The Platinum Chalice Awards 2014
Platinum lasts forever (especially when it's imaginary)
The official best games of 2014 have been ranked by GamesRadar+, meaning 12 months' worth of titles are in the books. BUT WAIT - THERE'S MORE! The year isn't over until we indulge in this annual tradition. Established all the way back in 2006, these are the ninth annual Platinum Chalices, gaming's most important awards.
These honorary accolades are too special, too unique to be pigeonholed into a typical end-of-the-year feature or list. The Platinum Chalices gives our staff a chance to honor the moments, trends, and characters that truly made 2014 what it was. So read on to see what took the Platties in 2014...
Game with the fewest dogs - Watch Dogs
This year, Ubisoft pulled one of the greatest cons in video game history. They released a game called Watch Dogs - an open-world action game with an emphasis on hacking and vigilante justice - but failed to include ANY ACTUAL DOGS. Are you kidding me? You cant release a game called "Watch Dogs" and not include at least one scene with some puppies rolling around on the floor. Or how about this: you play as police dog Scruff McGruff, taking ample bites out of crime with ferocious impunity. Youre only two weeks away from retirement when an explosion at the Kibbles 'n Bits factory reignites your old rivalry with the Kitty Kat gang. Come on, Ubisoft, this stuff writes itself.
Runner-up - Sleeping Dogs: Definitive Edition Despite going through all the trouble of being ported to PS4/Xbox One, this game is still lacking in mans best friend.
Most heart-achingly adorable - Captain Toad: Treasure Tracker
Unbelievably, this spinoff somehow makes Mario's already-saccharine world even more adorable. You waddle through the games many puzzles as Captain Toad, the continually smiling, indefatigable fellow thats always ready for adventure. Just seeing him and his partner Toadette waddling around is enough to inspire an Aw from even the most grizzled of gamers. This vibrant, cartoonish world may be filled with peril, but youll always be playing with a big grin on your face, eagerly anticipating the next pastel challenge.
Runner-up - Tomodachi Life This virtual dollhouse features existential nightmares, random dance numbers, and daily rap battles, all acted out by the cutest Miis your 3DS has ever seen.
Most jerkish animal - Super Smash Bros. for 3DS/Wii Us Duck Hunt
Call us monsters, but we've spent nearly 30 years fantasizing about murdering the dog from Duck Hunt. It's the way he teased players back in the day for the slightest failure, increasing our urge to kill with every painful cackle at our incompetence. And just when we thought we were rid of his mockery for good, Nintendo goes and brings the mutt back - now with a mallard pal in tow - for the newest Super Smash Bros. games. Lord knows how Sakurai can sleep at night knowing that a whole new generation of players will be emotionally wrecked by this pups derisive laughter.
Runner-up - Far Cry 4s Honey Badger This internet meme comes to life in the Nepalese battlefields, tearing apart anyone that questions its I dont give a fuck attitude.
Best use of Peter Dinklage's time - Game of Thrones: Iron From Ice
Thanks mostly to HBOs Game of Thrones, mainstream viewers are finally aware of Peter Dinklages stupendous acting skills (though that should've already been the case after Elf). Dinklage does a great job reprising his role of Tyrion Lannister in Telltales Game of Thrones, drinking ale at formal events and carefully ruining his sisters day. He has the same charm and biting wit as he does in live action, mostly covering up his avatar's occasional forays into the uncanny valley.
Runner-up - Destiny Look, theres a lot of uncomplimentary things one could say about the character some call Dinklebot. But you have to admit, "That wizard came from the moon" (opens in new tab) is memorable.
Most satisfying gore - The Evil Within
Shinji Mikami made The Evil Within as a way to return to the survival horror genre he helped pioneer with Resident Evil. He also made it contain an olympic swimming pool's worth of gore. Within minutes of starting the game, you're splashing through chest-deep blood and viscera, and it only gets more delightfully grisly from there. Youll see heroes and enemies alike getting pulverized at every turn, earning The Evil Within both an M-rating and our admiration for that level of stomach-churning commitment. Theyre really going for it on the violence angle - or should I say GORE-ing for it?
Runner-up - Middle-earth: Shadow of Mordor Protagonist Talion is so skilled at decapitating Uruk, youd think that the goons' necks are made of tissue paper.
Best fan service - Super Smash Bros. for Wii U
This recurring Platinum Chalice was pratically invented to be awarded to a Smash Bros. game. It may look like a chaotic fighter on the outside - but thats just a ruse, a mere cover to stealthily sell gamers an interactive gaming museum. Dozens of notable Nintendo character are playable, and those that aren't appear as one of the hundreds of collectible trophies/encyclopedia entries. Even non-Nintendo characters like Mega Man and Sonic get the royal treatment here, packing Smash Bros. near to bursting with love for video game history. And dont even get us started on the voluminous, NOT-EVEN-COMPARABLE soundtrack. Its hard to think of any Nintendo fan thatll be disappointed with this one - unless they really loved the Ice Climbers.
Runner-up - Persona Q: Shadow of the Labyrinth This dense dungeon crawler brings together the casts of the two most popular Persona entries, much to the delight of Persona fans and fanfic writers everywhere.
Most likely to provoke a fistfight - TowerFall: Ascension
Most matches in TowerFall dont last longer than a couple of minutes - which is good, because its intense brand of archery can lead to high blood pressure and chronic controller smashing. The chaotic, pixelated battlegrounds are home to some incredibly tense tussles, and being an eighth-of-a-second too late with an attack often means the difference between victory and defeat. Knowing you were that close to winning - and that the offline-only multiplayer ensures the REAL winner is in the same room - makes it hard to resist doling out a friendly punch (or five) to your pals between rounds. As long as you don't draw blood, it's all in good fun.
Runner-up - Super Smash Bros. for Wii U I had you, I freaking had you! Then you cheated and threw that Bob-omb! ARRRRGGGGHHH! - Henry Gilbert
Most menacing gaze - Mario Kart 8s Luigi death stare
Maybe Nintendo imagined that the replay-saving capabilities of Mario Kart 8 would be limited to racers sharing hard-fought victories or cruel Blue Shell attacks. But no one expected that they would capture Luigis true self - that of the merciless, hate-filled (opens in new tab) road-rager. With every successful shell-hit, the overshadowed plumber passes his opponents with a glare of grim self-satisfaction that's more hurtful than a middle finger and more frightening than Bowser on a bad day. Kudos to Nintendo for the way it quickly embraced (opens in new tab) Luigis new badass rep thanks to the unpredictable joys of viral video.
Runner-up - Middle-earth: Shadow of Mordors "Surrender your mind!" We know that Saurons army is full of real jerks, but we still feel a tinge of pity when Celebrimbor grabs Uruk by the face and tears apart their minds without remorse.
Best Halo multiplayer - Destiny
Oh, if only Halo: The Master Chief Collections online had actually been playable for the majority of 2014, it couldve had a chance at this. But, in its absence, Destiny runs away with this category thanks to the eminently playable Crucible PvP matches. Bungie kept all the gameplay fundamentals it pioneered and refined on Halo, and the three classes (six if you count the various specializations) add a lot more flavor to the multiplayer shootouts. And we dare say that Destiny even improves on the Halo formula, thanks solely in part to the constant quips from Lord Shaxx. "You're crushing them, guardian. Show them no mercy! Zone A captured! Zone C lost."
Runner-up - Titanfall Another great online experience that takes cues from the high-flying action of Halo, with an added a dose of Call of Duty-style soldiers screaming and firing at one another for good measure.
Most original rip-off - Middle-earth: Shadow of Mordor
Everything about Shadow of Mordor's combat is cast in the mold of the Batman: Arkham games, which is admittedly some pretty good source material to crib from. You may be leveling up a dagger instead of a batarang, but the addictive qualities of exploring the world (infused with some Assassin's Creed-lite climbing and stealth) feels just as fun and familiar. Plus, we dont see the Arkham games doing anything like the impressive Nemesis system, so thats one edge Talion has over the Dark Knight.
Runner-up - Child of Light Its nice when you can tell that the developers played Final Fantasy on the SNES just as obsessively as we did.
Most exotic mount - Far Cry 4's elephants
Far Cry 4 imagines what would happen if you released a zoo into a warzone, with endangered species attacking everyone indiscriminately. The majestic elephants of Kyrat can either work for you or against you - and for the first time in series history, you can takes these animals for a wild ride. After hopping on the back of a pachyderm, trampling militia men and knocking over Jeeps with reckless abandon makes driving a car feel positively mundane. Of course, the fun of riding these majestic creatures dampens a bit when, deep down, you know you're just going to skin your long-trunked friend as soon as it dies.
Runner-up - Middle-earth: Shadow of Mordor's Graug When a Scottish dwarf teaches you how to ride bipedal monstrosities with the capacity to smash like Hulk, you know you're in for a good time.
Best game to play for 30 seconds at a time - Luftrausers
You spend hours outfitting your aircraft with the perfect combination of parts to make your plane a well-balanced killing machine. You know that this time youre going to take to the air and destroy every single enemy you see - even that massive, bullet sponge of a blimp. You start up your next round of Luftrausers, rocket off into the sky, blast away for a few dozen oh-so-satisfying seconds, and then BOOM! You get caught in the crossfire yet again, failing to top your high score for the umpteenth time. But no worries - youll be able to give it another go in no time flat.
Runner-up - 1001 Spikes Good thing youre given just over a thousand lives in this game, because Aban Hawkins' average life span in this brutally challenging temple is roughly five milliseconds.
DLC that changes your perception - The Last of Us: Left Behind
You get to know Ellie fairly well during The Last of Us campaign, so you dont expect to be all that surprised when playing Left Behind. But not only does the downloadable fill one of the main campaign's biggest gaps, Left Behind gives some much appreciated context to Riley, Ellies best friend who only gets a passing mention in the core story. Seeing the pairs realistic relationship rekindle as they have some teenage fun exploring a post-apocalyptic mall is more engaging than any number of the DLCs firefights. Left Behind takes some real narrative risks, and its conclusion casts an interesting new light on the whole campaign, like all great expansions should.
Runner-up - BioShock Infinite: Burial at Sea This takes Infinites concepts of multiple realities in a clever direction, giving fans a whole new way to look at the doomed city of Rapture.
Most enjoyable depressing futility - Valiant Hearts: The Great War
If you don't pay attention to history books, you may not be aware that World War 1 is one of the most horrific events in human history (two words: mustard gas). It would seem like a real downer to set an adventure game during these years of suffering, but developer Ubisoft Montpellier found a way to turn it into a very memorable, worthwhile campaign. Valiant Hearts tastefully captures the sorrow and sacrifice of WW1, weaving in multiple perspectives on the horrors of war and offering a constant ray of hope in the form of a loyal canine companion. You wont feel like whistling a happy tune when its over, but youll appreciate the touching history lesson nonetheless.
Runner-up - This War of Mine If you prefer dark tales of horrifying war zones to be a little more current, this PC survival game sends you to the wrecked streets of Sarajevo. It plays just like The Sims, only fifty times more depressing.
Most graphics - Alien: Isolation
Its a real challenge to try and recreate the lonely, claustrophobic look of Ridley Scotts Alien. But Alien: Isolation makes that task seem easy, dropping players into a terrifying, futuristic setting that embraces the films style and makes the most out of the new-gen power on offer. The result is an unshakable sense of terror, making the familiar Xenomorph feel exactly as real and horrifying as it needs to be. Itll also make you freak out and fall out of your seat every time the phone rings while youre playing.
Runner-up - Mario Kart 8 The Wii U might not have the raw horsepower of the PS4 or Xbox One, but the raceways of the Mushroom Kingdom have never looked more vibrant and alive than in Mario Kart 8.
Old-school kick in the ass - Shovel Knight
Shovel Knight is one part Mega Man, one part DuckTales NES, and one part Dark Souls, with a ton of retro-tinged nostalgia piled on top. Even those fatigued by the many recent indie games with old-school flair will be impressed by the skill and refinement of Shovel Knight. Its demanding platforming pushes you to be better and feels challenging rather than cheap, with each boss beaten and gem earned through sheer skill and persistence. And if you want to simulate the hilarity of bad NES-era translations, just activate Butt Mode.
Runner-up - 1001 Spikes If you enjoy Spelunky, but wish it was more 8-bit and that even more things could instantly kill you, this is the title youre looking for.
Most wonderfully indulgent - Bayonetta 2
Bayonetta 2s opening chapter involves fighting a giant angel while standing on the back of a jet, then hopping on a train to duel with a monstrous dragon, and eventually scaling a skyscraper to summon a hell beast that eats said dragon alive. Most games climaxes arent as over-the-top as Bayonetta 2s beginning, and thing only get more insane from there. If you played the original and worried that the Umbran Witch would be toned down for a Nintendo system, know that every balls-to-the-wall battle and risque moments on offer here will prove your fears entirely misplaced. Now, flock off, feather face!
Runner-up - Sunset Overdrive Why dont more open-world titles play like Tony Hawk and require you to shoot explosives at armies of energy-drink-infused zombies? Actually, we probably just answered our own question there.
Best baseball game - Lethal League
Yes, MLB 14 The Show modernized Americas favorite pastime on the PS4, but Lethal League took the sport a step further and weaponized it. This deliciously unique fighting game finds two-to-four players smashing a baseball back and forth in an enclosed arena. The ball moves at blazing speeds with each new volley, making for increasingly intense exchanges, until it finally knocks one of fighters into the stratosphere. If real baseball were more like Lethal League, itd be more popular than football, NASCAR, and pornography combined. Also, one of the characters is a robot on a skateboard.
Runner-up - Rustys Real Deal Baseball Shh! Dont tell your jock friends, but this cute 3DS downloadable is actually an addictive rhythm and memory mini-game collection thats dressed up to look like a sports title.
Okami award (game doomed to die a beautiful death) - Child of Light
You can count on Ubisofts 2D games to possess a distinct brand of whimsy, but this one took the developers artistic chops to new heights of preciousness. Inspired by classic RPGs of the 90s, Child of Lights dialogue is all expressed in lovely rhymes, with players exploring explore an eccentric world set to an impressive soundtrack. Its like a college students artsy indie game, but with the financial backing of a mega-publisher. Sadly, it seems that support couldn't prevent this heartfelt release from being largely overlooked. If you missed it, nows the time for you to correct that mistake.
Runner-up - Transistor This indie release comes from the team behind Bastion, and while its almost as good, Transistor didnt garner nearly as much acclaim. For shame!
See you next year!
Those are all picks for Chalices for another year, but that doesn't mean we're finished. Let us know what oddball award you'd give to your favorite game in the comments!
And if need more end of the year coverage, check out the officialbest games of 2014 list. And then you can move on to the 10 games that narrowly missed our GOTY 2014 list.