Just as quickly as it arrived, E3 2015 has packed its bags and ditched the Los Angeles Convention Center once again, leaving in its wake enough excitement to fill up a calendar year. Microsoft held the most consistently entertaining conference I’ve ever attended, Sony tried to make all of our dreams come true and Nintendo wound up apologizing for its lineup.
But none of that matters — I know that there’s only one thing you care about: Who won E3?
It’s a complicated question, so I’m going to break my answer into distinct parts. To start with, I’m going to pick the ten best games that I saw or played while on the show floor in LA. I’ll then decide on a best overall game to wrap things up. Let’s get started.
1) Mad Max
After seeing Mad Max: Fury Road earlier this summer, my anticipation for Avalanche Studios’ Mad Max game was at an all time high. I couldn’t wait to spend more time in that world, but as E3 crept closer, I began to reconsider my optimism. How could anyone capture the spirit of a movie that explosive, that precise in an open world video game?
The reason that Mad Max works is because it doesn’t get caught in that trap. It takes place in the same Wasteland we all remember from the movie, but it’s a distinct set of stories, not bound by the limitations of a movie theater. After my first violent vehicular encounter, I was sold.
2) Halo 5: Guardians
Putting Halo 5 on this list feels a little cheap considering it also had a large presence at E3 2014, but after seeing the single-player campaign in action and playing two full rounds of Warzone, I’m as excited as I’ve ever been for a Halo game.
If you want to read more about Warzone, be sure to read my annoyingly-titled preview from early last week, but it’s the squad-based campaign that has me especially stoked for this sequel. The Halo games have traditionally been fairly solitary experiences outside of multiplayer. Hopefully bringing in a larger cast will liven up the world.
3) Super Mario Maker
Another game that appeared at last year’s E3, Super Mario Maker managed to change my mind at the Nintendo booth this year. Despite the fact that I probably won’t be designing many levels myself, there has never been a better platform to build upon than the decades worth of 2D Mario games.
Best of all, we don’t even need to wait for the game to launch to know that Super Mario Maker is going to be chock-full of fun, user-created levels. Do a quick search for Mario ROMs and you’ll find that modders have already built entire games on top of preexisting Mario titles. Super Mario Maker brings that capability to the masses.
4) Horizon Zero Dawn
In between the crashing waves of nostalgia that threatened to drown the entire PlayStation fan base, Sony introduced a brand new IP from Guerrilla Games, the creators of the Killzone series. Horizon Zero Dawn couldn’t have looked any less like Killzone, featuring a female protagonist from a third-person perspective in a pre-historic, post-apocalyptic landscape.
Last Wednesday, I had a chance to see a hands-off presentation of the same demo we saw on stage, and I came away even more impressed than I was on Monday night. A huge open world, an emphasis on strategic combat and an element of crafting items and weapons — Guerrilla is building a legitimate RPG.
5) Fallout 4
Fallout 4 was probably going to make my list regardless of what Bethesda had to show during its first-ever press conference, but the fact that what the developer had to show was pretty incredible definitely didn’t hurt.
Of all the new features Bethesda is packing into this long-awaited sequel, I think the ability to build your own outposts might be the most enthralling. Rust and ARK: Survival Evolved aren’t really my cup of tea, but taking the best elements of those games and mashing them into Fallout might be the studio’s most brilliant move yet.
6) Guitar Hero Live
Guitar Hero Live was one of the last games I played at E3, and although the game’s dependence on microtransactions has me worried, the game itself feels just like I remember it from ten years ago.
The game’s best addition is Guitar Hero TV, a live stream of music videos that you can jump into (or out of) at any time during the day. 24 hours of nonstop music — and developer FreeStyleGames has the ability to add in new tunes as often as they like. Had I not scheduled another meeting directly after this, I might have never stopped playing.
7) Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain
After watching a theater presentation last year, I finally got to play Metal Gear Solid V at E3 2015. Sadly, 30 minutes isn’t nearly enough time to learn the optimal way to sneak through a crowded outpost, but even when I alerted the guards, the game gave me the option to continue on my mission, guns blazing.
It’s the attention to detail that makes MGS V stand out in a year packed with open world games. I was devastated when my time with the game got cut short, but mercifully, we’re only a few months out from the game’s release.
8) The Last Guardian
Plenty has been said about the re-reveal of The Last Guardian over the past week, but that doesn’t mean I’m any less shocked to have seen it running on a PS4 in person. It’s real, it’s in development and it’ll be out sometime next year.
My only concern is that Fumito Ueda and his team won’t be able to live up to the enormous expectations of their fans. Ico was an incredible, beautiful adventure, but Shadow of the Colossus was a bonafide masterpiece. I won’t be satisfied until I have the disc in my PS4 at home and have a chance to play the game myself.
9) Mario & Luigi: Paper Jam
This RPG series is among my favorites of all time. From their humble beginnings on the Game Boy Advance all the way up to the Luigi-centric Dream Team in 2013, the Mario & Luigi games have never once disappointed. They’re funny, expansive and add a real depth to the paper thin narrative we’re used to from Mario.
Speaking of paper thin, Nintendo has also decided to mash up another one of my favorite Nintendo series for this 3DS entry. Paper Mario hasn’t had quite as spotless of a run as Mario & Luigi, but I can’t think of anything more joyous than bringing the two together.
The first nine games on this list came to me relatively quickly, but I really had to consider my final pick. Gigantic is a free-to-play MOBA (Dota 2, League of Legends, Heroes of the Storm) for Windows 10 and Xbox One, but plays like a third-person shooter.
It’s one of three console MOBAs that appeared at E3, but it looks like the fastest, the most stylish and most importantly, more fun than the others. You need to watch a full match before you can really understand what exactly is going on in Gigantic, but once you get a hang of the basics, you’ll be off to the races.
Those are our top 10 games of E3 2015, but because you’d never forgive me if I didn’t pick a favorite, here you go:
BGR’s Winner of E3 2015:
Horizon Zero Dawn
There’s no other game I’m more excited to play than Horizon Zero Dawn — not The Last Guardian, not Halo 5, not even the next Zelda. I loved what Guerrilla Games did with the Killzone series prior to Shadow Fall, and I can’t wait to see them take a stab at something completely new next year.
Agree? Disagree? Let us know in the comments below what you thought of E3 this year and what games impressed you the most.