2014 was a year of transition for most consoles. Gamers were plagued with cross-generation titles, Assassin’s Creed Unity, Sonic Boom, and visually upgraded games that really didn’t need visual upgrades (I’m looking at you, Tomb Raider and The Last of Us). However, within this sandy sandwich, there were many games that I managed to relish. With that said, here are my five most delicious fillings of the past year.
Game of the Year: Super Smash Bros. for Wii U
It’s a strange year when all three of my top contenders for game of the year are on a Nintendo console. While I debated over the order, Smash Bros. came out the clear victor after my realisation that it’s the greatest single player fighter I’ve ever played.
It seems a bizarre compliment to give a title that is typically enjoyed for the most part for its multiplayer, and indeed there are manic eight-player brawls, along with many two-player modes – all of which are tremendous fun. Nevertheless, when you’re on your lonesome, many fighting games can often seem pointless to play. Thankfully, this isn’t the case with Smash Bros. It’s one of those games I find myself going to whenever I have a spare minute or two; it’s one of those games that I stay up late playing – not because it’s addictive, but because it’s just so much fun.
When I’m not trying to win some new treasure in Special Orders, I’m trying to get through Classic Mode with a new character, and when I’m bored of that I’m putting my time into the other modes. All the fighters handle uniquely and all can be tailored through customisation to give you a new style of play; every time I try a new character, there’s a rewarding feeling of discovery. It’s like a theme park, a toy box, and a candy store all in one. Smash is a game that stands head and shoulders above all the other games I’ve played over the course of 2014, and one which I can satisfyingly name my game of the year.
Runner-Up: Mario Kart 8
As the camera zoomed in behind my racer, my first reaction was to gasp; one thing I wasn’t expecting from a Mario Kart 8 was such exquisite graphics. It was my first experience of seeing a Mario game in true HD, and never has being battered by a blue shell looked so magnificent.
The new tracks are breathtaking – with the introduction of anti-gravity allowing them to bend in nearly unimaginable ways – and the wealth of character and kart customisations present also add much to the experience. I’ve loved the series since I first experienced it on the Game Boy Advance, and can safely that MK8 is my favourite Mario Kart title to date.
Honorable Mention: Bayonetta 2
It’s quite bizarre to think that the best hack and slash game I’ve played would turn out to be a Wii U exclusive, but here we are. Improving on its predecessor almost infinitely, Bayonetta 2’s controls are tight; the action is fast-paced; and, as you race through each level, it’s impossible to imagine what’s going to happen next.
The atmosphere the game creates is manic, and I found myself relishing the chaos of surfing through a twister while fighting a mechanical dragon, all the while being given full control of the protagonist. It’s a game that trusts you to have the intuition to adapt to different situations; a type of trust that is sadly a rarity these days.
Honorable Mention: South Park: The Stick of Truth
As a massive fan of South Park, I enjoyed every reference to the show made in The Stick Of Truth – from listening to Faith +1 on Cartman’s radio, to finding the crustaceous crab people. The game expertly recreated the appearance and the sound of the series, and in many ways it feels like a new episode of the show. Even the gameplay takes much from the trademark humour of the show, with it being a satirical re-enactment of old-school RPGs. Ultimately, The Stick Of Truth shows what can happen when license holders truly engage with the game-making process.
Honorable Mention: Metal Gear Solid V: Ground Zeroes
I doubt anyone else will pick this game as a standout 2014 title, as MGS V: Ground Zeroes received countless complaints upon its release about its play-length and price. I knew it was going to be short, but that didn’t stop me from picking up a copy on day one, and I wasn’t disappointed.
Beyond its beautiful graphics and amazing music (well, song), Ground Zeroes showcases some of the best gameplay a Metal Gear Solid game has ever shown off. During missions, multiple paths open up before you, which encourages and rewards the player to experiment with the environment and explore options. Even after several playthroughs, there is still always more left to discover. Much like his work with P.T., Kojima has us begging for more.