E3 is over, so as we board our flights back to real life, it's time for the Polygon team to figure out which games excited us the most.
We asked ourselves: If we could take home 10 games from E3 — magically finished and ready to play — right now, which would they be, and in which order?
Not surprisingly, there are a few games in these lists that keep cropping up: The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild, Dishonored 2, The Last Guardian, Persona 5, Spider-Man PS4 and Death Stranding, which was only presented as a cinematic.
But there are also plenty of curiosities and outliers in this list, demonstrating that E3 still has much to offer in terms of variety. Feel free to add your own list in the comments section.
Some of my best memories of E3 are staying up to watch the press conferences on a school night, then lying awake excitedly thinking about the new games I most wanted to play. Two of the most memorable announcements for me were Final Fantasy 15 and The Last Guardian, which I first got excited about all those years ago. It's pretty unbelievable to me that both games will be out this year, and that I got to actually play them — at the very first E3 I got attend in person, no less.
I have a soft spot for assassins. I really do. It's why I wish I were Widowmaker in real life, why I have an impossible crush on Altair from Assassin's Creed and why Dishonored 2 is my top choice from E3.
I gasped when I saw Emily in the very first trailer — I cannot wait to play as her. (Also, hello? Creepy shadow hands that can pull you towards your victim? Obviously.)
I Am Setsuna seems to be a quieter presence at E3, but in no way does that detract from my determination to love it like my own child. I always find myself wondering if a new game will capture me the way JRPGs did during their golden era.
There weren't that many surprises this year, but that's fine. There were more than enough games announced or shown that I want to play, and having a release date for PlayStation VR is great. I'm not sure what to think about the life cycle of the consoles being disrupted with mid-generation updates, but we also still know next to nothing about the upcoming PlayStation Neo, Project Scorpio or the Nintendo NX.
This was the E3 where a lot of very established games decided to completely shake things up. Call of Duty in space? Yes, please. Battlefield in World War I? Sign me up! Chivalry with magic? Hot damn! But Prey is my most wanted right now. I was a big fan of the first. I really liked the concept for what was meant to be the second. And this final, I hope, take on what the next game is meant to become is intriguing. I need to know how, why this is a Prey game. I need to know if any bits of the first or killed second games are in this. And what's up with that guy's eye? Is it some alien infection? Is it the byproduct of time travel? Is he a clone? Is it ... is it pinkeye?
Leaving E3 for me is always a bittersweet time. For one, I'm leaving behind a bunch of co-workers that I only get to see a few times a year. But also, I never feel like I've found enough great games that I want to take home with me right this instant. Not so this year, as E3 2016 offered a bumper crop of exciting titles.
The biggest surprise for me was Steep, the open-world extreme sports title from Ubisoft. I have enjoyed a few snowboarding games in my time, but this is something completely different. The multiplayer aspects of it, and the ability to play the cameraman — either live in-game or using replay features after the fact — speaks to me. It's a beautiful, nonviolent escapist fantasy, and I can't wait to see the retail release.
This year really surprised me. Games and series that I had long since written off returned, grown up, ready to be taken seriously again. From Resident Evil 7's newfound subtlety to Breath of the Wild's expansive take on Zelda, from God of War's thoroughly unexpected updating to a new Spider-Man game that ... actually looks great? These are games that, seeing those names on paper, would hardly catch my attention, but seeing them in action was entirely unexpected. None more so than Resident Evil 7.
After the huge disappointment of Resident Evil 6, which saw the franchise reach new cacophonous heights and new storytelling lows, I didn't expect much from any new Resident Evil game, and I certainly didn't expect what Capcom showed off during Sony's press conference: A first-person view, a notable absence of rocket launchers and a focus on actually making the game scary. Resident Evil 7 went from being a game I wouldn't care about to a game I can't stop thinking about.
This was solid a mid-cycle E3 that showed all companies making use of a few of their best and brightest — Zelda, Gears, God of War, Battlefield, Ghost Recon, Call of Duty, etc. But there was also a taste of hardware, with Microsoft's Scorpio and Nintendo's NX in the wind, a sense that the old cycles may be gone forever. I wouldn't normally include a game based on a cinematic, but it's Kojima and, oh boy, what a treat.
This was the first E3 in years where everything felt normal. We're far from the end of this console generation, but now we're also a fair distance from its beginning. The Xbox One narrative taught me that what we called next-gen hardware not so long ago is about to become outdated. The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild looks like the kind of gorgeous late-generation game that comfortable developers coax out of hardware they know well. In 2016, even virtual reality is a multi-year veteran in gaming's biggest week.
That's kind of sad in a way. On the other hand, this is the year where nobody is learning consoles anymore. It wasn't filled with tepid first steps that straddled generations, but with games conceived of and designed for seasoned hardware. That's exciting in a different way. At E3 2016, I realized that we haven't reached the end of this console generation, but we've reached the end of the beginning.
Overall, I think it was a really, really solid E3. There were some exciting games here, and a lot of them were playable — past E3s have felt like an ocean of cinematic trailers, which always tempers my excitement. The press conferences were, for the most part, pretty enjoyable, if not slightly spoiled by rampant leaks in the days preceding them. Also, NORMAN REEDUS HAD A BABY.
My biggest surprise was how genuinely excited I became for PlayStation VR. I'd been on the fence about the validity of worthwhile experiences for VR until I watched Sony's press conference.
However, Death Stranding is certainly the game that stood out the most this E3. I'm a big fan of Kojima's work and "marketing strategy," and Death Stranding pushed all of my buttons: new Kojima game, the return of Norman Reedus since Silent Hills' cancellation, a visually arresting trailer and an introduction to a new game that leaves far more questions than answers.
E3 this year was, for lack of a kinder phrase, absurdly disappointing. The lack of console news was unsurprising but still a bit of a letdown. The majority of big-name games were unexciting, and overall, I felt pretty underwhelmed.
That doesn't mean, however, that there weren't a few titles that caught my attention. The game I'm most excited for coming out of this year's E3 is For Honor. The Viking-inspired saga, which looks like it promises just as much storytelling as it does gameplay, is right up my alley. Not to mention it was awful purty. Even with the lack of innovation we saw this year in the conferences and on the show floor, I'm still excited about a few games coming out.
An oddly slow E3 that I think seemed more so because of how much of it leaked before the show even started. It's oddly reminiscent of the industrywide inhale before a new console cycle begins, which maybe makes sense considering iterative consoles are on the horizon.
That said, the entire event justified itself with the announcement of Spider-Man PS4. I've played nearly every Spider-Man game ever released, and to have a well-known developer like Insomniac in control for once is so exciting, especially if, as Marvel says, it means a new focus on gaming for the comic publisher.
Voting on trade show marketing is always a bit weird, since something like Death Stranding looks fascinating, but is just a short concept clip at this point. And is it fair to put that against Zelda, which has had a big team working on it for years? But I love that the industry is getting back to a place where big budget games can feel creative.
A few years ago, it was starting to feel like anything that cost more than $10 million to develop felt a bit soulless. And this year's lineup didn't feel that way at all. Here's what I thought stood out, some due to their concept, others due to their execution.
Much of my E3 giddiness was about returning to franchises I love: Persona, Mass Effect, The Legend of Zelda. These games have roughly nothing in common, aside from the ability to make my thumbs twitch in anticipation. I got my hands on Breath of the Wild for roughly 10 minutes just before the show floor closed, and it remains the best 10 minutes of my week.
There was more to be found at E3 2016 than my Big Three, however, from the absolute delight of Manifold Garden and its beautiful, brain-melting puzzles to the reveal of the next Resident Evil game (with VR, no less!). This was a calmer show than any I can remember; it was also my favorite to date.
There were certain games at this year's E3 that I intentionally didn't play, but did sneak a peek at, because a loud, crowded E3 booth is rarely the right environment in which to actually enjoy a game experience.
I want to take The Last Guardian and Breath of the Wild home with me right now, though I haven't actually played them. Others I played, like the surprising Resident Evil 7 and the delicious Titanfall 2, and didn't want to stop. The rest I'm just basing on pure curiosity: What the hell is Death Stranding? And since Resogun developer Housemarque is essentially making a new Smash TV with Eugene Jarvis, well, I don't know who wouldn't want that.
This year's seemed stuffed with some exciting prospects, like Quake Champions, Spider-Man PS4, Visceral's Star Wars game and Prey, but too little information on what those games will be beyond their slick trailers. It was a gorgeous, enticing E3, with far more to look at — for me, anyway — than I got hands-on time with.
This year was a blast. Between finally, finally getting to see what the new Zelda is firsthand and getting a handful of left-field surprises like Death Stranding and the Phantom Dust re-release, this is gonna be one of those E3s I won't forget.
The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild absolutely stole the show for me. It felt like the first piece of evidence in a long time that Nintendo is seeing the games other folks in the industry are making, playing them, and rolling valuable lessons from those titles back into its best games.
Breath of the Wild lines up so perfectly with what's in vogue in gaming right now — it's got open-world exploration, tons of player agency and experimentation, a huge sense of mystery, and crafting and survival mechanics. But it's still a Zelda game at its core, with all the polish and nostalgia that comes with that.
Sony's news conference was a parade of new concepts even if the game types surrounding them appear to follow a very familiar pattern (open-world action adventure with a strong, somber story). Sea of Thieves looked intriguing but I have concerns about its dependence on cooperative/competitive multiplayer, how to actually team up and get things done versus everyone plundering and attacking one another, and how long its lifespan can be (see: Evolve, a couple years ago).
FIFA 17's introduction of a narrative mode is a step forward for that sports franchise, though my inkling now is that it's a big wrapper for onboarding newer or less skilled players.
I'll echo what others have said in that this was a slow, relatively quiet year by E3 standards, but I also don't think that's a bad thing. More and more, publishers seem to be realizing that E3 is a place for your biggest triple-A announcements; revealing smaller titles at E3 just risks them getting lost in the noise. Leave it to Nintendo to bust out the biggest triple-A title possible with its reveal of the latest Legend of Zelda game. Everyone has their own reasons for being so impressed by Breath of the Wild, but I kept coming back to one fact: I grew up on Zelda games, and this will be the first one my 2-and-a-half-year-old son plays. That idea makes me grin.
I was raised on Nintendo. One of the first games I ever played was The Legend of Zelda on the NES, and the impossible, directionless nature of it made me feel like it was a game that I could play forever.
In recent years, Zelda games have gone down a different path, with more directed experiences filled with cutscenes and assistive dialogue. Breath of the Wild, on the other hand, looks every bit like that game I remember playing in the late 1980s. You're tossed into nature, given a puny sword and told to make the best of it. And goddamn it, I will!
E3 certainly felt subdued this year, and I was initially having trouble recalling what happened at the press conferences. But that was probably more due to Thursday-afternoon-of-E3 fatigue. Once I started looking through the big games of the show, I had a tough time narrowing my list to 10 games. Somehow, I come out of every E3 feeling positive about video games, excited to play the stuff that's coming down the pike. Especially Dishonored 2, which is the follow-up to one of my favorite games of 2012.
All of that is to say that while I'm definitely interested in new consoles — because I follow the industry and I'm an early adopter when it comes to this stuff — everything always comes down to games, and there were a lot of awesome-looking ones at E3 this year.
As one of the members of Polygon's staff whose job does not involve spending the majority of my time hooked into video game news, I wasn't expecting very much from E3 2016. Basically, I was looking forward to seeing a bit more of Mass Effect: Andromeda, and knew that we'd be seeing a lot of Link.
I was not expecting a 2016 release date for The Last Guardian, a brilliant-looking Spider-Man game, or that I'd be interested in a God of War game for the first time. My biggest takeaway from E3 2016 is probably "welp, I guess I'm buying a PS4 this summer."