Snackbar’s 2014 Staff Picks: Chris Ingersoll

December 31, 2014


Below are my ten favorite new games from 2014… of the 15 new releases I played. For the sake of completion, I might as well mention all 15.

Honorable Mentions

Below the cut you’ll find both Professor Layton offerings this year, Azran Legacy and vs. Phoenix Wright, which were the usual yearly offering and an interesting (if somewhat flawed) experiment, respectively. Super Smash Bros for 3DS was a fun appetizer for the main course that would arrive about six weeks later, but was never seriously going to contend thanks to hardware limitations. Pokémon Omega Ruby and Alpha Sapphire surprised me by how much I enjoyed revisiting Hoenn, although the inherent problems with the originals weighed down the experience a bit. Finally, Shovel Knight (which I played on the 3DS, if that matters) was a fun retro romp but not really my cup of tea; not enough Mega Man in its otherwise-rich gameplay DNA mix, I guess.

10. The Fall

I’ve been trying to get to the eShop more often to fill in the rather lengthy gaps in the retail release schedule and to experience the wealth of indie titles. After picking up The Fall on a whim, I quickly became a fan of Over The Moon Games, and I cannot wait to see this trilogy completed. Exploring the nature of artificial intelligence, The Fall is a dark journey with impressive production values and adventure game mechanics that really make it stand out among the more traditional indie fare. Episode Two has been confirmed with a projected PC release in Fall 2015, and hopefully the Wii U edition follows not too long after.

9. Child of Light

While Ubisoft’s retail releases have been… somewhat controversial this year, its UbiArt RPG was a refreshing take on the genre. With the aesthetic appeal and feel of a child’s bedtime story, the adventure of Aurora and her friends took traditional fairy tale elements and worked them into a presentation rarely seen in the game world. It wasn’t perfect, and the erratic meter of the rhyming narrative often hindered more than it helped, but it was certainly memorable and a risk that was worth taking. Hopefully we’ll see more UbiArt releases in one form or another in the near future.


8. Bravely Default

If Child of Light was Ubisoft experimenting with the typical RPG formula, Bravely Default was Square Enix rediscovering it. Yes, there were some tweaks and some interesting connectivity features, but for the most part this was Square Enix getting back to what made it famous and demonstrating why its name was once synonymous with the genre. Even though the repetitive nature of the narrative gets a little trying towards the end, Bravely Default still tells a fascinating story — with a memorable twist — accompanied by streamlined combat that makes the usual random grinding just fly by.

7. Theatrhythm Final Fantasy: Curtain Call

Curtain Call‘s pedigree was so respected that we named it one of the Best 3DS Games To Own Forever before it was even released! Combining excellent rhythm gameplay and an insane sampling of over 200 timeless Final Fantasy tunes, Curtain Call took everything that made the original Theatrhythm amazing and turned the dials up until they broke off. Completing the Final Fantasy feel are the Quest Medleys, which bring a sense of adventure to otherwise-disconnected stages of tapping and dragging. Theatrhtyhm is basically the Smash Bros. of Final Fantasy music, and deserving of a place in any 3DS owner’s library.

6. Fantasy Life

I was on the fence about Fantasy Life when I first saw it during E3 coverage. If Graham hadn’t championed it so hard leading up to its release, I might have been content to give it a pass or maybe pick it up next year. I picked it up more or less on a whim. 50 hours later, I’m a Hero in four different Life classes and still popping back into Castele to work on my various crafts. I can’t imagine wanting to max out all twelve Lives, but there are still a couple I’m curious to try. It’s not much of an RPG from a narrative perspective, but Fantasy Life more than makes up for that in quirky charm and addictive bite-sized challenges.


5. Guacamelee! Super Turbo Championship Edition

Spoiler alert: every game from here on in was a Wii U release, and after this entry it probably doesn’t take much imagination to guess which ones. Ranking these five games was agonizing, as each one really impressed me at various points over the year. Ultimately, I used replayability and multiplayer value as tiebreakers. This put Guacamelee! at the bottom, as it was the one I was least likely to revisit. This colorful action-oriented Metroidvania-style adventure through Mexican culture (with a side of gamer culture mixed in) was a blast, testing me in ways I haven’t been tested in quite some time. I loved the humor and I really enjoyed the look at a culture that doesn’t get much exposure. Come for the bizarre narrative, but stay for the razor-sharp platforming challenge.

4. Bayonetta 2

Like a lot of Platinum Games action titles, Bayonetta 2 demands perfection and will grade your performance accordingly. Fortunately, the game doesn’t ask anything it doesn’t itself provide, as Bayonetta was one of the purest action experiences released this year. Sure, the plot is nonsense, but that’s not why there was such a demand for a sequel to the 2009 original — nor the predictable outcry when the sequel was announced to be exclusive to the Wii U. Bayonetta 2 proved that the Wii U was just as capable of a mature gaming experience as the more traditional homes for this type of game. Many third-party developers have abandoned their support for the system, but even if I only get one Platinum Games release per year on it, I don’t think I’ll miss them too much.

3. Mario Kart 8

In my unofficial “multiplayer tiebreaker” analysis, Mario Kart 8‘s greatest flaw was laid bare: split-screen. Sure, that’s to be expected when you have four players going at it, but with only two players sharing a Wii U, it feels inexcusable. Fortunately, the overall experience, especially single-player and online play, is as excellent as ever. DLC content extends the already-awesome experience with even more tracks, karts and characters — almost slowly becoming “Super Kart Bros.” with the addition of Link and soon both Isabelle and Villager as well, not to mention Amiibo-unlocked costumes for your Mii racers — but the off-the-shelf content is still more than enough to justify a high finish on the year-end list of anyone who has played it.


2. Hyrule Warriors

The single-player experience in Hyrule Warriors is vast, entertaining and punishingly difficult. Just plowing through wave after wave of Bokoblins with any one of over a dozen Zelda luminaries would be enough for any fan of Nintendo’s epic franchise. But where Hyrule Warriors really shines is with local cooperative play: one player using the Pro Controller and the other using the GamePad. This is the potential promised by the GamePad, and not enough games take advantage of it. Like Mario Kart 8, Hyrule Warriors is also boosting its content with regular DLC packs, adding characters, costumes, weapons and maps in case you’ve somehow exhausted the on-disc content. Hyrule Warriors even has Amiibo support, with the Link figure actually unlocking the Twilight Princess Spinner as a weapon! I was not expecting to be this engrossed in Hyrule Warriors, and the fact that it edged past Mario Kart 8 is a testament to just how impressed I have been with this offering from Omega Force.

1. Super Smash Bros for Wii U

I mentioned how Mario Kart 8 and Hyrule Warriors are both expanding their content with DLC. But no amount of DLC could possibly give those games that amount of content squirreled away in Super Smash Bros for Wii U. Traditional solo and group options are joined for the first time by cooperative Classic and Event modes, multiplayer Stadium games, the board-game like Smash Tour, and oh yeah up to eight players at once smashing each other silly. And the control options! Whatever your favorite way to Smash is, it’s supported here, thanks to the Wii U GameCube Adapter and even communication with the 3DS if you somehow got used to that. None of this is available on the 3DS version, which is what clearly makes the Wii U version the definitive Smash and my favorite new game of 2014.

Although I still played more Monster Hunter 3 Ultimate this year than any other game listed here. Or possibly every game listed here. Combined. To be fair, I’ve only had Smash Wii U for a couple of weeks now. But MH4U is getting closer every day…