As we close the year and prepare for the beginning of the next, we needed to sit down and discuss the best games of 2014. During The Free Cheese Episode 102, we argued for a few hours about which games deserve the titles for the best games of the year and we ultimately decided on the list that you see below.

We hope that you have enjoyed 2014 as much as we have, and we can’t wait to see what 2015 has in store for video games. Congratulations to all of our winners and thank you for creating the year’s greatest games.

 

GAME OF THE YEAR | SHOVEL KNIGHT

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Shovel Knight is an inspiration for us all. It is an incredible achievement in game development from its design to its sound to its gameplay and everything else about it. The team at Yacht Club Games showed the world through Shovel Knight that taking a risk and following through with what you believe in can turn out better than you could have imagined. Shovel Knight captured our hearts and our attention, and it made us feel like we never left our little gray boxes at any yard sale, that they were still wired up to the back of our giant tv sets. It made us want to make games ourselves, to try doing something that we never thought we could try to achieve.

Shovel Knight captures what made the greatest games of all time so great, and it placed itself right alongside them. It bounces along our screens, one shovel at a time, without a pixel seeming out of place. Shovel Knight is filled with secrets, more than the world has yet to discover. Each stage offers a new and different challenge, while each boss provides something new to take down. The climb to the top of the tower leaves flashes in our minds of that beautiful green sky and the nearing conclusion of our first journey with the titular hero. The final fight rings through our minds like the clashing of a shovel against a shield, and that final scene makes us feel a warmth that we cannot understand.

Shovel Knight is our choice for the best game in 2014. We haven’t fallen in love so quickly or deeply with a game like we have with Shovel Knight. We can’t wait to see what’s next for the team at Yacht Club Games, and we are so grateful for the game that they have created.

If you haven’t yet, go download Shovel Knight and get digging.

It’s the best game you could possibly play this year.

CONSOLE OF THE YEAR | WII U

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When Sony and Microsoft announced their respective new consoles, it seemed like a sure thing that Nintendo was in trouble with the Wii U. It’s vastly underpowered when compared, it has almost nothing in the way of third-party support, and the games that Nintendo has released aren’t convincing enough to warrant a purchase. That all changed in 2014. Perhaps it was the looming excitement that we felt when looking toward Mario Kart 8 or Super Smash Bros. Perhaps it was the stack of games that has piled up for the console that prove its worth just a little more. Perhaps its the fact that the new consoles to the market spent most of the year releasing reissues and games that were still available on last generation’s consoles. Whatever the reason, the Nintendo Wii U is the console of the year. Personally, I have kept it plugged into one of my two HDMI ports all year long, while switching between the rest of my consoles on the second port. For the rest of us, we all felt the excitement swell during E3 while watching the showcase for upcoming Wii U software. We spent our year passing the GamePad back and forth, yelling at each other over blue shells and Final Smash’s. We explored new worlds through the increased support of the Virtual Console, as it began to offer games that we haven’t seen or thought about in years. When we sat down to play this year, the Wii U was almost always first in line.

HANDHELD OF THE YEAR | 3DS

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2013 was a breakout year for the Nintendo 3DS, bringing us Animal Crossing: New LeafPokemon X and Pokemon Y, and The Legend of Zelda: A Link Between Worlds. 2014 was a pretty great year too, just not as loud as the previous. What makes the 3DS our handheld of the year is that we spent the most of our time playing it. The PlayStation Vita floundered more than usual in 2014, failing to make any lasting impression, while the 3DS finally reached a point where it had enough games and features from this year and prior to keep our chargers plugged in constantly. My pile of handhelds sat on the corner of my desk, while my 3DS travelled almost everywhere that I did. Each week on the podcast, I watched everyone bring their Nintendo portables to the table and leave everything else behind. We hope that 2015 is even better for Nintendo, but this was a pretty great year to own the handheld.

DEVELOPER OF THE YEAR | NINTENDO

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Nintendo released the Wii U in 2012 and for the better part of its time on the market it has struggled to make any lasting impressions. The latest handheld from the company, the 3DS has earned its place in the backpacks of many, but it too still lacks the audience that its predecessor did. Combine the two with the odd choices that the company has made as of late, and Nintendo really has proven to become a shadow of its former self. Until 2014, that is. This year was an explosion for the developer. Nintendo spent the year reminding us all why we love them and why we need to still have a place for them in our living rooms. From the Nintendo Direct presentations that gave us closer looks at the games we would soon enjoy or those we are still looking forward to in the coming year, to the E3 show that reverberated through our culture- Nintendo killed it in 2014. They also put out some of the best games that we have been playing, a lot of which have made it into this list or our conversations for game of the year. The new Nintendo is a lot like the old Nintendo from our childhood, where its hard to find disappointment in their output. We cannot wait to see what comes next for Nintendo and above all else, Nintendo is our favorite developer of 2014.

BEST STORY | THE LAST OF US: LEFT BEHIND

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I finished the campaign for Naughty Dog’s The Last of Us and I walked away. I didn’t want nor need anything else form that world. I loved the ending, and I loved my experience with that game. When an expansion was announced that would tell the story of Ellie before she met Joel, I was left quite unexcited but I hesitantly purchased the content anyway. From the moment I began the story, I was intrigued and my attachment only grew stronger the further I went. I loved watching the interactions between Ellie and her friend Riley as they acted out their roles as teenage girls in a world filled with horror and death. When tragedy lurks at every literal corner, their friendship and bond between one another transcends any looming threats. The story in the game compliments what the original title had done so perfectly that I wish it had been a chapter within the 2013 release. Seeing and feeling the love between these two left the game itself and brought about real feelings within myself. There is nothing more heart wrenching or real in a video game story this year. The Last of Us: Left Behind is the best story in a game released in 2014.

BEST REMASTER | ODDWORLD: NEW ‘N’ TASTY

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When the PlayStation 4 and Xbox One were released, we quickly began to watch a trend take place where developers opted to release a slightly better looking version of their previous game as a stop-gap in between core releases. It helps them to earn some extra money while not costing them much to develop the port, and it keeps the fans at bay while they eagerly await the release of the next title. Many developers have done this, and while these ports offer us something to play while we wait on the next big thing, they really are just prettier versions of what we have already experienced. That’s not quite the same for Oddworld: New ‘n’ Tasty. What Oddworld Inhabitants and Just Add Water have done here, is rebuild the original PlayStation classic Oddworld: Abe’s Oddysee from scratch and released it for this generation of consoles. In essence, it is the same game that a lot of us grew up loving, but in reality it is something entirely more. New ‘n’ Tasty is almost a reimagining of what that game could have or should have looked like if only the technology was in place at the time of its development. New challenges were added for veteran players to experience, the controls were sharpened to adhere to our modern styles of gaming, and the entire world was brought to life in a way that a lot of us could only have imagined while playing the original. Its development and release is also contributing to a revival of the Oddworld brand, and a potential new entry in the series is on its way. Everything about Oddworld: New ‘n’ Tasty is the reason that we are calling it the year’s best remaster.

BEST SCORE/SOUNDTRACK | SHOVEL KNIGHT

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The second that I finished creating the list of categories for our game of the year discussion, I knew that the winner for best score and soundtrack had to be Yacht Club Games’ Shovel Knight. For one, the music in the game is incredibly memorable and since I first started playing the game earlier this year I have found myself humming the tunes to my self or hearing them on a loop in the back of my head. Yet, making something memorable doesn’t win this category. Why the soundtrack for Shovel Knight wins this category is because the entirety of its composition was made to compliment the game itself. There isn’t a note that is wasted in the score, and each level’s music fits perfectly with what is occurring in the stage. Additionally, the composer has accomplished a score that rivals those of the NES days, much like Shovel Knight itself which acts as a natural evolution to where 8-bit games should have went. Even if you don’t play the game, go listen to the music.

BEST SINGLE PLAYER GAME | SHOVEL KNIGHT

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I have seen gaming transform from something that you do with family and friends sitting inches from the television screen, to something that you do with a headset while talking with people living in other countries. When it comes to my own preferences, I tend to play alone. Not because I don’t enjoy playing with other people, but because I have more time alone available to me than time spent with friends. As I’ve grown older, timing and schedules become more complicated and its easier to play single player games over multiplayer. This year, I have spent a lot of time playing single player games across multiple platforms and eras of gaming. From everything that I have spent my time with in 2014, Shovel Knight is simply the best single player experience that I have had. During our conversations for game of the year, and when talking about the best single player games, it was difficult for me to make the decision. Hearing Marc’s explanation for why Shovel Knight trumps all just swept up all of the feelings that I had while playing the game, and I think it is safe to say that for everything Shovel Knight does you just cannot find a better way to play a game by yourself.

BEST MULTIPLAYER GAME | MARIO KART 8

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Nintendo had an incredible 2014 to say the very least. The Wii U was revitalized, the games were outstanding, and the announcements were even more exciting. It was really tough to think of which title was going to win our award for best multiplayer game of the year. There has been a welcomed return to local couch play with the likes of Towerfall: Ascension and Nidhogg on PS4, Kyle and my favorite Donkey Kong Country: Tropical Freeze, and the massive local gaming phenomenon that is Super Smash Bros. for Wii U. Yet, Mario Kart 8 still wins the category. Many can imitate but none can top the pure enjoyment that comes from Mario Kart 8, a game that almost anyone can pick up and play and enjoy. The new tracks, racers, items, and everything that the game offers just excels at local multiplayer and the addition of a robust online gaming system makes this game even better for those seeking to play with others. The continuing addition of tracks and characters only makes us play it more, and I can’t think of a game that I’ve spent more time playing with my friends that have come around this year.

GAME OF THE YEAR UNDERDOG | P.T.

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During PlayStation’s press conference at Gamescom, Konami showed up with a surprise for us all. Released immediately upon announcement, P.T. is a playable teaser for Konami’s upcoming reboot for the Silent Hill series. P.T. quickly became a talking point, not only for us on the podcast but for the gaming world as a whole. The looping hallway of horror captured our attention and kept us from sleeping for a few nights. The way that the experience left us circling and confused, all the while terrified to take another step forward was incredibly memorable. When it comes to game of the year conversations, we know that not many people will be discussing the game because of its nature as a teaser and not exactly a game at all. We think that it should be remembered as one of the year’s greatest moments and we are hopeful for whatever Konami is planning with Silent Hills as the series comes to this generation of consoles.

MOST FUN GAMING EXPERIENCE | SOUTH PARK: THE STICK OF TRUTH

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Years had passed between the announcement and release of South Park: The Stick of Truth but when it finally arrived in our hands it turned out to be much better than we ever expected. Not only was the game a perfect homage to everything South Park, it was an incredibly fun RPG that kept us entertained from beginning to end. When we were talking about the game that we had the most fun playing, I can’t think of a gaming experience that kept a smile on my face and a Beavis & Butt-Head-esque laugh bellowing from my face. From the small trinkets you find within the world, to the music playing all over town, and the entire journey that you endure as the new kid in town, South Park: The Stick of Truth is our most fun gaming experience of the year.

MOST ANTICIPATED GAME OF 2015 | UNCHARTED 4

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We were all pretty excited at the reveal of Uncharted 4 during E3 this year, but the excitement didn’t fully take shape until the gameplay demonstration at the first annual PlayStation Experience earlier this month. Seeing Nathan Drake in action on Sony’s latest console seemed like the first sign of a new generation in gaming for us. The fifteen minutes or so of gameplay that were shown ensured that the adventurer’s journey onto the PlayStation 4 is shaping up to be something special and that Naughty Dog has learned a lot about the third-person action genre from development on The Last of Us. Sandeep was so ecstatic over the footage that he was ready to throw down his money for a new console despite Uncharted 4 being likely a full year away from release. 2015 could be one of the greatest years in gaming history, and while there are a significant amount of games that we are looking forward to, Uncharted 4 took our spot for most anticipated game.

FAVORITE 2013 GAME OF 2014 | GRAND THEFT AUTO V

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Grand Theft Auto V was a huge talking point for us at the end of 2013 and while it dried up a bit for most of us, most weeks on the podcast were filled with continuing stories from Kyle about how much he still loves and plays this game. The story itself tried something new for the series and allowed players to experience the journey of not one but three protagonists, and the addition of GTA Online with more and more content added regularly kept it in Kyle’s rotation for the better part of the year. While 2013 was filled with a lot of outstanding titles that closed the chapter on the last generation of consoles, Grand Theft Auto V continued to be great even when new consoles and a new year of games have made their way into our living rooms.

 

We hope you enjoyed our list. Be sure to listen to The Free Cheese Episode 102 where we made all of these decisions a reality.

Posted by Joe Dix

Joe is the creator of The Free Cheese. He eats a lot of pizza and takes thousands of pictures of his pugs Oswald and Earl every day. He has a disorder that causes him to believe that he is Batman and his favorite video game is Castlevania: Symphony of the Night.

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