Snackbar’s 2014 Staff Picks: Graham Russell

December 29, 2014


2014 was, for me, a time of endless bounty. With innovative multiplayer indies, engrossing RPGs, cool translated titles from days past and the sort of charming quirk that can only come from Nintendo, this crop of titles gave me great fun this year — and will continue to do so in the years to come.

HM: Puyo Puyo Tetris, Nintendo Pocket Football Club

I’ve restricted my top ten to games with North American releases, but two import titles grabbed me and wouldn’t let go. The first, Puyo Puyo Tetris, meshes two great puzzle games and has a slate of fun multiplayer modes for lots of fun with friends. The second, Nintendo Pocket Football Club, takes a Kairosoft-style management framework and fleshes it out with long-term goals and a heck of a lot of personality. Both would be great to see on American systems, and easy enough to bring over. 

10. Inazuma Eleven

Speaking of imports, I first enjoyed Inazuma Eleven in its DS form, released in Europe a few years ago. In 2014, it saw the light of day here too with a download-only 3DS port. It’s cheerful and quirky, but it’s also one of the deepest party-management RPGs you’ll play. Check it out if you haven’t.

9. Octodad: Dadliest Catch

Ah, the joys of entropy. Octodad takes the burgeoning weird-controls space to new levels, and it’s at its best when you’re at less than yours. If you have the friends and equipment, I wholly recommend the Roulette multiplayer mode, constantly changing who controls what limb with every completed objective. (And hey, if you played it earlier this year, don’t forget that there are bonus episodes in the game now!)


8. Fibbage

If you don’t like Fibbage, you don’t like fun. Jackbox took a new tech setup and found just what it does best, using secret touch screens to great effect. It’s not dissimilar to many unplugged party games, but it’s something digital adaptations could never pull off before, and now it’s done with the punchiness that could only come from the You Don’t Know Jack guys.

7. Sportsfriends

This game collection was in development for quite a while, but it finally saw wide release in 2014, and it delivered on its promiseJohann Sebastian Joust is great — especially with seven players — but don’t sleep on the other titles. Hokra, my personal favorite, may be the simplest of them all, but there’s wonder in mastering its strategies.

6. Super Smash Bros. for Wii U

Eight people. Eight people. I was going to be in for Smash regardless, as it’s something of a game night tradition, but the expansion of the player count brought more variety to the game than anything else could. There’s just so much more you can play around with when you can run larger teams, or take on Amiibo squads, or just fill the screen with chaos. Don’t get me wrong — there’s a lot more here, too — but it’s Eight-Player Smash that turns the game from great to magical.


5. South Park: The Stick of Truth

I’m not even a South Park fan, but the level of craft put into Stick of Truth made me love it anyway. It certainly has its cringe-worthy moments, as it somehow contains scenes that probably wouldn’t make it on TV, but those are fleeting and not where the game’s charm lies. If you’ve liked South Park‘s various game-themed shows over the years (and I think it’s some of Stone and Parker’s best work), you should see what the duo can do with the time to let a joke play out and the development expertise of Obsidian.

4. Dragon Age: Inquisition

Inquisition isn’t a return to the Origins formula; it’s more of what Dragon Age II should have been. But it benefits from advancing technology and a longer development cycle, and that makes all the difference. The game’s scale doesn’t reach Skyrim levels, but it’s closer than it’s ever been; you can (and will) get lost in the world for hours on end. It’s sometimes toughest to keep moving with the story — much has been made of leaving the Hinterlands, but hey, it’s a fun place to explore — but, well, wanting to keep playing a game as long as possible is basically the best problem to have.

3. Captain Toad: Treasure Tracker

Oh captain, my captain. When Super Mario 3D World was released last year, I pleaded for more Captain Toad levels, and Nintendo delivered more than I could have come close to expecting. Solving the game’s adorable little diorama puzzles is great fun, and the new elements introduced to break up gameplay, like running stages and mine cart levels, aren’t so bad, either.


2. Fantasy Life

If you ever wanted to lose days upon days of your life and be generally okay with it, Fantasy Life is your game. It’s not action-packed, but rather consistently comfortable and engrossing as you take on little quests and explore the world and interact with its characters. It’s exactly what you’d expect from a collaboration between the team behind Mother 3, Brownie Brown/1Up Studio, and the one behind Dragon Quest IX, Level-5. But its charm is all its own.

1. Mario Kart 8

I was not looking forward to Mario Kart 8 at the beginning of the year, despite having played it at events and generally knowing it would be a solid experience. It just seemed like a re-tread with an anti-gravity gimmick, and I expected it to find a home on my back burner when it released in May. I was wrong, and I’m happy to be, because what makes MK8 shine so brightly is just pure quality. The game looks stellar, the controls are so much tighter than they’ve been in years (if ever), online multiplayer works better than you’d expect from a Nintendo title and the promise (and reality) of cool DLC tracks means it won’t be leaving the rotation anytime soon.