Normally, after E3, some clear "best games" emerge – either the ones that everyone knew would be amazing going in and didn't disappoint on the floor, or surprises that dominated conversations online and in the press room.
After comparing notes over chicken and waffles, the Joystiq staff compiled their individual favorites from the industry's big show. While our scheduling makes it difficult for editors to see the same games as other staff (or every game at the show), a few heavy-hitters found their way to the top of our lists, including XCOM: Enemy Unknown and Metal Gear Rising: Revengeance. But if the variety of our favorite games list is any indication, there's no shortage of exciting experiences on the horizon.
Dishonored: Ah, the joys of intricate, collaborative game systems and first-person leaning! Yup, I'm a sucker for first-person games with emergent scenarios and stealth gameplay. Dishonored stands out in an E3 preoccupied with flashy, perfectly scripted sequences because of how interesting it gets when things go wrong.
My kidnapping mission evolved less elegantly than I had hoped, eventually forcing me to drag and dump my unconscious target across rooftops and air vents. My flawless run turned into a massacre, as I summoned swarms of rats to eliminate the guards who couldn't help but see my failures in stealth. But here's a cool glimpse at how the game's systems interact with one another: you can possess and assume the body of an individual rat, and make for a scurrying escape, or you can use the ravenous swarm to devour bodies, hiding the evidence of your presence. Neat! Also, gross!
Metal Gear Rising Revengeance: I feel kind of bad that I'm not using this space to highlight an under-the-radar indie game (so I'll just say the words "Sound Shapes" and "Hell Yeah!" right here), but I just had so much fun playing the Revengeance demo that it would be dishonest to give the nod to anything else.
Completely aside from the Metal Gear angle, Revengeance feels like it's going to be a perfect gateway into Platinum-style character action games. It's got blazing fast, easy to understand combos, a really exciting "blade mode" mechanic, and a cyborg ninja who can run on missiles and gets power from cyber-spines.
Call of Duty: Black Ops 2 (Multiplayer). For the purposes of judging, I had a chance to play the multiplayer. I can't say a thing about it, but it's really, really good. Sounds like a cop out picking something I can't talk about, but seriously folks, Treyarch is really trying something here that could bring some detractors back to the franchise. Of course, I didn't get to touch XCOM: Enemy Unknown or Rayman Legends, so it's entirely possible those two games (which I'm really anticipating) could have taken my personal top honors.
Runner-Up: Metal Gear Rising Revengeance
XCOM: Enemy Unknown: I'm a huge fan of the original X-COM (back when it had a hyphen in it!), so it's no surprise that I was excited to play Firaxis' take on it. I'm happy to say that, after playing a few rounds, it's already delivering on the promise of modernizing the PC classic. Play has been streamlined, yet it retains the tactical brilliance of the original while adding more advanced maneuvers (like conferring damage bonuses for flanking an enemy).
The tone is dead on as well, with the game going out of its way to remind you that you are the commander and that the fate of your troops (and ultimately the world) rests entirely in your hands. Suffice it to say that XCOM is one of the few E3 demos that I didn't want to put down.
Runner-up: The Testament of Sherlock Holmes (you get to play as a Basset hound and sniff out clues!).
XCOM ... I refuse to acknowledge this "Enemy Unknown" subtitle nonsense: I know it's not the wisest thing for a member of the press to say, but if you can avoid learning details about the game before its October launch, I'd recommend it. This is a game you'll want to be surprised by. It'll also be nice to see Firaxis step out of Civilization's long shadow. XCOM is looking fantastic and I'm already salivating to play more at Gamescom in August.
Need for Speed: Most Wanted – or as I'm calling it, Need for Speed: Paradise 2 – is a love letter written directly to me. The amazing folks behind my favorite racing game of the current generation, Burnout Paradise, are creating an open world followup to Need for Speed: Most Wanted. I don't know about you, but to me that sounds an awful lot like Burnout Paradise's best feature matched with one of Need for Speed's most interesting game conceits. Oh, and Autolog! Autolog stuff!
Pid: It's a delightful and tough puzzle-platformer from Might and Delight, a few dudes to make it out alive from the collapse of Grin. It stars a young boy whose space bus (yup!) crashes on a strange planet during his way home from space school. He discovers a magic jewel thing that allows him to project beams of light that push him away from surfaces in the environment. It's inventive and tough and I want it now.
DmC: Devil May Cry: To be fair, I came into E3 with DmC already pegged as my favorite game, but having finally played it and seen a more extensive demo, my intuition has been justified. Dante is gorgeous. Er, I mean, DmC is gorgeous, like, the art style and stuff. Sure. But really, the liberties Ninja Theory has taken with the Devil May Cry franchise are entirely valid and have created a new, yet familiar game, complete with neon colors and a new Dante who can kick ass as well as any of his white-haired ancestors.
Runner-up: XCOM: Enemy Unknown
XCOM: Enemy Unknown: The theme of this year's E3 seemed to be a return to the past, with most of the biggest and most interesting titles hearkening back to popular series and sequels of yesteryear. And XCOM is the best example of this: It's a perfect reinvention of the alien-hunting strategy series, lovingly crafted by Firaxis, mixing current-gen innovation with lots of old-school adventure and strategy techniques. Most of the titles I'm interested in from E3 have currently available equivalents to play (Splinter Cell Blacklist has Conviction, Assassin's Creed 3 has Revelations, and so on), but it's going to be a long wait until we get to play this brand new version of XCOM in October.
Runner-up: Need for Speed: Most Wanted.
Hell Yeah!: I played a lot of games this year, a lot of really incredible games in fact, but the game that made me feel the best about our industry was Arkedo's Hell Yeah!. Its adorable, playfully vulgar artwork won me over almost instantly, as did its Metroid/Castlevania/Mr. Driller gameplay mechanics. More than anything, though, Hell Yeah! was the only game I played that made me lose track of time – an impressive feat considering how hectic and high-stress E3 is. Speaking with Arkedo's Camille Guermonprez and Aurélien Régard, it was clear that the fun I had exploring Hell as a skeleton bunny was the direct result of the fun they had making Hell Yeah!, and if there's anything this world needs more of, it's fun for fun's sake.
Note: For the purposes of this feature, Joystiq staff only selected games were were able to play during E3 2012. That might be why some of your favorites, like The Last of Us, Beyond, and Watch Dogs, didn't make the cut.