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LOS ANGELES — Our GamesBeat team saw more games than ever at the Electronic Entertainment Expo. We’ll have our team’s best of E3 votes next week, but I always like to highlight my favorite games and technologies at gaming’s biggest industry trade show, which drew 52,000 people to the Los Angeles Convention Center this week.

The game industry is always evolving, and this encourages me. This year’s big trends included strong female characters. Powerful female leads headline Horizon: Zero Dawn, Hellblade, ReCore, Assassin’s Creed, and even Electronic Arts’ soccer game, FIFA 16, which included women’s teams for the first time.

I was also struck by the power of classic revivals and reboots. Sony drew the biggest cheers at its press event when it announced it would bring Final Fantasy VII, one of the most beloved games in the series from Square Enix, to the PlayStation 4. It also got a huge response supporting the Kickstarter campaign for Shenmue III. EA is bringing back Mass Effect and rebooting Need for Speed. And Nintendo is launching a new Starfox Zero game for the Wii U and Metroid returns on the 3DS.

The “toys to life trend” was huge at E3, with huge toy-game hybrid efforts from Disney Infinity (with its Star Wars collections), Warner Bros. with Lego Dimensions, Activision with Skylanders SuperChargers, Nintendo with Amiibo, and even LeapFrog with its new Imagicard collection for young kids. I’m not sure how I feel about whether this is truly innovation or a cynical way to cash in on fandom. Mostly, I pity the parents who have to shell out more money for toys. Then again, I think the makers of pure physical toys like G.I. Joe and Barbie are going to be the losers here.


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It’s always heartwarming to see that E3 isn’t dominated by blockbusters alone. We saw a resurgence of indies, who made appearances on the main stage of companies such as Sony and Microsoft. You’ll see plenty of indie titles in the ranks below, such as Hello Games’ No Man’s Sky.

Game developers love dogs. Fallout 4 generated a lot of questions from fans about whether the dog was playable (it can’t be killed, but it isn’t playable), and Microsoft’s ReCore featured a robot dog that sacrifices itself for its owner.

Here’s my favorites from E3. None of these games are out yet.

1. Oculus Touch from Oculus VR

Dean Takahashi of GamesBeat demos Oculus Touch.

Above: Dean Takahashi of GamesBeat demos Oculus Touch.

Image Credit: Brendan Iribe/VentureBeat

This is not a game, yet. But I haven’t smiled or laughed so much in a demo in a long time. The Oculus Touch hand sensors go with the Oculus Rift headset. They can sense your individual finger movements. You can hold one in each hand, enabling you to independently control your hands inside a virtual world.

To show off the technology, Oculus VR created a toy box application, where I could pick up toys and toss them around. The sensors have a joystick, a trigger, and a middle-finger button. The Touch sensors aren’t completely precise, but they’re good enough for you to have a good time. I had fun picking up a Ping-Pong ball and whacking it with a paddle. I also punched a punching bag and shot a bunch of ceramic statues. This is just what virtual reality needs to make experiences in an immersive world more engaging.

2. Abzu by Giant Squid, from 505 Games

You can hitch a ride on whales in Abzu.

Above: You can hitch a ride on whales in Abzu.

Image Credit: 505 Games

Matt Nava, one of the makers of Journey, spun out to create his own game studio, Giant Squid, to make this game about underwater exploration. It has awesome, inspiring music from Austin Wintory, and it allows you to feel a sense of wonder as you explore an underwater world. That would can be frightening, as when a shark swims by. Or it can be spellbinding, like when you cozy up to a giant sperm whale or ride on the back of a tortoise. It also has a directed narrative story that makes the game mysterious.

3. Uncharted 4: A Thief’s End by Naughty Dog, from Sony

Uncharted 4 E3 2015 - truck drag

Above: Nathan Drake goes mud-bogging.

Image Credit: Sony

Developer Naughty Dog is teasing this game as the end of Nathan Drake’s odyssey. He’s a rogue adventurer and a thief, but he’s trying to settle down with his love Elena. His brother Sam appears and tugs him back into the business of robbing relics, and his buddy, Sully, tries to keep him balanced. And Drake is on the trail of a pirate thief who amassed a fortune before coming to his own end. The subtitle has a lot of possible meanings, and creative director Neil Druckmann told us that is intentional. That kind of engaging story is why I love Uncharted.

Then add the nonstop action to that. Uncharted 4’s E3 video has some incredible action as an armored truck pursues Drake and Sully in a jeep through a hilly oceanside town. It is like you stepped into an interactive blockbuster action movie.

4. Horizon: Zero Dawn by Guerrilla Games, from by Sony

Aloy takes on a big mechanical dinosaur in Horizon: Zero Dawn.

Above: Aloy takes on a big mechanical dino-bird beast in Horizon: Zero Dawn.

Image Credit: Sony

Horizon: Zero Dawn was totally unexpected, coming from Guerrilla Games, the creator of the Killzone series. The company let its developers loose four-and-a-half years ago to create the world of Horizon. It takes place 1,000 years after a civilization collapses. Nature has begun to take back the world, with fauna growing over the ruins of cities. Humans have survived as tribal hunters.

But machines now rule the world. They take the form of dinosaur-like creatures. We meet them after a hunter, a strong female lead character named Aloy, starts to stalk a pack of herd-like mechanical dinosaurs. She uses a bow and stealth to bring down the creatures, but she has to deal with a giant T-rex mechanical monster. It has beautiful art and great creativity. It runs slower at a 30 frames per second, but that’s the cost of beauty.

5. Doom by id Software, from Bethesda Softworks

Doom E3 2015 - Unwilling Caco

Doom is the leader of the reboot trend. Id Software has been working on this for a long time. The last Doom game, Doom 3, was a dark and scary horror romp published in 2004. But this game has a lighter art style, and it’s focused on combat. It’s one of the bloodiest titles you’ll see, but the 3D graphics and shooting mechanics are amazing.

I played a hands-on demo that showed the speed is blazing fast, the sound is immersive, and the creatures are disgusting. No one does shooters as fast and satisfying as this.

6. Fallout 4 by Bethesda Studios, from Bethesda Softworks

Fallout 4 has a laser gun that you crank.

Above: Fallout 4 has a laser gun that you crank.

Image Credit: Dean Takahashi

Bethesda worked on this postapocalyptic sequel to 2009’s Fallout 3 for six years. During that time, it has crafted the title with care. It has delivered some high-end visuals, made scavenging fun, and brought back favorites such as a companion dog. The game is as deep as it gets. Creator Todd Howard showed how you could create your own character, dive deep into role-playing choices through the Pip Boy gadget, and enjoy a lot of satirical humor of the 1950s retro style optimism. You can craft weapons like the crank-operated laser gun and use it to, uh, negotiate with other humans you encounter in the wastelands.

If this game lives up to its promise of making life in the wastelands truly interesting, it’s going to be huge. And the apocalypse is once again going to be fun.

7. Wattam by Funomena

Keita Takahashi and Robin Hunicke of Funomena show off Wattam.

Above: Keita Takahashi and Robin Hunicke of Funomena show off Wattam.

Image Credit: Dean Takahashi

Clearly, E3 didn’t have enough wacky games. And that’s why Keita Takahashi, the creator of the wacky Katamari Damacy games, exists. He teamed up with Robin Hunicke and Martin Middleton to create Wattam, another crazy title that defies describing.

Takahashi’s inspiration was as strange as in his past games. He felt like people are too disconnected from each other and they need to get together, hold hands, and play. In this game, you start out with ordinary animated objects such as a cloud, a mayor, a tree, and some sprouts. Each one has a name, and it comes to life as you interact with it. You get a lawn mower, and you can mow over the grass, the flowers, and other objects. Each one of the objects starts to shine as you interact with it more. You can link the hands of the little animated characters. Once 10 of them are linked together, the mayor can set off a bomb on his head and blow them all sky-high, like fireworks on the Fourth of July.

Never have we seen such a goofy premise for a video game. I’m not surprised it’s fun.

8. ReCore by Comcept Studios and Armature, from Microsoft

ReCore is about a girl and her robot dog.

Above: ReCore is about a girl and her robot dog.

Image Credit: Microsoft

What tale could be simpler and more endearing than one about a girl and her robot dog. OK, it’s going to be complicated. But the revelation of this new exclusive from Microsoft showed how storytelling can be key. The duo encounter enemies on a desert planet, and the robot dog sacrifices itself to save Jewel, the girl. She saves its “core” and puts it in another robot. Is it the same dog?

9. Star Wars: Battlefront by Electronic Arts’ DICE studio

Star Wars Battlefront by EA

Above: Star Wars: Battlefront by EA

Image Credit: EA

Nothing is more iconic and crosses generations like Star Wars. With Battlefront, EA has rebooted a franchise that badly needed some good graphics and gameplay. Battlefront plays more like a Battlefield game, and that’s no accident since it uses EA’s Frostbite engine.

The game takes you back to classic scenes on planets such as Hoth and Tatooine. You can fight in X-wing fighters or duel with Imperial Stormtroopers as a hero of the Republic. You can also play the dark side, or play as Luke as he duels his father Darth Vader. The whole world is looking forward to this game.

10. No Man’s Sky by Hello Games

Hello Games founder Sean Murray showing No Man's Sky at E3 2015.

Above: Hello Games founder Sean Murray showing No Man’s Sky at E3 2015.

Image Credit: Dean Takahashi

This appeared last year, but it is growing on me. I’ve begun to appreciate the magnitude of its efficiency, as explained by co-creator Sean Murray. Made by just 10 people, No Man’s Sky uses mathematical algorithms to generate infinite worlds for you to explore. Its artists create the rough idea for characters, and when you land your ship on a planet, it then procedurally creates the world with a painterly art style.

The game stores what you experience at a particular place in the world as a math equation, rather than storing masses of data that games such as Star Wars: The Old Republic do. If you return to a place you’ve been before, it simply fires up the old algorithm and reproduces the scene as you saw it. That is very efficient.

The result is some of the most creative mashups of plants, creatures, and places you’ll ever see. You can kill these creatures if you wish, but the robot police will converge on you. If you simply wish to discover things, you can earn currency by uploading your discovery data to earn more currency to beef up your spaceship.

My honorable mentions

  • Studio MDHR’s Cuphead
  • Halo 5: Guardians
  • CCP’s Eve: Valkyrie on Oculus Rift
  • Activision’s Call of Duty: Black Ops III
  • Square Enix’s Deus Ex: Mankind Divided
  • Sega’s Total War: Warhammer
  • Ninja Theory’s Hellblade
  • Giant Sparrow’s What Remains of Edith Finch
  • Microsoft’s Gears of War 4
  • 505 Games’ Adr1ft
  • Sony’s Until Dawn
  • Sony’s The Last Guardian
  • The Molasses Flood’s The Flame in the Flood
  • EA’s Mass Effect
  • EA’s Mirror’s Edge Catalyst
  • EA’s Unravel
  • EA’s FIFA 16
  • Bethesda’s Fallout shelter
  • Aurora 44’s Ashen

Here’s our poll where you can vote for your favorites. And leave some comments if your favorite title isn’t there.

What is your favorite game of E3 2015

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