2014 is on its way out. With a week before we all have to work it out of our muscle memory when we write the date, we can safely say the year is done – especially so for games. With that in mind, the Chums and I were able to narrow down our choices of 2014’s absolute best. Before we get to that exciting list, however, let’s talk about the more unusual awards we handed out during out annual Game of the Year podcast.
(Best game that is a Pokemon game)
Winner: Pokemon Alpha Sapphire
Alex is a big fan of Pokemon. HUGE. He’s pretty much the reason we’re all still catching the little critters, and it was at his behest (he begged) that we awarded this year’s best Pokemon game its own award. If it were up to Mr. Beech, I fear every one of the nominees would walk away with a coveted CHUMMY, but alas, this isn’t the hunger games. We can’t all be winners. So with great fervour I can announce that 2014’s best Pokemon game is none other than POKEMON ALPHA SAPPHIRE.
RUNNERS UP: Pokemon Omega Ruby, Pokemon Art Academy, Pokemon Link: Battle!, Pokemon Bank
Winner: Mario Kart 8
2014 was a banner year for Nintendo – and it needed to be. The House of Mario needed to prove to Wii U owners and – more importantly – those yet to be swayed that the system was worth a place under their television set. With some excellent first party titles such as Super Smash Bros. and Donkey Kong Country: Tropical Freeze, bolstered by a few fantastic second and third party titles, there was more than a few reasons to finally take the plunge and pick up the world’s least successful console. It was MARIO KART 8, however, that truly tested the resolve of Nintendoubters worldwide, and proved to be Nintendo’s best game of the series, and the year.
RUNNERS UP: Donkey Kong Country: Tropical Freeze, Super Smash Bros., Bayonetta 2
(Digital title of £20 or less)
Winner: The Binding of Isaac Rebirth
Downloadable games first made their mark with the increasing popularity of the Xbox Live Arcade and Playstation Network Store, digital storefronts that quickly became home to some of the best, most diverse titles out there. These days it’s harder to define what we mean as the lines between digital and retail games blur, so with the ‘under £20′ stipulation we’ve narrowed down our favourite ‘budget titles’. What’s better than £20 or under, of course, is absolutely free, and THE BINDING OF ISAAC REBIRTH proved to be the year’s cheapest, (It was offered as November’s Playstation Plus title) and best, digital game (and a fairly unanimous vote from the Chums). Isaac is a fairly everyday story of a sickly boy taking on an increasingly grotesque form as he picks up a myriad of tumours and growths that act as power-ups before he finally climbs into his mother’s womb and destroys her heart with his tears. Standard.
RUNNERS UP: Transistor, Child of Light, Shovel Knight
It’s no secret that the Chums have a very special relationship with the horror genre. Thankfully, the Industry is falling back in love with them too, and over the last few years we’ve been treated to some of the mediums best. This year played host to an especially cool surprise in Konami’s playable teaser/announcement for Silent Hills. Simply named P.T., this endlessly looping corridor cleverly changed seemingly at whim, playing host to increasingly spooky happenings and a particularly pissed off ghost. By the end of our time with P.T. we were all thoroughly terrified, and we look forward to the full product with anxious excitement.
RUNNERS UP: The Evil Within
The Xbox One and PS4 have provided consumers with a unique predicament: not enough games. It’s no surprise then that devs have picked up on this lack of titles to throw our money at and have started making their last-gen games more sparkly and asking us to give them our money all over again. This year has been nothing short of silly with its constant re-releases, and next year looks to be no different. A couple of these however have been more than hasty upscales. The Chums, however, could not agree on their favourite of the lot. The Halo Master Chief collection provided a seriously special edition of four of the best console shooters ever made, despite some launch hiccups that have yet to be fully addressed. Metro Redux brought a flawed masterpiece to perfection with a brand new engine and a wealthy offering of bells and whistles. Final Fantasy X/X-2 not only delivered the best looking versions of the acclaimed PS2 RPGs, but gave the world the most complete package with all the additional content most of us never received. It’s titles like these, that eschew the lazy cash-in we have all come to expect, that give the remaster value.
CONTENDERS: Halo Master Chief Collection, Metro Redux, Final Fantasy X/X-2
(The game we’ve all enjoyed playing together)
The Touching Sticks award is a seriously special CHUMMY. When we’re not arguing about games, the Chums are playing them together, and 2014 has been a pretty great year for multiplayer gaming. Developers seem to be – for the first time in a long time – remembering the excellence of local play. Towerfall Ascension, Diablo III and yes, even Destiny, got us all gaming in new and exciting ways. Sports Friends had us pushing each over in the physical world whilst Gang Beasts had us throwing each other into meat grinders in the digital one. But it was FIBBAGE – the excellent, ingeniously designed party game from the guys who made You Don’t Know Jack – that won out and had us in hysterics. It’s a simple premise: lie so convincingly your friends fall for your fibs. But whilst the simple pleasures of deceiving those you love is brilliant enough, it’s the smart execution that wowed the Chums. Every player connects to the game using their smartphones, giving each liar their own screen upon which to construct their fallacies. The results speak for themselves.
RUNNERS UP: Diablo III, Gang Beasts, Sports Friends
Another bitter division, the Chummy for best handheld title was diametrically split four ways. In the red corner, Alex threw no punches in nominating the excellent visual novel Danganronpa: Trigger Happy Havoc. Joe threw in Hearthstone, Blizzard’s free-to-play card game that ended up costing him over a hundred quid to date. Pokemon was named by Ridley and Kelly made a decent case for Theatrythym: Curtain Call. All great games, all with a hefty claim to the throne. After much bickering, name calling and a hurt feeling or two, we agreed to disagree.
CONTENDERS: Danganronpa, Theatrythm, Pokemon, Hearthstone
In a year full of facepalm inducing screw ups, it was Ubisoft who walked proudly away with a CHUMMY clutched in their sweaty palm. These guys rarely put a foot wrong, so it was astonishing to see them fall flat on their face on multiple occasions in 2014’s dying months. Assassin’s Creed Unity was their biggest shambles, and it’s still being desperately (and badly) patched months later. It’s both a shame to see such a brilliant company cock up so completely, and an impressive feat, considering this was the same year the ridiculously buggy Driveclub and Halo: Master Chief Collection launched. Hats off, Ubisoft. You earned it.
RUNNERS UP: Driveclub, Halo Master Chief Collection
For once, the Chums were in complete agreement. DESTINY was – by far - 2014’s most horribly disappointing experience. The Chums were very excited for Destiny, a passion ignited by enjoyable alpha/beta tests and developer Bungie promising us the world… a whole host of worlds even. It turned out to be a miserly offering of content that wasted its own great potential. Despite the consensus, however, it didn’t stop some of the Chums from sinking frankly disgusting amounts of time into the title – and continue to do so on a daily basis. It wasn’t Alex or Joe’s favourite game of the year, but their 200 hours a piece says it wasn’t far off.
RUNNERS UP: Nothing came close
Some games look bad and end up great (Watchdogs). Some games looked great and ended up greater (Wolfenstein) Our favourite surprise of the year however came out of absolutely nowhere: P.T. was definitely the best surprise of the year. A free microbite of pure terror, P.T. might have actually invigorated the horror genre more than any other title this year, and did so with no hype, no build up and barely any marketing whatsoever. The Chums loved it, and we’re all stupidly excited to see where Kojima and crew go with this now.
RUNNERS UP: Wolfenstein, Watchdogs
Winner: Valiant Hearts
The guys at Ubisoft really knocked it out of the park this year. Nearly every game they released in 2014 was scored beautifully, with Child of Light, Far Cry 4 and Valiant Hearts all fighting for the crown of best soundtrack. But it was VALIANT HEARTS, with heartbreak in every track and agony in every note, that stole the show. The myriad of composers who scored Valiant Hearts crafted simple, moving pieces that wore their influences – such as Yann Tiersen and Ludovico Einaudi – on their collective sleeves. If the action on screen didn’t tug at your heartstrings, you were a monster, but if you could open up the menu and listen to that music without feeling something then you might as well become a warlord right now, you psycho you.
RUNNERS UP: Transistor, Child of Light
Winner: Wolfenstein The New Order
WOLFENSTEIN: THE NEW ORDER was something special. We were all psyched to get our hands on a traditional shooter after years of suffering with the regenerative-health virus, but we weren’t expecting that classic dual-wielding shotgunning to come packed in with a killer story. But it did. MachineGames’ take on a world where the Nazis won World War II was an incredibly interesting place to be, and the scale of how this alternate history was presented was always interesting. Wolfenstein was at times like a strange spot the difference, where our timeline and B.J. Blazkowicz’s intercepted and came away worlds apart. The rebel faction B.J. joins and the friendships he fosters within that group, however, stunned us, and showcased one of the most mature and believable relationships I’ve seen in videogames.
RUNNERS UP: Transistor, Valiant Hearts, Dragon Age: Inquisition
Downloadable content can be great or galling. Luckily 2014 played host to a couple of fantastic expansions to our favourite games. Blizzard – masters of such a craft for decades – gave us Reaper of Souls for Diablo III, an expansion so replete with features and redesigns that it completely saved one of the most disappointing vanilla experiences I’ve played to date. It was later featured in the console release of Diablo III: Ultimate Evil Edition, which the Chums played endlessly (and still wish they had more time for!) On the opposite side of the spectrum, the decidedly single player title Bioshock Infinite received Burial at Sea episodes 1 & 2, a fantastic, narrative-driven and lengthy experience that closed the Bioshock trilogy for good in a fitting and satisfying way. We argued for a while, but when we saw that a victor wasn’t going to emerge we settled on remaining opposed. Such is life.
CONTENDERS: Bioshock: Burial at Sea episode 2, Diablo III: Reaper of Souls / Ultimate Evil Edition
This is it. The big one. Never before have our decisions mattered quite as much. There was some bitter fighting involved in deciding which of 2014s excellent games deserved the crown of the grand champion, but at the end of the bloody battle royale, one game rose to the top.
See you next year, Chumsters.