Gaming Trend’s Best in Show Awards – E3 2016

The sun has risen and set on the show in Los Angeles, and while we gradually roll out our coverage and recuperate from sickness, we’ve taken some time to award the most noteworthy games we saw at the conference.


BEST IN SHOW: The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild
An open-world Zelda game, with crafting, optional shrines, and towers that point out locations of interest might have seemed impossible years ago. Yet in our demo for Breath of the Wild, we saw a classic series put through modern conventions, melding them together into a simply fascinating, exciting combination. Its scale and style seems absurd, but if it keeps with what we played at E3, this could be both the swan song for Nintendo’s Wii U and a promising start to the NX’s library. – Eric Van Allen


We Happy Few is the Orwellian stealth game of your nightmares. You must blend in, you must appear happy, you must take your Joy — except consuming that numbing, brainwashing pill will reduce you back to the dumb, smiling servant you were before. This is atmospheric storytelling meets high-tension stealth, and there’s simply few games we saw that could match We Happy Few’s ability to immerse you in the world and the horrors around you. This is a strong game that could be an underdog for GOTY conversations. – Eric Van Allen


When I was sitting in Sony’s press conference and Kratos stepped out of the shadows in Sony Santa Monica’s new trailer for its Norse-based God of War, the crowed erupted into applause. It was a huge reveal to see the iconic Ghost of Sparta returning, presumably ready to kill and maim a new set of gods in a brand new setting. While the over-the-top action is still present in God of War on PS4, Kratos seems to have gained a new sense of restraint thanks to a relationship with a son he is teaching to survive in this harsh world. Kratos may have lost his signature Blades of Chaos, but his ability to execute theatrical levels of violence is still appears to run through the veins of God of War. However, despite all this, what Sony Santa Monica has shown hints that God of War may show a side of its questionable hero that we’ve never seen before, and that is what should excite everyone, both fans and detractors of this long-running action series. – Kenneth Shepard


BEST SHOOTER: Titanfall 2

The original Titanfall was a flawed gem, something fresh but sometimes impeded by a few odd choices and the more-miss-than-hit online campaign. Respawn has taken all the criticisms to heart, and created a more polished Titanfall, replete with new features and mechanics that make the pilot-and-titan dichotomy even more compelling than before. Grappling hooks, different mech classes with new specials, brutal mech executions — this is a strong sequel that lives up to every promise made in the first, and more. – Eric Van Allen


Showcasing platforming sections in a new E3 build, Cuphead continues to be one of the most visually striking games on the show floor. The mix of 1930’s cartoon aesthetic with classic boss-battle mechanics was already great, but the new areas and enemies we saw in our co-op demo further cemented Cuphead as the most visually appealing game we saw in LA. – Eric Van Allen


Sea of Thieves puts the player in the smelly, wet shoes of a pirate, and sets them free to do whatever they want. Sailing the high seas, searching for buried treasure, drinking grog and playing music, Sea of thieves seems to be the full pirating experience that players like me have been wanting since we were kids. – Travis Northup


Many trailers dominated talk by sheer “wow” factor, but Prey managed to take us all by surprise — perhaps by how long it took for us to piece together what it actually was. The repetition of the opening segments, the incredible setting, and the atmospheric sci-fi horror all make this a trailer worth watching over and over. – Eric Van Allen


At some point, you have to look back to look forward. STRAFE, born from the reborn love of Quake, is a mixture of roguelike mechanics and classic fragging action. As you bunny-hop through rooms, grunge-techno pounding in your ears, avoiding the massive pools of acidic blood from the mountains of aliens you’ve annihilated, it all clicks. STRAFE is a new take on Quake action, born again in modern indie trappings, and it effortlessly captures the pulsing, effusive megaviolence of those classic FPS days long gone by. – Eric Van Allen


BEST STRATEGY: Dawn of War 3
Relic’s approach to a third Dawn of War title could have taken many paths; either down the base-building and massive units of the first, or the hero-focused micromanagement of the second. Instead, the studio has split the middle, and the combination of these two schools of Dawn of War thought meld together surprisingly well. Massive units like Dreadnoughts tower over tinier Eldar, lasers and missiles rip apart the landscape, and by all accounts, the action on-screen looks like the bloody wars you would expect from WH40k. It’s an early but promising look, and Dawn of War 3 looks set to re-take its spot in the RTS annals upon release. – Eric Van Allen


BEST RPG: Persona 5
Persona 5 has been pushed into 2017 for North America, but Atlus’ showing of the long-awaited RPG oozes so much style that what little we’ve seen of the game has made the wait all the worse. A group of High School students by day, masked vigilantes by night, the Phantom Thieves of Hearts looks to be embarking on an adventure just as memorable, stylish, and thematically weighty as its predecessors. Persona 5 still has a ways to go before we’ll be playing it, but what we’ve seen has already stolen our hearts. – Kenneth Shepard


In an award typically dominated by the major EA Sports titles, The Golf Club 2 stood out just enough to snatch away the crown. While it drew some attention with its original release, it was quickly forgotten due to a lack of features surrounding the main game. That seems to be the main focus with the sequel as a new “Club” feature has been introduced, which allows you to form your group with friends, have your own hang out, and expand it as you get more and more experience. Combine that with the already robust creation mechanics and you get a golf game that has a ton of potential. – Jay Malone


A mixture of Oregon Trail and NBA Jam, Pyre somehow strikes the middle in a way that no other studio than Supergiant Games could. The beautiful art and music that this team is known for returns, but in a game about completing mystic rituals that strangely resemble sports. As you, the Reader, and your three travelling companions journey to find a path out of exile through enlightenment, you’ll bond with your team and struggle through every win and loss. Supergiant Games never seems to want to rest on its laurels, and Pyre shows just how intriguing a game this team can crash when pushing itself. – Eric Van Allen


Square Enix Montreal continues to astound with the GO series, this time turning its gaze upon the cybernetic future of Deus Ex. The core gameplay remains the same, swiping in turns and carefully navigating around dangerous guards. The way Montreal has integrated bits and pieces of Deus Ex’s mechanics, from hacking and stealth to the world itself, make it feel completely fresh and exciting. This was the demo that left you swiping, eager to keep going through more levels, and it’s a strong indicator of another hit GO game. – Eric Van Allen


BEST CARD GAME: Gwent: The Witcher Card Game
This may be an odd award to give out, but in a year full of burgeoning card games like Elder Scrolls Legends and Clash Royale, Gwent manages to defy standards and be something completely new and invigorating. A full campaign with animated cutscenes and voice acting, a revamped user interface, rebalanced cards; this could have been a simple repackaging of a minigame, but instead, Gwent is another passion project that, much like the game that inspired Gwent, is bigger and better than it had any need to be. – Eric Van Allen


MOST PROMISING: Agents of Mayhem
With its 2017 release still a whiles away, Agents of Mayhem had a very exciting showing during its unveil at E3 2016. During the demo given, it proved it was more than just a spin-off of Saints Row, but instead forming its own brand. The three character action is hectic and exciting as the player leaps and dashes back and forth all while on-the-fly switching to what protagonist fits their playstyle. Due to it being in a fairly confined area, there was no sense of what kind of open-world gameplay could be found with Agents of Mayhem, which could eventually be its make or break mechanic. – Jay Malone


BEST MUSIC GAME: Just Shapes & Beats
Just Shapes and Beats is what happens when you combine electronic music with being punched in the face. Fast-paced, addictive, and challenging as all hell, this indie title challenges up to four players to dodge countless deadly obstacles in what is quickly becoming one of Gaming Trend’s most anticipated titles. – Travis Northup


While Dontnod Entertainment made one of my favorite games of 2015, it has also had a spotty history in games prior, especially when it comes to narrative-driven action games. It was difficult to tell which side it would show in Vampyr, but the gameplay demo we saw showed shades of growth and learning. A studio that was returning to developing worlds and third-person combat, but had learned lessons in their success with Life is Strange, crafting a living city filled with interwoven stories and citizens, and the monster that you have become, acting as the catalyst for good or evil throughout the town. It’s an interesting concept, and one we’re excited to see more of in the coming year. – Eric Van Allen


In a time where everyone is debating E3’s worth, Sony showed what it is that matters about the event in its press conference: Megaton announcements of huge games. Sony didn’t let any second of its showing go to waste, revealing new beginnings for both established franchises like God of War and studios looking to expand their portfolio like Sony Bend, as well as new looks at Horizon Zero Dawn, Detroit: Become Human. Throw in callbacks like remasters of the original Crash Bandicoot games and looking forward to the future of gaming with PlayStation VR, Sony set the tone for the next year of games. While whether E3 is going to be around in the next few is a constant subject of debate right now, at this point in time no other event in this industry delivers that kind of message, and Sony knew every note it had to hit to get there. – Kenneth Shepard


Yooka-Laylee embodies exactly what I’ve wanted from a 3D platformer for so many years. Paralleling the beloved Banjo-Kazooie to such a charming degree, yet still carving its own place in the modern gaming ecosystem, Yooka-Laylee looks to be the shot-in-the-arm that the platforming genre has desperately needed as of late. Featuring beautifully colorful visuals, a simple presentation, dynamically changing worlds, and enduring characters, this platforming ‘Rare-vival’ has all the markings of a great platformer and I can’t wait to see how Playtonic expands the formula. Most importantly, though, Kickstarter backers can rest assured that they are getting exactly what they’ve wanted all these years. – Matt Welsh


BEST PUZZLE/ADVENTURE: Sherlock Holmes: The Devil’s Daughter
Oh, Sherlock Holmes games. They have somehow gone from an inside joke within the games industry to some legitimately enjoyable products. Sherlock Holmes: Crimes and Punishments, the last console game starring our sleuth, crept its way into my top 10 for that year, and The Devil’s Daughter seems to promise much of the same enjoyable puzzles and characters. It returns some of the previous characters and offers more content than what was found in Crimes and Punishment. At the end of the day, I just want to creep around the well-crafted environments and examine every inch possible. – Jay Malone



BEST CO-OP: Gears of War 4
We’ve already had four Gears of War games, so it would seem a difficult task to make the upcoming Gears of War feel new and unique, and yet, that seems to be exactly what The Coalition is doing for Gears of War 4. Everything from the protagonists, to the look and feel of the world, to the enemy the players are fighting is completely new, and everything we’ve seen so far is getting us pumped! – Travis Northup


While we gave out many awards, there’s also plenty of games that we saw that were incredible, but didn’t make it onto our list. For the full list of games we think you should keep an eye on this coming year, here’s the list of our nominees from the show floor:

Ghost Recon Wildlands, Abzu, Absolver, Telltale’s Batman, Loot Rascals, God of War, Persona 5, Horizon Zero Dawn, Just Shapes and Beats, Yooka-Laylee, We Happy Few, The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild, Gears of War 4, The Golf Club 2, Agents of Mayhem, Sherlock Holmes: The Devil’s Daughter, Cuphead, Deus Ex GO, STRAFE, Gwent: The Witcher Card Game, Dawn of War 3, Tales of Berseria, Titanfall 2, Pyre, Sea of Thieves

I'm a Texas native and graduate of Texas Tech University, freelancing in the gaming journalism industry. I love games, live music, Texas BBQ and sports. Favorite games are The Witcher 2, anything from Bioware, the Kingdom Hearts series and Dota 2.

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