E3 is often called "Videogame Christmas," a designation we disagree with. Generally, fans don't get a ton of free treats, Resident Evil 7: Beginning Hour notwithstanding. No, E3 isn't quite Christmas; it's more like the television upfronts; a massive series of commercials for all the cool new things we should buy this holiday, next year, and beyond. Much like how television upfronts are a stage for trailers for the new TV season, E3 is a showcase for all the new video game news and announcements, often in the form of trailers.
There are good trailers and there are bad trailers. A great trailer runs in-engine and shows a tantalizing glimpse of an upcoming game. A bad trailer is pre-rendered and shows us nothing that we weren't already expecting from a corporate product, often completely devoid of artistic merit. A good trailer should at least show us what the game will look like, even if it doesn't always show us exactly what playing might entail.
Some of this year's E3 trailers were notable for showing a combination of straight gameplay (even live demonstrations) and intimate character-building and narrative moments. Now that the current-gen consoles and high-end PCs are the standard, the graphical fidelity of in-engine trailers is better than ever, so let's take a look at some of this year's best showings. These are the 15 Best Trailers Of E3 2016.
15 Days Gone
We were a bit skeptical of the debut trailer for Days Gone, the next game from Sony's Bend studio, developers of the Syphon Filter series and Uncharted: Golden Abyss. To be honest, we were pretty sure that the game was some kind of spin-off from The Last of Us. However, when Sony chose to close their press conference with a live gameplay demonstration of the title, we were hooked.
The game's setting is the increasingly-passe apocalyptic world where men are hunted by monsters, and the scavenging gameplay didn't seem to offer anything new to fans of games like The Last of Us. However, the moment the zombie horde made their appearance, chasing our hero with vicious determination and insurmountable numbers, we were totally blown away. We still get chills when we think of that image of hundreds of zombies literally pouring through a small open window, a barrage of gunfire hardly slowing down their relentless assault. We look forward to emptying our magazine into a veritable wall of the undead when Days Gone comes out, though it currently has no scheduled release date.
14 The Last Guardian
We've been waiting on The Last Guardian for the better part of a decade. First announced in 2007 for PS3, the game was highly anticipated, coming off the heels of the critical success of Ico and Shadow of the Colossus. However, the title eventually disappeared without a trace, only to finally reappear at E3 2015, with a release window in 2016, exclusively for Playstation 4. It is said that the game on PS4 is identical to Team Ico's original vision for the title, and that the higher specifications of the PS4 were necessary to reach the graphical fidelity that the PS3 simply could not attain.
This year, The Last Guardian made its latest, and final, appearance at E3, with a precise release date, October 25th, 2016. Actually, this latest trailer wasn't particularly impressive and didn't show us much we hadn't already seen, although the presence of a second cat-bird creature was an intriguing surprise. However, at this point, we really don't want the trailers to show us too much of this narrative-focused adventure. We're already on board, so we don't need the advertisements to spoil any of the surprises the game is sure to hold.
Platinum Games have developed some of the greatest action games of all time. Comprised of former members of Capcom's Clover Studios (Viewtiful Joe, Okami), Platinum went on to develop titles like Bayonetta, Vanquish, and Metal Gear Rising. Their latest game is the Xbox One (and Windows 10) exclusive, Scalebound, which combines their penchant for high-octane action with cooperative gameplay and RPG elements.
Scheduled for 2017, the game stars a boy and his dragon as they kick butt and take on massive bosses, one of which was the core focus of the gameplay demonstration which was shown at E3 2016. The demo appeared to take a tiny slice of the game and show it off to viewers, shining a spotlight on Scalebound's four-player online action and the epic scale of a small human on a large dragon taking on insanely gargantuan monsters. There was no effort wasted on plot, characterization, or any sort of context; just a pure demonstration of how the game will surely look and play once we finally get it in our hands.
12 Dishonored 2
Dishonored was one of 2012's biggest surprises, with its excellent mix of stealth action, brutal combat, and a mysterious and compelling storyline. Bethesda first announced Dishonored 2 at last year's E3 press conference, though they had nothing to show but a completely pre-rendered trailer. While a decent start, it's tough to get interested in a game trailer that doesn't even show the game.
That all changed at Bethesda's E3 2016 press conference, which dedicated a huge chunk of their presentation to gameplay footage of the upcoming low-fantasy title. Dishonored 2 did not disappoint with its debut gameplay trailer, which showed a ton of neck stabbings and set up some intriguing plot developments, all to the tune of a sweet cover of Fleetwood Mac's "Gold Dust Woman."
Arkane Studios' other big title this year was a revival of the long-dormant Prey franchise. However, since that game's debut trailer was entirely pre-rendered, we can't in good conscience put it on this list, though we are absolutely keeping our ear to the ground, eagerly awaiting fresh news on the long-awaited return of the once-promising series.
11 Skylanders Imaginators
We were hoping that Crash Bandicoot would make an appearance at Sony's E3 press conference, and we weren't disappointed. As Sony's de facto mascot during the early days of the PS1, the plucky marsupial holds a special place in the hearts of many platforming fans.
Two projects were announced, but only one was shown. If Shawn Layden had called up a trailer for the HD remaster of Crash's first three adventures, we have little doubt that such a display wouldn't have earned a spot within the top three entries on this list. As it is, however, a Crash Bandicoot appearance in Activision's latest Skylanders game is still an event worthy of considerable praise.
Fortunately, this Crash Bandicoot isn't drastically redesigned (although the head is a bit big for our liking), and he looks to be bringing some old-school, run-and-jump pure platforming back into the increasingly gimmick-centric Skylanders series. We're infinitely more stoked for the upcoming HD remakes of Crash, Crash 2, and Crash Warped, but Skylanders will hold our interest until then... Now, if only we can get an HD remake of the original Spyro the Dragon trilogy. If only...
10 Battlefield 1
One day, someone asked, "What if war was awesome? What if young men and women killing each other was not horrible, but a relaxing activity to share with friends?" Even the most liberal-minded, anti-war hippie peaceniks among us can agree; DICE's Battlefield series is one of the greatest online shooters out there.
We had to watch Battlefield 1's E3 trailer multiple times before we could actually believe that it was running in real-time, even if it was surely on the most high-end of PCs. The stunning detail in the cinematic moments of this trailer were miles beyond what we've seen in Battlefield 4 and Hardline. The subsequent gameplay demo was a bit more believable, but the sheer scale and impressive effects means Battlefield 1 has some of the most beautiful graphics in any game we've ever seen.
Of course, Battlefield is the kind of game that a mere trailer isn't enough to convey what to expect once it's in consumers' hands, so, after EA's press conference, they showcased a live, 64-player demo, with special guests like Zac Efron and Jamie Foxx showing off their skills. World War I is a wild new setting for the series, and one that has the interest of longtime fans and newcomers alike. Time will tell if the single-player campaign will hold our interest or if we'll jump straight into multiplayer, but we do know that we're ready to take a chance on making World War I a whole lot more fun than the history books say it was.
9 Dead Rising 4
While not an Xbox exclusive, Dead Rising 4 will have a yearlong window away from Sony's PS4. Until then, Xbox One (and Windows 10) will the the only place to play Dead Rising 4, which looks to be most gloriously silly entry yet in the arcade-style zombie mass-murdering simulator.
The trailer begins with a live action sequence of series hero Frank West snuggling in a comfy-looking chair to the sultry sounds of Jingle Bell Rock, but quickly segues to a gameplay sizzle reel filled with all the wild antics we've come to love and expect from Dead Rising. From shooting candy canes from a makeshift bow like arrows into crowds of the undead, to catapulting zombies out of the back of a pickup truck, to brandishing a totally bizarre mech suit and laying waste to scores of flesh-eating monsters, Dead Rising 4 promises to be nothing less than a ton of pure, righteous, and unadulterated fun. #FrankIsBack, indeed.
There were rumblings that Spider-Man would be making an appearance at E3 as a PS4 exclusive, but most of the buzz was that the title would be developed by Sucker Punch, creators of open-world superhero franchise InFamous. However, the game is actually in development at Insomniac Games, creators of Ratchet & Clank, Spyro the Dragon, and Sunset Overdrive. In fact, this as-of-yet untitled Spider-Man game is Insomniac's first project based on a pre-existing franchise (not including sequels to their own original titles), establishing Spidey as a labor of love for the development team.
The trailer is largely devoid of story content, opting to cut directly to the chase, showing off fast navigation, brutally efficient combat moves, and some wildly imaginative setpiece moments, along with a radically intriguing redesign of the classic Spider-Man outfit. Now that the Batman Arkham series is over (for now at least, Arkham VR notwithstanding), it's Marvel's turn to make a move and stake a claim in the video game space, and Spidey is the perfect character to take the reigns with.
Every year, Ubisoft closes their show with a surprise announcement. Games to make their debut in this fashion include Watch Dogs, Rainbow Six: Siege, and Ghost Recon: Wildlands, but more on that one in a bit...
This year, Ubisoft announced a new extreme sports title, Steep, for which they showcased a debut trailer and a whole lot of gameplay. Set on an open-world version of European Alps, Steep lets players utilize wingsuits, paragliders, snowboards, or skis, to explore, race, and complete challenges. The game will feature strong social integration across all of its modes and lots of asynchronous, as well as straight-up competitive modes.
Most awesomely of all, however, the game features a replay mode in which players can capture and share all of their coolest feats -- but mostly their brutally insane crashes, bails, and wipeouts. We're looking forward to stumbling our way down all the mountains in Europe until we break each and every bone in our fragile bodies, and loving every minute of it.
6 Sea of Thieves
Back in 2002, Microsoft bought Rare from Nintendo for $375 million dollars, and finally, after 14 years and a handful of high-profile games of wildly varying quality, it looks like the company is finally on the verge of creating a game that may justify that massive expenditure.
Sea of Thieves is a multiplayer shared-world adventure about pirates and treasure hunting, and Rare's E3 demo for the title was suitably wacky and eye-opening; a bunch of prospective players were gathered and thrown blindly into the game, with no instructions or direction from Rare employees. The naval combat looks particularly exhilarating with an extraordinary emphasis on cooperating in order to keep your ship afloat.
We'll have to wait and see if Sea of Thieves lives up to its promise of diverse emergent gameplay scenarios and massively multiplayer high seas hijinks, but we're seriously stoked that Rare seems to have its creative mojo back.
5 Ghost Recon: Wildlands
Like Rainbow Six: Siege before it, Ghost Recon: Wildlands' multiplayer demo was nearly ruined by painfully rehearsed "candid" dialogue between squadmates, but the game itself simply looked cool enough to make up for it, and then some. This four-player gameplay demo wasn't live, but it still showed off some impressive co-op action, with one player acting as a sniper and picking off enemies while guiding his allies into a heavily guarded base. Meanwhile, the fourth player appears with a getaway vehicle right in the nick of time to save the day.
The tone of the game looks like it's one part military shooter, and one part old-school western, with the Ghosts playing the part of vigilante cowboys out to liberate the local populace (in this case, the entire country of Bolivia) from an evil occupying force. The demo looked to maintain Ghost Recon's fairly heavy brand of gun combat, rather than twitchy and brainless shooting, so we can't wait until March 7th, 2017, when we can finally try our hand at team-based tactics ourselves.
4 The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild
The upcoming WiiU/NX Zelda game finally has a subtitle, Breath of the Wild. We've seen sparse footage here and there, but Nintendo made their E3 special by focusing solely on the now nearly-complete Zelda, a decision which paid off grandly, as Breath of the Wild gave one of E3's strongest showings.
The debut trailer for this open-world Zelda began with multiple landscape shots showing the beauty of the setting; the philosophy of any open-world game should be, "If you can see it, you can go there," and everything about the video suggests that ideal will be firmly in place for Breath of the Wild.
Also present in the trailer is a first for the Zelda series: voice acting! It's only a couple of lines, but it certainly conveys that this latest Zelda will be an evolution for the series, if not a complete departure from tradition. The rest of the trailer is a sizzle reel of disparate gameplay elements, such as dropping boulders off of cliffs and onto the heads of bad guys, taming horses, cooking food, and other seriously awesome next-gen mechanics. We don't know if Nintendo is going to be able to rock our worlds with the NX, but The Legend of Zelda has never let us down, and this new game looks like it could be the best one yet.
3 Resident Evil 7: Biohazard
The scariest part of E3 was the surprise reveal of Resident Evil 7: Biohazard, a first-person horror title with full Virtual Reality integration. The trailer is spectacularly terrifying, with gruesome imagery and myriad scares, connecting RE7 with last year's mysterious VR demo, the plainly-titled Kitchen. Even with the vivid trailer, we are still mostly in the dark as to what the game will entail, even after the awesomely spooky Beginning Hour demo.
We don't quite know what to expect when Resident Evil 7 launches in January 2017, except that it should be the scariest Resident Evil ever and remind us why we first fell in love with the original game, way back in 1996. It's been quite a while since a mainline RE game scared us to death, but, thanks to that trailer, we're confident that RE7 absolutely has what it takes to make us once again cower in fear... And maybe buy a nightlight again.
2 God of War
Sony opened its PS4 conference with its biggest asset, a brand new God of War sequel. This new God of War is not a portable spin-off like Ghost of Sparta or Chains of Olympus, or a stopgap prequel like Ascension. This new title is the legitimate next chapter in the venerated saga, and moves the setting from ancient Greece to the icy frontier of Norse mythology.
This trailer took the form of a live gameplay demonstration accompanied by a live orchestra conducted by Bear McCreary, who is also composing the score the game. Kratos, older and struggling to keep his anger in check, must contend with raising a son in the violent world of the Norse Gods. While we haven't seen figures like Odin or Thor, we're confident they'll turn up eventually. In the meantime, we got a great look at the new combat, RPG elements, and character-oriented narrative of this new game; Kratos is teaching his (as of yet unnamed) son how to hunt, and the culmination of their chase of a fantasy deer is nothing short of amazing, a testament to the dramatic capabilities of this new generation of console gaming.
1 Death Stranding
After Konami's devastating implosion in 2015 led to the cancellation of Silent Hills and the bitter firing of Hideo Kojima, it was a delight to see that he is back in the saddle, working on a brand new original game. The debut trailer for Death Stranding ran in-engine, though the game is still in the absolute earliest stages in development. Set to the moody dirge of "I'll Keep Coming" by Low Roar, the trailer shows a mysterious beach filled with dead sea animals, and a naked man (played by Norman Reedus) and his baby, which he seems to literally be tethered to. The trailer is full of provocative imagery, from Norman's baby disappearing and leaving oily handprints in the sand, to five mysterious floating figures who hover ominously in the sky.
We have absolutely no idea what Death Stranding will be like, except that we want it in our PS4 right now. A great trailer opens up a whole new world while also leaving us completely in the dark as to what the actual game will entail. Kojima is an undisputed master of the art of the video game trailer, and we can't wait to see more from this mysterious new universe.
What was your favorite E3 trailer? Were you pleasantly surprised? Does Scalebound make you want to buy an Xbox One? Does God of War make you want to switch allegiances to PS4? Console wars be damned, it all looks fantastic! Sound off in the comments section.