Best game that’s available through early access: I don’t do early access. I pay for full games and full games only. I did add The Long Dark to my library, finally, but I haven’t played it and won’t play it until full release.
Most Interesting Gaming Moment Definitely the final climactic decision in Telltale Games’ The Walking Dead. If you haven’t played it, then spoilers abound.
Highlight for spoiler text: That final decision in shooting Kenny or Jane is one of the most difficult moral decision I’ve had to make in a game. Usually, moral decisions fall down to “angel/jerk”, but this one managed to be so grey that it was scary how well it was done. You only have about five seconds to make the decision, but I must have lived a lifetime in that time period. I audibly groaned as I made my choice because of how difficult it was.
Best Character: Aside from The Walking Dead, the games I enjoyed this year by and large didn’t have any memorable characters. I’m not going to be ironic and say Captain Toad or Luigi because their characters lack any sort of depth. I suppose it would have to be Carver from The Walking Dead, even though their treatment of his wasn’t all that great. It helped that Michael Madsen gave a killer voice. There were definitely other interesting characters, and some subtly great performances. Clementine was the focus of the story, but I preferred her as an NPC, mostly because Season 2 stretched my suspension of disbelief with other characters and their interactions with Clementine as a playable character. “Clementine, you’re 11 years old. Do everything.” Carver’s writing sank a bit lower by the end of episode 3, especially the forced conversation in the Howe’s Building Supplies office, but he was still perfectly menacing.
Runner up: Captain Toad, because I said so.
Best Art Style/Graphics/Prettiest/Nicest Looking: Mario Kart 8. Walking Dead has a beautiful cel-shaded art style, but there’s so much going on with MK8 and it’s all presented so well that it was hard to pick anything but.
Runner up: Bayonetta 2. Same reasons, but I just slightly preferred MK8.
Funniest Gaming Moment: Bearing in mind that I haven’t played South Park: Stick of Truth yet, I suppose it has to be in The Walking Dead when Mike loudly proclaims that “he would eat the shit out of that raccoon. Wait. Oh come on, you know what I meant”.
2014 wasn’t a huge year for funny games for me.
Game I want to see a sequel to: Telltale Games’ The Walking Dead. I know they’re making a third season, and a lot of people are predicting doom and gloom because Telltale Games has so many properties on the go, but we heard nothing but good things about Tales from the Borderlands and Game of Thrones, so I don’t doubt that they’ll do a great job.
Unless we’re picking non-2014 titles, in which case the answer will always be Metroid.
Game I never want to see again: Goat Simulator. The charm wore off quickly.
Best Audio: Mario Kart 8 wins by virtue of having phenomenal music. Symphonic, jazz, childish, just all-around great stuff. Cloudtop Cruise combines the best music from Mario Galaxy with a metal remake of the best music from Mario Galaxy, all in the most beautiful level of the game.
Biggest disappointment Bayonetta 2. That’s not to say that it’s not a phenomenal game, because every reviewer pretty much adored it and it was frequently on top-5 lists for 2014. However, I’m disappointed in myself for not liking it, because it’s two full releases (Bayonetta 1 and 2) and because it’s the type of thing I want to support (Nintendo reviving well-reviewed but not commercially successful titles), because that’s the best way I have to see a remake of Illusion of Gaia.
Biggest surprise (in games in general or a specific game): Nothing really surprised me all that much this year. I guess how enjoyable Captain Toad: Treasure Tracker is, but that’s sort of a copout.
I was surprised at how terrible and awful everything to do with #Gamergate was. It’s the first and last time I’ll ever say that word on this site. That protracted campaign of harassment, misogyny, and cruelty hung a nice dark cloud over the industry. To hell with everything to do with that.
Game I’m most looking forward to in 2015: Yoshi’s Woolly World. That art style is too gorgeous for me not to go crazy over it. Combine that with gameplay reminiscent of (or directly lifted from) Yoshi’s Island and it’s a recipe for success.
Runner up: Zelda U. GET HYPE.
Best co-op game: Insurgency, I guess, but that’s sort of winning by default, because I didn’t play any other cooperative games. Not an esteemed honour this year. I’m not much for online co-op, and I didn’t play any 2014 couch co-op; only couch competitive.
Best multi-player game: Mario Kart 8. Mario Kart MP >*, and the levels are only getting more and more colourful and fantastical. There’s a good degree of variety in the levels, especially with the stellar DLC.
Runner up: Nidhogg
Most addictive game: Captain Toad: Treasure Tracker is very much the definition of “just one more attempt”. You think you can stop when you want? No. Only Captain Toad tells you when to stop.
My dirty little secret game (which game were you most ashamed of liking?): Goat Simulator. There’s nothing redeeming about this game. It’s stupid, pointless, broken, and has dominated Let’s Play videos despite all of this. But I don’t hate its existence, and that bothers me because I should.
Best handheld / mobile game: Hitman GO. It surprisingly balances stealth with math, and I was quite impressed at it. I played a ton of 3DS games this year, most of them substantially better than HG, but HG was the only 2014 title I played.
The 2nd Annual Wall Punch Award (which game made you so frustrated that you wanted to throw a controller or punch a hole in a wall?): Few did, but I suppose by process of elimination, it would have to be Insurgency, because of how bad I am at competitive multiplayer shooters. Think I can survive more than one minute? No, because this game is hard and I am bad at it.
Best Game I played this year (can be a game released from any year, but that you played this year): Argh, this is probably the hardest question on this list, because I played Metroid Prime, The Walking Dead season 2, Bioshock Infinite, Mass Effect 2, Zelda: A Link Between Worlds, Brothers: A Tale of Two Sons, and Super Mario 3D World. Ask me again tomorrow and my answer will change, but until then, I’m picking A Link Between Worlds.
Best 2014 Game: Captain Toad: Treasure Tracker. Game of the forever.
I am surprised that I picked this. Or rather, if you told me at the beginning of 2014 that I’d pick this, I would be surprised. But in balancing game play, aesthetics, price point, ambition, and challenge, I struggle to find one that juggles those bowling pins as well as Captain Toad. If you want to burn through a level, you can do so quickly. If you want to find all of the gems, that will take you more time. If you want to accomplish the special crown task, then you’ll probably have to replay the level, but it encourages you to explore the level to your fullest extent nonetheless. Between that, a decent amount of replay value, and the frequent bonuses, it’s good value for money for a fun, beautiful game.
Runner-up: Mario Kart 8, The Walking Dead season 2