The votes are in and the points have been awarded, and our Shacknews Game of the Year countdown will begin next week. First, though, we're counting some of our favorites, starting with friends of Shack who are regular contributors to the site.
Bryan "Doctor Games" Carr - Podcast Guest/Producer
Full disclosure – I wasn’t expecting to say a licensed, free-to-play endless runner mobile game was one of my favorites of the year when I woke up this morning. But if I’m being honest with myself, Spider-Man Unlimited was one of the games I had the most fun with this year. It’s a cut above the vast majority of the endless runners on the App Store, with deeper gameplay, multiple traversal styles, compelling daily and weekly challenges, and an art style that calls to mind the cel-shaded haze of the early 2000s.
Pair that with frequently amusing writing, a premise that justifies the Marvel fan-service (Spider-Gwen!), and a web-swinging mechanic that’s arguably the best we’ve seen since Spider-Man 2, and you’ve got one of the only free to play games I’ve ever spent money on. I’ll probably be playing this into 2015.
Brittany Vincent - Freelance Writer
After a multiplatform release for the original Bayonetta, Nintendo shocked everyone by claiming its sequel as a Wii U exclusive, though the series couldn’t have found a better home on another console. Its unique brand of slick, sexy, and utterly addictive action is positively unmatched, even among genre greats like DmC or God of War.
You don’t control the lithe and lethal Umbra Witch so much as become her, chaining together a mixture of buttery-smooth combos and over-the-top moves that feel as natural as your very own movements. It’s a joy to watch the action unfold onscreen, and even more so to participate. From every Wicked Weave attack to the punishments that rain down upon the unsuspecting Angels, it’s clear that excellence oozes out of every single pore.
Gorgeous level design, frenetic boss battles, and a wide array of costumes and unlockables combine to make Bayonetta 2 one of the greatest games of this console generation, and by far an exemplary experience for the genre.
Nate Hohl - Freelance Writer
I'd say my pick for GOTY would have to be Middle-earth: Shadow of Mordor. I'll admit I was a tad skeptical of how it would turn out, mainly because I've been burned by sub-par Lord of the Rings games in the past, but Shadow of Mordor blew all of my expectations clear out of the water.
Thrilling Arkham-style combat combined with an open world to explore and the game's unique and immersive Nemesis system kept me engrossed for hours on end and I'm loving how developer Monolith is continuing to support the game with free content updates. If you know someone who's both a Lord of the Rings fan and a gamer, I couldn't think of a more perfect Christmas gift to get them. And if you haven't played Shadow of Mordor yet, do yourself a favor and add it to your Christmas list, I promise you won't be disappointed.