Introduction

I’m a little obsessed with our Game of the Year lists. I keep track of every game that comes out in a top-secret master document and move games up and down with each new release, patiently waiting for that final day in December when me and the EGM crew finally hash things out. 2014 was a little easier on me, though, as many of my top games have been there since the first half of the year. Much like our managing editor, Andrew Fitch, big budget disappointments marred much of the second half for me, but a few—including my eventual Game of the Year—would serve as bright spots in what has been a rather bleak winter. Now, with the promise of an eventful 2015 on the horizon, I am ready to pass my final judgment on the year that was. Here are my top picks of 2014!

Ray’s Top Five Games for 2014

#05: Bayonetta 2

Publisher: Nintendo
Developer: Platinum Games
Platforms: Wii U

Ray’s Take

If you had told me back in January that Bayonetta 2 would be in my top five at the end of the year, I’d have said you were insane. Sure, I enjoyed the first game (not nearly as much as our executive editor, Eric L. Patterson), but I saw some inherent flaws that, to me, kept it from being something beyond a niche, button-mashing, hack-n-slash game. Bayonetta 2, though, successfully built on that first game’s foundation, tweaked the combat, and added the Umbran Climax, giving me a larger sense of control in battle. I went from button mashing to carefully crafting crushing combos. Throw in one of the more charming protagonists out there and a story that finds an interesting way to tie into the first game, and I can’t help but admit that Bayonetta 2 made a believer out of me.

#04: Super Time Force

Publisher: Capybara Games
Developer: Capybara Games
Platforms: Xbox One, Xbox 360, PC

Ray’s Take

I might be hanging out with associate editor Josh Harmon too much, because looking at my Top 25 voting, I voted for more indies than ever before. One of them, though, legitimately blew me away. I love time travel, so Super Time Force’s ability to allow you to relive sections of gameplay over and over again as a near-endless army of clones of yourself teamed up to take on harder and harder threats was the kind of zany fun I’d been missing for a long time when this game came out. Admittedly, the off-the-wall humor might not be for everyone, but there was so much more strategy involved than you’d expect from an old-school side-scrolling shooter, and I loved every rewound second of it.

#03: South Park: The Stick of Truth

Publisher: Ubisoft
Developer: Obsidian Entertainment/South Park Digital Studios
Platforms: Xbox 360, PS3, PC

Ray’s Take

For a time, many were worried this game would never actually get released. But after years of delays and a change in publisher, South Park: The Stick of Truth is the purest form of the TV show we can get in a videogame. Though it paid more homage to classic elements from the show than carving its own path into the South Park mythos, The Stick of Truth’s only real fault was how short it was for an RPG. The story had me laughing constantly, and the old-school turn-based RPG combat was a welcome throwback that worked perfectly for what show creators Matt Stone and Trey Parker wanted to portray here: the boys of South Park playing a game that quickly spirals out of control and pulls in forces far larger than a LARPing session should ever entail.

#02: Donkey Kong Country: Tropical Freeze

Publisher: Nintendo
Developer: Retro Studios
Platforms: Wii U

Ray’s Take

For much of the year, this was my game to beat—and with great reason. Not only is Donkey Kong Country: Tropical Freeze a beautiful game graphically, but I’ll say it’s the best platformer Nintendo’s put out in quite some time. The level design was absolutely superb, and it mixed just enough difficulty and replayability into each area so that I never really got tired no matter how many times I tackled the game’s dozens of stages. The addition of Dixie Kong and Cranky Kong as playable characters also opened up so many exploration opportunities that led to secret levels and items—and added some pleasant variety between the Kongs. Donkey Kong Country: Tropical Freeze makes me wish Retro would take a crack at more classic Nintendo series after they first jump-started Metroid back on the GameCube, and now they’ve done the same with Donkey Kong Country.

#01: Dragon Age Inquisition

Publisher: Electronic Arts
Developer: BioWare
Platforms: Ps4, Xbox One, PC

Ray’s Take

When it comes to my fantasy, I’ve always been more of a “sci-fi” and not so much as a “high” kind of guy. But ever since an old co-worker turned me onto Dragon Age back in 2009, I’ve been hooked to this series. With decisions from the first two games coming to a head here, and with a massive world to explore, I couldn’t help but get sucked into this experience and easily clocked over 100 hours on my first playthrough. Considering our jobs here at EGM, and the fact we always have to move onto the next game, the fact I stuck with Inquisition for that long shows how immersive and addictive it is—hours would fly be in the blink of an eye. And I loved every minute of it. For the first time in a long time, I was grinding not for achievements, but just to squeeze every last line of dialogue from a cast of characters that I couldn’t help but fall in love with. And in terms of gameplay, whether it was playing the political game of Orlesian high society or the huge cheer that escaped my lips when I slayed my first gorgeous new-gen dragon, I couldn’t get enough of being the Inquisitor, and I happily choose Dragon Age: Inquisition as my personal game of the year.

Ray’s Off-Topic Awards for 2014

The 4th Annual “The Colors, Duke! The Colors!” Award for Most Colorful Game
(Brought to you by Popsicle)
The Banner Saga
I played a lot of great-looking games this year, including some that I already mentioned in my list above. But just eking them all out was Stoic’s The Banner Saga. This strategy title channeled the animation style of Don Bluth, and the character design and colors were a feast for the eyes. It’s more than deserving of this fourth annual award, especially because none of the quality is lost whether you’re playing the game on a high-end PC or an iOS device like an iPad 2.
The “Anything You Can Do, I Can Do Better” Award
Middle-earth: Shadow of Mordor
This one goes out to a game that heavily borrows some elements from other titles—but then does them better than the series it borrowed them from. This year, Middle-Earth: Shadow of Mordor is the recipient for this award, because they out–Assassin’s Creed-ed Assassin’s Creed, especially this year. Imitation may be the most sincere form of flattery, but if I’m the guys at Ubisoft, I’d be a little peeved that the folks at Monolith and Warner Bros. knocked out of the park on their first try things Ubisoft is still struggling to get right.
The “No Such Thing as a Sophomore Slump” Award
Transistor
When you consider how big a splash Supergiant Games made with their 2011 breakout indie hit, Bastion, it would’ve been understandable if the pressure of that success caused them to regress a little in their next effort. Instead, they showed that they’re a force to be reckoned with in the development community, as their second game, Transistor, was as intriguing and as moving as their first. Borrowing only a minimal amount of elements from Bastion, Transistor gave us compelling new combat and upgrade systems while telling the heart-wrenching story of protagonist Red and her lost love as it plays out in her dystopian future, and provided another immersive experience for gamers everywhere.

EGMNOW’s Best of 2014 Awards Schedule

http://www.egmnow.com/wp-content/themes/egmnowv3/christmas_links.php

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