15 Exciting Games That You May Have Missed From E3 2019
The Hidden Gems of E3 2019
While Sony skipped out on E3 2019, resulting in a show that had a smaller turnout than previous years, the big expo still played host to a vast number of games. A few, like Cyberpunk 2077, Watch Dogs Legion, Ghost Recon Breakpoint, and Breath of the Wild 2, dominated much of the conversation. With so many games on offer and a few huge ones looming large, it was easy for smaller and less visible games to slip through unnoticed--but among the ones that didn't book Keanu Reeves as a major character, there were quite a few hidden gems.
You might have missed some of those gems, but don't worry, because we didn't. From titles such as Devolver's Carrion, which puts you in the role of a horrific monster as it rips humans apart, to Hollow Knight: Silksong, the follow-up to the acclaimed 2017 Metroidvania, to the mind-bending and time-looping 12 Minutes, the E3 show floor (and beyond) was full of inventive games. We've compiled a big list of our favorites: games that intrigued, captivated, or just provided a lot of fun during gaming's biggest event of the year.
Read on for a quick look at the many games from E3 that might not be on your radar, but should be. We've got plenty of additional coverage as well: Head to our E3 hub for more information about everything we saw and played during the show. You can also watch every press conference, see every trailer, and read every drop of news that came out of E3.
12 Minutes | Xbox One
What would you do if you were stuck in a time loop where you kept reliving the same 12 minutes over and over? Not only that, but your significant other is accused of murder and every time you repeat this time loop, you're killed by a mysterious assailant? 12 Minutes is a thrilling upcoming top-down adventure game that puts you in this very situation.
The sense of intrigue hits you the moment you open the door to your apartment--in which the entire game seems to take place. In only 12 minutes, you must figure out why this is all happening; if you take too long, you'll die and repeat the time loop. Fortunately, your protagonist retains the knowledge he has accumulated, which helps you push the narrative further after each death.
12 Minutes had me engrossed for the entirety of my demo, challenging me to act quickly and be observant of everything in the apartment. While I didn't even come close to convincing the protagonist's wife of the time loop, the progress I made had me hungry for more. If 12 Minutes can maintain this drama the whole way through, then it's bound to be something truly special. -- Matt Espineli, Editor
Barotrauma | PC
Survival games can be incredibly lonely, which is exactly what the submarine multiplayer adventure Barotrauma is trying to address. You and a crew of up to 15 other players need to work together to safely traverse dark and dangerous trading routes, moving from one outpost to the next in a journey to the core of the game's world.
There are no prescribed roles in Barotrauma, but the tightly coupled systems that keep your vessel running need your careful attention to avoid them breaking down and leaving you stranded. Given the size of each vessel and how systems play off one another (a generator powers defensive subsystems that let you ward off attacks, for example) you'll need to communicate clearly and delegate tasks effectively. It's definitely an experience that looks best played with friends, especially since there are no systems in place yet to prevent a single griefing player from ruining the run for everyone else.
That's part of Barotrauma's roadmap, but you can already hop and in contribute to on-going development through Steam Early Access. Barotrauma has an eerie and oppressive aesthetic that contrasts what can be hilariously frantic and accident-prone gameplay. Its ideas for the future seem promising too, which makes it one E3 highlight to keep an eye on. -- Alessandro Barbosa, Freelance Writer
Battletoads | PC, Xbox One
Any resurrection of Battletoads needed to capture the cartoony feel and humor of the original, and to be punishingly difficult. After playing through one of the game's levels at Microsoft's showcase at E3 2019, we can report that Battletoads 2019 manages both. The beat-em-up gameplay feels pretty true to the original, with some serious improvements: you now can execute a series of morphing moves that help you blast enemies with things like huge fists and feet or eye lasers, or by turning your Battletoad into a shark or a train. It's weird and funny, and Battletoads' hand-drawn art is essential to selling the jokes.
Our demo also included an updated version of the Turbo Tunnel level from the original Battletoads, reimagined as a head-on venture through the tunnel instead of a side-scrolling one. It's just as difficult; the tunnel is littered with pits to drop into and barriers to crash against. Despite the difficulty, we had a great time fighting our way through the more complex but better designed Turbo Tunnel, which luckily featured plenty of checkpoints. Battletoads brings the sense of challenge and accomplishment that was such a part of the original game, while incorporating a lot of smart upgrades that modernize it, and a gorgeous updated art style. -- Phil Hornshaw, Editor
Carrion | PC
The top-level premise of Carrion--you're a horror movie monster ripping apart humans with your slimy tentacles and razor-sharp teeth--doesn't really need much else to sell it. The game is basically a chance to become the creature from John Carpenter's The Thing and wreak havoc, and the aesthetic of Carrion captures the feel of being a gross, seething alien creature. What doesn't come across as much in gameplay trailers is the mechanical depth of Carrion as you play through it. Eating people grows your biomass, allowing the creature to acquire new special abilities like firing a bolt of webbing that smashes people into walls, turning invisible, or transforming humans into puppets who do your bidding.
The thing is, you don't just pile up all those abilities to use whenever you want; your size dictates your "class," with some abilities becoming available when you're huge and others only when you're smaller. Managing your size becomes part of Carrion's puzzle-solving elements as you navigate its world, and losing biomass to the attacks of enemies can mess up your ability to progress until you manage to regain it. In all, Carrion caught my interest by letting me become a disgusting fleshy killing machine but piqued my curiosity by requiring I also be a smart disgusting fleshy killing machine. -- Phil Hornshaw, Editor
Cris Tales | PC, PS4, Xbox One, Switch
The upcoming JRPG tribute Cris Tales loves to wear its influences on its sleeves. With some stellar 2D visuals, showcasing some incredibly detailed and vibrant locales, this imaginative send-up of classic JRPGs is looking to be a fun homage to the classics. Taking on the role of Crissbell, an orphan girl who gains the ability to control time, you'll embark on an adventure with her party to battle ancient foes and monsters in an ever-changing world. With combat that feels like its right out of Grandia and classic Final Fantasy games, Cris Tales takes a lot of cues from classic games that have left a significant impact on fans in the years since their release. While does pay great homage to the classics, Cris Tales does an admirable job of recontextualizing those ideas into something true to itself. In a number of cases, it subverts common tropes you'd see in other games of its ilk, which led to some surprising moments in the demo I played during E3 2019.
JRPGs like Chrono Trigger and Radiant Historia have already played with the concept of time travel. However, Cris Tales uses time-bending on a more active level. The main character's ability to comprehend different periods and travel to and from the parallels eras at will creates several fun opportunities during exploration, storytelling, and even in the battles themselves. In one boss fight against a shield-wielding giant, Crissbell can manipulate the timestream to reverse or amplify attacks and status effects. After casting water in the present period, soaking the boss's metal shield in water, you can travel forward in time and cause the shield to rust over, allowing you to puncture through the foe's defenses.
What struck me with Cris Tales from the demo I played before E3 2019 was the fantastic way it plays with the established conventions and design of an old-school JRPG. While doing this, it also showcases its personality and design-sense. Set for release sometime in 2020, this visually stunning and amusing ode to classic role-playing games is looking to provide a fun way to relive some of the glory days of the genre. -- Alessandro Fillari, Editor
Evil Genius 2 | PC
Lovingly referred to as a "Spy-fi" game by developer Rebellion Entertainment, Evil Genius 2 is a send-up of classic spy films. But instead of playing as a suave and resourceful spy who has to take down a secret organization, you play as the brilliant and cunning mastermind that built the evil empire from the ground up. Evil Genius 2 is the follow-up to the cult-favorite sci-fi lair-building sim where you scheme and plot world domination and the sequel definitely expands on the different machinations that your evil antagonist can employ. At E3 2019, we got to see an early look of the game, and it's clear that it's taking what worked with the original while fleshing out the various plans and techniques you can use to build your evil island lair.
While some characters and events from the original are referenced--such as the henchman turned warlord Red Ivan--Evil Genius 2 is mostly standalone and is a solid entry for newcomers looking to make a name for themselves on the evil world stage. As you recruit new henchmen and train them to be the best guards, scientists, and evil assassins they can be, you'll occasionally have to defend your base from the members of the Forces of Justice. These noble agents will put your planning skills and wits as a mastermind to the test, and getting the best of them with your laser traps or pits full of ravenous sharks can be satisfying when pulled off correctly. Coming sometime next year to PC, Evil Genius 2 looks to be a fun and satisfying twist on the classic tropes of spy fiction. -- Alessandro Fillari, Editor
Fall Guys: Ultimate Knockout | PC
Battle royale has quickly become the biggest fad in multiplayer gaming and it seems everybody's looking to jump on the last-player-standing bandwagon. Fall Guys plays with that idea a bit, creating a game show where you and tens of other players embody squishy, bouncy characters all competing to win what is essentially a giant game show. Mixing Mario Party with Takeshi's Castle (or Most Extreme Elimination Challenge here in the U.S.), it puts you through a bunch of quick rounds where you try to accomplish different objectives, like racing up a hill while dodging huge pinball-like flippers and squishy boulders cascading down, or chasing each other around trying to grab flag football-like tails off one another. Each round eliminates a few more people from the field until one player is victorious.
Fall Guys channels the quick, frantic fun of easily accessible party games, but multiplies that feeling through the chaos of so many participants. Developer Mediatonic's plans to create tons of short competitions (the base game will ship with 20 or more levels and the developer wants to keep adding more post-release) make it sound like there will be a huge variety of hilarious extreme elimination battles when it launches in 2020. -- Phil Hornshaw, Editor
Hollow Knight: Silksong | PC, Switch
Hollow Knight: Silksong contains everything there is to love about the first game: challenging yet fair combat, creatively designed bosses that are satisfying to overcome, uniquely stylized worlds, and a wonderful soundtrack. Yet this DLC-turned-sequel is a different kind of challenge, building upon Hollow Knight's formula to easily deliver one of the best gaming experiences found at E3 2019.
Frankly, it just comes down to the game playing a lot more quickly than its predecessor. Unlike the nameless knight from the first game, Hornet, a secondary character from the first game, can hoist herself up ledges, sports a longer-reaching dash than her predecessor and downward diagonal aerial slash attack, and heals nearly instantly. Hornet is at her best when she's constantly in motion and applying pressure to an opponent. In order to match her, the enemies and bosses she encounters are far more aggressive than those found in the original Hollow Knight. As a result, battles play out in a quick succession of attacks, parries, and dodges.
Silksong and the original Hollow Knight are, at their core, the same game. Silksong just adds a tweak to the first title's formula. Between the two, it seems to provide the more rewarding (and more fun) combat loop, though, improving upon an already stellar Metroidvania-inspired indie title to create a game about deadly, rhythmic duels in a beautifully realized world. The two demos we played at E3 were fantastic. Regardless of whether you've played the original or not, Silksong is one to look out for. -- Jordan Ramee, Associate Editor
Minecraft Dungeons | PC, PS4, Xbox One, Switch
Minecraft Dungeons seems to be one of the most accessible dungeon-crawling games, but it provides enough depth in its customization to appeal to long-time fans of the genre. It's also just fun to play.
Your character class is dependent on what attire you wear, allowing you to switch up your playstyle on the fly. That's great for the game's drop-in, drop-out co-op. No matter what your party make-up is, you and your friends can reoutfit yourself for the situation. Other features--such as the ability to warp to other players--help make the game more co-op friendly and more accessible for those playing the genre for the first time and struggling to keep up with a more experienced partner.
The best part of the game is its Minecraft influence, though. You don't need to have played the block-building indie game to know how Minecraft Dungeons works, but if you have, you'll have a better understanding of what certain items or enemies do once you first encounter them. Bones can summon helpful wolves to aid you in combat for example, and Endermen are terrifying mini boss enemies you're better off avoiding--and if you look them in the eye you're getting pummeled. -- Jordan Ramee, Associate Editor
Planet Zoo | PC
If you played Zoo Tycoon in the early 2000s, Planet Zoo will immediately feel familiar. Your overall goal, if you can call it that, is the same: build and maintain a successful zoo, whatever that means to you. You pick your animals, build their habitats, and keep them happy, all while keeping your guests happy, too. But Planet Zoo's tools go much further than Zoo Tycoon's did all those years ago, from the big-picture management to the most zoomed-in view of your zoo.
Planet Zoo comes from the team behind Planet Coaster, and many of its management features are similar. One of the standouts is a piece-by-piece building tool, which allows you to customize larger structures from individual pieces, as opposed to placing pre-built structures in full. This means you can customize, say, the play structure in your primate habitat to fit the area as well as your own imagination. You can then zoom in to watch as the chimps play on their custom-made playground (or ignore it for nearby trees).
The animals in Planet Zoo have personalities, a variety of needs, and their own genetic print--no two giraffes will have the same pattern. Each individual animal has a series of needs that update in real time as you update things like their habitat's terrain, the amount of fresh water available to them, and even the climate of indoor habitats. Following animals around just to see what they do is a kind of metagame of its own, too, as they'll engage in activities both typical for their species and unique to their own personality, like playing with toys.
We only got a brief overview during E3, but it's clear that Planet Zoo has both breadth and depth. From the basic layout of your zoo, which involves keeping the behind-the-scenes things out of sight and the educational side of a zoo at the forefront, to the minute details of each individual animal, the zoos you can create could only have been dreamed of in the early days of Zoo Tycoon. We're eager to see the full scope when Planet Zoo releases on Steam on November 5. -- Kallie Plagge, Reviews Editor
Sayonara Wild Hearts | Switch
From Annapurna Interactive, Sayonara Wild Hearts is a stylish blend of music games and magical girl adventures. Like Sailor Moon, the main character undergoes a quick-change transformation into her heroine clothes, and unlike Sailor Moon, she embarks on a musically-charged ride through otherworldly tracks and meets an enemy team of magical girls. Each level has you automatically moving forward, occasionally dodging obstacles from side to side and timing a button press to execute stylish moves, attacks, and more.
It's hard to pin down exactly what Sayonara Wild Hearts is, gameplay-wise. It has rhythm game elements in that you sometimes have to do things to the beat, but really, it's just about feeling the music and getting into a trance. You ride a blue motorcycle through a pink-and-purple city and the battle a girl dressed in red in what appears to be space, all to an electronic track backed by ethereal female voices. Making sense of it doesn't seem to be the main goal.
The demo we played at E3 was brief, but it was an enchanting snapshot into an abstract game. We're looking forward to seeing where these magical girls go. -- Kallie Plagge, Reviews Editor
Scavengers | PC
Coming from former developers of the Halo franchise and the Gears of War series, Scavengers takes several liberties with the now-common setup of the squad-focused battle royale. After a meteorite struck the moon, sending lunar shards down to the planet, the landscape of Earth was forever altered, destroying civilization and spreading a mysterious infection that turns humans into deformed creatures. Now in the middle of a second ice age, you and a crew of survivors will explore the ruined Earth, searching for meager supplies to bring back to your off-world safe haven. The core concept of Scavengers focuses on what the devs refer to as "co-opetition," which leans heavily on the dynamic engagements you have against other teams of players while working with your own squad to stay alive in the wilderness.
It all sounds very familiar; however, there's a greater emphasis on the survivalist aspect, and the environment itself is a far more constant threat than the AI bandits and rival players you'll come across. Along with staying warm and well-fed, you'll have to overtake dozens of encampments that house looters looking to take what you have. During our playthrough, we managed to cover a lot of ground and slowly build up our resources, even upgrading our meager base weapons to high-powered rifles. We slowly made our way across the map in a cool hovercraft, but then we met our untimely end at the hands of another group of players--who quickly stole our gear and vehicle. Scavengers has got a lot of intriguing ideas, though they're somewhat well-worn. Yet it somehow makes it all its own for its different approach. I ended up really enjoying what the so-called "co-opetition" game is all about, and with added content coming in following its launch, there are bound to be several changes happening for a dynamic world. -- Alessandro Fillari, Editor
The Sinking City | PC, PS4, Xbox One, Switch
I was already incredibly excited for The Sinking City before I played it at E3 2019. After playing it again, I'm happy to report that I'm even more excited. A Lovecraft-inspired adventure game set in the fictional flooded city of Oakmont, Massachusetts during the 1920s, you play as Charles Reed, a troubled private investigator in search of a cure for his persistent hallucinations.
In The Sinking City, you'll investigate crime scenes, uncover clues, and fend off mysterious creatures threatening Reed's sanity. The latest demo I played put me in a situation where Reed was accused of a murder he didn't commit. To clear his name, I tracked down a corrupt politician behind the plot after following leads and cross-checking documents in the city archive. However, securing Reed's innocence wasn't as easy as pointing the finger at somebody else. I was forced to make a difficult decision: accept the politician's bribe and poison his mother, frame the politician, or find the real culprit--a man blackmailed into murdering the victim of the case after the kidnapping of his family.
The decision of how to progress had me paralyzed. Sure, I could frame the politician, but does that make me any better than him? There was no way in hell I was going to accept his bribe, either. On the other hand, finding the real killer could get to the truth, but it would throw in jail a man whose hands were tied from the start. The Sinking City seems packed with moral quandaries like this, which has me all the more excited to play the game when it finally releases on June 27. Whether you're a fan of the Cthulu-mythos or not, The Sinking City is a game you need to try. -- Matt Espineli, Editor
Spiritfarer | PC, PS4, Xbox One, Switch
Spiritfarer is a heartwarming management game that incorporates mechanics from Harvest Moon and Animal Crossing, puts them on a boat, and weaves in a story about death. A premise like this might sound dark and morbid, but it's actually incredibly pleasant. My time spent with Spiritfarer was calming--a much-appreciated reprieve from the chaotic milieu of E3. The game puts you in control of Stella, a ferry master to the deceased, who builds a boat to explore the world and care for spirits transitioning into the afterlife.
In Spiritfarer, you spend most of your time tending to crops, cooking food, and conversing with friendly spirits. However, there's a stirring poeticism that informs these activities. After all, you're leading them to their ultimate fate. I can already imagine feeling gutted seeing my friendly animal spirits leave this world, like the wise old snake lady I helped reminisce about her younger days and the affable frog who taught me how to fish. All the while, beautiful visuals bring these characters to life with an infectious charm that's difficult to forget.
Spiritfarer may be another management game following in the footsteps of more well-known franchises, but it's one well worth keeping an eye on. It releases on PS4, Xbox One, PC, Switch sometime next year. -- Matt Espineli, Editor
Yooka-Laylee and the Impossible Lair | PC, PS4, Xbox One, Switch
Yooka-Laylee kind of got off on the wrong foot when it spun onto screens in 2017 as the proclaimed spiritual successor to Banjo-Kazooie. And though it captured the charm and nostalgia that made collect-a-thons so endearing, it was those same characteristics that also held it back. Now Playtonic Games is back to present Yooka the chameleon and his bat pal Laylee literally from a different angle by shifting them into 2D, and it’s the best thing that could happen to the unlikely duo. Yooka-Laylee and the Impossible Layer isn’t a sequel, but rather a spinoff, and it feels like a fresh-start for the characters.
Among the notable changes is the game’s overworld, which itself behaves like a different kind of game. It takes on an overhead Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past-era approach, where players are given a break from the fast-paced nature of the 2D levels, and instead can wander at their own speed, solve puzzles, find collectibles, and unlock different areas in the world in a fairly non-linear fashion. Each level also has a completely different variation, which is unlocked by solving puzzles. Some levels may change from horizontal to vertical, or a level once set on land may be flooded and become a water one.
Playtonic Games is calling this a “2D adventure hybrid.” And unlike its predecessor, they’re coming at this with a fresh take on a tried-and-true genre that still remains relevant to this day. We’ll see how it all spins out later this year. -- Kurt Indovina, Host/Writer