Snackbar’s 2014 Staff Picks: Andrew Passafiume

December 22, 2014


This wasn’t gaming’s best year for many reasons, but that doesn’t mean it didn’t have plenty of worthwhile titles. Honestly, some of this year’s best could easily stand up against the best from stronger years. It was also full of surprises, with plenty of games that would often be overlooked during more crowded years. While my list was easier to put together than 2013’s, I still wanted to take the time to focus on both: smaller titles that might have been overlooked and also games that deserve all of the praise in the world.

Some other favorites that just missed the cut: Super Smash Bros. for Wii U, A Bird Story, Never Alone, Mario Kart 8, Valiant Hearts and Luftrausers.

10. Captain Toad: Treasure Tracker

It may not be the most feature-rich game on the planet, or even the most challenging, but Captain Toad is easily the most charming Nintendo game I’ve played all year. It stands toe-to-toe with the likes of Super Smash Bros. and Mario Kart 8 due to its creative level design and remarkable presentation. It’s the perfect light-hearted adventure and deserves its place alongside some of the Wii U’s best.

9. Alien: Isolation

If Captain Toad is a breezy little game, Alien: Isolation is a lengthy (and often devastating) exercise in pure terror. The Alien is one of the scariest foes I’ve ever faced in any horror game, often leaving me out of breath after our countless encounters. It may overstay its welcome, but every encounter, whether it’s with the Alien, humans out to shoot anyone who approaches or the terrifying Working Joe androids, feels different from the last. This is one of the boldest games to come from a large studio, and leaves me hopeful for whatever Alien game we see next.

8. Monument Valley

Monument Valley came out of nowhere. I only just heard about it mere hours before it launched, and I knew right from the first screenshots I saw I needed to give it a shot. Titles like Hitman Go and 80 Days are excellent mobile games as well and deserve all the praise in the world, but Monument Valley, with its stunning art style and excellent puzzle design, is a true testament to the power of smaller games. It only took me two hours, but those were two of the most memorable hours I’ve spent with a game all year.


7. Forza Horizon 2

When I think about Forza Horizon, I go to my happy place. Horizon 2 continues the tradition of being incredibly laid-back; a game to play alongside another, but one I often returned to more satisfied than before. It takes the fantastic handling you find in the main Forza games but throws it into a more casual-friendly open world with a nice variety of challenges and race events. Burnout Paradise used to be my favorite open-world racing game, but now I think I can safely give that title to Horizon 2.

6. Wolfenstein: The New Order

Who would have guessed that a new Wolfenstein game released in 2014 would actually turn out great? Machine Games, a team formed by ex-Starbreeze folks, knew exactly how to update Wolfenstein for a modern audience while still maintaining everything recognizable about the brand. Thanks to its blend of stealth and action, incredibly satisfying gunplay and a surprisingly nuanced story, Wolfenstein: The New Order takes the cake for what I consider to be the best surprise of 2014 on top of being one of my favorites of the year.

5. Shovel Knight

Many developers have tried to recreate the 8-bit era with mixed results, but Shovel Knight is one of the few I’ve played that truly nails it. From the era-appropriate aesthetics to the tight gameplay, Shovel Knight really does feel like an NES game lost to the ages and only recently rediscovered. That is the highest compliment I can pay a game that stands tall surrounded by other indie surprises.


4. Transistor

The majority of my initial time with Transistor was underwhelming. I enjoyed the combat conceptually, but felt it never found a careful balance between action and turn-based and the story was kept as such a distance it was hard to fully understand what was happening. Yet, our two protagonists, including the Transistor itself, were so likeable that I just had to find out what happened next. Then we came to the conclusion, an ending that sits with some of my favorites, and everything clicked: Transistor is completely brilliant. I even grew to love the gameplay by the time I reached the final area. Above all else, it proves that Supergiant Games is a team that stands up with the best developers, big or small, around today.

3. Sunset Overdrive

Insomniac Games is one of my favorite developers around today, but it has fallen on hard times recently (creatively speaking), leading to a couple of ho-hum Ratchet & Clank games and the underwhelming Fuse. Sunset Overdrive seems like the game that team has been dying to make for years. It’s profane and violent, full of style and attitude. Most importantly, it never once fails to entertain. If we were boiling my favorites down to “most pure joy experienced from start to finish,” Sunset Overdrive would handily be my top choice.

2. Dragon Age: Inquisition

I won’t deny I enjoyed my time with the divisive Dragon Age II, so my expectations for Inquisition, no matter how big or small it ended up being, were high. Thankfully, BioWare managed to create one of its best (if not its best) games to date. Even more so than Origins, Inquisition breathes new life into the world of Thedas by presenting many of the major story beats from a political angle. The cast of characters is memorable, with a couple easily becoming my favorites in any RPG, and the gameplay feels like a perfect hybrid of the previous entries. It’s a truly remarkable experience.


1. Middle-earth: Shadow of Mordor

I had high hopes for Monolith’s take on Middle-earth, but I never expected Shadow of Mordor to be as incredible as it actually is. The story is lackluster and the gameplay riffs a little too much on certain popular franchises, but it has something above all other, similar action titles: the Nemesis system. This turns an otherwise-solid action game into one that feels full of life. It makes every battle unique, giving the enemies you face enough of a personality to make them stand out among the crowd and plenty of reason to take them down. I could tell you dozens of specific stories about my time with Shadow of Mordor, making it one of the most exceptional examples of dynamic storytelling I’ve ever seen in a video game. That, combined with its refinements of otherwise familiar mechanics, makes it my favorite of 2014.