E3 2021 was a pale imitation of its former incarnations, but that didn’t stop us from pumping our fists over several big game reveals and exciting indie game announcements. We polled the staff and rounded up our favorite games from the show.
Blake Hester: Somerville
Amidst all the bombast of triple-A explosions and CG trailers, Somerville stood out as one of the most interesting games at E3. This indie game was developed by Jumpship, which partnered with Playdead (Inside, Limbo) co-founder and former CEO Dino Patti back in 2017. On its surface, Somerville looks just like a Playdead game. Which isn’t a knock against it! If anything, that’s what has me interested. Stories that highlight a family up against impossible odds (in this case, what appears to be an alien invasion) is a tried-and-true narrative hook that makes me want to know if/how they survive. On top of that, Somerville has great quasi-3D visuals, a striking art style, and a little dog to boot, so this seems like a sure-fire recipe to capture my interest.
Ben Reeves: Metroid Dread
I regularly get asked, “What is your favorite game of all time?” If you’re like me, you probably hem and haw and then rattle off like five games in response. It’s hard to pick a single favorite sometimes, but I’ve noticed that Super Metroid is almost always in that list of five. Nintendo’s haunting exploration-based sci-fi thriller blew my mind as a kid, and it’s one of those rare classics that remains incredibly fun to play even decades after its release. I loved MercurySteam’s take on the series with 2017’s Metroid: Samus Returns, so I’m beyond thrilled that it’s getting a second bite at the apple with Metroid Dread. I can’t wait to explore planet ZDR, a whole new alien world, as I slowly acquire new powers. Samus can now use magnetic grapples to climb walls and the new Phantom Cloak renders her temporarily invisible. That last power sounds like it will be incredibly useful as a new enemy type, called E.M.M.I. (Extraplanetary Multiform Mobile Identifier), is very hard to kill and will chase Samus relentlessly, like Resident Evil 2’s Mr. X. Who knows, maybe after Metroid Dread releases on October 8 it could crack my top five favorites.
Brian Shea: The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild sequel
Since its 2017 launch, I’ve made it no secret that The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild is my favorite game. So naturally, when a sequel was announced in 2019, I was beyond excited. While Nintendo has been largely silent since that initial announcement, this week finally gave more glimpses at what to expect when we return to Breath of the Wild’s vast version of Hyrule. The footage to date has shown everything from looks at new powers to cryptic teases of what could really be going on in the narrative, and everything in between. Combine that with another excuse to explore that version of Hyrule (complete with new areas to explore in the sky) and 2022 can’t come soon enough for my Switch and me.
Jason Guisao: Starfield
I want the next Elder Scrolls chapter as much as any other Western RPG fanatic, but Starfield has been living within the dark recesses of my mind since its first E3 tease many years ago. If any team could lead a sprawling sci-fi project that chronicles humankind’s journey to the far reaches of space, then it’s the lovely folks at Bethesda. This game is giving me some serious Interstellar-meets-Fallout vibes. I couldn’t be any more excited/fascinated by its potential gameplay and exploration loop. It also helps that the game releases two days before my birthday in 2022. I mean, it’s almost as if Todd Howard and Co. were developing Starfield with me in mind!
Alex Stadnik: Halo Infinite
Halo Infinite and 343 Industries needs a win, pure and simple. 2020 was a tough year for the developer, full of negative online reactions to the reveal of John 117’s return and a subsequent delay that had fans nervous. But the Xbox-exclusive is back in a big way with an E3 showing that seems to have exorcised the ghost of Craig the Brute and most of the sour feelings with the game. The new showing smartly focused on its free-to-play multiplayer suite, 343 Industries showed off the return of equipment, beautiful new battlegrounds, and the return of the chaotic gameplay fans love. The multiplayer trailer was a chance for the developer to showcase the game’s improved lighting, character designs, and animation work, culminating in the absolute best showing from Halo Infinite yet. While we still have a ways to go and no hard release date quite yet, E3 2021 marks the biggest prerelease step for Xbox’s most iconic franchise and has reignited the hope for fans looking to dawn the Mjolnir armor once again.
Liana Ruppert: Redfall
I love anything to do with vampires and the Bloodlines 2 delay had me hoping for something to fill that void. The characters introduced in Redfall’s reveal trailer looked so wildly different from one another and the dialogue was downright hilarious. Pair that with the magical elements Arkane showcased plus the imposing big bads, and Redfall has me insanely enticed. Depending on what Arkane shares next, it could quickly skyrocket to one of my most anticipated game releases.
Marcus Stewart: A Plague Tale: Requiem
In 2019 I lost my voice singing the praises of A Plague Tale: Innocence to anyone who would listen. Amicia and Hugo de Rune’s grim journey across 14th century France to find a cure for the latter’s mysterious disease while dodging a supernatural rat plague and hostile Inquisition soldiers was my favorite narrative of that year. The tragic tale was softened by the touching, and sometimes troubled, relationship between the siblings. I loved watching their bond grow along with the new relationships they formed with other displaced children. The storytelling was powerful, but the gameplay didn’t quite measure up. The stealth-focused mechanics were competent but unremarkable which is why a sequel is so exciting. If Requiem’s gameplay can build upon its predecessor’s foundation, it could make for a wholly phenomenal experience. The cinematic trailer revealed Amicia now has a crossbow, so combat might at least be more involved this time around. Best of all, Requiem is current-gen only. Innocence was quite a looker with a big emphasis on using light as an offensive weapon. Imagine how great that lighting will look with ray tracing. It’ll also be cool to see how the rat swarm – which looked awesome when it poured into rooms and washed over victims like a living flood – behaves when powered by stronger tech.
John Carson: Advance Wars 1+2: Re-Boot Camp
After being overshadowed for years by its sister series Fire Emblem, nothing gave me more relief than seeing the trailer for Advance Wars 1+2: Re-Boot Camp. Not because of my sick prediction on the GI Show, but because Nintendo still sees value in the Advance Wars franchise. Outside of the short-lived Battalion Wars, Advance Wars has been relegated to handheld devices, and while the Switch is still technically a handheld, this is the perfect way to reintroduce players to the series and deliver a bigger experience in the future. The gameplay in the Direct and during the Treehouse stream showed how everything has been translated immaculately from 2D sprites to 3D models. The characters and world are bright, colorful, and cartoonish, and the look of each unit gives the sense of playing with little army toys. The spirit of the original games remains intact in Re-Boot Camp. This might be a remake of the first two Game Boy Advance titles, but it is a wonderful addition to the Switch lineup. I hope this is just the beginning of what Nintendo has planned for Advance Wars in the coming years.
Alex Van Aken: Metal Slug Tactics
Metal Slug, the tough-as-nails arcade shoot-em-up series, is back in the form of a tactical RPG: Metal Slug Tactics. The franchise has always demanded a certain level of resilience from its player base (due to its origins in Neo-Geo arcade machines), and Tactics’ new grid-based battles and rogue-lite elements look to deliver the same grueling difficulty curve that fans have learned to expect. Additionally, the game reunites the iconic Peregrine Falcon Squad as they embark on a globetrotting mission to prevent long-time villain Donald Morden from usurping the World Government. With its gorgeously rendered pixel art and highly bombastic set pieces, Metal Slug Tactics aims to modernize the original series’ mechanics while honoring what made the franchise special to begin with; and with Dotemu at the publishing helm, I can’t wait to see how the game turns out.
Read all of our coverage from this year’s show on our E3 2021 hub.
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