Literally hundreds of games have already been teased, revealed, One More Thing’d or received new footage and/or release dates over the course of E3 2021. That’s an awful lot to process and, as you’d expect, a ton of fascinating games get buried underneath the avalanche of noise. So to make the week a little easier to parse, here’s a list of the more interesting titles from gaming’s annual announce-aganza.
This post has been updated with more titles after the Nintendo and Bandai conferences.
WarioWare: Get it Together (September 10)
Astria Ascending (September 30, 2021)
There’s all the typical JRPG trappings in this turn-based adventure, but Astria Ascending leans hard into the side content too. It’s got its own in-universe card game, a string of environmental puzzles and its own shoot-em-ups. Keen to see how that all meshes together.
Metroid Dread (October 8)
What can you do with a 2D Metroid after almost two decades? We’ll find out later this year, and it should keep everyone going until probably 2023 when Metroid Prime 4 finally emerges.
ELEX 2 (TBA)
You have to love games like ELEX: completely flawed to the point of being almost unplayable, and yet still having a bizarre charm and such a strong sense of identity that you love it anyway.
That said, more bug fixing and ironing out the kinks for the sequel. Please.
Atomic Heart (TBA)
Wins the E3 2021 award for “Most Tonally Inconsistent Trailer” of the show. Or most entertaining? Probably both.
Breath of the Wild 2 (2022, hopefully)
There’s so much going on in the trailer already. Flying. Link has a flamethrower?? The way those spiked boulders will react when hit — can you launch them at mass speed, like so many things in BOTW? What the hell is going on with that arm? What else is new that you can chain together? How is Link able to phase through walls, and what are its limitations?
Behind the Frame (2021)
A Taiwanese-made narrative puzzler where you play as an artist, using your skills with the paintbrush to move forward. Very strong Ghibli vibes from the cel-shaded animation.
Songs of Conquest (2022)
Heroes of Might and Magic 3 got shitfaced at a bar and hooked up with Eiyuden Chronicle. I couldn’t be happier.
Encased (September 2021)
Imagine a cRPG with the humour of The Outer Worlds, and you’re halfway to seeing the joy in Encased.
Gamedec (September 17)
Cyberpunk Sherlock Holmes, in a few words. Played from an isometric view, Gamedec forces you to play a detective who solves crimes within virtual worlds.
Elden Ring (January 21, 2022)
Elden Ring isn’t exactly going to fly under the radar, but as one of the best showings early on, credit where credit’s due. What’ll be interesting here is how FromSoft transitions to a proper open-world, versus their deliberate level design of the past.
A tea-making simulator, where you make tea for the resident cats of the village. There’s a whole bit about learning what leaves to pluck and the brewing process, which sounds just divine, honestly.
Yokai Inn (TBA)
In case you missed it, here's our trailer for Yokai Inn that aired during Wholesome Direct! pic.twitter.com/tTK6qJaIbC
— Yokai Inn (@ShibaPixels) June 14, 2021
A cute Harvest Moon / Stardew Valley-style game about running your own inn. Meet spirits, cook food, fish, farm, craft, try not to piss off the local owl, and upgrade as you go along. No release date or Steam page for this one yet, but there’s more details here.
Chicory: A Colorful Tale (out now)
Imagine you’re stuck in a blank colouring in book and you have to use your artistic side to escape. That’s kind of the theme with Chicory: A Colorful Tale, which has hit PC and consoles by the time you read this. The creators of this game worked on Celeste and Wandersong, so it’s no surprising that Steam reviews are already praising the game as a) mechanically excellent and b) engaging with a great soundtrack. Both things you could say about Celeste or Wandersong, really.
Imagine the brainchild of Pony Island decided to make a creepy card game with echoes of Hand of Fate. But it’s not just a dealer you have to contend with: there’s escape room puzzles, horror elements, and what looks like some FMV sequences? Inscryption should be out this year for PC, with consoles to come after launch.
Kraken Academy (2021)
You’re in a school, stuck in a time loop, and you need the help of the Kraken to get out.
If that wasn’t enough, here’s this from the official description:
Learn teachers’ and students’ routines as you explore every corner of the campus during this three day loop. Attend a costume party, become a detective, and help the school’s janitor bring down a crime syndicate.
Yup, that works for me.
A game where you’re not only the last mother fox on the planet, but you’re trying to protect three baby cubs — and the game starts with you immediately losing one of your young foxes.
It’s OK if you cried.
Beasts of Maravilla Island (out now)
Pokemon Snap but where the environment takes the place of the rails, and the Pokemon.
The Legend of TianDing (October 2021)
A comic-book 2D adventure about the Taiwanese Robin Hood, of sorts. You’re exploring 1900’s Taipei, battling the seedy underbelly of the city and injustice. The combat looks super fluid as well, and the high contrast style with the historical palette really looks fantastic.
Kena: Bridge of Spirits (August 24)
About an hour’s worth of gameplay went online not long after E3 started, finally providing a much better look at the Ghibli-inspired adventure on a moment to moment to basis. I’m glad the footage is out there, because it confirms that Kena should be a delight to play.
BPM: Bullets Per Minute (out now)
Like OVERKILL, BPM has looked like an absolute blast from the day it was announced. It’s been out since September last year, but plenty of people have missed it, so now’s a good time to pick it up.
Serial Cleaners (2021)
One for fans of Shadow Tactics / Desperados 3 / the Commandos series. Set in 1999, you’re controlling a team of four characters as they clean up crime scenes for the mob. There’s supposedly a ton of ’90s movie references, which is a great spin on the real-time tactics genre.
Forza Horizon 5 (November 9)
The amount of work and sophistication in Forza Horizon has always been slightly staggering. They’re also some of the best showcases for Xbox hardware too, given Playground Games’ wizardry with optimisation. The changing weather environments and added sheen of ray-traced reflections should lead to some astonishingly pretty scenery, too. I’m also looking forward to the inevitable Hot Wheels expansion, or LEGO — both were absolutely brilliant in Forza games past.
Lost Ark (Spring 2021)
I remember writing about how good Lost Ark looked … back in 2016. It’s been slowly expanding and getting localisation over the last couple of years, and this Australian spring we’ll finally be able to fully enjoy the South Korean Diablo in English.
Planet of Lana (2022)
A hand-painted narrative adventure with one of the cleanest, sharpest styles of E3 so far.
A very clever stop-motion adventure game, but one with a metric ton of 3D scanning and motion capture to help dodge around some of the problems stop motion presents (like lighting or lack of camera controls). The fluidity and amount of detail in the little world they’ve created looks absolutely fantastic. It probably won’t convert those who aren’t into point-and-click adventures, but anyone who grew up on LucasArts games (or enjoyed other titles from the ’90s or ’00s like Broken Sword, Zork, Myst series etc.) should absolutely have this on their wishlist.
Unbeatable (mid-to-late 2023)
A rhythm adventure game where two buttons (up and down) help you navigate through a rock concert, eat lunch, and plan illegal underground concerts. There’s some neat systems at work, like the narrative choices impacting what songs your band gets to write (and subsequently the aural experience you’ll end up having). Great visual aesthetic, too.
Moonglow Bay (2021)
As someone who used to wake up on the weekends to the sound of my partner fishing in Stardew Valley, I appreciate any game that takes fishing in their slice-of-life adventure seriously. Moonglow Bay has a sweet voxel art style too, one of the most gorgeous UI’s from all of E3 2021, and I love the idea of cooking up meals and selling them back to the town.
Death’s Door (Australian winter 2021)
Killer piano-heavy soundtrack, astonishing cut scenes and some super tight controls, as you’d expect from the makers of Titan Souls. Death’s Door absolutely knows what it wants to be and what it wants to look like, and I’m here for every bit of it. Shouldn’t be too long before this is out, too.
Creepy horror survival with strong Japanese influences. I got a bit of BLAME! out of this one, although that might just be me.
Sable (September 23)
Chill open-world exploration as you navigate through Sable’s Gliding, a rite of passage that takes you across the desert. There’s a free demo playable now, if you’d like.
Pity this game’s still a while away, because its blend of martial arts, colour and motion looks awesome.
Grim pixel-art with some fascinating camera shifts and some strong dystopian vibes. Very much one for anyone who’s still waiting for The Last Night to come out.
The makers of INSIDE and Limbo are back with another one of their immersive platformers. The 3D art has been ramped up massively this time around, and there’s more dynamism in their environments from the trailer. Also, there’s giant pillars in the sky that come crashing to earth. Alien invasion, perhaps?
Lakeburg Legacies (2022)
A village management sim with almost a Victorian-style vibe. Almost Pride and Prejudice meets Crusader Kings, as you pair up families to grow your town in the most effective way.
Citizen Sleeper (2022)
A tabletop inspired narrative RPG where dice and ongoing timers dictate what happens, what you can access and what kind of story you’re told. I love the ideas of games that track actions and NPCs over time, and following “drives” rather than quests should be an interesting change, too. Ton of fascinating systems in this one.
The producers of AMID EVIL and DUSK basically made a retro shooter that doubles down on the original Thief formula. That’s enough of a pitch for anyone who grew up in that era of the ’90s, but if you need convincing, the demo on Steam is pretty good.
Endless Dungeon (2022)
Amplitude Studios taking the clever — but complicated — Dungeon of the Endless and converting that into a more translatable, more accessible twin-stick shooter.
S.T.A.L.K.E.R. 2: Heart of Chernobyl (2022)
There’s nothing quite like a proper Russian survival sim. And by proper, I mean there’s nothing quite like S.T.A.L.K.E.R, because everything that’s not S.T.A.L.K.E.R. is honestly just trying to be that. Watch the trailer above, and you’ll understand why the series — and the sequel — is so ridiculously popular.
Sports Story (TBA)
Your tennis journey begins on the unassuming but competitive babies court. The lessons you learn here will prepare you for the ruthlessness you'll face in tennis school. pic.twitter.com/jqh9TulUw2
— Sidebar Games (@sidebargames) June 14, 2021
This will probably air during the Nintendo Direct, but the developers provided an update beforehand that was worth sharing. Golf Story is still one of the best indies and games ever made in Australia, and one of the few titles clever enough to use the JoyCon’s HD Rumble to create music. Sports Story is taking that same humour, but adding more sports and more mechanics. What’s not to love?
Lake (September 1)
A chill narrative about leaving your city life behind to return to your home town as the postie.
Mario + Rabbids Spark of Hope (2022)
Still blows my mind that Nintendo let another studio a) use Mario, b) give Mario a gun and c) Mario and Rabbids worked together as well as they did. Either way, Mario + Rabbids was excellent, although the sight of golden stars as derpy Rabbids is deeply disturbing and a travesty to humankind.
Avatar: Frontiers of Pandora (2022)
Ubisoft Massive’s open-world tech is some of the best in the business, and I’ve waited years to see what it’ll do in the context of Avatar. It’s a bit weird to see the game before the actual sequel, but what matters most here is how the game’s going to be structured. I’d be surprised if it didn’t lean into the style of The Division — it fits the live-service model Ubisoft like for these new projects, and doing raids on military installations on Toruk could work well as repeatable content.