2014 was a pretty rad year for Nintendo. We saw some great looking games during a fantastic E3 showing and Treehouse Live. The Wii U really came into its own this year with amazing exclusives in many different genres. Over in Japan, Pokemon, Monster Hunter, Smash Bros., and most notably, Yo-kai Watch, secured the 3DS as THE dedicated gaming device there. As the year came to a close, many Nintendo fans were scrambling all over town and refreshing retailer websites hunting for rare amiibo…
With all of the awesome stuff happening in the world of Nintendo, it wasn’t easy to narrow down all of the radness into “best of” lists. Yet the courageous souls here at the Nintendo Fun Club Podcast attempted to do just that, and here are the results.
Ryan (co-host of the podcast)
Best Soundtrack: I didn’t really want to do this, but I can’t help but pick Super Smash Bros. For Wii U. The track list is massive, varied, and incredible- plus, the ability to customize the frequency at which songs appear during play is a fantastic feature. Besides, what other game this year can claim to have songs from Style Savvy, Culdcept, and Captain Rainbow on its OST?
Best Art Design: To my eyes and tastes, Mario Kart 8 is the most beautiful game I’ve ever seen. The colors, detail, and creativity of the courses creates a brilliant spectacle- the fact that the game runs silky smooth only makes it better.
Best Writing or Localization: As someone who always loves a good dad joke, I have to go with Fantasy Life. The puns are so adorable and frequent that I almost forgot about all the 3DS Dragon Quest games we didn’t get once again this year. Almost.
Best Virtual Console Release: Thanks to the incredible work by M2, the Game Boy Advance Virtual Console on Wii U is an absolute joy. The highlight for me this year was the original GBA Fire Emblem, a game I never had the chance to play at its release. If you want a deep strategy RPG with many hours of content, a great story, and charming presentation, Fire Emblem is well worth the $7.99.
Best Multiplayer Game: While I had a blast playing Mario Kart 8 and Super Smash Bros. for 3DS and Wii U online with friends, my best multiplayer experience happened offline on my couch. Lindsey and I played through the story mode in Hyrule Warriors over the course of a weekend, and it was a blast. Whether we were discovering boss strategies or just splitting up to cover more of the map, the communication and fun was constant.
Best eshop Release: After purchasing a Japanese 3DS this summer, the first thing I did was go into the eshop and purchase 3D OutRun. OutRun is one of my favorite games of all time, with precious few arcade-perfect ports. As would be expected from M2 and the Sega 3D Classics line, this port goes well above and beyond merely arcade perfect, and adds everything from multiple difficulty tweaks to even a new song.
Overall Best Game (3DS): Released just weeks before Super Smash Bros. and Fantasy Life on the 3DS, Theatrhythm Final Fantasy: Curtain Call seemed to be quickly forgotten. It’s a shame because the game is fantastic- button mode is a wonderful addition for pick up and play sessions and the amount of music tracks is staggering. Definitely a game I’m going to be continuing to play well into 2015 (and beyond).
Overall Best Game (Wii U): Bayonetta 2 is everything I want out of a video game. Tight, ultra-responsive controls, incredible spectacle, amazing music, tons of secrets and unlockables, Sega and Nintendo fanservice, performance tracking across difficulty levels, and oh, here’s an improved version of the original game for free. Platinum and Nintendo absolutely over-delivered with Bayonetta 2- an incredible game in an incredible package and easily my 2014 Game of the Year.
John (co-host of the podcast)
Best Soundtrack: Without a doubt, my favorite game music this year is from Shovel Knight. Jake Kaufman’s brilliant songs were as integral to creating Shovel Knight’s memorable aesthetic as the game’s gorgeous 8-bit pixel art presentation, and the composer even went so far as to release a version compiled for play on actual NES hardware (or NSF players). Kaufman’s compositions are rounded out by two memorable tracks from legendary composer Manami Matsumae, and there’s even an arranged soundtrack available on Bandcamp (along with the original soundtrack).
Best Art Design: I absolutely agree with Ryan for this category. Mario Kart 8 is probably the most beautiful game I’ve seen this year on any platform, quite a feat when considering the Wii U’s at least somewhat dated graphical tech. Nintendo once again proves that incredible art design is its secret weapon in the visuals arms race of modern gaming in this stunning Wii U game.
Best Writing or Localization: I didn’t love Tomodachi Life as much as I hoped I would (though the Nintendo Direct dedicated to it is the stuff of legends), but the writing in the game is the best I’ve experienced this year. Quirky and charming, Tomodachi Life’s localization is the game’s primary draw and no other game from 2014 was nearly as impressive or memorable.
Best Virtual Console Release: When Nintendo announced Game Boy Advance support for Wii U, I wasn’t sure I was excited to play handheld games on my home console (even if the Wii U’s Gamepad makes it something of a hybrid device). I tested the waters by playing Metroid Fusion and came away completely impressed. M2’s port is brilliant as expected, and Fusion’s emphasis on colorful visuals, a guided narrative, and a slight horror tone is an interesting variation on the typical Metroid formula.
Best Multiplayer Game: I think I’ll always look back at Super Smash Bros. for Wii U as the first game (along with the 3DS version) that truly hooked my 5 year old son, and the two of us had so much fun playing that game together this year. amiibo support may not typically be considered part of the multiplayer in that game, but Owen and I have spent a lot of time playing together while also including our amiibo in our multiplayer matches. Various combinations of Team Smash and amiibo play resulted in the best multiplayer experience of the year for the two of us, even if Mario Kart 8’s online mode trails only slightly behind for me.
Best eshop Release: It may be slightly cheating, but I’m going to look at this category as “Best Overall Game (eshop)” because my overall game of the year pick is eshop only and there are still games I want to otherwise acknowledge on Wii U and 3DS. Shovel Knight was pure joy this year and I couldn’t be happier with it. It’s rare that a game this hyped lives up to expectations, but Shovel Knight found the perfect balance of loving tribute and modern advancements necessary to make a retro platformer truly incredible. It even made some of the best use of both Miiverse and StreetPass of any game this year. Shovel Knight not only looked, played, and sounded better than any game I played in 2014, but it also had the most heart. It’s an incredible achievement for first-time developer Yacht Club Games, and I can’t wait to see what’s in store next from the studio.
Overall Best Game (3DS): Even though I still haven’t finished Bravely Default (completing 60+ hour affairs isn’t really my strong suit), the game was probably my favorite of the year on 3DS. I loved every aspect of Bravely Default, from the striking, painterly visuals to the modernized turn-based battle system, and many of the game’s settings and systems were customizable resulting in a thoroughly approachable and modern JRPG. I’m anxiously awaiting the sequel to Bravely Default in 2015, even if I’m still chipping away at the original.
Overall Best Game (Wii U): This is tough. Both Shovel Knight and Super Smash Bros. for Wii U could very easily fill this spot for me, but Mario Kart 8 was probably the most purely enjoyable game for Wii U this year. I can’t say I enjoyed it more than Shovel Knight or that I think it’s a better game, but Mario Kart 8 is such a clean, polished, and joy-filled experience that it slightly edged out the competition for this spot. The game is astoundingly beautiful, features incredible music, and acts as a constant companion to whatever else I’m playing on the Wii U. I spent more time online with this game than any other this year, and the dlc strategy means I know I’ll keep coming back to it well into 2015.
Kevin (podcast co-founder)
Best Soundtrack: Donkey Kong Country: Tropical Freeze—David Wise could easily have over-relied on nostalgia and I still would have loved it. But this was my favorite soundtrack of the year because Wise included some reminders of the classic SNES DKC soundtracks but added plenty of new gems. I almost never listen to game music when I’m not playing games, but I have found my self putting these tracks on a few times.
Best Art Design: Super Smash Bros. for WiiU—Nintendo had to combine so many different art styles into one cohesive game and update for the HD era. The result is one of the best looking games of the year, on any console.
Best Virtual Console Release: Metroid Fusion—I was skeptical about how GBA would work on WiiU. Fusion on WiiU is an amazing way to experience one of the best Metroid games. I wish I had more time and money for more of the GBA games I haven’t picked up yet.
Best Multiplayer Game: Super Mario Kart 8—I played this game online for weeks, and then went back to it when they released the DLC. I look forward to getting back to it when the next DLC pack releases in May.
Best eshop Release: Shovel Knight—I think this is the best game in a long list of fantastic, indie tributes to our 8-bit childhoods.
Overall Best Game (3DS): Super Smash Bros. for 3DS—I didn’t play many 3DS games this year, but this one was very impressive. I have no idea how Nintendo pulled it off, but I’m glad they did.
Overall Best Game (Wii U): Mario Kart 8—While I love Nintendo’s epic mascot fighter, Kart is my Smash. I played this game a ton on my own and with friends, and will likely be playing it often until the next iteration is released. The generous DLC has solidified this title as my favorite in the series.
Bonus! Late to the Party Award: Luigi’s Mansion: Dark Moon—I had been avoiding this game since I read reviews suggesting that this game was more mission-based than exploration-based. I liked the original because I enjoyed the exploration and atmosphere of the mansion, so I was afraid all of that would be lost inside bite-size missions. However, none of my fears were justified. This game is one of the most polished and dense games on 3DS. Exploring the multiple mansions was even more fun than the original. This just might be my favorite game on the system.
Lindsey (frequent guest on the podcast)
Best Soundtrack: Final Fantasy Curtain Call (kind of a no-brainer there, yeah?)
Best Art Design: Fantasy Life
Best Writing or Localization: REALLY torn on this one. Some well-written games came over this year (Weapon Shop de Omasse and Inazuma Eleven). However, Tomodachi Life wins it for me. It consistently makes me giggle over something silly it’s saying.
Best Virtual Console Release: We have yet to pick it up for WiiU, but Dr. Mario. All the time.
Best Multiplayer Game: Super Smash Brothers. I hated it until Ryan taught me how to play. It was a lot of fun not just smashing, but working together to beat challenges and play mini-games.
Best eshop Release: I don’t think I bought many eshop exclusives, but I’m going to have to say Weapon Shop de Omasse. It’s a fun (and somewhat funny) game that’s easy to pick up quickly and play a little bit.
Overall Best Game (3DS): Fantasy Life
Overall Best Game (Wii U): Hyrule Warriors
Tyler (frequent guest on the podcast)
Best Soundtrack: 2014 finally brought about a reason for Rare’s Donkey Kong efforts to exist. Donkey Kong Country: Tropical Freeze mined those best-forgotten artifacts for their single redeeming quality, enlisting David Wise as the game’s composer. It’s not unusual to stop in place and let Wise’s tunes wash over you, bringing further life to what you see on the screen.
Best Art Design: Bravely Default. Video games are nothing without a little whimsy. Bravely Default presented a world that impressed with its fantasy settings, all without falling back on tired designs and tropes. Each town, dungeon, and room is the definition of beauty. Despite their hand painted presentation, Bravely Default’s locales do not clash against their polygonal inhabitants. Speaking of which, Akihiko Yoshida continues to impress with his adorable chibi designs, creating visually arresting characters that stand out as one of a kind.
Best Writing or Localization: Bravely Default. While criticized for its back half, Bravely Default impresses me with the lengths it takes express to tell its story. To avoid spoilers, I’ll say that a few repetitive chapters helps build a conclusion that overcomes any frustrations anyone may have. When asked about the title I don’t rush to condemn it for this decision, instead I relay just how fun and shocking a tale it presents.
Best Virtual Console Release: Demon’s Crest. As fun as it is to revisit personal favourites, nothing replaces the joy of playing something as anticipated as Demon’s Crest was for me (especially with its high asking value on eBay). Having enjoyed Gargoyle’s Quest on the Game Boy, I had been left wondering just what it’s SNES successor brought to the table. I finally got the chance to find out for myself this year, and I was thrilled with the results. Demon’s Crest stands out for its dark take on the platformer genre, a grotesque but humorous world that stands out from the Mario and Sonic copycats of its time. The game stands out for its mechanics as well, allowing me to hover and climb with ease. Games like Demon’s Crest are what makes the Virtual Console so special.
Best Multiplayer Game: Super Smash Bros. for Wii U. While I’ve enjoying spending many a sleepless night playing previous Smash Bros. incarnations with friends, the Wii U game has earned a special spot in my heart. My daughter and I have been spending a lot of time with it, and it’s never been more fun. Coupled with the fact that I can still play with those aforementioned friends via online multiplayer, it’s clear why this is my choice.
Best eshop Release: Azure Striker Gunvolt. I thought I knew what to expect from Gunvolt. Considering it’s from the makers of Mega Man’s most recent adventures, and released amidst the development of the Mega Man inspired Mighty No.9, it was clear that I was getting another take on the blue bomber’s formula.
Well, I was super wrong, and couldn’t be happier. Azure Striker Gunvolt is the thinking man’s action platformer, choosing to focus not on shooting, but instead when to shoot. The game’s combat is about setting up the encounter, “tagging” foes with your paltry pistol before zapping them with the hero’s true arsenal. It leads to fights that aren’t just about mashing buttons to deplete a health bar, but about avoiding damage and waiting for that perfect opportunity to attack.
Overall Best Game (3DS): Super Smash Bros. for 3DS. Despite attempts to knock it down as an inferior product, Smash Bros. for the 3DS is an exceptional game. Regardless of what the Wii U game shipped with, the 3DS game possessed a staggering amount of content (and much of it exclusive to the handheld). I’ve yet to have my fill, and that Smash Bros. gameplay we know and love means I may never put it down. Most importantly, I can take the game anywhere, quenching that Smash Bros. thirst where ever I go.
Overall Best Game (Wii U): Bayonetta 2. It’s no surprise that Bayonetta 2 is at the top of my list. PlatinumGames has once again topped themselves, creating the most thrilling video game-ass video games ever (just as they did last year with The Wonderful 101). With the esteem that its predecessor is held in, it was doubtful that Bayonetta 2 could surpass it. But to my fortune it did, not only righting the wrongs of the first game, but introducing new elements that make it more than Bayonetta 1.5. I’d argue that this game should not be missed, and as a Nintendo fan deserves your attention as it continues the company’s tradition of gameplay before anything else.