Every year, the Electronic Entertainment Expo (E3) provides an opportunity for game companies to make spectacles of themselves, and several did just that last week at the Los Angeles Convention Center.
Nintendo transformed its booth into New Donk City—a location from its upcoming release Super Mario Odyssey—with Mario’s famous hat and mustache plastered on statues of his enemies. Giant dragons roamed the room, and PlayStation sent Spider-Man atop a life-size helicopter.
The real spectacle, however, was the record number of attendees—some 68,000 in the event’s first year with public access. Lines for Super Mario Odyssey ran close to three hours, with Sony’s app-controlled queue booked solid throughout.
Arguably more valuable than the show floor itself, the pre-E3 press conferences were a whirlwind of new-game announcements and gameplay trailers. Among the most promising upcoming titles: BioWare’s futuristic, sci-fi-focused Anthem and EA’s fantastic-looking prison escape, A Way Out. Microsoft officially named its new console, the Xbox One X ($499), while unveiling new games Metro Exodus, State of Decay 2 and The Last Night. Bethesda previewed sequels to Wolfenstein and The Evil Within, and the PC Gaming Show spotlighted one of its own, Total War: Warhammer 2.
For Ubisoft, legendary Nintendo designer Shigeru Miyamoto introduced collaboration Mario + Rabbids: Kingdom Battle, Far Cry 5 got a gameplay demo and fans saw a CG trailer for Beyond Good and Evil 2. Nintendo’s pre-recorded release opened with news about new Yoshi, Kirby and Fire Emblem games, plus a teaser for Metroid Prime 4.
Sony provided updates on such 2016 reveals as Uncharted, Destiny 2 and God of War. Days Gone and Spider-Man were demoed, and a rumored Monster Hunter console game was officially announced. Through it all, though, the clear press-conference highlight remained the gameplay footage from Super Mario Odyssey, set for an October 27 release. I got a chance to try that one, and several more.
Super Mario Odyssey I broke several appointments waiting for a turn with E3’s hottest ticket (apologies, The Crew 2!), and it was well worth it. I haven’t felt this good triple-jumping and ground pounding since 1996’s Super Mario 64, and the new cap possession mechanics are easy to pick up.
Destiny 2 Presented in 4K and at a rock-solid 60 frames per second, Destiny makes the leap from PlayStation 4 to PC with ease. Everything felt right in this first-person shooter—the level design, the enemy AI and the spot-on combat.
Assassin’s Creed Origins The latest Assassin’s Creed seemed like more of the same, with small improvements to visuals and what felt like significant setbacks to combat.
Sea of Thieves This jolly pirate adventure has you searching for treasure and fighting off rivals, as fun as it sounds. It’s still in early alpha, so there’s a lot unfinished, but I’m optimistic.
Mario + Rabbids Kingdom Battle My skepticism over Mario’s second appearance—in Ubisoft’s Rabbids mashup—faded amidst beautiful art, strong tactical combat and surprisingly funny writing.
Forza Motorsport 7 I finally got my hands on the Xbox One X while demoing this one, which felt ultra-realistic in an almost unsettling way. A testament to the sheer power of Microsoft’s new console.
Star Wars Battlefront 2 I was hoping for a glimpse at the single-player story but had to settle for 20 vs. 20 multiplayer matches set in the dreaded prequel period. Still, the game looked and played well, sporting dynamic multiphase battles.
Moss Third-person PSVR games are usually a miss for me, but this adorable mouse adventure overcame my reservations, showing off an elaborately designed world with interesting puzzles and an endearing art style.
Call of Duty: WWII Last year’s Infinite War lacked innovation in multiplayer mode. Thankfully, this follow-up features impressive multi-objective battles and innovative level design, while maintaining the frantic combat style fans of the series expect.
Dragon Ball FighterZ Never have fighting mechanics paired so well with story source material. Fans of the long-running anime series finally get to control Goku and other favorite characters, and with lightning-fast combat and sleek transitions do full justice to the franchise.
The Artful Escape of Francis Vendetti Psychedelic landscapes, an infectious soundtrack and epic guitar battles made this indie game one of the most unique and interesting I played at E3.
Far Cry 5 The reveal trailer hinted at an interesting, new direction for the franchise, but the demo felt like more of the same—outrageous gunplay and bombastic action overshadowing the gritty realism.
Crackdown 3 A Microsoft rep assured me the go-here/kill-everyone demo was a scaled-back version of the game to come, but given the famously mindless nature of the serious, I’m skeptical.