The 15 biggest surprises of E3 2015

Fancy seeing you here!

E3 2015 has been a special one. Many assumed that much of the good stuff had leaked or been revealed early. We already knew about Fallout 4, Star Wars Battlefront, and Gears of War what else could there possibly be? And yet all the press conference holders managed to surprise everyone in some way, making this particular E3 a genuine thrill no matter what kind of games youre into.

So, weve decided to round up the biggest and best surprises of E3 2015. Why? Well, maybe you missed a few of these. Or perhaps you just want to bathe in the warm glow that comes from an dream game being announced. Or you just want to leave a comment grumbling about the continued absence of Half-Life 3. Fill your boots, buddy: here the 15 biggest surprises from this years E3.

Final Fantasy 7 remake is real

If everythings a dream, dont wake me. Cloud had the right of it way back in 1997. A remake of the timeless Final Fantasy 7 has always seemed like a pipe dream for fans the world over, and yet, here we are. Its actually happening.

While we may not have seen their faces, Cloud, Tifa and co will be returning to Midgar in a full remake that sees a far more modern take on the Mako reactor-run city. The skyscrapers may look a lot more pristine than the boxy ones we remember on PS1, but the dingy streets of the Sector 7 slums and that barren playground filled with memories of Aeris capture the spirit of FF7 in way I only thought possible in feverish fanboy dreams.

Platinum Games is making a new Nier

This was the first time that Square Enix has had its own E3 press conference in quite a while, but you wouldn't know it from the show itself: most of the publisher's big announcements were actually at the Sony show the night before. Still, there was at least one pleasant (and not completely undefined) surprise: a new Nier, coming from Platinum Games.

The untitled sequel (or prequel or side-quel or whatever it actually is) to the cult hit JRPG looks to star a white-haired young woman with a nice, sharp sword, but that's pretty much all we know for now - it's still super early in development, and we'll apparently learn more in fall. Still, the original Nier had some really cool ideas and a surprising story scattered amongst its many stumbling blocks, so hopefully Platinum can go back and do the premise justice.

Shenmue 3 gets Kickstarted

The chances of this actually happening were always somewhere between England winning the World Cup and The Last Guardian actually being shown off. And Yu Suzuki teasing a picture of a forklift truck by saying he'd 'found this at E3' just seemed to be the trolliest thing he could have done. We've been hurt too many times before. Indeed, evidence suggests there was a story on this very website in 2005 saying that Shenmue 3 was likely to be announced later that year. Bollocks.

And even when Yu Suzuki himself took to the stage and asked for people to back Shenmue 3 on Kickstarter, it still seemed like the game would be thwarted. Surely there aren't enough people that care to be able to fund a $2 million game on Kickstarter? To everyone's immense surprise (probably Suzuki's too), the game hit that target in mere hours. And now it's happening. Shenmue 3 is happening. Time to put in a betting slip on England, just in case

The Last Guardian resurfaces

Some of us never gave up hope of seeing The Last Guardian again. Even as the years ticked by, and Fumito Ueda left the project, some of us still believed that the game was actually fundamentally complete - it just needed finishing and, perhaps, porting to PS4.

Well, it looks like that is exactly what's happened. And Ueda-san himself was even in the audience to take a bow. Granted, the game still looks a little last-gen (another surprise, eh?) and I'd bet anything that you will get unintentionally killed by an overly-affectionate nuzzling giant rat thing pushing you off a precarious walkway more than once. But if it can capture even 50% of Ico or Shadow of the Colossus' magic, then that can all be excused. Some of us (the same ones, admittedly) still believe this could be another classic. But its existence is enough, either way.

HoloLens actually got shown (and is impressive)

This whole VR thing seems to be getting out of hand. Oculus, Sony, Valve, and now Starbreeze are all making their own headsets that attempt to put you inside the action like a Keanu Reeves film (take your pick). But when Microsoft finally showed us what HoloLens can actually do (and with Minecraft, no less!), our jaws were suitably dropped.

Instead of putting you inside the game, Hololens puts the game in the real world. It's like those AR Cards that come with your 3DS, but by strapping the visor on, your entire field of view can display game objects in your living room. Microsoft demonstrated this by giving us a bird's-eye view of a world inside Minecraft. You can interact with the world like some digital god, picking up, moving, and placing new objects, peeking your head inside buildings, raising the world up to look underground, and even summoning lightning strikes. It's an impressive tech demo, and we can't wait to see what comes next for HoloLens.

South Park is getting a sequel

This was a hellacious undertaking much more than when we signed up for it. So said Matt Stone, co-creator of South Park: The Stick of Truth, back in March 2014. Given the rocky history of the South Park game (which switched publishers, and got multiple delays that meant it released onto old hardware, post-PS4/XO launch) a sequel seemed near-impossible. And yet we got news of a second game, Fractured But Whole (lol etc) at Ubis press conference.

In fact, Ubi is clearly both proud and confident of the series, as it decided to open the whole press conference with the reveal. And quite rightly so: Stick of Truth is an impressive RPG that flourished on supposedly old tech last year. So, its a surprise that a sequel exists - given the history - but a very, very welcome one.

Bowser and Donkey Kong coming to Skylanders

Skylanders toys are incredibly popular. Amiibo figures are incredibly popular. So, like mixing peanut butter and chocolate to make a delicious (if terribly fattening) snack, Nintendo and Vicarious Visions are teaming up to bring Nintendo characters Donkey Kong and Bowser to Skylanders: SuperChargers. The iconic ape and turtle ... thing ... will be equipped with new gear such as a flaming warhammer, and will also be compatible with unique vehicles in which to ride.

What made this partnership even more surprising is that back when Skylanders was little more than an idea, Nintendo rejected the idea of publishing the toys-to-life game. Now that the genre has become deeply ingrained into popular culture, it looks like Nintendo and the Skylanders franchise are ready to kiss and make up. It's heartwarming, really.

Xbox One is going backwards compatible

Honestly, this thought must have crossed every Xbox One owner's mind as they stare at their collection of Xbox 360 games starting to collect dust on the shelf. We've only got so many HDMI ports on these tellies, you know. But then, totally out of the blue, there it is: an announcement that Xbox One will have full backwards compatibility. And you don't have to pay anything extra for content you already own.

Of course, it's a rather lackluster line-up of games that are supported at present. And the chances of getting OutRun Online Arcade snapped alongside Game of Thrones is unlikely due to the license expiration issue. And you don't really play the games off the discs you own - you put them in and then download the game in question to your hard drive. But even so, it's way better than nothing and put a big smile on a lot of faces.

Rare is making an actual new game

And before you ask, no, it's not a Conker semi-sequel exclusive to Project Spark (thank God). Sea of Thieves is the pirate MMO you've wanted ever since you mirthfully tittered at Jack Sparrow's antics in Pirates of the Caribbean, and it looks to have that trademark Rare spark of whimsy and adventure that made us fall in love with the developer back in the day. The lush, tropical environments and seafaring exploration shown in the debut trailer will shiver your timbers, even if that sounds like a massive HR violation.

What we saw of Sea of Thieves during Microsoft's press conference at E3 2015 looks like the all-ages version of Assassin's Creed 4: Black Flag infused with even more vibrant color and a hint of the supernatural (i.e. a bunch of swashbuckling skeletons). And if the online collaboration works as advertised, starting up a pirate crew of your very own should be an incredible experience, even if the captain puts you on on poopdeck-swabbing duty between battles.