Now that the dust has mostly settled and the backlash, whiplash and digital tonguelashing has slowed a bit, it’s time to collect our thoughts and dole out Nerdist’s 1st annual Best of E3 Awards! Together with our crack team of writers and editors, we collected our thoughts, loosened our Wiimote straps, and used advanced algorithms to determine what’s worthy of accolades at the industry’s biggest event. So, go ahead, watch our in-depth E3 coverage, crack open a cold one, and unlock the achievement of reading our first ever E3 Awards.
Best in Show
Titanfall – Respawn Entertainment (Xbox One, Xbox 360, PC)
In a marketplace dominated by sequels and yearly updates of popular titles, it’s a breath of fresh air to see a new IP that makes you utter a breathless, “Holy shit.” For me, of all the incredible titles at E3 2013, none elicited that reaction as did Respawn Entertainment’s Titanfall. A crazed mixture of Tribes-style team-based gameplay, Hawken/Mechwarrior-esque mech action, and Mirror’s Edge-worthy parkour, Titanfall is the multiplayer experience I’ve been waiting for. The sci-fi-themed multiplayer shooter exemplifies everything we love about the genre and manages to pack in two wildly different, but equally thrilling experiences into one unified package.
Starting as a soldier, you fight through traditional game modes – in our gameplay demo, we saw a domination-style map – but after a few minutes you get the ability to call down a Titan, the mammoth, titular mechs. Once inside, you are in control of a walking death machine, which we can all agree is the bee’s knees. The fun lies in the balance of these two gameplay styles amidst the backdrop of team-driven, objective-based missions, powered by a beautiful Source engine and running at an eye-popping 60 FPS. The competition this year was tough, but Titanfall towers above the competition.
Best Action Game
Watch_Dogs – Ubisoft (Xbox One, Xbox 360, Ps4, Ps3, Wii U, PC)
First unveiled at E3 2012, Watch_Dogs managed to steal the show once again with its stunning graphics, sleek GTA-meets-Hackers gameplay and expansive open world. Open world seemed to be the go-to game mechanic at this year’s E3, with everything from Dead Rising 3 to Mad Max to Metal Gear Solid V adopting an open world model, but it Ubisoft’s Watch_Dogs that rose to the top. As Aiden Pearce, you use technology to your advantage to stop criminals and societal leeches dead in their tracks. Whether its manipulating traffic lights to give yourself cover from a police chase, hacking into cell phones, or liberating funds from an ATM, Watch_Dogs puts an immense amount of power and an array of options at your disposal. Most of all, it looks like a total blast to use the Windy City as a weapon.
Best Adventure Game
The Walking Dead: 400 Days – Telltale Games (Xbox 360, PS3, iOS, PC, OSX)
Telltale’s episodic zombie epic, The Walking Dead: Season One, was the single best gameplay experience I had last year, so naturally, I was beyond excited when they announced a new forthcoming episode entitled The Walking Dead: 400 Days. While not a true sequel to Season One, 400 Days is meant to bridge the gap between the first and second seasons while maintaining the difficult choices, tense decision making and murky morality that elevated the first game from video game to interactive art. The title, 400 Days, refers to the game’s timeline, which covers day one of the zombie apocalypse all the way up to day 400, and the gameplay makes use of this shifting timeline as it covers five different scenarios that reflect the passage of time in the world.
At E3, Telltale showed off newcomer Vince’s story, and for all those concerned about whether they can recapture the magic of the first game, rest easy. The dialogue was humorous, heartfelt, and liberally sprinkled with moral quandaries, and they still know their way around a plot twist. Bloodshed and emotional torture are par for the course in The Walking Dead, and we can’t wait to tell Dan Connors, “Please, sir, may we have another.”
Best MMO Game
The Elder Scrolls Online – Zenimax Online Studios/Bethesda Softworks (PC, PS4, Xbox One)
Nearly two decades of amazingly in-depth single-player adventures and reams upon reams of lore has lead Bethesda to finally turn its already life-ruiningly addictive The Elder Scrolls series into what looks like a life-ruiningly addictive MMORPG. Square Enix’s Final Fantasy XIV: A Realm Reborn gave it a run for its money in the MMORPG space, but The Elder Scrolls has the edge when it comes to robust voice acting, depth and variety of story-driven quests, and an intense combat system that takes the game beyond the standard MMO grind-a-thon. Judging an MMORPG based off of a few hours of gameplay is, perhaps, a futile task, but Zenimax has the foundation of something great on their hands, combining familiar play mechanics, their fully-fleshed out world and action-intensive combat that is smartly being made available to both PS4 and Xbox One owners as well as the traditional PC crowd.
Destiny – Bungie/Activision (PS3, PS4, Xbox 360, Xbox One)
For months now, Bungie has been teasing us with glimpses and sidelong glances at their new game, Destiny. This year, though, our patience was rewarded, as the Halo makers treated us to a live gameplay demo of the expansive shooter. Implementing team-based Borderlands-style action-RPG gameplay, an entire solar system to explore, a towering social network, and more guns than you can shake a boomstick at make this one to watch. If the gameplay demo is to be believed, the “shared-world shooter” looks like it’ll incorporate the best parts of the FPS genre and community-driven MMO-style events like big group battles against screen-filling enemies to create an intensely addictive gaming experience.
Super Mario 3D Land – Nintendo (Wii U)
With games like Donkey Kong Country: Tropical Freeze and Knack vying for the crown of “Best Platformer,” the honor eventually went to one of the granddaddies of the genre: Mario. In his latest outing, Super Mario 3D World, Mario goes multiplayer, allowing up to 4 players on the same screen, combining elements from the oddball Super Mario Bros. 2 and recent titles’ fully 3D environments to create a gameplay experience that feels both intensely familiar and brand new. Throw in the addition of wacky new special items like the cat suit (we’re surprised it took this long) and Mario‘s signature gameplay, and you have a no-brainer of a purchase for the seemingly game-starved Wii U.
Best Role-Playing Game
The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt – CD Projekt Red (PC, PS4, Xbox One)
As awesome as South Park: The Stick of Truth looks, we had to pass over the fart-based RPG to heap praise upon CD Projekt Red’s The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt, which boasts over 100 hours of gameplay, a massive open world to explore, and the same nuanced branching storytelling and character development that has defined the series since its inception. In the demo we saw at E3, we tackled everything from a murder investigation to a battle against a ferocious forest-dwelling monster to some seriously difficult decisions that had deep ramifications on the quest’s outcome. Much like Skyrim dominated the RPG landscape in 2011, 2013-14 is looking like the Year of The Witcher.
Killer Instinct – Rare/Double Helix Games (Xbox One)
Of all the properties debuted during Microsoft’s E3 press conference, none received more rapturous, thunderous applause than the Killer Instinct reveal trailer. The brutal, animalistic combat is back, and pulling off double perfect ultra combos feels just as good as it did back in 1996. On the show floor, too, long lines wound around Microsoft’s booth as eager hordes of potential pugilists waited their turn to take control of Sabrewulf, Jago and Glacius and smile gleefully as their opponent wept hot tears when they delivered a well-timed counterattack to elicit the now-infamous C-C-C-Combo Breaker soundbite. Expect this game to ruin friendships and increase thumb blisters by 300% when it hits Xbox One later this year.
Best Strategy Game
Total War: Rome II – The Creative Assembly/Sega (PC)
When it comes to strategy games, it’s hard to beat Creative Assembly’s painstakingly detailed Total War series. In their latest outing, Rome II, they are streamlining everything from troop recruitment to diplomacy in order to make the game easier to use without sacrificing the depth of gameplay. Improved camera controls lend the epic battles a cinematic quality, as your legionnaires and phalanxes do righteous battle against barbarian hordes. For the armchair generals among us, Rome II is the tactically obvious choice for standout strategy game of 2013.
Best Sports Game
FIFA ’14 – EA Sports (PS4, Xbox One)
Whether you realize it or not, sports fans are nerds. Huge nerds. They’re just nerdy about eating nachos, drinking light beer, and poring over game statistics. (EDITOR’S NOTE: “Light” beer?!?) Throw a dungeon master’s shield in there, and you’ll see those differences start to fade a bit. At times, this category feels like it could easily be called “Best EA Sports Game,” but they have the market cornered for a reason: they do it well. For a perennial franchise that usually just gets a simple graphical facelift and updated rosters, FIFA ’14‘s Ignite Engine looks like it will provide a real, palpable sense of change to an admittedly fun, but sometimes stagnant series.
Best Racing Game
Mario Kart 8 – Nintendo (Wii U)
With intensely photorealistic, detailed racing simulators like Forza Motorsport 5, Driveclub, The Crew, Gran Turismo 6, and Need for Speed: Rivals on the way, it seems odd that we’d pick Mario Kart 8. Let me preface this by assuring you that I am, by no means, a Nintendo fanboy. Rather, Mario Kart 8 just has that magic formula that attracts casual and hardcore racing fans alike. It’d be easy for a storied franchise like Mario Kart to rest on its laurels in its eighth outing, but Mario Kart 8 continues to push the envelope by adding in anti-gravity and a Moebius strip-like course design to give the Mushroom Kingdom an MC Escher/Inception-like feeling and what we can only imagine is the craziest Rainbow Road this side of a peyote-induced spirit quest. Its easy-to-learn but hard-to-master nuance, brain-meltingly addictive gameplay, and continued innovations make Mario Kart 8 an obvious choice.
Best Downloadable/Indie Game
Transistor – Supergiant Games (PC, PS4)
One of the titans of the indie gaming space in recent years, Supergiant Games had a lot of eyes turned towards them as they unveiled their follow-up to 2011’s excellent Bastion. Judging by what we’ve seen of Transistor, their new sci-fi turn-based strategy game, they didn’t disappoint. With a deeply intriguing narrative, gorgeous design and next-gen PS4 graphics, Transistor took us through a mysterious sci-fi cityscape as we battled murderous robotic enemies. Throw in a talking sword-turned-narrator and you’ve got a recipe for Supergiant success. Again.
Best Sleeper of E3
Disney Infinity – Disney Interactive Studios (Wii, Wii U, Ps3, Xbox 360, 3DS, PC)
Combining the best parts of Skylanders and LittleBigPlanet, Disney’s virtual sandbox leverages its vast IP against the sheer possibility that a make-your-own-game game (“Toy Box” mode) provides. Although the advertisements look like weird fan fiction come to life, the game’s pick-up-and-playability and emphasis on imagination is laudable. Given the depth of Disney’s IP library, the potential for continued support, additional content, and user-generated content is astronomical. Microsoft is trying to give it a run for its money with Project Spark, but given Disney’s instantly recognizable cast of characters and obvious Skylanders parallels, this seems like a potentially massive family-friendly hit that’s been flying just under the radar.
What were your favorite games of E3 2013? Let us know in the comments below!
Additional reporting by Brian Walton, Matt Cohen, and Whitney Moore.