[Originally published on GiantBomb, December 29, 2014]
On its surface, Octodad puts players in control of an octopus masquerading as a human, desperate to keep up the charade through a series of comical everyday challenges. For myself, it’s something I could show my parents and loved ones as a way to properly convey what life is like for someone like myself who lives with severe social anxiety disorder. With an entire game revolving around a mechanic that relies on deflecting the attention of others, situations in the game, such as safely navigating a box office queue, mirrored the stress of say, an everyday visit for me to Starbucks. It’s funny, has a lot of heart, and was a totally unexpected blessing in disguise.
My favorite pastime of 2014 was complaining about Destiny while doing nothing but playing Destiny.
One of the most bizarre and polarizing titles of the year, Destiny is a game where I read every positive review of it and agree while simultaneously nodding my head alongside all the others slamming it. It also has the distinct honor of pulling a reverse Drake, starting at the top of this very list before sliding its way towards the bottom with each update.
Its first expansion, The Dark Below, managed to make even more of a mess of its endgame economy issues while still not adding much content to the overall package. Yet somehow I’m still completely hooked. I love its admittedly half-baked universe, precise gunplay and when you’ve got a good group, Destiny’s raids represent some of the best co-op gaming around. It’s Phantasy Star meets Halo. It might not be as good as either, but damn it, I want to believe.
I don’t know where Destiny is going, and if something doesn’t change I’m not sure how long I’ll last. Chances are while you read this I’m playing it right now while telling the folks on my fireteam how much I can’t stand it.
It’s the most fun you’ll have running away from every fight possible only to be eaten by a giant space worm. Yes, Nidhogg is truly a work of art and is the most cutthroat multiplayer game of 2014. It appears to be a simple multiplayer fencing game, until you realize it’s the jazz music of video games and it’s about everything you don’t do or can’t see. The metagame of Nidhogg varies from person to person, and whether you’re fighting in the clouds or through a dungeon filled with conveyor belts, it’s up to you to figure it out before it all comes to an end. Do they like to run? Are they a fan of dive kicks? Do they actually want to fence? As matches wear on, competitors tend to become more and more desperate for a win and will pull out anything and everything to make it happen. It’s simple enough for anyone to pick up and is more hype than anything you can imagine. All hail the giant space worm!
7. Mario Kart 8
It’s the game that brought local multiplayer back into my household, and the first in years to force me to hold a party upon its release. I hadn’t been this excited about a Mario Kart title in generations and for good reason: Mario Kart 8 is a creative powerhouse and one of the best looking games of the year. Featuring some of the best and most wondrous courses the series has ever seen, to a weapon balance that doesn’t actually make me hate myself, this is the Mario Kart I’ve always wanted. On top of the on-disc package, Nintendo’s DLC offerings thus far have been nothing short than stellar, offering up even more fantastic courses and playable characters. With another huge pack to come in May, I’ll still be making time in 2015 for a few laps around Cloudtop Cruise.
I really do not know what I would do without BioWare’s incredible gaming formula of exploring fantasy worlds, killing exotic creatures, and awkwardly romancing anything that seems even remotely boneable. Truly, they have tapped into only the most carnal of mankind’s urges. Did Garrus, a cat-like alien creature from another world, even have the means to procreate with a human being? What? He’s down? Well, we’re about to find out.
Dragon Age: Inquisition continues this grand tradition of fighting and screwing anything that moves, only now it’s bigger and better than ever. Which one am I actually talking about? Does it even matter? I played through and enjoyed the much-maligned Dragon Age II. Yeah, I said it. I even romanced Isabela. Oh, that’s so predictable? Whatever. I should probably tell you why Inquisition is good. This would be higher on my list, but I had a total lady-boner for Cassandra and she broke my heart. I mean, my Inquisitor. She broke my Inquisitor’s–you know what? I really don’t have to explain myself to any of you. I already get enough of this from tumblr anons, okay?
You know that scene in Ratatouille where the evil food critic takes a bite of the title dish and is instantly whisked away to the forgotten corners of his mind where he’s still young and the world hadn’t yet made him cold? That’s what it feels like to play Super Mario 3D World.
In what can easily be considered the best mainline Mario title since its Nintendo 64 outing, Super Mario 3D World is an absolute delight in every sense of the word. Every time I sat down to run and jump my way through its dozens of levels, I would feel the same sensation of joy and discovery that I felt as a kid, filled with a sense of wonder as each level introduced new landscapes to explore, mechanics to master and puzzles to solve. The truly devilish Green Stars hidden throughout each level also kept me coming back from more and are among some of my most satisfying gaming moments of the year.
Even if you feel you got a good sense of the formula from its 3DS predecessor, don’t sleep on Super Mario 3D World.
What a terrible year to be cursed with the uncanny ability to create incredibly engrossing and innovative gaming experiences for Microsoft‘s Kinect! The developers at Harmonix give the same love and attention to detail as they did The Beatles to Walt Disney’s magnum opus and in turn, crafted one of the most unique and effervescent experiences of the year. It’s rhythm gaming mechanics may fall on the simple side, but there’s plenty of challenge and addiction to come in experimenting with different musical styles and creating your own wondrous symphony of sounds. Fantasia was never meant to be completed nor contained to just film, and with Music Evolved, Harmonix has created something that greatly builds upon its legacy.
From its initial reveal to its troubled launch, I was never a fan of Diablo III. What reason did I have to be? Torchlight scratched my action RPG itch quite nicely, and Path of Exile looked to take the genre to its zenith. When I saw the flood of positive feedback resulting from March’s Loot 2.0 patch, I gave Blizzard the benefit of the doubt, dusted off my copy and started a fresh character. An hour later I pre-ordered Reaper of Souls in full.
There I enjoyed what finally felt like a proper follow up to the legendary Diablo II. The combat was more fluid, skills felt infinitely more powerful and above all, the loot felt good. Damn good, actually. I found myself dumping as much free time as I could into a game that I initially quit after the its third act. Throughout 2014 Diablo III was my go-to snack break game. Even now I still enjoy hopping on for a Nephalem portal run just to watch things explode and maybe get some sweet loot. This is a habit I fully expect to continue well into the new year.
The original Binding of Isaac was already one of my favorite games of all time, and the worst thing I could ever say about it is, “I wish it weren’t a Flash game.” Not only does Rebirth fix all the technical shortcomings of its predecessor, but it also tosses a ton of new content into an already ridiculously loaded game. Isaac is a compelling intro to the world of roguelike games, and now that its available on console it’s even more accessible than ever. In fact, I’ve been playing it almost exclusively on PlayStation 4 and I have no regrets. If you love 8-way shooters like Smash TV or Geometry Wars, and don’t mind cartoon poop, Isaac is truly a can’t-miss addiction.
1. Bayonetta 2
Bayonetta 2 isn’t just the reason why I purchased a Wii U, nor is it just the sequel to my favorite game of 2010. It’s a follow-up to what I honestly feel is the video game of the previous console generation. It may have had some lofty personal expectations to live up to, but Bayonetta 2 easily meets and surpasses the bar for action games set by its predecessor with a ton of smart gameplay and accessibility tweaks that work to make it a superior game in just about respect.
PlatinumGames trims the fat from its original outing (so long, annoying minigames) and instead offers greatly enhanced and more fluid combat, as well an increased emphasis on exploration and hidden sequences. As an added value, Bayonetta 2 also includes the original Bayonetta on a separate disc so that you can see first hand just how far its combat mechanics have come. It’s truly astonishing just how stiff the original can feel at times and speaks volumes to the fine tuning Platinum put into its sequel. What’s more, for those who have already played the original Bayonetta, new Nintendo inspired outfits and weapons are now available which create an entirely new gameplay experience.
I’m not saying you need to buy a Wii U to play this game, but if you have any sort of inkling to do so, trust in that urge and go for it.