GOTY 2014 - Best Debut

This year, we're rolling out a new set of awards that recognize achievements (and some dubious honors) in specific areas of game development. There are ten awards in all, with two new ones being awarded every day this week. Keep checking back for more winners! Don't miss out on any of our Game of the Year coverage. Check out our full schedule here, and follow us on Twitter and Facebook for instant updates.

Best Debut - Shovel Knight

Yacht Club Games | June 26, 2014 | 3DS, Linux, OS X, PlayStation Network, Wii U, Windows

There are many ways to filter Best Debut award nominees and choose a winner. When it came time to debate this category, we chose to recognize the best, most promising first entry from a game which will spawn a longer series. Our deliberations became a balancing act factoring both the quality of the game and what we wanted to see more of in the future.

While there were many deserving games brought up for discussion, the one that reigned supreme was Shovel Knight. Yacht Club Games’ Kickstarted effort stands out because of its details and authenticity. Technically it’s a game that could have been made long ago, since the studio famously stuck to the limitations of the Nintendo Entertainment System’s graphics and audio palettes (with slight changes in how much they showed at any given time in the game). However, the game was informed by design and gameplay features of more modern games. It also plays incredibly well, merging puzzles and action together. We absolutely want to see Shovel Knight II and III sometime in the near future, and even Super Shovel Knight as well. (Be wary of Shovel Knight 64, though).

Runners-up: Sunset OverdriveThe Banner Saga

The other two games standing alongside our spade-wielding hero on the podium are two very different propositions: Sunset Overdrive and The Banner Saga. I’m not sure that two games could be so different – one a high-profile tent-pole action game, the other a Kickstarted adventure-game-slash-strategy-RPG that looks like a retro American cartoon in the best way possible. Both titles left huge impressions with our staff, and since The Banner Saga has a confirmed sequel, we’re now left waiting on Insomniac Games. – Doug Bonham