E3 2016 was pretty incredible all around. From Microsoft’s hardware announcements to The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild‘s full reveal to Sony’s incredibly paced press conference, there was something for everyone this year. Here are a few of the games that stuck out to me above the rest…

South Park: The Fractured But Whole

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While there was a time when South Park was among my favorite shows, those days have passed. Because of that, I never thought to pick up South Park: The Stick of Truth when it released and I wasn’t really interested in The Fractured but Whole, but the gameplay demos and trailer at Ubisoft’s press conference absolutely changed my mind. The dialogue was funny, the mechanics look well thought out, and the premise is ridiculous. That’s not what sold me on the game though.

What appeals to me most about The Fractured but Whole is that the game is really, at its core, just kids playing pretend. Sure the kids are crass and there will be pop culture jokes at every turn, but there’s something so incredibly relatable about kids wearing their bed sheets as capes or integrating a bike helmet into their superhero costumes. I can’t wait to see where they take the story past the initial Marvel jokes shown off in the trailer.

Call of Duty: Infinite Warfare

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Typically Call of Duty wouldn’t make any “best of” list of mine. I enjoy the series and play each entry, but there’s no denying that it’s gotten stale over time. What surprised me most about Infinite Warfare at Sony’s press conference was just how it commanded attention. Rather than send out an executive to set the scene and make sure we knew that Sony bought their players 30 days of exclusive access to all the DLC, Sony just ran a gameplay demo in between two other trailers without an introduction. The thing is, most people who haven’t been paying attention to the previous trailers probably wouldn’t have even noticed it was Call of Duty until well into the segment.

The gameplay we saw took us onto the bridge of a space shuttle where the player choose an optional mission, boarded his own personal spacecraft, took control of the craft for a long dogfight, and eventually ejected into space where he continued the mission in typical Call of Duty style, rifle in hand. For me, this looks like the jump that was promised with Advanced Warfare and Black Ops III and I can’t wait to see how it turns out.

Spiderman PS4 & Marvel Games’ Future

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Spiderman PS4 is really here because of what it means for Marvel games moving forward. It’s exciting to see a huge publisher and developer team up with the comic giant to use a beloved IP in an interesting way. Rather than continue forward with the same old approach of movie tie-in games, Marvel is taking a path that DC and Warner Bros found success with in the Arkham series. To me, that can only mean good things for gaming fans and Marvel fans alike. I can’t wait to learn more about this game.

Recore

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Recore‘s aesthetic jumped out at me immediately during last year’s E3 reveal, but we were given little information at the time and the game went almost completely dark for the year. This E3, we got a release date for this September along with a lot more info and some hands-on impressions. While the developer pedigrees of Keji Inafune (MegaMan) and the leads at Armature Studios (Metroid Prime) seem to blend perfectly with one another, there’s always cause for concern when a game goes dark for that long.

Fortunately, early impressions out of E3 seem to be extremely positive. The game’s arcadey gunplay seems to mesh well with the setting and it sounds like exploration will be key to learning more about the protagonist’s backstory. At $40, it’s also nice to see budget pricing for a new IP like this, similar to the way Sony handled the reboot of Ratchet & Clank earlier this year.

Horizon Zero Dawn

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For the second year in a row, Horizon Zero Dawn stands atop the list of my favorite E3 games. Last year, a short gameplay demo and story trailer focused on the game’s interesting world and drew my attention. This year, a longer gameplay demo showed off more of the game’s mechanics and sold me completely.

What excites me most about Horizon after this year’s demo are the combat mechanics. The bow combat looks fluid and can be combined with riding mechanics to up your character’s agility as you play. While there’s clearly a deep RPG system at play, the moment-to-moment gameplay seems to take more cues from the action adventure genre than from the RPG genre and I’m excited to see how that combination plays out!

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