games / Columns

411 Games 2014 Year-End Awards: The Top 10 Games of 2014

January 7, 2015 | Posted by Sean Garmer

Gaming in 2014 may go down as perhaps one of the weirdest years in the industry’s history. One could say in many ways the industry regressed, as much as it made progress. For every wonderful sales milestone hit by Sony’s PS4 or Microsoft’s Xbox One, there seemed to be an equal amount of negativity hurled at those companies or the industry itself. 2014 saw the very first true next-gen games come out, but the amount of quality “next-gen” games actually were much fewer in number, due to countless delays, broken games, launch issues, an over-reliance on HD remasters, and other things that seemed to plague the industry this year. Speaking of the HD remaster issue, our 2013 Year-End Award Top 3 (GTA V, Last of Us, and Tomb Raider could have qualified this year as well.) Another member of our 2013 list, Saints Row IV, is getting a remastered edition later this month. Even Assassin’s Creed IV: Black Flag got a ton of hype because it was included in the Xbox One price drop bundle. There was also this thing called gamer-gate that put a terrible stain on the industry, of which it is still trying to recover from at this very moment. Gaming received mainstream attention in a way that no one ever wanted and turned what was supposed to be a hard spotlight on gaming journalism into a ridiculousness that was blown way out of proportion.

However, it wasn’t all doom and gloom last year. Indy games continued to flourish, Nintendo made a nice year for itself with an uptick in sales and a fantastic lineup of games. Thanks to a price cut and a few big exclusive titles Microsoft made a significant gain in gamer public relations and in sales. There’s also Sony’s PS4, which is still leading everyone in the sales department as well, regardless of how many times PSN went down or what happened to their console exclusive games.

That being said, the purpose of this column is to look mainly at the video games released in 2014 and decide upon who we as a staff feel was the video game developer of the year, the video game publisher of the year, and most importantly, the 10 best games of 2014. The selection process was the same as in 2013. The staff’s individual lists were compiled together using a point system on a descending scale. With anyone’s number one game receiving 10 points all the way down to their number 10 game receiving one point. I’m sure you can figure out how the rest of it goes. But just in case it is still confusing to some.

1. = 10 pts
2. = 9 pts
3. = 8 pts
4. = 7 pts
5. = 6 pts
6. = 5 pts
7. = 4 pts
8. = 3 pts
9. = 2 pts
10. = 1 pt

Before I get to the awards portion of the presentation, I want to state that everything we contribute to 411 Games Zone is done without monetary compensation. At least 50% of the games reviewed in the Games Zone are done so by staff members that purchased the game and did not receive some sort of review code. We don’t have a central office where the staff congregates to play AAA titles and discuss the news of the day. We are just privileged to be hired by the wonderful bosses at 411 and have a platform to write or talk about what we love. Therefore, before reading our overall list or criticizing anyone’s individual Top 10 lists be aware that we don’t get to play every game that comes out and we can only put games on lists that we actually played.

Now, there’s only one thing left to do and that’s recognize and thank most of the 411 Games staff for helping put this together. Without their votes and blurbs this column would not be possible.

The 411 Staff Introductions…

After each staff’s member’s name and job in the Games Zone will be their individual Top 10 list.

Stephen Randle
– Regular Contributor to Games Fact or Fiction, Occasional Contributor to Four-Player Co-op

1. Middle-Earth: Shadows of Mordor
2. The Wolf Among Us
3. FarCry 4
4. Dragon Age: Inquisition
5. Bayonetta 2
6. Wolfenstein: The New Order
7. Hearthstone
8. Persona Q: Shadow of the Labyrinth
9. South Park: The Stick of Truth
10. Alien Isolation
Publisher: Nintendo
Developer: Nintendo

Marc Morrison
– Writer of the Games Zone 8-Ball, Games Zone Reviewer, Regular Contributor to Co-operative Multiplayer “The Official Games Zone podcast,” Occasional Contributor to Four Player Co-op, Games Fact or Fiction, and Games Top 5

1. Shadows of Mordor
2. Wolfenstein: The New Order
3. South Park: The Stick of Truth
4. Binding of Isaac: Rebirth
5. Divinity: Original Sin
6. The Wolf Among Us
7. Titanfall
8. Endless Legend
9. Persona 4 Arena: Ultimax
10. Watch Dogs

Developer: Monolith Productions
Publisher: Nintendo

John Cash
Regular Contributor to Games Top 5 and Frequent Contributor to Four Player Co-op

1. Dragon Age: Inquisition
2. Bayonetta 2
3. Super Smash Bros. Wii U
4. The Wolf Among Us
5. Forza Horizon 2
6. Mario Kart 8
7. Middle-Earth: Shadow of Mordor
8. Shovel Knight
9. Octodad: Dadliest Catch
10. Five Nights at Freddy’s

Developer: Nintendo
Publisher: Nintendo

Jeremy Thomas Editor, Games Zone News Writer and Reviewer

1. Middle-Earth: Shadow of Mordor
2. Sunset Overdrive
3. Dragon Age: Inquisition
4. The Wolf Among Us
5. Wolfenstein: The New Order
6. The Walking Dead: Season 2
7. Far Cry 4
8. Destiny
9. Alien: Isolation
10. TitanFall
Developer: Telltale Games
Publisher: Telltale Games

Daniel Anderson
Games Fact or Fiction Organizer, Co-Host of Co-operative Multiplayer “The Official Games Zone Podcast,” Occasional Contributor to Four Player Co-op and Games Top 5

1. Shadow of Mordor
2. Farcry 4
3. South Park: Stick of Truth
4. DragonAge Inquisition
5. Diablo 3 Ultimate Evil Edition
6. Wolf Among Us
7. Smash Bros.
8. Destiny
9. Pokemon: Omega Ruby/Alpha Sapphire
10. Alien Isolation
Developer: Obsidian
Publisher: Nintendo

Adam Larck
Games Zone Editor, Games Zone Reviewer, Occasional Contributor to Four Player Co-op, Games Fact or Fiction, and Games Top 5

1. Dragon Age Inquisition
2. Super Smash Bros. Wii U
3. Forza Horizon 2
4. Middle-Earth: Shadow of Mordor
5. Far Cry 4
6. Halo: Master Chief Collection
7. Mario Kart 8
8. Hyrule Warriors
9. Destiny
10. Geometry Wars 3: Dimensions
Developer: Blizzard
Publisher: Nintendo

Jeffery Harris
Games Zone News Writer and Reviewer

1. Middle-earth: Shadow of Mordor
2. Wolfenstein: The New Order
3. Super Smash Bros. Wii U/3DS
4. Alien: Isolation
5. Mario Kart 8
6. Far Cry 4
7. South Park: The Stick of Truth
8. Call of Duty: Advanced Warfare
9. Destiny
10. Skylanders: Trap Team
Dev of the Year: Monolith Productions
Publisher of the Year: Nintendo

Sean Garmer
Games Zone Reviewer, Game Awards Organizer, Games Top 5 Organizer, Quizmaster for Four Player Co-op, Co-Host of Co-operative Multiplayer “The Official Games Zone podcast,” Occasional Contributor to Games Fact or Fiction

1. Sunset Overdrive (Xbox One)
2. Super Smash Bros. Wii U
3. Hearthstone: Heroes of Warcraft (PC, Tablet,)
4. Middle-Earth: Shadows of Mordor (Current-Gen Only)
5. Bayonetta 2 (Wii U)
6. Diablo III: Ultimate Evil Edition (Multi)
7. Shovel Knight (Wii U, 3DS, PC)
8. Far Cry 4 (Multi)
9. South Park: The Stick of Truth (Multi)
10. The Wolf Among Us (Multi)
Developer: Nintendo
Publisher: Nintendo

Developer and Publisher of the Year

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The Big N had a solid year for in-house game releases. Mario Kart 8 showed that the series still isn’t stale, and Super Smash Bros. on both 3DS and Wii U were great titles to play at home and on the go. Plus, I had a great time with Toad’s Treasure Tracker as well. With Legend of Zelda set for next year, and Mario Maker looking fun, Nintendo may have another strong year coming up. Besides Mario Kart 8 and Super Smash Bros., the Wii U and 3DS also had some other strong published titles as well. Bayonetta 2, while crazy, was an enjoyable game to play, as was the latest Pokemon remake on 3DS. There were plenty of games for those that had the handheld or Wii U to enjoy without looking for more.- Adam Larck

I think people are starting to finally get what Nintendo’s after; fun for everyone. You can be a 45 year old and still have fun playing Mario Kart. You can be a six year old and have fun playing Smash Bros. You can be a despicable 20-something like me and enjoy both of those AND something like Bayonetta 2. Nintendo wants to make games and experiences that are fun for everyone, regardless of age, race, or gender, and to spite them for it really says more about people doing the spiting than about Nintendo. – John Cash

Nintendo swept this year’s Developer and Publisher awards, and looking at the list of excellent games explains why. From recent release Captain Toad (a new but interesting take on the character), Mario Kart 8, and Super Smash Bros. Wii U, Nintendo has developed several good games this year, changing the perception of the Wii U from having no games to play to having several really good games to play. My opinion on the Wii U has changed from “never going to get one” to “really want one.” I am not the only person that has started to feel that way. While the Wii U will not challenge the PS4 or Xbox One in console sales, thanks to Nintendo’s excellent games, it will constantly challenge them in game quality. From Smash Bros. to Pokemon to Amiibos to Mario Kart to their excellent showing at E3, Nintendo has been talked about positively in 2014 more than since the Wii started burning up sales charts. Nintendo has gone from looking like they were in trouble as a company, to being a legitimate alternative to the PS4 and Xbox One. The Wii U now has several good first part games, and more on the way in 2015. A very impressive year for Nintendo overall that was greatly needed. – Daniel Anderson

Since this isn’t the “Best Sales winner” awards, I’m pretty sure I am completely correct in saying that if this was the year of anyone, 2014 belongs to Nintendo. Ubisoft may have tried to release as many games as Nintendo did this year, but they had plenty of flops in there too. Microsoft had Sunset Overdrive, but Halo MCC had broken multiplayer, and even then they just can’t match the catalog that Nintendo brought this year. Every major Nintendo release, whether they were a publisher or developer on the game delivered and was tons of fun. Mario Kart 8, Donkey Kong Tropical Freeze, Super Smash Bros for both Wii U and 3DS, Bayonetta 2, Pokemon Omega Ruby and Alpha Sapphire, Captain Toad Treasure Tracker, I don’t think I need to go on here. Nintendo made a huge turnaround this year and even though they only have 5 games announced for 2015 so far, I’m interested in every single one of them. – Sean Garmer

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The 411 Games Top 10 Video Games of 2014

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I feel bad for MK8; it’s the best MK since Double Dash!! but it also came out the same year as the new Smash, so it’s not getting as much internet hype as I think it deserves. The HD really shines here, and on top of that a massive range of levels (including DLC!) with a pretty cool roster (though could have done without the Mario Peach clone army), it’s hard for me to imagine what they can do to top this one.- John Cash

The kart racer showed that the series still has plenty of life left. The zero-gravity parts of the race were good changes, and the new items showed some good balance, especially in defense of blue shells. What I really enjoyed was the mixture of new and old levels. Plus, with the DLC levels, there are even some stages from other games. The only negative for me was the disappointing battle mode. However, it’s still a great game overall. – Adam Larck

What is there to say about Mario Kart? I would say that Mario Kart is the best racer of 2014. The antigrav aspects of the game adds a new2 dimension to the gameplay, and the retro tracks have never looked better. Mario Kart is a franchise that always delivers quality and fun, and this game is no exception. I do enjoy how Nintendo is not afraid to try new things with Mario Kart instead of just putting out new tracks and calling it a new game. Maybe Madden can learn something (probably not, but a guy can dream right?).- Daniel Anderson

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Quick question, who at the beginning of the year, thought that a game crossed between Dead Rising (without the weapon creation) and Jet Set Radio would be such a success? Granted, I just overly simplified the game, but this game from Insomniac Games is a potential franchise starter. From original feeling gameplay, to the constant movement and beautiful (if cartoony) graphics, Sunset Overdrive has the feeling of a game that will develop a large cult following in the years to come. This game is a worthy addition to any game library, and I feel will be seen as an overlooked gem in the years to come. – Daniel Anderson

There is one word that exemplifies Sunset Overdrive: fun. And don’t get me wrong; there are a lot of things that make the Insomniac-created game worthy of mention on this list. But we’ll get to them. When I think of this game, the first thing that comes to mind for me is how much fun it is to play. It has the right elements of humor, action and gameplay to make the game one of the more purely enjoyable experiences of the year for me. I’m all about video games being viewed as artistic and examining them from a technical standpoint, but they’re also games and in most cases we should be enjoying them, not just admiring them. Insomniac achieved that fun by keeping to a good, solid formula: take a wacky storyline, give us funny situations and a lot of visual gags but keep the gameplay exciting and the storyline engaging. The grinding and traversal system allows for the classic “easy to learn, tricky to master” pattern that always works while the combat takes the pain out of grinding (if you even want to grind; it’s by no means necessary). I laughed several times working my way through the game and I was never short on things to do. The voice acting is pretty fantastic and the controls are fluid without being overly loose, giving the players a tight control on what they want to do. It’s the best Xbox One exclusive of the year without question and easily one of the games of the year. – Jeremy Thomas

This was my game of the year because of all the fun I had with it. I tried it out during the “one day free trial” Microsoft did as part of their Xbox One anniversary. I could not stop playing it. Gamestop had it on sale for $40 early in December and I jumped at the chance to own the game. I’m usually not one for doing a bunch of ancillary stuff in a game, but the way you traverse the streets in this game is such a blast I get lost in all the side missions. Shooting in the game is fun because you are constantly unlocking new amps and weapons. I also laughed a lot with the dialogue, the great characters, and the pop culture references. I wish more people would have been able to experience this game because it is truly one of the standout titles of 2014. – Sean Garmer

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Everything you’ve seen about Bayonetta 2, like, it LOOKS crazy, but you really need to actually play it to FEEL the crazy. The subtitle for the game should be “Adrenaline Overdrive” because there are some fights where honestly I had to pause in the middle to get my brain to stop spinning. The best part is that you can get the first game with the second, so if you have a Wii U and you’ve never played Bayonetta, there really isn’t an excuse not to pick up Bayonetta 2. It is a defining game in the action genre, it may be a generation or two before something else like this comes along. – John Cash

Sega and Nintendo have had an interesting history. The latest edition in Sega and Nintendo has Sega owning the Bayonetta franchise. The first Bayonetta was an interesting if nothing special game that sold well, but didn’t break any records. Bayonetta 2 shows why developers and fans should not judge a franchise on its first game. While the first Bayonetta was just ok, the second was a great game. This game shows that the Wii U is not just for kids. A great hack and slash game that deserves a bigger audience and more attention than it gets (at least in the US). – Daniel Anderson

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Neither the South Park game license, nor Obsidian, were exactly bursting out of the gate. But damned if both things didn’t come together in a lovely package. It is shorter than a stereotypical RPG, but that’s not the real point. It immerses you in the world of South Park, going back to jokes from season 1 all the way up to when the game came out, making it worthy of any South Park fan. On the game front though, it is just a pleasant playing game, requiring player input during combat to pull off damaging combos or to block against harmful attacks. It may not touch on every facet of South Park that I would want, but The Stick of Truth should be commended for being another one of the few licensed games of being good. – Marc Morrison

If I told you I had a game where the publisher went out of business while the game was being developed, was a licensed game, and had repeated delays, most gamers would expect a disaster of a game. Throw in the fact that the licensed game was a South Park game (which does not have the best history of games) and the disaster would seem to be assured. Then, Stick of Truth came out. This game felt like I was playing several linked episodes of the TV show. Everything was perfect and kept the feel of the universe. From the character voices and actions, to the storylines and inside jokes, this game was amazing. While the RPG elements of the game were fairly simple, it was still fun. I hope we get a sequel by Obsidian sometime soon (maybe switching the fantasy storyline with a superhero one?). – Daniel Anderson

I really didn’t get the big fuss about this game until I was finally able to play South Park: Stick of Truth when Sony had it for $20 as part of the first week of their Holiday sale almost a month ago. But now I totally get it. This is the ultimate love letter to South Park fans. Sure, if you hate RPG’s, but love South Park you might be a little pissed, but honestly people should look past that because you are truly missing out. I don’t think I laughed as much or as hard while playing any other game this year. As a big RPG and South Park fan it was easy for me to laugh at everything, but my point is, this is still a great game that deserves this kind of recognition. The RPG stuff is well done and takes the traditional aspects of the genre and simplifies them for people that just want to experience this 12 to 14 hour episode of South Park. If only other licensed games could take note from what Obsidian did here and make better games with some of our favorite entertainment franchises. – Sean Garmer

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My big line with this game is that it is a game deserving of a better franchise of Wolfenstein. The shooting is fine enough, but what gets me is the amount of detail and world building the designers did to make the alternate world believable. The little Easter eggs like the Germanified Beatles comes into play. The character work also stood out, particularly the fate of Max Haas, and “J”, which I didn’t see in my playthrough sadly, but was amazing in the videos I saw on Youtube. Finding all the upgrades for the LaserKraftWerk provided a good challenge and made it the best weapon in the game, by a large margin. – Marc Morrison

If I say the word Wolfenstein, you think about the classic game set during WW2 where you killed Nazis (and Hitler) while going around a castle. The New Order took some big chances with the franchise, setting it after WW2 (in a universe that the Nazis won the war), but it worked. Wolfenstein is one of the best shooters released in 2014, and deserves more attention than it got. The lack of multiplayer and replayability hurt the game overall (a lot like Bioshock Infinite last year), but Wolfenstein is a great shooter that might just have revived the franchise. – Daniel Anderson

I’ll take “Video Game Franchises That Didn’t Need Reviving” for $500, Alex. In all seriousness, did anyone think that we needed a Wolfenstein game in 2014? There was no good reason I could think of for bringing this venerable, beloved and long-dead series back for another go. First-person shooters have come a long way since the ID-created Wolfenstein 3D and while Return to Castle Wolfenstein was fun, the 2009 follow-up was mediocre. No matter what your opinion of those games though, it was difficult to deny that as influential as Wolfenstein 3D was, there wasn’t a lot of clamoring for a new game and it seemed like a franchise best left dead.

But as we all know, two rules apply to this series. The first is “never count a franchise out” and the second is “Shooting Nazis is always a winning game formula.” (Well, almost always.) For The New Order Bethesda and MachineGames had the brilliant idea of taking the game into an alternate history where the Nazis won World War II and good old B.J. Blazkowicz has to battle a steampunk-style German regime in the 1960s. The gameplay was tightened up very nicely but stayed true to the Wolfenstein experience while the storyline, graphics and design elements took things to an entirely new level. There is a point early in the game where you have to choose which of your allies survives that is shockingly gut-wrenching because of how it is pulled off. The result was one of the best surprises of 2014, a Wolfenstein game that ranks among the better FPS’ in recent memory and is perhaps the best game in the franchise to date. – Jeremy Thomas

I picked this up a week ago because Gamestop had it pre-owned for $31.99 and I had a coupon that gave me 20% off a pre-owned game. The only shooter I play is Halo, but after deciding to rent Call of Duty: Advanced Warfare and enjoying it so much that I wound up staying up till 4 a.m. to complete the story mode. I took the recommendation of all the writers that did vote for Wolfenstein and decided to play this. Man, was I in for a surprise. The story in this game keeps you going to want to defeat those blasted nazi’s. From the way the game starts out with you doing different things on the plane, to having to use turrets to shoot down other planes, and all the way through, the game just keeps throwing new things at you. Anyone that hasn’t given this game a try merely because it says “Wolfenstein” and not another more popular franchise, is missing out on one heck of a game. More shooters should have a story and setting done as well as Wolfenstein: The New Order pulls off. – Sean Garmer

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Telltale seems to be a permanent presence on GOTY lists, and Wolf Among Us is no exception. I actually rank this game above Walking Dead. Taking the comic book, with no other media adaptions, and adapting it to a video game could only work with Telltale. If you like games with great storylines, then this is the game for you. I am not going to go into the story (no spoilers here), but just know it is great and will keep your interest from beginning to end. – Daniel Anderson

Tales from the Borderlands may give it a run for its money, even if it is too early to say, but The Wolf Among Us is the best Telltale game they have made so far. The game comes together over 5 episodes in a really great way that tells the story of Bigby and the corruptive influence of the Crooked Man has had on the town and its denizens. The voice work was impressive, featuring some of the usual stable of Telltale voice actors, but the music stood out, especially the opening theme at the start of every episode. The graphics also impressed with how the lighting of the world set to highlight the detail that they delivered. I have hopes that Borderlands will live up to Telltale’s legacy, but The Wolf Among Us is a highpoint for the studio. – Marc Morrison

While TellTale Games’ take on The Walking Dead has been praised to the point of parody for it’s dramatic story telling, most of the opinions I see for Wolf Among Us amounts to, “… it’s just so… cool”. The color scheme, the take on various characters, not pulling any punches, this game went in a direction I would have never guessed, and I’m actually quite glad about it. While I was suspicious of the character that is eventually revealed to be the culprit, I was suspicious for another reason, so when it came to light that it was them the whole time, there was an immense wave of satisfaction at being tricked, but then also extremely happy when it dawned on me why the game is called what it is. A very clever, well-written game with a great cast. – John Cash

As the first Telltale adventure game to be released after their incredibly popular first season of The Walking Dead, Wolf Among Us had a lot to live up to. By drawing the setting from Bill Willingham’s popular Fables series, Telltale opened up the combination of being able to use instantly recognizable characters from well-known fairy tales, while being able to portray them in ways that are sometimes vastly different from their usual incarnations, and then put the entire thing in the middle of New York City, with a sprinkle of “film noir” over the entire proceedings. So, you get characters like Snow White, stern and overworked assistant to the mayor of Fabletown, and our main protagonist, Bigby Wolf (get it?), the chain-smoking, gruff, but well-meaning sheriff, who has to deal with the fact that all the other characters basically live in fear of him, due to his past as, well, the Big Bad Wolf of the stories. But when a Fable is murdered in gruesome fashion, Bigby must solve the crime, both to get justice for one of their own, and to prevent the mundane world from investigating too deeply into the storybook characters living secretly among them. Wolf Among Us takes a lot of what made The Walking Dead great and expands upon them, making it feel like your decisions are even more important to story and character development, giving real and avoidable consequences to many of your actions. How you play Bigby can change what information you have available to solve the murder, how other characters react to your actions, and even how the story ultimately ends. The only drawback to Wolf Among Us is that it feels like it was slightly handcuffed by Telltale’s now-trademark episodic release structure, as the story drags slightly in the middle episodes, and given the complex plot and laundry list of characters, it possibly would have been better received if it had been released as a single, self-contained, complete game. However, there is no denying that the highs of Wolf Among Us are right up there with The Walking Dead’s first season, and the story is a taut, exciting thriller fulls of twists and turns right up until the end credits. Telltale may have a lot on its plate with Tales From The Borderlands, Game of Thrones, and (likely) a third Walking Dead, but hopefully they’ll find time in their busy schedule to revisit the inhabitants of Fabletown in the near future. – Stephen Randle

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The best way to describe FarCry 4 is that it is even more of FarCry 3, which was in itself a really good game. However, it would be a disservice to call FarCry 4 “same old, same old”, because it improves on many aspects of its previous iteration to put together a completely unique experience. Most importantly, it trades out FarCry 3’s dreadful “frat boy becomes saviour of backwards island people, no, seriously” story (which was played so horribly straight that people initially believed it had to be a parody) for a less eye-rolling (but arguably just as insane) tale centred around an insane Himalayan dictator and the legend of Shangra-La. But it’s all really window dressing for the core gameplay (I mean, if you want to beat the story mode, they actually included an ending which only takes fifteen minutes and actually makes sense), which involves hunting a metric ton of wild animals (including rhinos, giraffes, and elephants, oh my), liberating fortified enemy outposts, and generally shooting pretty much everything that moves with a wide array of deadly weapons, in a variety of inventive ways. And where the game really shines if when you factor in its seamless co-op mode, which allows you to team up with a friend and create some truly crazy strategies for taking out armies of bad guys. It’s wild, wacky, full of action and adventure, and most of all, lots and lots of fun. – Stephen Randle

I’ve got about 6 hours into Far Cry 4, and I’ve barely scratched the surface it seems. Once you unlock some of the radio towers, and you buy the maps, the game practically overwhelms you with collectibles and side missions for you to do. On top of all that, the game is a lot like Far Cry 3, but Far Cry 3 was a pretty amazing game, so the more, the better. There is less obnoxious “bro-like’ material in the game, or at least what I’ve seen, which is much appreciated. You also can get the wing suit like wo hours in, and that is fun to mess with… – Marc Morrison

I really can’t speak much to the campaign here. However, wandering around the world was definitely enjoyable. Killing tigers and elephants were great, and there were plenty of hidden items to find. The co-op was also great, I just wish they allowed the main story missions to be played as co-op as well. Maybe in Far Cry 5. – Adam Larck

I am honestly surprised this was not higher on the list. Far Cry 3 was a great game, and Far Cry 4 took everything that made it work, and improved on it. There is so much to do in the open world, you can easily lose hours playing the game without realizing it. The mechanics are the same as in Far Cry 3, but I love moving the game to the new region of the world. From freeing outposts and liberating radio towers to branching storylines and missions, Far Cry 4 will keep you entertained for as long as you want to play it. – Daniel Anderson

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This is Nintendo’s miracle series. Somehow they have figured out how to keep things feeling familiar and fresh simultaneously on a consistent base. Whether it’s the intensity of a hard fought For Glory match, or an 8-player Very High amount Pokeballs only free-for-all, Smash continues to push the boundaries of fighting games without leaving non-fighting game fans in the dust. – John Cash

Super Smash Bros. is bigger and better on the Wii U. There’s plenty of characters to check out, modes to enjoy and fan favorites like challenges to enjoy. The online mode is also great, although keeping track of everyone in an 8-man brawl is insane. Still, it’s a great title for Wii U owners to pick up. – Adam Larck

The third Wii U exclusive on this list (who would have predicted that a year ago?) Smash Bros Wii U shows that Nintendo will not quietly fade away into obscurity. From being able to create fighters to Amiibos, Smash Bros shows again that Nintendo is not afraid to mess or alter with successful franchises. Just thinking about it makes me want to get a Wii U and invite some friends over to play the game. Damn you Nintendo, why do you have to keep tempting me to get a Wii U? – Daniel Anderson

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Inquisition could have gone two ways. It either could have revitalized the franchise, or it could have continued the downward turn it began with Dragon Age 2. I am happy to report that it surpassed the first Dragon Age. The move to an open world type game really helped. I love games with multiple branching paths, and this game did not disappoint. I lost a few hours when I started playing the game, and didn’t realize how much time was passing. To me, that is the sign of a good game. You are so involved in the game, you lose track of time. – Daniel Anderson

My personal GOTY. Currently at 250+ hours played without even touching the multiplayer, split between three Inquisitors, the third of which I just started. A truly massive game, fitting of the title of “dark fantasy epic”. The only problem I have with this game are glitches that hindered my enjoyment of some of the cutscenes, which outside of one case where I had to reset my 360 completely, the glitches were all pretty minor. From the footage I’ve seen of next gen and PC gameplay, the game is absolutely gorgeous, some of the companions and major characters look just about real enough to crawl out of the screen. The cast is probably the most balanced in terms of both enjoyability and practicality, with the exception being Cassandra being the most beastly tank BioWare has ever unleashed (she takes twin fang attacks from opponents in stealth like a champ on higher difficulties.) I haven’t even gotten around to the music yet! There’s a new composer at the helm, Trevor Morris, who did a fine job giving the game the grandiose atmosphere it needed. The songs in the tavern are a nice touch as well, I often found myself leaving the game unpaused just to listen to the bard sing while I take a break. There are so many things that this game is to so many people, but I am happy to report that what it ISN’T is the “final nail in BioWare’s coffin” that haters were saying it would be. – John Cash

If there was a word to describe Dragon Age: Inquisition, it would be “vast”. The game is, quite simply, huge, with an overarching story the will take dozens of hours to complete, plus an amazing array of side quests to eat up even more of your time. In fact, the biggest knock against this game is that it was so gigantic, that not enough people could get through enough of the game in time to properly assess it for Game of the Year voting. The combat is set up in an interesting way that should appeal to every type of gamer. You can fight in real time, focusing on just your character and letting the AI handle your team, and be just as successful as someone who really delves into Dragon Age’s strategic combat system, which lets you pause the game and issue individual commands to everyone, turning it into almost (but not actually) a turn-based callback to old-school Dungeons and Dragons. Plus, it’s a BioWare game, and you know what that means: characters! As per usual, there are loads of interesting people populating the world of Dragon Age, many of which can join up to fight with you, talk with you, and, yes, start an intimate relationship with your character. BioWare said before Dragon Age came out that it would be something of a template for how they will be handling similar games going forward (like, say, the next Mass Effect). If that’s the case, then they are starting from a truly excellent base. With years of refinement ahead to build on what Dragon Age has begun, we could see a whole bunch of future BioWare games just absolutely running away with Game of the Year titles. – Stephen Randle

I’m about 18 or so hours into Inquisition and have difficulty putting it down and doing my work for the site. I’m about as shocked as you are with my thoughts about this game, since I really didn’t like Dragon Age 1, and no one really liked Dragon Age 2. The combat has been really simplified (from DA1), but that makes it vastly more approachable and fun. It is pretty easy to get around the maps due to the fast travel system. The singing part before you get to Skyhold was really hokey to me, but the quest in Redcliff Castle when you go into the future was just perfect. I’m sure there will be DLC for this game, and I only hope you can explore that future world some more. – Marc Morrison

I’m still putting a ton of time into this game. I’ve loved the Dragon Age series and the third title was more of a call back to the original title. The exploration was fun, there were a ton of quests to do and the team-combat was polished and refined. Even the multiplayer, which worried me, was enjoyable to play with friends. – Adam Larck:

That Dragon Age: Inquisition didn’t place at #1 in our Game of the Year list shouldn’t be taken as an insult in any way. First off, it was up against a surprising competitor for that spot; secondly, its end-of-year release and incredibly expansive gameplay means that not everyone got around to finishing it. For my part, I can say with confidence that my inability to finish the game likely led to it being slightly lower on my list than it otherwise would have. But when I say “lower,” I mean it came in at #3 personally and that was with only a short amount of time I could devote to the game. (Hey, holiday season is busy.) What is important here is that Dragon Age deserves every point it received in the voting, because it is an epic gaming experience. People talk about role-playing games with a certain amount of disdain sometimes and I actually sort of get it. Let’s face it; many recent RPGs have not met up to the same level of acclaim that the genre deserves and many non-RPGs have been able to steal the best elements of the genre for their own use, often outdoing what most role-playing games have accomplished in terms of storyline and character progressions. Dragon Age has put those other games on notice that RPGs won’t go quietly into the night. Yes, there is a lot to do and a hefty storyline, but what’s important with Dragon Age is that the storyline is actually engaging and fun. It’s not something to speed through as an obstacle to progression; it enhances your character progression and makes you invested in what’s going on. In addition, the folks at Bioware have built up the gameplay nicely with a solid, streamlined combat system that retains a ton of flexibility. This is what we hope for in a proper RPG and I don’t think it is exaggeration to say that DA: Inquisition is the best game in the genre in quite some time, perhaps even surpassing the vaunted Skyrim. – Jeremy Thomas

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I know, right? Who honestly at the beginning of the year thought that Shadow of Mordor would be anyone’s Game of the Year, much less the general consensus among the gaming community at large? Now, don’t misunderstand me; I actually did have some hopes for this. I’m a sucker for Lord of the Rings games and so I did have a certain level of anticipation, but I would say that anticipation was being kept quite tempered. Even as the release date drew near I wasn’t hugely excited, only merely interested. The game used a lot of the same elements we were already familiar with in Assassin’s Creed and the Arkham games, just with this supposedly-vaunted Nemesis system. It was interesting, but great? I didn’t see it. Of course, I was wrong. The Nemesis system really did make the franchise and the fact that Monolith seriously tightened up the AC combat system did wonders for that aspect. For my money the game’s storyline is a little underrated; it’s not amazing but it is strong and serves to make Middle-Earth more than just hack, slash, get revenge on that Uruk who killed you, lather, rinse and repeat. That formula would have worked to make Shadow of Mordor very good, but the storyline elements are enough to push the game into “absolutely great” status. Add in a really effective sound mix and you have an easy win for Game of the Year. – Jeremy Thomas

Shadows of Mordor basically came out of nowhere this year. I had heard about the game in development, and when it came out, but I did not expect it to be as good as it was. The game explores a different side of Middle Earth from what we saw in the movies. There is a lot of replay built into the game from character creation to the Nemesis system. I love how the Nemesis system works. If you die in the game, the enemy that kills you basically levels up because of your death and becomes more powerful. It adds a fun component to dying, and makes your deaths have an impact later I nthe game. The different powers are fun too, but I will not go too in depth on them here. Shadows of Mordor is one of those games that a year, two years, or five years from now you will still pop into your system and kill some Orcs in as gruesome a method as possible. – Daniel Anderson

Here’s how good this game is, even if you disregarded the Nemesis system (which is still amazing), the game is still rock solid fun. It is a bit of an Assassin’s Creed/Batman pastiche, but combat in this game was a lot more dynamic, and getting access to your combo moves felt easier. With the Nemesis system, the game entered a new dimension because it seemed like the Orcs were leveling up with you, and nothing was more fun than taking on a Warchief as you control his body guards, and you control them to turn on him, killing him in brutal fashion. – Marc Morrison

Shadows of Mordor introduced one of the best features in a game this year: Nemesis System. Sure, the combat was great and scaling buildings was enjoyable, but it was the system I truly enjoyed. Watching orcs take each other out for strength and power, and seeing an orc that got a lucky attack on you run away and become stronger and more formidable was great. Plus, seeing videos of everyone that used the skills to kill a legion of orcs at once was great. – Adam Larck

Middle-Earth: Shadow of Mordor is the game that I want all AAA developers to play (on next gen) and get inspired by. It is the first game I’m played on next gen that actually FELT next gen. There may be a bias on my part because I love Lord of the Rings, but I am quite glad to see this win GOTY because there have been some pretty decent LOTR games in the past but they were just shy of being a fantastic game of this caliber. – John Cash

This game came completely out of left field for a lot of people. A licensed game based on the Lord of the Rings universe that didn’t really deal with anything from the movies? Did Monolith really think lots of people read The Silmarillion? But it turns out that the story didn’t really matter, because while it’s not outstanding, it’s not the reason why this is the best game of the year. Where Shadows of Mordor excelled was in its refinement of existing gameplay elements and introduction of a completely new concept that might (and should) become a staple of new-gen open world games. Yes, it basically lifted Assassin’s Creed traversal system, but that means that it took the most popular part of a hugely popular franchise and, somehow, made it even better, creating a free-running experience so enjoyable, you almost regret using the fast travel points instead of just tearing your way across the landscape. And yes, the combat system is essentially the one found in the Arkham series of Batman games, but again, it has been refined into an incredibly smooth (and thanks to not being restricted by Batman’s “no killing” policy, satisfyingly brutal) way to slash your way through packs and packs of orcs. In addition, the stealth combat system is both well-implemented and very forgiving, which makes pulling off stealth kills more strategic and less frustrating than other similar games. But what we’re really here to celebrate is the innovative Nemesis system, which adds life and depth to the gray and brown wasteland of Mordor. When your death (and you will die, at least in the early game) causes your enemies to increase in power and difficulty, and turns that nameless mook who got a lucky shot in when you were fighting a big pack into a named, unique officer in the orc power structure who will taunt you every time you meet, you will feel emotions that simply don’t exist when you get killed by faceless NPC’s in other games. Being able to put a face and name (and there are a ton of unique faces, names, and sometimes odd personalities to be found amidst the orcs of Mordor) to that one orc that always seems to get the upper hand on you, the satisfaction you’ll get when you finally manage to stick your sword in his gut and send his head flying into the air (because if you don’t behead these guys, they will come back even badder than before), to assign that level of complexity to a battle system that for years has been, simply, a bunch of different generic character models that exist only as targets and minor inconveniences, is an incredible achievement that future game developers should all learn a lesson from. It isn’t a perfect game, the story is pedestrian and the environment tends towards a lot of brown mud and black rocks (hey, it’s Mordor, not Hawaii), but its refined combat and traversal, unique and innovative Nemesis system (which isn’t available on the last gen consoles, so hey, a reason to upgrade to PS4 and XBOne), and its inventive use of a popular license, combine to form a truly excellent game and a welcome surprise in a year with more than its share of disappointments. Shadows of Mordor stands out from the crowd in every possible way, and is more than deserving of the title of Game of the Year. – Stephen Randle

Well, we’ve come to the end of 411 Games Zone Awards. The only thing left to do now is to find out what you the comment section thought about our choices. Did you agree with our picks? Or did we just pick it all wrong? Let us know below and we hope that 2015 in Gaming brings us lots of games to enjoy and we have an overall much better year for the industry as well.