E3 2012 was light on the shocking announcements, but had its fair share of surprises. We saw a new wave of original IPs that were the equals of the most prestigious and long-running franchises, new MMOs, and even a new engine that will set the standard for years to come. So who came out on top? Read on for our picks for the best of E3 2012.
Best Nintendo Exclusive
Winner: Pikmin 3
Although there were several Wii U games on display, only one made Nintendo fans’ eyes go as wide as an excited girl in an anime show when it was announced, and that was Pikmin 3. The previous Pikmin games have become cult favorites, and the series return on the Wii U is a perfect fit. The graphics looked incredible, and the Wii U hardware was more than up to the task of creating multiple moving parts.
Runner Ups: ZombieU, New Super Mario Bros. 2, Lego City Undercover
Best Sony Exclusive
Winner: The Last of Us
When the makers of the Uncharted series decide to try something new, the industry takes notice. Following the showing from The Last of Us at this E3, that respect was proven totally justified. The game looks amazing, for an original new property to come out of nowhere, even with a solid pedigree and gain so much attention so quickly says a lot.
Runner Ups: Beyond: Two Souls, God of War: Ascension, Little Big Planet Vita
Best Xbox 360 Exclusive
Winner: Halo 4
When Bungie left the Halo franchise in the hands of 343, people wondered what to expect. They wondered if the new studio could live up to the staggeringly heavy burden of taking charge of one of the most iconic franchises in gaming history. Not only does it look like they can match the previous Halo games, there is a very good chance they will blow the rest away.
Runner Ups: Gears of War: Judgment, Fable: The Journey, Forza Horizon
Best Action Game
Winner: Assassin’s Creed 3
A new setting, a new hero, and a whole new game wrapped around one of the best new franchises to debut on this generation of consoles. This new iteration doesn’t look to reinvent the Assassin’s Creed wheel, but it certainly looks to refine it. This game continues to impress, and it still has five months of polish time.
Runner Ups: Tomb Raider, The Last of Us, Hitman: Absolution, Watch Dogs
Best Digital Download
Winner: Quantum Conundrum
When Kim Swift, one of the lead designers of Portal, designs a new game and announces it will be a digitally downloaded game, it not only shines a light on that title, it could help to further legitimize the medium and delivery system. Puzzle fans should flock to this game, as should everyone else.
Runner Ups: Counter Strike: Global Offensive, The Unfinished Swan, Deadlight
Winner: Halo 4
This one was really a no-brainer, despite some seriously stiff competition — the FPS genre is always one of the most crowded (and lucrative) in gaming, and this year is no different. But with Halo 4 you take one of the best shooters ever made, then introduce an entire new plot, setting, enemy, and throw in a whole new arsenal to play with, and you have the making of another classic.
Runner Ups: Far Cry 3, Planetside 2, Borderlands 2
Best Handheld Game
Winner: Assassin’s Creed 3: Liberation
We didn’t have this award last year because the 3DS was still in its infancy, and the Vita had yet to be released. This year, however, we are faced with several possibilities, including some serious heavy hitters. And yet despite that, AC3: Liberation was the clear winner. The game is an original entry in one of the most successful franchises in the world. It features a new setting, an original character, and a supplemental story that will run concurrently to AC3. There will even be a Vita bundle that introduces the white Vita and comes with this game. Once Liberation is released, expect to see a noticeable bump in Vita sales.
Runner Ups: LittleBigPlanet Vita, New Super Mario Bros. 2, Kingdom Hearts: Dream Drop Distance
Winner: PlanetSide 2
So you take a smooth and polished FPS, throw in thousands of players all fighting the same battle, and even add a deep experience system and we’d happily drop down $60. But then you go and make that game free, and you can officially consider our minds blown.
Runner Ups: Defiance, The Elder Scrolls Online, Dust 514
Winner: Halo 4
Halo 4 made gets this award, but probably not for the reasons you may think. Sure, it will feature the massive competitive online multiplayer that Halo is famous for, but it will also include the new Spartan Ops. This mode will be included at no additional cost, and it will offer weekly content drops that include hours upon hours of new, co-op gameplay, as well as additional story. It really is like buying the full campaign and getting a second one for free, and it is all designed around the online co-op functionality. Add that to the drop-in co-op and the traditional competitive multiplayer, and you have one of the most content-rich games of the year.
Runner Ups: God of War: Ascension, Nintendo Land, Planetside 2
Winner: South Park: The Stick of Truth
This game really is far more than just a licensed property, it is a full RPG developed by the people who created Fallout: New Vegas, made hand in hand with Trey Parker and Matt Stone. It looks to have all the humor that the show is about, and feature a rich bit of gameplay. If you have even a slight bit of love for South Park, then this game needs your attention.
Runner Ups: Ni No Kuni, The Elder Scrolls Online, Kingdom Hearts: Drop Dream Distance
Best Sleeper of E3
Winner: Beyond: Two Souls
Developer Quantic Dreams has been known for taking risks and creating games that play with the conventions of gaming, and that holds true with Beyond: Two Souls. This game is just astounding. The facial animation is arguably the best ever to grace a game, and with the main character being created by Academy Award Nominee Ellen Page, this game promises to be an exhibit in the “games as art” discussion.
Runner Ups: Sound Shapes, Defiance, Lego City Undercover
Best Sports Game
Winner: NBA 2K13
This was a tough one, mainly because the franchises haven’t shown off all their tricks for their next offerings yet. EA is trying to change up the Madden line with a new engine and a story-based career mode, and FIFA 13 looks amazing and will benefit from the Kinect inclusion, but after seeing all three games, the title we all kept coming back to was NBA 2K13. We don’t even know what the new mode will be this year, but the last two iterations were close to perfection, and this one already has a few new things to look forward to including vastly improved facial graphics, and an all-star mode that is an exclusive bonus that only those that pre-order it will receive. It isn’t a cash grab as much as a thank you to fans. Even without it, the game looks every bit as good as last years’, but with better graphics and smoother animations. Making a near perfect game better is just ridiculous.
Runner Ups: Madden 13, FIFA 13
Best of Show
This was an incredibly difficult call. There was really no one game that dominated all others, instead there were several impressive looking titles that had us all talking. Ask five people their favorite game this year, and you may hear five different answers. For us though, the clear winner was Dishonored.
Playing Dishonored felt like playing the original BioShock for the first time. It all just made sense. The steampunk world was meticulously crafted to allow a variety of approaches, and the gameplay options were varied and complex enough to allow you a huge amount of freedom in the way you played. Any game that allows you to string things together and come up with new attacks that even the developers hadn’t thought of is a success. To be honest, Dishonored wasn’t really all that high on our list of most anticipated games this year. It is now number one.
Runner ups: Halo 4, Assassin’s Creed 3, The Last of Us, Borderlands 2, Watch Dogs