Joystiq's favorite games of E3 2011

Normally, after E3, some clear "best games" emerge -- either the ones that everyone knew would be amazing going in, and did not disappoint on the floor, or the Scribblenauts-style surprises that dominated conversations online and in the press room. There's usually a general consensus among the Joystiq staff about a few standout games.

This year, however, when we compared notes and discussed our favorite games of the show over chicken and waffles, we found that every Joystiqer picked something different (there was more agreement when we asked the Massively staff to join in, but it makes sense for MMO fans to be in accord). We can't really say what that means, but it seems significant.

And so, rather than debate our way down to a few choices, we're just presenting each of our favorite games, individually. You want Joystiq's "Game of the Show"? It's ... all of these. We'd also like to call out Bloodrayne: Betrayal and Mass Effect 3, which came so close.

  • Alexander Sliwinski (@XanderSliwinski): On the multiplayer front, I liked what I heard about Ubisoft's plans for Assassin's Creed: Revelations' upgrades and tweaks. My real surprise was Driver: San Francisco's multi. I had no interest in the game until I got some time with the multiplayer and had a blast with the tag mode. If the rest of the game's multiplayer is as thought out as that one mode, it could become the first racing game since F-Zero that holds my attention. Beyond that, there was plenty of interesting stuff. I'm definitely waiting to get hands-on with console Battlefield 3. Also, after checking out Saints Row 3, I'm going to go back and play the second one finally.
  • Ben Gilbert (@BigBossBgilbert): Like the rest of the staff, I didn't have lots of free time to wander around the show floor at my whim and play games. But while I was stealing away a few errant moments between appointments on Wednesday, I couldn't help but get drawn in by a WB representative demoing Sesame Street: Once Upon a Monster. He seemed to be having genuine fun replicating a monster's actions on-screen, and he happily invited me to join him, co-op style, in the ridiculousness. Whether we were reassuring a Gerrhoof or luring Puffalopes -- both adorable and new Sesame Street characters created by Double Fine solely for the game -- I was having lots of smile-inducing fun. Sesame Street: Once Upon a Monster was the game I found myself evangelizing to other E3 press all week, and it's the game of the show for me. Especially in my heart.
  • Christopher Grant (@ChrisGrant): While BioShock Infinite may have been the most impressive game at the show, it wasn't the biggest surprise. I'd already gawked at its city-in-the-sky, and been wowed by the concept of SkyLine combat last year, so the E3 demo, while certainly impressive, wasn't a surprise. Crystal Dynamics' reimagining of Tomb Raider, on the other hand, was a surprise. After taking over the Tomb Raider brand from Core Designs over five years ago, it feels like the team at Crystal Dynamics is finally making its own Tomb Raider game, instead of following Core's well-worn design docs. With some notable influences ranging from the Uncharted series to Batman: Arkham Asylum to Batman Begins to LOST, Tomb Raider was my favorite game at E3, not because it was the most unexpected – after all, Crystal proved it wasn't afraid to take Lara to new places with last year's Guardian of Light – but because it was the most welcome.
  • David Hinkle (@DaveHinkle): The fighting game fan in me is prepared to declare Street Fighter X Tekken my game of show -- heck, during the last hour of the show, when I was free to run out there and get some personal time with any game, I was right back on that unit. But Orcs Must Die! offered the most unique experience of all the games I played by far at the show, and Robot Entertainment deserves more praise than this little blurb for what they're doing with that game.
  • Griffin McElroy (@griffinmcelroy): It took me a while to find it, but my favorite game at the show was, hands-down, LittleBigPlanet on the Vita. I can't think of another title which sells the system's capabilities as expertly -- I utilized both touchscreens and the gyro sensor during my brief demo, forcing me to constantly move my hands around the device as I played. It's such a brilliant conceit, too: Players control Sackboy using the standard controls, while they manipulate the world around them using everything else. When opened up to the community's creative side, I'm curious to see how people implement these touch controls. Same goes for the Move update to LittleBigPlanet 2, which I toyed around with for an hour, but could have toyed around with for infinity hours. That one has the added bonus of being delightful, as well as a game I already own, compounding its delightfulness.
  • JC Fletcher (@jcfletcher): I played a lot of games at E3 that I liked, but only one that thrilled me every second: Asura's Wrath. I must have looked like an idiot in Capcom's booth with a giant grin plastered to my face. No other game effectively kept each moment of play as exciting as Asura's fast-forward mix of brawling, shooting, and QTEs. I thought it would be a terrible game that I'd enjoy semi-ironically, but it turned out to be a game I'll enjoy proudly.
  • Justin McElroy (@JustinMcElroy): Overall, I found this E3 to be a little lackluster, and that's not just jaded gaming journalist talk. There was a lot of synergy and and a lot of cross-media branding, but not a lot of really unique gameplay experience. My favorite exception: Rotastic, a Dancing Dots-developed action puzzler coming to XBLA in September and PSN in January. Sort of a cross between Peggle and Gravity Hook, players spin wildly around pegs with grappling hooks, using their momentum to fly into gems or other desirables. Combine it with a four-player multiplayer mode where everyone is cutting everyone else's ropes, and you've got the best pure game design I saw all week.
  • Ludwig Kietzmann (@LudwigK):I was enveloped by an inescapable feeling of neutrality for most of this year's E3, and only one game reached in and pulled me out of it. Rock of Ages is such an unhinged, weird and oddly classy experience, I couldn't help but urge other journalists to check it out in the Atlus booth. Whereas several games were excellent in a predictable way (which isn't a bad thing!), ACE Team's bizarre mashup of Katamari Damacy, tower defense and art history impressed me in a way I couldn't have expected. Sometimes it's nice just to be charmed -- E3 is usually about being BLOWN AWAY by the latest blockbuster.
  • Mike Schramm (@MikeSchramm): So you're wandering the streets of Bioshock Infinite's Columbia with a girl named Elizabeth. That's already a strange experience, given that Columbia is a fully-realized floating city in the early 1900s, full of rollercoaster-like skylines, residents who can summon a murder of crows, and lots of slightly menacing Americana. But then this girl Elizabeth finds a dead horse, and "tears" time and space to try and save it, which brings you and her to ... what seems to be an alternate 1980s universe, complete with Tears for Fears playing in the background. Just what kind of chaos hath Levine wrought this time? Man, we can't wait to find out.
  • Richard Mitchell (@SenseiRAM): I'm still not ready to call it my best game of E3, but Sega's Kinect title Rise of Nightmares was definitely the most interesting. It's the only Kinect game I've played to allow complete freedom of movement from a first-person perspective. True, the actual movement controls are a little awkward, but the overall novelty and ambition are hard to ignore. Plus, cutting through a swath of zombies with an imaginary chainsaw in my hands was some of the most fun I had at E3.
  • Dan O'Halloran, Massively: It should be no surprise that Star Wars: The Old Republic gets my vote in the favorite MMO category. I played a demo at E3 last year and was left unimpressed. This year, getting to play a level 26 character through a polished quest got me excited about this title again. Is BioWare revolutionizing combat and character progression in MMOs? No. Are they adding phenomenal level of story and immersion on top of polished MMO gameplay? You better believe it.
  • Beau Hindman, Massively (@Beau_Hindman): I am going to choose two. I have to. I would go with four or five if I could. For me, Rusty Hearts blew me away. It was sharp, fast and fun. It just worked. I can see it getting a lot of attention once it is released. I also loved the fact that it could probably be played on older -- or not so powerful -- machines. You would never guess it was a side-scroller. Also, UFO Online excited the tabletop gamer in me. You can tweak every little gun and character, and the turn-based combat was thrilling. Remember turn-based? That's what we did before action came along.
  • Rubi Bayer, Massively (@Rubi_): I'm going to have to give this one to Star Wars: The Old Republic, even though it didn't personally excite me. The game areas people played were very polished, the quest acquisition system and cinematics are extremely interesting and well-done, and there was a decent range of gameplay available to suit different tastes.

    One of my favorite things about E3 was the Battlefield 3 trailer. I know nothing about Battlefield 3, but every time EA showed this trailer on the giant screen I was riveted. Could not tear myself away. When someone who couldn't care less about the game stops to watch it at every opportunity and then looks it up online when she gets home so she can watch it more, you've done something very, very, very right.
  • Shawn Schuster, Massively: Every time I'd pass the Driver: San Francisco booth, I had to stop and play. I'd even make excuses to walk by the booth for that reason. I'm a big fan of racing games (and especially the Driver series), and Driv3r's launch is the reason I finally broke down and bought an original Xbox all those years ago, but I really wasn't expecting to fall so deeply in love with D:SF after a 10-minute demo (or five).

This article was originally published on Joystiq.