Game of the Year 2014: Special awards, part two

December 26, 2014


We continue our special staff categories with Best Enhanced Port, Best Add-On and Most Emotional Scene awards.


Best Enhanced Port: Valkyria Chronicles (PC)

We don’t all have the time to play every game that comes out. Those of us who wait either get the game for cheap later or can pick up an updated version after the fact. These are our favorite games that warranted a return trip or a late first visit. – Justin Last

With Valkyria Chronicles 3 still stuck in Japan, seeing this appear on PC was a shock for many. An even bigger shock is how well it works. While the game is essentially the same as on PS3, it’s nice to know that it runs well without glaring bugs and, unlike many ports, it doesn’t require a beastly PC to run. Aside from the usual resolution boost, the port comes with all of the DLC from the PS3 version, which is more than many other PC ports can claim. Valkyria was already great, and being able to play on PC makes it all that much better. – Jeff deSolla

Runner-up: The Last of Us: Remastered

At first, it was weird to see face-lifted ports of games we had just played within the year, let alone the generation. But, after Tomb Raider: Definitive Edition made us cautiously approach the notion as a good idea, The Last of Us: Remastered practically made us forget we had played the original version in the first place. The Last of Us is breathtaking in 1080p, full stop. – Lucas White


Best Add-On: Mario Kart 8: Pack 1

When talking add-on content, it’s all too frequently about the bad things. But with the rise of digital content, quality has also improved. 2014 saw a lot of new titles on new platforms and a few long-time DLC holdouts enter the market for game add-ons. – Jeff deSolla

I think I’ve been more excited about the Mario Kart DLC than I have been for most games. It’s not necessarily the content that I’m all psyched up for, though playing the SNES Rainbow Road will always entice me, but no. It’s the principle of the matter! Nintendo has finally shown that it can do DLC, and do it right. With new tracks on the horizon, this could mean consistent updates for years to come. I’m so thrilled, and it only makes me appreciate Mario Kart 8 more. – Henry Skey

Runner-up: inFamous: First Light

First Light is a more focused version of the original game, and a good standalone campaign that fleshes out one of Second Son‘s most interesting characters. The framing device is a cool one, and the added neon powers make up for the loss of smoke, video, and concrete. The included combat arenas also serve to take away your ability to run off and hide after absorbing fire from enemies, and the arenas, even more than virtual Seattle, are designed with your powers in mind. They’re sprinkled far enough apart throughout the story that they make for a good change of pace, as well. – Justin Last


Most Emotional Scene: Transistor

The aspect of video games that pulls me in more than any other is emotion. Not just “who am I playing?” or “what’s it about,” but the how. How did it make me feel and why? It can be difficult to measure an entire game’s emotional resonance, so we’ve decided to award a game that pulled a knockout punch in one scene. These short moments against the backdrop of hours of entertainment usually stand out and stay in our memories for very good reasons. – Henry Skey

Bastion managed to showcase how important world building mattered, even in a world seemingly surrounded by death. Transistor, on the other hand, demonstrated the exact opposite: the world was gone for good, but gave you enough of a glimpse of its former glory to keep you wanting to learn more. Then, when the time comes for those final moments to play out, you are hit with the realization that Red’s story was, in fact, Red’s story, and everything else was just background noise. – Andrew Passafiume

Runner-up: Valiant Hearts: The Great War

Despite its cartoonish aesthetic and sometimes silly mechanics, Valiant Hearts is one of the most grounded war games ever made. The final section, particularly its ending, may not be unexpected, but it earns that moment. The build-up and inevitable realization that, yes, war is indeed hell, offers the player no shoulder to cry on, but gives you a new respect for the soldiers who fought during the seemingly never-ending conflict known as World War I. It’s the sort of moment often seen handled unremarkably in lesser war games, but Valiant Hearts shows just how it’s done. – Andrew Passafiume