Next-Gen's 30 most anticipated games of E3

In choosing games for this list, we kept an eye on games most likely to succeed at the market.Our friends atNext Genalso tried to keep in mind potential critical reception based on developer track record, previous franchise performance, and how the titles have been presented in the media thus far. Naturallythey also picked the titles we're all most excited to play at the show, but in short, these are the games to keep an eye on, because these are the games that will be the toughest market competition in the next twelve months.

Note: Only games from publishers that will be at E3 are presented here.

30. Rise of the Argonauts (PS3, X360, PC)
Publisher: Codemasters
Developer: Liquid Entertainment
Est. Release Date: Sep 2008
Officially Announced for E3: Yes

An action RPG that promises to be way more action than RPG, Rise of the Argonauts has a winning mythological premise and lots of little design touches that keep the game looking fresh. Take the Argo—the ship of legend will act as a seafaring headquarters from which your recruited Argonauts will provide support. There is also a “deed” system that will increase Jason’s abilities via the acquisition of Xbox Live Achievement-like trophies. So it’s bursting with interesting ideas, and it’s all running on the reliable Unreal Engine 3—this could be the sleeper hit of the year.

29. High School Musical 3: Senior Year Dance (PC, Wii, PS2, NDS, X360)
Publisher: Disney Interactive
Developer: TBA
Est. Release Date: Holiday 2008
Officially Announced for E3: Yes

Consider this your representative sample of licensed games that promise to sell gangbusters regardless of quality or media reaction. And High School Musical 3 is likely to be the biggest game of its breed this year: the movie of the same name is the first time this children’s blockbuster franchise will see a theatrical release, meaning the marketing for the property is likely to be even more inescapable than usual. Beyond the usual niceties of rhythm games—coop and competitive modes, mechanics specific to each system’s control scheme—it will have the songs from High School Musical movies past and present. That last one is almost certainly the only feature the game needs to add another million in sales to the franchise’s life-to-date count.

28. Borderlands (PC, X360, PS3)
Publisher: 2K Games
Developer: Gearbox Software
Est. Release Date: 2009
Officially Announced for E3: Yes

Capable developer Gearbox has never swung for the fences with quite as much gusto as with Borderlands. The fact that the game is original IP isn’t even the half of it—it also promises a procedural item creation system that will provide this sci-fi first-person shooter over half a million weapons. If that’s not enough, Borderlands also shares some ambitions with big-budget role playing games: the world will be expansive, character growth and classes comes standard, and missions and side quests will populate the landscape. Borderlands has all the earmarks of a breakout hit, and its scope should easily take the breath away from both shooter and science fiction fans.

27. Mortal Kombat vs. DC Universe (X360, PS3)
Publisher: Midway
Developer: Midway
Est. Release Date: Holiday 2008
Officially Announced for E3: Yes

Going on the title alone, Mortal Kombat Vs DC Universe feels a decade late, like it should have been slugging it out with Marvel Vs Capcom for the quarters of 90s teenagers. But it’s actually a better idea, commercially, in 2008—now the game can ride the tide of successful comic book film blockbusters. It can pull from the years of solid design work and franchise reputation rebuilding that culminated in Mortal Kombat: Armageddon. And with an anticipated ESRB rating of T for Teen, there’re no retail hurdles to keep the adolescent male demographic from eating this up with a spoon.

26. S.T.A.L.K.E.R.: Clear Sky (PC)
Publisher: Deep Silver
Developer: GSC Game World
Est. Release Date: Aug 29, 2008
Officially Announced for E3: Yes

S.T.A.L.K.E.R.: Shadow of Chernobyl was hardly the biggest first-person shooter of 2007 in the west. But it posted platinum-level sales in Eastern Europe, where its freeform gameplay and mythos steeped in Russia’s unique science fiction struck a strong chord. With little similar competition in the region, its sequel Clear Sky should do well for itself there also. Which isn’t to say the rest of the world shouldn’t (or won’t) give it a go as well—Clear Sky will add a tactical, squad-based turf war to the already eccentric proceedings, and should be just as curious and interesting a beast as its predecessor.

25. Star Wars: The Force Unleashed (PS3, X360, Wii, PS2, PSP, NDS)
Publisher: LucasArts
Developer: LucasArts
Est. Release Date: Sep 2008
Officially Announced for E3: No, but it might as well be

The Force Unleashed could well be the biggest project to bear the Star Wars franchise name since Episode III ended the franchise’s non-animated theatrical run. Every Star Wars fan has been curious about the period right before the Original Trilogy when Darth Vader had his run of the galaxy; Force Unleashed promises to capture this period from the perspective of the Dark Side, using exciting new technologies to realistically render bot the AI and the Force itself. If the persistent rumors are true, this could well be the last project completely built by LucasArts’ internal studio—but in that case, it will be one heck of a send-off that a lot of Star Wars fans will experience.

24. Beyond Good and Evil 2 (PS3, X360)
Publisher: Ubisoft
Developer: Ubisoft Montpellier (likely)
Est. Release Date: TBA
Officially Announced for E3: No

All that’s known about Beyond Good and Evil 2 is that it’s currently being worked on by Ubisoft premier designer Michel Ancel. But in this case, that’s more than enough—Ancel’s resume does include perennial hit Rayman and (naturally) the first Beyond Good and Evil, after all. And the first Beyond Good and Evil is particularly beloved. The small audience that played it has been talking about it ever since, praising its varied gameplay and realistic, strong female protagonist Jade. So the sequel is exciting, and though its commercial success is by no means assured it’s possible that maybe the adult gaming audience is finally ready for this franchise.

23. Lock’s Quest (NDS)
Publisher: THQ
Developer: 5th Cell
Est. Release Date: Fall 2008
Officially Announced for E3: Yes

2007’s biggest surprise sales blockbuster was a little DS game called Drawn to Life, built by a little mobile developer called 5th Cell. That game gave the independent studio a reputation for creating innovations with strong market appeal, and it could cement that reputation with Lock’s Quest, a curious RTS/Action/RPG/minigame hybrid with cute graphics, quick thrills and a world that can be completely remodeled by the player. In other words, it has a lot of elements that appeal across a wide variety of gaming demographics, as well as a lot of ambition. If this one lives up to its potential, it would be great to see it succeed.

22. Puzzle Quest: Galactrix (PC, X360, NDS)
Publisher: D3 Publisher of America
Developer: Infinite Interactive
Est. Release Date: Fall 2008
Officially Announced for E3: Yes

Last year’s Puzzle Quest combined the most addictive parts of the casual “match three” puzzle game with the most addictive parts of RPG character development, a powerful cocktail that murdered productivity and sold in huge numbers. There’s no reason this follow-up shouldn’t continue in that trend—it’s still a match three puzzle game (this time more Collapse than Bejeweled), it still has those all-important RPG elements, and it’s being built by the same studio. The only differences (besides the science fiction setting) all look like improvements. There’s an element of strategy gaming. Players can enhance not just their character, but also their spacecraft. Downloadable content will abound. It all sounds like a game that players will itch to play after the first hit.

21. Crysis: Warhead (PC)
Publisher: Electronic Arts
Developer: Crysis
Est. Release Date: Fall 2008
Officially Announced for E3: Yes

Allegedly the last PC exclusive from the bastion of PC gaming high technology, Crytek’s side story to 2007’s Crysis looks every bit as graphically dazzling as its predecessor. It also promises to be a more market-friendly title (a tall order considering Crysis’ million-selling status); Warhead provides a less strategic, more bombastic run-and-gun affair compared to the original Crysis. And with a year of hardware advancements in between Crysis and Crysis: Warhead, that more widely appealing design will find that a lot more people have the rigs to actually run it well. And who knows? If Warhead does manage to find that perfect balance, perhaps Crytek will stick to their PC-exclusive stomping grounds for a while longer.