The biggest event in video gaming has come and gone, leaving a trail of dust, sore thumbs, and exhausted gamers in its wake. From long-awaited looks at games like Kingdom Hearts III and Death Stranding to unexpected reveals of titles like Halo Infinite and The Elder Scrolls VI, E3 2018 was jam-packed with more than 60,000 people testing out the latest and greatest video games that will be coming out in the months and years ahead. Once again, it was Nerdist's enviable task to find the best of the best.
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.
The Ink Spots don't want to set the world on fire, but you and dozens of other people can in the always-online multiplayer West Virginian wasteland of Fallout 76. While some naysayers are lamenting the fact that Fallout 76 isn't a traditional single-player RPG, the opportunity to explore the mountains of West Virginia alongside other human-controlled survivors is a unique way to expand upon the core systems that make Fallout such a compelling experience in the first place. The prospect of having a blank slate on which to carve your epic, post-apocalyptic story of building up colonies, battling mammoth monsters, exploring the ruins of an old world, and even launching nuclear strikes on your enemies is so full of seemingly limitless potential that we half expect it to be a Jet-induced fever dream. But it isn't, and it will be a reality come November 14.
Shadow of the Tomb Raider
Image: Square Enix
With 2013's reboot of Tomb Raider, Lara Croft got a sorely needed update for a modern era of gaming. The iconic character was reimagined as a whip-smart novice explorer setting out on her very first adventure. What she found on the island of Yamatai was death, despair, and a frantic battle for survival. It was a crucible that hardened her into a hero, and you felt the weight of every life you took as you desperately tried to rescue your friends and save yourself. Flash forward to 2018 and we're on the cusp on the third installment of the modern Tomb Raider series and this is a very different Lara than the one we first met. She is self-assured, dangerous, and driven—perhaps to the point of no return. She'll need to be if she wants to prevent a Mayan apocalypse from destroying the world. What happens in Shadow of the Tomb Raider may surprise you, but it should come as no surprise that the gameplay remains as crisp, addictive, and deeply satisfying as ever.
Assassins Creed: Odyssey
If Assassin's Creed: Origins breathed new life into Ubisoft's long-running historical action-adventure series, then Assassin's Creed: Odyssey is like the adrenaline needle that wakes Uma Thurman's Mia Wallace from her stupor in Pulp Fiction. While the Ancient Greek setting is cause enough for celebration in and of itself for many fans, the inclusion of multiple playable protagonists, branching dialogue options, revamped combat mechanics, and romance options are a revelation. Odyssey pushes the series further into RPG territory and making a resounding statement that Ubisoft isn't sleepwalking their way through this franchise. After spending an hour exploring its massive world, though, I can't say the same for myself as I'm predicting many, many late nights spent skulking through ancient temples, taking down unscrupulous power brokers in the name of justice, and turning the tide of the Peloponnesian War one mission at a time.
Kingdom Hearts III
Image: Square Enix
This isn't some sort of cruel prank. It's not an elaborate joke. This is most definitely not entrapment. It's Kingdom Hearts III and it is a very real video game that is finally coming out on January 25, 2019 after more than 10 years in development. And based on what we played at E3, good things come to those who wait. With increased party size, bold new worlds to explore, revamped AI, and overhauled combat mechanics, Kingdom Hearts III is poised to be the best entry in the franchise to date. While its storyline may seem arcane and impenetrable to the outside world, Kingdom Hearts III is a long-awaited love letter to fans of the series, promising the genuinely bonkers Disney-meets-Final Fantasy crossover action you know and love, as well as the labyrinthine storytelling that makes it such an incredibly unique game.
Image: CD Projekt Red
Long before I ever played Dungeons & Dragons, I was introduced to the wonderful world of tabletop role-playing games through a weird, wild game called Cyberpunk 2020. Created by Mike Pondsmith, it was a loud, stylish, and brutal world set in a dark vision of the future where megacorporations rule the world and violent gangs rule the streets. Now it is finally making the leap to video games in the form of CD Projekt Red's Cyberpunk 2077. First announced in 2012 (before The Witcher 3, even), Cyberpunk 2077 came to play at this year's E3 with an hour-long guided demo that showcased the open-world, first-person RPG in all of its gritty, grimy glory. Set in the fictional dystopian metropolis of Night City, California, Cyberpunk 2077 is a world of infinite possibility, all driven by the player. From how you customize your weapons to the cybernetic implants you put in your body to the myriad ways you choose to accomplish a mission, the choice is yours. And in this world, choices have dire consequences. Stunningly rendered, lovingly crafted, and beautifully executed, Cyberpunk 2077 is already shaping up to be the game of the year whenever it comes out. Here's hoping that we won't have to wait until 2077 to actually play it.
Bloodstained: Ritual of the Night
Image: 505 Games
For anyone yearning for a return to the 2D-animated gothic platforming glory of Castlevania: Symphony of the Night, then look no further than Bloodstained: Ritual of the Night. Not only is Bloodstained a spiritual successor to Symphony of the Night, but it was made by the same person, Koji Igarashi. The Kickstarted game is full of all manner of monstrous beasts, sprawling stages, and a massive arsenal of weaponry with which to send your demonic foes back to the nether realm whence they came. Bloodstained feels like classic Castlevania in the best way possible while still retaining a flavor all its own. Much like Fortnite surpassed PlayerUnknown's Battlegrounds as the reigning king of battle royale games, Bloodstained is poised to become the our go-to game for sidescrolling, monster-slaying action. There's nary a Belmont in sight, but it doesn't bother us one bit. We have a new Ritual to perform and we can't wait to see it in its final form.
Ghost of Tsushima
Image: Sucker Punch Productions
As someone who studied Japanese history in college, Ghost of Tsushima—based on the real-life Mongol invasion of Japan and, more specifically, Tsushima Island—this game could not be any more up my alley. Sucker Punch Productions leaves the superpowered world of Infamous behind to travel back to 13th century Japan in a gorgeously rendered open-world adventure game that puts you in the well-worn armor and sandals of Jin Sakai, a samurai coming to grips with the fact that life as he knows it has come to an end. Forced to grapple with not only foreign invaders slaughtering and enslaving his people, but also with redefining his own identity as a samurai, Jin must fight for the people and himself in order to save the day. It is a beautiful land pockmarked by acts of violence, filled with lush vistas, verdant forests, and all manner of breathtaking sights. Yet at the same time, it is a world of "mud, blood, and steel," according to studio co-founder Chris Zimmerman, that will place you in deadly situations, which coincidentally is where the game's fluid combat mechanics really shine. Whether you're taking part in a massive battle against an army of Mongol soldiers or squaring off in a classic duel between samurai, Ghost of Tsushima is an elegant, dazzling experience and looks like a promising new series that we can't wait to explore.
Super Smash Bros. Ultimate
Perhaps the most "no duh" entry on this list, Super Smash Bros. Ultimate is a gigantic, electrifying game that feels less like the latest entry in a series and more like an epic event in which fighting game aficionados, Nintendo nuts, and people that just want to inhale their friends into Kirby's gaping maw before walking them to their doom can take part. Super Smash Bros. Ultimate doesn't reinvent the wheel; rather, it's like a hearty helping of comfort food. It's giving you exactly what you want, and LOTS of it. Case in point, Ultimate includes every character who has ever appeared in a Super Smash Bros. game including a few new faces like the long-memed Ridley, Metroid's iconic space dragon. The controls will feel instantly familiar to anyone who has played before, but like every Smash Bros. game, there is a whole world of complexity waiting to be unearthed beneath its bright, bubbly surface.
Resident Evil 2 Remake
Returning to Raccoon City has never felt or looked so good. The classic PS1 title gets a complete graphical and mechanical overhaul in this exceptionally creepy remake. They didn't just slap a new coat of paint on Resident Evil 2 and call it a day; rather, it has been completely rebuilt to be optimized for modern consoles, and that includes a sorely needed improvement to the game's infamously janky camera. While you can't use it to cheese around corners, you have a greater freedom of movement with your perspective that manages to make the game feel modernized while still preserving the thrills and chills lurking around every corner. Seeing a zombie's jaw detach from its face, with glistening sinews rendered in stunning HD was a sight I never hoped to behold, but I'll be damned if it wasn't pretty to look at. For longtime Resident Evil fans, this is a lovingly crafted treat. For those who have never experienced the original Resident Evil 2, well hold on to your butts because one of the best survival horror experiences of all time just got even better.
Image: Insomniac Games
Spider-Man, Spider-Man, does whatever a spider can... and in Insomniac Games' Spider-Man, you can do exactly that. Much like Arkham City let you feel like Gotham City's Dark Knight, exploring an open world and taking on a vast array of iconic foes, Spider-Man is a transformative experience and one of the most addictive games I have played in a long time. Swinging around New York City, I couldn't help but feel as though I was letting Uncle Ben down a little bit. Not because I was using my powers for evil, but because I was actively ignoring crimes in favor of exploring the gigantic world Insomniac has built. With traversal mechanics second to none, an addictive and surprisingly deep combat system, and enough easter eggs and deep-cuts to keep any Marvel fan more than satisfied, Spider-Man is looking like the definitive superhero video game experience. With great power comes great responsibility, and it's going to take a lot of great responsibility on my part this September not to ignore all my real-world duties in favor.
Best in Show
The Last of Us Part II
Image: Naughty Dog
One would be hard-pressed to name a video game with more emotional resonance than the soulful, harrowing post-apocalyptic survival story of The Last of Us. Following it up seems like a Sisyphean task, but the talented team at Naughty Dog is more than up to the task if their E3 presentation during Sony's press conference is any indication.
Catching up with Ellie some five years after the events of the previous game, The Last of Us Part II is one of the few gaming experiences at E3 that made my jaw physically drop, both from joy and from utter horror. A perfect example is when Ellie is reluctantly slow-dancing with a friend, Dina (Westworld's Shannon Woodward), and feeling uncomfortable in her own skin when Dina suddenly pulls her closer for a kiss. The camera pans around to the back of Ellie's head, dissolving to reveal Ellie slashing a man's throat in the forest.
These moments of beauty juxtaposed with jolts of brutality are The Last of Us Part II in a nutshell. They speak to the core experience of the game: trying to eke out a meaningful existence in a world full of monsters lurking around every corner. But it wasn't just meant to be an emotional, moving cinematic showcase; hidden in plain sight within the trailer were a score of new gameplay innovations which will build upon the original game's rock solid foundation. While there's no confirmed release date at this time, The Last of Us Part II reassured us that no matter how long it takes, it will be well worth the wait.
What did you think of The Last of Us Part II? Is it enough to get you to sign up for the sequel? Let us know in the comments below.
Featured Image: Naughty Dog
Stay tuned to Nerdist all week long for the latest and greatest in E3 coverage.
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