JDevL’s Games of the Year 2014

It was a rocky and transitional year both for games and myself. I saw my gaming habits change more than a year than they have in a decade. With less time to spend on games or to be caught up in the dramatics of the industry itself, I rediscovered the reasons why I continue to game and have such passion for this medium. I couldn’t be more excited for the future of games, but before we move on completely it’s time to elevate some of my favorites of 2014.

Justin Games of the Year 204

JDevL’s Top 10 Games of the Year 2014

  1. Middle-earth: Shadow of Mordor
  2. Wolfenstein: The New Order
  3. Hearthstone: Heroes of Warcraft
  4. Sunset Overdrive
  5. Shovel Knight
  6. Jazzpunk
  7. Mario Kart 8
  8. South Park: The Stick of Truth
  9. World of Warcraft: Warlords of Draenor
  10. Dragon Age: Inquisition

I’ve Got Everything, Literally

#10 – Dragon Age: Inquisition

I feel we were all a bit justified at keeping Dragon Age: Inquisition at arm’s length. The series seemed to have lost its identity during DA2, so how were we supposed to know how a new one would play. Bioware righted the dragon ship here. The game almost ruined my winter schedule because I didn’t expect to play it and then it turns out there’s like 90 hours of awesome RPG in here. A few bugs eventually broke my stride, but it felt like I was hanging out with an old friend. Dragon Age didn’t want to let me go, and I gotta say I was quite cozy shutting rifts, blowing up bad guys (and goats), and playing Risk with these really smart companions who trusted me way too much just because my hand could glow green some of the time. Bioware, I look forward to next-genning with you again soon.

#9 – WoW: Warlords of Draenor

Haha. Oh man. What have I done? Again? Ok, two things. 1) Warlords of Draenor has given me serious flashbacks to my original love for exploring WoW. 2) This is THE expansion to bring you back or have you try WoW for the first time.

With that out of the way. I just cannot believe I caved. I told myself after the beta that Warlords was gonna be really good, and if I wanted to play games before our game of the year discussions that I probably should wait to play it until after everything was said and done. I wasn’t strong enough. I have no regrets. I love keeping up my garrison, but more so, I love getting lost in Draenor and just seeing how far WoW has come since my days with Cataclysm. I have a feeling this is just the beginning of my re-addiction.

WoW Warlords

Job’s not done.

Memorable Gaming Moments in 2014

  • Bright Eyes
  • Beating Reaper of Souls during our live marathon
  • The Forest Co-op does not like to share its trees
  • WTF is this WWE Supercard
  • That Destiny beta. That Destiny final product.
  • Devil goats!
  • Death is going to catch you in Gauntlet
  • Super. Pole. Riders. Tournament
  • 1st time playing Johan Sebastian Joust
  • Gods Will Be Watching (And Break You)
  • Murder-a-Tweedle

You Be You

#8 – South Park: The Stick of Truth

This game was doomed. After Ubisoft bought it from THQ, I figured South Park: The Stick of Truth is either going to get canceled or its going to get shoved out the door and be incomplete. I cannot believe they pulled this off. We all saw the screenshots and were confused because it just looked like the show. The game is the show. More realistically, the game is basically the next South Park movie. It’s amazing for South Park fans, and pretty good for classic RPG fans, too. If they can get passed the South Park. It’s so much South Park and it’s the most beautiful combination of playable fart and dick jokes. This will never happen again. We’re so lucky to live in a world where this game happened.

#7 – Mario Kart 8

You always know what to expect when it comes to Mario Kart. Yet, you never know what to expect. Coming into this year for the Wii U, I kind of expected Mario Kart 8 to cut a lot of corners and for Nintendo to abandon the console in favor of the 3DS. Put aside the fact that I still have trouble containing myself around HD Nintendo art/graphics, and you still have the best playing Mario Kart since the N64 (my favorite). Nintendo even screwed up the battle mode and no one really cares. It plays that well. Online is fun, local is fun (with 2 people at least). The unlocks keep you going, and of course the icing on the cake is that Nintendo figured out DLC. Then, the DLC teases opening up the entire Nintendo universe. Forget Smash Bros, smash my Mario Kart some more Nintendo and I promise you’ll never have to worry about your amiibo sales here in Indy.

#6 – Jazzpunk

Hey, everyone it’s a token weird game. I’m sorry, Jazzpunk, I was a huge jerk when you came out. It wasn’t your fault, I was just burnt out on too many games being weird just for weird’s sake. Jazzpunk is all kinds of weird (and hilarious), but the one thing it does that still shocks me is that it’s easy to play. Underneath all the randomness is a goddamn gameplay structure. Sure, the best part is exploring all the nooks and crannies to find all the wonderful humor in Jazzpunk’s world, but when you come back to your objective, you know exactly what you need to do to push the game and story forward. I can’t express enough how much more fun being able to progress in a weird world is when compared to just inhabiting a weird world. Jazzpunk is unique, it’s dumb, and it had me smiling for days. Kiss me again, you lovable hobo.

Jazzpunk

Subtle seashells

Most Honorable of Mentions (in no particular order)

  • Nidhogg
  • Threes!
  • Crossy Road
  • The Wolf Among Us
  • Sportsfriends
  • Luftrausers
  • Earth Defense Force 2025
  • Wayward Souls
  • Lethal League
  • Monument Valley
  • Diablo III: Reaper of Souls
  • Valiant Hearts: The Great War

Video Game Love Letters

#5 – Shovel Knight

You can almost taste my childhood in Shovel Knight. I’m not sure who loves the flavor more, me or Yacht Club Games. I think its plan was to finish making Shovel Knight and to have the its release trigger the space time continuum to restore the world back to 1988. I’m ok with that plan even if it didn’t come together. Shovel Knight not only immediately belongs alongside the legends of its inspiration, but it’s one of the most filling game experiences I had the entire year. Hidden in its perfect retro sights and sounds are some really great modern game design decisions. I just can’t imagine how much longer it would have taken me to finish my favorite games if corpse loot runs were added to them. I would have loved every extra second with those games. Chances are Shovel Knight may have put them all to shame back in the 80s because it definitely raised the bar for what a platformer can be in 2014.

Shovel Knight

You’ve earned a rest, Shovel Knight.

#4 – Sunset Overdrive

Meet my Xbox One system seller. I came for a good time and Insomniac Games did, too. You know how you get me to not fall asleep in your open world in 2014? (Volition, Sucker Punch, Ubisoft, and Rockstar need to pay attention here) Make it fun to get around in your open world no matter what is going on. Normally, moving around at ludicrous speeds while shooting packs of enemies stresses me out. I’d much rather sit back and shoot from a distance, use some stealth, or setup intricate traps to take my enemies out over time. It was love at first bounce for me in Sunset City. Getting around is a blast, and that’s even before Insomniac’s affluence for fantastic weapon design kicks in (with gusto I might add). Throw in more personality than the story knows what to do with and some memorable enemies / boss fights and Sunset Overdrive will remind you just how fun it can be to play video games. Thanks, I really needed that and I think you did, too, Insomniac.

I Wish We Could Have Spent Time Together

  • Alien: Isolation
  • Transistor
  • Legend of Grimrock 2
  • Super Time Force
  • Bayonetta 2
  • Far Cry 4
  • Call of Duty: Advanced Warfare
  • The Walking Dead: Season 2

Why Would I Ever Play Cards?

#3 – Hearthstone: Heroes of Warcraft

My original pitch for friends to play Hearthstone is to talk about how easy the tutorial makes it to try a collectible card game if you have never played one before (kinda like me back when I first played). Then, I follow up with the fact that it’s free to play/try so they have nothing to lose. That all still holds true, but my wallet is laughing at me about having nothing to lose.

Hearthstone was by far the game I played the most in 2014. That is a ridiculous statement, I hate card games. What the hell am I doing? Well, I’m playing around with new custom decks, unlocking fun legendary cards, and trying them out on strangers in ranked matches. ALL THINGS I NEVER DO OUTSIDE OF HEARTHSTONE. Hearthstone has made me enjoy some of my least favorite things about modern video games. For that I rewarded Blizzard (and in turn myself) by going all in when the Goblins vs Gnomes expansion came out. It’s my favorite game to talk about with friends (whether or not they play) as its ups-and-downs are heart wrenching. I always feel competitive and at the same time I see the mountain I’m anxious to climb to get better each month. If I’ve got 10 minutes to spare, I’m playing Hearthstone.

Hearthstone

I almost lost it.

Everyone Wins

#2 – Wolfenstein: The New Order

I’ll admit that I was going to play Wolfenstein: The New Order the moment I found out it included mechs and an alternate history revolving around the Nazis. I mean, I didn’t expect it to be good. I expected it to be nonsensical but full of decent explosions. MachineGames cannot get enough credit for the feat it pulled off with this game.

On the gameplay side, Wolfenstein: The New Order is the most well paced first person shooter I have played. The moment I got sick of dual wielding weapons of death, an officer would show up that I tried just had to try to stealth kill. Once I got sick of my puny World War II weapons, I got sweet sci-fi upgrades. One minute I’m taking down building sized robots, and the next I’m looking behind paintings for secrets in a castle. Wolfenstein: The New Order also manages to hit all of the nostalgic notes I have for the series and then some.

So yeah, Wolfenstein: The New Order is fun a hell. Then, MachineGames also managed to give Wolfenstein a story I actually enjoy and care about. It made me take BJ Blazkowicz seriously as a humanized character. I even liked Ol’ William’s buddies and had a vested interest in his romantic needs. What the hell is even happening anymore? I didn’t ask for this. The game would work fine without all of this. Damn it though, I love the game even more for making me care. Wolfenstein, I love you for your heart and for your guns. I don’t care who knows it.

Wolfenstein: The New Order

That armor won’t save you from Blazko.

Foe Greatness

#1 – Middle-earth: Shadow of Mordor

I’m just glad I’m not crazy. Months prior to its release, I kept trying to find more info to feed my hype about Shadow of Mordor and there were no hype trains to board. Before its major feature was announced, I was just excited to chop off orc heads using an established fighting system. I just knew Shadow of Mordor was going to play well, but a Lord of the Rings game wouldn’t actually be great, right?

The nemesis system combined with its combat make Shadow of Mordor transcend above any open world action game available prior to its release. This is the game that is going to be copied and improved upon for the next 10 years. If you do not like action games or The Lord of the Rings, you should still play Shadow of Mordor.

Why? Because Monolith added the one thing that has been missing in open world action games and that is giving the player authorship withing a living world. Outside of simulations and world creation games, I have never experienced anything like it. Every person I’ve talked to that has played Shadow of Mordor has multiple nemesis stories. These are completely unique to every player and these moments make the meat of the open world actually matter for once. I want to give a shit about a game’s world, and I’ve never cared more.

Take away the nemesis system, and Shadow of Mordor is a still a very good game and accolade worthy in its own right. Its memory will fade as iterations on its gameplay come about in the future. However, Shadow of Mordor gave me my most dramatic, comedic, and heroic moments in video games this year. Those memories are seered into my brain next to some of my favorite technological leaps in gaming. Its not something I will forget. Hell, I’ve beat the game and I don’t feel like I’ve finished my own tale. All I want to do now is go create more nemeses so I create even more stories to tell.

Shadow of Mordor

Let’s get to know each other first.

Games of the Year 2014 from the Horrible Night Staff and Friends

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