GOTY 2014 | Number 1 — P.T.

You might be won­der­ing, at this point, why my num­ber 1 game of the year is tech­ni­cally a demo for a full game that hasn’t arrived yet. Decid­ing on this was not an easy task, but I firmly stand behind my deci­sion. Was P.T. the most pol­ished and well-designed game to come out this year? I would actu­ally answer “no” to that ques­tion. It was, how­ever, the most vis­ceral and immer­sive expe­ri­ence in gam­ing I had this year if not in sev­eral years. In fact, I’m not sure I’ve been as effec­tively scared by any­thing in a very long time.

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GOTY 2014 | Number 2 — Middle Earth: Shadow of Mordor

Licensed video games don’t have the best his­tory in term of qual­ity. Whether rushed through devel­op­ment or chained down by expec­ta­tions, these titles are often writ­ten off before they even get a chance. Thank­fully, many peo­ple gave Mid­dle Earth: Shadow of Mor­dor a chance and it turned out to be one of the most mem­o­rable games of the year thanks in large part to the game’s neme­sis sys­tem. With a vast and ever-changing array of uruks to fight, I con­stantly found myself just run­ning around and hav­ing fun, not wor­ry­ing about any par­tic­u­lar objec­tives. This marks a truly suc­cess­ful game that, inten­tion­ally or not, pri­or­i­tizes fun and exploration.

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GOTY 2014 | Number 3 — Jackbox Party Pack

A few years ago, there was a big push for smart phone inte­gra­tion into con­sole video games. Microsoft had their Smart­Glass ini­tia­tive and Sony fol­lowed their lead with the PlaySta­tion app shortly after­ward. Since then, aside from a few games putting the mini-map on an iPad, there really hasn’t been much uti­liza­tion of this. Enter Jack­box Party Pack and one of the more inno­v­a­tive moves to take place in gam­ing this year. This game allows any­one with a mobile device to log on to their web browser and play the game via touch screen. This elim­i­nates the need for extra con­trollers and all but assures every­one can play. One of the games, Lie Swat­ter, even sup­ports up to 100 players.

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GOTY 2014 | Number 4 — Danganronpa: Trigger Happy Havoc

If you and told me last year that I’d soon play a game that com­bined ele­ments of Ace Attor­ney: Phoenix Wright, Per­sona 4 and Virtue’s Last Reward, I’d say you were crazy per­son. Those games don’t appear to fit together at all on face value, at least not in a way that makes sense. Thank­fully, this did not stop the cre­ators of Dan­gan­ronpa: Trig­ger Happy Havoc from releas­ing one of my favorite games this year. With a dark and silly story, this game sucks you in and doesn’t let you go until the very end. The crazy thing is that the sequel also came out this year, though I only made it a short ways into that game.

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GOTY 2014 | Number 5 — inFamous: Second Son

The first major PS4 release that I was look­ing for­ward to this year was the third game in the super-power fueled action sand­box series inFa­mous. The promise of inFa­mous: Sec­ond Son was that it would take you to a realistic-looking Seat­tle and allow you to have a myr­iad of pow­ers at your dis­posal. I truly believe that it deliv­ered on both of these in a way that left me quite sat­is­fied. So much so, that I actu­ally took the time to com­plete every­thing this game had to offer. With a beau­ti­fully real­ized city and some of the best motion cap­ture work I’ve seen in any game, it was cer­tainly a sight to behold as well as a blast to play.

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GOTY 2014 | Number 6 — Five Nights at Freddy’s

Ten­sion is one of the hard­est things to prop­erly build dur­ing a video game. Most either end up going a lit­tle too slow and bor­ing you or way too quickly and become an action game. In Five Nights at Freddy’s, the game takes con­trol com­pletely out of your hands and sim­ply forces you to try your best to sur­vive. As you sit in your office, wait­ing to be attacked by killer Chuck E Cheese rejects, you have lim­ited options and power for defend­ing your­self. The game takes it from there and very slowly ramps up the aggres­sion of your attack­ers, con­tin­u­ally sur­pris­ing you with new rules to which you may not have been privy.

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GOTY 2014 | Number 7 — Shovel Knight

Many games in the past few years have attempted to recap­ture the pix­e­lated good­ness of the 80s and 90s, but few of them have been com­pletely suc­cess­ful. Along comes Yacht Club Games this year, with their debut title Shovel Knight to rem­edy this fact. Hav­ing grown up play­ing quite a bit of Mega Man, I have a strong opin­ion of how that era of games felt. Shovel Knight takes pages from both the Mega Man series and even the sur­pris­ingly good Duck Tales game for the NES and com­bines them into, aside from Mega Man 9, the most suc­cess­fully retro-feeling game I’ve ever played.

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GOTY 2014 | Number 8 — South Park: The Stick of Truth

In tele­vi­sion show form, South Park has been around for quite some time. As such, I’ve been wait­ing for quite a while for there to be a good game based on the series. Frankly, I’m glad it took them this long to actu­ally achieve this goal, because South Park: The Stick of Truth is packed to the brim with fan ser­vice from the entire series. Even with­out all of that, the game is a fun and often hilar­i­ous RPG that has finally reached the lofty goal of feel­ing like you’re actu­ally play­ing an episode of the show.

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GOTY 2014 | Number 9 — Mario Kart 8

While they’re not sav­ing, or endan­ger­ing, the Mush­room King­dom, Mario and his pals can get up to quite a few antics. They like to play golf, soc­cer and even tried their hand at base­ball once. My favorite of their side adven­tures how­ever has always been the Mario Kart series. This year brought Mario Kart 8, which not only intro­duced sev­eral new things to the series, but is one of the most gor­geous games to grace Nintendo’s cur­rent home con­sole. Upon first play­ing this game the year they started show­ing next-fen games at E3, I remem­ber it being the best-looking thing avail­able to see, which really speaks to the level of pol­ish Nin­tendo put to the visu­als of this game.

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