Coming from last year’s extravaganza of “Oh my god, that’s a REALLY good game” games, I was just about ready to write this year off as a down year. Was it though?
I mean, sure, Watch_Dogs and Destiny ended up being only “okay” and Assassin’s Creed Unity i was an unmitigated disaster of bugs. The fact is, once these huge-name hype machines floundered some unexpected greatness arose in it’s stead. Honestly, looking back on the year I even found it hard to narrow my favorite games list down to only 10. There were a surprising amount of incredible experiences this year! ii
But narrow it I did, so let’s get this boogie train rolling starting with…
10. TIE: Mario Kart 8/Smash 3DS
See? I told you it was really hard for me to narrow it down! iii The fact is though, I truly lament the death of couch co-op gaming. The whole reason I even bought a Wii U was to be able to play games WITH my girlfriend, and get a bunch of people together to play some goddamn video games. these two games did that, and did it flawlessly. Getting a group of people together to play drunken Mario Kart 8 and playing an impromptu game of Smash while out and about really made my year in ways no other game possibly could. So hats off to you Nintendo! You’re still far and away the best local multiplayer game in town! iv
9. Persona Q: Shadows of the Labrynth
I love Persona. Like, I REALLY love Persona. So when I heard there was a new dungeon crawler-based Persona game coming out for 3DS that brought the investigation teams from both Persona 3 and 4 together, I was VERY excited. My excitement was not misplaced. Mapping out dungeons was funv, the addition of sub-personas was an exciting strategic addition, and the story was the pinnacle of Persona fanservice. It’s flat out the best dungeon crawler video game on the market right now, and if you’re a fan of the Persona series, there’s absolutely no reason this game shouldn’t be in your collection.
8. Sunset Overdrive
This game actually surprised me with how much I liked it. After the disappointment that was Fuse, it’s truly something to behold to see Insomniac Games delightfully unchained in Sunset Overdrive. the guns are wacky and feel very “Ratchet and Clank.” Take that and add the scoring and movement of a Tony Hawk game, and you have the basic parts of Sunset Overdrive. It’s far and away some of the most fun I’ve had playing a game this year, and traversing the overworld never, ever gets old. You will either love the humor or hate it, though, so prepare for that. Personally, I loved it.
7. Persona 4 Arena: Ultimax
Like, I REALLY REALLY love Persona. I wrote an extensive article about this one already with Ruben, so I won’t harp on this one for too long. Persona license aside though, it’s easily my favorite fighting game of all time. It strikes the perfect balance between depth and ease of play, the story is a fun and a well written addition to the Persona canon, and the looks and presentation are the best of all time. Period.vi
6. Fantasia: Music Evolved
To me, this was the absolute biggest surprise of the year. When I was at E3 and GameStop Expo, there were demos of this game. Both times, I walked right by and paid it no mind. Sure, it was made by Harmonix. Sure it was based on one of the best things Disney ever did. Seeing Lady Gaga front and center on the cover, though…well, it left me scoffing. When the demo came out for Xbox One, I picked it up on a whim. “I’ll give it a shot, who knows,” I said. Two hours later, I was in GameStop shelling out the $60 for a copy. Based on the demo alone, I could tell that this was something truly special. On the surface the game has you waving your arms to prompts like a normal rhythm game, but it manages to become something much more than that.
By changing an instrument here and a vocal track there in-song, selecting between three styles, you truly create your own versions of songs within the game. Add to that segments where you literally create your own background tracks through intuitive “spells.” By the time the song is over, you’ve truly created a track that may be a Lady Gaga song, but it’s YOUR Lady Gaga song. To all those who say Rhythm games are dead, Fantasia is there to whisper gently into your ear: Not yet, bitch. vii
5. South Park: The Stick of Truth
As long as I’ve been old enough to realize what I was watching, I’ve never missed an episode of South Park. Sure, some seasons have been better than others, and some episodes don’t really hit the mark, but South Park has always been the funny highlight of my week when it’s on. Stick of Truth is living in the best episode of all time. Matt Stone and Trey Parker wrote and voiced the entire game themselves, and it shows. This isn’t just a licensed product, this IS South Park.
I feel safe saying it, it’s the funniest game of all time, bar none. viii To mention any particular moment that stands out would ruin it, so all I can say is if you even remotely like South Park, you NEED to play this game.
I still remember the first time I played the beta for Titanfall. the match started and I did the first thing I knew how to do in an FPS: run. I ran toward a wall and jumped, activated my boosters, and ran along the wall, shooting down an unsuspecting gentleman walking along the ground. It. Felt. Awesome. The first time I called down one of the eponymous robots and jumped inside, I knew this was the last FPS I ever wanted to play. ix Some people say the game got old, but I still play the game to this day. No other FPS out there matches the range of movement and general “holy shit” factor Titanfall has for me. It also helps that Respawn games have done so much work to keep supporting the game after release, adding additional Titan voices, cutomizations, and a ranked-play mode for free. I still think it’s my favorite multiplayer FPS everx, and I find it hard to believe that any other will be taking its place any time soon.
3: Shadow of Mordor
I wasn’t expecting a whole hell of a lot from this game. When I played it at GameStop Expo, it looked like a great Assassin’s Creed clone, with Arkham combat in Middle Earth lore. It was fun, but didn’t look like it did much to make itself different. To quote a certain dwarf: “I have never been so wrong in all my life.” One thing the nice man showing me the game at GSE glossed over was the thing that made the game #3 of the year: the Nemesis System. To see more on that, you can read Mike’s review but it really is something that could end up changing the way games are made in the future. The main story of the game was “fine,” and sometimes interesting, busting out some stuff from The Silmarillion. The real star of the show was the stories you created for yourself by interacting the the generated orcs in the nemesis system. They fought each other, they fought you, they died, they came back. Intrigue, rage, humor, it was all there and you were at the center. The sooner we start seeing this in future games, the sooner I think games will truly become something no other medium could possibly do.
2. Dragon Age: Inquitision
I didn’t know what to expect, really, going into Dragon Age: Inquisition. Dragon Age: Origins is one of my favorite games of all time, and Dragon Age 2 was…fine. I wondered what I would even get out of Inquisition. Would it be wonderful? Mediocre? Could it match the original? In my humble opinion, it not only matches the original, it surpasses it.
On consoles, at least, the game is a perfect middleground between the button-mashy combat of DA2 and the strategic combat of the original. The story is interesting, though not quite Bioshock Infinite levels of interesting. What makes this game my number two game of the year, though, is the fact that Bioware is still the single best studio out there when it comes to building worlds and characters. Every character in the Inquisition has a life. They have likes, dislikes, traits, motives, histories, and weaknesses. They aren’t just characters that help you fight the bad people, they’re people. Throughout the course of the double-to-triple digit runtime of the game xi you really get to know the people that make up your army. They’re more than just pieces of meat that help you.
That’s not even to speak of the world. On a visual level, it looks breathtaking. From the deserts in eastern Orlais, to the lush forests of the Emerald Graves, to the bleak swamps in southern Ferelden, to the opulent capital city of Val Royeaux, it looks meticulously crafted down to the finest detail. The recycled dungeons of Dragon Age 2 are a thing of the past. In addition the lore of the world, down to the most minute written detail, is deeper than the Mariana Trench. Of all of the games that came out this year, this is far and away the most “full.” This isn’t a game where you just play through, it’s a game that you become a part of.
1. Bayonetta 2
I find it very hard to believe that any action game could ever be better than this. It isn’t often in my life that I witness an entire genre be perfected, but it happened. I like to think that I’m a pretty fair person. I could say a game is “my favorite of all time” xii but I don’t think I’ve ever said a
game COULDN’T get any better in its particular genre.
Bayonetta 2 is that game.xiii
I tried really hard to find something wrong with this game, something negative I could say about it. I can’t say a damn thing. The gameplay is fluid, intuitive, and every single mistake is because of the player, never because of the game. It’s the best in the genre and it isn’t even close. Platinum games were always my favorite studio in the action game business, but here they’ve cemented themselves as legends. The set pieces get consistently bigger and better and always make you go “Well, that’s the coolest thing I’ve ever seen” only to get even more mind-blowing in the next boss fight. The world exploration and item systems were improved from the first game as well. Hell, the first game even COMES WITH THE GAME, making it one of the best deals in gaming as well.
I honestly, seriously have nothing bad to say about Bayonetta 2. If an action game in the future can top Bayonetta 2, I would be the very first to play it. I really, honestly don’t see that happening. Praise be to Nintendo for saving this gamexiv, if it was never made, gaming would be lesser for it.
HONORARY MENTION for only game with Game of the Year in its Title: Game of the Year: 420 BlazeIt.