It’s difficult for me to think about what should be game of the year when there’s so many hugely immersive and wonderful experiences that I didn’t get a chance to partake in this year. Right off the bat, Dragon Age: Inquisition, Titanfall, anything from Telltale Games and Far Cry 4 are a few examples of games I’ve heard resounding praise about, but haven’t had the pleasure of experiencing. It’s a sad truth, but playing everything is almost an impossible feat to accomplish – no matter how much I wish I could.
However, with that being said, I was still able to pick up a vast number of titles that blew me away. I said it once and I’ll say it again, between the 3DS and Wii U, Nintendo really stepped up their game in 2014. Franchise staples such as Mario Kart and Smash Bros. came around to save the day once again for the big N, but a few smaller games featured on the system also brightened the library of a struggling Wii U and already-successful 3DS.
It’s one of these smaller titles that stole my heart, and earned itself my pick for 2014 GOTY.
Game of the Year: Shovel Knight
Although I didn’t pick up Shovel Knight until mid-October, the only experience I can really liken my time with the game to is summer love. It comes on hard, fast, hot, sweaty and makes you sad at the thought of it ending, but you just have to keep going back for more!
The characters are colorful, the fights are intense, the music is masterfully arranged (not to mention collectible), and the storyline is a mixture of goofy and uplifting that’ll stick with you long after your first playthrough. There’s really not much to complain about in the game either. The controls are tight, there’s plenty to collect, there are multiple difficulty options with achievements to obtain, and the length of the game is just right.
Take all of that into account, and then add on the fact that this is a picture-perfect throwback to some of the best side-scrolling games to ever grace us with their existence. I’m talking Mario, Mega Man, Metroid, Yoshi’s Island, Castlevania – that’s right, this game is right up there in the big leagues with some of those gems we now call classics. Not only that, but you can play it at home or on the go, with a choice between being a Wii U, PC or 3DS download. I played it on the 3DS and loved every second of it. I mean, Shovel Knight had a strong impact on me that it had me picking it over the likes of Theathrhythm Final Fantasy Curtain Call and Super Smash Bros. for the 3DS – two games that I was very rarely ripped away from.
Plain and simple, I’m giving GOTY to this title because it’s just a damn good game in almost every sense of the word. Sure, it didn’t bring anything new and inventive to the table, and it didn’t blow me away with stellar graphics or advanced AI – but it did something just as awesome in my book. It took a formula and feel that we’ve seen a million times before and it rocked the shit out of it. It’s not easy to be a game in a genre with so many absolute classics, near to the soul of any gamer who grew up with an NES or Sega Genesis; constantly having to live up to the likes of Sonic, Mario and Mega Man. But Shovel Knight does it and good God it does it with a thumbs up, smile and wink that lets you know all is right in the world of gaming.
Plus, I mean, you get to be a knight who brandishes a shovel and hops on dragons’ heads like he’s on a pogo stick. If that doesn’t interest you, you are a poor soul indeed, my friend.
Honorable Mention: TowerFall: Ascension
Okay, so at this point you’re probably thinking: “Oh look, another indie title. This tree-huggin’ hipster’s in love with anything made by a small company.” To that, I say who you callin’ tree hugger? But just hear me out on this one.
TowerFall Ascension is a fast-paced, frantically fun archery arena game that’ll have you impaling, exploding and stomping on the heads of your best friends, laughing and trash-talking every step of the way. The controls are simple and it has newcomers contending with veterans quickly, while at the same time allowing for skilful tricks by those with an innate sense for timing and quick reflexes. This creates for zany matches that will have you and up to three other players shooting each other for hours on end. The amount of match customization options adds to this and lets you create almost an endless amount of game scenarios, each as engaging as the last.
On the other side, you can go solo or bring along a friend to play through the game’s campaign. There, you’ll face green blobs, tornado-flicking bird men and floating gems that shoot homing lightning at you. Yup, I just said homing lightning; as if lightning wasn’t scary enough by itself. The varying challenges and objectives required to beat every level on the hardest difficulty without dying will have you ripping out hair in clumps, but will also lead to some of the most amazing triumphs you’ve had in a long time. If you’re a completionist and thirst for a good challenge, this is one game that you seriously can’t miss.
Either way, TowerFall is a blast and will most likely go down as one of the most entertaining multiplayer experiences in the last few years.