We all know the games you loved so far this year, and now it's our turn. The Shacknews crew has put together its own list of our favorites, with a tight one-game-per-person rule. No ties, no second place, just our standout personal favorites of 2014's first half
Samantha Leichtamer - Mario Kart 8
Mario Kart 8 is hands down the best game of the year. It will keep you and your friends playing just the way Mario Kart 64 did years ago. Although there are many new tracks and features foreign to the original, Nintendo still finds a way to make it a nostalgic experience with new playable characters that are throwbacks to old games like Shy Guy and Metal Mario and "new-old" levels like Toad’s Turnpike and Yoshi’s Valley. This is one game I will never trade in.
Ozzie Meija - Hearthstone: Heroes of Warcraft
I've never been into collectible card games in the past. I had previously given games like Magic: The Gathering, Yu-Gi-Oh, and Penny Arcade The Game: Gamers vs. Evil a try, only to see my interest wane within minutes. But Hearthstone has not only managed to pique my interest, but it's actively kept me hooked. Between its easy-to-learn mechanics, the random (in a good way) fun of Arena mode, and the ongoing incentive to keep learning from my mistakes, I've never found a collectible card game quite like Hearthstone and it's a game that I'll keep coming back to for a long time.
Steve Watts - Hearthstone: Heroes of Warcraft
Plenty of games have hooked me in the past, but Hearthstone is already vying for the one that has captured and held my attention for the longest. Since it came to iPad, I've barely missed a day of finishing quests and editing my decks. I fell deep down the rabbit hole, regularly checking on updates to the meta-game and watching videos of high-level play. I'm no Legendary player, but it just keeps drawing me back. If we measure enjoyment by the sheer number of hours we voluntarily spend going back to a game, Hearthstone blows everything out of the water this year.
Steven Wong - The Wolf Among Us
Yes, I realize that the first episode released in October of 2013, but that means the first season mostly lands in 2014. I'm a longtime fan of the Fable comic book series, and I'm very happy to see the characters moving and voiced. I also love seeing how Fabletown was always on the verge of collapse, even before the comic book series starts. The story one that always keeps me guessing, and I have to love moral choices that include ripping the throat out of a sucker punching jerk.
Robert Workman - Shovel Knight
Shovel Knight is one of those games that hunkers back to the very spirit of the old-school, with refreshing 8-bit visuals and chiptune-based music that resembles something you'd find in the NES. However, it's the gameplay that's a real gem, as you'll use a shovel to not only knock enemies around, but dig up treasure in the most unlikely of places. Throw in a sweet overworld map laden with additional challenges, and plenty of charming humor within the storyline, and you have a smashing debut for Yacht Club Games!
Andrew Zucosky - South Park: The Stick of Truth
After being kind of disappointed with Bravely Default I thought I was going to have to twiddle my thumbs until Dragon Age Inquisition comes out in October for my RPG fix. Then South Park: The Stick of Truth fell into my hands and I got to say, I freakin’ love it. With a hilarious story and solid RPG gameplay I left leaving quite satisfied.