In the dead-heat of the summer (or ice of the winter, depending on where you are), we find ourselves halfway through 2014, the first full year of “next-gen” gaming. Our PS4s and Xbox Ones have had their time to settle and gather some dust, and we are already six months closer to 2015.
Sure, just about every game ever is getting delayed until early, or sometime next year, but we still have had some stellar entries to our gaming collections in these first few months. It’s easy to forget those gems that stole our hearts from January or March, so here at Irrational Passions, the writing team has come together to discuss our “Half-Year Game of the Year,” or the game that is in our top spot right now, before the “gaming season” really picks up.
Here are mine and the writers’ current top-spot holders, with some runner-ups thrown in there as well.
It feels a little weird saying that my favorite game from 2014 so far is pretty much an NES game, but at the same time: it’s damn good.
Shovel Knight makes no bones about what it actually is: an 8-bit classic looked at through the scope of modern game design. It does that beautifully well. It embraces its own structure and style with a skip in its step. It never lets you forget that it loves being what it is and in a world where grunty bald white men shoot guns and talk in gravelly voices, Shovel Knight is something super uplifting.
When climbing through the treacherous levels, mastering the expert pogo-jumps, and digging into the creative bosses, you can’t help but feel an innate satisfaction. The game plays and feels so damn good that the moments of triumph feel like legitimate triumph, like clearing the final area of Mario World, or beating the final boss in Zelda II. They just sing to the aspirations of gamers, and even though the game isn’t complicated, it finds new ways to challenge you that may take you by surprise.
The game wraps up with a surprisingly poignant and emotional story. Very simple, but very well executed. Shovel Knight just delivers, and embodies what a good game of days past can still deliver today. It’s a love letter to your inner child, still hanging out and playing his/her NES.
Runner Up: The Wolf Among Us
Infamous: Second Son
Perhaps I jumped the gun this generation, but I couldn’t pass up the chance to get a PS4 for $200. Though my time has been very limited and I haven’t been playing as much as I would like to this year, one game stands out undoubtedly as one of the best games on PS4. Infamous: Second Son is in my opinion not only the best in the Infamous franchise, but one of the best looking games on PS4.
Delson Rowe is voiced by the very talented Troy Baker which really helps bring the character to life. This is also due to the fact that the power of the PS4 is put to good use, showing off the particle effects in spectacular fashion and incredible motion capture technology to nail the emotions. Second Son provides a unique array of powers in a gorgeous dystopian Seattle. A game that truly lives by its tag line, and let’s you enjoy your power
Runner Up: Outlast
Danganronpa: Trigger Happy Havok
Have you ever picked up a game based on nothing but a gut feeling that you’ll enjoy it? When I picked up my Vita copy of Danganronpa: Trigger Happy Havok, I didn’t know what to expect. I just wanted a game to knock the dust off my Vita. What I got was something wholly its own, with a great story and awesome characters.
The story of high school age students forced to slaughter each other in the name of sport is being done more and more these days. What Danganronpa does is create a full roster of unique and likable characters that can make you either love or hate them instantly. The sadness you feel when a character kicks the bucket will be just as real as when you solve who killed them and find out it was one of your favorite characters. Danganronpa: Trigger Happy Havok should not be missed.
Runner Up: The Wolf Among Us
Dark Souls 2
This year is proving to be an incredibly strong year for games, of all genres and all platforms. But the truth is a unique big budget experience like Dark Souls 2 is always both an event and an official reminder to onlookers that the bar has been officially raised when it comes to visual fidelity and rock solid combat design. People don’t compare other games to Dark Souls because it’s a cool thing to do, but because it’s a thing people should do more often.
Alex and I pretty much agree when it comes to all the things that make the game such a standout experience. It is, at once, ephemeral and atmospheric in tone and concrete and terrestrial in mechanics. Death comes swiftly to those who don’t respect its rules, a common misappropriation of the idea of true difficulty. It’s learned lessons in the series’ relatively short life, and wishes to teach players its new found knowledge regarding environmental storytelling and timing based action with a steep curriculum that isn’t for the casual student. Truly studious gamers will almost always emerge from this 40 hour lesson plan better, rewarded for their trust in this game’s overall vision. Even with copycats sprouting like weeds, there is still nothing like the original.
Runner Up: Hearthstone: Heroes of Warcraft.