I’m excited for next year. There are some killer games coming, and you’re crazy if you aren’t excited for at least one thing. Between stellar episodic games reaching their respective conclusions, old franchises going from strength to strength, and wholly original next-generation IP, there’s something for everyone. If that’s where gaming is headed, then we all should cheer up, because there’s a bright future ahead.
This list exists because a lot of this site’s coverage hinges on transparency and evolving opinions. We’re definitely going to cover these five games — I’ll probably end up covering at least four of them — and I want you to know where I stand. If these games exceed my expectations, then you have an idea of what they were up against. And vice versa: if they fail, you know where the bar was.
For a game to make it on the list, I have to be thinking about it regularly. There must be an itch in the back of my brain that cannot be quenched otherwise. Sure, it’s not entirely fair — I’ve received a demo for one game, and there are two episodic games that had releases in 2013, so I have an idea of what those games are — but hey, it’s my list.
5. The Wolf Among Us
Let’s address the elephant in the room: if I hadn’t played All That Remains before writing this, The Walking Dead Season 2 would’ve probably topped my list. But I feel like it’s a known quantity, at least to me. I know where it’s going tonally, and the whole package will probably be one of 2014’s best games. It’s not the game I’m the most excited for, if that makes any sense. I know it’s going to be good, and I feel like I’ve seen that universe’s tricks. That’s why it’s not technically on this list, even though I am genuinely excited for it.
You know what else I’m excited for? The Wolf Among Us. I said in my review of the first episode that I’m looking forward to seeing what the future brings for Bigby Wolf and his buddies. And that’s still very true. I keep thinking about Fabletown. I keep coming back to that fight in the bar. The Wolf Among Us is stuck in my brain, and I want more.
4. Shovel Knight
It’s really amazing what a playable demo can do to get me excited. When Steven lost his mind over the first project from Yacht Club Games, I wasn’t quite sure what to expect. But that press demo was everything I needed.
Shovel Knight is one of those ‘retro’ platformers that attempts to evoke the wonderment associated with the NES era, not the deliberately crushing level of challenge. It looks charming, has a fun soundtrack, and controls beautifully. When I played it for the first time, I found it nearly impossible to suppress an enormous grin. Steven may be the conductor of the Shovel Knight Hype Train, but I’ll gladly admit to being a passenger.
(For those of you who were betting how long it would take before train puns found their way into our regular writing, well, there’s your answer)
Maybe I just want to play a good shooter on my Xbox One. Maybe that’s why Titanfall is on my list, and the lists of so many others. But c’mon, aren’t you the least bit curious to see what’s next from the people who revolutionized online multiplayer? I really like (the Treyarch installments of) Call of Duty, I’ll be the first to admit that. You know what else I like? Fast-paced multiplayer shooters and giant robots. All of that sounds fantastic. In this case, I think not playing the game has been to my advantage. I really want to know what that thing is all about.
2. Kentucky Route Zero
Speaking of “wanting to know what that thing is all about,” man do I want to see the third act of Kentucky Route Zero. More than The Walking Dead Season 2. More than The Wolf Among Us. Development house Cardboard Computer finally came to their senses and realized The Phantom Tollbooth would make an incredible video game, so they put on some old bluesgrass on vinyl, slept with modern art paintings glued above their beds, and created one of the most genuinely interesting worlds I’ve seen in a game.
I want to see more of Conway and Shannon. What’s Blue the dog up to? What is the Zero? What is Conway delivering, and to whom? I don’t expect to get all the answers, but I like the questions. I really like the questions, and if the game can keep asking genuinely compelling questions, then we’re looking at a serious GOTY 2014 contender, at least for me.
1. inFamous: Second Son
If I were to compile a Games of the Generation list, right now, unordered, off the top of my head, inFamous 2 would probably be one of the first games I’d rattle off. Ever since its release, I’ve come to love it more and more. It was a perfect end to Cole’s story, but I feel like systems-wise, Sucker Punch was just beginning to hit their stride. A third game, with just the right amount of powers doled out at just the right times, in a vibrant and interesting city sounds like the perfect sequel to an incredible game. And it’s looking like inFamous: Second Son just might be that.
You want a game that can show you what the new generation of consoles can really do? I’m willing to bet Sucker Punch can deliver on that front. inFamous 2 had a generally solid framerate with some beautiful visual design to boot. That team knows how to wring every last drop out of a Sony machine, I can only imagine what they can do with the PlayStation 4’s hardware.
Between the Sly franchise and the inFamous games, Sucker Punch has proven they can properly iterate on a formula. With inFamous 2, they had a clear winner. Now all they have to do is make a better version of a game I unquestionably adore.