We saw a lot of great games at E3 2019. While this show was a little more sedate than in past years—Microsoft basically punting to next year was a big disappointment—there was still plenty to get excited about. Nintendo and Square Enix in particular dominated the conversation at this year's show.
As usual, we've chosen our 10 best games of E3 2019, including our awards for best hands-on, best hands-off, and best reveal. We also asked you, our readers, to pick your favorite game of E3 2019, and you responded with a three way tie, which has never happened before. There are plenty of surprises on this list, including Dying Light 2, which Caty absolutely loved. There are also some surprise omissions, among them Cyberpunk 2077, Jedi: Fallen Order, and Avengers, which were all tipped for important reveals at this year's show.
While the games listed below aren't guaranteed to be Game of the Year material, they also impressed in one way or another. Read on to see our list of the best games of E3 2019, and go here to find all of our coverage from the show.
E3 2019 Game of the Show
Final Fantasy 7 Remake
If E3 had subtitles, E3 2019's subtitle would be "The Year that Final Fantasy 7 Remake proved itself." Not only did Remake come riding like a bat out of Midgar with new trailers, but hands-on impressions indicate Square Enix is onto something pretty special here.
I carry a lot of nostalgia for Final Fantasy 7, and Remake certainly earns its "Remake" descriptor. It's much bigger, much different than the original PlayStation release. I don't doubt some fans will find those changes a little too much, but put me down for a whole new Final Fantasy 7 experience—especially now that we know the battle system is not "hack and slash" as many of us initially feared, but actually combines action with menu commands in a way that, to my knowledge, Square Enix hasn't done before (I suppose Crisis Core: Final Fantasy 7 had some of that going on, but there wasn't as much emphasis on menus and picking the right character/strategy for the right fight).
E3 2019 even gave Final Fantasy 7 Remake a solid release date, if you can believe that after all these literal years (March 3, 2020). I can finally say without wavering that I am ready for you, 2020. Bring it all on. Even Barrett's cheesy dialogue. Especially Barrett's cheesy dialogue. —Nadia Oxford
Best Non-Playable Game
Dying Light 2
I don't think I knew what to expect from Dying Light 2. The parkour-happy, zombie open-world game is more of a "narrative sandbox" this time around. Where Dying Light became something of a cult hit, Dying Light 2 is building on that foundation, and turning its eye to something way more ambitious: your choices not only impact the dialogue and story you see, but how much of the open-world you can access too.
We didn't get hands-on time with Dying Light 2, but watched a lengthy demo showing main character Aiden Caldwell run across rooftops in typical Dying Light fashion, and make some tough choices. One early on was simple: find a doctor for their dying friend, or chase after the truck of the people who shot him. The demo player chooses the latter, and off we go. The city itself is beautiful, and feels very lively. Zombies loiter quietly indoors, never a threat during daytime because UV rays slow them down. People work on rooftops and yell at you for running through their space.
It's later, though, where we see the repercussions of each action. Aiden's friend Frank succumbs to his wounds, we learn, just as we're about to creep into the place where we need to turn on water valves to flow water into the parched city. Turning on the water valves, rather than believing The Colonel guarding who tries to convince you otherwise, unveils a previously flooded district in the open-world, but a new monster also emerges with the big decision. If you don't turn the water valves, you can still explore the area: you just have to swim through it. I've played a lot of choice-driven games before, but if Dying Light 2 manages to pull what it's promising off in the full game, it will be staggering.
Dying Light 2 is looking to continue to carry the baton of Mirror's Edge, now with a better storytelling hook for the sequel. Even though we didn't get hands-on, it'll be anytime now until we do with its release window set for Spring 2020. —Caty McCarthy
Most Exciting Reveal of E3 2019
The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild 2
Job listings and rumors suggested Nintendo's working on a new Zelda game, but we didn't expect it to be a direct follow-up to Breath of the Wild—nor did we expect it to get a surprise reveal at E3. Though we only saw a one-minute teaser for Breath of the Wild 2, we're left with the impression that the game is quite far along. It's also looking pretty dark. Is Ganondorf returning? Is Link possessed by some ghostly entity? Is Zelda playable? I'll be keeping my ear to the ground for new Nintendo Directs, let me tell you.
Rampant leaks and spoilers cascade across Twitter before E3 like so much of Ganon's Malice consuming unfortunate rats. I honestly thought the days of E3 surprises are long gone but Nintendo pulled out a real hum-dinger of a reveal that knocked everyone for a loop. Good stuff. I'm glad we're still capable of being surprised. —Nadia Oxford
The Rest of Our E3 2019 Top 10
Fire Emblem: Three Houses
The Fire Emblem series has gone through some radical changes since 2012’s fantastic Awakening, and Three Houses might be its biggest paradigm shift yet. It bucks the weapon triangle like the oldest games in the series once did, adds some fascinating twists to combat with battalion Gambits and Combat Arts, ramps up the scale, and layers a management sim-slash-dating game over the top.
Fire Emblem: Three Houses is fantasy medieval Hogwarts, where war is just another subject you have to cram before finals. It’s how all these disparate changes still manage to work in concert, forming what might be the largest and most player-involved Fire Emblem to date. If Fire Emblem is going to kill its sacred texts and forge ahead, this is a strong foot forward for building on the legacy of Awakening. I’m very ready to be a professor at Murder Hogwarts. —Eric Van Allen
Link's Awakening Remake
The remake of Link’s Awakening gave me a mild existential crisis. When you adore something, you lock a mental image in your head of what it is, and that tends to age better than the actual work itself. The original Legend of Zelda: Link’s Awakening was my first game I could call my own, and it quickly became a favorite. I’m happy to say Link’s Awakening remake manages to reignite those same fuzzy feelings.
This is possibly the earliest example of offbeat Zelda entries, focusing entirely on Koholint Island rather than Hyrule. It gets strange in a dreamlike way, wonderfully reflected by the toy-like graphics and added effects. But every stone, bush, and key item is just where I remember it. The Link’s Awakening remake is painfully accurate, and a worthy preservation of an underrated gem of the series. With a little fine tuning, this is going to be something very special for those of us who’ve waited a long time to go back to Koholint. —Eric Van Allen
Doom 2016 is one of the best FPS games of this generation. Id Software resurrected the series by focusing on what's most important: demon slaying combat. With the gameplay foundations rock solid from Doom 2016, Doom Eternal needed only to build the sequel bigger and badder, without losing what made the first game tick.
Doom Eternal does that and more. Glory Kills are back, but they almost take a backseat to a host of new gameplay elements. Glory Kills power a new ability called Blood Punch that increases the damage of your melee skills and deals AoE damage. The level design, which was a perfect bowl of chaos in Doom 2016, gets new life thanks to monkey bars that expand the possibilities of traversal.
Even killing demons is more fun as they're now destructible. Literally rip the limbs off demons if they try to stand between you and saving humanity from hell. Ultimately, Doom Eternal is just a damn good time. — Matt Kim
Empire of Sin
At a show like E3, it can be hard to remember everything you've seen. You're seeing so many games and trying to keep track of them. Everything begins to blur together. Sometimes though, you end up with a game that carves out it own space in your mind. It stands out amongst a sea of similar titles. For me this E3, that game was Empire of Sin.
Empire of Sin is a strategy game from Romero Games, and the long-time vision of Brenda Romero. It's a strategy game rooted in 1920s Chicago, during the time of Prohibition. You step in the distinctive life of one of the crime bosses and work your way up in the city, bringing like-minded criminals to your cause, taking over rackets, and making sure that crime in the city pays for you.
There's also an extensive social system, with relationships between bosses, lieutenants, and the rest of their crews determining how you navigate the city. Imagine attacking a brewery controlled by another crime family. You kill all the guards, only to find out that one of them was the brother of your favorite crew member. Now, not only will you lose that resource, but you'll probably have to contend with them joining another gang and coming for you. Strategy with a strong social layer is my personal poison, and Empire of Sin was one of the games that stayed on the forefront of my mind at E3. Plus, it's actually coming to Nintendo Switch, so I can do my crimes on the go. —Mike Williams
Watch Dogs Legion
Watch Dogs had a lot of promise, but ultimately was just an okay game. Watch Dogs 2 was great, but I think folks were a little reticent to try it after the first. It feels like Watch Dogs Legion is poised to take what was great about the concept and really blow the doors off the entire franchise. You're not Aiden Pierce or Marcus Holloway. Hell, you're not any one character. You're whoever you want to be, because the focus of Legion is establishing your own DedSec cell in the near-future city of London.
Literally, you can look into the lives of anyone on the street and see if they have the look, the temperament, and the skills to be a part of your crew. Then you can help them out, or improve the lives of their friends and family to bring them over to your cause. And once they're fully onboard, they become another playable character. If you want that nebbish banker, or punk-rock hardass on your crew, that's up to you. You can make a crew full of people in suits if that's your fancy. Just watch out, because Legion features permadeath, so you might find yourself losing a favorite to The Man. It's such a fantastic idea, and the tiny taste I got of the game at E3 2019 makes me only want more. —Mike Williams
The Microsoft E3 2019 press conference had a lot of trailers, but one that stuck with me the most was the emergence of the indie game 12 Minutes, which I actually remembered demoing years ago. Shortly after, I got some hands-off and hands-on time with 12 Minutes, led by its developer Luis Antonio.
12 Minutes is a timeloop game, which seems to be all the rage nowadays. It's an adventure game—complete with an inventory—and upon the close of each timeloop, you retain the knowledge of what happened previously, which informs your actions. The timeloop itself? You're a husband, and after your wife tells you that she's pregnant, you hear a mysterious knock on the door. A man claiming to be a cop soon barges in, ties you both up, and then murders you. But then you're back in your living room, like nothing happened, as your wife continues on the same routine as you just saw. Only now, you can directly tell her about it, or maybe take different action, like locking the door or grabbing a knife. 12 Minutes will take about six to eight hours to complete, according to Antonio, and after six long years in development, is nearing release in early 2020. —Caty McCarthy
Outer World may have a relatively small team and budget behind it—certainly compared to juggernauts like Elder Scrolls—but it has a ton of heart. Developed in part by RPG legends Tim Cain and Leonard Boyarsky, the minds behind the original Fallout, it sacrifices scale for dense, well-crafted interactivity. While Outer Worlds may not have the scope or freedom of Fallout 76, it should definitely be its sequel in terms of storytelling and agency. Plus, the Futurama-like humor is calling to us. Hopefully lives up to its immense promise when it drops later this year. —Kat Bailey
John Wick Hex
The hex name may mislead you, but John Wick Hex is unlike any other game in the hex genre I've ever played. Immediately, it reminds me the most of Superhot, a game where when you move, the enemies move too. John Wick Hex operates at a similar cadence. There's no stealth to be found here; the strategy you employ is observing the timeline at the top of your screen, the amount of time actions like a takedown or throwing your gun will take, and getting into action.
The more you move through a level, the more enemies spawn. Taking out more than one requires not just a gun to shoot, but skill. Each time you run out of ammo, you have to find a new gun in typical John Wick action. (There's even a time delay for reloading.) If you're out of ammo and find someone coming for you, you can even throw your gun at them in a moment of desperation. It's easy to see John Wick Hex as XCOM meets Superhot, but in actuality, the closest it really is to is in the name itself: it feels like being John Wick. —Caty McCarthy
USG Community Pick: Best of E3 2019
Cyberpunk 2077, The Legends of Zelda: Breath of the Wild 2, and Final Fantasy 7 Remake [Three Way Tie]
This year's Community Award was a three way tie between three of the most hyped games of the show: Cyberpunk 2077, Final Fantasy 7 Remake, and The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild 2. Yes, even though Breath of the Wild 2 was shown only briefly, it was enough to win over the hearts of our readers.
"Doesn't matter to me if there’s no gameplay. The only thing that has a chance of being as fun is Elden Ring and that didn’t have gameplay either," wrote NiceGuyNeon.
Final Fantasy 7 Remake likewise got plenty of love in the comments. "I just hope I live long enough to see the entire storyline completed," docexe joked.
Maybe the most surprising game on this list was Cyberpunk 2077, which had a very strong opening to E3, but was subsequently bogged down in controversy, as well as concerns about its shooting mechanics. That didn't matter so much to our readers, who rallied behind CD Projekt's hotly anticipated RPG. "I've never been a FPS player or a CD Projekt Red fan, but something about Cyberpunk 2077 calls out to me. My game of the show for sure," Crabmaster2000 said.
All three games stand to be massive when they eventually come out. But it speaks to the power of Zelda that a simple reveal trailer was enough to make it Game of the Show in the minds of many.
Other Staff Favorites From E3
- Pokemon Sword and Pokemon Shield
- Trials of Mana Remake
- Microsoft Flight Simulator
- Cyberpunk 2077
- Marvel Ultimate Alliance 3
- Minecraft Dungeons