This year's E3 proved to be the games industry's strongest showing in recent memory. Not only did we see lots of great games, they were richly varied, too!
The sheer amount of diversity on display this year compared to the industry's business as usual had a down side, though — it was tough for us to whittle down our favorite games of the show. We started with a list of nearly 50 nominees, and reducing that down to our 10 favorite picks involved days of deliberation and maybe even a few heated words.
Then came the really difficult task of picking the overall show winner. Much debate followed, but the USG team did manage to pick one game that stood tall amongst what was, it must be said, one of the most interesting selections of E3 games in many a year.
That game is not the only show winner, however. Last week we ran a poll so that USgamer's readers could also pick their own Best of E3 from our shortlist of 10 games. Which one made the cut – and is it the same or is it different to the game picked by the USgamer Editors? You can find out which games are the winners below. But before we get there, here's USgamer's Top 10: The Best Games of E3.
USgamer's Top 10: The Best of E3 2015
Cosmic Star Heroine
When I was talking to Cosmic Star Heroine designer Robert Boyd on the show floor during E3, he mentioned that back in the days of Breath of Death VII, he never thought they would be able to do a full-blown 16-bit RPG. And yet, five years later, here we are. Cosmic Star Heroine is Zeboyd Games' most elaborate RPG yet, borrowing from the complicated traditions of Chrono Trigger and Sega CD era to craft a fascinating new game. While it looks a lot like a mix of Phantasy Star and Chrono Trigger, though, it manages to distinguish itself with a clever new battle system and Boyd's customarily great writing. Compared to other, better-known indies, Cosmic Star Heroine has flown under the radar, but it has all the makings of a real gem. — Kat
It's easy for game enthusiasts to become swept up in the excitement of gorgeous graphics, and Cuphead has those to spare. The entire game looks exactly like a Max Fleischer or Ub Iwerks cartoon from the 1930s — think Bosco or Betty Boop minus the gross racist overtones — all the way down to the simulated film grain, dust and hairs captured on individual "frames," and the visuals' occasional tendency to slip slightly out of focus due to "project errors." It's a graphical tour de force, to be sure. But underneath those whizzy visuals, Cuphead also has a rock-solid core of gameplay: It's openly inspired by Treasure and Nazca games like Gunstar Heroes, Alien Soldier, and Metal Slug. Consisting of nothing more than a string of bold, inventive boss battles that two players can tackle together with a move set ripped directly from Gunstar, Cuphead takes a lot of retro influences and turns them into something that feels completely new. All that, and it's the work of two men. Two! That's as crazy as the graphics. — Jeremy
Fallout 4 just might be the most hotly anticipated game of the decade, and Bethesda seems determined to satisfy every expectation imaginable. It's going to be an absolutely massive RPG, set in a beautiful, post-apocalyptic world (or as beautiful as a post-apocalyptic world can be, anyway), and the sheer amount of detail invested into the presentation, the underlying systems, and the setting impress even from the brief demo during Bethesda's press conference. The best part? The developers have quietly been working on Fallout 4 for years, so despite the fact that it was just announced last week, it'll be shipping this fall. — Jeremy
Horizon: Zero Dawn
This was the reaction that most people I know had when Guerrilla Games took the stage at Sony's press conference: "Yes, yes, hurry up so we can get to the rest of the good stuff." But then came the beautiful Life After People vision of the apocalypse, the fierce heroine with the bow and arrow, and the coup de grace, giant robot dinosaurs. By the time Guerilla was finished, everyone was calling Horizon the new IP of the show. Before E3 2015 began, I argued that it would be a show of refinement rather than big new ideas; and to an extent, that's the case with Horizon, which seems to borrow from existing open-world concepts as well as Monster Hunter. But sometimes all you need is a new and interesting spin on an old idea to create something great. From the look of it, Guerrilla has done just that with Horizon. — Kat
The Last Guardian
It's hard to believe, but the last Fumito Udea game, Shadow of the Colossus, released a decade ago this fall—so it goes without saying his next one can't arrive soon enough. After years of waiting, this year's E3 marked the first time we've seen The Last Guardian's gameplay in such a fully realized state: From the looks of the E3 presentation, it combines the environmental, teamwork-based puzzles of Ico with the massive monster interactions of Shadow—except the monster's your buddy this time around. Even if The Last Guardian can't possibly live up to ten years' of expectations, I'm sure we're all dying to play what's one of the most anticipated games of all time. — Bob
Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain
I differ from the rest of USgamer's editors in that I've played a lot of The Phantom Pain. A lot. And while I recommend you read my three-page, in-depth preview article, I understand time is precious, so I'll cut to the chase. The Phantom Pain essentially takes the best part of Metal Gear Solid—the actual play—and drops you into a open world where even the unlikeliest of player actions is accounted for. It's the logical conclusion for the Metal Gear series, and, based on the 15-or-so hours I played last month, definitely Game of the Year material. For once, it's nice to see a series go out on a high note. (Before the inevitable reboot.) — Bob
Need for Speed
Need for Speed returns after a two-year sabbatical, and looks very much the better for having a year off. Featuring photo-realistic cars and backdrops, and designed around five racing conceptual playstyles – speed, style, build, crew and outlaw – Need for Speed delivers a world that's twice the size of its predecessor, Rivals. The E3 demo was fast and exciting, and if the final product delivers on its promise, we can look forward to one of the best Need for Speed games in years. — Jaz
Rise of the Tomb Raider
Lara's last adventure seems to have made her a bit of an adrenaline junkie. That's fine with me, because Crystal Dynamics has expanded the game it built with 2013's Tomb Raider and made something much better. There's a greater focus on survival with a deeper, more intricate crafting system and more of mother nature out to kill Lara. The one woman army has learned some new stealth tricks, like climbing trees, hiding in shrubbery, and building impromptu traps. Unlike other sequels, it's not even open-world; sure there are big hub areas with side missions to check off, but Crystal Dynamics still wants your eyes on the prize. And tombs are back! I went into my E3 demo expecting a slight upgrade and came out calling Rise of the Tomb Raider one of my Games of the Show. Shame about that limited console exclusivity though. — Mike
Super Mario Maker
Who knew that what the Mario series needed was the ability to make your own levels?
What Nintendo has built here is a love letter to the series' past, letting players make levels using assets from Super Mario Bros, Super Mario Bros 3, Super Mario World, and New Super Mario Bros. (No Super Mario Bros 2 for a good reason!) From the trailers, the Nintendo World Championships, and the game on the E3 showfloor, you can can see the potential of Super Mario Maker. We've already seen a number of levels in the Kaizo Mario World/Shobon Action/I Wanna Be The Guy vein, but that's not all that's possible. The Wii U GamePad is well suited for level design and the only limit is your imagination. I probably won't put forth the effort to make some great levels, but I'm looking forward to playing others' amazing creations. — Mike
Yoshi's Woolly World
Real talk: Yoshi's Island for Super NES is actually the best Mario game. That's probably why it's also the Mario game with the most disappointing sequels; Yoshi's Story was about sniffing fruit (!?), Yoshi's Island DS meant well but collapsed under bad design, and Yoshi's New Island stuck a little too close to the Super NES original for most people's tastes. But Woolly World is the real deal; besides the gorgeous, tangible material-based visuals it uses to render its world, it also offers the tightest mechanics and most inventive level design Yoshi's seen in almost 20 years of games. The fact that you no longer have to babysit a caterwauling, abduction-prone Mario is the icing on the cake. Super Mario Maker is about creating your own Mario experiences, but Yoshi's Woolly World is about letting the masters show you how it's done. — Jeremy
And now it's time for the best games of the show!
USgamer's Editor's Choice: Best Game of E3 2015
Winner: Super Mario Maker
In what was pretty much a landslide win, Super Mario Maker takes the Editor's Choice: Best Game of E3 2015 award. The feature-rich toolset for building your very own Mario games looks to be one of the best pieces of Wii U software in years. With its ability to mix and match monsters from different Mario games, as well as switch between 8-bit, 16-bit and modern-day graphical styles, Super Mario Maker looks to offer incredible potential for building fun and interesting levels. And if you don't want to build anything, you can be sure the Mario Maker community will have plenty of stuff for you to try out.
Combining graphics that look like they've been lifted from a 1930's animated short with classic 16-bit style arcade gameplay, Cuphead is an amazing-looking game that pits the hero against a series of boss-type characters. It's tough, but hugely fun – and well-deserved runner-up to the Best Game of E3 award.
USgamer's Reader's Choice: Best Game of E3 2015
Winner: Horizon: Zero Dawn
This E3, USgamer's readers were won over by Guerrilla Games' excellent demo of its upcoming new title, Horizon: Zero Dawn. Set in a far-flung future following the collapse of civilization, the open world game looks to combine elements of third-person shooting with Monster Hunter as the female protagonist tracks down mecha-dinosaurs for parts. It all looks very impressive, and if the game delivers on its promise, we should all be in for a treat.
Runner-up: Fallout 4
Narrowly missing out on a Best of Show win, the much-anticipated Fallout 4 instead came in as runner-up. Seems like the USgamer readers like their post-apocalyptic games if the direction of the vote is anything to go by! And quite rightly so – both Horizon: Zero Dawn and Fallout 4 are looking like deep and interesting games that will offer a huge amount of potential play time.
- Call of Duty: Black Ops III (Treyarch/Activision, Multi)
- Chasm (Discord, PS4/PC)
- Cosmic Star Heroine (Zeboyd, PS4/PC/Vita)
- Cuphead (MDHR, Xbox One/PC)
- Danganronpa: Despair Girls (Spike Chun Soft/Atlus, Vita)
- Destiny: The Taken King (Bungie/Activision, Multi)
- Dishonored 2 (Bethesda, Multi)
- DOOM (Bethesda, Multi)
- Dragon Quest Heroes: The World Tree's Woe and the Blight Below (Omega Force/Square Enix, PS4)
- Fallout 4 (Bethesda, Multi)
- Final Fantasy VII (Square Enix, PS4)
- Fire Emblem Fates (Intelligent Systems/Nintendo, 3DS)
- For Honor (Ubisoft, Multi)
- Forza 6 (Turn10/Microsoft, Xbox One)
- GALAK-Z (17-Bit, PS4/PC/Vita)
- Gears of War Remastered (Micrsoft, Xbox One)
- Halo 5: Guardians (343i/Microsoft, Xbox One)
- Horizon: Zero Dawn (Guerrilla/Sony, PS4)
- Just Cause III (Avalanche/Square Enix, Multi)
- The Last Guardian (Sony, PS4)
- The Legend of Legacy (Furyuu/Atlus, 3DS)
- The Legend of Zelda: Triforce Heroes (Nintendo, 3DS)
- The Legend of Heroes: Trail of Cold Steel (Falcom/XSEED, PS3/Vita)
- LEGO Dimensions (TT/WBIE, Multi)
- Mad Max: Savage Road (Avalanche/WBIE, Multi)
- Madden 16 (EA Tiburon/EA, Multi)
- Mega Man Legacy Collection (Digital Eclipse/Capcom, Multi)
- Metal Gear Solid 5 (Kojima Productions/Konami, Multi)
- Minecraft: Hololens experience (Mojang/Microsoft, Multi)
- Mighty No. 9 (Inti Creates/Comcept, Multi)
- Mirror's Edge Catalyst (DICE/EA, Multi)
- Need for Speed (Ghost/EA Multi)
- Pro Evolution Soccer 2016 (Konami, Multi)
- Rare Replay (Rare/Microsoft, Multi)
- ReCore (Armature/Comcept, Xbox One)
- Rise of the Tomb Raider (Crystal Dynamics/Square Enix, Xbox One)
- Rock Band 4 (Harmonix, Multi)
- Shin Megami Tensei: Persona 5 (Atlus, PS4)
- Street Fighter V (Capcom, Multi)
- Star Fox Zero (Platinumgames/Nintendo, Wii U)
- Star Wars: Battlefront (DICE/EA, Multi)
- Steamworld Heist (Image & Form, Multi)
- Super Mario Maker (Nintendo, Wii U)
- Tom Clancy's Rainbow 6: Siege (Ubisoft Montreal/Ubisoft, Multi)
- Uncharted 4 (Naughty Dog/Sony, PS4)
- Unravel (Coldwood/EA, Multi)
- Wattam (Funomena/Sony, PS4)
- Yoshi's Woolly World (Nintendo, Wii U)