GOTY 2014 - Top Ten - #4

Here it is: our list of the top ten games of 2014. The result of dozens of hours of preparation, discussion and debate, this list represents our consensus on the ten best and most-significant games of the year. 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.

Super Smash Bros. for 3DS and Wii U

Nintendo | October 3, 2014 (3DS); November 21, 2014 (Wii U) | Nintendo 3DS, Wii U

Like so many other people, I’ve spent time playing Super Smash Bros. Whether the Nintendo 64 original, the legendary GameCube follow-up, or the flawed but solid Wii iteration, a Super Smash Bros. game will always produce great combat and a fun party atmosphere.

Little wonder that this year’s newest entries in the Smash series, Super Smash Bros. for Nintendo 3DS and Super Smash Bros. for Wii U, were two of the most anticipated games of 2014. In a year where Nintendo needed breakout hits, Smash lived up to the expectations — and exceeded them.

That in and of itself was no mean feat. With a fiercely vocal fanbase, Smash had many strong spotlights cast upon it. But instead of crumbling, Smash became a great beacon of hope for Nintendo fans in the West who were hoping for a strong, proactive game. That starts with the gameplay, which handled closer to the beloved GameCube iteration and is as fun as expected. Whether you play with all the items and stage effects or switch those off and focus on “Final Destination”-style levels, the action is as fast and frenetic as ever. A wide swath of characters join the fray (including a large contingent from the Fire Emblem games), and the added option to make a Mii fighter with custom outfits, moves and statistics provides yet more depth.

Most important, though, is that it all works. Smash for 3DS doesn’t feel like a half-baked portable offshoot, but instead a Smash game in miniature. Smash’s multiplayer action is great, whether over distance or in the same living room. It’s easy to setup and responsive to play. And Smash Wii U features so many ways to play the game — the much-ballyhooed (and hard to find) controller adapters, the newly re-introduced GameCube controllers for Wii U, or even with a 3DS and copy of Smash 3DS — that it will be easy to assemble the eight players who can fit into one match.

And whether you’re playing on 3DS or Wii U, it’s a chaotic multiplayer game soaked in Nintendo juices. It’s approachable for beginners but maintains the depth Smash fans have come to love, and in many ways is a perfect addition to the series. More of the same, but building on what works and subtracting what doesn’t.

Doug Bonham