15 essential, lesser-known games from E3 2017 - from Absolver to Wargroove

E3 is the place to be if you want to see some of the biggest and most explosive video games currently headed to consoles. But between all the Call of Dutys and God of Wars are a treasure trove of smaller, lesser-known games that may not get as much fanfare, even though they're still worthy of attention alongside those multi-million-dollar games. We've rounded up some of our favorite unsung games you may have missed among the E3 2017 games, from console ports of indie PC darlings to sumptuously animated JPRGs.

Absolver

Platform(s): PS4, PC
Release Date: August 29, 2017

Why is it so interesting? Absolver is a different sort of fighting game. It's less about mastering ridiculously lengthy button combos and more about reading the flow of combat, changing your stance, and responding to your opponent in kind. The third-person battles are fluid, and they're rounded out by a loot system and combat style customization that let you make your fighter distinctly your own. All of this is wrapped in a story set in a ruined world, where you'll team up with other players online to complete quests and take down foes. David Roberts

13 Sentinels: Aegis Rim

Platform(s):  PS4, Vita
Release Date: TBD

Why is it so interesting? It's not just you - the subtitle Aegis Rim is meant to evoke the giant mechs and human drama of Pacific Rim, because this gorgeous 2D sidescroller deals with those same key themes. Developed by Vanillaware and illustrated in George Kamitani's distinct, painterly art style, 13 Sentinels is being teased as a bleak but fantastical near-future story of 13 people who bond together on the day of mech-borne destruction. It looks like a mix of Odin Sphere, Danganronpa, and Robot Alchemic Drive - definitely one to watch. Lucas Sullivan

Vampyr

Platform(s): PS4, Xbox One, PC
Release Date: November 2017

Why is it so interesting? Being a vampire sucks. No. Seriously. Puns aside, it just does. Vampyr, from DontNod (the team behind Life is Strange), plunges you into Victorian London where a well-respected doctor has been transformed into a blood-sucking fiend. What he does as a monster in this beautifully grim action RPG is up to you. Do you go around destroying humanity one by one, filling up your blood meter with XP and updating horrific skills and abilities? Exercising your ‘embrace’ skill to empty people like juice cartons? Or do you do the right thing, the moral thing, finding out more about the people of London and helping them, solving their problems in a plague-torn world and staving off the hunger that runs through your veins? Perhaps you do a bit of both, sacrificing one innocent for the good of the many. Blending some of the powers of Dishonored with crunchy combat and a moral soup of a narrative, Vampyr can go in any direction you want it to. I can’t wait to drink up later this year. Louise Blain  

Tacoma

Platform(s): Xbox One, PC
Release Date: August 2, 2017

Why is it so interesting? Tacoma is one of those games I'm purposely trying to avoid reading about so I can go into it without any prior expectations. Here's what I do know: it's made by Fullbright, the team behind the deeply moving Gone Home. It's set deep in outer space on a space station that's been mysteriously abandoned for years. You're sent in to find out why. You'll sift through notes, video logs, and holograms to get to the bottom of the mystery. You can watch the trailer above - or don't, and go in blind. That's probably the best way to do it. David Roberts

Ooblets

Platform(s): Xbox One, PC
Release Date: 2018

Why is it so interesting? The easiest way to describe Ooblets is like a mash-up of Animal Crossing, Stardew Valley, and Pokemon. You'll run a farm, cultivating crops that you can use to feed the eponymous creatures and strengthen them for RPG-esque turn-based battles. You can also run a shop, which allows you to earn money to build new upgrades and improve your land. It's an intriguing combination of game types all wrapped up in an adorable, pastel-colored shell. David Roberts

Undertale

Platform(s): PS4, Vita
Release Date: Summer 2017

Why is it so interesting? Stealthily announced at the end of Sony's E3 pre-show, Undertale is finally making the leap from PC to PS4 and Vita. If you weren't caught up in the incredible wave of hype back when it came out on Steam, Undertale's an RPG largely the work of one Toby Fox that wears its influence on on its sleeve: namely, Earthbound. It's got a quirky and strange sense of humor but isn't afraid to throw gut-wrenching emotional curveballs at you, and the game's turn-based combat blends bullet-hell action and pacifist dialog systems in ways you've never seen before. It's a hell of a trip, filled with multiple endings, and tons of meta-layers that reach out beyond the game and into the real world. If you slept on it before, don't miss it now. David Roberts 

A Plague Tale: Innocence

Platform(s): PS4, Xbox One, PC
Release Date: 2018

Why is it so interesting? Are you afraid of rats? No? Ok. Good. How about swarms of rats with glowing eyes that don’t just lurk in sewers but scuttle in droves, devouring everything in their path? Now imagine controlling children through 14th-century France where these rats and a murderous Inquisition threaten the land. Welcome to A Plague Tale, where you must steer a 13-year-old girl and her five-year-old brother through a grimly disturbing world. I only saw fifteen minutes of gameplay, but in that time witnessed two guards have their lanterns smashed by perfectly thrown stones and get eaten alive by the rodents who thrive in the darkness. Stealthy, gorgeous, and with what looks like a fascinating and heartfelt dynamic between its sibling leads, A Plague Tale is one to watch. Louise Blain

Tunic

Platform(s): Unspecified consoles, PC
Release Date: 2018

Why is it so interesting? Back when I played Tunic at PAX West last year (when it was called Secret Legend), I marveled at how immaculate everything already felt. You're a little fox dude, running around a Zelda-inspired world, solving puzzles and fighting enemies, but everything in the game is a mystery. You won't know how to read signs, because you won't understand the language. Even your equipment menu (which looks like a tattered video game instruction manual from the '80s) is covered in arcane symbols that you'll slowly learn as you play. The trailer shown during the PC Gaming Show revealed that, even with its new name, Tunic's still got the kind of style and sense of wonder that most games dream of. David Roberts

Moss

Platform(s): PSVR
Release date: TBD

Why is it so interesting? Moss is a VR game where you control an adorable mouse named Quill. In each realm - which the developers liken to a page in a book- you have to solve a puzzle to move onto the next area.  You can interact with the environment by pulling and pushing objects to help Quill though the scene, but your viewpoint is locked, meaning your role is that of an overseer and protector rather than a physical presence. But you do really start to develop a bond with your tiny friend as you try to navigate through the various challenges. You can even hold her in your hand and feel a tiny heartbeat though the motion controller - just like having a real mouse! Real mice go on adventures holding tiny swords, right? James Jarvis

Brawlout

Platform(s): PS4, Xbox One, PC
Release Date: Q3 2017

Why is it so interesting? While the world waits for a new Smash Bros. game, Brawlout looks like a promising 2.5D alternative, featuring anthropomorphic animals (done up in an appealing cartoon style) duking it out, with the goal of sending all your opponents flying off the jungle-themed stages. The animations are great, the quirky character designs are charming, and the pace looks particularly fast, all of which should hopefully make for a great party fighting game with competitive depth. Lucas Sullivan

Hidden Agenda

Platform(s): PS4
Release Date: 2017

Why is it so interesting? Revealed during Sony’s pre-show along with a bunch of other smaller titles, Hidden Agenda is a murder mystery game by the same people who made Until Dawn. It uses PS4’s new Play Link feature, which lets several people connect to PS4 with a second-screen (phone, iPad, etc) and interact with the game. The really clever bit here is that each player - while working together as a team to catch the murderer - has a hidden agenda, so they’ll be trying to achieve it in secret. The beauty of controlling Hidden Agenda via a second screen is that the game can send information that ONLY YOU can see. The game itself looks great too, and it’s very replayable as - much like Until Dawn - there are so many plot threads and possible outcomes. Yes, including everyone dying, if you mess up too badly. Andy Hartup

Call of Cthulhu

Platform(s): PS4, Xbox One, PC
Release Date: 2017

Why is it so interesting? What the world needs now is more tentacles. Another gorgeously grim adventure from publisher Focus Interactive (who's also looking after Vampyr and A Plague Tale in its skull-filled crypt), Call of Cthulhu is based directly on the pen-and-paper RPG of the same name. Like all Lovecraft stories, this first-person adventure starts out as a perfectly normal investigation before tumbling into a world of horrific monsters who lurk in the dark, and the speedily dwindling sanity of a hardened Boston private investigator. With clues to investigate and terrifying locations to wander through with only a zippo lighter for company, this is an atmospheric and grisly delight that’s a love letter to its rich source material. Just don’t, y’know, lose your mind. Louise Blain

The Metronomicon: Slay the Dance Floor

Platforms: PS4, Xbox One, PC
Release date: Q3 2017 

Why is it so interesting? Last year at E3, I played Metronomicon sitting on the floor of an empty hallway. I’m delighted that the game had a real spot of its own at the Indiecade booth, because more people need a chance to play this charmer. It’s a mix of a rhythm game and an RPG, and is vastly more than the sum of its parts. You control multiple party members with the traditional tank/damage/healer specs, but letting their abilities fly happens through the mechanics of quick-time button precision a la Guitar Hero. Add in a technicolor art style and a wonderful sense of humor, and you can see why Metronomicon is such a sheer joy to play. Anna Washenko

Ashen

Platform(s): Xbox One, PC
Release Date: TBD

Why is it so interesting? Ashen looks a lot like Dark Souls at first glance, and you'd be right to think that. Its world is bleak and desolate, populated by vicious beasts that will wreck you if you're not careful, the only light around coming from the ash that hovers in the sky, as the sun has long been extinct. You'll have to work with the various strangers (i.e., online players) you come across and help each other surmount its perilous obstacles, solve its puzzles, and defeat its deadly foes. While it may borrow a lot from its forebears, Ashen looks to leave its own mark on the genre with its beautiful art style and its haunting atmosphere. David Roberts

Wargroove

Platform(s): Nintendo Switch, Xbox One, PC
Release date: 2017

Why is it so interesting? Starbound developer Chucklefish's new project Wargroove sneakily retrofits Fire Emblem's fantasy aesthetic onto Advance Wars' easy-to-learn turn-based battle system. A full campaign mode awaits for single-player fans, while multiplayer battles can be waged with up to four players either in-person or online. Now Chucklefish just has to make sure Wargroove ends up on Nintendo Switch and it'll be like Advance Wars never left... or, perhaps more accurately, like it went back to the past and found a bunch of cool new sprite animations and a sweet map editor. Either way. Connor Sheridan

Make sure you check out our full E3 2017 schedule to stay tuned for all the details as they arrive, and check out our roundup of all the E3 2017 trailers. For more E3 2017 highlights, check out our Nintendo E3 2017 recap, PlayStation E3 2017 recap, and Xbox E3 2017 recap.