The big games unveiled here offer a glimpse into what’s coming in the year ahead, and there’s a lot to look forward to. Here are our top 10 games from the floor, in no particular order, along with a few special mentions.
Horizon: Zero Dawn
Many of the big announcements this year have been long-anticipated, but this was the most exciting game to come out of left field during Sony’s conference. Its post-post-apocalyptic world, populated by mysterious robot dinosaurs, is utterly gorgeous and compelling. The gameplay looks like a studied and masterful distillation of the open-world, third-person action genre that’s flourished in the last decade.
PS4/XB1/PC (November 10, 2015)
Bethesda probably could have gotten away with slapping shiny new graphics on the same post-apocalyptic action-adventuring that fans already loved from previous Fallout games. Instead it went above and beyond with a robust crafting system and the ability to design, build, and defend whole settlements of your own. Maybe this will finally dethrone Bethesda’s own Skyrim as the new standard reference for massive, open worlds.
Super Mario Maker
Wii U (September 11, 2015)
Nintendo’s Mario franchise has been a hotbed of innovation in gaming for the last 30 years, continually defining and reinventing platforming for every generation of hardware. Now all of the familiar elements accrued over three decades of iterative design are being handed over to the players to dabble with as they please. We can’t wait to see what they dream up.
Star Wars: Battlefront
PS4/XB1/PC (November 17, 2015)
With another film around the corner, Star Wars fever is back in full force, which is perfect timing for this exciting dose of Rebel-on-Empire action. Be a Storm Trooper, take down an AT-AT, zip through trees on a speeder bike, duel with Darth-freaking-Vader – this looks like the most definitive Star Wars fantasy fulfillment we’ve ever seen.
No Man’s Sky
Hello Games blew our minds last year when it revealed No Man’s Sky, and we’re no less excited now that we’ve seen more actual gameplay. It takes popular trends in games now like procedural generation and open worlds, and blows them up to unparalleled scale. This is what “next gen” is supposed to feel like.
Speaking of the future, this had to be the biggest “Wow!” moment of the press conferences this year. Platforms come and go, but almost all of them are just various means to put pixels on a screen. Watching someone tower over and manipulate a living Minecraft world on a table set our imagination on fire. This opens up the possibility for truly new modes of play.
Just Cause 3
PS4/XB1/PC (December 1, 2015)
You can use a grappling hook to attach an unsuspecting guard to an explosive barrel, shoot it, and send them both rocketing into the sky. There’s also something about battling a dictator, but mostly we’re excited for all of the silly, explosive fun to be found in this massive sandbox, overflowing with weapons, vehicles, and structures as fodder for your creative destruction. Developer Avalanche Studios clearly understands that this is why people still play Just Cause 2 years later, and are going in with long-term support in mind from the beginning.
Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain
PS3/PS4/X360/XB1/PC (September 1, 2015)
Series creator Hideo Kojima may be tapping out after this, but it looks like a high note to go out on. Where previous games tended toward linearity, The Phantom Pain gives you all of the same tools (and some exciting new ones), but places your objective on a huge, open map and leaves it up to you to figure out how you want to approach them. The thrill of a successful infiltration or the panic when things go pear-shaped feel that much more personal when the plan is your own.
Uncharted 4: A Thief’s End
The Uncharted series set the gold standard for cinematic action adventure in the last generation of hardware, and the PS4’s added horsepower looks to have been put to fantastic use making this concluding chapter to Nathan Drake’s saga the biggest and most exciting yet. The living detail of the exciting city fight scene and chase we’ve seen so far is astounding, and could easily pass for an Indiana Jones movie at a glance.
PS4/Oculus Rift (TBD)
Before VR can latch on to faces everywhere, it needs one killer title to lure gamers in. At the moment, it looks like EVE: Valkyrie is that title. The fast-paced space shooter launches you into the middle of a battle with only one purpose — shoot the enemy. Look around the cockpit, check for bogies over your shoulder, and aileron roll your way between massive space cruisers. It’s an immediately gripping demonstration of every feature VR has to offer, and you’ll be engaged from the moment you come off the magnetic launcher, until you freeze to death in the void.
Final Fantasy 7 remake
Fans have been bugging Square Enix about this ever since they were teased with that PS3 tech demo. It’s only a cinematic trailer so far, but a top-to-bottom remake of one of the most beloved RPGs of all time is huge news. The developers have also mentioned that remakes of FFV and (my personal favorite) FFVI are in the works, which means 90s RPG fans have a lot to look forward to.
Sony may have had a more exciting lineup of games at its press conference, but Microsoft dropped a huge bomb with the announcement that the Xbox One would become backward-compatible with all Xbox 360 games. This multiplies the number of games available to play on the Xbox One many times over, and may be the tipping point for people who are still on the fence about upgrading to the newer console.
The Last Guardian
In development since 2007, The Last Guardian has been used alongside Half-Life 3 as a punchline for a joke about games that will forever taunt us. This year it came back, though, and looks lovely from what little we’ve seen. A game that has been incubating for almost a decade is always risky, though, so we’ll reserve judgment until we actually play it. It could turn out to be a slow-cooked masterpiece like Black Messiah or an overwrought mess like Chinese Democracy.