With another E3 in the books, it’s time to start reflecting upon what gamers saw over the course of the week-long celebration of video game culture and development. E3 2016 was an event that was short a few of the surprises that have come to characterize the yearly conference, as a lot of the bigger ticket presentations and reveals were for games that were already confirmed and pretty thoroughly covered, but that doesn’t mean there weren’t a few shocking announcements or demos.
While the biggest one was arguably the revelation that Crash Bandicoot is getting remastered by Sony for the PS4, there were a number of stand-out titles that gamers probably hadn’t heard of going into E3 2016. The indie games of E3 2016 were among the strongest in the history of the show, and a few of them came out of nowhere to make an impact on a show floor where generating a buzz is difficult. Here’s Game Rant’s list of the best indie games on display over the week at E3 2016:
Devolver Digital is quickly becoming one of the most exciting indie studios in the video game scene. The studio teamed up with Dodge Roll to create the equal parts challenging and charming Enter the Gungeon, a game that really was more than the sum of its parts and an experience well worth a go from gamers of all backgrounds and preferences.
Now, Devolver Digital is bringing that same dedication to technical excellence and pleasing video game aesthetic to a new partnership with new studio Sloclap, working in unison to create the multiplayer online fighting game Absolver. For those who haven’t heard of or seen any of Absolver‘s gorgeous, fluid gameplay, the game has been compared favorably to both the Dark Souls and Star Wars: Jedi Knight series. That kind of praise alone makes Absolver an indie title worth keeping an eye on.
Giant Squid’s ABZU is a hard game to pin down. It has been in development for several years, and over the course of that development span the game has been showcased more than once as an underwater exploration title – the problem being, of course, that there have been precious few other entries into that niche genre, and it’s difficult to draw a point of comparison for ABZU.
The closest thing so far seems to be an aquatic, slightly more realistic version of the popular Grow Home. ABZU has been reported to be a relatively short experience that will be coming out soon, but if the ABZU E3 2016 gameplay trailer is any indication, that experience will be characterized by a beautiful undersea adventure that is sure to capture the hearts of any gamers who love to explore every nook and cranny of good level design.
Cuphead is a retro-cartoon sidescrolling fighting game that looks to channel some of the most fun games from yesteryear into a beautifully rendered, Steamboat Willie-esque world. Gamers have gotten a few hands-on chances with the demo at various gaming conferences in the past year, and so far the feedback has been largely positive.
Of note, one of the few criticisms for Cuphead in development has been that it only appeared to push the player into a long sequence of various boss fights. According to the developers, however, Cuphead is no longer just about boss fights, and the game will now feature traditional platforming elements as well. More depth in a game like this is typically a good thing, as pacing gameplay in between the flashy boss fights will help each one feel special. Things are looking up for Cuphead, and a 2016 release window means Cuphead will be available soon.
After a year’s worth of delays, PlayDead Studios’ follow-up to immensely successful indie title Limbo is finally ready to hit the shelves. Inside got a release date and a new trailer at E3 2016, showcasing a game that manages to blend a unique art style with gameplay that evokes feelings of dread and suspense in equal measure.
While the art style might turn some gamers off in the same way that Limbo might have, Inside is staking a claim as its own game with a much different feel. The E3 2016 trailer showed off the game’s protagonist exploring an Orwellian science lab, discovering mutated pigs and helmets that allow him to control the minds and bodies of other people in a nearby area. Inside looks like a game with a good feel for striking a balance between action and puzzles, and it’s also the game that will be available the fastest on this list – Inside will hit the Xbox One on June 29 and Steam on July 7.
DontNod Entertainment, the developer behind hit game Life is Strange, decided to go in a completely different direction with its follow-up title Vampyr. Where Life is Strange was a coming-of-age story with a bit of time travel and supernatural elements mixed in, Vampyr appears to be a brutal, graphic look at life as a bloodsucker in 1918 London.
Players will be tasked with playing as Jonathan E. Reid, a doctor cursed with vampirism. The Vampyr E3 2016 gameplay trailer revealed that a big part of the game will be how players choose to navigate the blood lust that drives Reid to the brink of madness, and that player choice will have a major influence over how the game’s narrative plays out. Will Reid become a monster, or will he be able to find a way to inflict the least harm possible given his condition? Players will get a chance to decide sometime in 2017 on PC.
Compulsion Games‘ We Happy Few drew immediate comparisons to BioShock when it was first revealed in February of 2015, and the similarities are certainly present. We Happy Few is another look into a grim sci-fi future where humanity has become dependent on mind-altering drugs, and police are now almost exclusively tasked with rounding up “Downers”, those members of society who have gone off their happiness-forcing Joy medication.
We Happy Few will place players in the role of three different members of this society attempting to escape it. Compulsion Games has been very guarded about what the narrative will ultimately entail, but the We Happy Few E3 2016 gameplay trailer showcased a game that will have some elements of weapon-based combat and a lot of creepy, psycho-analytic level designs created to mess with gamers at every turn. We Happy Few has a AAA feel despite being an indie title, and a demo will launch soon on Xbox Live Preview on July 26, 2016.
Developer Playtonic Games has been given what many would consider to be an unenviable task: create the game that is already being heralded as the spiritual successor to the Banjo-Kazooie franchise. If nothing else, Yooka-Laylee has managed to successfully capture the same kind of colorful and vibrant aesthetic as Banjo-Kazooie, a look and feel that is certainly welcome in a year that has seen a lot of indie titles go down a darker, more brooding road.
That being said, however, there’s more to Yooka-Laylee than just its attractive character and level design. Game Rant went hands-on with Yooka-Laylee at E3 2016, and we found it to be “the experience that every Kickstarter backer was dreaming of”. Yooka-Laylee stands to be one of the biggest indie releases of 2017 and will arrive early on in March, hoping to prove that action platformers still have a place in the modern gaming world.
Which game are you the most excited about? Were there any other indie surprises at E3 2016 we missed? Let us know in the comments below.