E3, the annual Electronic Entertainment Expo, is always a spectacle: hours-long press conferences from top developers and publishers, flashy new titles, and a sprawling exhibition floor. Some things this year were a little different. Large studios are responding to the calls for inclusivity and diversity in games, with more than 20 games featuring female leads or playable characters, character customization with character customization with wide arrays of (Fallout 4, Animal Crossing), and bold experiments that look and feel entirely new to the medium (Cuphead, Unravel).
Here are some of our favorite titles shown at this year’s E3. Which are you most looking forward to?
Platforms: PC, Mac, Linux, Xbox One
Release Date: 2016
The developers of the award-winning game Gone Home are back with a sci-fi twist. Tacoma takes place 70 years in the future and follows the story of Amy Ferrier, a space explorer in search of her missing crew members through an eponymous lunar transfer station with the help of a computer called Odin. Their trailer introduces us to a rich technological environment vaguely reminiscent of Rapture from Bioshock, a project the developers have worked on previously. While details are still scant, it sounds like players can expect the same sense of relationship-focused, thoughtfulness and personal exploration as they did with Gone Home.
Developer: Media Molecule
Platforms: PlayStation 4
Release Date: Unknown
Community is key with this game from the creators of LittleBigPlanet and Tearaway. This surreal collaborative sandbox/game engine combo will allow users to create and express themselves through 3D animated film, games, art, and music. Using DualShock 4 motion controls, players can sculpt and mold characters and the environment before pushing it onto the web for the world to interact with their creation. An interview with Engadget also revealed it will likely be a launch title on Sony’s Morpheus virtual reality headset.
Developers: Blindflug Studios
Release Date: Fall 2015
Cloud Chasers is a randomly generated, steampunk journey about the hardships of immigration, based on the experiences of real-world immigrants. The goal of the game is to guide an estranged farmer and his daughter past five large deserts and reach the “land above the clouds.” The trailer even shows hints of exploring themes like class, environmental collapse, and nuclear war. This is not Blindflug’s first game with roots in present-day issues. They also made a strategy game about nuclear war and politics First Strike.
Developers: EA Digital Illusions CE
Platforms: Xbox One, PlayStation 4, Origin for PC
Release Date: February 23, 2016
It’s been seven years since the release of Mirror’s Edge, a first-person action-platformer where players parkoured their way across a futuristic dystopian city as Faith Connors, a runner delivering messages while avoiding government surveillance. Its sequel, Catalyst, will delve into Faith’s mysterious origin story and touch on technology’s ever-increasing role in our lives and corporate dictatorships, said design director Erik Oledahl in an interview with Wired. The combat will focus even more on movement and agility, rather than guns, which Faith will not use at all this time.
Developer: StarBreeze Studios via 505 Games
Platforms: Android, iOS
Release Date: Late 2015
Launched on PC and consoles back in 2013, Brothers: A Tale of Two Sons was critically acclaimed for its beautiful graphics, charming game mechanics, and emotionally charged storyline. In this 3D puzzle-platformer, players lead brothers Naiee and Naia on a mission to save their dying father. At E3, it was announced that the game was going mobile on Android and iOS with bonus content. This game approaches mature themes, like death, in unconventional ways, and is one of the more stirring downloadable titles we’ve played.
(Gif from Kotaku)
Developer: Tiger & Squid
Platforms: PlayStation 4, Xbox One, PC, Mac, Linux
Release Date: 2015
In Beyond Eyes, you play as a 10-year-old blind girl named Rae, who explores the world through touch, scent, and sound. She has lost her cat, Nani, and despite her anxiety, goes beyond the land she knows to find it, despite being traumatized from the accident that blinded her and a fear of loud noises and public spaces. The trailer alone gives the sense that being blind doesn’t really hide the world, but lets Rae experience it in a different way.
Developer: Ninja Theory
Platforms: PlayStation 4, Windows
Release date: 2016
From the creators of Heavenly Sword and Devil May Cry, Hellblade is about a Celtic warrior named Senua and her journey to Hell as she copes with mental illness, battling depression, anxiety, hallucinations, and delusions. Working with University of Cambridge neuroscience professor Paul Fletcher and mental health foundation Wellcome Trust, Ninja Theory promises a sensitive depiction of depression as Senua faces her literal and figurative demons.
Photo credit: Jeff Williams
Developer: DragonRat Studio
Platforms: Book and PC game
Release Date: Unknown
This experimental title uses a physical pop-up book of Lewis Carroll’s Alice in Wonderland as a controller for a digital game. Each page of the pop-up book has a new game to explore on screen. The sensors and buttons in the book are connected to an Arduino unit, which turns players’ actions into on-screen play.
Curiouser and Curiouser! is a great example of what games can be when we look beyond the screen and combine physical and digital gameplay. There is no news about mass production of this game, but you can watch the playthrough here.
Developers: Turbo Button
Platforms: Oculus Rift, Samsung Gear VR for Galaxy Note 4, Galaxy S6, Galaxy S6 Edge
Release Date: Late 2015
SMS Racing, a VR game about texting and driving, shows that sometimes satire is the best way to convey a valuable message. Players balance driving in a metropolitan area while having lengthy conversations with their friends on a cell phone, with only 10 seconds to answer a text. While SMS Racing was not created with the intention of tackling the greater issue of texting and driving, it at least reminds us of how silly and dangerous it really is.
Developers: Tweed Couch Games
Platforms: You and a friend!
Release Date: Unknown
In Tune, another gem found at IndieCade’s E3 booth, asks players use their bodies as controllers, opening up a very real conversation about consent. Two players imitate body positions that are presented on a screen, and must communicate and discuss their comfort levels throughout the experience. The rules of play show the level of thoughtfulness and passion the creators had while crafting the game. Tweed Couch Games has made other games in order to promote conversations about consent, gender, sexuality, and discrimination which you can find on their website.
On the E3 expo floor, we stopped by and played a handful of already publicly available games at IndieCade’s booth, which displayed many innovative games. Give these a try while you wait for newly announced titles to come out.