Developer: Insomniac Games
Platforms: Xbox One
Along with the best expansion pack/DLC and multiplatform games of 2014.
Best PS4 Game
After a hyped up launch, millions of units sold, a solid indie policy and tons of high profile games teased at Gamescom 2013, E3 2014 and then the recent PlayStation Experience, it was somewhat disheartening to see only a few stand-out titles for the PS4 this year. One of the most anticipated games was DriveClub which launched with a multitude of issues and was ultimately in good shape a good two months after release.
It’s not all dire though – the PS4 still had some great games and a very successful year overall. 2015 is looking to be even better with exclusives like Bloodborne and The Order: 1886 kicking off the first quarter of the year. That’s not even including the blockbuster Uncharted 4: A Thief’s End that will release later in 2015. What stood out this year though? What was the top PS4 exclusive that earned our respect? It was a close race but the victor seemed obvious.
Winner: inFamous Second Son
Say what you will about the overall quality of Dragon Age: Inquisition and The Last of Us: Remastered but the former’s definitive experience is on the PC while the latter is simply a re-release of last year’s Game of the Year. LittleBigPlanet 3 was a good game but suffice to say, it didn’t quite live up to the hype of its predecessors.
That left Sucker Punch Productions’ inFamous: Second Son. Right off the bat, the world looked gorgeous and we were immersed in a brand new storyline with plenty of intriguing powers to play around with. The moral dilemmas and missions weren’t as properly evolved as one would have liked but in terms of running around and wrecking shop with superpowers, inFamous: Second Son was a blast.
Best Xbox One Game
Though Microsoft’s eighth generation console didn’t beat Sony’s out in terms of sales, it certainly owned the year with its exclusives. In Q3/Q4 alone, we got Forza Horizon 2, Sunset Overdrive and Halo: The Master Chief Collection to play around with.
Forza Horizon 2 wiped away the bad karma of Forza Motorsport 5 by giving us a wide open world to explore, stunning visuals and an excellent balance of arcade and simulation racing. There was so much to go through with all the cars to customize, events to complete and random quests to fulfill that you’ll feel the hours melt away.
Another big name release that turned heads – both in good and bad ways – was Respawn Entertainment’s Titanfall which provided arguably some of the freshest fun in shooters that we’ve had in ages. Whether it was the sheer balance of gunplay, the fluid parkour mechanics or the crazy Titan battles, Titanfall attempted to reinvent the wheel while appealing to both new and experienced shooter players.
Then there was Grand Theft Auto 5, which arrived on the Xbox One and PS4 with plenty of grandeur and looked even better than what the previous generation delivered. Did we mention first person murdering? Because first person murdering – and first person tumbling out of an airplane – is awesome.
So with so much going for the Xbox One, what title ultimately ended up winning? The result was pretty much a no-brainer (though it was incredibly close).
Winner: Sunset Overdrive
Maybe it’s the customization mechanics. Maybe it’s the over-the-top inside humour and references. Maybe it was the colourful pastels. We’re pretty sure it was because of the guns and bizarre enemies and co-op mechanics and open world.
Whatever reason you want to give, it’s obvious that Insomniac created something special with Sunset Overdrive. Mixing parkour mechanics with a kitschy bombastic art style and an insane arsenal, Sunset Overdrive reminded us that you can throw away grim story-telling, realistic combat and grisly visuals to just have fun.
Everything in the game comes together so well and gels perfectly with the atmosphere. No single element overpowers the other and Insomniac will be delivering even more content in the coming months with its Season Pass DLC. If you’ve ever wondered what a hipster, grindhouse, action adventure, open world escapade was like, then take a trip to Sunset City.
Best PC Game
Judging the best PC game was tough. Do we look at the various AAA releases that came to PC and ultimately ended up being the definitive versions to play in terms of visuals? Do we look at efforts like Divinity: Original Sin, Wasteland 2 and Shadowrun: Dragonfall which reignited our passion for the turn-based, isometric RPG genre like no other (besides proving the power of crowd-funding to deliver excellent games)?
Or do we just look at the games we had the most fun playing on PC?
It’s a tough choice to be sure, especially given the number of third party games that suffered from issues at launch. Assassin’s Creed: Unity was a flop and still needs extensive work to correct its frame rate. Watch Dogs warned us of the dangers of too much hype. Borderlands: The Pre-Sequel was excellent but not the full-fledged Vault Hunting experience we had hoped for. Thankfully, there was still a strong palette of releases to choose from.
Winner: Dragon Age Inquisition
Bioware outdid itself with Dragon Age: Inquisition. It could have attempted to deliver a compelling medieval fantasy RPG with a larger scale than the second game and gameplay that improved on the first. Instead, Bioware went all out in terms of scale, side-quests, detail, characters, companions and writing.
It connected to earlier events and happenings in the franchise. It gave us a customizable Skyhold to raise our armies. It let us send armies out to complete missions. It gave us a co-op multiplayer experience that seemingly solved the issues that plagued Mass Effect 3.
It gave us a gorgeous, fully-realized world that was just plain fun to play in.
The tactical camera and mechanics felt like a more natural fit for PC but in terms of pure, overall quality and top-notch visuals, Dragon Age: Inquisition stood as the best PC of 2014.
Best Wii U Game
In a year where major developers and publishers failed one after the other to release error-free games, Nintendo stayed consistent with its releases all throughout.
It’s funny that with all the doom and gloom that plagued Nintendo coming into 2014 that it would ultimately end up delivering the most number of quality exclusives.
Bayonetta 2 finally arrived on the Wii U and turned out to be an even more bizarre but still highly memorable experience than the first game. Mario Kart 8 rekindled our hatred for our fellow man and his possession of the Blue Shell but made it all better with its excellent multiplayer, track design and music. And while Donkey Kong Country: Tropical Freeze didn’t stand out the most, it was still an excellent platforming experience that one simply had to play.
All of these paled in comparison to our pick for Best Wii U Game of the Year.
Winner: Super Smash Bros. Wii U
Online play! Customizable Mii fighters! Amiibo support! Eight-player Smash! There are plenty of buzzwords you can throw around to hype up Super Smash Bros. Wii U. However, it all comes down to the fact that the game is just plain awesome.
You have a wide range of characters to choose from, with series classics like Mario and Star Fox to new additions like Mega Man and the Animal Crossing Villager; there’s a new set of challenges to complete with rewards to be earned for the single-player crowd; and really, do we even have to sell you on the multiplayer?
Nintendo has had a great year in terms of sales and games. We’re confident that 2015 will be great but after the release of Super Smash Bros. Wii U, Nintendo has set an extraordinarily high bar to conquer.
Best Indie Game
You just can’t stop the indie movement. Sony unveiled various indie properties for its consoles, which included the awesome Velocity 2X and upcoming efforts like The Tomorrow Children and Everybody Goes to the Rapture. Microsoft didn’t lay dormant and made a quick recovery from last year’s indie debacle to introduce efforts like Inside, Cuphead and Ori and The Blind Forest while continuing to tease us with Below. PC gamers had more than enough to enjoy this year with The Vanishing of Ethan Carter and The Talos Principle which will also be heading to the PS4 next year.
That being said, while we enjoyed the utter competitive madness that Towerfall: Ascension provided, the heart-breaking and emotional story-telling of Valiant Hearts: The Great War (which isn’t technically indie but was created by a small team with limited resources at Ubisoft, much like Child of Light), and sheer action platforming excitement of Velocity 2X, there was one indie experience that defined 2014.
It was a game we had looked forward to for a long time and thankfully, it released across a variety of platforms.
Winner: Shovel Knight
Everything about Yacht Games’ Shovel Knight is a win. The theme, the 8-bit graphics, the music, the sheer difficulty that threw us back to the days of the original Mega Man and Castelvania titles – Shovel Knight manages to mix all these elements together and magically appeal to players of all ages. The appeal of the game isn’t in its nostalgia or quirkiness – it’s in the fact that games can be distilled to a select few elements. And when you make those elements simple and satisfying, people will have fun regardless of which games they prefer.
Shovel Knight should have released in 2013 but subsequent delays made us doubt whether it would even be out this year. Yacht Games delivered though and if it that weren’t enough, we’ll be getting a battle mode for four players, campaigns for three other Knights featured in-game, a challenge mode and much more. PlayStation players will even be able to fight against Kratos when Shovel Knight arrives for PS3, PS4 and Vita next year.
Your lesson for the new year? Embrace the shovel, even if it looks a little less HD than you’re used to.
Best Handheld Game
The home consoles may have their disappointments here and there – this year perhaps more than any other – but one can always count on the handheld realm to deliver. The rising popularity of smartphones and tablets, not to mention the resources being poured into gaming on Android and iOS, hasn’t dulled the quality releases one can expect on handhelds like the Nintendo 3DS.
Even the PlayStation Vita has a relatively good year with Velocity 2X, PixelJunk Shooter Ultimate, Soul Sacrifice Delta and plenty of ports like Minecraft and Child of Light. The 3DS dominated as usual though with Bravely Default finally hitting the West, Pokemon Omega Ruby and Alpha Sapphire, Kirby Triple Deluxe and Persona Q: Shadow of the Labyrinth. Nintendo didn’t have as many first party hits like it did last year but the 3DS still stood strong with lots of quality releases.
Which one earned the right to be called the Best Handheld Game of 2014? As it turns out, Nintendo did have one AAA release up its sleeve.
Winner: Super Smash Bros. for 3DS
Big surprise, right? Super Smash Bros. on the 3DS was notable for being the first real iteration of the franchise to hit handhelds and it helped fill the void till the Wii U version released this year.
Despite lacking features like 8 player Smash and spiffy visuals, Super Smash Bros. for 3DS still featured fun online play and Mii fighter support. If you wanted to hop into a random match with strangers with varying elements and plenty of chaos, Super Smash Bros. presented an excellent solution on the go. The 3DS version also featured its own exclusive content with StreetSmash and Smash Run. The latter was essentially the challenge mode for players that offered tons of different variations and competitions besides the actual racing aspect against friends.
Amidst all these variables, Nintendo managed to maintain what makes Super Smash Bros. so much fun. Gameplay is fast and responsive, and you’re never not having fun (unless you’re playing as Little Mac during his Final Smash, in which case we feel for). For all of its cel-shaded madness, the 3DS version is still a great addition to the Smash Bros. franchise in every single way.
Best Expansion Pack/DLC
We’ve come a long way from the days of expansion packs providing dozens of hours of new content but we’re also a long way from the Oblivion Horse Armour DLC that caused so much controversy.
Downloadable content and for that matter Season Passes have become the de facto way to obtain new content for a game in this day and age. Some games like Call of Duty: Advanced Warfare simply provide new maps, weapons and a Zombies mode while Borderlands: The Pre-Sequel throws new levels, new characters, new challenges and a level cap increase for the devout.
There were a few returns to the old way of doing things. Bungie dubbed its DLC for Destiny as “expansions” and delivered hours of new content and gear while Blizzard’s Diablo 3: Reaper of Souls was an entirely new campaign and set of gameplay options (though it took a while and a major patch for it to truly come into its own). Then there was The Last of Us: Left Behind which served as a prequel to the original story but delivered its own hard-hitting narrative. And don’t even get us started on Amiibos.
Which DLC or expansion stood out the most this year though?
Winner: The Legend of Zelda DLC pack for Mario Kart 8
Nintendo isn’t usually a company that pushes for DLC. With the Wii U gaining an added presence this year with multiple hit releases, it brought out DLC for games like Hyrule Warriors, Mario Kart 8 and Super Smash Bros. Wii U. The stand-out DLC pack for this year came in the shape of The Legend of Zelda DLC pack for Mario Kart 8 though. Just what made it so special?
Along with three new characters including Link and Cat Peach, four new vehicles and new parts. That’s not all though – you get two new cups with the Triforce Cup and the Egg Cup. Some of the tracks here are remixed versions of tracks from previous games in the franchise and some – like Hyrule Circuit – are brand new. When you consider how much content that is for just $7.99, The Legend of Zelda pack delivers insane amounts of value.
Even better, if you purchase it along with the upcoming Animal Crossing DLC, you’ll pay only $11.99 and receive roughly double the amount of content. The Last of Us: Left Behind may have the better story and characterization but The Legend of Zelda DLC for Mario Kart 8 provides countless hours of entertainment for solo and competitive players alike.
Best Multiplatform Game
In trying to choose the best multiplatform game of the year, it was important to highlight games that were equal across all platforms. No, being uniformly awful doesn’t count.
It was tough to judge Rockstar Games’ Grand Theft Auto 5 because while it is a great experience on all four of its target consoles, two of those console versions released last year only. Also, the game wasn’t built from scratch for all four – it came out on Xbox 360 and PS3 first and then was remastered/ported to the PS4 and Xbox One.
As for Middle Earth: Shadow of Mordor, the PS3 and Xbox 360 versions have several differences from the current gen platforms, the most prominent one being a scaled down Nemesis system. Titanfall is probably the only game that translated all of its mechanics to the Xbox 360 version thanks to having a dedicated team working on that version. Then again, it only released on three platforms. So which game won? The answer is quite obvious.
Winner: Dragon Age Inquisition
Bioware’s Dragon Age: Inquisition released on the PS3, PS4, Xbox 360, Xbox One and PC. Granted, the game isn’t perfect – it has its share of bugs – but compared to, say, Assassin’s Creed: Unity, it’s not nearly as bad.
That being said, the game works great across all platforms. The visuals are excellent despite the scaled down resolution on the PS3 and Xbox 360. There’s been no content cut or gameplay shortened in any way. Aside from some graphical differences, you’ll be picking up the exact same game on the Xbox 360 as you would on the Xbox One and similarly, for the PS3 as you would on the PS4.
Despite the PC being the superior platform, Bioware managed to properly optimize Dragon Age: Inquisition for the platform but the PS4 and Xbox One still look quite good in comparison. For that reason – and many others – Dragon Age: Inquisition is our Best Multiplatform Game of 2014.
Note: GamingBolt’s Game of the Year categories, nominations and awards are selected via an internal nomination, voting and debate process. You can check the rest of categories and the respective winners here.