Staff writer Simon Smith shares his top five favorite games shown at E3 2018.

While some may claim that E3 2018 had one of the best showings from the industry’s big players, I was left underwhelmed. Let me preface this by saying that I didn’t watch the conferences with unrealistic expectations, or with any expectations at all, for that matter. I only hoped that I would see quality games that would excite me, and for all the games announced or shown off, there wasn’t much that did so.

That is not to say that it was an entirely terrible year. In retrospect, there was a small list of games that have me interested. But first I want to note some games worthy of at least an honorable mention.

Fallout 76 actually does look fun, but I don’t feel that enough was shown to display how the story will be handled, and it’s disappointing that there will be no friendly AI characters in the game. Also, I am not into the online idea, but I could see myself getting many hours of amusement even if it was just for more settlement building wherever I wanted.

The next game I wish to mention is Xenoblade Chronicles 2. Having even more story content for Xenoblade Chronicles 2 is wonderful. I finished the game a few months ago and really wanted to see more stories in the world of Alrest, and what a better way to approach it than with Torna. This was a major part of the main game’s story and I am excited to actually play through the story of Torna’s fall, even if I do know how it ends.

Finally, Control, shown during Sony’s press conference, looks like it could be a fun time. While I feel that there were too many shooters shown during E3, Control looks different enough to be interesting, blending third person shooting with telekinetic powers. It’s not exactly a new concept, but the game itself does look enjoyable.

With that said, here are the five games that got me the most excited.

5. Fire Emblem: Three Houses

For Nintendo’s E3 presentation, there was one game that wasn’t Super Smash Bros. that I was confident they would show. I wasn’t wrong. I knew it was time to show off Fire Emblem for the Switch, now known as Fire Emblem: Three Houses. Not a lot was shown for this game, but what was there was enough to excite fans of the series and casual players like myself.

Nintendo showed small elements of the game’s story, but the primary standout was seeing how the gameplay has changed. Characters on the battlefield are no longer little pixel sprites, but rather they take the style of the Tellius games in the series. In terms of battles, they are thematically improved, looking less like an intimate affair between two warriors and more like a proper war with people fighting in the background.

It is also cool to see new approaches to the gameplay in general, like being able to explore a little bit of a castle, which looks like an improvement from the one used in the Fates games or the distinct visual-novel style presented in Echoes.

Included also is the ability to direct characters on where to improve their skills, which gives more control upon the development of your primary warriors, and allows you to direct them in ways that might assist future battles. For example, having a character improve their axe skill over their sword skill.

Fire Emblem: Three Houses looks to be a drastic improvement over the past entries in the series, and another wonderful game to play on the Switch in 2019.

4. Kingdom Hearts 3

For over a decade we have waited for Kingdom Hearts 3, and the most exciting news that came for the game was a definitive release date. On January 29, 2019 we can finally get our hands on this long-awaited sequel. Finally we can see Sora and his fellow warriors of light fight and defeat Xehanort and his thirteen darknesses.

We have known about plans for a Frozen world for some time now, and finally Square Enix showed it off, and it looks wonderful. Frozen seems to provide a wonderful playground for Kingdom Hearts 3‘s expansions to combat, while also featuring that signature heart and soul that previous Disney worlds have brought to the series. Sora’s meeting with Elsa is sure to provide some great moments for self-reflection on the part of the characters, especially as part of Sora’s journey to regain the power he needs to defeat the darkness.

I am not quite as excited for the Pirates of the Caribbean world; this was in my opinion the worst world in Kingdom Hearts 2. Although, shifts in the gameplay might make this world at least remotely more bearable then before. On a final note, I am interested to see what is happening with Aqua in the game. The last we saw, she was fighting in the realm of darkness, with Riku and Mickey setting out to rescue her. From the look of things, Xehanort has gotten to her first and used her a vessel for his darkness, so I am fascinated to see how this all turns out. I was already excited for this game, but the latest showings have me excited to see what other story surprises Square Enix has waiting for us.

3. Super Smash Brothers Ultimate

“Everyone is here.”

It was these words that adorned a small part of the Super Smash Brothers showing as they revealed the return of Snake from Brawl. I am not sure if I would have been quite as excited for Super Smash Brothers Ultimate if these words hadn’t appeared and had the prompt showing of characters we thought lost to the past not followed. Seeing the return of Wolf from Brawl, Pichu and Young Link from Melee, and Ice Climbers, after being excluded from the 3DS and Wii U, has me excited, especially knowing that no characters from the Wii U roster are being dropped for this to be possible.

This really is Smash Brothers Ultimate. It seems that Sakurai is implementing some of the best features from the Wii U version but also fixing the things that didn’t work, all the while making this the definitive way to play Smash. It is a small thing, but hearing them announce that the game’s roster would start small, limited to the original twelve characters, with the rest being unlockable, was the best news.

Super Smash Brother Ultimate looks to be the perfect holiday game that will be the gift that keeps on giving. I think the announcements could have been better handled, perhaps in their own presentation entirely, but that is beside the point. This is a game that will excite many, and already has me excited for more wacky fights.

2. The Awesome Adventures of Captain Spirit

Okay; I hear you yelling through your screen, as you read my number two spot, “Why on earth would you have some game in the Life is Strange series ahead of Smash Brothers?”

Well, this is my list, and I actually got more excited for this Life is Strange side story. I will be honest, this one game was the most interesting thing to come out of the Microsoft conference for me, because of my love for the Life is Strange series.

I am fascinated to see where Dontnod is going with this free-to-play adventure. They have claimed that this game will sow seeds for the story of the proper sequel with choices having an impact on Life is Strange 2, and this is exciting. Even before I knew this, however, I was already enthralled.

This game looks to be a completely different take on the familiar series. It looks to focus less on romance and drama, delivering a more compact story that is based on hope, or fighting hardship with imagination. It’s this creative push that has me interested in what Dontnod has to say, especially when the trailer suggests that this light-hearted experience could hold many dark secrets and explore some troubling themes. The Awesome Adventures of Captain Spirit is only a week away (at the time of writing), and I want to know how this game will emotionally grab me like its predecessors did.

1. The Last of Us Part II

Anyone who knows me in life is aware that I love The Last of Us. This is a game I try to play at least once or twice a year because of how much it means to me. I was over the moon when the sequel was announced back at Paris Games Week in 2016, and I have spent a lot of time slowly mulling over the small details within the trailers. Hearing that Sony would have a big spotlight for The Last of Us Part II at E3, I was ecstatic, and they didn’t let me down.

The latest trailer for the game finally answered a longstanding question from the original announcement trailer regarding Ellie’s anger, and it was interesting to see how she changed. The trailer showed Ellie seemingly more at peace at a dance, showing a clear love interest that was going to send Ellie off the deep end in the game. For the first time, we were shown gameplay that is both familiar and new. The core mechanics are definitely in line with the original game, but smaller changes appear to have been made that are reminiscent of Uncharted 4, such as how Ellie can use the environment to avoid enemies.

The game is much less corridor focused then the original, with a lot more environments seemingly open to explore during enemy sequences. Whether this will carry over the exploration gameplay is unclear, but it is nice that the combat sequences are more open, allowing for new opportunities.

This new look at the game also encapsulated the main theme of hate that Naughty Dog is working with this time around. Ellie is much more ruthless now than she was back in the original. This is no longer a girl trying to survive, she is now a woman on a mission to take revenge on those who wronged her. This is the opposite of Joel’s journey in the original game and could lead to many powerful moments.

I am now just interested to see what role Joel will take in the game if Ellie is alone. I imagine we might find out closer to release, but just seeing this game at the Sony conference elevated my excitement. So, please, Naughty Dog: take as much time as you need and prepare us a game we can all be proud of. Don’t rush and mess up.