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These Are the 10 Most Promising Games of E3 2015

5 minute read

They’re not the most popular games of this year’s show. Neither Doom nor Fallout 4 are on this list, nor game franchise all-stars like Star Wars: Battlefront, Just Cause 3, Call of Duty: Black Ops 3 or Uncharted 4. You can read about that stuff anywhere.

Here’s a look at the games you maybe didn’t see (or see as much of), a.k.a. the ones I’m at least as excited about as any of those others.

See The 15 Best Video Game Graphics of 2014

Call of Duty: Advanced Warfare
Call of Duty: Advanced Warfare. Activision's futuristic first-person shooter in which players take on a rogue private military company uses a brand new engine built specifically for PCs and new-gen consoles to handle its cutting-edge lighting, animation and physics. Sledgehammer Games/Activision
Far Cry 4
Far Cry 4. This pulled back shot of fictional Himalayan region Kyrat is in-game, believe it or not, rendered with an overhauled version of the engine Ubisoft used to design Far Cry 3. Ubisoft
The Last of Us Remastered
The Last of Us: Remastered. Naughty Dog's meditation on the worst (and best) of humanity is built on technology that reaches back through the studio's pulp-adventure Uncharted series. The graphics are so impressive, TIME recently assigned a conflict photographer to photograph inside the game.Ashley Gilbertson for TIME
Alien: Isolation
Alien: Isolation Built from scratch, the Alien: Isolation engine's outstanding deep space visuals all but replicate the set design of Alien film concept artists H.R. Giger and Ron Cobb's work. The Creative Assembly
Assassin's Creed Unity
Assassin's Creed Unity. Ubisoft says it "basically remade the whole rendering engine" in its AnvilNext design tool to handle the studio's meticulous recreation of Paris during the French Revolution. Ubisoft
Child of Light
Child of Light Inspired by filmmakers like Hayao Miyazaki and artist Yoshitaka Amano, Child of Light's hand-drawn artwork puts the lie to presumptions that graphical richness depends on shader support or polygon counts. Ubisoft
Destiny Built from scratch by ex-Halo studio Bungie, Destiny's game engine was designed to scale across the next decade, says the studio. Bungie
Mario Kart 8
Mario Kart 8 Nintendo's kart-racer for Wii U reminds us that raw horsepower is just a facet of crafting a beautiful game world. Nintendo
Infamous Second Son
Infamous Second Son Sucker Punch's freeform Seattle-based superhero adventure models all sorts of minutia, from the intricate wrinkling of an aged character's face to the way eyelids stick, slightly, before separating when characters blink. Sucker Punch Productions
Monument Valley
Monument Valley Escher-like at first glance, Ustwo's mind-bending puzzler was also inspired by posters, bonsai plants, arabic calligraphy and filmmaker Tarsem Singh's The Fall. Ustwo
Grand Theft Auto V
Grand Theft Auto V Rockstar's remastered crime spree opus was crafted from an in-house engine first employed in a game that simulated table tennis. Rockstar
TitanfallRespawn Entertainment
Forza Horizon 2
Forza Horizon 2 Turn 10's Euro-racer actually models light refracted through drops of moisture, the render tech plausibly simulating something as intangible but essential as the earth’s atmosphere. Microsoft Studios/Turn 10 Studios
80 Days
80 Days Inkle's anti-colonialist vamp on Jules Verne's famous novel uses crisp art deco imagery inspired by travel posters to unfurl 80 Days' tale of intrepid globetrotters Monsieur Fogg and his valet Passepartout. Inkle
Tomb Raider: Definitive Edition
Tomb Raider Crystal Dynamics' radical reboot of its popular series about an athletic archaeologist uses a modified version of the engine that powered Tomb Raider: Legend in 2006. Square Enix

Beyond Eyes

Imagine a game that let you guide a 10-year-old girl, who at some point lost her ability to see, through an amorphous, painterly world, a world that forms or dissolves in response to aural cues or interference. Beyond Eyes appears to be an attempt to craft an adventure that may, if successful, in some small but meaningful way manage to convey some of both the travails and epiphanies of experiencing the world absent visible light.

PC, Mac, Xbox One

TBD 2015


Cuphead looks like Betty Boop meets a shoot ’em up meets miracle. Over the course of the game, its teacup-noggin protagonists do battle with giant paranormal carrots, boxing frogs, angry birds, queen bees, gambling contraptions and not-so-little mermaids, all staged and immaculately animated in the most astonishing hand drawn and inked, cel-based, and watercolor-painted backdrops in the history of video gaming.

PC, Xbox One

TBD 2016

Dishonored 2

This long anticipated sequel to one of the better post-Thief sneakers transpires in a coastal city where you’ll hunt new adversaries, optionally playing as Dishonored‘s original (male) protagonist, or a new one (female) with her own abilities and retro-futura gadgets. Crucially, as in the original, you can experience the entire game, if you so choose, without killing a soul.

PC, PlayStation 4, Xbox One

TBD 2016


Firewatch, “a mystery set in the Wyoming wilderness,” lets you play a volunteer fire lookout officer circa the Yellowstone fires of 1988, “your only emotional lifeline” ongoing chats with an unseen supervisor by handheld radio. It’s anyone’s guess where that goes (Twin Peaks or Always?). But it’s the game’s striking look that’s been grabbing attention: vast, clear-lined, color-saturated backcountry, styled after 1930s National Park Service posters.

PC, Mac, PlayStation 4

TBD 2015

Horizon Zero Dawn

Guerrilla Games (the Killzone series) is apparently making a post-post-apocalyptic action-adventure titled Horizon Zero Dawn, which with its cast of robo-dinosaurs and low-tech, archery-adept heroine had me thinking Transformers: Beast Wars meets Vikings.

PlayStation 4

TBD 2016

The Last Guardian

The Last Guardian still exists, thank goodness, and stars a boy (controlled by you) and his giant sphinx-like companion, who both wend their way through vast, precipitous, architectonically elegant backdrops. As in Shadow of the Colossus (by the same director), you can cling to all aspects of your animal companion, clambering around its feathered bulk and guiding it between platforms to help buddy-solve environment-based puzzles.

PlayStation 4

TBD 2016

Mirror’s Edge Catalyst

Finally, a Mirror’s Edge sequel…or technically prequel, since it transpires prior to the original game’s events and focuses on the futuristic message-sneaking protagonist’s backstory. The biggest change: instead of executing flawless first-person parkour maneuvers along linear rooftop routes, you’re handed access to a fully traversable, open-world version of the last game’s gorgeous but mostly off-limits alabaster metropolis.

PC, PlayStation 4, Xbox One

February 23

Rise of the Tomb Raider

Microsoft demonstrated a terrifying gameplay slice from this sequel to the 2013 franchise reboot during its E3 showcase. Yes, there’s no way anyone in human history could pull off those kinds of moves, but we’ll doubtless have fun pretending when the game ships this fall—so long, crucially, as developer Crystal Dynamics managed to carry along (and further develop) all of the character-building virtues that consistently elevated the last installment.

Xbox One, Xbox 360

November 10

Super Mario Maker

Want to build your own side-scrolling Super Mario Bros. levels? Skin those levels to look like different Mario games, ranging in visual style from the NES’s 8-bit glory days to the Wii U’s slick, 3D, high definition New Super Mario Bros. U? Do all that from the comfort and convenience of the Wii U GamePad? The only catch: you have to first beat your own level at least once, before Nintendo will let you share your level with others online.

Wii U

September 11


It’s cute, and yes, too much in gaming gets by on “cute” these days, but Unravel–about a yarn-creature platforming through the world using string from its body to solve physics-related puzzles–looks like more than just a riff on Kirby’s Epic Yarn. Think LittleBigPlanet meets cat’s cradle (the string game) meets silk-spinning, and I think we’re close.

PC, PlayStation 4, Xbox One


Read next: This Nintendo Fan Took 800 Hours to Crochet a Giant Replica Super Mario Blanket

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Write to Matt Peckham at matt.peckham@time.com