The best games and announcements from E3 2021

The best games and announcements from E3 2021

by Andrew Kulp

How awesome was E3 this year? Halo Infinite and Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild 2 -- two of the most highly anticipated games in the world right now from two of the most iconic franchises of all-time -- arguably weren't even among the most exciting games showcased during the convention.

Don't get me wrong, it was great to see the latest progress and get updates on both titles. Yet, I came away from E3 feeling as though Halo and Zelda were actually upstaged even at their own respective booths.

And that's a good thing! With E3 2021 officially in the books, it's fair to say the show will be remembered for having its ups and downs, and fans of certain games or companies undoubtedly came away wanting more. Sony and EA didn't even take part. But looking back on the last four-plus days of announcements and reveals, it speaks volumes for the convention that storied franchises such as Halo, Zelda, Mario and Final Fantasy weren't even necessarily the best part.

Image credit: Microsoft/Xbox

Favorite reveal of E3: Battlefield 2042

PlayStation, Xbox, PC

Not being one to get very excited about trailers that don't show any gameplay, I was fairly underwhelmed by the new Battlefield reveal in the lead-up to E3. Once we finally got to feast our eyes on the action, though, OMG. I don't mean to go overboard on three minutes of footage, but ... this is potentially shaping up to mark the next great leap forward for the FPS genre.

128 players competing simultaneously. Interactive maps. New multiplayer game modes. Fully customizable loadouts. Amazing graphics. Listen, it doesn't matter what your poison is -- VALORANT, Halo, Overwatch, Call of Duty -- if you're into PvP, this might be one that everybody needs to at least give it a try. Or, as one friend replied after I sent the trailer, "Looks like a Day 1 buy," when it releases on Oct. 22.

Read more: 7 Xbox exclusives announced at E3 we’re most excited about

Granted, I may be a tad biased, having spent copious hours with several past iterations of the Battlefield franchise. Well, this list is subjective, after all. 2042 is coming this year, almost every gamer can play it, and EA and DICE clearly are aiming to take the genre to the next level with this entry.

Image credit: Bethesda

Best trailer that didn't feature gameplay: Starfield

Xbox Series X/S, PC

Putting aside The Outer Worlds 2, which was hilarious but literally revealed nothing about the game, it was almost impossible not to come away impressed with Starfield. I mean, who else out there wanted to (a) know what was in that sandwich and (b) take a bite of it?

The visuals are damn near photo realistic, which really is saying something, because this is a sci-fi RPG set in outer space, so a lot of the stuff in the video doesn't even exist! The fact that it's running on Bethesda's own new engine only added to the trailer's significance. We didn't get any gameplay, unfortunately, but with Starfield still over a year away from release, I was OK with that.

Image credit: Nintendo

Best news for retro gamers: Metroid Dread

Switch

Although Nintendo still didn't have anything to show for the four-plus years it's invested in Metroid Prime 4, we did get the surprise announcement for the first new 2D Metroid game in nearly two decades -- and the first for a home console since Super Metroid in 1994.

Due out Oct. 8, Metroid Dread appears to play like the classics, with all sorts of new weapons and abilities, of course, only with a more colorful, almost Mega Man-ish aesthetic, which I personally loved. The game still has a dark vibe, just not so drab. And some of the moves Samus showed off, such as being able to cloak herself temporarily or climb walls, promise to modernize the experience.

Honestly, I felt E3 brought a lot to the table for retro gaming fans. Though not technically retro, Replaced, a 2.5D pixel art platform coming to Xbox and PC in 2022, looks like a throwback to a simpler time. SNK's cult shoot 'em up franchise, Metal Slug, is making a comeback on PC with a strategy RPG titled Metal Slug Tactics. And Switch is bringing back all sorts of older titles and franchises with Mario Party Superstars, Advance Wars and Super Monkey Ball. What a time to be alive!

Image credit: Microsoft/Xbox

Surprise of the show: Forza Horizon 5

Xbox, PC

We knew beforehand that Forza news was going to come out of E3. What I was completely unprepared for was how much the reveal would make me want to play it!

I already gushed over the latest entry in the franchise in our Xbox round-up, naming it best in show there. Microsoft showcased it for nine minutes -- by far the most of any title -- for a reason. Truly lifelike graphics, maps set across the beautiful and diverse terrain of Mexico, deep campaign and multiplayer experience and a create-a-game mode have Forza poised to become the most immersive driving game ever when it releases Nov. 22.

To be fair, we haven't seen as much about what Forza's main rival, Gran Turismo 7, plans to bring to the party quite yet. This could be hard to top, though.

Most interesting twist on a familiar formula: Back 4 Blood

PlayStation, Xbox, PC

Unsurprisingly, there was no shortage of post-apocalyptic shooters or games styled in that general likeness displayed at E3. Back 4 Blood certainly fit that bill, too, and I won't have high expectations for its single-player and co-op modes as far as being something that pushes the industry forward.

Developer Turtle Rock Studios -- makers of Left 4 Dead -- might have something with its seemingly fresh take on PvP, however, which will give gamers the opportunity to play as either humans or the undead, who obviously have different goals and abilities. I immediately started to think about the potential esports ramifications for such a mode or even just how much fun it would be to drag some randos away as a big, hulking zombie.

Scheduled for an Oct. 12 release, I'm a bit skeptical about Back 4 Blood overall, at least in terms of being a defining title of any sort. But whatever. It just looks like fun.

Biggest non-E3 moment: Elden Ring

PlayStation, Xbox, PC

All the leaks in the run up to the convention certainly contributed, but Summer Games Fest almost managed to steal the show before E3 even got under way. Elden Ring is FromSoftware's long-awaited new epic, and not only due to the dev's successful run of titles like Dark Souls, Demon's Souls and Bloodborne. George R. R. Martin, the author behind the Game of Thrones books, has been helping with the creation of its elaborate world.

The RPG got a release date -- January 2022 -- plus a trailer complete with story elements and gameplay, and it looks absolutely massive. There were more visually stunning games shown, but few if any that are likely to have the combination of depth and storytelling simply based on the names involved. Compared with Ubisoft's Avatar project, or Square Enix coming with Marvel's Guardians of the Galaxy, for example, Elden Ring's reveal was far more exciting news.

Most disappointing outing: Capcom

Listen, I get it. Games aren't ready if they're not ready, so if there were no Street Fighter 6 announcements or new Resident Evil teasers, that's just the way it is, especially with COVID wreaking havoc on development for the last year.

But Capcom was positioned as one of the big events of E3, and their show was a great, big nothingburger. A trailer that came out days earlier for an imminent Monster Hunter. Some Resident Evil DLC. And a reveal for Great Ace Attorney Chronicles, a title that probably has limited appeal. Just gut-wrenching to watch, and not worth the company's effort.

Image credit: Microsoft/Xbox

Best booth: Xbox/Bethesda

What might have impressed me most about Microsoft's showcase is there was almost no filler. We got teasers for hotly anticipated properties such as Halo Infinite and Starfield. There were reveals for previously unannounced games like Shredded and Replaced. And of the 30 or so games part of the event, more than half were Xbox exclusives.

It's not really a stretch to say Microsoft's booth saved E3 from being a massive disappointment. Sure, Nintendo delivered some good stuff, and there were other announcements and reveals of consequence sprinkled throughout the convention. But Xbox held not only the biggest event in terms of sheer number of games displayed, but by far the most impressive from the standpoint of visuals and overall direction as well.

This was exactly the kind of showing that was needed to put Sony and the PS5 crowd on notice.

Lead image credit: E3

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