It has once again come to that time of year when we talk about what our favorite games were this year, lament those games that we didn’t have time to get around to, and start preparing for the games we are most excited for next year. So without further ado, let’s get into the list.
5. Middle-Earth: Shadow of Mordor
I love Tolkien’s work and almost everything that has come from it. The LOTR films are some of my favorite movies and I try to make a point of watching them at least once a year. While there has been some disappointing content released in the LOTR universe in recent years (The Hobbit, War in the North, Conquest, etc.), Shadow of Mordor is not only an excellent addition to this universe, but it contributes a new mechanic in the Nemesis System that has exciting potential for future open-world games. The game looks great, and really captures the oppressive feeling of Mordor in the beginning before opening up to some new areas later on, and the controls are very smooth, implementing the combat system made famous by Warner Bothers’ Batman Arkham franchise. The feeling of cutting down hordes of orcs is very satisfying, and the more you level up, the more powers and weapons you have to take out enemies in new ways. As I mentioned above, the Nemesis System is an exciting new mechanic introduced by the game in which every enemy you encounter has a name and a unique personality, albeit randomly generated from a library of pre-set names and characteristics. These enemies can advance by killing you or by completing tasks within the orc hierarchy. This allows for the player to generate their own unique stories and rivalries that will be completely different from their friends, and has exciting potential for future games.
4. Super Smash Bros.
Super Smash Bros. is consistently a solid franchise. Sure some of them are better than others, and they have had their problems here and there, but Nintendo always delivers a fast-paced and fun game that is enjoyable by yourself, but even better with a group of your friends on the same couch duking it out for top honors. Indeed, Smash is one of the last couch multiplayer games out there, with most moving to online multiplayer. Finally, Nintendo has brought this addictive gameplay to it’s handheld systems, and for me, it is a game that I can’t stop playing, even with all the other big releases that have come out this fall. While I do not doubt that the Wii U version is better, I neither have a Wii U nor am I really interested in multiplayer much these days, opting for engaging solo experiences. Smash on 3DS strikes the perfect balance of a game that you can play for hours, or for a few pick-up matches on the train. The variety of characters and modes ensure that there is always something new to do, and achieving 100% completion will take a long time, but this never feels like a chore, so long as you are a fan of Super Smash Bros. combat and art style.
3. Pokemon: Omega Ruby
Pokemon will always have a place in my heart. Pokemon Blue Version was the second video game I ever owned, back on my Gameboy Pocket (my first was a Batman game, no doubt sparking my lifelong love of Batman) and the RPG-lite elements introduced me to a genre that I would grow to love. I proceeded to play every Pokemon game until the original Ruby version in 2003, 11 years ago. It wasn’t that I didn’t love the series anymore, but rather I didn’t really keep up with Nintendo much after that. From 2003-2014, I owned a PS2, PS3, Xbox 360, and now a PS4; however, earlier this year something prompted me to pick up a 3DS, and with the release of Omega Ruby/Alpha Sapphire, I figured it was as good a time as any to get back into the Pokemon franchise. Between all the different games I play for articles and my own personal interest/enjoyment, my job, and rehearsing with various musical groups, I don’t always have a ton of time, but in the first week I had this game, I played a solid 20 hours despite everything else that was going on. I was instantly hooked on that same feeling I had as a kid, leveling up my party and seeking out new Pokemon for my collection. The improved graphics and addition of some of the new elements introduced in recent installments like Mega Evolutions have made the experience feel like a brand new game, with enough of what I loved about the original to inspire that nostalgia for days gone by. I may have to go back and check out some of the other ones I missed in my Nintendo hiatus.
2. South Park: The Stick of Truth
South Park is one of my favorite TV shows of all time. It’s one of those shows where even though I have seen every episode, I will still sit down and marathon an entire season I watched five years ago and laugh at all the same jokes. When the game was finally released, I was a little skeptical about it. Humor doesn’t always translate well into video games, so I waited until some friends had played before I picked it up. I’m glad I finally did. Not only did they manage to capture the tone and humor of South Park to make the funniest game I have ever played, but they also made a good game to support the jokes. This is by no means an especially deep or complicated RPG experience. Like Pokemon, it is sort of an RPG-lite, implementing simpler versions of a lot of mechanics you might find in a 90-hour JRPG and distilling down into a 15-hour experience that can be played in short bursts or marathoned for hours. A good way to describe South Park: The Stick of Truth is an RPG for adults. I don’t necessarily mean this in terms of its humor or story, because Matt and Trey employ the same juvenile yet complicated humor they are known for, but rather in the sense that people with jobs or other adult responsibilities don’t always have time to sit down and play those 90-hour games. Sometimes they want to have a complete RPG experience in 15 hours and be done with it, not worrying about the hundreds of side quests and unexplored regions that have piled up over the course of their journey. If you are someone with not a lot of time to play games, or if you want a quick, fun, and hilarious RPG experience, definitely check this one out.
1. Far Cry 4
So far, I have not seen Far Cry 4 as a lot of people’s GOTY, or even on their lists. In a lot of cases, it has been Dragon Age: Inquisition, and while it is absent from my list, it is only because I haven’t played it yet. I do not doubt that once I have it will earn a place on this list, but I think Far Cry 4 will still be my favorite game. Not only is it a highly polished shooter, but it is also an excellent open world exploration game. The map is not overly large and daunting, as some have described Dragon Age’s game world to be, but neither is it too small or limiting. It is just big enough and varied in its environments to provide a perfect sandbox for you to wreak havoc in. On top of that it is a beautifully rendered sandbox, with the picturesque Himalayans serving as the ever-present reminder that there is still more for you to explore. In my review, I said that the game unfortunately lacks an engaging story and misuses some of its characters, but that didn’t matter to me as I found much more enjoyment making my own story as I cut a swath through Pagan Min’s army. The freedom the game gives you in deciding how to take out enemy bases and fortresses, how to upgrade your character and weapons, even how to complete assigned missions is fantastic. If you prefer to sneak through the bushes and quietly take out enemies with a silenced sniper rifle and bow the game allows you to do this. Or if you prefer to charge in upon an elephant, blasting enemies with an RPG and a shotgun, you can do that, too. It’s all up to you. On top of this, the co-op mechanic is excellent. Friends can drop in and out of your game as you like, helping you capture bases, hunt animals, or do side missions. The only thing they can’t do with you is campaign missions, but honestly those more linear plot points aren’t really suited for the type of freedom the open world affords the co-op experience.
- Shovel Knight
- Mario Golf: World Tour
- The Wolf Among Us
- Steam World Dig