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How good of a year has it been for video games? Our collection of 14 staff and freelancer contributors made cases for 12 different entries in our 2014 Game of the Year voting. Only two games received a second vote for Game of the Year.
As we did last year, we’ve gathered all of these picks and included our thoughts here. You’ll see some of the big blockbusters, some indie hits, games that work on mobile, and even a Kickstarter project — a first for GamesBeat’s year-end voting.
Each staffer or contributor wrote about their favorite game of the year. As for GamesBeat’s 2014 award-winner, you can read about it here.
And please, share with us what your Game of the Year is — or tell us why we’re wrong.
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Game of the Year: Watch Dogs (PlayStation 4, Xbox One, PC)
Few games received as much hype as Watch Dogs. But Ubisoft’s cyberthriller about a rogue hacker who takes control of a modern city lived up to it. It’s original, has a good story, and the characters are interesting. The voyeuristic power to peer into the lives of passersby by breaking into their smartphones fascinated me. And I loved laying traps for those who were chasing me in cars. Watch Dogs held my attention for dozens of hours, and that’s more than I can say for a lot of the blockbusters this year.
My big complaint is that it’s too long. But that’s not always a bad thing if you’re enjoying the journey. I savored my power trip as an omnipotent hacker.
Runner-up #1: Titanfall
Runner-up #2: Middle-earth: Shadow of Mordor
Game of the Year: Divinity: Original Sin (PC, Mac)
Divinity: Original Sin didn’t cross $1 million in Kickstarter crowdfunding, unlike other old-school role-playing game projects such as Pillars of Eternity, Torment: Tides of Numenera, or Wasteland 2. And it’s not only the first of these to release to its supporters and fans, but it also may be the best of the three — and the greatest twist on top-down RPGs I’ve seen in years.
Longtime Divinity developer Larian Studios found a way to innovate, too, creating a combat system in which players can use the elements against their foes (or accidentally hurt themselves). A cold spell may leave a foe in its icy grip, turned into an immobile punching bag. A pool of oil turns into a handy fireball with even the most meager of flames. By using the tools around them, your party could make even the most difficult battle scenarios manageable.
And one of the best aspects is its multiplayer. Following in the grand tradition of Baldur’s Gate and the classic games of the Infinity Engine, you could play with friends over a network — but Larian made this even better with online co-op, enabling you party up with others, be they down the street — or across the globe.
Throw in a gripping story, customizable characters, and multitudes of weapons and spells and you have the best role-playing experience of the year.
Runner-up No. 1: Hearthstone: Heroes of Warcraft
Runner-up No. 2: The Banner Saga
Game of the Year: Titanfall (Xbox One, Xbox 360, PC)
It feels like a lot of games came out only to instantly disappear in 2014 (at least in terms of the Game of the Year discussion). No one (except Dean) is talking about Watch Dogs anymore. Destiny has its fans, but it has just as many detractors. And Dark Souls II seems like it left a lot of fans wondering where the real followup to Dark Souls is.
But I think Titanfall was the game with the most hype that ended up fizzling out the most with fans. And that’s a shame, because it really is wonderful.
The sci-fi shooter from developer Respawn, a studio composed of the people who created Call of Duty, hit early in the year. I’m still playing it — I’ve spent 4 days, 10 hours, and 48 minutes riding around in mechs, running on walls, and shooting enemies in midair in a smart revision of multiplayer deathmatch since its March 11 release.
Even the lack of a true single-player campaign doesn’t bug me because the online game is so well crafted. And the best part is that Respawn worked to make the game better over the last nine months. Whether it’s tweaks to the user interface or big changes like adding a co-op mode, Titanfall improved sharply from March to December.
It’s clear now that Respawn didn’t dethrone Call of Duty in terms of sales or market share, but it’s done enough to satisfy my need for something new in a space that had grown stale.
Runner-up #1: Mario Kart 8 (Wii U)
Runner-up #2: Retry (iOS/Android)
Game of the Year: Super Smash Bros. for Wii U (Wii U … duh)
Super Smash Bros. is dear to me. For a group of my friends, it helps hold us together. Nintendo always does a good job with the fighting series, but the makers of Super Smash Bros. Brawl for the Wii made some questionable decisions. Characters felt too floaty, the roster was unbalanced, and fighters would even randomly trip during fights, adding a frustrating element of randomness.
The Wii U version is an improvement in every way. The roster is bigger and better balanced, and tripping is mercifully gone. The fighter also looks fantastic despite the system’s hardware shortcomings.
I’m also happy to see Nintendo make some concessions for fans who prefer to play Smash Bros. as a competitive game. You can select versions of each level that do away with gimmicks and random elements, which turns each fight into a pure battle of skill. It even features online modes that let you fight with items off.
But most important, Smash Bros. is just fun. I’ve already played several marathon sessions with my friends that have lasted longer than a few hours. I’m sure we’ll have plenty more for years to come.
Runner-up #1: Bravely Default
Runner-up #2: Shovel Knight
Game of the Year: Hearthstone: Heroes of Warcraft (PC, Mac, iOS, Android)
Hearthstone enticed, enthralled, and eventually enmeshed more than 20 million of us this year.
Who would have thought that a turn-based fantasy trading card game, from a strategy and massively multiplayer online RPG developer, would have taken the gaming world and shaken it loose of its cynicism? And yet I keep hearing stories from friends who have upgraded their tablets specifically to play this deceptively, devilishly simple card battler.
Beyond the plot, attack, and neutralize nature of the gameplay, I also appreciate the pop culture and Blizzard Entertainment game references on every card. The latest Goblins vs. Gnomes expansion pack — and who are we kidding, those two are the master races — has inside jokes galore. Mech minions, V-07-TR-ON, and Boom Bots (“WARNING: Bots may explode.”)? Yes, please.
Hearthstone has a permanent spot on my iPad. I may never have the chance to play six Molten Giants or seven Kel’Thuzads in a single turn — who am I kidding, I’m happy to have my low-rent Mage deck — but I still get a little dose of joy every time I line up a killing blow.
Runner-up #1: Dragon Age: Inquisition
Runner-up #2: Middle-Earth: Shadow of Mordor