The best game with the worst stage presentation - Sea of Thieves
It's pretty much impossible to accurately simulate the inherent fun of multiplayer gameplay when you only have a few precious minutes on the E3 stage. Still yet, companies constantly try to condense that sense of camaraderie and connection via one of two options: forcing people to play co-op live, which is a nerve-wracking thing to watch, or injecting gameplay footage with an unnecessary amount of the fakest-sounding banter and grossly over-enthused reactions. Microsoft used both tactics during its E3 2016 conference, but the latter is what tarnished the Sea of Thieves trailer. The game itself is great, full of pirate adventures with a crew of other players - but all we wanted during the press conference presentation was for those folks to put a cork in it. Because really - who says "Om nom nom nom" while raising the anchor? Who does that?!
Most promising VR project (not game) of the show - Batman: Arkham VR
Now I get why Bruce Wayne puts up with those long graveyard shifts: Being the Batman feels incredible. Batman: Arkham VR isn't like the other games in the traditional sense - you won't be flipping over enemies in free-flowing first-person combat - but you'll get to solve a murder mystery using a handful of Batman's iconic gadgets. After a lengthy sequence which allows you to put on each component of Batman's armor in brilliantly immersive fashion, you're whisked away to investigate a dark alley for clues, scrubbing through video footage of an expertly choreographed fight which ebbs and flows around where you're standing. Imagine the best of Arkham's investigation sequences, only you actually get to act like goddamn Batman. Many of us got a chance to play Batman VR at E3, and we all walked away with our mouths hanging open in amazement. It's that good.
Runner-up - Star Trek: Bridge Crew
Being able to be part of the crew on a Federation starship is what sci-fi nerds the world over have dreamed of, and Ubisoft is finally giving them that chance in VR. Star Trek: Bridge Crew looks like the co-op VR version of FTL, which is incredibly promising - the only drawback being the need for four Oculus Rift headsets if you want the full experience.
The best 'Call of Duty in disguise' game - Call of Duty: Infinite Warfare
CoD is the most constant constant of E3 press conferences. It's always at one of the big platform-holders' shows. It always gets a big, bombastic demo. It always plays out the same way. Quiet bit, quiet bit, whispering, slow, methodical task (maybe sneaking or climbing), then a few small skirmishes and HOLY SHIT THE ALARMS HAVE GONE OFF RUN! It's the most predictable, thrill-free spectacle. BUt this year, we could say with certainty that we even were watching a Call of Duty demo until the end. A got a Mass Effect-style walk and chat on the bridge of a big sci-fi spaceship. We got a Battlestar Galactica-style ship launch. WE got 3D, Bionic Commando in space, grappling hook action. WE got an assault on an enemy space frigate, and gunplay far more open and airy than the series' trademark spurtof relentless warmen ever usually allows. But it was Call of Duty, apparently. That was exciting. Call of Duty, but exciting.
Hottest meme of E3 - The Xbox 'Hank Scorpio' Project
Hot, dank, viral - these are all adjectives that could refer to a meme just as well as a sewer. In any case, Microsoft's codename for the next iteration of the Xbox platform, Project Scorpio, instantly brings to mind Hank Scorpio, the eccentric evil genius from episode 155 of The Simpsons, "You Only Move Twice". We half-expected the Globex Corporation boss and Bond villain parody to burst out on stage with a flamethrower to close out the press conference.
Runner-up - The Ubisoft giraffe
This majestic creature has the courage to do what we all wish we could: passionately dance on stage in a ridiculous animal costume to promote the new Just Dance sequel. May the memory of its graceful movements and boundless bravery stay with you always.
Coolest booth of E3 - Zelda's grassy indoor plains
If there's a case for why Nintendo's partnership with Universal Studios to produce theme park rides is a good idea, it's this year's E3 booth. When you first walk in, you're greeted by a faux Zelda shrine, symbols and torches decked along it in equal measure.The screen in front shows off some gameplay footage, but then it turns into a virtual stone door, which then lifts up - along with the screen - to let you step inside to the main booth. It's in here where the craziness of E3 is turned into a peaceful expanse, with the sounds of insects and the scent of grass (yes, really), being piped in to really sell it. Full-sized mokoblins hang out near a gigantic piece of meat roasting on a spit, a life-like Link does battle with a giant octopus - there's so much craft and attention to detail in here that the actual game itself almost takes a backseat to the splendor of this booth.
Runner-up - Mafia 3's entire frickin' street
New Orleans is a place like none other, taking the best bits of voodoo, heat, France, and jazz and stewing it to a swampy gumbo that is a unique piece of the American south. 2k brought that steamy city to E3, serving up a seedy street so authentic you could practically hear the mosquitos. There was live jazz, there were clubs that beckoned with neon signs and questionable intent, and there was that feeling of irresistible menace that only Mafia in Nawlins could have. There was even a New Orleans style funeral for good measure, fronted by the Traditional New Orleans Jazz Band. The only thing it was missing was gin fizzes and alligators.
Image credit: Entertainment Software Association
The 'packed light' award - Nintendo
In the grand scheme of things, it's staggering just how lean Nintendo's showing was at E3. The actual booth was a sight to behold (see: Coolest booth award), but it only housed a single, albeit amazing game (see: Game of the Show award). There were pockets of Nintendo platform support hiding here and there on the show floor - a Monster Hunter Generations here, a River City: Tokyo Rumble there, and the Pokemon Sun and Moon gameplay showcased during the Nintendo Treehouse stream. But if we weren't blinded by the dazzling light of The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild, Nintendo's E3 2016 would've been quite the sparse showing indeed.