This is it! The big day! All of GameCola’s big awards for 2014 are right here, so why are you bothering to read this?! Get to reading!
Unless you missed Part 1, in which case you should click here to read that first!
Professor Layton vs. Phoenix Wright
& Super Smash Bros. for Wii U
No Lynch: I speak only for myself, but in representing the non-staff readers of this fine website, here are our picks for best game of those on the list provided. Super Smash Bros. for Wii U would not be surprising as a winner, considering that its series is a major hit with all Nintendo fans. Professor Layton vs. Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney would also not be surprising as a winner, considering how much the community here at GameCola raves about the latter’s series and enjoys the former’s series.
What’s surprising about the whole thing here is that they tied.
Sm4sh is a great game—no surprise there. A roster of 49 (+ 3 × ∞ with Mii Fighters) different fighters on 46 different possible stages and with a Final Destination variation of each, along with 8-Player Smash and Smash Tour and the Stadium games and Special Orders and yaddayadda miscellaneous praise. But, it deserves the praise it gets—this game is amazing, pretty much all of it. And, MAN can it be difficult.
The other one that we chose, Professor Layton vs. Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney, has a title that’s way too long. But besides that, it’s…uh…good? I guess. Combining Layton‘s adventuring and exploration gameplay with Ace Attorney‘s trial gameplay is an interesting and fun thing to do. With a few new features to make it not just a fusion. And apparently the story is nice, I hear? I know Paul had to hide Diana and Anna’s tweets to keep away from spoilers, but not much else.
Okay, fine, I’ll be honest: I never played PLvsPW—but considering it’s source materials and developers, I doubt they made too many errors in the game-development.
Honorable Mention: Donkey Kong Country: Tropical Freeze
Best Indie Game
Stuart Gipp: The ground-breaking Shovel Knight has buried the competition and entrenched its position in gaming’s topsoil. Let’s hope its success unearths and fertilises creativity in the indie scene. Not only is it riveting, it’s also dirt cheap, with piles of replay value. It’s almost too much to handle. If I may call a spade a spade, I dig Shovel Knight.
Honorable Mention: Octodad: Dadliest Catch and Five Nights at Freddy’s 2
Best Downloadable Console Game
The Binding of Isaac: Rebirth
Nikola Suprak: The Binding of Isaac was essentially what would happen if some evil scientist managed to transform crack cocaine into a videogame. It was absurdly addictive and prolonged use would leave you bleary eyed at 3 in the morning, wondering where your time and pants went. The formula was this perfect mix of random chance and true skill, and the procedurally-generated dungeons and random item drops ensured that no trip down into the basement would ever end the same way. While The Binding of Isaac: Rebirth is less of a true sequel and more of an enhanced remake, it provides enough extra incentive for even the most grizzled of Isaac veterans to crack their knuckles, pray to RNGesus, and dive back in all over again.
The Binding of Isaac: Rebirth essentially was The Binding of Isaac but The Binding of Isaac-ier. It features more bosses, more weapons, more features, and more ways to absolutely crush your hubris about thirty minutes into a game in order to force you to start all over again. While some might argue that this was only a marginal improvement over the original title, there are enough additions that it doesn’t feel like you are just paying twice to play the same game a second time. The Binding of Isaac: Rebirth also represents the series’ first foray into the console world as it made an appearance on both the PS4 and Vita. The best part is it was included for free for PS+ subscribers. The promise of “excellent” and “free” usually ends with you in a bathtub after someone stole your kidneys, but instead what we got was the best downloadable game on consoles for the price of absolutely nothing. And maybe your kidneys got stolen. I don’t know your life.
Honorable Mention: NES Remix 2
Best Mobile Game
Rhythm of Fighters
Matt Jonas: SNK’s Rhythm of Fighters is a bizarre mish-mash of really simple tap-in-time music gameplay with King of Fighters combo systems and appearance. This mixture not only works but is also absolutely fantastic. The game has fourteen built-in songs from throughout SNK’s history, and has plenty of in-app purchases to make the game more accessible for beginners or just add more songs. When I got Rhythm of Fighters, it was a paid app, but now it is entirely free to download—with no ludicrous waiting times to “refresh energy” like in most free to play games.
Honorable Mention: Trivia Crack
Best PC Game
Octodad: Dadliest Catch
Robyn Tyrfing: Octodad: Dadliest Catch was a marvelous release for 2014. It was a humorous game with a deep and emotionally complex plot. You’re a loving father dedicated to his family, and who had been kidnapped by a man you slighted before you settled down with your wife and had two kids. Through clever stealth gameplay, humorous writing, and water levels that are actually good, this game was one of the top releases of 2014. However, the emotional story of a father trying to rescue his family from the old life he left behind is what really sells this game as Best PC Game of 2014.
Honorable Mention: Nancy Drew: Labyrinth of Lies & Shovel Knight
Best Console Game
Super Smash Bros. for Wii U
Joseph Martin: “Come now, Joe,” I hear you loyal readers comment, rolling your eyes with such intensity that it is almost audible. “Surely we don’t need to go through this. We all know that any time a new Smash Bros. game comes out, it makes the tops of lists. Can we just ignore the formality and move on?” But I submit to you, cynical viewer, that adding Super Smash Bros. for Wii U to the list of our top console games is not merely an exercise in formality. This year’s console Smash game has made improvements in just about every way from its predecessor, Super Smash Bros. Brawl. The game looks amazing, for one thing—and not solely because of the higher graphical fidelity of the Wii U. The colors are incredibly vibrant and everything is just pleasing to the eye. The character selection is also amazing and I’ve found myself growing newly attached to much more of the roster than in previous games, not only with new characters. I love Rosalina’s unique playstyle, yet also enjoy the quick, simple nature of fighting with Sheik. I love how Pac-Man looks as he’s animated as he moves and fights around the stage, and I love Mega Man because, well, I love Mega Man.
There are also many great practical and less qualitative additions than me liking characters as well. 8-Player Smash removes much of the age-old issue of people having to sit out of matches if you had more than four players, and the addition of the ability to use your 3DS as a controller makes this a viable option. Custom stages are a hoot and the amount of freedom you are given makes room for some very interesting ideas to be put forth. Finally, the music selection is expansive and awesome, with my only qualm being that we need more post-Mega Man 3 music. However, that’s just a problem with society in general, so it’s hard to really fault them for that. Someday, Star Man, we will get you a professional update.
All in all, if you are even slightly a fan of Smash, I would highly recommend this game to you. This game is more than just a graphical update with a few new characters haphazardly thrown in and there are tons of other cool things that I didn’t even get to mention. The 8-Player Smash alone will open up tons of opportunities for you to invite more than three people over to your house, where you can SETTLE IT IN SMASH!
Honorable Mention: Donkey Kong Country: Tropical Freeze
Best Portable Game
Super Smash Bros. for 3DS
Anna Bryniarski: When the news about the new Super Smash Bros. coming to 3DS as well as Wii U came out, I was honestly a little surprised. I didn’t know how well it would do (I guessed it would be OK, but not as outstanding as previously seen), and I thought the 3DS would be too small for this (for some reason). To my surprise, it controlled well and it works really nicely for a portable system.
In terms of difficulty and getting new players (like myself) into the game, it does a decent job. The level select is there (as it had been in the previous games, I believe), giving new players a chance to get used to the controls and gameplay. There’s also training which is also good for finding out what that button does or how to do that thing that happened once but hasn’t happened again without getting your butt handed to you while you try to figure it out during a fight.
The character selection is pretty broad and spreads across a good amount of games. A lot of people were excited to hear that some of their favorites were going to be in the lineup, which is great to get people playing. Half the fun of the game (in my opinion) is picking a character you love and kicking everyone else to the curb with them.
Honorable Mention: Professor Layton vs. Phoenix Wright
Best Game of 10 Years Ago
Metroid: Zero Mission
Nathaniel Hoover: I’ll let you in on a little secret: The original Metroid isn’t all that good. “Blasphemy!” you cry. “But, I love getting lost in mazes that all look alike, getting knocked into slow-killing death pits I can’t jump out of, and spending ten minutes grinding for power-ups after dying or resuming from a password because the game can’t be bothered to start me off with full health!” These are precisely the reasons why I’m grateful for Metroid: Zero Mission, because remakes always get rid of the things you love about the originals. Zero Mission takes the framework of Samus Aran’s first outing and fleshes it out with the kind of graphical detail, audio quality, story depth, and gameplay improvements that characterize Super Metroid and Metroid Fusion. Everything you remember from the original is still there—Kraid, Tourian, Zoomers, the Long Beam, that huge chunk of floor that’s totally a pit in disguise (you know the one)—but there’s more, and in most cases, it’s better. (Purists such as myself will argue that you can’t beat the creepy simplicity of the NES version’s music, however.)
Areas have been redesigned, minibosses have been added, and new types of puzzles have been included to break up the monotony of the original’s repetitive shafts and tunnels. There’s now an in-game map, additional power-ups that expand Samus’ arsenal and move set, animated cutscenes, and eight different endings that depend on completion time and item collection rate. Perhaps best of all, there are a few late-game surprises in the form of some interesting tie-ins with Metroid Prime and Super Metroid, and a supremely clever inclusion of the original Metroid‘s most famous secret. As if that weren’t enough, a harder difficulty setting and a fully playable version of the NES Metroid become available after you beat the game. You can even link the game to Metroid Fusion to view that game’s art galleries alongside this one’s, if going to the effort of digging out your link cable and transferring data is somehow less annoying than just popping in Fusion and looking at the gallery there.
In other words, Zero Mission is a worthy remake of a game that desperately needed one, and it’s a strong game in its own right. It’s rare for a remake to surpass its predecessor by so much on so many levels, but I can tell you how many times I’ve gone back to play the NES version after picking up the GBA version: zero. The nostalgia crowd might long for the NES version, but for me, there’s zero missin’. I’ll stop now.
Honorable Mention: Katamari Damacy
GameCola’s 2004 Game of the Year: .hack//QUARANTINE: Part 4
Best Game of 20 Years Ago
Donkey Kong Country
& Super Metroid
& Final Fantasy III
Mark Freedman: Donkey Kong Country is certainly not the best platformer on the SNES, at least in terms of complexity. But, there’s no way someone living in 1994 didn’t get their attention grabbed by the oh-so-silky-smooth graphics of Donkey Kong Country. Bridging the gap between old and new, long-time fans of the big ape finally had a modern outing they could participate in. A lot of people will say that this game was mostly hype—in fact, I remember the promotional video sent out by Nintendo Power. But, they really did push the envelope with having pre-rendered graphics on a cart. While the gameplay was not as sophisticated as Super Mario World, the game was much more approachable as a relatively basic platformer that even your grandma could play! The game was also one of the earlier titles to include completion percentage in the title, and it really pushed me to find all the bonus stages.
Nathaniel Hoover: Have a seat. My name is Samus Aran. I’m a bounty hunter, and I have a story to tell. Space pirates? I beat them. Metroids? I exterminated them. I’m the woman you call to get the job done. And as I leave the last Metroid in the galaxy, the baby I rescued from the home planet, in the hands of the scientists, my story becomes your story. A distress signal calls me back to the research station, and as I set foot on it, you’re right there with me. Now you’re the one telling the tale. A tale of mystery and isolation: the corpses strewn about the ground; the lone gunship touching down on the rainy planet surface; the forgotten remains of your last encounter with Mother Brain. A tale of discovery and heroism: areas teeming with exotic plant and animal life; secrets buried in the walls and ceilings; harrowing brushes with death in every shape and size. You are there—and wherever there is, it’s real. Zebes is a living, breathing place with a stunning amount of depth; it’s the attention to detail in the graphics, the sense that you’re an intruder in an established ecosystem that exists independently of your need for shooting and platforming. A single screen can speak volumes without saying a word.
Alien sound effects. A tense soundtrack filled with chilling energy—one of the Super Nintendo’s finest, I might add. Plot twists that occur without a single line of dialogue. A learning curve so smooth you’ll barely realize you’re being taught. Save points placed frequently enough to be fair, but just far enough away from each other to make you panic. A gonzo endgame that sends you through a breathtaking rollercoaster of triumph, despair, defeat, heartbreak, the incredible feeling that you’re the most powerful force in the universe, and the sudden realization that you’re about to die anyhow. Super Metroid is a masterpiece, an immersive experience that also happens to be an expertly crafted platformer. Even on subsequent playthroughs, when the immersion factor is perhaps less striking, Super Metroid is still chock-full of curiosities to ponder and power-ups that can be obtained out of sequence once you know all the tricks. A favorite of the speedrunning community, the pinnacle of the Metroid series, and a Super Nintendo essential—Best Game of 20 Years Ago is a well-deserved addition to that list of honors.
Alex Jedraszczak: I grew up on RPGs. From Dragon Warrior to Secret of Mana, I’d played them all by the time 1994 rolled around—but, the SNES RPG I always come back to is Final Fantasy III. The graphics that blew me away when I was 8 are still impressive to look at today, and the story is still interesting and engaging as an adult. The music is some of the best on the system, both in composition and execution. It was also one of the early RPGs that tried to experiment with the worn out turn-based battle system, but it was before the strange extremes seen in RPGs on the PlayStation. All in all, it was a game that hit the peak of what its system had to offer at a time when the genre was at its most polished. While not everyone may agree, I can see why this game got voted Best Game of 20 Years Ago.
Honorable Mention: Sonic & Knuckles
GameCola’s Best Game of Ten Years Ago, Ten Years Ago: Sonic the Hedgehog 3
Staff Member of the Year
Alex Jedraszczak: It’s tough to choose the Staff Member of the Year. So much goes on behind the scenes, and sometime a major contribution early in the year can be forgotten as the year moves along.
Luckily for me, there has not been a single month in all of the year two thousand and fourteen that Staff Member of the Year Michael Gray has ever even thought about falling behind in his writing (and also podcasting) contributions.
Yeah, you can check. Michael Gray wrote all of those—including hosting and editing multiple Hacks’n’Slash podcasts and planning and hosting an RPGCast! In a year when we’ve been struggling to have daily content to post, the site was saved by a core of dedicated staff members, not the least of who is our award winner.
Honorable Mention: Nathaniel Hoover
Game of the Year
Super Smash Bros. for Wii U
Mark Freedman: Well, at least they made it clear which system this Smash Bros. title is played on. As you can guess, this Smash Bros. has improved graphics, more options, new characters, and levels. While keeping true to its strength in local multiplayer, they finally made online play palatable! With only minor lag hiccups present, you can actually play with people online, unlike the Wii outing. Plus, they added some of my desired characters, like Little Mac! Unfortunately, they got rid of Snake. Snake? SNAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAKE! I loved Snake, but I’ll take the great new improvements in this iteration. They did add some cruft, like an option to connect those little NFC-enabled action figures, and a need to buy the 3DS version to unlock MewTwo, but it’s all strictly optional. Another great hit in the Smash Bros. line.
Honorable Mention: Professor Layton vs. Phoenix Wright