With the PS4 and Xbox One entering their first full year on store shelves, 2014 turned out to be a bit of a transition year. A lot of games were delayed into 2015 and a few others were delayed even further. With the other two consolemakers taking a step back in 2014, it was Nintendo’s time to shine and the wizards behind the Wii U responded with nearly a dozen major titles. But that doesn’t mean the PS4 and the Xbox One (or the PS3 and Xbox 360, for that matter) went hungry in 2014.
There were plenty of great games to go around last year and you can read all about them as we hand out our annual Golden Pixel Awards…
The Apocalypse List
The bombs have fallen, the economy has collapsed, food is scarce, the zombie hordes are scratching at your door, and you’ve boarded yourself up in a bunker that’ll stand for a hundred years. What better way to spend your time in “The Vault” than by playing Warp Zoned’s favorite games from 2014? It doesn’t matter if you call it a “Top Ten List” or “Our Favorites From 2014,” but these are the games we plan to keep playing even if there was no game industry to keep making games.
Destiny: Bungie’s first foray outside the Halo universe in many years wasn’t the genre-defining blockbuster they expected it to be. But it is still an excellent shooter that will go a long way towards convincing gamers that their 10-year plan is worthy of getting involved with. – John Scalzo
Donkey Kong Country: Tropical Freeze: Retro Studios returned to the Donkey Kong Country this year and created another great side-scroller in the long-running the franchise. – John Scalzo
Hyrule Warriors: “Hyrule Warriors doesn’t feel like a Zelda game, but it is very fun for what it really is- a Zelda-themed Dynasty Warriors game.” – Allen Jenkins
InFamous: Second Son: InFamous: Second Son is definitely not last gen’s InFamous. Delsin is no Cole; his story and his powers are unique to him. It was fun getting to try out his different abilities, and since Seattle is one of my favorite cities, it was amazing to spend hours on end just running around and seeing the digital sites. It’s a great new chapter in the series, and one I truly enjoyed.
Mario Kart 8: “Whatever the future holds for the franchise, Mario Kart 8 knows exactly what kind of game it is. It is the eighth entry in a series that began 22 years ago, and Nintendo nailed it (for the most part) yet again.” – John Scalzo
Middle-Earth: Shadow of Mordor: Who honestly expected this to be as amazing as it is? A licensed game? A Lord of the Rings licensed game for that matter? I was just as blown away as Mr. Steinbrenner was when he found out that George Costanza was working nights at Tyler Chicken. – Mike Ryan
Shovel Knight: “For everyone who loves retro gaming, Shovel Knight is the game for you. It looks, and plays, like all of those 8-bit classics you know and love. Side-scrolling hasn’t been this fun in a long time, and I can’t wait to see what else Yacht Club has in store for us.” – John Scalzo
Super Smash Bros. For Wii U: A new Smash Bros. is always cause for celebration and Nintendo definitely did not drop the ball with Super Smash Bros. For Wii U. Between the new character additions (Duck Hunt Dog! Mega Man! Pac-Man!) and the insane new eight-player mode, Smash Bros. For Wii U will keep gamers during the long wait until the next one. – John Scalzo
Threes: Mobile games that are deceptively simple but decidedly deep are pretty common, but Threes took it to a whole new level. Sliding around cards to create bigger and bigger numbers is addicting and the “character” found in each card just tickles me. – John Scalzo
Wolfenstein: The New Order: The latest reboot of id Software’s seminal shooter was handled by MachineGames, a Swedish developer founded by a few former members of Starbreeze Studios who worked on the Riddick series. The New Order trades Riddick’s more methodical approach to first-person gameplay and replaces it with the kind of run-and-gun shooting that you don’t see much of anymore. After playing The New Order, I have a feeling that’s about to change. – John Scalzo
The Participation Trophy
The Participation Trophy is awarded to a game that wasn’t necessarily great, but it was great that we got to play it.
Winner: Geometry Wars 3: Dimensions
From Our Review: “Geometry Wars 3: Dimensions had a lot to live up to. The last game in the series, Geometry Wars: Retro Evolved 2, dethroned Smash TV as the standard bearer of the twin-stick shooter genre. And the first game in the franchise, Geometry Wars: Retro Evolved, was considered by many to be the Xbox 360’s killer app for the first year. But Lucid Games proved to be more than up to the task with an excellent new entry in the series. After the closure of Bizarre Creations (the creator of Retro Evolved and Retro Evolved 2), Lucid became the new home for multiple members of the Geometry Wars development team. So we probably shouldn’t have been worried at all.
Geometry Wars 3: Dimensions is more than worthy of carrying the Geometry Wars name, and it stands as one of 2014’s best.” – John Scalzo
Best Game Where an Alien’s Head Pops Like a Grape
Spaceships, little green men, giant mecha… the world of science fiction will always have a place in video games. This is our favorite game where an alien/robot/mutant gets an RPG to the face in 2014.
Winner: Earth Defense Force 2025
From Our Review: “The Earth Defense Force series will never be mentioned in the same breath as Call of Duty or Halo, but it is ridiculous charming in its own way. Players who are looking for an un-serious shooter that is still seriously entertaining would do well to ignore their next-generation consoles for a bit and give Earth Defense Force 2025 a playthrough. You might be surprised by how much fun you have.” – John Scalzo
Jason Voorhees Memorial Award
The rotting corpse of Jason Voorhees has shambled his way through 12 movies since 1980 and horror fans can always be counted on to return to Camp Crystal Lake. The hockey mask-wearing slasher is so perennially popular that the “Memorial” part of this award will always be in question. And so it is with video games, which often manage to get better after the 11th or 12th iteration of a series.
Winner: PT: Silent Hills Playable Teaser
I’m a fan of survival horror, though I haven’t played nearly as much as I want to. So as soon as PT was available on the PlayStation 4, I downloaded it. It was a terrifying experience that stayed with me long after it was over. While there were some overt jump scare moments, it wasn’t saddled with them; instead, the game opted for that creepy, otherworldly fear. And sometimes, you didn’t even get scared unless you were really paying attention: seeing that eerie woman staring down at you from the banister above the front door, a place you’d have no reason to look up at, was sufficiently disturbing. Even though it’s technically just a demo, if the finalized game captures horror this same way, we’re in for some sleepless nights. – Nicole Kline
The “Great Scott” Award for Best Trilogy Ender
Everyone loves a trilogy. And no one loves a trilogy more than game publishers. Getting three games out into the marketplace that can sell, sell, sell is a publisher’s dream. Thankfully, a few people still take this trilogy business seriously as we look at 2014’s favorite finale (until the inevitable fourth entry).
Winner (Tie): InFamous: Second Son
Winner (Tie): LittleBigPlanet 3
I’ve always been a huge fan of the InFamous games. Cole McGrath has consistently been one of my favorite heroes to play as and read about, and I loved his world. Even InFamous: Festival of Blood, which changed the equation so much, was a great time. So when InFamous: Second Son came out, it was reason enough to upgrade to the next generation. The different abilities given to Delsin, mixed with the compelling story and interesting cast of characters, made this game one of my favorites of the year, and by far my favorite trilogy-ender of the year. – Nicole Kline
LittleBigPlanet 3 isn’t technically the end of a trilogy, but as the third entry in this creative franchise, it’s worthy of the moniker. Plus, I could just make up my own storyline. So there. – Mike Ryan
Most Disappointing Sequel
It’s a Hollywood adage that a sequel is always worse in some way. But for video games, it’s just the opposite. Taking everything they’ve learned from the first game, developers are able to put much more into a sequel (even after a dozen tries: for example, see above). Sometimes, things don’t work out that way.
Winner (Tie): InFamous: Second Son
Winner (Tie): LittleBigPlanet 3
I chose InFamous: Second Son not because it was awful… which it wasn’t… but because it just didn’t have that same charm and finesse that the first InFamous game had. – Mike Ryan
LittleBigPlanet should have stopped at the first game. The sequel, the PSP version, and the Vita version were all disappointments, lacking in coherent stories and not challenging enough to make up for it. When the third game was announced, I tried to brush all of those negative feelings under the table, determined to revive those feelings I had when I played the first game. Unfortunately, it was just another disappointment. While they did reveal new and fun characters to play as, every single moment playing as those characters was previously decided, leaving out any and all choice in the matter. While things might open up in a second playthrough, I lost interest long before I was done the first, and pushed through it for love of what the game once was. – Nicole Kline
Al Gore Award for Best Use of Environment In a Game
Ever since games moved beyond being about a simple character moving against a black background, they’ve used the environment to help tell their story. Who can forget the unique playground of Super Mario 64 or the hostile terrain of Half-Life 2? And because sometimes you just want to stop and look around at the world.
Winner: Alien: Isolation
The lack of a visible threat is where the game feels greatest, and the use of the ship itself as a character is how this works, just as it did in the original Alien film. It’s the shadows and darkness or the level design that makes this game get right under your skin. Especially when playing in the dark. – Andrew Rainnie
Creative Assembly’s choice to recreate the “lo-fi sci-fi” look of 1979’s Alien paid off in a huge way. Whether you were scared or not, Isolation felt like the most Alien game ever. – John Scalzo
Miles Dyson Memorial Award
AKA “The One Step Closer to SkyNet Award.” Video game technology is advancing at a lightning fast pace and now that next generation consoles have practically reached the limits of photorealistic graphics; the only other place to go is to make the game world as realistic as possible. There’s no fate but what we make and no limit to what a talented developer can do with the right piece of new technology.
Winner: Alien: Isolation
If you seriously think the AI in this game isn’t the epitome of realism, then I demand that you program your own murderous androids, grow your own Xenomorph, and see how long you survive. – Mike Ryan
If the Xenomorph in Alien: Isolation didn’t already feel real enough, Creative Assembly dropped a more cunning version of the star beast at the end of the year as a downloadable bonus for fans. No wonder the Predators never seem to stand a chance… – John Scalzo
Thrifty Time-Reversal Award
Maybe you missed it the first time around. Or maybe it was your favorite game back in the day and you want to play it again. Whatever the reason, it’s back in 2014 with eye-popping 3D or a high definition makeover or some other update. And you can’t imagine not parting with your money and playing it all over again.
Winner: Sleeping Dogs: Definitive Edition
It’s no secret that I had an amazing time with Sleeping Dogs the first time around. As soon as I got the Definitive Edition, I couldn’t stop myself from playing it for hours on end. The game is just as fun the second time around – I would argue moreso, as now I know that going on dates early in the story allows you to see collectibles on your mini-map. There are also 24 DLCs available with the DE, including Year of the Snake, which extends the story, and Nightmare in North Point, which is their Halloween horror DLC. While I’m not usually the type of person to replay games I’ve already played, this is one exception I’m happy to make. – Nicole Kline
The “This Game Rocks” Award
Games need more than a good story and gameplay sometimes. Sometimes they need to rock (or pop or jazz or what have you). This award honors the game with the best music of the year.
What stood out the most about Transistor, aside from the haunting characters that stayed with me long after the credits rolled, was the soundtrack, composed by Darren Korb. Every moment was perfectly accentuated by the background music, and the occasional additions to the songs by Red, voiced by Ashley Barrett, were mesmerizing. It almost felt as if the strange world and its inhabitants were forever encapsulated within the current of song. – Nicole Kline
My lighter is well and truly raised for the Transistor soundtrack. – John Scalzo
The “Shoeless” Joe Jackson Award
“If you build it, he will come.” Most games are victims of overinflated expectations, but sometime there is no hype and no warning. Sometimes a game just completely surprises you. Like “Shoeless” Joe Jackson emerging from the corn, this game came completely out of left field to thrill you.
Winner: Monument Valley
Normally, I’m not the kind of person who plays mobile games, but when something amazing comes along, I’ll go out of my way to play it. This is definitely the case for Monument Valley, a haunting, beautiful game for iOS and Android. I sat and played it in one sitting, gasping and breathless, with Anthony Amato by my side. We wandered through it together, controlling the princess and taking her through her M.C. Escher-like world. The sheer elegance and beauty of it has stayed with me. There’s DLC available now, which I’ll need to find time to play as well. – Nicole Kline
The What? Award
The game that most perfectly encapsulates a single thought process as you play it: “What did I just see?”
Winner: Goat Simulator
I knew I was in over my head when I found Goat Satan hiding in a goat tower. I wish I could unsee the eldritch horrors that are now affixed to my retinas. – Allen Jenkins
There are no words. Just YouTube it. I mean… yeah. There are no words. – Mike Ryan
The Video Game Librarian Award
Being a gamer is about more than just playing video games. As we all know, movie studios are still looking for that breakout title that’ll make “video game movies” the next great genre. But writers of fiction and non-fiction have been turning out some great stuff based on video games for years now.
Winner: Reverse Design: Super Mario World
Patrick Holleman’s latest book in the Reverse Design series, Reverse Design: Super Mario World, came out earlier this year. In it, he carefully studies and dissects Super Mario World from top to bottom, taking readers on a journey into game design that will change the way they look at their favorite plumber and his many enemies. Fans of the game and the series will love this in-depth analysis, especially if you were a Super Nintendo kid. – Nicole Kline