Snackbar’s 2014 Staff Picks: Chris Dominowski

December 23, 2014


10. Shantae and the Pirate’s Curse

2014 was a great year for WayForward, continuing its tradition of releasing uncharacteristically good licensed titles, and having a highly successful Kickstarter for a full HD console game in its own Shantae series. In the midst of all this, it quietly released one of the best Metroidvanias in a great while. Pirate’s Curse polished the exploration mechanics and added interesting new uses for transformations using the extra horsepower of the 3DS, all while sticking to the creative puzzles, clear progression and memorable characterization that makes the series great.

9. inFamous: Second Son

Companies at console launches are generally in a rush to get as much software onto shelves as possible, often leading to the initial wave of games having unrealized potential. Sucker Punch bucked the trend with Second Son, giving what still stands as the best reason to purchase a PlayStation 4. The new protagonist’s unique ability allows for an entirely new means of locomotion, and makes fans of the original completely rethink how they approach combat. The uncanny recreation of the slick Seattle cityscape shows off the new hardware, as well as Delsin’s building-hopping dexterity. The new inFamous is an uncompromised look at the future of the sandbox platformer and the PS4.

8. The Last Tinker: City of Colors

The collect-a-thon has hit a dry spot after Rare abdicated its throne and Nintendo moved Mario back toward a traditional level structure. Many have been itching for a new game in that mold, and The Last Tinker scratches it in the most satisfying way. Offering a large world full of trinkets, an eye-wateringly vibrant color palette and a level design methodology that takes a lot of inspiration from the greatest elements of the subgenre, the game shows how independent developers can fill the voids left in the market by larger companies.


7. Mario Kart 8

Nintendo started rolling out its usual stable of franchises for Wii U this year, and leading the charge was the remarkably-polished Mario Kart 8. Continuing the sensibilities of its 3DS predecessor to quite literally go off the beaten path, the game brings a new dimension to the kart racing genre, and manages to translate the frequent changeups, fluid gameplay and imaginative track designs that the series is known for into the HD era.

6. Nidhogg

It is important not just to praise ambitious scope in game design, but also games which have narrow scopes with immense polish. Nidhogg is able to take its simple premise of a one-hit-kill 2D one-on-one fighter and make it into a tense, fast-paced multiplayer classic. Its unique ZX Spectrum-inspired visual aesthetic and the characters’ jittery, desperate animations lend to the game’s high tempo and quick conflict resolutions. Nidhogg is a game that knows exactly what it wants to be, and is able to focus on its core engagement in a way few games have the patience.

5. Shovel Knight

The retro renaissance continued on strong in 2014, with lots of different titles using the constraints of old games machines to deliver a message about their mechanics through the aesthetic. However, no game came as close to being a loving tribute to the classics of old as Shovel Knight. Borrowing the sprite limitations and color palette of the NES to painstaking detail, along with some of the most compelling mechanics and level design ideologies of the era, the game is everything a neo-retro game should be: Taking what works with the source materials, and polishing away what doesn’t.


4. Super Smash Bros. for Nintendo 3DS

Few games are able to draw a crowd quite like Super Smash Bros., Nintendo’s acclaimed party fighter. The series made its first appearance on a handheld this year, appeasing a request fans have been making since the release of the very first game. But, instead of simply being a downscaled port of its big brother on the Wii U, the 3DS iteration features a radically different set of stages and features, all designed with the small screen in mind. This attention to detail is unheard of in mainstream gaming, especially in a year marred by buggy, unfinished big-budget games; it shows just how much care Nintendo puts into its work.

3. Professor Layton vs. Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney

I’m biased in putting this game so high, but I really do believe that it is one of the more remarkable titles of the year, not only in mechanics, but also in the circumstances of its release. It brings the two best adventure games from the DS together into a single title that seamlessly combines the most engaging mechanics and intensity curves of both. Luckily, Level-5 saw fit to release this logic-heavy adventure outside of its native country at the eleventh hour, and we can all be thankful for that.

2. Pokémon Omega Ruby & Alpha Sapphire

Too many remakes in the market today are simple upscaled ports of older games, adding little to no extra content to the game and releasing it for a quick buck. Even games released a mere year or two ago are often being “remade” for the new current generation of consoles. That is why it is so refreshing to see a remake like the one Nintendo gave to Pokémon Ruby & Sapphire. Constituting a complete overhaul to the Game Boy Advance originals in content, audiovisual fidelity and mechanics, this game shows us what a remake should be. Everything has been recreated, using all of the updated standards of the latest X & Y entries, and adding lots of entirely new features to show that Nintendo touch. We need more remakes like this: ones that show great care and attention paid to its original game.


1. Donkey Kong Country: Tropical Freeze

There’s no denying it: Nintendo dominated the conversation about the best games of 2014, and no game showed off the level of polish, thoughtful design and powerful engagement expected of a Nintendo-owned property quite like Donkey Kong Country: Tropical Freeze. Continuing developer Retro Studios’ sterling legacy, the new entry expands upon the touchstones of the previous games, while adding several new major mechanics to change how a level is played. The game is packed to the brim with content, all of it creative and compelling. Tropical Freeze was the only game I played this year for which nothing felt like it was missing, and I wanted nothing else out of the experience beyond the selfish desire for more of the same. Everything that I could possibly want in a Donkey Kong Country game is here, and then some.