As with last year, you can listen to me dictate my list with, this time Scott and Nabeshin, or you can read my list below, with a little prologue, if you so desire.
Or, as always:
So we’ve finally arrived in 2015, and I can say goodbye to the terrible year that 2014 has been for me. I know that’s weird to say, since a lot of cool stuff happened in 2014, but overall, it was one of the most trying years of my life, on several levels. Going back to juggling school and being forced to take a semester off before that was already very hard on me, and my sanity. A lot of things happened with me and my family that are better left unsaid, and haven’t even been resolved entirely. Dealing with my depression on a daily basis has gotten to be a recurring trial and makes every day a new stress in a lot of ways.
But past that, I think I’ve learned a lot about myself this past year. Patrick Klepek put it really well in his goodbye letter to Giantbomb, and I don’t mean to steal his words, but as someone who has been a huge influence on my life, I can’t deny how relevant they are to me. I grew up on a lot of personal levels this past year. I realized how much I care about social issues, and how they affect the video games industry. I watched women I respect get terrorized on Twitter, and I realized I didn’t want to silently abide that garbage. I’ve started speaking up and speaking out, and found a resurgence in myself through that. I still have so much to learn in this regard, but finding how much I care about these things in myself has been a life-changing experience for me. It’s something I plan on putting to work in 2015.
That being said, before I get to my list, I do want to mention the good parts of 2014. The podcast I started with my friends turned four years old, and we recorded our 200th Episode. I started actually pursuing writing in a very serious way, and though I haven’t found any success yet, I’ve learned a great deal, and have become a much better writer since the beginning of this year (I’d like to think so, at least). For that, I would like to thank Nathan Meunier, both for his great book UUDDLW, and for taking the time to respond to my emails.
I’ve also been playing Zelda Games on YouTube for no particular reason, but it’s opened me up to a pretty strong passion for doing Let’s Play-style content, as well as video content in general. I thank the Game Grumps, something I really discovered this year and can’t stop talking about, for this as well. Seriously you should check them out, they’re awesome.
This has been a relatively slow year for games, but here are 10 that I think are pretty awesome.
HONORABLE MENTIONS: Tales of Xillia 2, Sunset Overdrive, Smash Bros. for Wii U
Regardless of the fact I bought an Xbox One for this game, Titanfall is absolutely excellent. Sure, it’s thin on content, and maybe its complete lack of single player is a huge turn off. That being said: holy shit is Titanfall fun to play.
Jumping around and shooting dudes, whether they be makeshift-creeps or actual people, is just so much fun. Flying up walls, running along them, throwing C4 around, and blowing the world to smithereens while never stopping in the process is endlessly satisfying in a way that I just haven’t experience in a FPS before. Maybe this year’s Call of Duty did take some cues from Titanfall, or maybe it did it better, but Titanfall got there first. Rotating between a swift killing machine and a big, hulking one is just something no other game has captured quite like Titanfall.
I was sure that I was done with Mario Kart. I hated Mario Kart DS, the one that was apparently some hot stuff, and MK7 was doing no favors for me. Double Dash was where it was at, and I still don’t think anything will capture the magic of that gimmick again, but man, Mario Kart 8 is a goddamn video game. It has maybe my favorite soundtrack of the year, and it’s jazzy tones just complement some of the best kart racing you could ever find.
It looks great, runs silky smooth, and is absurdly fun. The tweaks with the items to make the balance where it needs to be, by giving you something that can stop a blue shell, literally a game-changer, just gives MK8 the push it needed to shoot to the top of the Mario-Karting charts. Not only that, but the online works flawlessly in my experience, and was actually super easy and fun to play with friends. Oh, and they put out some great DLC for it, which is something I never thought I’d say about a Nintendo game. It’s rejuvenated my hope for Mario Kart, Nintendo online functionality, and potential friend-ruining games alike.
They sure fucked up that Battle Mode, though.
This was weirdly the game I latched onto very hard after seeing its first showing at Nintendo’s E3 press conference, and I was not disappointed. I’ll be honest, I saw this game almost immediately after watching Sword Art Online (episodes 11, 12 & 13 are actually the best episodes) and seeing this game generated some weird in-game fantasy of creating a second, awesome Fantasy Life.
Weirdly enough, it didn’t disappoint really. You can be a tailor, a blacksmith, or just run around and kill things in several different ways. None of these things are the real draw though, I think. Fantasy Life just charmed the hell out of me. It’s got a cute art style and even more adorable characters that are just quirky, slightly self-aware, and “totes adorbs”. It’s all balanced out, and it works in service of the charm-factor to a huge degree. Playing this just puts a smile on my face.
For a time, this was my Game of the Year. I played through the whole thing on video, so you can see my ups and downs with the game if you’d so like to.
I really love Dark Souls, the original, and I think the sequel improves mechanical but just doesn’t hit the magic of the world that came before it. But let’s focus on the positive. The game is epic, and super expansive. The world is huge and I had a ton of fun stumbling into it’s odd nooks and crannies. Playing it just after release let me summon tons of people into my world, and also get summoned a ton myself. I even dabbled in PvP, something I usually avoid (so as to keep my sanity).
The monsters were terrifying, the levels monumental, and the bosses on the scale of epic fantasy. I don’t think it was just boss-rush the video game, which seems to be a sentiment of its criticism out there. I think it’s a video game with a lot of bosses, where some of them are just stellar, and most of them are goddamn terrifying.
Honestly, this should probably be higher on my list. It should probably be my Game of the Year. Actually, Persona 4 Golden should be my Game of the Year every year until something better comes out, which may be never.
Anyway, my MP on Persona Q sums up how I feel about it pretty well, actually. This is a really weird game, and while it may not seem like a Persona game, it definitely is. It’s actually more traditional Persona, á la Persona 1 or 2. The combat is sharp, and much harder than P4G’s was, which isn’t necessarily a bad thing. I found myself stuck before I had all of the characters, but since then it’s been a breeze (yet still challenging). Oh, and did I mention how cute chibi Rise is? She’s pretty adorable. So is Koromaru. Good lord. This game is really cute, and they have things in there that are like social links, and they make me smile. A lot.
If you’ve play Persona 3 (FES) and Persona 4 (Golden) than you have no excuse not to play this.
“P.T. isn’t a game” — “your list sucks, PT isn’t real” — “it’s a proof of concept”
Shut up. P.T. is about as real as video games get. As Jon Anderson put it, if this was a standalone indie game, it’d be praised beyond belief as one of the best games of the year.
So here I am, praising it as one of the best games of the year.
Horror is a genre I didn’t have any affection for until this year. Playing P.T. kind of changed my perspective on the genre as a whole. I played it through four or five times with different groups of people. I’d let them wander through it and then solve the final puzzle for them, which, admittedly, does kind of suck. Regardless, every one of P.T.’s parts before that is excellent. Its mysterious atmosphere, the subtle story it tells throughout, all of the implications of its various visuals. Dammit, I already wrote something on P.T. that you should read.
If this game evoked anything in me, it was the incessant need to talk about it with absolutely everyone I could find, and if they hadn’t played it, it was an experience I jumped at the chance to share with them. The marketing worked, Konami.
Another series I have talked endlessly about with the other writers of this site. The Wolf Among Us is very much Telltale at their best. They knocked it out of the park here, with only one episode below a high standard.
Telltale has proven that they can soil a good thing, and even though The Walking Dead Season 2 didn’t deliver, this other direction they took gives me hope that they can still do adventure games right. Bigby is just so damn awesome and compelling. Standing in his shoes is simultaneously super fun and very stressful. It’s not easy being the big bad wolf, but the payoff of intrigue, noir, and kicking the faces in of your least favorite storybook characters never got old.
And man, that ending. It was just excellent.
If Call of Duty is a murder-simulator, than this orc-murdering simulator video game is awesome. Really, really awesome. I cut off maybe 200 orc/uruk/whatever heads.
I love me some Lord of the Rings lore, and learning about Celebrimbor was awesome. Past that, everything was fine. I wouldn’t call the story here terrible, but—wait, who cares? Let me tell you about this uruk I killed.
His name was Baghead the Scoundrel (or something of that ilk). I burned his face off, and he really hated me for that. He thought he was sneaky, because every time I killed him, he’d actually not die, slink away in shame, and then come back with a bigger orc posse for me to murderize. I chased him for three hours across the map. He was such a dick about everything too. I’ve got pretty thick skin, but calling me “man-filth” is kind of generalizing and stereotyping, don’t you think?
Anyway, I cut off his head just before he made warchief. Oh he was pissed. It was awesome.
Some people may call shenanigans on me for this, since these are technically two games, but whatever. It’s my list, so I guess deal with it.
When I played the initial Danganronpa, I was completely useless as a human for about four or five days. I’d play it for 15 hours or so, sleep for maybe six hours, roll over and grab my Vita, and then keep going. It was disgusting. I was disgusting. Man, the reveals at the end of every chapter just drove me insane though! I had to know! You don’t understand!
The twists, the turns… It was a visual novel done in a way I had never really experienced before, and I adored it. The characters, the self-awareness, and of course Monokuma. All of it was top notch.
The second game, though not as strong as the first I’d say, is also addictive and fascinating in a totally new way. It gives you a kind of rival, trying to foil you or slow you down at just about every turn. I hated the guy by the end, and it pays off in a huge way that I don’t think anyone expected. In fact, just about everything that happens at the end of Danganronpa 2 is unexpected and out of left field. Actually, everything in both of these games is insane, and bears no actual logic.
The twist is, we all are Monokuma.
Yeah, when it came down to it, it was actually really easy to figure out what I thought was the best game that came out in 2014.
Shovel Knight plays great, looks great, sounds great, and has an incredibly satisfying ending that just blew me away in about 1000 different ways. I can’t even begin to explain why this game, as a collection of its parts, ended up as good as it did. If I had to boil it down, I’d say it’s a combination of some of the tightest gameplay I have ever experienced and a code that makes your name Butt Butt.
Butt really, Shovel Knight is that game you remember playing from your childhood. Shovel Knight plays as well as you remember those games playing, but here’s the trick: it actually plays as good as those memories felt. In fact, I’d say it plays better, because maybe some of those games don’t play as well as you may remember (except Mario 3, that’s still the best).
Shovel Knight is simultaneously several incredible parts that stand so well on their own and an amalgamation of all of those parts and I can’t begin to explain to you why it’s so goddamn good. Just go play it. If you’ve never played an old-school platformer like this before, you’re in for a lesson on why they ruled the roost way back when.