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Games of the Year ’14

by William Schwartz

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2014 saw many gamers finally transitioning from the longest console life cycle on record, to newer, more powerful machines.   There were plenty of options.  Nintendo made a great case to own a Wii U.  Microsoft made a complete about face with the Xbox One, offering their biggest exclusive line-up in years. While Sony continued to make their case for PlayStation 4 as the console to own.

We saw equal parts innovation and stagnation in 2014.  Some games were good, some games were disappointing and broken, and some games we’d played before.

So how did we tackle our Game of the Year awards in 2014?  Our staff nominated their choices in the categories below, and then we narrowed it down for those that didn’t have clear winners.  Below, you’ll find our picks for the best games of 2014, and some of the worst.

Platforms

Platform of the Year – Wii U

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Kyle – The Wii U has had some rough times since its initial launch in 2012, but finally the system came into its own this year. Massive hit after massive hit launched on Nintendo’s console, starting with the excellent Mario Kart 8 and closing with Super Smash Bros. for Wii U. In between we saw a wide variety of titles that should satisfy any gamer, such as Donkey Kong: Tropical Freeze, Bayonetta 2, and Hyrule Warriors, just to name a few. After over a year of struggling to gain an audience, the Wii U has finally justified itself as a legitimate source of entertainment for gamers.

Just having big games isn’t enough to earn the title of Platform of the Year though. The PS4, Xbox One, and PC all had huge games hit their respective systems. The element that sets these games apart is that they can only be found on Wii U. When looking at a list of the best games of 2014 you’ll find that the top games are usually either multiplatform releases, or Wii U exclusives.

DLC was also a huge part of Nintendo’s year, with them finally diving into the online market in a big way. Both Hyrule Warriors and Mario Kart 8 featured great add ons at fair prices, showing how Nintendo can distinguish themselves in an environment full of micro-transactions and bare bones expansions.

All of this added up the the Wii U being easily the best system to own in 2014.

Runner Up: Xbox One

Best PlayStation –  The Last of Us

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William – 2014 was a year that saw numerous remakes of popular games from the Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3.  Utilizing the PlayStation 4 and Xbox One hardware to realize better looking games, some fared better than others.  One of the very best remakes to arrive this year was the critically acclaimed PlayStation exclusive, The Last of Us by Naughty Dog.

The PlayStation 4 version of The Last of Us was a real treat for PlayStation 4 early adopters.  The game re-released at 1080p and 60 frames per second, turning what was already a good looking game into a great one.  It featured enough new content to keep those who had already played the game entertained.  And for those who hadn’t yet played it, they probably got some positive reinforcement as to what to expect from future exclusives on the PS4.

This year was short of exclusives on the platform, but for its story, dlc, and impressive visuals, The Last of Us: Remastered was one game that PS4 owners should not have been missed.

Runner Up: Infamous Second Son

Best Xbox – Titanfall

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William – In a year full of big exclusives for the Xbox One, Titanfall from Respawn Entertainment shined brightest.  One part Call of Duty, one part MechWarrior, Titanfall aimed to shake up the first person shooter genre, and that it did.

Titanfall wasn’t a true exclusive, as the game launched on both the Xbox 360 and PC, but the Xbox One arguably had the best version of the shooter.  Making the illusion of a larger scale battle, Respawn harnessed the Azure Cloud to populate each match of Titanfall with AI controlled enemies, giving cannon fodder for Pilots with boots on the ground, and their mechanized counterparts.

The gameplay in Titanfall was some of the best first person shooter action we’ve seen in quite sometime. Limited to multiplayer only, many complaints about the game hinged on the fact that players just wanted more in terms of story.  Titanfall’s star burned bright on Xbox One, if only for a short time.

Runner Up: Sunset Overdrive

Best Nintendo – Super Smash Bros.

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William – Super Smash Bros was the must play title in a year dominated by great games only available on Nintendo platforms.  Easy to learn, hard to master, Super Smash Bros is fun for just about anyone.  Whether playing locally with friends, online with others, or just playing through the copious amounts of challenge modes or scouring for unlockables, Super Smash Bros was Nintendo’s best game of the year.

It’s one of those rare games that hits the nail right on the head.  It appeals to the nostalgia of long-time fans with plenty of technical depth, while also being an extremely accessible game if you just want to be mired in the chaos of it all.

It’s been awhile, but Super Smash Bros is an extension of the series that exceeds all expectations.

Runner Up: Bayonetta 2

Best PC – Civilization: Beyond Earth

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Danny – Few games nowadays are PC exclusive. Such games now tend to be strategies or turn-based games and it turns out that Civilization: Beyond Earth, the spritual successor to Alpha Centauri, was the cream-of-the-crop in PC-exclusive gaming this year. By combining an undramatic game release (the good kind), good visuals, intense replayability and the tried and true gameplay formula of the Civilization series, with certain new features and additions to fit colonizing a new alien planet as a space-traveling civilization, Civilization: Beyond Earth has again showed us why they are still the top dogs.

Runner Up: Hearthstone

Best Multi-Platform – Alien: Isolation

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Kyle – Alien: Isolation made a lot of very big promises. After the massive disappointment that was Aliens: Colonial Marines, gamers were wary of another entry in the franchise, but Creative Assembly promised that this one would be different. Based on Ridley Scott’s original horror classic, Alien: Isolation was said to be the game we’d all been waiting for. Featuring only a single creature to contend with, along with a few fellow survivors and the newly created Working Joes, the game put a heavy emphasis on survival rather than combat. The alien creature was said to be unscripted and lethal, reacting to every movement and noise that you make to create a truly horrifying experience. The game made a lot of promises to be sure, but the amazing thing is that it delivered in nearly every way.

The alien was terrifying to behold, and could turn a routine exploration mission into a truly gut-wrenching experience. Combat was kept to a minimum, with only a few areas that allowed for it thanks to the alien’s constant presence, which could also be used to your advantage with the many craftable items. But the biggest success of Alien: Isolation came with the visual and sound design. The dark, gritty world of Ridley Scott’s original film was blissfully brought to life once more. Every tiny detail of Alien: Isolation has some grounding in the original movie, creating a playground for fans who probably spent more time just marveling at their surrounding than they did actually hiding from the alien.

Alien: Isolation was the game that fans had waited years for, delivering the perfect Alien experience while recreating the world that Ridley Scott introduced in 1979.

Runner Up: Dragon Age: Inquisition

Best Handheld – Pokemon ORAS

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Dean – Nintendo has long been the king of the handheld game industry and that certainly does not appear to be changing anytime soon. One of the keystones of their handheld market has been the Pokemon series, which is back again with remakes of the third generation classics Ruby and Sapphire on the 3DS. In a strong year for handhelds, Pokemon Omega Ruby and Alpha Sapphire managed to beat out the competition as the best overall.

Rebuilding the land of Hoenn from the ground up, Omega Ruby and Alpha Sapphire take the familiar locations that we know and love from the originals and present them to us in all new ways, complete with vibrant colors.

Rather than just making a basic remake, Game Freak implemented the very important Mega Evolution mechanic, which debuted in last year’s Pokemon X & Y, and made it a major part of the game. Not only in the story itself, but as something for players to collect and achieve all throughout the game.

There were plenty of solid games on not only handhelds in 2014, but especially the Nintendo 3DS. Coming from a franchise that is built specifically for gamers on the go, Pokemon Omega Ruby and Alpha Sapphire did an exceptional job at remaking a fan favorite, which certainly makes it one not to miss.

Runner Up: Threes

Hit the next page for best genre awards

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