By: Matthew Striplen
TOP 10 GAMES OF 2014
10) Pokemon Omega Ruby/Alpha Sapphire — It’s no secret I’m a huge Pokemon fan. Blue Version represent! Omega Ruby and Alpha Sapphire capture the magic of the third generation using the stunning X/Y graphics engine, with a few updates. Although, Red/Blue will always be nearest my heart for nostalgia reasons, generation three comes very close. Seeing how lovingly and faithfully the Pokemon Company recreates the land of Hoenn makes me smile. The only thing preventing this game from being higher on the list is that, at its core, Omega Ruby/Alpha Sapphire sticks very close to the traditional formula and does not fix the issues of previous games.
9) Hohokum — Here’s an entry that just oozes creativity. I’ve never encountered anything quite like this game before, if you can really call it a game. Lacking a clear set of goals, Hohokum encourages players to explore the beautifully designed universe. To play Hohokum, come with an open mind, and leave relaxed.
8) Final Fantasty: Theatrhythm: Curtain Call — Rhythm game fans, rejoice! Curtain Call is one of the finest to date. Additionally, this proves that a handheld rhythm game can not only keep up with the big consoles, but possibly exceed them. Sporting a hefty song library, great graphics and super tight gameplay along multiplayer options, this takes it to the next level from its predecessor.
7) Mario Kart 8 — I can’t even begin to guess at the amount of hours I’ve spent collectively playing the Mario Kart franchise games. The eighth installment really kicked things into high gear (heh) with the inclusion of the anti-gravity functionality. The creative ways in which the scenery is twisted and twirled makes for a fantastic visual and gaming experience. Plus, the crossover DLC warms my heart every time.
6) Hearthstone: Heroes of Warcraft — Despite not being a huge fan of other Warcraft games, I found myself strangely addicted to this free-to-play card game. Unlike the vast majority of “free” games, Hearthstone does not spam the player with requests for real-world money. In-game purchases are available, not forced upon the gamer. The game is easy to learn but difficult to master.
5) South Park: The Stick of Truth — When I first heard that South Park was getting a new game, my first emotion was dread. It’s no secret that movie/TV game tie-ins tend to be… terrible. Much to my surprise, Stick of Truth turned out to be as enjoyable and hilarious as the show. The best part of this game is how it doesn’t feel like a game based on the show, but a legitimate entry into the series. Stick of Truth sets a new standard of what tie-in games should be.
4) Bravely Default — This title hearkens back to the great RPGs of old. An epic quest journeyed by a party of four; it just seems so right somehow. What sets Bravely Default apart from other RPGs is its innovative combat system. While still turn-based, the player possesses the option to “brave” or “default,” which enables individual characters to perform multiple actions in a single turn, but at a price. For those looking for a solid RPG, look no further than Bravely Default.
3) The Swapper — Ever had the feeling you were being watched, only to turn around to find empty space? How about then finding a suspiciously human-like face hiding in the shadows? Ugh, just the thought gives me the willies. Now, imagine an entire game built around that feeling and what you get is The Swapper. Although PC gamers got their hands in this first, The Swapper‘s console release was quiet. Facepalm Games presents the best puzzle/platformer I’ve seen in years. From the clay model graphics, to the chilling story, this game gripped me from beginning to end.
2) Super Smash Bros. For Wii U/3DS — This is the Smash game we’ve been waiting for. Everyone freaked out at how amazing the 3DS version was, until the Wii U version dropped. In addition to the insanity of 8-player smash, awesome online functionality, Super Smash Bros. for Wii U/3DS offers loads of content not usually seen in any game. The sheer amount of music and trophies is astounding. I cannot praise this game enough. Just play it.
1) Shovel Knight — Shovel Knight is every 8-bit fan’s dream come true. Coming from brand new indie developer, Yacht Club Games, this game is a masterpiece. Super tight controls, fantastic gameplay, awesome level design, gorgeous pixel art, and oh my lord, the music. This game easily takes the best new soundtrack for the year. My singular regret with the game is its brevity, though better to be left wanting more than not. In a gaming world overcrowded with sequels, dark themes, and first-person shooters, Shovel Knight provides a much needed breath of fresh air.
BIGGEST DISAPPOINTMENT OF 2014
My biggest disappointment in 2014 is not so much a specific game, but rather an emerging trend. 2014 bore witness to multitudes of AAA titles suffering from severe launch troubles. In attempts to push the product out the door by launch date, large numbers of glitches, both humorous and frustrating, have been left in games. Blaming the game companies for shoddy programming is easy, but there’s a better way to get these company’s attention: stop buying buggy games at launch. If we, as gamers, refuse to open our wallets for subpar games, maybe we can prevent this from becoming the norm in 2015 and beyond.
MOST ANTICIPATED GAMES OF 2015
3) The Legend of Zelda: Majora’s Mask 3D — If you’re not excited about this release, you either haven’t played any Zelda games before, or you don’t like good things. Taking note of the nearly rabid fan response after Ocarina of Time 3D was released, Nintendo decided to update the N64’s second Zelda title for the 3DS. If Nintendo does as good a job as they did with Ocarina of Time 3D, this will be a good year for 3DS.
2) Mario Maker — In honor of Super Mario Bros. turning 30 this year, Nintendo is bestowing upon the world the greatest gift: the gift of creation. Mario Maker allows gamers to design their own original levels. With the option to switch between the classic 8-bit look or the New Super Mario Bros. engine, the possibilities for creativity seems almost limitless.
1) The Legend of Zelda for Wii U — If you aren’t excited about this yet, you obviously haven’t seen the game footage. I’m gonna save both of us a lot of time; just go watch it. Zelda + open world = gimmegimmegimme.
PlayStation GOTY: The Swapper
Nintendo GOTY: Super Smash Bros. for Wii U/3DS
Downloadable GOTY: Shovel Knight
Portable GOTY: Shovel Knight
Best DLC: Mario Kart 8 crossover packs
Best Story: South Park: The Stick of Truth