Another year, another E3. With the next-gen consoles’ launch well behind us, this year’s conference shifted its focus from the hardware to the games themselves. This made for a refreshing glimpse into the future of gaming. Those of us at SideQuesting who attended E3 played an eye-bleeding amount of games. The rest read an eye-bleeding amount of coverage, eager to learn what we could about all the upcoming titles. Now that we’ve had a week to digest all we learned (and saw), we compiled lists of our top picks, awarded points based on those rankings, and identified which ten games received the most points.
Below, you’ll find the staff picks for the best games at E3 2014. Some games we had the opportunity to play; others are still in the stage of trailers and speculation. Nevertheless, we believe that these titles are the best of the best, and they bring us great hope (and enthusiasm) for this latest generation of console games.
10. THE LEGEND OF ZELDA WII U
“There are two keys to a successful Legend of Zelda game: the music and the world. Last year’s Link Between Worlds was the latest to successfully capture what the music could mean to the series, even including remixed and orchestrated versions within the game. Skyward Sword, the 2011 iteration of the series on consoles, tried to improve the world but only seemed to fall back on the same constrictions that previous installments have had, mainly arena rooms linked by hallways.
Thankfully, it looks like Nintendo understands the importance of the world design, and through the technical power of the Wii U can finally achieve what had been missing since the second Zelda game: an open world ripe for exploration and adventure. Many of us know the story of the creation of the series lying in creator Shigeru Miyamoto’s penchant for cave exploration as a child. With an open world that’s constantly moving and alive, anything and everything we see may finally be able to be explored.
Couple this with gorgeous art direction that mixes elements of Skyward Sword, Wind Waker, and Twilight Princess, and the next Legend of Zelda may end up being both a return to mechanical form and a pinnacle of Nintendo design.
While most of the game is hidden in a fog of unknowns prior to its 2015 release date, what we’ve seen so far may surpass the bar raised by our expectations.” –Dali Dimovski
9. RISE OF THE TOMB RAIDER
[box_light]”Lara Croft was my idol as a little girl, and the Tomb Raider series is a large part of what got me into videogames. Because of this, Lara’s words from the reveal trailer ring prophetic to my ears. ‘We become who we’re meant to be,’ she says, torch in hand, as she gazes at the expanses of a freshly-raided tomb. This seems to predict the future for the rebooted Tomb Raider franchise. Though its predecessor was initially plagued by controversy and ‘disappointing’ sales, this latest Tomb Raider title appears poised to rise above its rough beginnings and deliver another thrilling adventure. Rise of the Tomb Raider even stands tall among the other cinematic trailers at E3 on account of its very capable–and very human–heroine. With Rhianna Prachett returning as the writer and Camilla Luddington reprising her role as Lara, the franchise is becoming what it’s meant to be: a series with an adventurous heart, an inspiring leading lady, and a wealth of tombs to explore.” –Robyn Miller[/box_light]
8. RAINBOW 6: SIEGE
“Tom Clancy has a lot of cows, or at least one very large one. How else could you explain the plethora of games that continue to pour out of his franchises year in and year out? Last Year’s Splinter Cell: Blacklist was a marvelous time, fulfilling much of what we wanted out of stealth action, and it didn’t let the franchise down. This year we’re introduced to Rainbow Six: The Siege, a game that emerges from the ashes of the cancelled Patriots. It’s been six full years since the last new game in the series, and following up on the extremely popular Vegas games could be difficult.
Except it’s not. The Siege doesn’t always play like a traditional Rainbow Six. In fact it sometimes feels like SWAT, pushing us to take a small team into a small location to perform a specific mission. Rescue a hostage. Defuse a bomb. Take down a key bad guy. Where past Rainbow Six games dealt with large areas to explore and power through, Siege makes even breaking into a typical suburban home into an action-packed situation that can span (and spawn) multiple levels of battle.
It’s not expected until next year, but Rainbow Six: The Siege could very well be another successful and enjoyable experience in the series, and definitely one of the more memorable ones on the new generation of consoles.” –Dali Dimovski
7. SUPER SMASH BROS. FOR WII U
“One of the criticisms of Super Smash Bros Brawl was that it was too slow, dumping Melee‘s control scheme (and Gamecube controller) for something more Wii specific and accessible. Well, I think we can put to rest the fear that the Super Smash Bros for Wii U would follow that path, because from what we’ve played at E3 this year the game is every bit as hectic and tournament ready without abandoning players that just want to goof around.
The game launches everyone into a friendly play mode, but thanks to heavy amounts of tweakability (is that a word? I hope so!) it can be as fast and strategic as we want it to be. That’s always been the mantra of the series, and the newest will let fans adjust and adapt the game to their own evolution. That is, casual players can build up to deep levels, take on huge varieties of online play, and grow with the game as they see fit. This isn’t an “all in one basket” experience. Super Smash Bros for Wii U is possibly the deepest, most challenging and yet most accessible fighting game in years.
And it’s also extremely enjoyable, packed full of old and new characters (Rosalina and Luma, yay!) and gorgeous. Could we expect anything less?” –Dali Dimovski
6. FAR CRY 4
“Far Cry 3 is one of my all-time favorite games, so it’s best we just get that out there at the start. Something about the mix of constantly feeling like a badass mixed with the absolute absurdity of being able to set a bear on fire or hunt a shark with a bow really resonated with me. When I found out that Far Cry 4 will continue to bring that same flavor, I was already hyped. Now knowing that the game will amp up the absurdity, incorporating grappling hooks, elephant stampedes, and aerial vehicles, I’m all aboard the Far Cry 4 hype train.
Oh, and I’ve seen and heard various murmurs of yetis, and all I’ll say about that is this: if I get to hunt a Yeti with, a harpoon I can die a happy man.” –Tom Johnson
[box_light]“Cuphead is magical. I say that even though I don’t know how it plays or if it will be any good. What I do know, though, is that it looks freakin’ majestic. Its art direction isn’t something that has been popular in any form of media for, well, ever. As a hardcore animation geek, I nearly jumped out of my seat when I caught a brief glimpse of it during the ID@XBOX montage at Microsoft’s E3 media briefing.
When I saw a full trailer a few hours later, complete with what appeared to be gameplay and whimsical piano soundtrack, I lost my damn mind. It’s something you’d expect to see in a 1920’s nickelodeon cartoon, and it being a playable game in 2014 is mesmerizing. Cuphead quickly made the short list of things I was most hyped about coming out of E3, and I can’t wait to get my hands on it.” –Tom Johnson[/box_light]
4. METAL GEAR SOLID 5: THE PHANTOM PAIN
“Nothing really compares to Hideo Kojima’s 27-year-old Metal Gear franchise, a series that’s never let up on its delightfully zany plots, characters, and storytelling methods. Metal Gear games have always operated on their own terms, rarely taking pointers from other games of their time. Its greatest influence is that of the cinematic arts, and few developers have come close to matching Kojima’s deft hand at stylization.
At the VGA’s in 2012, audiences were gobsmacked by The Phantom Pain’s debut trailer. Back then, the title did not boast the “Metal Gear Solid V” moniker, but we all suspected its relation to MGS. Now, we know quite a bit about Konami’s latest, and the excitement still stands. The Phantom Pain may very well be the biggest redefinition the series has ever had — Konami has taken their stealth franchise to new grounds. Literally, too, as The Phantom Pain will feature an expansive open-world that lives and breathes like no other, one that will allow for unrestrained imagination on the part of the player. Combine this sweeping environment with stealth, and you have something very interesting.
Players will come upon building complexes in say, the middle of the Afghanistan desert, which are designed for you to infiltrate, and they’ll come upon it in a way that feels like a simulator. That goes for the entire game. This is the Metal Gear Solid of our dreams — the series’ entire history has been building up to this game. Metal Gear Solid has always had its players become fully submerged in this virtual stealth machine, a machine that plays by its own logic and rules, a machine that asks you to truly inhabit the role of Snake/Big Boss. Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain, should be the ultimate realization of that franchise goal, and it will be surrounded by an intriguing story that could only be conceived by Hideo Kojima — the man, the legend — and a style that will dazzle you for some time. We can hardly wait for its release later this year.” –Andrew Tennison
“The Halo franchise is one of the most influential first-person shooters, and it remains among the most beloved (and profitable) franchises. Destiny, Bungie’s latest brainchild,aims to rival this success and is unmistakably Halo’s successor. Some of the similarities are intrinsic, like a strange case of controller-borne déjà vu. Other similarities, like Destiny’s clone of the Needler, are more glaringly obvious.
These similarities are more of a boon than a curse. If anything, they amplify the degree to which the game feels like a mad melting pot of genres and Bungie-style verve. Destiny is equal parts action RPG and FPS with seamless multiplayer, and it has strong notes of MMORPG influences. Add a splash of space magic, wrap the whole thing in a shiny science-fiction wrapper, and you have a sense of the title’s alluring complexity.
I’ve already invested an embarrassing amount of time in Destiny’s Alpha Test. The majority of those hours, amazingly enough, took place after the measly level 8 cap. This alone speaks highly of Bungie’s latest project. Though the alpha was a brief glimpse into the world, that glimpse revealed a game richly multifaceted in its presentation. The Crucible offers the competitive, multi-player combat that many first-person shooter enthusiasts crave; the aptly name Explore mode has players seek out experience-granting missions, but it also captures the wonderment of free, uninhibited exploration.
Where Halo re-imagined the FPS genre for consoles, Destiny aims to break down the borders between first person shooters and their neighboring genres. Is it destined for success? That’s hard to say for certain, but its prospects are looking very bright. ” –Robyn Miller
2. THE WITCHER 3: WILD HUNT
“Each installment of The Witcher gets bigger and bolder. The Wild Hunt doesn’t look to step away from that path, offering a grand third act for the gravel-voiced, downtrodden Geralt of Rivia. With an impressive open world, a slew of new features and mechanics, and a broader cast – the addition of two women long hinted at chief among them – Geralt’s swan song is poised to be one of the RPGs to beat in 2015.
February might be a long way away, but we’ll eventually climb that distant mountain, and maybe slay a few griffins along the way.” –Dylan Sabin
1. NO MAN’S SKY