We've been drowned by E3 2019 this past week, but maybe you only waded into the river of game reveals and new trailers up to your ankles. If you didn't get your hair wet, there might be some gems among the flotsam and jetsam that you missed. That's what this post is for: we've rounded up our picks for the best games of E3, based on our own impressions of either seeing the games behind closed doors at the show, or of watching the videos from the comfort of our homes.
Watch Dogs: Legion
Release date: 6th March 2020
What is it? Far Cry 2’s Clint Hocking is the creative director for this third-person shoot-and-hackathon set in a cartoonishly exaggerated but architecturally impressive dystopian London, populated by recruitable NPCs.
Nic: Despite the merciless, multi-day mock-a-thon that led to our Watch Dogs slang guide, I think it's fair to say Legion was one of the better showings this year. The 13-minute video demonstration gave a good sense of what the game was about, what it lets you do, how many geezers it was going to let you shank with a rusty Heinz lid etc. etc.
I remember having a chat with some squirrel or other about the last time the ubiquitous third-person formula adopted a genuinely new feature. The closest I can think of was Shadow of Mordor’s nemesis system, and that didn’t catch on at all despite being excellent. Now I write this, it seems odd to complain that a good, original idea wasn’t immediately stolen and replicated, but that’s where we are.
What I’m saying is: the 'play as any NPC' hook looks smart and I’m excited by it. I could start banging on about its potential to subvert the fundamental classism and exceptionalism baggage that comes with the standard hero's journey, but I will instead say: Look Out, Your Nan’s Got a Shooter. I’m into it.
Alice Bee: I am excited for a game set in London because it means I can finally play a game and complain about how totally inaccurate it is. The real railway bridge in Camden that says CAMDEN on it is actually way longer than the one depicted in game! Take that, Ubisoft!
Also, I really liked Watch underscore Dogs 2, and whispers from people who were actually at E3 suggest this one is looking really good, and I really to be a murder granny in it. Between this and Bleeding Edge, grannies are the real winners of E3.
Katharine: What I'm looking forward to most is a detailed comparison of Legion's London with the London in Assassin's Creed Syndicate. I bet you £20 it's the same map tarted up a bit. Take THAT, Ubisoft!
Seriously, though, any game that reincarnates the brilliant Nana from Far Cry New Dawn into a hacking pensioner gets a thumbs up in my books.
Alice L.: I absolutely hated the cockney accent that opened the trailer, but I smiled a lot when I saw Camden in the future. I spent a lot of my teenage years visiting Camden - as you’d probably guess if you knew how emo I was, am, and will continue to be until I am dead - and I’m excited to visit it in a game, even if the bridge is the wrong length.
Nate: As more and more information has come out about Observe Hounds: Army, I’ve devoted altogether too much time to chinstroking about the “be anyone” promise. Chiefly, I’ve been wondering just how big the pool of people the game will let you play as actually is. Turns out it’s probably around twenty, padded out with a bit of the old Sid’s Big Dinner (smoke and mirrors).
On reflection, however, I don’t think that matters at all. It’s a great feature, and feels like a neat way of translating the joy of RPG party member acquisition to a third person game - even if the pool of recruit archetypes was a lot lower, it would still be something I’m looking forward to.
Also, I can’t wait to hard roleplay the whole thing on stream as an army of Phil Mitchell clones, complete with shitty dubstep remixes of the Eastenders theme playing over the top of the game audio.
Alice O: If I can visit my old local, Stepney Fried Chicken, and once again hear cockney ladies haranguing the owner for more sauce, I will be content.
Release date: 22nd November 2019
What is it? The sequel to Id’s 2016 adrenal shot revitalisation of the FPS classic, Doom Eternal looks like another round of the same meaty, frenetic shooting, with the addition of a grappling hook.
Nic: I like Doom 2016 a great deal. If they made a Destiny-style looter thing but with Doom’s combat I would be homeless within the year. Doom Eternal looks like more Doom, so all they have to do to not mess it up is hopefully do something even a little bit clever with those naff political correctness jokes from the first gameplay trailer. “Don’t replace your already good and interesting themes with some dodgy anti-imigration rhetoric” sounds like an incredibly low bar, I know.
Alice O: I like the trees which look like alveoli in the land of bone-white buildings veined with red. Good trees.
Nate: I was also a fan of the creepy bones-and-blood citadel glimpsed in the trailer. I’m a sucker for the trope often deployed in cosmological pseudo-religious clusterfucks like this where Heaven turns out to be just as sinister and grim as Hell, but differently, and the consensus seems to be that this is what those particular visuals point towards.
I’m also kind of in love with the idea of the Invasion feature, in which you can take control of a demon and mob up with other people to invade other folks’ single player runs (with their consent). I’m bobbins at high-octane shooters like Doom, but I’m well into the idea of taking some cannon fodder guff-imp for a spin, and wading into someone else’s gunfire while cackling like a buffoon.
Video Matthew: I played this a week before E3 and had to pretend it was an E3 thing, so I’m giving it my ‘Best Of Pretend E3’ award. There’s a goofiness and spectacle to Eternal I really dig - it’s not selling out its arcade credentials for scripted cutscenes or anything like that, but adds scale and wonder to the world. This demo alone rips you from a UAC facility, across the fragments of a disintegrating planet - one point firing Mr Doom between rocks using an orbital cannon - and then down to the exposed core of Mars, where Hell architecture rubs shoulders with the most lurid lava I’ve seen since Mario Galaxy. Throw in monsters reverted to their Doom 2 designs, new fiends plucked from that sequel (popping Pain Elementals is a laugh) and a more acrobatic moveset to spice up the normally boring bits between battles and this is big, brash fun.
Katharine: I love me a good Super Shotgun, and Doom Eternal's Super Shotgun with a grappling Meat Hook attachment sounds exactly like my kind of upgrade. I loved the plain old Super Shotgun from Doom (2016), but I absolutely cannot wait to haul myself across Eternal's demon-filled hellscapes with it and deliver sweet, sweet double-barrelled justice to whatever unsuspecting soul happens to be on the end of that delicious meat grapple.
On to page two!
Evil Genius 2: World Domination
Release date: 2020
What is it? Sequel to an early 00s cult hit, this is a “world domination simulator” where you play a sort of 60s bond style supervillain overseeing their lair construction.
Alice Bee: My earliest forays into video games were playing the ones that my brother had (he kept all the game discs stacked in piles, outside of their cases, hnngg). Evil Genius was one of those, and it is and was a great little strategy sim, so the reveal of Evil Genius 2, first announced back in 2017), was a very cool thing to see and I am excited.
The premise is sort of Dungeonkeepery, in that you’re doing bad guy admin. So far we only have a CG trailer but there is a version with developer commentary that has given more details. They describe it as “60s spy-fi”, and go into more detail about the different unit types of minions you can have, henchmen you can recruit, and enemy agents that must be thwarted with traps. There are also returning characters from the first game, apparently. It sounds like Evil Genius But More, and I’m totally up for that. Like, why would you want to play as Bond anyway? That’s basically every other video game already.
Vampire The Masquerade Bloodlines 2
Release date: Q1 2020
What is it? Bloodlines 2 is a vampire RPG, and the sequel to probably the biggest sleeper hit on the past 20 years, Vampire The Masquerade Bloodlines.
Alice Bee: To paraphrase a famous Lord Of The Rings fighty boy, a day may come when I am not excited for Bloodlines 2... but it is not this day. While the pre-alpha gameplay video shown was a bit rough around the edges, I also think it demonstrated that the undead creatures of the night are defo putting their best foot forward. So I remain firmly on team vamp.
At this point we’ve had two looks at the game in action, with hints of branching quests and dialogue options, and two looks at the nighttime world of Seattle, with hints of gloom and fairy lights. But, as with exotic dancers, we have not been allowed to touch. The real test will come when we get our actual hands on it. Or teeth into it.
Alice O: All of this E3 chatter is based on our ideas and hopes of what a game might be rather than what it actually is, so: BLOODLINES 2, DUDES!
Read more: Brendan’s preview of the latest gameplay includes an excellent gif of vampire dancing, while Alice Bee has gone into detail on what she specifically liked about the E3 build. She also interviewed narrative lead Brian Mitsoda on one of the more controversial vampire clans, the Malkavians.
Release date: Late 2019
What is it? A Dwarf Fortress inspired space colony manager with colorful, detailed art and a procedural solar system.
Nic: “A bit like that Dwarf Fortress thing you’ve always wanted to get into but haven’t because you’re a giant wuss, but looks like a Playstation One-era JRPG” is all the convincing I need. I like space colonies, too. I enjoy the romance of the implied emptiness stretching off in all directions, like being stranded on a mechanical raft in a sea of gold-studded blackness. I like the idea of people flushing their poo into space. Your colonists are supposed to remember their experiences, form relationships, and all the other good stuff that breaks your heart when they eventually get killed by space pirates.
Nate: With the preface that gatekeeping of any kind is rubbish, I feel a bit of a duty - as RPS’ Dwarf Fortress obsessive - to question any game that earmarks DF as its inspiration. My inbox is groaning with releases about early access games claiming this birthright, and it’s nothing new. While some grow up to become Rimworld, and more power to them, others grow up to become Spacebase DF-9.
I guess what I’m saying is, Dwarf Fortress has some very satisfying colony-building features at its heart, but what makes it great is the fact it’s one of the most mind-shatteringly complex games ever made, and it’s not even half finished. Being inspired by it is great, but it doesn’t count for much without some serious legwork being put in after. That said, Starmancer looks lovely, has a great setting, and some very promising early content. Despite the challenge ahead, I wholeheartedly wish it every success.
Read more: Matt’s gone and done a Starmancer preview.
Baldur’s Gate 3
Release date: 2020
What is it? An officially licensed Dungeons and Dragons CRPG, and the sequel to one of the finest RPGs ever made.
Nic: Similarly to basically everyone whose parents owned a PC in the late nineties, I have occasionally allowed myself to fantasise about what a hypothetical Baldur’s Gate 3: Give Me Back My Gate might look like. I’m about to utter some piping hot heresy here, but I couldn’t get into Divinity Original Sin or its sequel. I appreciated the hell out of them though. Despite this, I’m incredibly happy Larian are the ones to get the license. We’ve already got Pillars of Eternity and a few others, so I’m well up for Larian just going ham on the fundamentals of what a Baldur’s Gate game actually is. Which (heresy 2 alert) I think was more down to limitations than actual vision at the time. Jaheira 4eva.
Nate: Baldur’s Gate 2 is one of the games I’m inevitably going to write a self-indulgent nostalgia post about at some point, and Divinity 2 was one of my favourite games last year, so it’s hard to see how this could go wrong, even if it delivers on a stolid, more-of-the-same mandate. I’m excited enough now that I’ll be happy to eat those words, should they end up fermenting and going bad.
Now to page three!
Release date: 2019
What is it? A surveillance-themed FMV game made by the same chap as open-ended murder mystery and “desktop thriller” Her Story.
Brendan: The E3 showfloor is a cacophonous chamber of noise and lights. Some of the hyper-decorated stands look as expensive as the games themselves - giant replica dragons of Monster Hunter, towering pagodas of Mortal Kombat. But tucked into a corner of the show floor in a tiny grey box for press demos was Telling Lies, and it was more interesting than any giant alien statue. The idea is basically “Her Story multiplied by 4” which is a bloody good idea by itself. You get a fictional desktop and have to hoke through video files using a search bar, like a nosy raccoon who has learned how to use an iPad.
The four main characters are often speaking to camera (it’s their phones and webcams recording them) and having a conversation with somebody else. But you can only hear one side of the chat. So it’s another tale about finding out what’s going on just by following your suspicions and typing “love” or “tooth” or “lie”. Except now you’re pairing up conversations, to see who is talking to who. Also, you can play solitaire on the desktop. That’s important.
Alice L.: I absolutely loved Her Story, and I was already excited for Telling Lies but now Brendy says you can play Solitaire on the desktop, I am absolutely sold. I love a good mystery, and I can’t wait to get stuck into this one. DI Liguori at your service.
Star Wars Jedi: Fallen Order
Release date: 15th November 2019
What is it? A new single player Star Wars story, set after Revenge Of The Sith, and made by wall-running fans and Titanfall developers Respawn Entertainment.
Alice Bee: I have a long history of both enjoying Star Wars games and wanting more, betterer Star Wars games. Specifically, I would very much like a big RPG. Basically I want someone to remake Knights Of The Old Republic. But I realise that is a pipe dream. And in fact, this one looks very much like Uncharted but, like, Star Wars Uncharted, plus the expected wall-running. I wouldn’t say that Jedi are known for a signature movement style (apart from Obi Wan dropping his robe like he’s a widow revealing her dress to a jaded private detective, not a serious master of his craft about to get in a fight to the death).
Despite my qualms, though, I will inevitably leap on this like Yoda leaping onto something much taller than Yoda is, because it’s a Star Wars game making all the right Star Wars noises, and it has a cute lil’ robot in it. It was one of the only things I managed to get a bit excited about this E3.
Alice O: What a good little robofriend. Why he has the Nathan Drake personality in this Uncharted-lookin' game while the protagonist has none is beyond me, but I'll take Drakebot. There's still time to make the robot the star.
Nate: Wake me up when someone remakes TIE Fighter.
Release date: 2020
What is it?: Sequel to a trippy 3D platformer where you conduct missions inside different minds. A Double Fine/Tim Schafer special.
Alice Bee: I have realised from doing this article that almost every game I am excited for from E3 has a description that starts with “sequel to...” Does this say something about the industry, or me? No time to answer that question now.
Until this weekend I would have said that this was an indie game, but shock horror, Double Fine is no longer an independent studio. Microsoft hoovered them up with their big green corporate hoover, and the hoover has the face of Phil Spencer and is wearing a blazer. This is an example of the kind of imagery you might find in a Psychonauts game.
As Raz, blockheaded psychic agent, you jump into different peoples’ minds and then keep jumping around them. I found the actual platforming in the first game floaty and unmanageable, which is a bit of a downer in a, y’know, platformer. But what was great about it was the weird, sideways imaginative leaps it took when creating psyches that you could walk around. It was also very funny. If what we’ve seen from E3 is to be believed, Psychonauts 2 has plenty of both of those. And teeth. Teeth! Teeth! Teeth! Teeth!
The Sims 4: Island Living Expansion
Release date: 21st June 2019
What is it?: Dolphins, mermaids, and conservationists all living harmoniously on an island. Pretty much does what it says on the tin.
Alice L.: Pretty sure I just heard the rest of RPS groan as I typed this in. But I like what I like, and I like The Sims 4.
Alice O: PUT ME IN THE SEA.
Alice L.: OK, everyone but Alice O. Island Living is basically the Sims 3’s Island Paradise but... better, at least so it seems. We’re going to have a new playable world in Sulani, a Polynesian-inspired world.
This expansion brings lots that are part land, part water, meaning your sims can dive straight off of their deck into the ocean. You can walk straight into the water, too - but only in this world, as that ability is not being retroactively added to the other ones, which only have lakes and rivers. Probably very grimy. There are dolphins to befriend, and mermaids are added as a new occult type, which I’m super excited to play around with. I might even make Alice O in-game as a mermaid. But really, the new build and buy items are the bits I’m most excited about.
There’s a few new careers, lot traits, aspirations, and sim traits to play around with too, and of course the usual Create A Sim new bits and bobs. It looks pretty full and well thought out, even including a new Conservationist career which directly links to Sulani and how pretty it looks, depending on how clean and well looked after the island is. I can’t wait to get my hands on it and create a living-off-the-land community who are pretty secluded and care about the world they live in first and foremost. My absolute dream.
Nate: I want to make a groaning, club-faced hulk who lives in a squalid shed with eight hundred crabs. The crabs don’t even respect him. They keep offering him cigarettes, then smacking them out of his hands and laughing. Every day at 2am, he lifts rusty weights and cries. Sadly, at least going by footage released so far, I fear that’s not an aesthetic this expansion will cater to.
Alice L.: Why you gotta be like this, Nate?
Read more: The Sims is the most haunted game in the world.
Release date: 16 April, 2020
What is it?: CD Projekt Red take a swing at Mike Pondmsith’s Cyberpunk universe to answer the question ‘what if Geralt was made of wires and stuff?’
Video Matthew: I know non-video Matt was cool on what he saw - and, full disclosure, I’ve not seen the behind closed doors presentation - but reading his, and others, feedback fills we me with a relief that, yes, Cyberpunk 2077 is a videogame that is going to exist. My mouth was left agape by last year’s demo, but I struggled to see how such a bespoke experience - basically the scripted stuff from a Call of Duty campaign dialled up to a million - was going to scale into a proper game. Or one where you weren’t just funnelled down glorious cyber-corridors. By all accounts the game proper sounds Deus Ex-y - you go in hacky-hacky or shooty-shooty - and if that’s hardly a (human) revolutionary idea, at least it’s a thing that can be delivered.
I’m a huge fan of The Witcher, and while a lot of that affection is down to that specific world, I think CD Projekt Red’s open world RPG quest design is best in class and I just want to see more of that in action. Though I do hope I’m cool enough to play it. Everyone in the future seems to have giant collars full of lightbulbs and gravity-defying haircuts; what hope is there for a Cybersquare who shops at Marks and Spencers and listens to the music of Randy Newman?
Alice O: Finally, a video game about my life.
Page 4 awaits!
American Truck Simulator: Washington
Release date: 11 June, 2019
What is it?: American Truck Simulator, in Washington.
Alice O: Frankly, I don't understand why this week we're expected to be excited about any games coming out in 2020 when American Truck Simulator just pootled over the state line into Washington. The Washington! In Truck Sim!
Read more: Check out Alec’s preview here.
Microsoft Flight Simulator
Release date: 2020
What is it? Microsoft's return to simulating aeroplanes seriously.
Alice O: Those clouds really are very nice-looking, and that water too. Could Flight Simulator be… the new Truck Simulator?
Nate: Every single time, I misread it as ‘Microsoft Fight Simulator’, and release a small sigh for what fight have been.
Read more: Have a read of this fun story about malware on a jet.
Release date: 2020
What is it? Our wee John Carpenter's The Thing escapes containment and munches everyone to become a far larger John Carpenter's The Thing.
Alice O: I am glad Devolver have picked this one up to help to launch because all I want to be is a horrible ball of flesh growing more powerful by absorbing the biomass of everyone in my way.
And in the game.
Nate: Here’s the Thing: after the majesty of Ape Out, I’ve got high hopes for another Devolver-published blood feast about a primal force busting out of containment and wrecking lads. It still probably won’t be my favourite bit of media riffing off what it would be like to be the Thing off of The Thing, but it looks like just the Thing for a bit of pixelated catharsis.
Read more: Check out our Carrion preview.
Fall Guys: Ultimate Knockout
Release date: 2020
What is it? Takeshi's Castle but a video game and without that final challenge where they'd drive sci-fi go-karts with water guns.
Alice O: The battle royale bloom introduced many to the idea that hey, perhaps it might be fun to play a huge multiplayer game you will also certainly lose. It took awhile to cotton onto the idea that this game needn't necessarily involve shooting faces off. I've been delighted to see experiments with oddball takes on large-scale eliminations in games like Tetris 99 (sadly on Switch, not PC) and, soon, Fall Guys.
Fall Guys is basically Takeshi's Castle, It's A Knockout, or other large slapstick gameshow of your choice. Here is an obstacle course. Here are all of you people at the start of it. Get to the end, if you can. I am very curious to see how this pans out, and what other future games might do too.
Read more: You can check out the announcement trailer here.
Final Fantasy VIII: Remastered
Release date: 2019
What is it? A spruced up version of the best Final Fantasy game ever made with swish new textures, but not a full-blown remake a la the new Final Fantasy VII.
Katharine: I was properly outraged when Final Fantasy VIII was shunned in that Nintendo Direct a couple of months ago announcing that VII, IX and X were all coming to Switch. "How could they forget the best Final Fantasy of all time!?" I cried. At the time I put it down to the baffling state of Square Enix's source code archives, as apparently the only bits of code they've actually got left of the original game are from the rather messy PC version that's currently on Steam.
But now it all makes sense. It's because they were hard at work on a new remastered version to make it look even lovelier (and hopefully a lot less buggy) than ever before, and I am well up for it. Sure, a big remake in the vein of the new Final Fantasy VII would have been even better, if you ask me, but I will take any opportunity to play one of my favourite games of all time again with crisp new polygons that look like they can cut you deeper than Squall's own gunblade.
Read more: You can read Katharine’s definitive ranking of Final Fantasy music, or check out Nic’s attempt to rank the Guardian forces by how much money they’d owe you after a night out.
Ori And The Will Of The Wisps
Release date: 11 February, 2020
What is it?: Artful ‘Metroid-like’ about being sad in the woods then jumping a lot.
Video Matthew: The original is probably my favourite Metroid-like. In fact, I’m going to start calling them Ori-likes. Will Of The Wisps appears to be going down the Godfather Part 2 school of sequel design: despite all his forest powers it’s unhappier times for Ori and pals, with a trailer delivering a rogues gallery of giant spiders and mecha-owls. These seem to serve a similar role to chase sequences in the first game, forcing our sprite hero to squeeze every drop of mobility from his moveset to dodge webbing, claws and beaks.
I hope that focusing on the big, noisy bits doesn’t mean the world has lost its more serene touch. A big part of the pleasure is being faced with a tangled network of forest-y obstacles and piecing together a solution from a collection of darts, dives and double jumps. I’m also hoping for new powers - previous preview builds have emphasised new combat abilities that, while definitely appreciated/needed, are not the main reason anyone plays Ori. Ori’s bash power - hijacking any projectile/enemy as a launch platform for a darting lunge - was the best platforming move to be added to the genre in years; I’d love to see Moon Studios surprise me again.
Katharine: I love me a good Ori-like as well, and while I haven't had the pleasure of playing through one of its preview builds yet, I do like the look of having more of those larger, screen-hogging foes to deal with. Mostly because they look like a proper nasty set of beasties compared to that naff, child-drawn spider friend Ori had in the first game, but also because they bring a welcome sense of scope and depth to its previously very flat 2D environments. Like Video Matthew, though, I do hope there are more surprises up Will of the Wisps' furry sleeves than just bigger, deadlier bosses. I loved Ori for its platforming prowess, not its limp combat, and I desperately hope there are more bash-tier movesets in store for us here rather than just a string of beefed up zappy punches.
Read more: Check out John’s Ori And The Blind Forest Definitive Edition review.
Release date: TBA
What is it?: A first-person time-loop shooter where two assassins are locked in eternal combat on a remote island.
Katharine: Time-loop games seem to be the flavour of the week right now, what with The Sexy Brutale winning hearts and minds last year, Outer Wilds being, well, pretty darn wild this year, and the domestic drama 12 Minutes coming out next year. Hopefully, the theme won't have worn thin by the time Arkane's Deathloop ends up coming out, because boy howdy do I like the sound of a Groundhog Day-style game from the chaps wot made Dishonored.
Admittedly, the trailer tells us naff all about what the game might actually look like when you're actually playing it, but the idea, at least, is a tantalising one, especially when each of the two assassins seem to have very different objectives in mind. One wants to break free of this endless death loop; the other wants to revel in it for as long as possible. I'm hoping that means we'll get two very different playthroughs as well, but it would be silly to get too excited about that until Arkane show us a bit more. And with no release date in sight, it could be a very long wait indeed.
And that's it! Excited about a game that was at E3 that we haven't highlighted here? Tough, sorry - you're only allowed to be excited about these games now. That's the law.
See our E3 2019 tag for more news, previews, opinions, and increasingly surreal liveblogs.