Hey everyone, it’s Danreb here, and it’s my turn to talk about my favorite games of 2014.
As much as I would love for SmashPad’s lists to be your top choice to read Game of the Year-related content, I know that it isn’t. Our site is more known for its rather out of the ordinary opinions of our staff and their ability to put their crazy thoughts into words, so no—it’s totally okay for that to be your reason why you’re here.
But I’m sincerely hoping you don’t believe any of the crap other publications have been saying regarding 2014 being an awesome year for gaming and that it was hard to narrow down their list of games. While I definitely did have my difficulty doing so, it wasn’t as hard as cutting out some of my favorites from last year. The real struggle was finding out which of my favorite 10 belonged where.
The fact of the matter is 2014 was a really crappy year for gaming, at least speaking in terms for games in retail. By now you’ve seen that a good portion of the lists made by my fellow staff featured games that were either digital-only or DLC. Maybe it was because 2013 was so damn strong, but you have to look no further than my top pick for Game of the Year to see that there really hasn’t been much to talk about this year.
So without further ado, let’s get to my top 10 games of 2014:
10. The Walking Dead: Season Two – PS4, PS3, Xbox One, Xbox 360, Vita, PC
Ranked tenth on my list is The Walking Dead, Season 2. Did it really do anything different from the original chapters released a couple years before? Hardly, but the game did a fantastic job at giving me an even more impressive background of a character I truly cared about—Clementine. The first one put us in the shoes of a sort of fatherly figure, and the story told was one quite believable. The game does the exact same thing with Clementine as the main protagonist, and it gave me an even stronger appreciation of storytelling in gaming. Season 2 helped make the video game an even more accurate portrayal of the graphic novel than the TV series does, but that’s a story for another day.
9. Fantasia: Music Evolved – Xbox One, Xbox 360
I’m the sucker on staff that actually still gives a damn about motion-based games, but I don’t think I’ll get too much flack for putting this on my list. With Fantasia, you aren’t embarrassing yourself by dancing or singing, but you’re really feeling the music, which is what the series is all about. Actually, no, never mind, you’ll get made fun of for playing this game too. While it was definitely meant for a casual audience, the name should do enough to capture Disney fans and make them really appreciate the different arrangements of music both popular and classic. I just wish it had more Disney than just Demi Lovato’s version of “Let It Go.” But it’s okay… I just love my Bohemian Rhapsody.
8. Shovel Knight – Wii U, 3DS, PC
A 2D sidescrolling beat-em-up. Call me high. Call me old-fashioned. Whatever. Shovel Knight is ridiculous fun that really gives gamers that have been around since the 8-bit era a great sense of nostalgia. The tight, responsive controls, the fact that the hardest bosses are the same size as your character, using a shovel as a weapon, and the shitty story that can only be told in 2D? Shovel Knight is just a blast. If Duck Tales, Mega Man 2, and Zelda II: The Adventure of Link all procreated and impossibly made a threesome child, it would be Shovel Knight.
7. Bayonetta 2 – Wii U
Maybe my list is definitely more Wii U than it should be (you can’t really blame me because Nintendo brought it HARD this year), but Bayonetta 2 is a Wii U game you just wouldn’t expect to be on that console. The original wasn’t even on a Nintendo platform, but that all changed with Bayonetta 2. As stated in Jordan’s review, Bayonetta 2 corrected everything you can deem wrong from the original and even included the original game. It’s stylish hard action, and it’s fun.
6. Mario Kart 8 – Wii U
Mario Kart in HD–how pretty it ended up being. But not only was it good to look at, it was also the best Mario Kart game to come out since the DS version. While too much was made of that horn that equalizes the blue shell, the game was still an enjoyable experience made even better by character and course DLC. I can only imagine how awesome an HD F-Zero game would be, and if that Mute City map featured in the DLC was any indicator, it could be quite a game.
5. South Park: The Stick of Truth – PS3, Xbox 360, PC
I was never a fan of the South Park series, but it still features memorable characters despite the show’s lack of any class. The game follows suit with the series, and it also gives players the opportunity to explore both South Park and Canada the way you’d imagine them to be. Or not, but hey, who said this game was supposed to be taken seriously? I mean take a look at my supporting screenshot. I got Kenny firing nerf arrows at Nazi zombies in warfare gear. That’s hilarious!
4. Super Smash Bros. – Wii U
Can’t really pick one without picking the other. Though the Wii U version will probably go down as this generation’s definitive version of Smash 4, we have to credit the 3DS version of Super Smash Bros. for giving us a full serving of what to really expect from the “real” thing. Both versions of Super Smash Bros. have so much content in it that I really doubt anybody will have everything unlocked by the end of the year. I know I didn’t, and that’s what makes it so awesome—there’s just so much to do. And 8-Player Smash? Don’t get me started on how much of an insane and intense ruckus that is.
3. Middle-earth: Shadow of Mordor – PS4, Xbox One, PC
I’m really not big on Lord of the Rings, nor am I a huge fan of the Assassin’s Creed series, but this game just stuck with me. Shadow of Mordor offers an open world well worth exploring, and while the parkour can get a little over the top, I didn’t find myself having to climb to the highest tower just to jump into a haystack like the assassins and templars never get tired of doing in that other series. The Captain system in particular was both a nice touch and awesome distraction. No, you can’t run over people or break traffic laws, but I was more than down to ignore the adventure in an attempt to kill captains of random groups. That’s some real gangsta ish. This is about as close as we can get to a cool Game of Thrones action game. Sort of.
2. Bravely Default – 3DS
Bravely Default was a title that came out towards the beginning of the year and was destined to be on this list. The game does everything that most of the great RPG’s SNES and PSX eras were known for–a 70-hour story, a simple battle system with features that drastically enhance gameplay, and a story that keeps players engaged. Throw in the fact that the game rewards you for actually taking breaks and having your 3DS on you at all times, and you have the formula for what very well will be a fantastic series.
1. The Last of Us: Left Behind – PS3, PS4
Yeah yeah, say it’s not a full game. Call this pick my saving grace for giving Super Mario 3D World my top spot, as I praised The Last of Us literally all year. Left Behind is a 2-hour single player DLC, but it was by far one of the best experiences of the year. The DLC, like season 2 of Telltale’s The Walking Dead, gave us even more of a background of one of the most beloved characters of last generation in Ellie. Her gallivanting with Riley helped create one of the most real portrayals of friendship any game will bother to attempt, and it also left us with an ending that further pushes the envelope as far as being liberal goes. Left Behind also thankfully comes included in The Last of Us Remastered, so there’s really no reason for a PlayStation 3 or 4 owner to not experience this awesome story–unless you’re Ellen Page.
Like I said, it wasn’t a really happening year for games. When discussing the planning for our lists, I decided that we shouldn’t count “remastered” or “definitive” editions in our lists because they’d just be a regurgitation of last year’s best games — which is exactly what they are. The people that found this year awesome in gaming are the people that didn’t really pay much attention during the last eight years, as a handful of the games on both the PlayStation 4 and Xbox One were simply the aforementioned HD remakes.
Next year, I hope we get more than that.
What do you want to see in 2015?
In 2015, we should expect to really see true evolution in this new generation of gaming. For me, it’s really been disheartening as of late to spend $60 on a game only to not play it that evening because I spent the whole night installing it and downloading the new updates. Otherwise awesome games, such as DriveClub, Destiny, Titanfall, and Halo: The Master Chief Collection all got crippled because the publishers thought it was okay to release an otherwise unfinished game. As consumers, we shouldn’t accept that.
Next year, I want to have the staff consider enacting a review policy that will harshly affect reviews of games that come out unfinished. Say what you want, and maybe it won’t mean anything because we’re not the “big boys” in gaming journalism, but I’m not afraid to give Zelda U a half star because the game didn’t load. Games didn’t start off this way, and they shouldn’t be straying on this path either.
Nothing against them, but if I knew I’d be waiting to play my games even after I bought them, I would’ve just switched to PC gaming.
Both gamers and gaming as a whole are meant for better things, and I hope we see that glimmer of better things in the new year.
That’s it from me. Tune in tomorrow for our staff’s overall Top 10, where we’ll finally announce what our top game of 2014 will be.