E3 2019, the gaming calendar's biggest event, has closed its doors for another year. Since last Saturday, the gaming industry's biggest and brightest has been showing their wares. We've had a new console reveal (sort of) in the form of Project Scarlett, plenty of talk of streaming and subscriptions and we've had Keanu Reeves.
But as ever with E3, the real stars of the show are the games themselves. That's why we're all here, squeezing into press conferences and scouring the show floor to find the best titles to play. So from stageshow blockbusters to behind closed door gems, here are the best games of E3 2019.
The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild 2
The reveal that Nintendo are making a sequel to Breath of the Wild --one of the finest games ever made-- was a tease, but what a tease it was. Perfectly judged to prompt feverish speculation. Did the appearance of Princess Zelda alongside our usual hero Link mean she will finally be playable or, more disruptive yet, mean co-op Zelda. It certainly fits the Switch’s aims. Either way, there were serious Majora’s Mask vibe from this creepy trail, with an unsettling monster and backwards music cue suggesting some kind of time-bending theme.
Again, the cinematic appearance of Halo and Master Chief was just a snifter rather than a proper look at how the game will be in action. However, Halo Infinite’s in-game engine demo --which saw the damaged chief retrieved from deep space-- is the first confirmed sighting of a next-gen game running. It will be a Project Scarlett launch title and Xbox’s flagship once more.
CD Projekt Red almost broke the internet with their Keanu Reeves reveal during Microsoft’s press conference but it’s not like their ridiculously dense open world RPG needs the help of a celebrity endorsement. This year’s extensive behind closed doors demo showcased new systems and mechanics which suggest it will play as well as it looks. Not long to go now…
Watch Dogs Legion
French company makes Brexit is the hot take headline but there’s more to these techno thriller than political point scoring (although there’s a fair bit of that too). Legion’s real USP is it’s ‘be anyone’ mechanic. Every single inhabitant of its vibrant virtual London setting is a unique character with unique traits who you can recruit to your collectivist cause.
Square Enix made a bold decision to distance themselves from the biggest entertainment property in history and recast Captain America, Iron Man, Hulk and co with Uncharted stars. Hopefully it will allow their highly polished cinematic brawler to forge an identity of its own - even if there’s still some confusion about what the dedicated multiplayer part of the offering actually brings to the party.
Yoshinura Kitase’s bold reimagining of the seminal PlayStation RPG has angered some fans who wanted a like for like remake instead. And yet our first taste of the project’s smart combat system suggests the franchise’s legendary director might well achieve his ambition of creating a modern experience that delights both old and new fans alike.
Star Wars Jedi: Fallen Order
Respawn's impressive cinematic Star Wars game could easily be described as Uncharted with lightsabers. It features athletic traversal with a cocksure hero in lavish environments. But it differentiates itself in the way only Star Wars can, with kinetic force powers and the satisfying swoosh of a laser sword. The developers may baulk at such a comparison but say 'Uncharted with lightsabers' to me and I'll say yes please.
Gods and Monsters
Genuine surprises were in short supply at E3 but this intriguing new game from Assassin’s Creed Odyssey devs Ubisoft Montreal provided an upbeat end to the French publisher’s conference. Its gorgeous cel-shaded aesthetic and focus on mythological monsters very much brought Breath of the Wild to mind - but it’s exciting to see if that team can breathe new life into Nintendo’s formula.
Ghost Recon Breakpoint
Ubisoft’s follow up to the sprawling Wildlands is tighter, tenser affair with the emphasis on survival. This time out your four man Spec Ops squad are trapped behind enemy lines on an island overrun by anarchic AI drones and Jon Bernthal’s murderous mercenary army. But you’ll also have to battle the terrain itself thanks to the new injury system. Break a leg, Ghosts. Or rather, don’t.
There were a host of terrific indie titles on show at E3 and at the Xbox showcase. B.ut 12 Minutes stood out in particular. And was even more fascinating behind closed doors with director Luis Antonio. It is a domestic point and click adventure, essentially, but with a time-bending twist. After coming home to your wife one night you find yourself stuck in a 12 Minute timeloop of distrust and tragedy. Each loop you must learn and adapt to solve the game’s mystery. Exceedingly clever stuff.
Developer Ninja Theory are famed for their narrative chops, which made the reveal of an online multiplayer game as their first title under the Xbox banner something of a surprise. But on closer inspection, Bleeding Edge makes sense, with the game driven by the company’s melee combat skilled honed over games such as DmC: Devil May Cry and the recent Hellblade. A splash of Overwatch in its structure and aesthetic, for sure, but melee multiplayers are few and far between.
Sam Barlow’s ambitious live-action follow-up to the BAFTA-winning ‘found footage’ game Her Story is more lavish and ambitious, but contains the same wit and intelligence. You have access to the video call records of a group of four normal people involved in a mysterious conspiracy. You must scrub the footage and find linking words and evidence to discover the truth.
Luigi’s Mansion 3
One of Nintendo’s greatest underrated series, the smart, spooky and tactile Luigi’s Mansion 3 was the best playable game the big N had at the show. In just a 15 minute slice, it demonstrated the kind of inventiveness that made its predecessors so good with some notable additions. You can now fire out a plunger from Luigi’s ghostbusting vacuum cleaner to then suck in and manipulate the environment, while ‘Goo-igi’ allows you to send out a liquid doppelganger to team up on puzzles.
The chaotic co-op shooter impressed with crunchy shooting and anarchic 'charm' (of sorts). One of the most popular hands-on demos at the show, bursting with colour and and a characterful boss fight. A lot of fun.
Sayonara Wild Hearts
The ‘pop-album video game’ from acclaimed Swedish developer Simogo, Sayonara Wild Hearts made its debut at The Game Show in December. For E3 it was largely tucked away in publisher Annapurna’s small booth in the corner of the LACC’s West Hall. But despite its low-key presence, its kinetic and psychedelic rhythm-action was one of the best hands-on experiences at the show.
Dying Light 2
While it may look like another open-world zombiethon on the surface, news of Dying Light 2’s supremely impressive behind closed doors showing quickly spread around the halls of E3. It keeps the fluid parkour and brutal combat from the first game, but goes further with a new defining DNA. Developer Techland call it a ‘modern dark age’, with abandoned buildings dressed up like castles, and barely a gun in sight. There was only one projectile weapon in the demo used at all, before quickly being turned into a bludgeon. Perhaps most intriguingly, key decisions you make in the game can have ramifications for not just the characters and story, but the entire world itself.
Id Software’s hyperviolent, demon-slaying shooter closed out Bethesda’s conference in some style. There was a similar cathartic release from its crunchy, satisfying hands-on demo. It’s nu-Doom, yes, but no-one does gunplay quite like it.
Another fine FPS on Bethesda’s slate, the recent Wolfenstein reboot has forged a reputation of being one of the smartest ‘dumb shooters’ around. It mixes humour with human tragedy and ever more elaborate Nazi gubbing. Youngblood looks to continue the tradition with its own co-op campaign twist as you take the role of one of series hero BJ Blazkcowicz’s twin daughters.
We didn’t see any gameplay from Deathloop, a Groundhog Day with assassins, but any news of Dishonored developer Arkane’s new project is well worth getting excited about. Especially one with a concept as intriguing as this, with two assassins locked in a timeloop on a lawless island.
Another trailer only job (this was quite a theme at the conferences), Ghostride Tokyo nevertheless impressed with its creepy concept of millions of people disappearing from a futuristic Tokyo. This is the new game from Tango Gameworks, the Japanse team behind The Evil Within. Pedigree goes a long way and Ghostride Tokyo found itself with a lot of credit after an ebullient reveal from director Ikumi Nakamura.
Ancestors: The Humankind Odyssey
What did Patrick Desilets, creator of the Assassin’s Creed series, do next? Oh, only a game about 650million years of human evolution. You take control of a group of primates as they move through the evolutionary chain, discovering new traits, with your job to help them survive the harshness of prehistoric Earth.
The Outer Worlds
The pitch from Fallout New Vegas developer Obsidian with The Outer Worlds is fairly simple: we can make a Fallout game better than Bethesda can. Well, ok, they never quite say that but you can see that’s what they’re going for. The Outer Worlds will be very familiar to fans of the post-apocalyptic RPG, but it does have its own twist with its 50s style sci-fi aesthetic.
The rumours were true, Game of Thrones author George RR Martin was bunking off writing The Winds of Winter to create a video game world with Dark Souls creator Hidetaka Miyazaki. While we saw and hear very little about the details of Elden Ring, the calibre of its creators and effective trailer is enough to get anyone with a penchant for brutal fantasy action excited.
Monster Hunter: Iceborne
We perhaps wouldn’t usually include an expansion to an existing game in an E3 best-of, but even an hour with Capcom’s Iceborne update to the brilliant Monster Hunter shows its not a usual expansion. The Japanese publisher certainly believe so, with a giant ‘Velkhana’ dragon mode dominating its section of the showfloor. As for the game itself, Iceborne will add wintery areas --which come with their own traits and challenges-- and a score of new monsters. Perhaps its best new feature, though, is a simple grappling claw that can be used to latch onto and catapult yourself towards a fleeing beast. Gamechanger.
The traditional blunt, if brilliant, Gears seems to be brushing up on its smarts in terms of narrative this time around with a conflicting tale for its lead Kait. It does not, however, lose any of its ferocity in combat. New survival mode ‘Escape’ is another fine twist on the kind of Horde battling that Gear helped popularise.
Another indie hit from the Xbox conference was the beautiful and touching Spiritfarer. This painterly 2D game casts you as a ferryman taking people to their final resting place, but it is down to you to fulfill their final wishes before passing on. Its own creator calls it a ‘cozy management game about dying’. So there you go.
This intriguing multiplayer survival nearly doesn’t make the list because of its insistence on using the brutal portmanteau co-opetition, but I guess it does get the point across. In Scavengers you must both compete and work together as you look to victory in a sprawling match based on survival. There are recognisable traits here, but combined to make something quite unique. There’s a bit of Fortnite in its scavenging and traversal, survival sims in its management of warmth and hunger and classic multiplayer shooting in its more frantic endgame. Made by a team of Halo veterans and backed up by UK company Improbable’s Spatial OS tech. An interesting one for sure.
Evil Genius 2: World Domination
Rebellion’s revival of the cult 2004 favourite Evil Genius has been a long time coming. The ‘satirical sci-fi lair builder’ has you constructing your own villainous headquarters in an island retreat. From building the barracks to train your minions in the art of villainy, to the lavish casino front and booting pesky ‘Justice Force League’ goons into shark tanks there is plenty of guilty pleasure to be had here.
Marvel Ultimate Alliance 3
The other Marvel game at E3 this year perhaps didn’t have the lavish presentation or quite the same attention as the big Avengers reveal. But this Switch exclusive revival of the dungeon-crawling superhero beat ‘em up was a lot of fun. And, at the very least, knows exactly what its doing with its co-op carnage.
The new game from Max Payne creator Remedy continues to impress at every showing. From shape-shifting guns and mysterious government buildings, Control embraces a weirdness that we can all get behind. It’s psychokinetic action also looks impressive.
Zombie Army 4
Here’s a game that certainly knows what it wants to be and does it well. Originally born as a spin-off for developer Rebellion’s own Sniper Elite series, it is a co-op survival game in which you must fight off hordes of zombie Nazis with limited WW2 weaponry and traps in the environment. And it’s a lot of fun. Any more questions?
It remains to be seen whether Rocket League’s phenomenal (and completely unexpected) success can be emulated but Ubisoft’s Roller Champions is determined to give it a go. A fun 3vs3 multiplayer take on roller derby with a bright and brash cartoon sci-fi aesthetic, it’s already several streets ahead of that execrable Rollerball cinematic remake starring LL Cool J and co from 2002.
EA’s subdued E3 showing was encapsulated perfectly by their FIFA 20 reveal. Advance trailers focused on the new FIFA Street-esque Volta mode, which promises skills and thrills in small sided games on five-a-side pitches. However all we got to play was one-off match in last year’s Champions League mode. The football felt good enough - slower, more physical, less bumpy - but we could have done with some more flair.
What was your highlight of E3 2019? Let us know in the comments below.