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The best games from E3 2021: Metroid Dread, Redfall, and more highlights

Even when E3 is underwhelming, it still leaves players plenty to be excited about. This year’s all-digital expo was certainly quieter than previous years, but it did give us a much clearer picture of what we’ll be playing in 2021 and beyond.

A lot of that came from Microsoft, which dominated the four-day event with its 90-minute stream. The company made its strongest case yet for the Xbox Series X and Game Pass with games such as Starfield and Redfall. Not to be outdone, however, Nintendo came prepared with one of its strongest showings ever. Games including Metroid Dread and Wario Ware: Get It Together! were true surprises that captivated Switch owners. What were the overall best games of the show? Here were our favorites from the hit-and-miss four-day event.

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The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild 2 — Game of the Show

Sequel to The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild - E3 2021 Teaser - Nintendo Direct

With Elden Ring debuting at Summer Game Fest before E3 began, the runway was clear for Nintendo to wow players with Zelda. We expected, or at least hoped, to see the sequel to Breath of the Wild at the show. Sure enough, Nintendo saved it for last by debuting a brand new gameplay trailer. While the game isn’t coming this year, it’s looking downright gorgeous and surprising too.

The big change this time around is that the game will heavily revolve around the sky, much like The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword. The trailer shows Link falling through the air and standing atop a structure that towers over Hyrule. It’s a clever way to expand Breath of the Wild’s massive map without simply turning it into a dark world. The result is stunning, as we get to see some impressive lighting effects that really seem to make the Hyrule even prettier. With a glimpse at new abilities and enemies, there’s a lot to dig into in the clip, making this well worth the two-year wait since the game’s first teaser.


Redfall - Xbox & Bethesda Games Showcase 2021 - Official Announce Trailer

This year, we saw tons of teaser trailers that didn’t tell us too much. Starfield was something of a dud with a vague release date trailer that didn’t provide many reasons to get excited. On the polar opposite end of the spectrum was  Redfall. The latest title from Arkane, the studio behind Dishonored, got a stylish reveal trailer that teased vampires, psychic powers, and team-based shooting.

Out of all the “teaser” games shown this year, Redfall was one of the few that got it right. The trailer didn’t show off any gameplay, but it gave players a good sense of what to expect. It was similar to E3 2019’s Deathloop and Ghostwire: Tokyo debuts, which captivated gamers on tone alone. Redfall brought that same energy with a comedic trailer that signaled a creative blend of traditional shooting and the kind of special abilities that Arkane does best. We’ll see what the actual gameplay looks like, but this clip certainly did its job.

Metroid Dread

Metroid Dread – Announcement Trailer – Nintendo Switch | E3 2021

In a year where so much leaked or was assumed beforehand, Metroid Dread was a genuine shock. Not only has Nintendo been silent about the series for years, it hasn’t released a new original 2D Metroid title in almost two decades. So imagine fans’ shock when it revealed a Metroid Fusion sequel that’s coming out this fall.

It’s safe to say that Metroid Dread looks like a worthy successor, staying true to the original games while bringing new ideas to the table. It borrows several mechanics from the Nintendo 3DS title Metroid: Samus Returns too, like counterattacks and fully directional aiming. The art direction is particularly stellar here, with a creepy sci-fi setting that’s filled with murderous robots that persistently stalk Samus. The Metroidvania genre has grown significantly in the two decades since Metroid Fusion and it looks like Nintendo is finally prepared to reclaim its own crown.

Riders Republic

Riders Republic: Official Deep Dive Trailer | #UbiForward | Ubisoft [NA]

Riders Republic first debuted at last year’s Ubisoft Forward and didn’t get the biggest reception. Some were intrigued by its social sports premise, but it was overshadowed by bigger games like Far Cry 6. When it was indefinitely delayed, it seemed like the title might have been in rough shape. This year’s E3 served as a sort of re-debut for the title, rolling out the full red carpet with renewed confidence. Ubisoft’s instincts were right; it’s looking surprisingly fantastic.

The new trailer gave players a much deeper look at how it works and it’s looking even wackier than expected. We got a glimpse of chaotic 64-player races, ice cream carts racing alongside bikes, and characters flying through canyons with jetpacks. With players valuing unique multiplayer experiences more than ever, Riders Republic is really looking special. It’s pulling together dozens of wild ideas to create the ultimate extreme sports game. This went from curiosity to “can’t miss” very fast.

Forza Horizon 5

Forza Horizon 5 Official Announce Trailer

Forza is usually the butt of the joke at E3. It always shows up at Microsoft’s conference and usually prompts users to break for a snack. That wasn’t the case this year. Forza Horizon 5 looks genuinely fantastic and it just might be the racing game that converts naysayers into fans. That’s largely because it’ll be available on day one via Game Pass, making it hard to pass up. That was a running theme through Microsoft’s show in general, which offered some really enticing reasons to subscribe.

As far as the game itself goes, it’s looking like a total blast. The game is set in Mexico and features some predictably gorgeous visuals that should take full advantage of the Xbox Series X. With a full campaign and tons of multiplayer modes, there will be plenty of good reasons to experience its vibrant locales when the game launches on November 9. While Forza has always been a big hit among certain gamers, this really looks like the installment that’ll win skeptics and put it in a genuine game of the year conversation.

Marvel’s Guardians of the Galaxy

Marvel’s Guardians of the Galaxy | Gameplay First Look

While Marvel’s Guardians of the Galaxy was heavily rumored for the show, it was still a bit of a surprise. Despite knowing it existed, we didn’t really know what it would look like. Would it be another live service multiplayer game like Marvel’s Avengers? Square Enix didn’t hold back any details with around 20 minutes of information on the game. That was enough to pique our interest and then some.

The game is much different than players might have expected and that’s not a bad thing. It’s a narrative-driven, single-player experience where players only directly control Star-Lord and bark out orders to their teammates. That creates some clever team dynamics, forcing players to think carefully about when to deploy their squad members. It’s looking like a superhero version of Mass Effect, and that’s a perfect fit for the franchise. Toss in some ’80s tunes and lots of quips and you’ve got all the ingredients for a hit.

Halo Infinite

Halo Infinite | Multiplayer Overview

Halo Infinite is a bit of a strange case. While it appeared at Microsoft’s conference, it weirdly wasn’t the central focus of the show. Forza Horizon 5 got a bigger spotlight and Starfield got the coveted opening spot. In fact, Halo didn’t even get a release date during the show, raising concerns that it might not make its holiday 2021 window. It certainly seems like Microsoft is preparing for the possibility of another delay.

So why is it on this list? It gets the most improved award. E3 was Microsoft’s chance to get players excited about the title again after a weak gameplay reveal last year that led to its indefinite delay. It largely delivered by putting a major emphasis on multiplayer this time around. The game will feature free-to-play multiplayer that looks like it’ll right the wrong of previous entries by pulling inspiration from more classic Halo games. That really sets the stage for a possible return to shooter dominance, something Halo hasn’t had in a decade. While Battlefield 2042 seems like the shooter to beat this year, E3 successfully reigned in Halo Infinite‘s narrative and we look forward to seeing the final result.

A Plague Tale: Requiem

[E3 2021] A Plague Tale: Requiem - World Premiere Reveal Trailer

While we didn’t learn too much about it, A Plague Tale: Requiem gave us just enough to be excited about. The first game in the series, A Plague Tale: Innocence, was a hidden gem that featured strong storytelling and lots of rats. A cinematic trailer for its sequel signals that both of those strengths are returning and upping the ante.

Sometimes, the best part of E3 is its pleasant surprises and this falls into that category. We knew we’d see Starfield and Forza Horizon 5, but A Plague Tale: Requiem was one of the many games that came out of left field and got us excited about Xbox and Game Pass. It’s not just a Halo Infinite box.

Editors' Recommendations

The best live service games of 2022: 10 ongoing games we couldn’t stop playing
A Sea of Thieves skeleton sits in front of text that says 2022 Best Live Service Games.

Some games are meant to be played once, savored, and then shelved for the next one -- not unlike a book or a movie. But many other games are meant to be played and replayed over a long period of time, offering wildly different experiences each time you sit down and boot them up. There were many ongoing games to pick from in 2022, a lot of which include live service elements like online multiplayer, microtransactions, and regular content updates -- though not all are worth investing your time into.

Even though there are plenty of stinkers out there to avoid, there were also several ongoing games that kept our attention in 2022, ranging across several genres. From globe-trotting online roleplaying games to far simpler games you can play at a café bench, here are 10 games that set the bar for live service in 2022.

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Summer Game Fest returns just before E3 2023 next June
The official artwork confirming Summer Game Fest's return on June 8, 2023.

Geoff Keighley has confirmed when Summer Game Fest will return in June 2023. It will begin with a live kickoff show on June 8, 2023, placing Keighley's game announcement alternative less than a week before E3's grand (intended) 2023 return.
Unlike past years, Summer Game Fest Live Kickoff 2023 will feature a live audience, like Geoff Keighley's The Game Awards. It will take place in the YouTube Theater at Hollywood Park, with tickets going on sale in early 2023. It will still be livestreamed across platforms like YouTube and Twitch, though. It's currently unknown who's participating, how long Summer Game Fest will run afterward, or if it will feature a Summer Game Fest Play Days-like element for fans. Still, Keighley says all of that info will be revealed ahead of the event next year, teasing what people can expect. 
"In keeping with tradition, we'll have tons of exciting announcements from the developers that are pushing the games industry forward, and will once again highlight other publisher digital events, demos, and more surprises to be announced in the coming months," Keighley says in a press release. 
That June 8 start date, and the other Summer Game Fest events likely to follow, put Keighley's show just ahead of E3 2023. The ESA and ReedPop plan to bring E3 back between June 13 and June 16, 2023. With five days of lead time on E3, Summer Game Fest can coexist with the long-running gaming conference and encompass the plethora of publisher showcases that tend to precede E3.
Geoff Keighley made it clear that he wants Summer Game Fest and E3 to coexist for a while. "We've had extensive conversations with ReedPop about E3," he said in an interview with Epic Games Store. "I think it'll kind of fit together and flow kind of from what we're doing into what they're doing and stuff. E3, to me, is this kind of master brand that represents gaming news in June."
With the start date of Summer Game Fest confirmed, the coexistence of these two summer gaming events is a reality. Summer Game Fest returns on June 8, 2023.

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The best games of September 2022: The Last of Us, Splatoon 3, and more
Ellie and Joel driving.

After a summer full of ups and downs in terms of game releases, the fall season started off strong in September. Every week brought tons of notable games to try, and they ran the gamut from disappointing to outstanding. Fans of almost every gaming genre had something to check out this month. Some of these titles experimented with new mechanics and tried to push the industry forward, while others repeated winning formulas to great success. 
From new AAA experiences courtesy of Nintendo and Sony to cute and creative indies, there was a lot to love this month. The slew of games releasing is only going to get more intense from here, so we suggest you take some time now to check out these seven standout games from September 2022.
The Last of Us Part 1 
The Last of Us Part I Rebuilt for PS5 - Features and Gameplay Trailer | PS5 Games
The Last of Us Part 1 is a pretty divisive title as it's a $70 PS5 remake of a game that was already available on PS4 for just $20. If you ignore the price though, The Last of Us is still a great game. On top of giving the original a nice visual overhaul, The Last of Us Part 1 also incorporates some industry-leading accessibility options. Overall, the remake ensures that people who've never been able to try the PS3 classic now have the best way to experience one of the greatest games of all time.
"The Last of Us Part I shows that Naughty Dog’s gritty action game is still an enduring classic that hasn’t aged a day," Giovanni Colantonio wrote in a four-and-a-half star review of the remake. "Though that’s largely because Sony won’t allow it to, as evidenced by a mostly superfluous remake that doesn’t meaningfully improve on the game’s perfectly modern (and much cheaper) 2014 remaster. However, the project does once again push the industry forward in an important way: by raising the bar for accessibility in gaming’s past, present, and future."
So, this is a bit of an odd case where almost everyone will be in one of two camps. If you’re still a bit salty that Sony is charging $70 for this remake, then The Last of Us Part I probably isn’t worth it for you. But if you’ve never played it before or require more thorough accessibility options to enjoy video games, then it’s a must-play. The Last of Us Part I is available now exclusively on PS5.
Splatoon 3
Splatoon 3 Direct - Nintendo Switch
Splatoon 3 might not be a revelatory title for Nintendo's most recent hit franchise, but it's still a whole lot of fun. It expands upon its winning shooter formula with well-designed new maps, interesting new weapons and abilities, and the most refined campaign in the series yet. While Nintendo plans on supporting the game for the foreseeable future, it also isn't weighed down with as much live service junk as many other titles in this space. 
"Nintendo has created the best iteration of its wildly inventive ink-shooter series yet,” Colantonio wrote in his four-star review of Splatoon 3. "It does that without microtransactions, compulsory log-in bonuses, or pop culture references. Not only that, but it’s been packaged into the kind of content-loaded release that feels all but extinct in today’s competitive multiplayer landscape.”
Splatoon 3 currently stands out as the defining multiplayer game of September 2022 and one of the best of the year, period. It's very kid-friendly and approachable when compared to other games in the genre too, so it's a great game to play with friends and family. Splatoon 3 is available now exclusively on Nintendo Switch. 
Shovel Knight Dig
Shovel Knight Dig is OUT NOW!
Fans of Yacht Club Games were graced with another Shovel Knight game this month. Instead of being a standard side-scrolling platform or puzzle game, Shovel Knight Dig is a prequel roguelike that takes inspiration from games like SteamWorld Dig and Downwell by having players constantly dig deeper and deeper into the earth as the titular hero. 
"It feels like a modern cousin of Dig Dug and Mr. Driller, taking the satisfying tunneling hook from those classics and stitching it into a fast-paced action game," Colantonio wrote in his three-and-a-half star review of the game. "It’s a perfect fit, creating some puzzle-like sequences where players need to snake through dirt quickly -- but carefully if they want to reach valuable gems or each level’s collectible cogs."
Yacht Club Games hasn't missed when it comes to crafting retro-inspired indie games, and Shovel Knight Dig continues that streak with a novel spinoff concept. Hopefully, more adventures like this are in store and Mina the Hollower lives up to expectations. Shovel Knight Dig is available now for PC, Nintendo Switch, and iOS via Apple Arcade.
Desta: The Memories Between
Desta: The Memories Between | Official Game Teaser | Netflix
Roguelike fans had yet another title to be excited about with Desta: The Memories Between, the latest title from Monument Valley and Alba: A Wildlife Adventure developer Ustwo Games. It follows the titular character, Desta, as they return to their hometown and must repair their relationships with old friends through dreamlike tactical battles. Desta: The Memories Between is a fast-paced and easily digestible tactics experience for fans of that genre, while the slowly unfolding story will keep you engaged from run to run.
"It’s a unique experience that’s custom-built for mobile devices with tactile controls and quick levels," Giovanni Colantonio wrote in his three-and-a-half-star review of Desta: The Memories Between before going on to say that "while it’s a brief experience at the moment with some overworked genre hooks, it’s a strong addition to Netflix’s growing library of gems."
Currently, Desta: The Memories Between is currently exclusive to iOS and Android via Netflix Games. To play, you simply have to go to the Games tab in your Netflix mobile app and choose Desta: The Memories Between. You will then be able to download it from the App Store or Google Play Store. If you're OK waiting for a bit, Ustwo Games also intends on bringing Desta: The Memories Between to PC and Nintendo Switch soon. 
Railbound - launch trailer
Afterburn's Railbound is this year's Mini Motorways: a cute, somewhat minimalistic puzzle game about transportation. Instead of being a real-time city management puzzler though, Railbound is a puzzle game about laying train tracks so carriages attach themselves to a train in the right order. It's a deceptively simple premise that will leave you scratching your head at puzzles that initially seem like they have obvious solutions.
The game isn't much more complicated than that; it's built to make you relax with its cute cel-shaded aesthetic (which was implemented just months before launch). Still, it's one of the best puzzle games of the year and a must-play for fans of the genre. Railbound is available now for PC, iOS, and Android. 
The Wandering Village
The Wandering Village - Launch Trailer
City builders and farming sims are more popular than ever, so it can be hard to stand out in that space. The Wandering Village is able to do so because of a very interesting hook: your village is on the back of a giant wandering creature named Onbu. While it's still in early access, fans of the genre can already have a very good time with the game's community researching, building, and management systems. The Wandering Village's hand-drawn visuals are also always pleasant to look at. 
Although none of those systems are wildly ambitious for the genre, the setting and unique mechanics that come with it -- like giving commands to Onbu as it explores a wide variety of biomes and defending your village from parasites and other sicknesses that can crop up -- make The Wandering Village stand out as the best simulation game of the month. The Wandering Village is available now on PC via Steam Early Access, and developer Stray Fawn Studios says it will stay in early access for "one year or longer."
Return to Monkey Island
If you grew up playing PC games in the 1990s, you might have fond memories of The Secret of Monkey Island. The Lucasarts classic was a landmark point-and-click adventure game that continues to persevere as a cult classic. It's so beloved that its fans can be protective over it. That's exactly what happened when we first saw Return to Monkey Island. While fans were excited to see series creator Ron Gilbert involved, others criticized the title for its new, modern art style. Even when some players got exactly what they wanted, they were still disappointed.
Ironically, that's exactly what Return to Monkey Island is about. At first, the adventure game seems like little more than a charming nostalgia trip. It's filled with familiar characters who revive some of the series' best jokes. The story is more than a greatest hits collection, though. It follows famed pirate Guybrush Threepwood as he finally looks to uncover the long-sought-after secret of Monkey Island. But is it a mystery we really want solved? What if that secret can't live up to the expectations? Return to Monkey Island asks those difficult questions about finishing unfinished business, all through an at-times meta story about, well, returning to the Monkey Island series.
Return to Monkey Island may not give players the answers they want, but it does perhaps give them the one they need to hear. The game is available now on PC and Nintendo Switch. ~ Giovanni Colantonio

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