Another year, another solid block of game releases. This year saw several disappointments like “Destiny” or “Watch Dogs,” but it also saw many pleasant surprises like “Middle-earth: Shadow of Mordor” or “Wolfenstein: The New Order.” Of the many releases this year, however, five stand out for their quality and for what they represent. So let’s get started!
#5: “FISTFUL OF FRAGS”
Developer: Fistful of Frags Team
Platforms: PC, Mac, Linux
This is a game set in the Wild West where the weapons are as slow and unpredictable as they were back in the late 19th century. As it turns out, that makes for a unique spin on the multiplayer first-person shooter genre and a crazy good time to boot. It’s got everything players can expect from the Old West: train robberies, vigilantes, whiskey and sharp-shooting. Plus, it’s completely free and regularly gets new, free content. What’s not to love?
Developer: Yacht Club Games
Platforms: Wii U, 3DS, PC, Mac, Linux
There have been a lot of independent games that have used an 8-bit aesthetic, but none have nailed it like “Shovel Knight” did. With the platforming from “Ducktales,” the level design from “Mega Man,” and the overworld design from “Zelda II,” “Shovel Knight” feels like an authentic piece of Nintendo Entertainment System nostalgia. It’s also got a surprisingly great story with some of the most heartwarming and charming gaming moments of the year. It’s definitely worth a dig.
#3: “THIS WAR OF MINE”
Developer: 11 Bit Studios
Platforms: PC, Mac, Linux
There are plenty of games that capture the experience of being a wartime soldier, but what about being one of the helpless civilians on the sidelines? “This War of Mine” dared to answer that question in an experience that is engaging without being the least bit fun. It captures the true horrors of war in ways that no other game has been able to manage, using survival mechanics that are so common in today’s gaming industry to make a point that’s actually worth making.
#2: “BAYONETTA 2”
Developer: Platinum Games
Platform: Wii U
On the reverse end of the drama scale, we have “Bayonetta 2,” one of the most carefree and downright fun games of the year. Not only is it a tighter experience than its predecessor, and not only is it as fun as its predecessor, but in the wake of Gamergate, it was just the right game to come out. It spurred a lot of discussion about what’s acceptable and what’s unacceptable in the industry, and for some, Bayonetta provides a great example of an awesome and cool female protagonist. It was more of the same, but in a year like this, that’s exactly what gamers needed.
Developer: Supergiant Games
Platforms: PS4, PC, Mac, Linux
On the pure “cool” scale, nothing can come close to touching “Transistor,” which is the year’s most beautiful and breathtaking game, on top of being simultaneously accessible and mesmerizingly deep. It has a great, thought-provoking story, a gorgeous artistic direction, and a combat system seemingly like no other. It’s short, but it doesn’t outstay its welcome. And on top of all of that, it has the best soundtrack of the year. “Transistor” is perfect in just about every way, and it feels like no other game has done better.