Glad to see you all back for the second installment of my Top Tens for Gaming Month. If you haven’t gotten a chance to check out last week’s list of Top Ten Original Soundtracks of 2014, you can check it out here. As for this week, we’ll take a look at my Top Ten Gaming Moments of 2014. Now, this list doesn’t strictly apply only to games. It also covers moments from industry events, both good and bad, as well as games released in previous years that I had never experienced until this year. There are some moments on here that can’t be tiptoed around to make the point, so consider yourself warned that there will be spoilers in this list.
10) Luigi’s Death Stare
Mario Kart TV is a pretty awesome feature for Mario Kart 8 that makes good use of the Wii U’s social features. You can capture pretty amazing moments and tricks using it, including racer reactions. As evident by the title of this entry, the one that caught fire online is Luigi. In-game, Luigi’s scowl when interacting with other racers has been dubbed “Luigi’s Death Stare”.
Going back through MKTV footage, users found and recorded several moments and posted them online, causing the meme to circulate and inspire things like Death Stare topic threads, music dubs, and even cosplay. Nintendo solidified its legitimacy by featuring a Luigi Death Stare clip in their E3 2014 Digital Event. All in all, it was a lot of fun and one of the most memorable unintentional gaming moments.
9) Downgrade Disappointment
Last year saw some disappointments with game releases, one of the most prominent being Aliens: Colonial Marines. In some ways, it really doesn’t hold a candle when compared to the disappointment of Dark Souls II and Watch_Dogs, two games well known for their visual downgrades from their initial reveals. With Dark Souls II, an new lighting engine was first shown off, making certain zones much darker and needing to require special items like torches to navigate. When the game launched for Xbox 360 and PS3, these changes disappeared, making these items virtually useless for most of the game and even hampered some of the game’s design. There was hope in the PC version, but that came out with the same results.
Watch_Dogs was probably the more severe case. Its reveal back at E3 2012 was considered the start of what could be next-gen. The end result looks much worse in comparison. Ever worse, the PC version literally has a switch built into the code that can be modded to reproduce the E3 visuals, but was patched out of the final release. Both of these example are stark reminders of the precautions we need to take when looking at carefully crafted marketing material. Sometimes we get caught up in the hype, something I’ve been guilty of as well.
8) Snowpeak Ruins – Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess
Yeah, I know. A Gaming Moment from a game released eight years ago isn’t exactly fair. Nevertheless, my list, my rules, and I’ve never played Twilight Princess until this year. As for Snowpeak Ruins, everything about this dungeon makes it my favorite modern Zelda dungeon. Why? This dungeon does the one of the best jobs combining the gameplay of Zelda with the world of Zelda.
Snowpeak Ruins is actually a frozen abandoned mansion that is home to a yeti couple named Yeto and Yeta. Link’s journey through Snowpeak Ruins is interlaced around these two characters, and it really makes this dungeon stand out. On top of that, the way you get and use the Ball and Chain in dungeon design and combat is a ton of fun. Link’s newfound ability to switch between human and wolf forms is also put to good use here. A cool and unique midboss, final boss, and ending sequence puts this dungeon in a special place for me, and makes it worth putting it on this list.
7) Nintendo’s E3 2014
Nintendo has been the odd one out the last couple of years when it comes to E3. While Sony and Microsoft have been continuing their presence as normal, Nintendo has decided to drop the traditional press conference in favor of pre-recorded streams. With the performance of the Wii U so far, Nintendo needed to bring their best to E3 2014. Luckily, they did.
The Digital Event was their best showing so far, showcasing games like Yoshi’s Wooly World, Hyrule Warriors, Xenoblade Chronicles X, Splatoon, Zelda Wii U, and Bayonetta 2. For the rest of the show, Nintendo Treehouse hosted daily livestreams showing off various parts and gameplay of their current playable library of games, with even Shigeru Miyamoto bringing stuff like early gameplay of a new Star Fox for Wii U. Overall, Nintendo’s showing this E3 gave me confidence in what’s in store for the Wii U.
6) Paper Boats – Transistor
So, you’ve done it. The Catamara is no more, The Process has been eradicated with the help of the Transistor’s power, and the city of Cloudbank is barren except for Red and The Transistor. At this point, Red has lost virtually everything. Her voice is gone, her lover was killed and is trapped inside The Transistor, everyone else in Cloudbank she ever knew either died, evacuated, or went insane.
Now, she’s run out of ideas for getting her lover out of The Transistor. In a desperate move, and against The Transistor’s wishes, Red decides to kill herself with the weapon. The game really does a great job of making you feel the bittersweetness of the moment. Knowing that Red’s effort to be with her lover was not in vain, even if it’s only inside The Transistor, is enough to pull on my heartstrings and get me caught up in the moment. Not many games end well these days, but Transistor definitely has one of the better ones.
5) Shantae and the Pirate’s Curse – Tan Line Temple
Shantae and the Pirate’s Curse has quite a few memorable moments that I’d want to put into this list. Out of all of them, however, there is one that I feel does the best job making use of the game’s strengths. That moment is the Tan Line Temple. Upon arriving, Shantae is mistaken for the temple’s princess and is taken to her chambers. Decked out in royal garments, Shantae has to sneak past guards to find her way out. Along the way she runs into Risky, Sky, and Rottytops, each mistaken for the princess as well.
As I said before, each aspect of this sequence plays to the best parts of the game. Shantae mentions her space princess appearance, referencing the Star Wars-inspired design. The gameplay changes by removing your equipment and forcing you to stealth your way past the temple guards. The dialogue exchanges between the characters is humorous, especially the final reveal that I frankly don’t want to spoil. Moments like this make Shantae and the Pirate’s Curse that much better and this one well deserves a spot in this list.
4) Shield Knight And Shovel Knight Team Up! – Shovel Knight
As previously mentioned regarding games with good endings, Shovel Knight also has to get props for that. After defeating The Order of No Quarter, Shovel Knight makes his way to The Enchantress’ lair in The Tower of Fate. In this moment we learn that The Enchantress is actually Shield Knight being controlled by the amulet that sealed The Tower of Fate in the first place. After Shovel Knight defeats her, the curse breaks and you have to catch a falling Shield Knight, just like the dream sequences you have had throughout the game. With Shield Knight and Shovel Knight back together, the two of them team up for The Enchantress’ final form.
This final boss fight perfectly illustrates how well Shovel Knight and Shield Knight work as a team, while also showing how helpless Shovel Knight would be taking on the boss alone. All of this is approached the same way that every other element is approached, through gameplay alone. The reality is that video games should strive to do that, and Shovel Knight is a great modern example.
3) Being Evil Never Felt So Good – Hyrule Warriors
Hooray for Hyrule! You’ve defeated Cia and restored the broken dimensions, sending the characters of legend back to their homes. Game over, right? Well, not quite. Dark energy seeps from the broken seal once protected by the Master Sword and the final piece of Ganondorf’s spirit breaks free. Now with renewed power, Ganondorf recruits Zant and Ghirahim and sets up home for him and his forces in the Gerudo Desert. He then sets out on a campaign to reclaim the Triforce of Power being protected by Lana.
This sequence is such an awesome experience and extremely fitting for Hyrule Warriors. Getting the chance to play as Ganondorf is the icing on the cake. As I played it, I thought it was just going to be for one scenario, but my playthrough continued and escalated. This escalation made the ending of Hyrule Warriors super memorable and one of my favorite experiences with the Zelda Universe.
2) The Pillar Of Light – Bravely Default
One of the more controversial moments of the list is the Pillar of Light in Bravely Default. This moment either makes or breaks the game for you, depending on how you see it. Simple put, after awakening all four crystals, the Pillar of Light appears in the ocean of Luxendarc. As you enter the light, your party faces off against Alternis Din. It is here that you first discover his similar appearance to Ringabel and the first time reset.
From a story standpoint, the time reset is pretty cool when you discover that you and your friends haven’t simply rewound time and different scenarios happen because of this. Gameplay-wise, this reset is just plain awful. Why? Resetting time means reawakening the crystals and refighting the main and sub bosses. This wouldn’t be that bad once, but to get the true ending, you have to reset and repeat four times! This was enough for me to put down the game and take a break for a good while. Even with an event this polarizing, this moment stood out as one of the biggest game moments of 2014, and I finished and still enjoyed Bravely Default despite this.
1) Was It A Dream? – Azure Striker Gunvolt
There’s a style of ending that seems to happen in certain games sometimes. The idea of essentially pausing time at the end sequence before the final boss that happens after beating a game always bugged me. Beating Dr. Wily, yet still being threatened by World Three in the Battle Network series and becoming the Champion, but being able to rechallenge the Elite Four as if nothing happened in Pokémon are just a few examples. On the other hand, the way that Azure Striker Gunvolt handles this is rather interesting.
In the end, Asimov ends up betraying QUILL, which is a bit unsurprising given his cold and calculating attitude. What I didn’t expect was for Asimov to use Copen’s weapon to take away both Gunvolt and Joule’s psychic powers. Gunvolt’s body collapsed to the floor and after the screen goes dark while hearing a second thud, the credits roll. In the moment, I was both sad and confused, thinking “Did I do something wrong?”. As it turns out, that is the bad ending. Gunvolt reasons that it didn’t actually happen, so now it’s time to figure out what the true ending is. That was something that really resonated with me, taking a point of contention I normally have with games and turning it into my favorite moment of 2014.
So, what do you think? Do you agree? Disagree? Either way, lists like these are great for discussion. Taking these moments out and giving them some analysis really makes me appreciate each game, and I hope it does the same for you. Of course, feel free to share your favorites in the comments below.