, it ended up feeling focused and atleast knew exactly what it wanted to be. Warts and all, this has been my favorite entry in the franchise and I’m going to sink many more hours in with the upcoming DLC tracks. As long as you guys don’t use Frantic lobbies again, because that shit sucks.​

Continued here.
 

Papercuts

fired zero bullets in the orphanage.
Sep 1, 2007
30,407
0
1,015
Pennsylvania
www.neogaf.com
Continued from here.



II. Bayonetta 2
Platinum Games | Wii U

With a game like Bayonetta 2, I have to imagine the design document looking something like “take bayonetta 1. remove everything bad about it. voila”. The game ultimately feels most simply like a refined and better Bayonetta 1 that is constantly firing on all cylinders, right from the start as you begin fighting your first enemies on the top of jets speeding through the city to a wonderful rendition of Moon River. It feels like home.

Much like its predecessor, Bayonetta 2 is a game played primarily due to its exquisite combat system. Heralding heavily from the Devil May Cry school of design: expect many freeflowing combos, frenetic action, crazy boss battles, and rankings abound. There’s not much quite like being bombarded by multiple difficult enemy types, having the screen erupt into pure chaos that you’re fully in control of, only to end it all with that jingle of a Pure Platinum medal only to look back on the whole experience and think “( ͡° ͜ʖ ͡°)”. This alone is enough to propel the game to constant heights, with only a few segments that slow down and give more time to explore for hidden verse fights or random other collectibles. During these segments Platinum did actually perform one of my gaming sins, in that you frequently have a partner for a large portion of the game, and without fail whoever this is will hound your ass constantly. Keep up, love. Hurry up. SLOW DOWN! are all the types of things to annoyingly expect. It is the type of thing that matters less on repeat playthroughs as you blitz through these segments, but I can never understand the logic behind having things hidden around every corner and coupling it with an AI partner that makes you pressured to do the exact opposite. If that wasn't enough, you even get hounded for going ahead of them…for some reason. This being what is basically the biggest fault in the game is still pretty high praise nonetheless.

A running theme for many games on my list is a constant barrage of new ideas being tossed at the player, and Bayonetta 2 is no slouch. Just as quickly as you fly around fighting a demon circling up a massive building, you will be surfing on a raging whirlpool fighting a dragon. Then you will be fighting the Human Sized Rival That Is Always Awesome™ while bosses from Bayonetta 1 fight in the background blowing things up for no goddamn reason. It’s great, visually interesting stuff that manages to surprise all the way to the credits. And these credits, much like other games of this ilk, tend to mark the mere beginning instead of the end. Slews of unlockables, weapons, characters and more open up to give you plenty of options to mess with to your heart’s desire. They even added a really fun co-op fighting arena mode that I never knew I wanted. And threw in Bayonetta 1 with the game because, y’know, why the hell not.

It is absolutely insane to me to think that we were intended to never get this game. Its marriage of high intensity combat with pure spectacle on the screen that puts so many games in its genre to shame. Its brand new highly superior hairstyle for Bayonetta herself(you know it’s true, deep down). Its unabashed focus on pure, constant fun. Thank you, Nintendo and Platinum, for making this game a reality.​




I. Destiny
Bungie | PS4, PS3, XB1, 360

Welcome, Guardians. Welcome to the game that tears me apart inside, because people on the internet are so unjustly cruel towards it. While it has its missteps, there is a whole lot of gaming to be had with Destiny and before you know it hundreds of hours will pass and you will still be doing the raid for the 20th time praying to the gods above that those pair of boots you want will finally drop this week.

From the top, Destiny is a solid looking game married with strong shooting mechanics. The game feels good to control, pulling the trigger of a gun gives solid visual feedback, and the classes all have a specific jump extension that is satisfying to pull off. But what are good mechanics without the rest of a game? Luckily, Destiny has your back. Going above and beyond all expectations, Destiny offers us 4 incredibly expansive game environments, masterfully crafted to make each and every corner a visual treat. It even has some sort of meta level elements, such as making areas that clearly look like a playable area until you embark forward and get a popup on the screen informing you that there are 10 seconds until you die as that is, infact, not a playable area. Those guys at Bungie, always joshin’ around. Luckily they don’t go too crazy and have a lot of blatant black areas enemies spawn out of with proper story justification of it being Darkness filled areas, as exploration could get a little too out of hand if all of those spots let you through. However, there are still many caves littered about on the planets seemingly looking the same to an untrained eye, but some of them contain chests, informing players that these odd dead end areas that would otherwise always be ignored should actually always be investigated to keep you on your toes. You just never know what to expect when embarking onto a journey in Destiny…unless you are on the same strike week after week.

Regarding strikes though, I can’t blame them at all for wanting you to repeatedly see this content. Once again we see fantastic works of engineering with the bosses of these missions. The first thing that you may notice is how many of them look eerily similar to many of the normal enemies in the game, blown up to a bigger scale. Personally, I respect smart usage of assets such as this. It’s hard to not become totally engrossed once these epic foes are being fought, as they all seem to fall from the same school of design as they all have some sort of AoE pushback if you get too close, AoE attacks from afar, and they all start to spawn waves of enemies so you have to watch your back. In many instances the real fight is the smaller enemies, and not the boss itself--they're mainly there to absorb bullets for roughly 10 minutes longer than necessary. This creates interesting parallels to real life warfare where an army is won by the effort of many.

It goes without saying that you can’t mention Destiny without its story. While I’ll admit the game itself is a tad confusing to follow just with the ingame content, Bungie once again has our backs with the highly detailed grimoire cards on the destiny companion app. I can’t praise what they did here enough, as I began to enjoy playing through the game and having all of this mysterious intrigue up in the air, while I would use sources outside of the game to fill in the blanks and provide backstory to this amazing universe. It’s such a novel idea that…well, it should be a novel itself. I want to know more about the speaker, the queen’s brother (who is so mysterious that this is his actual name!!!) and that girl who shows up at the end who also has no name but was such a pivotal character to the arc your playable character goes through that I just couldn’t help but be moved be her on screen performance.

There’s so much pure game to Destiny that I don’t think a single post could do it justice. I didn’t even cover the well-designed variety filled campaign missions, the crucible’s balance and map design, the hub world, loot…just know that I find it all glorious. I sadly haven’t had the time to check out the expansion, but I give props to Bungie once again for having one out so quickly. I’m sure there is plenty more to experience in that, and I look forward to see what 2015 brings this endlessly entertaining product.​




Actually I. Hearthstone: Heroes of Warcraft
Blizzard Entertainment | PC…tablets, some other shit probably

Collectible Card Games are something I’ve always had an interest in, but never really got into. They’ve always felt daunting to approach, with the price tag only being part of the reason why. While I have a general grasp on a few different games, I don’t have real life experience playing these with others. The bulk of the actual playing I’ve ever done is probably GBA Yu-gi-oh games that I played against the AI with…which doesn’t really count for much. Enter Hearthstone, Blizzard’s foray into the genre with a special focus on making a game that is simple to grasp, yet devilishly hard to get away from. This has been the game that I was constantly unsure of where to put, as it’s a bit hard to place a game like this. Eventually I figured that I spent, BY FAR, the most time consuming this game in some way. If not outright playing it a little bit each day, I frequently watch streams of it. I find the game to be a constantly fun thing to experience, as the sheer amount of outcomes that can happen within each game can lead to some hilarious results.

First and foremost, Hearthstone stands out very well thanks to Blizzard’s attention to detail on production value. Despite being a card game, there is tons of character and charm to everything. Summoning legendaries all have neat musical cues and various animations, such as Ragnaros the Firelord ripping apart the ground in a fiery bombast and ripping through, bouncing onto the board. Every card has a voice clip that plays for an intro, while attacking and while dying. The opponent explodes, leaving nothing but a crater after a defeat. The game boards are all highly interactive with things to click on and influence, even if it has no bearing on the game at all. Clicking on plants and then water to make new ones, breaking windows, launching boulders with a catapult…it’s something so simple, pointless, yet genius at the same time. The game just oozes an aura that love and craft went into it from every angle.

Of course, it goes without saying that the most important aspect is how the game plays. Alluded to before, Blizzard wanted to keep the game easy to grasp. Card descriptions never get to be more than a few lines, and are written in a way that they are mentally easy to immediately understand. Cards have an attack and health value along with a mana cost, where you start the game at one mana and gain one more each turn for a maximum of ten. Each card is given appropriate stats and effects to match the cost attached to it, with the bulk of the more unique Legendaries primarily being in the upper range. When a minion attacks, they lose health equal to the attack of the other minion, but retain the damage. A 2 attack 3 health minion hitting a 1 attack 1 health minion will be left with 2 health, and if it hits a minion that has 4 attack and 2 health the overkill doesn’t matter at all, both minions will die. Each player has a Hero with a special ability that costs 2 mana, which can be anything like summoning a 1/1 or shooting a fireball at any target you want to inflict 1 damage. Heroes all have 30 health, and the game is over when that depletes. There is generally nothing stopping a person from dropping a minion and directly attacking the Hero directly, except for Taunt minions. When these are dropped, they pop up a shield that forces you to go through them before hitting the Hero or any other target. Beyond that, minions have battlecries(an effect when they are played), deathrattles(and effect when they die), and each class tends to have a special mechanic with their cards. The Shaman, for example, is the only class with Overload cards, which are generally really good value for the cost you pay, but they remove mana the next turn which messes up your follow up. Despite being simple there is still a lot of complexity to it, though it does have a pretty solid tutorial it’ll run you through at the start.

Now you might be thinking “This sounds interesting. Where do I begin, senpai papercuts?” Getting into the game can actually be fairly difficult and is something I’m curious to see if Blizzard works on. Being a F2P game, it is entirely possible to amass a large collection without paying a cent, just by completing daily quests and amassing gold to buy packs slowly but surely will eventually get you somewhere. But just within this year there have been two expansions, and there are a lot of high value cards that a huge portion of the player base has. It’s a game that will take a large time investment to get into without paying upfront, and is likely just going to get harder and harder to begin as time moves on. The biggest issue it suffers is that it only really respects WINNING. The quests per class are always about winning matches, not just playing. You get a gold bonus every 3 times you win. This makes it pretty frustrating for newer players as they’ll struggle to win against even some of the lower ranks these days, so I’d like to see something changed on that end. There are two modes of play and both are fairly difficult for new players. The main one is constructed rank play, where you will start out at 25 and move your way up the ranks through wins. Decks are 30 cards, you can have up to 2 of each card unless it’s a legendary, which is a single copy. The other mode is Arena, which is a fun draft style of play. It will give you a choice of three different heroes and after you pick, you’ll pick a single card out of 3 and continue on until the deck is made. Unlike constructed, nothing is stopping these decks from having more than 2 copies of a card, or even multiple of the same legendaries as unlikely as that would be. The draft is all completely random and naturally addictive as you keep trying to get an insane deck. It will then pit you against another arena deck matched by the W-L ratio. It goes up to 12 wins and then rewards you, but 3 losses and you’re out. Rewards continue to improve as you climb the ranks, though even if you go 0-3 a pack of cards is always guaranteed. This makes arena one of the most efficient ways to play the game, IF you can consistently do pretty well--the rewards will pay for the arena run and then some, potentially getting you on some kind of infinite loop of value. The mode can be tricky, and you will sometimes be matched against some disgustingly good decks, but it’s all part of the charm of the mode.

Hearthstone more than any other game helped define this year of gaming for me and as such I’m pretty much hopelessly latched in its web looking forward to seeing what Blizzard has in store for 2015. Once they officially release it on my phone I can probably give up on ever being productive again.

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1. Hearthstone: Heroes of Warcraft ; My hopeless addiction for the better part of a year. Deviously simple to get into and learn, endlessly satisfying to play.
2. Bayonetta 2 ; Platinum showing why they’re so reknowned in the gaming community in what feels like an effortless mastery over excellent combat.
3. Mario Kart 8 ; NeoGAF lobbies were some of the most hilarious gaming experiences this year, held up by an incredibly fun racing engine that never gets old.
4. Donkey Kong: Tropical Freeze ; Retro is a name I’ve come to respect, shown with every release they make. DK is another tally on their flawless run showing they know what they’re doing when it comes to platformers.
5. The Evil Within ; Mikami delivers one of the most interesting games of the year. I dream about the gibs at night.
6. Titanfall ; My other MP addiction for the better part of the year. Respawn with a great debut, showing they have the chops to make a mechanically kick ass game with map design to match.
7. Wolfenstein: The New Order ; Another great debut, this time by MachineGames. A well realized SP FPS campaign that made me realize how much I missed them.
8. D4: Dark Dreams Don’t Die ; SWERY’s back and hasn’t lost the pep in his step. Zany, hilarious, mesmerizing--I want more.
9. Super Smash Bros. for Wii U ; Despite misgivings, I still racked up the hour count and have a blast playing this with friends. Finally, Smash with functional online.
10. Captain Toad: Treasure Tracker ; A well realized puzzler that made too much sense not to happen.
 
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I'd be really curious to know after the fact what percentage of ballots weren't posted in the right format. I'd be surprised if it was less than 25%.

Dark Souls 2 is mentioned as much as bayonetta, though I'm pretty sure DAI has the top spot by a reasonable margin. Makes me kinda sad, but opinions.
I'm not so sure, from what I've seen Bayonetta 2 looks to be more regularly high ranked than DAI.
 
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1. The Blackwell Epiphany ; I played through the whole series this year and most of it just in December and it really showed how the series gradually improved in basically every way. Graphics got better, puzzle design improved, the story got more interesting and the variation in locations got better. And Epiphany manages to be a worthy finale. It's easily the best game in the series and does a good job at bringing everything from the first four games together. Sure, some types of puzzles get repeated a bit too often (how many things can you possibly blow through the room?), but they're still well done and the main focus lies on the story anyway. Plus, the puzzles are never unfair and the game always gives you some hint as to where you should go next if you want one. The writing is where the series really shines, though. Characters and character interactions are believable to a point that you can probably relate to the struggles of the main character and some others and conversations are interesting without resorting to comedy, which really isn't an easy thing to pull off.
So, if you like adventure games, give this series a try. It doesn't seem to be all that well-known, but it's one of the best in recent years. But keep in mind that the stories are connected, so start with the first.

2. Hyrule Warriors ; I love Zelda, I like Dynasty Warriors, this seemed like the perfect match for me when it was announced. And it ended up being just as good. Though it's already a very good game without all the fanservice. I like the new dodge move more than the usual jump, (some) enemies having special weak phases was a good idea and the bosses are at least something different, though they can be a bit annoying in how often they appear. And on top of that comes all the Zelda stuff, they did a really good stuff choosing characters and weapons from the 3D Zeldas, with some odd additions. Plus the amount of DLC content you get for that 15€ season pass is huge, though some of it has yet to be released, of course. Tingle couldn't make it in time for the GOTY vote.
The game itself already has a lot of content, I don't know if I'll ever be able to complete all of it. My only real disappointment is the music, for such a fanservice game there are just too few tracks, it feels like some potential was wasted here.
And for some reason they still haven't managed to support the Wii Classic Controller after several patches, I don't know how they missed that or if they just left that out to annoy me.

3. Crimzon Clover: World Ignition ; It's no Cave game, but it's certainly the next best thing for bullet-hell STGs. A lot of things other indie STGs usually fail at is done excellently here. Simple stuff, like making sure bullets are always quickly recognizable (and don't blend with the background), proper player feedback for destroying enemies and a satisfying kick when you enter the special "Break" mode. It's just the things that add up to make the game a fun experience. Bosses usually have multiple patterns that are hard, but fair. Plus it comes with a Novice mode that's just the right difficulty for amateurs like me without feeling too easy. I managed to do a 1cc here, but it took me some practice. On top of that it has different play modes which mostly change the way your "Break" mode works.
Anyway, if you like Cave games, get this one, you're gonna love it. And it's not like Cave has anything coming up soon. Oh, and the music is pretty nice. Try some of the arranged tracks, too.

4. Mario Kart 8 ; I really didn't know where to put this on my list. On the one hand, it's a fantastic game, with probably the best track selection in any kart game. The DLC is a steal with tracks (at least the part we have now) that mostly feel like they could have been part of the main game. On the other hand it has some balancing issues that kinda ruin it and it's missing quite a bit of features. Yeah, of course, first and foremost, the battle mode is basically non-existant, but honestly I haven't cared about that since MK64. What hurts more is that Time Trial mode is far away from its potential. It's not even as good as it was in MK Wii. Plus it has some stupid restrictions that I just can't understand anymore nowadays. With at least 8 GB of memory available in some way, would it be that hard to allow more than 16 ghosts? Why is the ranking, especially among friends presented in such a stupid way? And please kill Fire Hopping already, but that may just be a personal preference.
That said if you use it within some restrictions, Time Trial can be a lot of fun, simply because at its core this is a great game.
Playing online is where the game shines the most (and makes you rage the most). It's mostly pure chaos in a good way. As often as you want to throw the controller somewhere (don't do that with the GamePad!), you still get your moments of sweet, sweet revenge. It's just a bit sad that lighter characters are at an unusually strong disadvantage on the track.
Anyway, as I said, the tracks are great! And even the music is nice! And this time they put in a real effort in remaking older tracks. Plus the new gravity feature really adds something to the formula, mostly because it opens up new possibilities for track design, but also because it leads to other drivers literally being everywhere around you and that boost you get by bumping into each other is just fun. I don't even mind the item balancing that much, if you're in the front, you'll get a lot of coins, it's just part of the risk.
Ah well, overall, it's a great game, its flaws annoy me from time to time which is way I didn't put it higher, but honestly it all doesn't really matter when you're part of the chaos that is MK8 online.

5. Banished ; A building game that's slow, requires some micro management and doesn't have combat? Sounds like the perfect game for me! And it is, in some way, the main thing that's holding it back is just its lack of content. There are the first few challenging years when hunger is a real threat and it's hard to keep up with all the needs of your people. But when you manage to overcome that and your town works somewhat efficiently, there isn't much left to do. It's just missing the kind of higher ranking buildings that you usually have in these kinds of games. But it's a great game, that has the right priorities and that alone kept me playing for quite a long time. I really hope this gets an overall improved sequel since it has a lot of potential. Just keep the combat out of the game.

6. The Walking Dead: Season Two ; Seeing as the first season was praised almost everywhere and even was runner-up in GAF's 2012 GOTY award, I'm surprised this second season got so much less attention. Probably because by now Telltale has used their formula over and over again and what was fresh with the first season is now a bit stale. For some. You still shouldn't overlook season 2, first and foremost it's about telling a story and I think Telltale's format works really well for that. It's not really about how your choices form a completely different story, even if Telltale likes to claim it is, but to make the one story feel a little bit more personal by reacting to your input. Though this sometimes leads to situations that can feel forced, because the game is bringing you back on track, but does so in a rather unconvincing way. But mostly it's told pretty well.
So this second season is quite a shift in tone, no longer are you playing the leader-type character people (mostly) look up to, now you play a little girl, hardened through past experiences, but still a little girl. This means most people now don't take you as seriously and your group doesn't involve you in everything. This is still a game, though, so you as the main character still have to be part of every event, which leads to some strange scenes in which everyone in your group seems to agree that it's the best idea to send the little girl right into the most dangerous situations. I guess it can't be avoided. Overall the new perspective really changes the atmosphere of the whole game, not for better or for worse, it's just different and different enough not to feel like just a retread of the first game. In the end I enjoyed it just as much as the first season, and this being by Telltale I even got lucky and my copy didn't self-destruct.

7. NES Remix 2 ; Last year I voted for the first NES Remix and explained how well its challenges portray an actual playthrough through those games. Well, they screwed that part up this time. Now the challenges are more like tutorials that improve your skills at these games. I guess that's okay, too, but I really prefered the style of the first game. In return this time the remix challenges are a bit more creative and they added a nice Miiverse feature that lets you share replays of your best times. That's something I'll surely miss should I go back to the first game. Also the game selection is probably better for most, there are fewer games, but it doesn't have any of these early NES games everyone loves so much. Though I feel that some of the older games fit the style of this series a bit better. They also made it a bit easier compared to the first, which really is its biggest fault. You can just rush through the game without a problem and get rainbow stars easily.
They also added two extra modes, which are nice, but both are somewhat pointless, but the Championship mode fits well within the whole concept of the game.
Okay, so I mostly listed points I didn't like as much as in the first game, but then again I really liked the first game and in the end, I also really liked this one. It's a fun way to replay these old and mostly classic games in a new way and that was basically the point of it all anyway (that and advertising). Nowadays you can get them both in one package (if you're not in sucky Europe), so you don't have to decide between the two. I really hope they find a way to continue with this series, either by including other publishers or moving on to games from other game systems.

8. Donkey Kong Country Tropical Freeze ; The most beautiful game I've played this year. It's colorful, it's detailed, it just looks great. But then again this is also one of its problem. Sometimes there's so much going on that it's just too distracting for a platformer and it often makes it harder to to quickly judge which items are actually on your plane and which of them are just in the background (or foreground). Since some levels can get quite hectic, this often leads to cheap deaths. At least it's something you can adjust to on a retry. And you can retry often, this is one of the games that gives you a lot more lives than you'll ever need or even can store. It's a shame the counter only goes up to 99, since you'll probably reach that limit in the second world already and collecting lives and bananas feels a little bit more pointless after that. At least later on you'll lose quite a bit of those lives again, because later levels can be quite challenging. The difficulty is definitely a step up from the NSMB games, not brutally so, but in a comfortable way. I can't judge all of the levels and potential bonus levels, though, since this was a very late addition to the list for me, so I only just finished the game and didn't really unlock everything yet.
But what I already tried is the wonderful Time Attack mode. It even comes with leaderboards (and friend leaderboards) without forcing you to use Miiverse (hey, Mario Kart 8!) and lets you upload your replays as well as watch others. More platformers should have this feature, it's pretty nice.
Compared to NSMBU however, the multiplayer is quite boring and like Hyrule Warriors this game doesn't support the Wii Classic Controller despite supporting the WiiU Pro Controller. Really, Nintendo, why? Let me use that thing, it has all the same buttons and certainly would work better than playing this on a Wii Remote.

9. A Bird Story ; A short sorta spin-off of To The Moon that has no text whatsoever (except for the main menu). In fact some people already complained I shouldn't even count this as a game when I mentioned I wanted to include it on this list, but it's still an interactive story, so why argue over details? I took it as an experiment on how to tell a story like that and it works. The story is about a boy that one day finds a bird with a broken wing and then decides to care for it. Can't really say much more about it or else I'd give away too much of it. Let's just keep this description short in spirit of this game, though I'm sorry I had to use text for it. I liked it!

10. Raiden IV: Overkill ; Now here's a shooter that doesn't always pay attention to what I described for Crimzon Clover. First and foremost, it can be really hard sometimes to tell enemy bullets from the background, which leads to a lot of unexpected deaths. But aside from that it's a fun game with a ton of different play modes and options (each mode has seven different difficulty settings!). It definitely profits from the fact that it has been a full price game before, so you get more stuff than you usually would in a download-only title. It's pretty hard even on the normal difficulty setting though, which already seems to be easier compared to the original arcade version going by its description, or maybe I just suck.

x. Dynasty Warriors 8: Xtreme Legends Complete Edition ; I didn't get to play this as much as I would have liked before casting my vote, but even then I could see some of the improvements this has over Dynasty Warriors 7 (which I loved enough to platinum). Officers now have elemental weaknesses (or resistances) that force you to switch your weapon around from time to time, especially since the enemies will do the same and the difference between the right and the wrong weapon can be enormous, it took me a bit to realize that, which led to some frustration at the beginning, entirely my fault, of course. There's also a somewhat more interesting additional mode this time, DW7 basically had you go over a rather bland map, this one at least lets you build your base and stages have greater variety. I don't really like the imposed (short) time limit so far, but I guess I'll get used to that.
I'm playing the Vita version, though, which would have led to some deductions in a vote anyway. The frame rate can be downright awful from time to time and the audio quality is horrible. It can be quite distracting. Maybe I'll pick this up on PS4 whenever I get one.

x. Tales of Xillia 2 ; I don't think I've ever seen as much recycling (and recycling of recycling) as in this Dragon Ball spinoff. Almost all of the areas in this game are taken from its predecessor and with hardly any changes, too. Even the enemies are the same. Since the game encourages you to (re-)explore all these areas within the first two thirds of the story, it can incredibly boring. They didn't even bother to integrate this into the story somehow, they just throw this new areas at you with the comment to go and explore. And if you do, you'll see that all you'll ever really find are cats and lots of blinking stuff. The actual story is segmented off in a rather weird way, but even the areas you explore here and only new sometimes. And goddamn the story, it's so incredibly stupid, if you thought paradoxes didn't make sense, "fractured dimensions" might have a surprise for you. The skits are interesting and funny as ever, though.
Why did this still make my honorable mentions then? Well, to be honest I didn't want to put it here at first, but I still really like the battle system (even though they actively discourage you to use other characters than the main character this time) and it still has its moments from time to time. There's more to do compared to the first Xillia, much of it are simple fetch quests, though. And the character side stories, while not terribly important, are at least a nice diversion. Oh, and I really liked sending my captured cats all around the world to get items for me. That was fun!
Maybe this game would have worked better as a portable title where you're more likely to play it in shorter sessions.

My LTTP vote that doesn't count this year goes to Papers, Please! And since it doesn't count anyway I give my other one to Tearaway.
 
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1. Gods Will Be Watching ; This came out of nowhere and sunk its teeth in me like a time traveling megalodon, or something. Certainly frustrating, I fell in love with the game's atmosphere and tension. Has some fantastic pacing and storytelling as well.

2. Metal Gear Solid V: Ground Zeroes ; You may call it a glorified demo, I call it a wonderful playground littered with enough story snippets to create a cohesive whole.

3. Broken Age ; This game oozes quality through and through. Double Fine and Tim Schafer have created a fascinating, living and utterly mesmerizing world that I can't wait to get back to in act 2.

4. Jazzpunk ; Gaming comedy done right. Wedding Qake is the best 'easter egg' ever.

5. Dark Souls II ; Screw the haters. Combined with the DLC, Dark Souls II as a whole is a fantastic game, plagued by some content bloat and a few uninspired areas.

6. 80 Days ;

7. Wolfenstein: The New Order ; One of the most well directed and well told stories this year. In a Wolfenstein game. The mind boggles.

8. The Fall ; Mysterious, exciting and funny. A direct-control point and click adventure that borrows themes and atmosphere from Metroid, Portal and the Swapper. Here's hoping the continuation is just as good.

9. The Banner Saga ;

10. Threes! ;
 
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1. Dragon Age: Inquisition ; This is the Dragon Age game I didn't even realize I wanted. Yes, it's flawed. Yes, there are some fetch quests. It doesn't reinvent the RPG but, in my opinion, it's the current benchmark of everything I look for in the genre; good story, incredible characters, gorgeous universe, stunning visuals.
2. The Wolf Among Us ; Talk about a game that came out of nowhere for me. I had no past experience with the Fables series, and really I only picked it up because it was Telltale's next game. The game features one of the best introductions I've played through in a long time, and it never really goes downhill, keeping my interest high while waiting for all the episodes. Here's to hoping there's a season 2!
3. The Walking Dead: Season Two ; While not as memorable as the first season, I thoroughly enjoyed playing this new chapter in the series. Playing through the eyes of Clementine proved to be very unique and it was amazing to watch her growth as a character.
4. Metal Gear Solid V: Ground Zeroes ; All hail Kojima! This was my first real introduction into the "next-gen" universe. While the length has been discussed to death, the quality of the product here is nearly flawless. Big Boss is one of my favorite characters ever, so it was exciting to see the beginning of this chapter in his story. If Phantom Pain can replicate this on a larger scale, we have a masterpiece in the making.
5. BioShock Infinite: Burial at Sea: Episode 2 ; Ken Levine has an interesting mind, of that I'm certain. I can't really discuss this game without completely spoiling the BioShock universe, so I'll just say this; Burial at Sea was a fantastic concluding chapter to the series (please don't make a new one 2K), and one that still has me analyzing the game today.
6. The Last of Us: Left Behind ; Ellie is one of my favorite characters ever, so when I heard this DLC was going to feature her, I was very excited. Left Behind added some cool new gameplay elements that I wish were in the original game, and features some incredible character development (seriously, how good is Naughty Dog at this?)
7. Super Smash Bros. for Wii U ; I actually don't even own this game. One of my buddies has a Wii U, so I've just been playing his copy. From what I've played, this is exactly what I want in a Super Smash game; nothing too technical, just a fun brawler that can be enjoyed with some beers and some friends. Quite honestly, the perfect party game.
8. P.T. ; All hail Kojima! I don't get scared by most horror movies, games, etc. as I'm pretty numb to most of the stuff presented. P.T. not only challenged that status-quo, but tore it a new one. The presentation of this was utterly flawless.
9. Destiny ; One of the best worst games I've ever played. I have put a staggering amount of time into this game, bickering most of the way. It's flawed...heavily flawed, but for some reason it kept calling me back. That feeling after getting screwed over countless times by RNGesus only to be gifted an exotic a few matches later literally sums up my time with this game. It's flawed, it's not confident in what it is, but man, it keeps me coming back for more.
10. Call of Duty: Advanced Warfare ; I love the speed of this game along with the fact that they dismantled most of the damage Ghosts did (seriously, what a piece of garbage). The maps are fun and I would say most tend to cater to that fast gameplay. Pretty enjoyable experience when playing online with friends.

There's a TON of games from 2014 on my backlog I have yet to play (The Evil Within, Valiant Hearts, Child of Light, etc) so I'm certain this list will look different in a few months. Also, I did not include remasters (TLOU and GTAV were both exceptional however). Shoutout to the MGS series btw; over the summer I played and beat MGS + the HD collection for the first time and...wow. I'm in love with this creation and I'm disappointed I didn't play through these games earlier.
 
I haven't finished everything on my list, but as it stands, and based on what I have played, this is my list. Not everything I played this year is going on my list, hence 7 instead of 10.

7. Watch_Dogs ; A concept filled with promise, let down by shoddy execution.

Pros
- Honest to God vigilante simulator
- Visually great
- Good soundtrack
- Gunplay is good
- Great ideas

Cons

- Boring execution of concepts
- Terrible story
- Shitty hero
- Driving is eh
- Should have essentially been Person of Interest: The Game.

6. Metal Gear Solid V: Ground Zeroes ; A great taste of greatness to come.

Pros

- Great replayability
- Good visuals

Cons

- Just a taste

5. inFamous: Second Son ; Just because something is familiar, doesn't mean it's not fun as hell.

Pros

- Good story
- Good acting
- Super fun gameplay
- Great soundtrack
- Fantastic visuals
- Seattle is a great location
- Great powers

Cons

- Game systems are essentially the same
- Game template is the same
- Karma system is inconsequential. They should consider ditching it.

4. Shadow of Morder ; Game-changing systems. This is the kind of stuff the current generation should be bringing to the table.

Pros

- Fun gameplay
- Nemesis system is a game changer

Cons

- Story is a bit generic

3. Far Cry 4 ; Terrifying, exhilarating, insane, this is a living, breathing, deep world.

Pros

- Beautiful visuals
- Better story than Far Cry 3
- Pagan Min is a great bad guy
- Fantastic locale
- Shangri-La is cool
- World is really alive
- Great soundtrack
- Great controls/gunplay

Cons

- Supporting cast sucks donkey balls
- Tons and tons of sidemissions feel to me to be a bit more of a detractor.

2. Wolfenstein: The New Order ; A shooter filled with nothing but mountains of bodies, rivers of blood, and heart.

Pros

- Great story
- Great, brutal, fun gunplay
- Great acting
- Really good visuals
- Great soundtrack
- Long, varied campaign

1. Alien Isolation ; A terrifying sojourn into the heart of deep space left me terrified and made me feel alive!

Pros

- Captures the feel of Alien. Tense, scary, filled with dread.
- Great visuals. They nailed the world of Alien, all that low-tech in a high-tech age.
- The Alien is genuinely terrifying
- Great acting
- Great soundtrack
- Gameplay is just so goddamn TENSE!





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I think my taglines are sufficiently games journalistic.
 
WIP

This has said to have been by others to be a "down" year. A "disappointing" year. I don't myself think this, but there has been a few clouds obscuring new-for-2014 games for me. One, that much of my game time has been eaten up clearing out my backlog (Raidou 2, La Mulana 1), adding oldie and goodies to it (Valkyria Chronicles, Toki Tori 2), or replaying beloved games of yesteryear (Digital Devil Saga 1, TitS: First Chapter), skewing just what "2014" means for me more than any year I can think of. It's a good thing! Just that it can obscure one's mind when it comes down to charting how the year for debut titles shook out, but a good thing nonetheless.

Two, and far less positive, it was to me The Year of Games at War With Themselves. A large chunk of the titles below on this list have features or aims that simply fight another feature or aim to the detriment of the game as a whole. They could have each been truly outstanding, but had these meaningless flaws obscuring the wonderful games within.

But don't worry! This list isn't a bitter rant-fest, but do note I will toss harsh criticism at every game but the #1. Not because I hate it, but it needs to be said, and that I care and want to see them improve. Beyond #3, the games are really, really tight and it did come between "which game is less compromised?"



1. Legend of Grimrock 2 ; You know those games that come out and feel good, feel right, and play right, but they juuuuuuuuuuuuuust don't have the scope, polish, or the design in a few facets quite right to really work, but so damn enjoyable and honest and true in their aim that you like the game and wish the devs the best on the next adventure? That was Grimrock 1.

And you know that NEXT game, that takes the scope, polish, and design critiques and sends that sequel thru the roof with some of the best-thought out gaming you've experienced and an all-time classic? THAT'S Grimrock 2.

They did so much so right in this game.

A grander scale with a whole island full of smaller dungeons to explore. More puzzles. More secrets. More variety. More ambience. More choice. More monsters. More loot. More boss fights. More MORE.

It's a much more stabler adventure, with fewer bugs and those were squashed within two weeks of launch. And on top of that, Almost Human fixed the skill system with a PROPERLY simpler one. No more meaningless maxed Spellcraft bonus; everything having 5 tiers and everyone having access to every school makes for some crazy min-maxing and "sure, why not?" class ideas like Fighters who have high INT and spam magical special weapon attacks to complement 1's single example of dual tomahawkin' Mino Rogues. It's fun!



2. Divinity: Original Sin ; There's been a steady trickle of CRPGs into my library since I discovered the wonders of fair, honest download services like GoG and Steam and a litany of beloved JRPGs from designers learnéd in the hows and whys of CRPG possibility to their own heritage before that (tri-Ace, Ikahara, Megaten, Lord Miyazaki, Lord Matsuno), but this year that rivulet turned into a deluge and riding along with this wave of gaming goodness is the CRPG talk of 2014:

Divinity: Original Sin.

Larian's infamous forced march into gamestyles they had no business dabbling with and away from their strengths are gone here; the AP-utilizing combat is sublime, a beautiful toolbox of shit to play with, and constantly throws you nasty new curveballs to force your mastery of said toolbox. Excellent quest design that has you thinkin' and searchin' instead of the Honey Do list grind that most RPGs got fascinated in. Fun loot system that ain't afraid to toss you powerful but narrowing playthings to build a character towards. A classy, table-top looking art direction that is stylish and distinct, a magnificent dreamlike and daring OST by one Kirill Pokrovsky, and alot of neat dialogue between the two Guardians and major NPCs that doesn't get enough love due to its cheeky nature. Co-op play in a narrative-heavy game that pulls it off! There is so much STUFF in this game to do and earn.

There are a few problems with this gem, befitting a talented developer just now getting to stretch their legs; outside of that conversation listed above, some of it is drab and mechanical, almost as if the character themselves weren't speaking, but the writer themselves dropping that information (if that makes any sense). There are bugs that crash to desktop months in. You can also tell the KS cash didn't go far enough and got stretched thin (noticable but not necessarily bad since it means more of that sweet sweet fightin').



3. Persona Q ; Two great tastes that taste great together! What could've been an also ran fluff title thrown out till we get Etrian Odyssey V and Persona 5: Cart Racer in 2016 (put down the pitchforks, it's good for your blood pressure), PQ is better than it has any right to be.

The dungeon design is packed with great ideas for the layout, the theming, the FOE tricks, and fully realizing the "puzzle-based" methodology that EO had been migrating to since III. The high mana cost being balanced around the Boost and sub-persona system is really neat. Just the very idea that Chie has a spell she can't even cast until 53 unaided is crazy great. It even puts controls the slovenly Choose Fusion that Golden infected the series with by forcing exploiting as many weaknesses as possible vs. less defensive skills! The only real issue I have is the more restricted P4G system eventually does break wide open by stratum 4 making it less about the right Sub, teammates, and strategy and more about farming Power Spots and cashing in for skill cards and sacrifice fusion Compendium raiding.

The chibi look is usually great, as is the characterization (with Naoto, Mitsuru, Kanji, Ken, and Margaret stealing the show constantly), but they just had to do what they did to Chie, Akihiko, and Lord God what did the writers have against this character Teddie. It got to the point where I'd literally skip any time these 3 were on here (though Chie got better).

The devs also really need to stop themselves from Skyward Swording (demonstrating or having characters frame the puzzle's form in natural conversation, then have a dummy box exasperatingly explaining it in lurid detail).

Has Marie. That's a half point off on anyone's grading scale.



4. Elminage Gothic ; I honestly find this slice of stark, intentionally-retro jaunt in Lovecraftian hellholes surprisingly fun. It's still held back by an overreliance upon bad circa-1992-level UI ergonomics and I swear to god the man who manufactures doors must be the fucking Warren Buffet of the kingdom.

The class system is also one of those really neat systems that looks generic on the surface but holds a ton of nuance that just shines. "Do I go with big boom-boom offense? Perhaps 4 casters to have every spell for every event ASAP?" and all the give and take inherent in that.



5. Lords of Xulima ; If you look past the generic aspects of the start (yes, there's a rat cave that went as far as to being NAMED that, and yes your party is shockingly undergeared for a quest on this scale), you'll find a well-made, harsh, laissez-faire adventure where the team's modest, well-understood goals were met with flying colors.

Still, those battle screens. Why do they move like marionettes? Why do the rats look like something out of that episode of MST3K?

Oh well, my Bard just picked up some new songs, on to the next dungeon!



6. Tales of Xillia 2 ; Xillia 2 looks really good at the same type of places and the same type of way that X1 did last year, towns and characters look just as strong and inspired, but the zones and dungeons still look and play like grungy escapees from a nearly forgotten 2nd year PS2 game. The "reused" line often used on this game has the wrong target; it's a direct sequel, of COURSE much will carry over, but I almost never hear people pointing out the dimensional jaunts reusing areas you had recently cleaned out. It's strange.

What wasn't excusable was the grouping mechanic; most main Chapters forced a set 4-person party on you, restricting your options in a bad way from playing a favorite other than Ludger (and often put you in real danger when Elise, Leia, or Muzet ain't one of them; the bosses have a nasty habit of spamming PBAoEs when more than 2 player characters are in range meaning those PBAoE heals they gave characters is a deathtrap.)

But what really got this a higher nod in my mind then the last outing was the much darker tale; not only was this a much more robust narrative that didn't buckle under old chestnuts of saving spirits, team betrayltons, or well-intentioned extremists, it went to some real ugly places exploring fatherhood, sacrifice, the cost of heroism, and how the guilty can go unpunished and often never are.

The gameplay got a great dose of Tatsuro Udo's golden touch that X1's lacked. It flows much faster, has much more openness about movement and Link partners, and allows more controlling of the match via Weaknesses and Charge that circumvents much of the unpleasent boss fight problems it inherited from Xillia 1's Game At War With Itself legacy.

There's also this really great sense of styyyyyyyyyyyyyyle in the game. Everyone comes back dressed tastefully to the absolute nines and it's great.



7. Wildstar ; "Damned if you do, damned if you don't." Or was it "Right place, wrong time"? At any rate, Wildstar was never going to hold people in this post-player bribery, post F2P, post-MOBA world, but past the gruesome slip-ups was some incredible brilliance, almost as if they're sides of the same coin.

The combat is my vote for the best action MMO combat in the biz right now. Much less context-sensitive and open. The downside to this it's VERY tiring on the mind, like a Tales game and not the usual rotation-heavy behavior most get from MMOs. This also makes PvE more deliciously dangerous and involved, but those raid sizes...no GUILDS are really big enough to field 25, much less 40 any more regularly, week in, week out.

Great art direction, but there's a noticable lack of silhouette understanding. The world is colorful and full of neat touches thru to the end, but the road to 50 is hitched to a tale that goes far, far too close to Thou Art The Chosen One territory (a death knell for MMOs). There was a robust PvP metagame and check-and-balance system...that was completely compromised by a "first come, first served" exclusionary factor revolving around PvP gear.

And yet, I really enjoyed my time with it. Met some real nice folks you just don't run into much any more (I love the Circle function). Relying on specific others, being relied upon by these specific others. Fighting those attunement runs, visiting each others' houses, crafting for each other to avoid the scalping at the AH, just chatting as we go about business in-group. I miss that, and the W* team did a flawed but quality set of goals and scaffolding for that socializing I need in my MMO.



8. Transistor ; I really feel bad for SGG on this. Several things that worked so right on Bastion just didn't work in this one. The music was several steps down from Korb's masterwork, relying far too much on turgid 4/4 downbeats and bare arpeggios and without the excellent tone and mixing of the previous. Logan Cunningham's dulcet tones goes off-aim with him talking endlessly to a mute PC who couldn't even respond via body language most of the time due to the camera being panned very far out instead of to us in a naturally one-way conversation. The story (and this isn't the last you'll hear of this critique), is nearly severed from the gameplay, almost as if it was to another game.

That out of the way, it is a BEAUTIFUL looking and playing title. The Function system is a revolutionarily brilliant little toolbox; whoever got that idea to allow skills be modifications on other skills is a goddamn genius. It's also very beautiful, with a lovingly utilized early Art Deco motif that feels and looks like part of a real place; a Bioshock without the negative connotations to the movement.



9. Dark Souls 2 ; A fine attempt at Souls game, but it shows just how much of those games are in their execution (note: easy games also can and do fail at this too, but the stakes are lower), but it's clear they were learning as they went in this and the legacy from the lighting debacle and early taint of accesibility had still dug their claws deep into the functionality of this game, from Soul Memory to completely uncoupled lore to a number of bosses that treat the battle like a heavily structured dance-off (you strike when you're SUPPOSED to, not when you can get away with it) that negated positioning to the point of the enemies using the binocular trick against you, and those are scars that won't heal easily. They "had" to be more accessible. They "had" to make it interconnected like DS1 was. "Had" to.

Oh well, it's a good use of $60, and I hear the DLC is much better. Good on them.

X. Valkyria Chronicles ; I'm still only half-way thru this, plus I'm not personally keen on games not localized or made for 2014 getting a nod over ones that are. I'll give it up for the honesty and surprising ammount of mastery this game both was made with and demands of the player. If I was to put it in, it'd be behind PQ.
 
Jun 6, 2012
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Looking over the list of games released on platform I own, there are so many games that I have that were released in 2014, but I simply haven't got around to playing, this is something I feel pretty bad about...


1. Velocity 2X; Or better known as Muscle Memory Version 2. I'll admit that this was put on hold for Danganronpa 2, but upon returning the game everything clicked again and again. Fun story, with immaculate level design, in the end I didn't have an issue with long form teleporting, I will agree that is did slow the game down a touch, but not enough to be annoying. The inclusion of new on foot levels that also had a varying control scheme added some freshness, variety, intensity and another control scheme!! Some longer levels really tested your concentration, but never overwhelming and still placed full control with you. I will be all over Velocity 3 if/when it becomes available and I wouldn't have a problem if they were all like Level 48 onwards...

2. Danganronpa 2: Goodbye Despair; 6 Months earlier I had played the first version of this game and loved it, everything was put on hold when this came out, I did well to not be spoiled on anything and smashed through this. Like Hatsune, some of the gameplay tweaks they made were for the worse and some of the characters aren't as memorable, but the story well and truly made up for it. Without attempting to go into any detail, Chapter 5 was some of greatest scenario events in any game, with multiple twists that kept pushing the focus to different areas and finally the greatest tie-in/callbacks to resolve the case ever. Some people may not have liked the true ending, but I thought it was done very well. These 2 games are must plays.

3. Danganronpa: Trigger Happy Havoc; This was played on the back of Virtue's Last Reward, a PS+ game that I enjoyed quite alot and I had some recommendations close to release of it being similar but different. Jumped in on release and this was something that I emerged from a few weeks later with the Platinum Trophy, even the horrible after story completion minigame couldn't hold me back. The twists and turns made some good fun, with a decent cast of characters.

4. Hatsune Miku: Project DIVA F; It was a long time between drinks for a decent rhythm game and this started with the Vita demo, I got hooked something fierce! It started on making a personal goal to get certain ranks on the demo, a few days later I bought the game, a few days later I bought the DLC. Weeks later settled on getting Perfect ranks on Easy, Normal and Hard, but didn't fall into the Extreme trap, otherwise I don't think I would have played anything else for the entire year. Vocaloid music wasn't something I was into but I certainly can see it being able to produce some really catchy songs, even if I have no idea on what the lyrics are!

5. Guacamelee! Super Turbo Championship Edition; One of my games of the previous year, this time with updated content, new areas and new enemies. I felt they kinda broke the game with a new power that makes it easy to clear the screen, but the main controls were left intact. Increibly fluid and responsive, the simple and cliched story is littered with humour and charm.

6. Oddworld: New 'n' Tasty!; Loved the original back on the PSone and this is no exception. It really seems to me that this is the game they wanted to make back on the PSone, but the technology of the time couldn't allow. Initial updated controls were a challenge to get used to, but the gameplay still holds true.

7. Driveclub; I can honestly say I haven't put enough time into this game, but what I have played I have immensely enjoyed and love the replayability of challenges and simply time trials against myself. Game had teething problems, but has been patched and fixed to what it should have been. Best graphics of 2014.

8. Infamous: Second Son; Infamous continues to have solid releases, this game is no different with wonderful visuals on top of a somewhat decent story (one that I enjoyed more than Infamous 2).

9. Hatsune Miku: Project DIVA F 2nd; The only reason this isn't higher, is because of the changes they made, specifically the Linked Star Notes and to a lesser extent, double stars and "Safe" ratings on stars.

10. Valiant Hearts: The Great War; This game has a wonderful story that is something that everyone should play.
 
Jan 23, 2010
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1. Threes ; My GOTY list is pretty weird already, but if you'd have told me last year that my favourite game of the entire year would be a phone game, I wouldn't have believed you. That's not to say mobile games are inferior to bigger console games or anything, just that I tend to gravitate towards the more story focused experiences that you don't usually find on phones. But every now and then a game comes along that scratches a very specific puzzle-gamey type of itch, one where part of the enjoyment of the game is the discovery of strategy and uncovering of the layers of design hidden at the core of the game. Picross and those Sudoku puzzles are some of the other games I'd put in this category, if that helps makes sense of what I'm trying to say. But where I left those games by the wayside for one reason or another, Threes continues to be just as addictive as that first swipe. Even if you don't end a run on high score, you'll have learned something about the game that you didn't know previously, some nifty technique or strategy to help with subsequent runs. The more you learn, the smarter you feel. Problems that would have ended the game on previous runs become trivial, and the reward for the execution of this cumulated skill set - the creation of a new tile and a huge bump in score - is the most satisfying experience I've had with a game in years. It's pretty much perfectly balanced as well. The random tile selector can sometimes screw you over (as chance is wont to do) but it's never unfair; if you've just got 4 blue tiles in a row then 4 red counterparts are somewhere around the corner. Eventually you get to the point where no move can be taken for granted and you have to know what you're doing - simply swiping brainlessly towards one corner will only get you so far. It's this removal of depth that make the many, many clones measurably inferior (and makes the relative success of one clone super disappointing.) Sure the basic swiping and matching of like tiles still triggers some small dopamine response but the greater satisfaction of the later stages of the game is sacrificed in favour of ease and mechanical accessibility. And this is saying nothing about the completely adorable aesthetic, the jaunty music, the secrets that a small number of dedicated fans are still uncovering... I could sing Threes' praises for days but then that would leave little time to actually play, I just wanted to say my piece about this remarkable, elegant, free-time destroying little game.

2. The Last of Us: Left Behind ; As complete as the base Last of Us felt, this piece of DLC is the perfect compliment to the story I experienced last year. It features more of the same fantastic writing, natural dialogue, and immensely enjoyable scenes that I come to expect from Naughty Dog. The joyful and the sincere moments between the two characters juxtaposed with the ominous tinge of the inevitable created a powerful and sombre story that will remain just as memorable as the base game.

3. A Bird Story ; Another touching and lovingly crafted visual novel from Kan Gao which perfectly demonstrates why 'show' is so much more effective than 'tell.' Can't wait for whatever comes up next from Freebird.

4. P.T. ; Horror games don't usually do it for me but stripping the control to the bare essentials and focusing on building atmosphere and suspense resulted in the scariest 30 minutes I've ever had with a game. There's no clunky stealth or combat systems distracting from the atmosphere, just a lot of incredibly well executed moments of building tension. I can forgive the more mundane and obscure latter half of the game since it was also trying to serve the purpose of announcing a new project in an unusual fashion. As much as the criticism those parts rightly receive, it's the most unique way I've ever seen a game get announced and it left a far greater impression than a mere teaser or gameplay trailer would have. I don't expect the full Silent Hills game to be like this at all - there's an expectation for big AAA games like this to be more mechanically involved than P.T. is and this format can't really be sustained over an 8+ hour experience - but P.T. overwhelmingly succeeded in setting tone and presenting novel ideas. You have my interest Kojima.

5. Jazzpunk ; Criminally unknown and underappreciated, Jazzpunk uses interactive humour in a way that few games do and even fewer games do well. There's no story or even really any core gameplay to speak of, it's purely a game to make you laugh and there was rarely a moment that I wasn't.

6. D4 ; Undoubtedly and unashamedly Swery. I haven't seen much of the game but from what I have seen, I know it would be a massive shame if these were the only episodes to see the light of day.

7. The Wolf Among Us ;

8. The Fall ;

9. Velvet Sundown ;

10. Desert Golfing ;

I like me my weird games.
 
Dec 20, 2014
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1. Bayonetta 2 ; aka #ga GOTY. Perfection

If you love actual video games this game is for
you. There is no lame bullshit in this game
like fetch quests, or some weak ass Batman combat. No, you fight a big ass
dragon on a big ass skyscraper in the prologue...This game brings you back to the
age when men were men and video games were video games. Whether
you're punching God's ass into the sun, or drop kicking some other dude into
a giant dragons mouth, this game gives you every
tool you need to achieve gaming perfection. if you suck at it... sucks to be you.

2. The Evil Within ; So Tense.
3. Metal Gear V Ground Zeroes ; Way better than any other metal gear game
4. Threes ; Best mobile game ever
5. Assassins Creed Unity ; Best ass creed since 2, sucks to be you if you don't have xbone
6. Forza Horizon 2 ; Decent for a racing game
7. Dark Souls 2 ; Just because its the only other game i remember playing this year
8. Mario Kart 8 ; Why not
9. Game I ; Your thoughts on Game I.
10. Game J ; Your thoughts on Game J.

DisHonorable Mentions
x. Dragon Age whatever ; #47
x. Shadow of Mordor ; Seriously?
 
Oct 31, 2004
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1. Bayonetta 2 ; aka #ga GOTY
Yeah, definitely the fave of #ga.


If you love actual video games this game is for
you. There is no lame bullshit in this game
like fetch quests, or some weak ass Batman combat. No, you fight a big ass
dragon on a big ass skyscraper in the prologue...This game brings you back to the
age when men were men and video games were video games. Whether
you're punching God's ass into the sun, or drop kicking some other dude into
a giant dragons mouth, this game gives you every
tool you need to achieve gaming perfection. if you suck at it... sucks to be you.
Subtle beauty.
 
Jun 26, 2006
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1. Bayonetta 2 ; I really don’t understand how this game is being ignored by media outlets for GOTY. This game is basically the definition of what is a video game. Over the top everything, yet incredibly fun.
2. Super Smash Bros. for Wii U ; I’m addicted to amiibo’s and I love to see them fight, it’s constant amiibo fights in the background.
3. Donkey Kong Country: Tropical Freeze ; Best music and artistic elements in a game released last year, and undeservedly overlooked. Arguably the best 2D platformer of all time, and this comes from Retro, who at this point could make anything and I’d be happy.
4. Mario Kart 8 ; Cows in HD man, those adorable cows.
5. Captain Toad: Treasure Tracker ; Best animations in a game last year, and award for cuteness overload. And award for getting your partner to cuddle next to you. Toad bitches.
6. Middle-earth: Shadow of Mordor ; Sleeper hit of the year?
7. Shovel Knight ; I found the controls a little annoying in parts, and some levels where boring, but overall a great game.
8 Destiny ; Yes the story is below par and it has many faults, but I became so addicted to this game. I guess this was because I found the game fun? I don’t know what the correct term would be. Maybe replayability (lol) but Bungie knows the secret.
9. Pokemon Alpha Sapphire ; Loved the crazy story and all the enhancements from X&Y. I really don’t mind all the water.
10. Infamous: Second Son ; This is an example of a good game, and that’s about it. I wanted to be WNO here but I still need to finish that game.

Unlike last year, I haven't had that much time to play games like I wanted to. But this quick list will do.
 
Feb 20, 2013
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Wisconsin
1. Divinity: Original Sin
2. Transistor
3. South Park: Stick of Truth
4. Never Alone
5. Wolfenstein: The New Order
6. The Talos Principle
7. Shovel Knight
8. Bravely Default
9. Don't Starve Together (technically early access)
10. Kentucky Route Zero - Act 3
 
Apr 5, 2006
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x. Guilty Gear XX Accent Core Plus R ; Finally after waiting so long for the US PSN release, I was satisfied for the most part. It's definitely still my favorite style of fighting games, with my favorite overall roster, particularly my favorite character ever in fighting games. The only reason it's not much higher (and it would be) is because it's lacking in the online component.

x. Hatsune Miku Project Diva F 2nd ; Was definitely a fan of the game last year, and this was definitely a fun game in its own right. However, I am not as enamored by the song selection as I was with the first game. However, I still like the simulation aspects, and it's great that I can finally have this on the go.

10. Danganronpa Trigger Happy Havoc ; What a roller coaster this was. The hope and despair was real. I expected this to be more by the books in terms of its twists, but I was definitely thrown for quite a loop. Certainly more outlandish than I thought but toned down compared to its successor (which does not make my list). It had the right atmosphere, characters, and suspense that keeps a game like this so strong. The characters weren't amazing, but I definitely got attached to quite a few, so seeing everything unfold only hurt that much more. One thing I particularly liked about this over Goodbye Despair, was that it left a tasteful amount of mystery and intrigue in, even by the end. In every chapter and by the end of the game, I was excited to learn more and more about this crazy situation, and the world and certain characters. I am certainly excited for the 3rd game, but moreso on the mysteries and strengths of Trigger Happy Havoc than the answers of Goodbye Despair.

9. Theatrhythm Final Fantasy Curtain Call ; This is quite possibly the game that brought the most tears down my eyes in quite some time. This was an absolute nostalgiagasm that I cannot contain sometimes. Playing through this game brought back memories of why I used to love this franchise so much, and may even potentially sway me into picking up Final Fantasy XV. It's not just the music (though it's mostly the music), but the setting and characters in conjunction with the music. It really makes me feel like I am experiencing those old games again, and in turn, led me to purchasing the original versions of some of them. This was definitely my rhythm game of choice this year (sorry Project Diva F 2nd).

8. Mario Kart 8 ; I always play racing games, and have some fun for a bit, but it's rare for one to hook for too long. Prior to this, the only racing game that managed to hold my attention for so long was Mario Kart Double Dash, and prior to that was Crash Team Racing. There's something just so great about this game, that I can't quite put my finger on. Maybe it's the tracks, which are all fantastic, especially the newer DLC stages (Excitebike Arena being my all time favorite). Maybe it's the music, with a fantastic jazzy tune that I end up humming in my head. Maybe it's the fanservice in general, which never really hit me to quite this degree in prior Mario Karts. Regardless of what it was, this is now far and away my favorite racing game ever.

7. Hyrule Warriors ; Though I only play them sparingly, I am certainly a fan of the Warriors style games. My love for The Legend of Zelda is also relatively recent, compared to many, and while my favorite game isn't represented in this, it was still quite a thrill seeing everyone come together. The characters are so rich and diverse that it was an absolute blast getting through the main campaign, even when forced to switch to different characters. While I certainly wouldn't call the story strong, I personally really liked it. It was a simple premise which I find hilarious, and I'm so glad this is the kind of game which was able to tell that story.

6. Persona 4 Arena Ultimax ; A glorious return to a great fighter from a few years back. I feel it really addressed a lot of the faults of the first game. Deviating from setplay in general allows the general cast to come out more and makes matches in general more fun. The new characters were a fantastic addition, and there were a bunch this time time around! The lobby system is quite possibly my favorite addition to fighting games in quite some time. The gameplay is similar to Persona 4 Arena, so there's not really much else to mention in that regard, but it's still a winning formula. Again, with setplay being downplayed allowed for more options overall, so it really made this a blast.

5. Donkey Kong Country Tropical Freeze ; I think this outdoes its predecessor in almost every way. The levels feel so much better, the new characters bring out so many new ways to play, everything looks fantastic, and of course the music knocks it out of the park. There is absolutely no contest, 100 times out of 100, I will not contest that this is the greatest soundtrack of the year. Probably my favorite soundtrack since Super Mario Galaxy 2. Listening to this game is just so wonderful, and was definitely its strongest point. The music just brought infused so much life into the levels, that no other game can match. Bravo David Wise, bravo.

4. Kirby Triple Deluxe ; Certainly not the most typical choice for platformer of the year, but Kirby Triple Deluxe hit all the right points with me. The levels were so finely tuned and brimming with charm and wonder. Quite possibly the best levels among any Kirby game to date. The new powerups, particularly Hypernova, really changed the game in a way that Super Abilities really couldn't do. The more puzzley aspect of the Hypernova really made those levels a blast, despite the general simplicity. The extra modes were also really fun, not atypical of a Kirby game. But I feel Kirby Fighters and DeDeDe's Drum Tour exhibited a level of polish greater than other modes from Kirby games of past. DeDeDetour was also a fantastic Extra Mode, which I also feel brought a greater degree of variation and polish than prior Extra Modes. Also, the Keychains are definitely my favorite achievement system. Cuteness overload!

3. Bravely Default ; I wanted this game since it was revealed, and my desires were satiated. This was a fantastic experience with a great take on the traditional battle system, as well as an interesting story in its own right. While some of the middle parts were definitely too recycled, it definitely made for quite a unique experience, which ties in well to the themes and story. The characters were also really fun. The main cast wasn't the strongest, but the side characters and villains really delivered. The class system of this is quite possibly my favorite among any "Final Fantasy". Great nods to the series of old, while being its own thing. The music was definitely also fantastic in its own regard. If it weren't for David Wise's orgasmic compositions, this would likely take the crown for Best Soundtrack.

2. Pokemon Alpha Sapphire ; Pokemon's always been a winning formula for me (surprise). I feel this really took the strengths of Pokemon Y and built well upon it, to be its own thing. Having never really played the original game, this was a very fresh experience for me. Hearing of the dreaded stories of "too much water", I expected the worst, but, while I didn't get the best, I still got a great adventure. I never felt like it dragged, and I was constantly treated to fun situations. However, one thing that this game does falter in is battle variety. Many opponent teams, be it in Gyms or Team Aqua encounters, were severely lacking. Team Aqua only had like 5 or 6 Pokemon that I would constantly face. Overall variety (in terms of wild Pokemon) wasn't really that bad, but those opponent teams were just so bleh. I love the addition of Secret Bases. That has become my end goal for this game, to build my Gym, essentially, and it really gives me strong motivation to return and do all I can. Soaring in the sky is so great. While flying would save me so much time, it's just so much fun (with a great track) to ride Mega Latias. Easily my favorite "airship" take in any RPG yet. I also loved Episode Delta. Lots of fun lore that had tons of fanservice (it's really a hoot if you're a fan of the franchise). Typical of Pokemon games, the soundtrack delivered, with lots of fun takes on the more "traditional" themes and great new (to me) tracks. And of course, Cosplay Pikachu was fantastic. I only wish she wasn't a unique Pokemon, as it really would've been a great addition in the competitive space (of course I'll still use her). I have never felt more motivated to complete my Pokedex. Avatar quote.

1. Persona Q Shadow of the Labyrinth ; This was quite a shocker; I did not expect this to be the fantastic experience that it was. I'm not necessarily the biggest fan of Persona games, but I've always loved the characters; in Persona 4's case, even before I played the game (through stuff like hiimdaisy's comics and memes and whatnot, as well as Persona 4 Arena). I only recently finished Persona 4 Golden (never played Persona 4), and last played Persona 3 quite some time ago (with foggy memories, beyond the main events). My only Etrian Odyssey game was Etrian Odyssey Untold The Millennium Girl from 2013. I had that in my honorable mentions for that year, as I found the gameplay to be fun, but hadn't quite plunged into it. Unfortunately, it was too much for me. FOEs in there left me scarred, and I'd heard they were toned down! Fortunately, this takes it down even more from there, and hits just the right spot for me. I was finally able to experience that great gameplay, at my own pace. And let me tell you, it was fantastic. These are quite possibly some of the best dungeons I have ever traversed. In particular, that final dungeon is just incredible; it may be my favorite dungeon ever. Of course, as I said, I've always loved the Persona 3 and 4 characters, and this was just fanservice to the max. I think sometimes they really cranked it up too much on some characters (Chie, Teddie, and especially Akihiko), but by the end, I feel they are redeemed to at least some degree. By the end, I also found myself with the new characters as well, Zen in particular. And of course, everything just looks wonderful. This is probably my "best looking" game of the year, cause the artstyle was just so fantastic. The characters just looked amazing, I prefer this forms of the characters over their typical looks! I also normally can't stand the animated cutscenes, but they were just great here. Ken and Koromaru were way too cute. The looks of the characters really also accentuated the characters attitudes, like Yukiko's deadpan deliveries, Chie's eagerness, Elizabeth's quirkiness, Theodore's reluctance, and so on. And of course, the music was also great. While I don't feel it's quite in the same league as Bravely Default or Pokemon Alpha Sapphire (and again, nothing touches Donkey Kong Country Tropical Freeze), it established its own identify well, while also evoking the spirit of other games (especially the final dungeon). Overall, a fantastic experience the whole way through. And I only technically played "half" (Persona 3 side). I am definitely looking forward to playing the other side (Persona 4), even if it does take another 100 hours.

Overall, I felt this year was great. Not really feeling the "weak year" sentiment so many others share, as there were tons of great games.
Unfortunately there were a bunch of games that I just did not play at all (Bayonetta and Professor Layton vs Phoenix Wright Ace Attorney being the biggest), or play enough (sadly Professor Layton & The Azran Legacies and Captain Toad Treasure Tracker being among them) to properly list.
This was definitely the year of fanservice though. So many games were built upon that, or called on it to great degrees.
 

Raging Spaniard

If they are Dutch, upright and breathing they are more racist than your favorite player
Mar 26, 2007
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www.raging-spaniard.com
1. Super Smash Bros. for Wii U ; Wow. Incredible amount of content. Theres so much here that Ubisoft would be charging you DLC for 5+ years. Very balanced game, gorgeous art, fantastic music, 8 player Smash alone is my favorite thing this year.

2. Dark Souls II ; The kind of game that not only demands your attention, but it sucks everyone in. This dominated my life and the life of my peers for a good two months. Level design, atmosphere, gameplay improvements ... its not as good as Dark Souls 1, sure, but ... what is?

3. Captain Toad: Treasure Tracker ; This is exactly the type of game we havent had since the 90s. A big developer putting their best people on something so different that you would never get it approved at a major studio. On top of that, they gave it a level of polish and ingeniuty that puts other developers to shame.

4. Bravely Default ; What if the young, hungry devs at Square made their own Final Fantasy? This game is brilliant, forward thinking, gorgeous, fun ... it even takes a few big risks with the story and pacing. I had great hopes for this and they were fulfilled.

5. Bayonetta 2 ; Bayonetta herself is probably the best rendition of any character in all of videogames. Her animations bring her to life in such a way that its almost impossible for people not to notice, stop what theyre doing, and gush about how incredible it is.

6. P.T. ; This has redefined horror experiences for me. I dont play these kinds of games and as a matter of fact we couch co-op'ed this game ... and that was great. I love how it was introduced, I loved the internet sensation around it and I cannot wait to see what comes next.

7. Mario Kart 8 ; Not only a return to form, but really executed the best things about Mario Kart. Much more balanced items, great online and art that rivaled some of the nextgen games on the market (which, outside of Double Dash, barely ever happens with Mario Kart)

8. Pro Evolution Soccer 2015 ; Im probably the only guy with this game in the list, but its warranted. The move to the Fox Engine on PS4 has crowned a new king of soccer games. really nice, tight physics systems that make each character feel realistic and nimble. Really excellent formation choices that allow you to adapt to any situation in a very fluid way. The best soccer game Ive played in a very, very long time.

9. Fantasy Life ; A real surprise, I expected nothing from this game and instead I got a very cool mix of Zelda, Animal Crossing and Final Fantasy. The writing alone elevates this game to a must play

10. Nidhogg ; This game has been making the rounds for years, so its a little unfair to put it here buuuut this was my first time playing it. Fantastic action, really fresh new ideas and a real crowd pleaser. I really appreciate new types of combat and a really interesting choice of art style that makes it feel new and retro at the same time.

Honorable Mentions
x. This War of Mine ; Sad Sims in wartime. Imaginative, great art, great pacing and the kind of build your own narrative game I can get behind
x. Hearthstone: Heroes of Warcraft ; Played it for much longer I thought I would. Not my kind of game at all, but it needs to be recognized
x. Destiny ; Amidst all the bad decisions surrounding the metagame and the story, the shooting segments are strong enough to make it memorable
 
Dec 5, 2011
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1. Danganronpa 2: Goodbye Despair ; The first game is great, it's on my list too, but DR2 blows it out of the water. It's great all the way through, and the last couple chapters are really mindblowing.
2. Persona Q: Shadow of the Labyrinth ; Still not done with this game, but I've played enough to include it, it's really fantastic. Already a big fan of Persona 3 and 4, it's solid dungeon crawling RPG goodness with some of the best characters/writing in the business.
3. Super Smash Bros. for Wii U ; As good as ever with friends. Bonus points because Mega Man is actually fun to play as!
4. Danganronpa: Trigger Happy Havoc ; Came out of nowhere for me. Great premise, great atmosphere, good characters and story.
5. InFAMOUS: Second Son ; Definitely one of the best looking games I've ever played, and it was a lot of fun. Really the only downsides are that it's relatively short on content and the story doesn't change much on the good/evil paths.
6. Persona 4 Arena Ultimax ; Of all the games that came out this year, this is probably the one I've spent the most time with. I'm typically not a fighting game guy but something about the previous P4A and this one grabbed me. It's a ton of fun, and also makes me more mad than any game ever. Broke a controller for the first time because of this game
7. Metal Gear Solid V: Ground Zeroes ; Love almost everything about this game. Think it has the best core gameplay in the MGS series. Only reason it isn't higher is because it's so short.
But it is most definitely NOT a demo
8. Middle-earth: Shadow of Mordor ; This is a weird one. I agree with a lot of complaints about this game, but still had a lot of fun playing it. Mowing down an army of orcs and becoming super overpowered was really satisfying, and it's the most fun I've had in an open world in a while. I actually wanted to run around and do everything, partially because it wasn't over-stuffed where completing everything seemed impossible
9. Freedom Wars ; REALLY didn't expect anything out of this one. I have little to no experience with MonHun type games, and in general they don't really seem like my thing. But the premise in this game is so interesting (even if the actual story isn't that great), and the gameplay is surprisingly fun, I really dug this game. Very satisfying spider-man'ing up to a giant robot monster and sawing off it's arm to collect parts to build and upgrade weapons. Plus the character customization was pretty nice!
10. MLB 14: The Show ; Still the best sports game in the biz

Honorable Mentions
x. Madden 15 ; Best Madden in years, for sure. Still has plenty of legacy issues, but it's probably the game I've played the most in the last couple months. Shoutout to the great "Casual" Gaf PS4 league


I really wish I could have voted for Bayonetta 2, there's little doubt in my mind it's really good, but I haven't played it yet :(

Other games I haven't played, or haven't played enough of, that could have made the list:
Assassin's Creed Unity
Hyrule Warriors
Pokemon Alpha Sapphire
Professor Layton vs Phoenix Wright
Dragon Age: Inquisition
 
Dec 31, 2005
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1. Divinity: Original Sin ; I feel a little uneasy putting a game that I haven't finished as my top game of the year, but this game has shown me enough quality in the portion I have finished that I feel it manages to take the top slot among a weak group. It's a rare RPG where every battle is consequential, and the strategic elements of combat are exceptional. The story and quest structure are far from perfect, but it does enough to top this list nonetheless.

2: The Banner Saga ; A curious blend of tactical combat and grueling story-based decision-making with an extra helping of style, marred by a completely anti-climactic ending. This is also the only title on my list without a colon in its name.

3. Shadowrun: Dragonfall ; A worthy follow-up to Shadowrun Returns. It doesn't stray far from the formula of the last game, but neither installment wore out their welcome. Being a game without garbage filler content is worthy of praise in the modern gaming landscape.

4: Donkey Kong Country: Tropical Freeze ; Another solid DK title from Retro, which shares many of the same strengths and weaknesses. There are some serious cracks in the Nintendo platformer formula which could use filling, but they still manage to put together excellent packages.

5: The Binding of Isaac: Rebirth ; In many ways, it's just an incremental update to the Binding of Isaac, but even so, that's just barely good enough to squeak onto this list.


And that's it. Nothing else I played this year was worthy of getting a vote.
 
Oct 30, 2013
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1. Driveclub ; Its the most fun I have ever had with a racer. It's gorgeous and handles like a dream. The challenges make for endless reasons to turn it back on. I can't believe how much fun it is to battle for a high score in a drift challenge with only a few turns in it over a few days against a bunch of friends. The MP is also a blast. Once private lobbies come its going to be even harder to put it down. I can't finish my other games because I keep going back to Driveclub. I never thought I would see the day a racing game was my GOTY.
 
Aug 26, 2004
10,842
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www3.telus.net
1. Dragon Age: Inquisition ; beautiful game with a great 'War Effort' plot, action RPG combat with influence from FF XII's combat, Suikoden's castles, and FF Tactics Propositions.
2. Driveclub ; most charming and soulful racing game I've played in over a decade... such polished cars, tracks, and menus.
3. Shadowrun Returns: Dragonfall ; an awesome run... probably the best 20 hours all year. but the other games I put 100s of hours into
 
Oct 12, 2013
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1. Sunset Overdrive ; I was already a huge fan of Insomniac's previous work so this game was already on my radar from the get go, but I wasn't prepared for how amazing this game would turn out to be. Just pure gaming bliss. Non stop action, nothing feels like filler, love the fact that it forces you to keep moving, breaks up the monotony of cover shooting third person games are known for.

2. Forza Horizon 2 ; This one surprised me because I'm more of a track racer fan, open world racers rarely keep me interested. But something about this game just had me hooked. The superb physics I think are the biggest plus about this game, simcade perfection.

3. Infamous Second Son ; The graphics in this game just made my jaw hit the floor. Astoundingly beautiful game. The different options in powers compared to the first 2 games really added some nice variety to this one.

4. Driveclub ; Speaking of amazing graphics, this is the one to beat. Very satisfying driving physics and an addictive tour mode.

5. Destiny ; I know this one got a lot of hate for perceived missing content but what was there was high quality. Great fun with friends.

6. Titanfall ; Another game that launched light on content, but the gameplay was so addictive it didn't matter.

7. Alien Isolation ; Such a tense game oozing atmosphere.

8. Far Cry 4 ; Haven't quite finished this yet, but the characters and story in this are amazing. Kyrat is gorgeous as well.

9. Diablo 3 The Reaper of Souls ; Addictive Diablo goodness. Awesome in co-op.

10. Mario Kart 8 ; Super polished and so much fun.
 
Dec 14, 2008
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Wish I had more time to flesh this out- hopefully I'll get back to it this weekend.

1. Bayonetta 2 ; Not just a game of the year, but certainly one of the games of the generation. If we could have a single title take up more than one spot, this would probably be 1-8 for me. If you want to know what makes this such a great videogame, look no further.

2. Shovel Knight ; Shovel Knight doesn't just harken back to the days of 8-bit platform adventure games, it lives it. Where other indy developers and kickstarters have attempted to accede the retro platformer throne by simply aping NES visuals and throwing in some memes, Shovel Knight throroughly understands what made these games great, and executes on it better than anything since Mega Man 9.

3. Super Smash Bros for Wii U ; For me, a slightly disappointing Smash Bros., but even a slightly disappointing Smash Bros is still easily in the top games of the year. If the roster was a little more interesting, the single player a little more substantial, and Lucas was a little less cut, this game would be a spot or two higher.

4. Donkey Kong Tropical Freeze ; DKC is a series that has always been garbage. This is truthfact. Leave it to Retro to refine a franchise into a 10/10 game that's wholly new, while keeping all of the essential elements that made it so beloved.

5. Theatrhythm Final Fantasy: Curtain Call ; I'm a complete sucker for rhythm games, but only a marginal sucker for final fantasy. The amount of content here is staggering, and grinding for loot never actually feels like you're grinding, as you're always improving your performance on songs. Great game in a year that didn't see any other standout rhythm titles.

6. Captain Toad Treasure Tracker ; Like many, I loved the Captain Toad sections in Super Mario 3D world, and half-heartedly mused "Wouldn't an entire game built on this be awesome? Maybe someday." Someday came much sooner than I was expecting, and yes, 2013 leroidys, it is awesome.

7. Bayonetta ; ... it's Bayonetta on Wii U with Nintendo stuff.

8. Mario Kart 8 ; Mario Kart has been around for a while. Eight games now, in fact. While this is more of an iterative improvement gameplay wise, it is an absolute stunner on the Wii U, and though the base game wasn't light on content (IMO), the fantastic DLC really pushes it over the top.

9. Ace Attorney Trilogy ; A series I've been hearing is a must play for the better part of a decade, I finally tucked into it and found out what I've been missing all this time- mainly 2004 1337 speak.

10. Strider ; This game really flew under the radar on release, which is a shame. The art direction is a little bland (which is odd, considering they got the original artist on board for this one), but the combat is awesome and the game never lets up. Running while slicing in 8 directions and dodge scores of enemies feels amazing, but required a slight learning curve many weren't willing to overcome. If you have any interest in this game or actiony metroidvanias, I highly encourage you to pick this up.
 
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