Gaming’s biggest week has come, gone and left us all with many, many more games to dream about. But which publisher provided the most excitement? Which generated the most buzz and anticipation? Which deserves the most credit for transforming E3 into something worthwhile again… and which will probably be winning the biggest share of our money over the next few years? Here’s who we’ve picked as the top 20.
Best in show: Trauma Team
Rest of the lineup: Demon’s Souls, Shiren the Wanderer 3, Persona, Shin Megami Tensei: Devil Survivor, Droplitz, Neo Steam: The Shattered Continent
Always a reliable source for quirky, niche Japanese titles that no other publisher would touch, Atlus USA showed off another intriguing selection of titles at this year’s E3. Demon’s Souls, a dark fantasy RPG, could hold a lot of reward – but also a lot of brutally difficult challenge – for PS3 owners. Our favorite, though, was Trauma Team on Wii. The previous DS surgery simulators were addictive, innovative and satisfyingly gross… this one opens up your medical expertise to include six specialists, including orthopedic and emergency.
Best in show: Muramasa: The Demon Blade
Rest of the lineup: King of Fighters XII, Nostalgia
Have you seen the screens for Muramasa? This action role-playing title is stunning to behold, one of the most gorgeous games we’ve ever laid our jaded journalist eyes upon. Such beauty is especially welcome on the Wii, which tends to attract shoddy ports with shoddier graphics. Another King of Fighters is nice, of course, and the Final Fantasy-inspired RPG Nostalgia takes place in an alternate reality steampunk version of the 19th century. We’ll play it out of curiosity if nothing else.
18) DISNEY INTERACTIVE
Best in show: Split/Second
Rest of the lineup: G-Force, Pirates of the Caribbean: Armada of the Damned, Toy Story Mania!, Spectrobes: Origins, The Princess & the Frog, Disney Fairies, Hannah Montana: Rock Out the Show, Disney’s A Christmas Carol, JONAS, Wizards of Waverly Place, Disney Sing It: Pop Hits
Yeeeaaaah. Obviously, Disney is unashamedly farming out their family-friendly cash crops onto every Nintendo platform to make even more obscene amounts of money from the casual / ignorant gaming market. But we also have to say, Disney is trying harder to make real games. Spectrobes is becoming a decent take on Pokemon redone as an action RPG. G-Force, despite being about secret agent guinea pigs, is honestly kinda fun and looks lush on the 360/PS3. And Split/Second could be the perfect mashup of Stuntman: Ignition and Burnout, but with better controls and bigger explosions.
17) NAMCO BANDAI
Best in show: Tekken 6
Rest of the lineup: Dead to Rights: Retribution, SoulCalibur: Broken Destiny, Magna Carta II, Katamari Forever, Invincible Tiger: The Legend of Han Tao in 3D, Active Life: Extreme Challenge
Nothing here to get overly excited about, but several strong contenders. We really enjoyed the recent Tekken on PSP, so it will be nice to see that gameplay return to current-gen consoles even if it’s getting a bit stale. Katamari might have overstayed its welcome, but we’ll give the new PS3 entry a chance because it looks so purty. SoulCalibur will be the best PSP fighter since Tekken: Dark Resurrection. Invincible Tiger, meanwhile, is one of the only games trying out new 3D technology. If that’s where our industry ends up going, it could be seen as a pioneer.
16) WARNER BROS
Best in show: Scribblenauts
Rest of the lineup: Batman: Arkham Asylum, Lord of the Rings: Aragorn’s Quest, LEGO Rock Band, LEGO Battles, Scooby-Doo! First Frights, Watchmen: The End is Nigh Part 2
LEGO Rock Band? LEGO Battles? Who needed these? We’re slightly interested in the announced LEGO Harry Potter, but after that, this franchise had better die quickly and quietly. Warner Bros makes our list, however, because they’re distributing Batman: Arkham Asylum in North America (though we’re going to assume Eidos had more to do with its creation) and because Scribblenauts, a sidescroller in which you summon objects into the world by writing their name on the screen, is so wonderfully original.
Best in show: Castlevania: Lords of Shadow
Rest of the lineup: Silent Hill: Shattered Memories, Saw: The Video Game, Zombie Apocalypse, Vandal Hearts, Zephyr: Rise of the Elementals, Ant Nation, DanceDanceRevolution, Karaoke Revolution, Yu-Gi-Oh ad infinitum
Konami’s lineup gets a tad predictable by the end (how is “DanceDance” different from “Dance Dance” again?) and we can’t muster much excitement for Silent Hill: Shattered Memories (a “reimagining” of the original on Wii, PS2 and PSP… ugh). Zombie Apocalypse, on the other hand, could be the Left 4 Dead of downloadable content on XBLA and PSN. The amount of horrific detail they’ve packed into the top down perspective is impressive. Saw has potential, surprisingly, and Castlevania: Lords of Shadow had us at “Patrick Stewart.” The screens and trailer are kickass, too.
Best in show: Darksiders: Wrath of War
Rest of the lineup: Warhammer 40k: Space Marine, Homefront, MX vs ATV Reflex, Marvel Superhero Squad, Drawn to Life: The Next Chapter, World of Zoo, James Patterson: Women’s Murder Club Games of Passion, All Star Cheer Squad 2, SpongeBob’s Truth or Square, Dragonica Online, Cars Race-O-Rama
Darksiders is a wild mashup of God of War and Legend of Zelda. Homefront, MX vs ATV Reflex, Warhammer and the new Drawn to Life all look very promising. This is a strong and robust lineup, but we had to drop THQ lower in our rankings for the mere existence of this…
Marvel Superhero Squad. The worst thing in the history of things. All Star Cheer Squad 2 and Cars Race-O-Rama turn our stomachs, but this game hurts our souls.
Best in show: Batman: Arkham Asylum
Rest of the lineup: Mini Ninjas, Just Cause 2
Short but oh so sweet. Just Cause 2’s adding laser-controlled rockets, a jumbo jet and remote-controlled C4 to its tropical island sandbox. And Mini Ninjas is far deeper and more fun than its cutesy exterior would lead you to believe. It’s Batman: Arkham Asylum, though, that makes us willing to forgive Eidos for Kane & Lynch, Daikatana and all those crappy Tomb Raider sequels. If the game lives up to the promise and potential we’ve been seeing… if it actually delivers the first great Batman game… well, we don’t want to jinx anything by finishing that sentence.
Best in show: Star Wars: The Old Republic
Rest of the lineup: Tales of Monkey Island, The Secret of Monkey Island: Special Edition, Star Wars: Battlefront Elite Squadron, Lego Indiana Jones 2, Star Wars: The Clone Wars: Republic Heroes
Probably not the Indiana Jones or Star Wars titles most gamers would like to see – did it become illegal to make a Battlefront game for a full-sized console or something? Still, even MMO haters can’t deny that that Old Republic trailer was cooler and better made than most of what George Lucas has done lately. And not one, but two Monkey Islands? The second of which is a classy, loving upgrade of the first and most beloved Monkey Island game of all? Major props to LucasArts for honoring the point-and-click adventure genre, even if the rest of the industry wrote it off as dead a decade ago. Now, how about a Sam & Max upgrade and an XBLA version of Grim Fandango?
11) SQUARE ENIX
Best in show: Final Fantasy XIII
Rest of the lineup: Final Fantasy XIV, Kingdom Hearts 358/2 Days, Order of War, Final Fantasy IV: The After Years, Final Fantasy Crystal Chronicles: The Crystal Bearer, Final Fantasy Crystal Chronicles: My Life as a Darklord , Dissidia Final Fantasy, Front Mission Evolved, Nier, Supreme Commander 2
Squeenix was all show and no play at this year’s E3. We saw Final Fantasy XIII gameplay at the Microsoft conference, proving that it’s more than a collection of fancy CG cutscenes, but we didn’t get our hands on a controller. Then there was the amazing Final Fantasy XIV trailer, which caused a flood of warm childhood memories to wash over us. Blue sky! Yellow chocobo! No sci-fi trappings at all! And then, of course, we saw the “Online.” Damn it. Regardless, Final Fantasy XIII – and to a lesser extent, Kingdom Hearts 358/2 and Order of War – are too anticipated not to put Square Enix high on the ranking.