Wow, what a way to start off the year on a high note! We’re only a month into 2014 right now, and we’ve already seen a number of wonderful game releases that put a big ol’ smile on our faces. And not only were these games all great in their own right, but we even went as far as to call some of them early contenders for our next Game of the Year. Think I’m kidding? Well let’s not forget that Gamezebo’s Game of the Year 2013 was released at the tail-end of January last year, so anything is possible at this point!

There’s no question that January 2014 has been a month for long-awaited games to finally come to fruition: games that have been in development for so long that their names were starting to become something of a legend in of themselves. But boy are we glad that we actually got to play them now, because when it comes to an epic Viking-themed quest across the frozen tundra and a frantic multiplayer sword fight, I think it would be an understatement to say that it was more than worth the wait.

So do you feel the same way as we do about January’s shining stars in gaming? Were there any other strong contenders you think deserved a spot on our list? Don’t be shy – we want to hear about them! And at least we can all agree on one thing for certain: if this past month was any indication, then we have an unbelievable year of games to look forward to.

 

Winner:

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The Banner Saga

Where does one even begin when talking about the incredible epic that is The Banner Saga from Stoic? I guess I could always start with the shining presentation, like the beautifully illustrated designs that look like they belong in a feature-length animated movie, and the impeccable voice cast and ambient sounds. Then I could always move on to talk about the sweeping narrative, which makes you really feel for the characters and the worn-down paths they travel on throughout the massive adventure. Oh but then there’s also the gameplay itself, which teeters back and forth between slick strategy-tactics skirmishes and decision-based storybook mechanics, which will actually affect the overall outcome of the game!

Okay, I give up: everything about The Banner Saga is just so absolutely spot-on that it’s impossible to single out any one aspect when trying to paint a picture of this rich and long-lasting gameplay experience. So here’s what you really need to know: however good you think The Banner Saga is, the game is even better; everything you used to associate with the word “epic” before will now seem smaller in comparison; and this is only the first chapter in what will one day be a stunning trilogy of Viking-themed tactics games. Now the only question that really remains is this: will you be up to the challenge of leading the humans and Varl to victory against the imposing threat of The Dredge?

 

Runners Up:

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Broken Age: Act 1

Adventure game legend Tim Schafer, creator of Grim Fandango, Day of the Tentacle, and the early Monkey Island games, has finally returned to the genre after 18 some-odd years of working on other games. And oh, what a triumphant return that turned out to be! Beginning its life as the simple “Double Fine Adventure,” which quickly earned millions of dollars in Kickstarter support, Broken Age: Act 1 is a captivating adventure game in the purest of forms: and it has all of the humor, the heart, and the charm that you would only expect from a game that proudly bears the Schafer name. The dueling narrative between Vella and Shay serves as a breath of fresh air for the genre, and it allows Schafer and company a creative palette to always keep the vastly different ideas flowing. We can’t wait to see how the story will conclude with Act 2 coming out sometime later this year!

 

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Nidhogg

The game, the myth, and the legend, Nidhogg has finally been released to the public this month after years of teasing gamers with its exhilarating style of sword fighting gameplay. The lucky few who did manage to get their hands on the 2011 Nuovo Award winner before its official release had thrown around praise calling Nidhogg “a perfect game,” and we’re certainly not going to argue with those kinds of descriptions now. A vastly different kind of multiplayer party game, Nidhogg pits two pixelated sword fighters against one another: each one trying to reach an end zone of sorts in the opposite direction. In order to get there, though, you’ll need to go on the offensive and move past your opponent in a highly stylized bout of swordplay. With beautiful retro environments, not to mention a fun and addictive tournament mode to challenge your friends, Nidhogg may have been a long time coming, but we don’t see ourselves putting it down anytime soon.

 

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Bardbarian

The glorious Bardbarian is a lighthearted game about an ex-barbarian named Brad who decides one day to let the power of music do all of the fighting for him. But underneath the fun cartoony visuals and seriously head-banging soundtrack, Bardbarian manages to do what so many other mobile games can’t: combine gameplay mechanics from several different genres into one fluid and seriously addicting experience. There’s a bit of tower defense as you’ll need to guard the Town Crystal from being destroyed by waves of baddies. There’s a lot of strategy involved, as you’ll need to choose which unit types to accompany you onto the battlefield and which upgrades you should purchase first. And of course, there’s even an action-shooter or bullet-hell vibe to round out the total package, as you quickly weave Brad in and out of the enemy’s constant attacks while moving in close so you can return fire.

 

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Mega Jump 2

I guess it’s true what they say: sometimes you just can’t beat the classics. And as far as mobile gaming classics go, Mega Jump from Get Set Games stands among the best of them. So it almost came as no surprise when the team’s long-awaited sequel, Mega Jump 2, leaped onto the mobile scene this month and managed to prove that simple arcade fun still has a prominent place in 2014 and beyond. Though still a simple jumping game at its core, there’s just something so inherently addictive about Mega Jump 2 that will quickly turn that “one more time” into twenty. With a fun new Adventures system that constantly has players working to permanently increase their score multiplier, not to mention a whole cast of new monsters with special abilities to unlock during regular gameplay, there’s no finer palate cleanser from all the heavier games on the App Store than by skyrocketing through the clouds with a little Mega Jump 2!