The Electronic Entertainment Expo, or E3, is a once-yearly smorgasbord of gaming that fills the Los Angeles Convention Center. This year, the expo took on 15,000 public attendees, a rare occurrence for an event mostly organized around the games industry and the press that cover it.
Despite the 68,000+ total crowd and the flurry of lights and sounds, E3 2017 had plenty to offer fans excited for what's to come later this year and beyond. Microsoft unveiled its super-powered Xbox One X, Nintendo showed off a lineup of new Switch and 3DS titles (including a much-requested return to the Metroid franchise), and Sony doubled-down on its exclusive catalog, including 2018's Spider-Man and God Of War.
What had us most excited, though, were the games we got to spend some time with on the showfloor. Without further ado, here are five games we played at E3 (all releasing this year) that are worth getting hyped for.
Super Mario Odyssey
Platform: Nintendo Switch | Release Date: Oct. 27
In typical Nintendo fashion, the gaming juggernaut brought its flagship fall title, the highly-anticipated Super Mario Odyssey. The game, which Nintendo is positioning as a follow-up to the open-world exploits of Super Mario 64 and Super Mario Sunshine, is absolutely gorgeous, and its crystalline worlds beg for exploration.
The demo we got to play was split into two parts, each ten minutes long. The first took place in the game's New Donk City, a riff on New York City, mayored by Mario's original female friend Pauline, first seen in Donkey Kong. In this level, Mario can explore the city in a few interesting ways, including riding a moped, leaping off the hood of taxis or swinging from streetlights. In the weirdest turn of events, Mario can now possess enemies, non-playable characters and items in the world with his hat, and in New Donk City, this means taking over actual humans, cars and more.
The second half of the demo took place in a a Day of the Dead-inspired world full of sugar skull characters and a collection of colorful, culture-inspired landscapes. While the New Donk City demo was more about exploration, this one was more focused on platforming and objectives. It also introduced us to a new warp pipe mechanic, where Mario hops into the pipe and appears on a wall as old school, 8-bit graffiti, leading to a miniature portion of gameplay reminiscent of the original Nintendo games.
With the game releasing this October, Nintendo will be completing an unparalleled one-two punch on the Nintendo Switch. With The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild releasing earlier this year, tying a bow on the Switch's first year with a fully-fledged, original Mario game is more than fans could ask for. It helps that it's really, really good, too.
Middle-earth: Shadow of War
Platforms: PlayStation 4, Xbox One, PC | Release Date: Oct. 10
Middle-earth: Shadow of War is a follow-up to 2013's Shadow of Mordor, a game that took plenty of us by surprise when it tackled the Lord of the Rings lore with grace and delivered a stellar action game with plenty to do and a refreshing new game mechanic: the Nemesis system.
Taking each of the first game's successes and moving them a peg forward, Shadow of War expands the original's Nemesis system (where you could essentially decide which enemies in the overworld to take down first, in turn affecting the game's story), and the newly-birthed Bright Lord can use that system to build an army of his own.
And that's just what the E3 demo we played focused on, storming an enemy fortress. Using the Nemesis system, an army was already set for us, built from orcs we convinced to join our fight against Sauron. We were able to select our war chiefs and a perk for each of them. For this demo, we picked an army of spiders, some brute orcs and a trebuchet that launched poisonous bombs into enemy territory. OK, what's next? Oh boy.
After an inspiring war cry from the main character, our army charged at the castle, and as nearly 100 allies filled the screen, it became clear that the game was something special, taking us back to a time when we'd play with army men or action figures. Shadow of War doesn't lock this to a cutscene, it lets you fight in the thick of it. We took control points and captured the castle, and the demo ended with a boss fight, allowing us to kill, shame or force the enemy to join our fight. If this was just a small piece of the game, we can't wait to see what's in store when it releases later this year.
South Park: The Fractured But Whole
Platforms: PlayStation 4, Xbox One, PC | Release: Oct. 17
Oh, South Park. After Ubisoft blessed us with the wacky and insanely raunchy The Stick of Truth, we were pumped to get our hands on its pseudo-sequel, The Fractured But Whole, and yes, that is a pun. We had a chance to sit down with the game and its lead narrative designer, Jolie Menzel to play a demo that took place in the game's strip club.
With that in mind, this game should under no circumstance be played by children. Like, seriously. When you play as a 10-year-old kid in a twerking mini game, it sets off a red flag. But, it's South Park.
The demo had us finding the ingredients to spike the club's DJ's drink before finding the mission's person of interest, one of the strippers. This led to an introduction of the game's new battle mechanic, which builds upon the Paper Mario-style from the first game. It's still turn-based, but you can now move freely around a grid space during your turn, and special moves will only apply to highlighted spaces, making things that much more tactical.
Overall, the demo proved that the South Park world is still ripe for a roleplaying game, and despite its unruly subject matter, this will not be one to miss for RPG fans or diehard lovers of the television show.
Mario + Rabbids: Kingdom Battle
Platform: Nintendo Switch | Release: Aug. 29
As one of the biggest surprises of the show, this tactical strategy game about Ubisoft's popular Rabbids characters (think Dreamworks' Minions, but rabbit-like) entering the Mushroom Kingdom turned out to be one of the most refreshing games of E3.
The demo we played took place during an early portion of the game, as Mario is introduced to Rabbid Peach and Rabbid Luigi, and the three explore a blissful world with stellar visuals and even better music. Seriously, whoever thought to bring in Grant Kirkhope (Banjo-Kazooie, Donkey Kong 64) should win an award. I don't know what award, but some award.
The game itself feels like an insanely fresh and unique passion project, with the combat riffing on games like X-COM, allowing players to chain attacks by using special moves, buffs and assists from other members of your party in turn-based combat. The game also sports an intensive skill tree system and plenty of gear to purchase and upgrade.
While the story and concept are a little wild to grasp, the addicting gameplay makes up for it, and we can't wait to play the whole thing when it drops in August.
Platforms: PlayStation 4, Xbox One, PC | Release: Sept. 6 (PS4, X1) / Oct. 24 (PC)
Our time with Destiny 2 wasn't long, but it was enough to see a lot of the polish developer Bungie put on the game's multiplayer suite, something many wanted from the original game, at least at its launch. The demo we played had us going 4v4 against an enemy team in an objective-capture game type.
The map we played in felt more closed quarters than anything we had experienced with the original Destiny, forcing players to work together for the objective and not run and gun like it's a simple death match. Of course, one thing we can count on Bungie doing is building a stellar shared-world experience. It was the true competitive multiplayer that had us worried -- and cautiously excited.
Honestly, though, after playing a handful of rounds with the game's new mechanics, classes, abilities and more, Sept. 6 can't come soon enough. Though, we'd be a bit happier if the PC version of the game had release date parity. Wink wink, nudge nudge.
Unfortunately, we didn't have time to get our hands on everything coming this year. Games like Wolfenstein II: The New Colossus, Metroid: Samus Returns and Crackdown 3 all look fantastic, but we'll just have to wait a little bit longer to see them in action.
For next year, we did get to check out Dragonball FighterZ, Skull & Bones and Far Cry 5, each with plenty to be excited for. Dragonball FighterZ is an intense fighting game with callbacks to the Marvel vs. Capcom franchise and honestly might turn out better than that series' newest entry. Skull & Bones is a shared-world pirate action game that took us through some intense multiplayer action and Far Cry 5 and its controversial overtones are sure to be something when we see the full game early next year.