The annual E3 video game convention is a gamer’s paradise. This year’s model brought 70,000 insiders and fans to the Los Angeles Convention Center for three days of giveaways, tournaments and announcements, blowing minds (and eardrums) with over-the-top presentations of hundreds of cutting-edge games. Though it lacked headline-grabbing hardware news, the the expo was jam-packed with impressive upcoming software for every platform under the sun.
But some games show better than others. In no particular order, here are the 10 coolest games we saw at E3 2018:
“Cyberpunk 2077” (PS4, Xbox One, PC | Release date TBD)
Twist our arm and we’d name “Cyberpunk 2077” best in show. Set in a dense, dystopian, neon-drenched future, this unbelievably cool first-person role-playing game lets players live the rough-and-tumble life of a cybernetically-enhanced mercenary. “Cyberpunk 2077” expands upon the blend of tight action, open-world exploration and multiple narrative pathing that powered developer CD Projekt Red’s last game, the 2015 blockbuster “The Witcher 3”, to countless Game of the Year awards (including ours). It’s a programming tour de force, cramming its massive spaces with fascinating characters, merchants and mysteries. It’s a hi-tech, low-life adventure that could rival the seminal Grand Theft Auto V as a living, breathing simulation. We can’t wait.
“Ghost of Tsushima” (PS4 | Release date TBD)
No one knew much about this open-world samurai game prior to Sony’s E3 2018 press conference, but now no one can stop talking about it. Heavily informed by the works of legendary Japanese filmmaker Akira Kurosawa and actor Toshiro Mifune, the latest from Sucker Punch Studios tells the tale of a 13th-century ronin desperately fighting a Mongol invasion on the island of Tsushima off the coast of Japan. Capturing the heart-stopping tension, gorgeous aesthetics and focused brutality of films like Yojimbo, “Ghost of Tsushima” stunned us with its impeccable, cinematic beauty.
“Super Smash Bros. Ultimate” (Switch | December 7)
What makes the Nintendo Switch’s first “Smash Bros.” game so impressive isn’t its ridiculously huge cast. Yes, every character that’s ever appeared in a “Smash Bros.” is here (that’s over 60, including rarities like “Metal Gear’s” Solid Snake), but where “Ultimate” truly shines is in its comprehensive attention to detail. Nintendo has combed over every character, move, stage and animation to ensure “Ultimate” is the prettiest, craziest and speediest “Smash” yet. Bursting with life and oozing with Nintendo magic, it’s shaping up to be a must-play for Switch owners this holiday.
“Anthem” (PS4, Xbox One, PC | Feb. 22, 2019)
Tempted to write off EA and developer Bioware’s shared world co-operative shooter as a “Destiny” rip-off? Try playing it first. Though the studio is best known for crafting deep role-playing games like “Mass Effect” and “Dragon Age,” their next effort features incredibly satisfying aerial action that just feels right in your hands. A few button clicks turn you, a freelance hero wrapped in an Iron Man-esque Javelin exosuit, into a flying, hovering and absolutely devastating wrecking ball. According to its developers, “Anthem” will marry online multiplayer shenanigans with a choice-driven narrative experience, and while there were still quite a few questions left unanswered by our hands-on demo, we can confidently say that “Anthem” looks like a helluva lot of fun.
“Spider-Man” (PS4 | September 7)
Having won a number of Game of Show awards at last year’s E3, Sony and Insomniac’s “Spider-Man” arrived at E3 beaming with confidence. The Webhead’s next video game adventure is big, bold, and absolutely packed with things to do, though our favorite activity is still just swinging around over the Manhattan skyline. With a deep, “Arkham”-like combat system, impressive voice work and ridiculously cinematic battles, it’s shaping up to be one of the best superhero games we’ve ever played. It’s also wowed a certain comic company: Marvel was so impressed with Insomniac’s work, they’re including the video game version of Spidey in their official canon. Tingly!
“Forza Horizon 4” (Xbox One, PC | October 2)
At some point in the past couple of years, the playful, arcade-inflected “Forza Horizon” series passed up the hardcore “Forza Motorsport” simulation line as our favorite racing franchise. The next game puts the pedal to the metal by incorporating changing seasons into its open-world take on England; race in the snow during winter, across rainy puddles in spring, through sunny pastures and fields in summer and over leaf-filled roads in fall. A technical and mechanical showpiece for the Xbox One, it boasts a special gift for Xbox One X owners: an option to race at a blistering 60 fps.
“Sekiro: Shadows Die Twice” (PS4, Xbox One, PC | Early 2019)
“Dark Souls” meets “Tenchu”? That’s “Sekiro” in a nutshell, and it’s pretty much as rad as it sounds. From Hidetaka Miyazaki, the mind behind the “Souls” series and “Bloodborne”, “Sekiro” lets players guide a ninja through a hellish version of Japan’s Sengoku period. Emphasizing verticality, the shinobi can leap to rooftops to pounce on unsuspecting enemies – or, courtesy his katana and a prosthetic arm that can be equipped with firecrackers, shurikens, shields and more, go toe-to-toe against fierce samurai and epic beasts. Will you die a lot? Absolutely, but come on, it’s a Miyazaki game. We wouldn’t have it any other way.
“Assassin’s Creed Odyssey” (PS4, Xbox One, PC | October 5)
Fresh off the success of “Assassin’s Creed Origins,” Ubisoft decided to just take the leap already and turn the next entry into a full-blown role-playing game. Set during the Peloponnesian War in Greece, “Assassin’s Creed Odyssey” lets players choose genders, bulk up tons of stats, collect gear and goodies and even shape the story with new branching dialogue options. And based on a glimpse at what looked like a minotaur in the reveal trailer, it could sidestep into fantastical combat as well.
“The Last of Us Part II” (PS4 | Release date TBD)
The sequel to the 2013’s brutal, post-apocalyptic survival game, “The Last of Us Part II” just keeps upping the ante. At E3 2018, Sony and developer Naughty Dog showcased their prodigious talents with jaw-dropping animations and ludicrously cool sequences. Which isn’t to say it was all pretty. There was that amazing kiss, of course, but “The Last of Us Part II” balances its mesmerizing beauty with gritty, gory and unsettling gameplay.
“Ori and the Will of the Wisps” (Xbox One, PC | 2019)
The original “Ori” was a challenging Metroidvania with breathtaking visuals and enormous heart. The follow-up goes bigger just about everywhere. A new combat system grants weapons that significantly alter playstyle, some catering to slow, powerful attacks, others emphasizing nimble swipes and agile dodges. Ori is more maneuverable, gaining a grapple, a burrow, and more. And somehow, it’s even prettier than the first game. Here’s hoping it’s just as heartfelt.
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