E3 2017: 6 promising games you might’ve missed

Uncharted. Anthem. Super Mario Odyssey. This year’s E3 certainly delivered on the big game front. But AAA blockbusters weren’t the only titles at the show. There were plenty of smaller—but no less interesting—games, too, often nestled so tightly in amongst the big-hitters you’d be forgiven for missing them completely.


Don’t worry. We’ve dug down into those brief glimpses, and put a spotlight on the few we’re most curious about: a ‘best of the rest’ list if you will. Which of these lower-key releases will end up being the surprise hit of the year?


Ashen (PC, Xbox One)
TBD


What is it?


A heavily stylized open-word survival game with a focus on co-op play.


Why should I care?


Shown briefly during Microsoft’s conference, the trailer for Ashen was essentially a mood piece, showing off the game’s striking aesthetic (those faceless character models are certainly a strong look), and its light versus dark theme. But there are depths to Aurora 44’s upcoming title, both literally and figuratively.
 
There’s no chance of surviving Ashen’s shadowy and foreboding world without light, and illumination is a key mechanic which feeds into the co-op experience in fascinating ways. For example, heavier weapons, useful in dealing with the many ruthless enemies, require two hands, meaning you can’t also hold a lantern. This is where your buddy comes in, lighting your path and keeping watch for the beasts that dwell just outside the illuminated vicinity. When combat does happen, its slow and strategic pace requires brainpower as well as skill. Then there’s the constant search for food and water, which is vital to your survival.
All in all, the strong focus on co-op mechanics and the unmistakable look the game is cultivating makes this a pretty enticing prospect. Shame there’s no word on a date quite yet.


Matterfall (PC, PlayStation 4)
August 2017


What is it?
 
The next side-scrolling shooter from Resogun developers Housemarque.
 
Why should I care?
 
With Resogun, Housmarque set out to create a challenging and intense shmup/bullet-hell-type shooter for a modern audience and succeeded on every level. This time, we’re controlling a person rather than a ship, giving this game a unique feel, while retaining much of what defined the developers’ previous games. Matterfall takes the sci-fi trappings of Resogun and mixes them with the contextual scenery of the commercially overlooked Outland. There’s also some obvious nods to the Metroidvania subgenre, with progression and upgrades opening up new areas of the 2D world for you to explore.


Strange Brigade (Xbox One)
TBD


What is it?


A shooter with a pulpy 1930s setting, where you must team up, co-op style, with friends to battle a bunch of supernatural monsters.


Why should I care?


If you like your co-op experience to be as loud and over the top as possible, this latest from Rebellion could be just the thing. It has you battling scores of mummies, minotaurs, and various other assorted fantastical creatures as one of the eponymous squad’s larger-than-life characters. There’s plenty of frantic combat and hunting for loot, but also some light puzzle solving thrown in too, just to mix things up a little. If nothing else, this could fill a Left 4 Dead-shaped hole in many gamers’ lives.


Call of Cthulhu (PC, PlayStation 4, Xbox One)
TBD


What is it?


The ever-enduring dread of H. P. Lovecraft returns in this survival horror adventure game.


Why should I care?


If Lovecraft has an overarching theme (I mean apart from grotesque fish-creatures), it’s how seeing messed-up stuff in the world affects a person’s sanity. Cyanide Studio is attempting to simulate this like never before, as everything protagonist Edward Pierce encounters during his murder investigation on Darkwater Island contributes to his slowly unhinging mind. There’ll even be a point when it becomes difficult to tell what Pierce is really experiencing, and what is his madness clouding reality. He’ll develop his fears and phobias from traumatic events, too, which, if forced to confront them, may result in the player losing control of the poor guy’s actions entirely. Disturbing.
 
By the end of the game, say the devs, Edward’s sanity will be a distant memory. But this looks like it could be a madness worth descending into.


Ooblets (PC, Xbox One)
2018


What is it?


A mash-up of Pokémon and Harvest Moon (or Stardew Valley, if you prefer) wrapped in some of the cutesiest visuals you’re ever likely to see.


Why should I care?


Everything about Ooblets is designed to be cute, from the name to the music, and the fun pastel aesthetic. Once the novelty of that sugary exterior had worn off, you’ll probably want to find a game underneath, right? Luckily the two-person development team have crafted an appealing blend of farming, exploration and monster collect-’em-up that has a more adult sheen than some of its inspiration. Expect a few keenly observed jokes and wit sharp enough to cut through all that sweetness. Delicious.


Extinction (PC, PlayStation 4, Xbox One)
2018


What is it?


Something entirely different from Killer Instinct developers Iron Galaxy, involving fluid movement, combat, and the promise of a rich story.


Why should I care?


A slick-looking traversal system is the real heart of Iron Galaxy’s upcoming title, where skilled players can leap and dash around lush environments while barely touching the floor, Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon-style. You’ll fight all manner of enemies, but it’s the Attack On Titan-like 150ft ogres that grab the most attention, as you take them down by methodically targeting their various weak points (knees, ankles, feet) before ending them by slicing off the head. Pretty much every currently popular mechanic is being thrown at this, so between the large replayable maps, speed-run friendly scoring, and level generator, something should stick, even if the final game ends up looking nothing like what’s currently being shown. There’s even talk of co-op being added for the release, which seems way down the line at this point.


Which was your favorite under-the-radar game of E3 2017? Let us know in the comments!