Casey Malone is a stand-up comedian, contributing games writer for Paste Magazine, and a Contract Designer at Demiurge Studios working on Marvel Puzzle quest. Follow him on Twitter!
There’s a lot of contenders for the “fuck your friends” local multiplayer spot this year with TowerFall Ascension, Nidhogg and Super Smash Bros Wii U all prompting a lot of screaming at folks on your couch. But none of those games came close to the kind of nail-biting, blame inducing, rivalry creating mayhem of Sportsfriends. Every game in the low-fi anthology series (J.S. Joust, Super Pole Riders, BaraBariBall, and Hokra) is exceptional, exciting and somehow completely different from each other. As individuals they’re great, but as a complete package it’s the only game you and your friends should ever need.
Hey, can we call a moratorium on referring to 2048, the overly-simple rip-off of Threes, a “clone”? Sure, it outright steals the frustrating and fascinating core gameplay of sliding numbers together, but Threes is crafted with such loving care that they barely seem like the same game. Threes is full of beautiful graphic design, incredible sound, and animation that give it too much life, too much personality, for any “clone” to capture.
8. Octodad: Dadliest Catch
This game belongs on everyone’s end of year list if only for the theme song, which I’ve been singing to myself for months now. Octodad pulls off two impossible feats at once – it makes the gameplay equivalent of “trying to tie your shoes with mittens on” fun, and it’s (intentionally!) hilarious. Few games can pull off being funny, but there are as many laugh-out-loud moments in Octodad as the best of old-school adventure games, which is the highest praise I can give it.
Wow, did I not see this coming. Before Titanfall, I’d spent maybe 90 minutes total playing the kind of multiplayer FPS that’s dominated console gaming since Halo. It’s just not my thing. Turns out the way to make it my thing is to add jetpacks, wall-running and giant god damn robots. Titanfall makes moving around maps a joy, and does an incredible job doing double-duty making being in a titan and fighting titans from the ground feel empowering.
6. Middle Earth: Shadow of Mordor
I’m going to level with you all – I did not have the magical, emergent experience with Shadow of Mordor’s nemesis system that everyone else did. I didn’t die that much once the game got rolling, and if an Uruk got promoted up the Mordor Org Chart (…Orc Chart?) I made it my business to take him out before he became too much of a problem. So when I reached the game’s finale and had to face down against my “nemesis” my reaction was less vengeful rage and more, “This is so embarrassing, your name is…?” But even with the most lauded element of Shadow of Mordor not quite working, the base game it’s built onto is still incredible. Borrowing the best of Assassin’s Creed and the Batman Arkham series, Shadow of Mordor makes each enemy unique, each side-mission meaningful and each orc murder spectacular.
5. Hearthstone: Heroes of Warcraft
This was the year that I watched every single friend that made fun of me for playing Magic: The Gathering go hard on Hearthstone. These people had balked at the idea of an incredibly expensive, complicated hobby that often required spending time in the dank basements of hobby shops. Blizzard apparently got that memo and decided to churn out a collectible card game that was free, simple yet deep, and could be played anywhere. Not content to just solve the problems of paper card games, Hearthstone then innovates, creating cards and mechanics that would be cumbersome or downright impossible in real life. None of the people who mocked me that are playing Hearthstone have admitted I was right all along, but I guess I can’t expect this game to fix everything.
4. Rogue Legacy (PS4/Vita)
“Sincere question,” my girlfriend said while watching me play Rogue Legacy earlier this year. “Is this actually fun for you?” It totally is, but I can see why she’d ask. I die a lot in Rogue Legacy, but unlike Spelunky where dying sets me back at square one the sense of progress in Rogue Legacy is unbelievable. So while the castle changes every time, keeping the game fresh, my character’s descendents are getting stronger, my perks and armor are leveling up, and I’m unlocking new classes. If the game wasn’t so blistering difficult, getting better wouldn’t feel as rewarding, and now that I’ve been sufficiently rewarded, I’m going to kick that castle’s ass.
3. Crossy Road
I picked up Crossy Road so I could look at it for a quick second before writing this entry and ended up playing five or six games of it. The visuals are perfect, the simple hopping animation of each animal is so satisfyingly bouncy, and the first time one of the characters completely changed the environment blew my mind. To top it all off, Crossy Road displays your friend’s scores on the road like finishing lines, makes each game either a triumph as you hop over them or a nightmare as you get run over by a tractor trailer one hop away.
2. Diablo 3: Reaper of Souls
During E3 2012, I spent an entire week, unemployed, watching press conferences and playing Diablo 3. I sunk about 60 hours into it and was certain I was done with the game forever. Two years later and, somehow, Blizzard found a way to suck me back in. The campaign content in Reaper of Souls is fine, but the drastic changes made to core systems brought Diablo 3 from a serviceable sequel to the game a lot of people wanted it to be. Revitalizing gear with Loot 2.0, removing the real money Auction House, adding Adventure Mode, Paragon Points and Seasons… finally the grind felt like an adventure. The “Ultimate Evil” version added even more social hooks – the “Nemesis”, sending your friends copies of your gear automatically – and made the transition of a classic PC game to Console my preferred way to play.
1. Mario Kart 8
I took a lot of shit for things I said about Mario Kart 8 this year. I stand by them – especially that it highlights the lack of diversity in Nintendo’s roster – but that doesn’t mean Mario Kart 8 isn’t fantastic. Holy crap is Mario Kart 8 fantastic. It’s stunning to look at – no one knows how to make Nintendo consoles look impressive like Nintendo – the courses are almost uniformly excellent, and the online mode is (somehow! Nintendo!) incredibly robust. Mario Kart 8 delivers almost everything I wanted, and with more tracks and racers being released I hope Nintendo continues to deliver even more.
Great Games That Almost Made This List:
Roundabout, inFamous: Second Son, Kim Kardashian Hollywood
Games I Haven’t Played Enough Of Yet But I Suspect They Rule:
Dragon Age: Inquisition, Captain Toad Treasure Tracker, Shovel Knight