The Best Overall Games of 2014

We’ve finally come to the end of our awards. Which game did we think was the best of 2014?

By Kevin Knezevic. Posted 01/10/2015 12:00 Comment on this     ShareThis

As we’ve seen this past week, Nintendo fans were treated to a wealth of great releases in 2014. From excellent new installments in established franchises to improbable sequels and inventive indie games, 3DS and Wii U owners alike had plenty to play this past year. Now that we’ve highlighted our picks for best 3DS, 3DS eShop, Virtual Console, Wii U, and Wii U eShop games, we’ve come down to our final category: Best Overall Game of 2014. There were a number of worthy contenders for this title, but only one can have the distinction of taking home our top honor. And so, without further ado…


BEST GAME OF 2014

Mario Kart 8

Any of the titles on this list would have made a worthy choice for Best Game of 2014, but in the end, it was Mario Kart 8 that pulled ahead of the competition to secure the top spot in this category. As the eighth installment in Ninendo’s long-running racing series, Mario Kart 8 doesn’t drift very far from the foundation laid down by its predecessors, offering instead a refinement of past innovations. With breathtaking HD visuals and a strong selection of courses– both new and old– to race on, not to mention online multiplayer and the ability to record and share replay videos, the game has enough content to ensure its place in every Wii U owner’s console for a long time to come.

But while the core experience may not have changed all that dramatically in the move to Wii U, Mario Kart 8 introduced a handful of its own innovations that helped set it apart from every other game released this year. The most prominent of these was the addition of anti-gravity treads, which– in a move clearly inspired by the dormant F-Zero– allowed Mario and company to race up vertical walls, and freed Nintendo’s designers to come up with some truly inventive courses. That alone would have been enough to cement its place as one of the best games of the year, but couple it with a wealth of fantastic add-on content, which opened up the insular series to include characters and racetracks inspired by other Nintendo franchises, and it’s easy to see why Mario Kart 8 took home our top honor.


BEST GAME RUNNERS-UP

Super Smash Bros. for Wii U

2014 was certainly a great year for Smash Bros. fans, seeing the release of not one, but two brand new installments in the popular fighting series. The first of these, Super Smash Bros. for Nintendo 3DS, was itself a great addition to the franchise and our pick for best 3DS game of the year, but it was only a prelude to the spectacle of the Wii U version a month later. While the two games may share the same basic structure and roster of fighters, the Wii U version is even more packed with content, featuring more trophies to collect, music to unlock, and modes to play. The game also looks stunning in full high-definition, bringing the series’ chaotic action to life like never before. Most intriguing of all, however, was the inclusion of Amiibo functionality, which allowed players to tap special figurines on the GamePad and do battle with those characters in the game. Battle them enough and your Amiibo will even pick up on your fighting style, providing you with a challenging opponent (or a helpful ally, if things don’t seem to be going your way) whenever you need one. Add in even more online and local multiplayer options and you have one of the best party games on Wii U.

Bayonetta 2

For the second year running, PlatinumGames has delivered one of the most daring and frenetic action games on Wii U, earning the developer a well-deserved place on our Best Games of 2014 list. Nobody quite knew what to expect from Bayonetta 2 when it was first unveiled as a Wii U exclusive. As an M-rated sequel to a PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360 game (starring a sexualized witch, no less), it could not have seemed more at odds with Nintendo’s typical demographic. Fortunately, the end result far exceeded anyone’s wildest expectations, and Bayonetta 2 became a benchmark for Nintendo’s latest home console. With fast and responsive action, plus a wealth of control options, Bayonetta 2 is one of the most accessible and fluid games on any console. That it comes packaged with the original Bayonetta, which Nintendo fans initially missed out on, means even the uninitiated can experience everything the series has to offer, and is all the more reason that Bayonetta 2 deserves a place in every Wii U owner’s collection.

Shovel Knight

In a year rife with high-definition blockbusters and established franchises, Yacht Club’s Shovel Knight, a retro-styled throwback to the action-platformers of yore, almost seems like an anachronism. Boasting a lovingly crafted 8-bit visual style and a marvelous chiptunes soundtrack, Shovel Knight would certainly not seem out of place in the NES’s library. But while the game’s presentation may look intentionally archaic, its gameplay certainly isn’t, offering a challenging and smartly designed adventure for players to conquer. That this all was the work of an upstart studio, with the help of crowdfunding platform Kickstarter, makes it even more impressive, and serves as a testament to the passion and ingenuity of independent developers. Not only is Shovel Knight our favorite digital game to come out of 2014, it’s also one of the year’s best titles, period, on any platform.


HONORABLE MENTION

Bravely Default

Simply releasing Bravely Default, a traditional role-playing adventure without the name recognition of Final Fantasy or Dragon Quest, was itself a brave act for Square Enix, but the company’s gambit certainly paid off– Bravely Default has quickly become one of the most critically and commercially successful games on 3DS. Along with a sweeping storyline and beautifully stylized visuals, the game introduced a new battle mechanic in the form of the Brave and Default system, adding an even deeper layer of strategy to its turn-based battles. With a sequel on the way this year, 3DS owners owe it to themselves to experience one of the best RPGs on the handheld.


WHAT’S YOUR TAKE?

That concludes our Best of 2014 awards! Do you agree with our choices? Vote for which game you think should be the Game of the Year in our poll below, or choose “Other” and tell us in the comments!

What is the best game of 2014?

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