The Electronic Entertainment Expo always features some noteworthy announcements, but there’s no denying that some years are better than others. The 2013 event showcased Sony and Microsoft jumping into the next generation, while Nintendo stepped away from the big stage show to try a more intimate approach to their reveals. And while there were many quality titles shown off, overall no company really had what I would call a great presentation.
2014 is a whole different story, with all three of the bigs (yes, three – Nintendo more than proved this year that they are still very much in the game) giving solid, video game-centric presentations. A lot (I mean, a LOT) of new games were announced, contributing to both ongoing franchises and a slew of new IPs, and it was incredibly difficult to narrow my Best of Show list down to 10. 2015 is looking to be the best year to be a gamer in a long time, with 2014 closing strong.
So let’s get to it. In no particular order, these are my top 10 titles shown at E3 2014.
Ori and the Blind Forest
I have always been a strong proponent of gameplay over graphics. If a game looks like hell but plays smooth and is fun, I’m going to love it. Likewise it can look extremely lifelike but be buggy or boring and just underwhelming. Ori and the Blind Forest looks to satisfy all preferences. With its charming beauty, uplifting yet meloncholy story and fluid platforming, Ori is sure to be a highlight of next-gen indie gaming.
Rise of the Tomb Raider
You may recall that the recent Tomb Raider reboot found itself nestled cozily at the top as my 2013 game of the year. Where that title showed a fresh-faced Lara Croft unraveling an island mystery while attempting to save her friends and coming to terms with making her first (couple hundred) kill(s), the Rise announcement trailer gives us a look ahead as our heroine is suffering some post-traumatic stress and seeking counseling. As it turns out, the best medicine for her, like John Watson in the BBC’s Sherlock, is to sprint back into action and get that adrenaline flowing. She needs to find another tomb and risk life and limb to raid the hell out of it. We knew it was coming, and now we can officially get excited.
Super Smash Bros
Like many others, Super Smash Bros tends to take over my life whenever a new game releases. I become addicted with unlocking as much of everything as I can, and each sequential game finds more fun and exciting ways to shake up the formula. The upcoming no-subtitle-needed sequels for Wii U and 3DS are no different, featuring more exciting characters and game variants than ever before, even offering exclusive content for each version. There’s good reason this is the only game to make it onto my Best of E3 list two years in a row.
I’ve never played Skylanders, and I stayed just far enough away from Disney Infinity to avoid its devious clutches. But with Nintendo’s induction into the combined video game/toy race, the time has officially come for me to bid my wallet farewell. The amiibo figures will be compatible not only with games I plan on buying regardless of figurine inclusion, like Super Smash Bros and Mario Kart 8 (which is already happily in my collection), but they will allegedly also work with future titles. I just look forward to/dread the day they announce an additional 718 Pokémon amiibo figures. I MUST HAVE THEM ALL.
Dead Island 2
I spent many dozens of hours with the mildly buggy but still more fun than a barrel of undead monkeys Dead Island, and while I felt the Riptide expansion was a bit lacking as a follow-up, it was still every bit as entertaining. The weapon modifications were inventive and brutal, the gameplay challenging yet intuitive, and the more melee-focused approach to combat refreshing compared to the constant run-and-gun culture of most of today’s games. Knowing that there is a proper, full sequel in the works with a lighter tone and tighter gameplay makes. me. ecstatic.
Opposite to the original Dead Island teaser trailer, which set the depressing survivalist tone of the game right from the beginning, Dead Island 2‘s announcement trailer seems to just take the piss and make a joke of itself, which gives me incredibly high hopes for the sequel overall. My only apprehension is launching alongside Deep Silver‘s other zombie thrill-ride Dying Light in early 2015. Regardless, I look forward to seeing the infected sights of sunny California next year.
The Legend of Zelda
When series producer Eiji Aonuma teased last year that we would hear about the next console Legend of Zelda adventure at E3 2014, I was fully prepared to see nothing but a title card and some concept art. What we got instead was our first look at an entirely open world which, often compared to the Elder Scrolls games, means if you see it in the distance, you can get there with enough travel. This is a dream come true for many fans of the series, both old and new.
But that’s not all. After admiring the lush scenery of the newest Hylian world with our hero, we watch as a massive enemy rushes him atop his noble steed, forcing a high-octane horseback battle as Link fires multiple bomb-tipped arrows at his foe, ending the exciting scene with what looks like a laserbeam shooting out of his final arrow’s tip. The spectacle was only made more impressive once we were told the entire scene was shot in-game, with no pre-rendered CGI contained. If Mario Kart and Smash Bros don’t push you to finally buying a Wii U, consider this the next must-have system-seller.
I already said this list is in no particular order, and that is evidenced most clearly by this bit not being at the end; the spot usually reserved for number 1. Hyrule Warriors is, without a doubt, my most anticipated title of 2014 past, present and future. Upon its surprise Nintendo Direct reveal last year I was instantly enamored, and my excitement levels have only flown higher and higher with each new announcement. Having a cast of some of the franchise’s most iconic leading ladies to back him up, I see Link’s Dynasty Warriors-inspired adventure bringing a veritable trove of new fans from each series to check out this mash-up, with potentially outstanding results. To make this short and sweet: Hyrule Warriors legitimately looks like the most fun I will have with a video game this year, period.
I feel like so many games take themselves too seriously these days, which could be why, as a grown man, I tend to gravitate more toward things like Kingdom Hearts or Nintendo’s more family-friendly fare. My life is serious enough – I want bright and light-hearted games that know how to entertain. In entertainment Sunset Overdrive certainly delivers with its fantastic mish-mash of comic book energy and fourth-wall breaking, full of POWs and FWOOSHes and other dazzling onomatopoeia. Our “hero” is a grungy punk who grinds and jumps and acrobats around the monster-infested Sunset City, in an attempt to eradicate the beasts “in style,” utilizing a wide array of crazy, over-the-top guns and explosives. This hyperactive new Xbox One-exclusive IP, which I somehow completely missed at last year’s show, is just one of many ways Microsoft won me over this year.
Tales From the Borderlands
Perhaps I am more excited for this game than I should be because I have only recently completed Borderland 2‘s main story for the first time, and am still in fact working my way through the DLC. Perhaps playing through The Walking Dead Season 2 and The Wolf Among Us on a regular basis is only compounding these feelings of eagerness to see how a point-and-click storytelling adventure plays out in a typically run-and-gun world. Perhaps I just love when franchises try something different (see above entries Hyrule Warriors and Super Smash Bros). Whatever the case may be, Telltale‘s Tales From the Borderlands has succeeded in keeping my attention, so much that I am actually looking more forward to it than other E3 show-stoppers like Evolve and Scalebound. I want to learn more about Rhys and his Handsome Jack obsession, I want to know why Fiona is travelling with him and what her story is, and I want to see life on Pandora from the eyes of outsiders post-Borderlands 2. And I want it, like, yesterday.
Halo: Master Chief Edition
I originally had a mere passing fancy for Halo, only ever enjoying the multiplayer with friends. By Halo 3 I had found more appreciation for the campaign, and fully completed the stories for it and Reach before my interest again waned with Halo 4. Which, by the way, I have yet to play in any capacity, even with friends. I just didn’t care anymore. This is, not until the announcement of the fantastic Master Chief Collection. Featuring each of the four numbered titles in one slick package for the original asking price of one of them alone, the game is undoubtedly a deal and a half; a deal that is made better with every additional sentance spoken about it.
Every multiplayer map from each game is included. There is a potential 4000 Gamerscore to be unlocked throught the 4 games. Halo: Combat Evolved is packaged in its Anniversary Edition format, with Halo 2 receiving the same polish-job for the first time. You can marathon the entire campaign from one menu, moving directly from one game’s completion to the next one’s beginning. Yes, there’s no question about it. This is, hands down, the quintessential Halo collection, and one that any fan of the series – from the most casual players to the most hardcore tournament winners – would be a fool to pass up.
I would usually end by saying something like, “and that’s all!” but if you paid any attention to E3 at all this year, you know how incredibly wrong that is. From Splatoon and Little Big Planet 3 to Bloodborne and an upcoming Star Fox and everything in between, there truly was something announced for everyone type of gamer last week. So all things considered, who won E3 in the end? Microsoft’s Phil Spencer said it best: “Gamers.“