E3 2017: The Nerdist Best of E3 Awards

There are only three certainties in life: death, taxes, and the full-body hangover that comes from spending countless hours on the E3 show floor. The biggest event in video gaming got even bigger this year as it opened to the public for the first time, allowing 15,000 lucky fans to purchase passes to the previously exclusive, industry-only event. The 68,400 attendees were able to test out more than 2,000 products showcased by 293 exhibitors, and it was our enviable task to find the best of the best, wading through the muck and the mire to find the cream of the crop. After many hours of deliberation, spending extensive hands-on time with games on the show floor, and agonizing over which was worthiest of accolade, we have winnowed down the list to the 10 best games we saw at E3 2017.

The awards are split into two distinct categories, Editor’s Choice and Best in Show. Our Editor’s Choice seal of approval marks the most innovative, energizing, and genuinely fun titles we saw at E3. However, for that one game that rose above the competition to stand on its own, we have the equivalent of a high five wrapped in bacon: our Best in Show award. In a year with many very impressive entries, these are the games worthy of additional accolade as selected by our editorial team.

Editor’s Choice

Detroit: Become Human

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sAmKdZdfV1cWhat happens when machines develop emotions? This was a question posed by author and futurist Ray Kurzweil, and serves as the basis for French game developer Quantic Dream’s neo-noir thriller Detroit: Become Human. The game takes place in a world where androids are as commonplace as iPhones and are used to perform all manner of menial tasks, existing as a class of secondary synthetic citizens. Now they are achieving a manner of sentience and questioning the system that subjugates them, and you are in the driver’s seat of this burgeoning mechanical mutiny. With breathtaking graphics, a 2,000-page-long script, and compelling gameplay,  Detroit: Become Human is an expansive, engrossing experience that looks like it won’t just offer hours upon hours of entertainment, but cause its players to ponder some of the deeper moral and philosophical questions about identity, personhood, and free will that are fulminating below the surface. Every decision you make matters, and will have dire consequences that come along with it. Characters can die, the story can mutate in unexpected ways, and the only way to find out what else might have happened is to play it again.

Assassin’s Creed Origins

For the tenth major installment of its mega-popular Assassin’s Creed series, Ubisoft couldn’t afford to rest on its laurels. Rather than take us back to a familiar location or continue the narrative of an Assassin we’ve already met, Ubisoft Montreal is taking us back to where it all began: ancient Egypt. Assassin’s Creed Origins takes the series, quite literally, back to its roots as it explores how the centuries-long struggle between the freedom-loving Assassins and the fascistic Templars first began. Set in a stunningly rendered, open-world version of Ptolemaic Egypt, Origins puts you in the shoes—or sandals, in this case—of Bayek, a Medjay, who works to keep order in the realm and fight for the common people. With a robust loot system, refined combat that feels fluid and fast-paced, and a vibrant ancient world to explore, Origins is the freshest the series has felt in ages. While the hallmarks of a great Assassin’s Creed game are all in place, what makes Origins feel special is its potential to surprise you. Whether that comes in the form of shooting a flaming arrow at a barrel of oil to take out enemies aboard a heavily guarded ship or finding yourself in a life-or-death struggle against nature’s deadliest creation, the hippopotamus, while you’re swimming underwater is entirely dependent on how you play the game—and therein lies its magic.

Sea of Thieves

My timbers were well and truly shivered this E3 thanks to multiplayer pirate games like Skull & Bones and Sea of Thieves. Yet where Skull & Bones opted for the gritty realism that made it work so well in Assassin’s Creed IV: Black FlagSea of Thieves takes a far jauntier approach to being a scourge of the seven seas. It’s a game that lets you do nearly anything you can think of—provided you can think of piratical antics for you and your crew to undertake. You and your teammates can hoist the mainsails, batten down the hatches, prepare a plank to be walked, plunder that booty to your heart’s content, fight undead warriors, drink your body weight in grog, eat a banana like a goddamn monster, and so much more. It’s still a bit clunky in its current condition, but the premise of the game is so strong, so deeply silly and unreasonably fun that it cannot be denied. While Rare definitely has its work cut out for it between now and when it finally sets sail onto Xbox consoles, it is one of the most endlessly fun, uproariously funny gaming experiences in ages, and that is something to be celebrated.

Middle-earth: Shadow of War

When Middle-earth: Shadow of Mordor hit consoles in 2014, it reminded us why we fell in love with the rich, gritty fantasy of J.R.R. Tolkien in the first place, and washed the taste of those abysmal Hobbit movies out of our mouths. For the first time, it didn’t feel like we were just retreading ground already laid by Tolkien’s novels or Peter Jackson’s Lord of the Rings films; rather, it felt as though we were blazing our own trail through a new segment of Middle-earth’s expansive lore on our own terms. When I played the first game at E3, I meant to play for 20 minutes and wound up playing for 90. I’m proud to say the same thing happened with its sequel. With Shadow of War, the forthcoming sequel from Warner Bros. Interactive and Monolith Productions, the ante has been upped in every conceivable way to make a stellar sequel to a tremendous game. Whereas the first game offered the experience of being a solitary badass, a lone wolf stalking the plains of Middle-earth, Shadow of War recasts you as a burgeoning general, recruiting and commanding forces to wage war against the forces of Sauron and the Nazgul. With enhanced combat, the addition of an upgradeable gear system, and an overhauled Nemesis system (which allows you to dominate and recruit orcs and uruk hai as your minions), Shadow of War is shaping up to be “The Battle of Helms Deep” of this franchise, which is to say bigger, better, and more epic in every conceivable way.

Marvel’s Spider-Man

It has been a long, dark decade-and-a-half since we’ve had a good Spider-Man game. In 2004, Treyarch released a Spider-Man 2 tie-in game that proved to be the most authentic and joyful video game version of being Marvel’s friendly neighborhood Spider-Man to date. Now, Insomniac is finally ready to claim the crown of “best Spider-Man game ever” for its PS4-exclusive Marvel’s Spider-Man, which releases in 2018. The game looks and feels like the Spider-Man version of Batman: Arkham City you’ve always wanted. Set in a massive version of Manhattan, Spider-Man will let you swing around New York City, laying the smackdown on members of Spidey’s incredible rogues gallery with all manner of gadgets and fisticuffs, and strike a delicate balance between being Peter Parker and being Spider-Man. And the best part? Since it takes place when Peter is an adult—fresh out of college—so you won’t have to relive the trauma of seeing poor, sweet Uncle Ben die for the umpteenth time.

Far Cry 5

After four games of globetrotting, open-world survivalist action, Far Cry 5 is bringing its unique blend of FPS action and survival back to the United States with a new game set in a version of rural Montana that has been taken over by a violent doomsday cult called Eden’s Gate. Does its imagery evoke uncomfortable parallels to real-world political analogues? Yes. Does the main antagonist look weirdly like Jared Leto? Yes. Can you have an adorable dog named Boomer help you take down these gun-toting loons, then pet him for being a Very Good Boy? Oh, hell yes. With a vast open world to explore, teeming with dangers both human and bestial, Far Cry 5 gives you endless tools with which to complete your myriad missions, and does looks damn good doing it. Far Cry 5 is not a radical departure from the formula that has made the series a fan favorite, but it is an incredibly polished, vibrant, absorbing experience that I felt myself jonesing to play more of long after my hands-on demo ended.

God of War

“Why is Kratos such a daddy?” asked Tumblr, presumably. “Because he actually is a daddy,” replied Cory Barlog, creative director of Santa Monica Studio, also presumably. Influenced deeply by Barlog’s relationship with his own young son, as well as the countless parents on the Santa Monica Studio development team,  God of War is plumbing new emotional depths with its latest iteration while still delivering the blood-soaked, spine-ripping, epic action we’ve come to expect from the series. The game so nice we awarded it twiceGod of War is pushing the envelope in every conceivable way—narratively, graphically, mechanically—and the results are as breathtaking as the world serpent, Jörmungandr, rising from the depths of the ocean before Kratos and his son, Atreus. The next chapter in Kratos’ saga recasts him as not just a warrior, but a father too, and explores the difficulty in finding a balance between those two roles. While Kratos struggles to suppress the rage within and teach his son a better way of living, he must also teach his son the skills necessary to surviving in the harsh Norse wilds in which they now find themselves. As we’ll come to learn, being essentially immortal doesn’t mean you have to stop growing up.

Monster Hunter World

If using a grappling hook to swing around a lush, primordial jungle, and doing righteous battle with all manner of dinosaurs, dragons, and other gargantuan megafauna doesn’t sound like your idea of a good time, then I guess I never really knew you to begin with. One of Japan’s most popular franchises,  Monster Hunter, is poised to break big in the United States with the release of Monster Hunter World. What Capcom has created with its next-gen version of Monster Hunter is less of an open-world and more of a living, breathing ecosystem teeming with life. Granted, most of that life wants to rend your flesh from your bones and tear you limb from limb, but no one said it was going to be easy. Whether you explore this dangerous land solo or with up to three of your friends online, Monster Hunter World looks like a land in which we most definitely want to be lost.

Wolfenstein II: The New Colossus

While we never condone using physical violence to solve one’s problems here at Nerdist, there’s just something about punching a Nazi that feels like a time-honored tradition, both pop culturally and historically. And punching is just the tip of the iceberg of what you’ll be able to do to the Nazis in Bethesda and MachineGames’ Wolfenstein II: The New Colossus. You’ll be able to unleash flame-spewing mechanical dogs, turn them into a fine red mist with an electricity cannon, and blow them to smithereens with grenade launchers, too. Set in an alternate universe 1961 where the Nazis won World War II, The New Colossus puts you back in the shoes of B.J. Blazkowicz as you try to launch an insurrection against the Nazi regime occupying the United States. It’s alt-history pulp action at its finest and looks to build upon the sterling FPS pedigree MachineGames established with 2014’s excellent Wolfenstein: The New Order.

Best in Show

Super Mario Odyssey

You can sum up our excitement for Super Mario Odyssey in five words: Mario possesses a freakin’ dinosaur. But here are few more words anyway. From our first glimpse of Super Mario Odyssey, we felt a strange compulsion to play it, but we had so very many questions. What the hell kind of name is New Donk City? Why does Mario’s hat have eyes now? Wait, Mario can possess people? Is this game about Mario stealing free will? While those deeply philosophical debates are still raging hot and heavy in the Nerdist office, our excitement remains unabated, especially after getting hands-on time with the game on the E3 show floor. This time around, we’re leaving the well-worn territory of the Mushroom Kingdom behind to explore places unknown, and the results are so gloriously weird, so uproariously fun, and so full of secrets to uncover that we barely scratched the surface in the two levels we played. Like many games on our list, Super Mario Odyssey is a game that rewards exploration and experimentation, and offers a wide world to explore through the classic Mario mechanics you’ve come to know and love. While I still find Cappy, your sentient hat, to be deeply disconcerting, using him to take control of various creatures and objects in your environment or simply to thwack everything in sight is unreasonably fun. Video games are one of the ultimate expressions of play, and Super Mario Odyssey looks like it is going to be sheer joy distilled into a weird, wonderful little package.

Honorable Mentions:

  • Destiny 2: Activision and Bungie have upped the ante for their shared-world co-op FPS, and it’s looking better than ever. We can’t wait to play more this September.
  • Dragonball FighterZ: Our excitement level for this Dragon Ball Z fighting game is over 8,000. Sorry, anime fans, but we’re staying true to the source material on this one.
  • Life is Strange: Before the Storm: While you won’t be able to travel through time, this prequel to Life is Strange that puts you in the shoes of Arcadia Bae is one of our most anticipated summer releases.
  • A Way Out: A co-op prison break game? Lock us up, then sign us up!
  • Anthem: Is it the Mass Effect sequel we deserve? Only time will tell, but we are thirsty for more details about BioWare’s gorgeous-looking new sci-fi action RPG.

What were your favorite games from E3 2017? What would be on your list? Let us know in the comments below.

Image: Nintendo

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