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The underdogs of E3: The 10 best indie games on display this year

While AAA titles tend to get most of the attention at E3, both Sony and Microsoft, as well as publishers like EA, have been making efforts to support indie games lately. That should be no surprise, really. The indie development scene has been thriving in an age where crowdfunding and self-publishing are easier than ever. As a result, some of the most exciting games these days are coming from indie studios. E3 has been a good showcase for indie devs recently, and 2016 was no exception. Here are 10 of the most promising indie games that had a presence at E3 this year.

Fe

The first title announced for the EA Originals program is a strange third-person exploration game set in a forest made of sharp angles and sparse colors. Fe’s environments look simple but distinctive, and the emphasis on exploring vast spaces is reminiscent of the seminal indie game Journey. EA’s announcement promises a “personal narrative about our relationship with nature, the land, and its beings.” The trailer for the game keeps things simple, focusing on atmosphere rather than plot or action. The finer details of Fe’s gameplay remain a mystery, but with its stark visuals and dreamy tone, it seems to be a promising start for EA’s new indie program.

Vampyr

Given the success of the episodic adventure game Life is Strange, one might expect Dontnod Entertainment to return to that well. Instead, they have zigged into the realm of action games with Vampyr, which casts players as a vampire in early 20th century England. The player must feed on human blood in order to survive, and players have numerous options for how to go about this. You can study a character’s routines, ambushing them when they are vulnerable, or simply engage in all-out butchery. It is possible to feed on people without killing them, but doing so will prevent the player from leveling up and unlocking new abilities. Combat appears to involve a mixture of melee weapons and vampiric abilities.

Tyranny

Obsidian Entertainment is an old name in the industry, having produced some well-liked RPGs over the last decade. After years of producing sequels and licensed games, the developer has recently pivoted to focus on its own ideas, of which Tyranny is the latest. The game is an isometric RPG set in a world where the evil overlord Kyros has conquered all opposition, with players cast as enforcers in Kyros’s army. Players can choose whether to create a more stable society or rule through fear, and their choices will have consequences throughout the narrative. Combat looks to be standard for an isometric RPG, with players controlling several characters and using their various abilities to dispatch foes.

Inside

2010’s Limbo was one of the formative indie games of the last console generation, with its grim visuals and environmental puzzles setting the tone for many indie games that followed. Developer Playdead has been working on its follow-up, Inside, for a while now, and at E3 the company announced that the game will be released for Xbox One on June 29, with a PC release to follow. The game will look familiar to those who played Limbo; like Playdead’s earlier work, Inside is a side-scrolling platformer with a dark color palette. Rather than reinventing the wheel, Inside seems to refine Limbo’s gameplay, with deeper challenges and more diverse settings.

Cuphead

Since its debut at E3 2014, Cuphead has been one of the most tantalizing indie games for Xbox One; so beautiful, yet always so far away. Although the developers still have not announced a release date, Cuphead was present in Microsoft’s indie game montage, a reminder that, yes, it is still coming out one day. For those who haven’t followed the game’s development, Cuphead is a side-scrolling shooter/platformer in the style of Mega Man. Players control the titular character, a sentient teacup, and must fight through various difficult stages and bosses. The most distinctive aspect of Cuphead is its aesthetic; the game is hand drawn in the style of 1930s cartoons. The animation process is likely the reason for the game’s long development time, but it seems worth the wait, as no other game has such a distinct look.

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