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Games Of The Year

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This has been an amazing year for family video games. Nintendo has come on strong and several indie developers are putting out great games. Below is our top five list for 2014.

5. Monument Valley

Monument Valley logo

Monument Valley for iOS is amazing.

 

Mobile games get trashed a lot. So many games hit the app store in shambles that it is hard to imagine any of them being good, let alone great. The truth of the matter is that Monument Valley us more than good. It is transcendent.

Ustwo games, the developers behind Monument Valley, succeeded in building game mechanics around the manipulation of MC Escher-esque puzzles. My own sense of “normal” was used against me; forcing me to look at basic shapes in new and interesting ways. My children had similar reactions while they played.

The developers could have gotten away with simply making a puzzle game, but, instead, they wove a haunting narrative into the game about a lost civilization. We all felt compelled to complete puzzles to see more of what was going on.

Monument Valley should be applauded. It does so much so well that is it worth every penny. If you have been hesitant in the past to spend real money on an App Store game just put that aside. Trust us.

4. Shovel Knight

Shovel Knight Moonshot

Shovel Knight is an amazing game for the WiiU, 3DS, and PC featuring an amazing retro aesthetic!

There is something magical about being able to relive something you cherished from your childhood. That experience is made even better when you get a chance to share that joy with your children. Shovel Knight took everything I loved about NES era games and brought it to the current generation. My review is listed here.

What makes this even more exciting is that this was the result of a Kickstarter campaign. I know that a lot of writers across the internet have taken a cynical attitude towards crowd funded games, but I believe these success stories can only result in more great games that might not have come about otherwise. If Shovel Knight is any indication of the potential future of crowd funded games I will gladly take the inevitable duds.

3. The Counting Kingdom

the counting kingdom

The Counting Kingdom by Little Worlds Interactive

Historically, educational games have been pretty terrible. We might remember them fondly, but that is just the friendly haze of nostalgia talking to us. The Counting Kingdom, we hope, represents a paradigm shift in design for educational games moving forward.

I did plenty of gushing about this game in my review earlier this year, but some of it deserves to be echoed. The Counting Kingdom is a gorgeous game that helps teach basic addition and subtraction without beating players over the head with it. Players learn without knowing they are being taught (and without any anxiety that might have come with it).

The Counting Kingdom should be commended for the elegance in its design. If this is an indicator for the future of the genre then the future is very bright.

2. Bravely Default

Bravely Default and four main characters

Bravely Default and four main characters

We are huge fans of the RPG genre here at Engaged Family Gaming. A lot of that is a result of nostalgia for the SNES era of RPGs from Square Enix such as Final Fantasy IV and VI. Square Enix has fallen from grace recently as many of their newer games have failed to reclaim the magic of their predecessors. That has come to an end with the March 2014 release of Bravely Default.

Bravely Default brought it all back. It featured a superb combat system, a steam-punk inspired aesthetic, clever dialogue, and a world spanning story. What more could an RPG fan ask for?

Not much.

1. Mario Kart 8

Link Legend of Zelda Mario Kart 8

Link riding a Zelda Themed motorcycle? I’m in!

There is no question that Mario Kart 8 is my game of the year for 2014. There has never been a better looking Nintendo game. There is so much more to MK8 than the graphics, though. Mario Kart 8 delivers fast paced action while still being accessible to younger players.

I have had more fun with this game than any I have played in years and I expect that will continue. Nintendo is even breathing more life into the game by releasing DLC. One batch has already come out with eight new tracks (it even included Link.) If Nintendo keep this up we will be playing Mario Kart 8 for years.

 

What about you? What were your games of the year? Sound off in the comments!

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The 2014 Game Awards aired Friday December 5th, 2015 and it featured a “Best Family Game” category. I’m sure you can imagine that we were more than a little excited that family friendly games were getting such significant recognition when most of the Triple A gaming space is dedicated to games that children shouldn’t be playing.

All five of the game that were nominated are worthy contenders. They were:

Disney Infinity 2.0

Disney Infinity 2.0 Took the formula from last years smash hit and somehow jammed another universe into it. This opened it up to a whole new audience that may not have been as interested before.

It also took steps to further refine the toy box mode making much easier for younger players to build their own experiences. This helped alleviate some of the frustration that plagued the initial release.

Fantasia: Music Evolved

Fantasia : Music Evolved is not only a fantastic game, but is also a completely unique experience. Any family with a remote interest in music and a Kinect enabled Xbox 360 or Xbox One owes it to themselves to give this game a try.

Mario Kart 8

Mario Kart 8 is, by my mind, the clear winner out of the bunch. Mario Kart games has always been fun, but Mario Kart 8 feels special. The driving is spot on. The tracks are all amazing. And it might just be the best looking game Nintendo has ever released.

The real Strength behind Mario Kart 8 is its staying power. This game is great purchase because it will see play for the life of the console.

Skylanders: Trap Team

Skylanders started the entire Toys to Life trend. Trap team brings it all to another level by including a Pokemon-esque trap feature that lets players capture (and ultimately control) villains. The developers committed so fully to this trap theme that they upgraded the base to include a speaker. The captured monsters actually speak through it and interact with players.

Tomodachi Life

Tomodachi Life may be the weirdest game I have played in a long time. But there is no denying that there is something very compelling going on here. There is just something about importing your friends and family a Mii characters and unleashing them on a fictional island and watching them interact.

The entire experience felt like a very “Nintendo” interpretation of the Sims, but with a much greater emphasis on silly situations than on realism.

How I would have voted: Mario Kart 8

My prediction: Mario Kart 8

Winner: Mario Kart 8

None of these games really stood a chance considering Mario Kart 8 came out this year. Fantasia may have given other games a challenge based on its unique premise, but it is a novel idea that will wear off its welcome quickly.

What do you think? Sound off on who you would have voted for in the comments!

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