The 25 Best Games of E3 2014

Artwork by CitrusKing46

We send one man to cover E3, he comes back singing the praises of Sony’s offerings. We send another man to cover E3, he comes back singing the praises of Nintendo’s offerings. So logically, one would expect me to come back with a strong endorsement of what Microsoft said, no?

Well, it’s not going to go down like that. (Ironically, I’m in the minority who just thought Microsoft did have the best press conference, largely because they just went straight into talking about a crop of really impressive games…which come to think of it, is what we’re doing here.) No, let’s get straight to the action, round up a massive batch of terrific video games, and cap off this year’s E3 with an extravaganza this deserves. These are…the best games of E3 2014.

*Flips on a boombox playing that Queen mashup from Sucker Punch*


25. Devil’s Third

Nintendo, I’ve said before that you need to nurture second and third parties a bit more, and picking up a long-delayed title from the man behind the Ninja Gaiden games is a good place to start. Having seen the trailer, I have concluded that this is more of a great place to start. A completely over-the-top action game of fast-paced combat, intense shootouts, notable drum solos and a story based on Kessler syndrome theory (assuming that part is still in the game). This is the time of ridiculous M-rated fun we could always use more of, so indeed, thank you Nintendo!

24. Below

Below is a roguelike adventure with quite the notable visual style: a minimalist adventure that has you exploring the labyrinthine depths of a remote island in cavernous areas with graphics that deliberately say it loud: you are but a speck, a speck in a harsh, uncaring world, one full of difficult challenges and permanent death where your adventure could end at any turn. A tough-as-nails piece of work full of exploration and mystery where curiosity can truly kill the cat. Fun for the whole family!

23. Bloodborne

From Software has become legendary in recent years for their tough-as-nails Dark Souls games, and while I haven’t been able to get into them as well as others, Bloodborne is the type of game that I can’t wait to get into. The setting of a mysterious late-1800s city known for the magic cures, now overrun with a plague spreading illness, madness and horror everywhere is just ripe with opportunity for some fantastic visuals and an intriguing story. Oh, and then there’s the part where you get to take a giant cleaver to the head of a relatively giant goat demon. You know, always a pleasant experience.

22. No Man’s Sky

To say that No Man’s Sky is ambitious is kind of an understatement. A first-person game with an infinite procedurally-generated universe where you jump a rocketship and travel around the vast regions of space, discovering entire planets and species living on them. I don’t know if you actually get to name them or not, but imagine being the person who discovered the planet Abraxas populated entirely by manicorns. Indeed, No Man’s Sky is a game about exploration on a massive scale, and it looks to be something terrific.

21. Metrico

Having finally gotten my hands on what first came off as an interesting little nugget of a Vita game, I can thankfully say that Metrico is still preparing itself to be one of the most innovative platformers in recent years. A platform game based around statistics and charts may seem odd at first, but once you play it, it all makes for one surreal and amazing experience. A world where your actions go towards the statistics that form the obstacles in your way creates for an interesting and challenging game, perfectly capped off with some nicely ambient aesthetics. So grab a Vita and take this game along to escape your boring office job filled with graphs and numbers to…um, play a game filled with graphs and numbers. But a fun one, I assure you.

20. LittleBigPlanet 3

LittleBigPlanet 3 may be the first game in the series not to involve developers Media Molecule, but it still looks like it’ll contain the same level of quality, whimsy and creativity that comes naturally to the series by this point. The big new addition is three new characters in addition to the lovable Sackboy, all of whom not only add an extra little bit to the platforming action, but whose abilities will encourage players to come up with even more imaginative levels in the series’ famous level creator. Mind you, 95% of those players are still just going to wind up recreating World 1-1 from Super Mario Bros., but for those 5% who actually put forth effort, we salute you.

19. Hotline Miami 2: Wrong Number

Dennation’s original neon-soaked, blood-filled masterpiece was one of the great indie games of the year (or just one of the best games overall), and the sequel promises to live up to its lofty standards. Featuring a deeper, more complex plot exploring the vast intricacies of fandom and obsession in a country ravaged by ’80s-era Cold War paranoia, Hotline Miami 2 has you address these tricky situations largely by putting on an animal mask and gunning down everything in sight, at least when you’re not stomping some heads into a bloody pulp. More characters, more skills, more weapons, more of that unbelievably badass soudtrack, and now even with a level editor included, this game is just more of a f***in’ good thing all around.

18. Night in the Woods

WARNING: Night In The Woods may be the most indie game ever conceived by man. After all, what you have here is a game about an angsty college dropout returning to her old hometown only to learn that everything has changed, leaving an aimless girl to deal with an uncertain future and trying to figure out how to move on with her life. Oh, and all of the characters are anthropomorphic animals, naturally. And the whole shebang is wrapped in the form of a lovely hybrid of an adventure game and a platformer. But yeah, imagine a mix of at least one indie game, comic and movie. Again, warning, this might be a dangerous level of indie-ness to take in, but it looks like it’ll be worth it.

17. Broforce

Let’s just get to the point: Broforce is essentially the 8-bit video games of your youth combined with all of the other games of your youth that you made by mashing together all of your action figures. In other words, for a huge amount of nerds out there, this is essentially a dream game. A frenetic, chaotic, action-packed romp through the action movies of – yep – your youth (your youth is getting quite the workout here), Broforce will no doubt be the testosterone-filled festival that your inner child demanded.

16. Alien: Isolation

So after last year’s embarrassing stain of feces that was Aliens: Colonial Marines, it was clear that Sega owed the gaming world some sort of apology. So they apparently plan on giving us Alien: Isolation, an apology that reads “We’re sorry for an unplayable mess of a game that further tarnished the reputation of one of the greatest sci-fi franchises ever made. Would you accept an ode to the horror-filled first film that basically plays like last year’s terrifying game Outlast, except now you’re hiding in fear from one of the most terrorizing monsters in film history?” Yes, I sure would.

15. To Leave

Well now, this was something I wasn’t expecting. Tucked away in the Sony booth among other Vita games was To Leave, an indie game about escaping drudgery that just happens to involve navigating a sort of rocket-powered door (oh, of course you have a rocket-powered door) through a series of surreal mazes, where you have to actually collect the drive to keep going before it runs out. A challenging little game with an eye-catching concept, it’s a crazed potential gem not to be missed out on.

14. Roundabout

Am I seriously the only one who shows any interest and excitement for a quirky action-puzzler about a constantly-rotating limousine that can leap on tall buildings, squish people like bugs leaving trails of blood in their wake, and pick up passengers that lead into intentionally cheesy ’70s-style live-action clips? If so, please kill me, because I don’t want to live on a world where something this insanely fun is only appreciated by one person.

13. Borderlands: The Pre-Sequel

You know what, just watch the above trailer. Really, nothing I could ever say could ever come close to matching the sales pitch of a trailer for a Borderlands game. I mean, come on, it has a frickin’ moon dance!!

12. D4

Earlier this week, I wrote about the Kinect and how D4 (AKA Dark Dreams Don’t Die) is an example of what is hopefully the type of game the Kinect needs more of. And after having played it, I can indeed confirm that it’s shaping up to be exactly that. A Heavy Rain-style adventure from the man behind the lunacy that was Deadly Premonition, D4 utilizes simple hand gestures to control everything, allowing for those beloved Minority Report-style gestures we always wanted to use to make up the majority of the action. Throw in a unique story about a traumatized time-traveling detective, and you have another potential cult hit from the twisted mind of SWERY.

11. Ori and the Blind Forest

If I had to be honest, I didn’t see much in Ori that I haven’t seen in a lot of other Metroidvania games (at least not for now). But that bit doesn’t matter, because all that counts is that Ori still looks and plays like a high-tier Metroidvania game indeed. The art, graphics, and character design are breathtaking, movements are gorgeous and fluid, platforming is incredibly fun, combat is nice and the story seems to be shaping up into something quite interesting. It’s a visually striking piece of work that hopefully, you won’t turn a blind eye to.

10. The Order: 1886

Again, what we have here in a game that may not appear to wholly innovate its respective genre, but again is just shaping up to be a really damn good game overall. Ready at Dawn’s Victorian-era, cover-based steampunk shooter (yeah, the late 1800s were surprisingly well-represented at E3 this year) was just a fun little jaunt through Jolly Olde England, where it just so happens that you’re able to surround an enemy with an entire cloud of thermite you shoot out of a machine gun, and then launch a projectile at them that lights ’em up and lets them burn in a fiery death. Because even the grayest of England deserves a spark of fun now and then, in more ways than one.

9. CounterSpy

So can stealth games, platformers and cover-based shooters mix together to create combination as good as peanut butter and chocolate? Well, Counterspy obviously aims to prove that the answer is “yes”, and even throws in some cookie bits for good measure. A unique piece of work that uses the classic Cold War style and iconography to great effect, Counterspy was quite impressive in showcasing that somehow feels both challenging yet simple, and one that encourages stealth yet allows for any play style at the same time. So thankfully, more Goldfinger and less Moonraker.

8. Hyper Light Drifter

Holy crap, LOOK AT IT. LOOK AT HOW GLORIOUS THIS IS. God, every part of my inner old-school gamer is crying out in ecstasy over this game. A Zelda-like adventure with some of the most eye-popping visuals in video games today, a lot of Hyper Light Drifter‘s story has been shrouded in secrecy, but even just mere glimpses of the game’s world suggests a land of pure wonder, imagination and kickassery. And the movement and combat…so simple, yet so fast, fluid and awesome. God, this drifter can’t get here fast enough…

7. Danganronpa 2: Goodbye Despair

The original Danganronpa was one of the most pleasant surprises of this year so far, an engrossing visual novel about a group of high school students trapped in a large high school and held hostage by a psychotic stuffed bear who tells them that the only way to escape is to murder another student and then get away with it by surviving a mock trial with objections take the form of metaphorical bullets and rhythm games can break out (Spoilers: It was a Japanese game). Needless to say, the sequel promises more of the same goodness with a new crop of students trapped on a tropical island; the intro at E3 already showed off an eclectic bunch of characters. Most of them will wind up as corpses in interactive murder mysteries, mind you, but eclectic nonetheless. Sure to be a bloody good time, in more ways than one (sorry, I couldn’t help it).

6. Far Cry 4

The only things you need to know are that you can manipulate surrounding elements to cause elephant stampedes that crash through your enemies this time around, and Troy Baker plays what is already shaping up to be one of the best antagonists in recent gaming memory, as seen above. If the finished product somehow involves Troy Baker riding a stampeding elephant, we can pretty much fork over all our GOTY awards to this one, folks.

5. Valiant Hearts: The Great War

Note to all other major gaming companies: THIS is how you do a war game, dammit. You go for something unique like a puzzle-adevnture game set in World War I, set around the intertwining struggles of four different people, and based on real-life letters from WWI veterans. And maybe you also highlight it all with the type of jaw-dropping visuals from the people who brought you the equally gorgeous Rayman Origins and Child of Light. Oh, and of course, incredible writing designed to tug at one’s heartstrings. Hell, even throw in a partnership with the upcoming documentary Apocalypse WWI just to point out how this game plans to seriously handle the subject of war, juxtaposed with comic book-like visuals and a more cerebral style of gameplay. And it comes out in less than two weeks, so don’t miss out on it, dang it.

4. Road Not Taken

One of the definite indie highlights at E3, Spryfox’s tale about the surprises in life inspired by a Robert Frost poem (yeah, bet you didn’t see that forming the basis for a video game) ended up capturing the hearts of several attendees thanks to its gorgeous art and simple yet unique and elaborate gameplay. The best way I can describe the game is a sort of cross between a modern roguelike game and an old-school puzzle game, you know, think The Binding of Isaac meets The Adventures of Lolo. Your quest to help restore lost children separated by a blizzard to their parents is complicated by the limited amount of time you have on this earth, specifically the fact that moving around objects to navigate and solve puzzles takes away a bit of your life essence each time, so you have to plan out every move you make…and sometimes just rely on luck. Hopefully this won’t be the Road less travelled by, because a game this promising deserves to be enjoyed by as many as possible.

3. Splatoon

THIS, Nintendo. THIS. This is what I’ve wanted from you all this time: A unique new franchise that makes for a damn fun video game that you prominently highlight for the world to see, proving that you’ve rediscovered your creative spark in what will hopefully kick off a return to your glory days. And the idea of a kid-friendly shooter? As someone who preaches that we need more major kid-friendly games, I commend you fully for it. And what better premise for a shooter than a game where your manic characters use colored ink ammo to destroy enemies and gain territory that you can swim in by transforming into a squid at the the click of a button? Truly some ingenious stuff! A bunch of tentacled creatures swimming around in and gushing notable amounts of goo before they ambush young girls and…um, maybe we should re-consider that “kid-friendly” thing again. Nonetheless, bravo.

2. Evolve

A new shooter from the makers of Left 4 Dead that can basically be summed up as Left 4 Dead but with the zombie hordes replaced by a miniature kaiju? I fail to see how this can go wrong in any way possible. Four different class-based hunters with various skills versus one giant monster that can hunt, evolve, and gain new skills throughout the pursuit makes for some damn good multiplayer, with both sides being nicely balanced so far. It just goes to prove once again that truly, battle with giant monsters can bring out the best in us all…

1. Sunset Overdrive

…So as it turns out, my pick for the best game of E3 2014 turned out to be an Xbox One game after all. Go figure! Appropriate, I suppose?

Anyhow, I’m not going to lie, I went into E3 with Sunset Overdrive as my own personal frontrunner for Best in Show. And after having actually played it, I do not regret backing this game one bit. Sunset Overdrive is practically everything I love about video games wrapped up in a single package, chock full of fast-paced carnage, vivid colors and imaginative designs, a vast array of creative weaponry, sheer insanity and a sense of humor, and a plot involving an evil soft drink (which I think the last Devil May Cry game had as well; here’s hoping this trend sticks).

All of the arcade-y goodness of the best classic action titles with gameplay that feels like a delicious cross between Dead Rising and Jet Set Radio, juiced up with the next-gen power needed to give us huge hordes of mutant enemies and a vast open-world to kill them all in via a spray of vinyl records embedded in their heads. It is a joyful, candy-coated wedgie to the overflow of brown-grey gritty shooters we have right now, and I just can’t stop loving it. Sheer insanity, I embrace thee with open arms and a potential boner. Gob bless you, Insomniac. I shall indeed punch Peter in the face for dismissing your genius.

…Lasty, why the hell not, some Honorable Mentions: Crackdown, Battlecry, Destiny, Inside, Scalebound, Kirby and the Rainbow Curse, Entwined, Let it Die, Persona Q: Shadow of the Labyrinth, Nuclear Throne, Abzu, Oddworld: New ‘n’ Tasty, Not A Hero, Galak-Z, Secret Ponchos, and the remastered version of Grim Fandango, the latter of which would have won Game of the Show if they had any footage.

Anyhow, that takes care of another E3 for this year. We truly hope you’ve enjoyed all of our coverage this week, and let it be known that we took pride in hopefully bringing you the type of game that you will all truly enjoy, and that this final act was a grandiose showcase of what the show had to offer. We enjoyed making it, and we hope you enjoyed reading it all and hearing about the games of the finest quality that the industry has to offer in the bright, radiant future.

…Now if you’ll excuse me, I haven’t slept in 72 hours. *collapses*

Previously by Kyle LeClair:

TR’s 10 Best Indie Games of 2013

Ten More Great Games From E3 (That Might’ve Flown Under Your Radar)

The 10 Best Original Games of E3 2012

The Ten Best Games From PAX 2013