Another year, another E3 under our belts. Overall we felt a bit disappointed compared to last year. There were less surprise software announcements and generally less "wow" moments, but that's not to say we didn't have any. More than 45,000 people came through the Los Angeles Convention Center last week and we accounted for 13 of them. We handed out our nominee placards on Wednesday morning, then voted on our winner Thursday night after the show was over. So, without further ado, your E3 2011 Best of Show Award winners.
Best First-Person Shooter
BioShock Infinite was really one of those "wow" moments for those who went behind closed doors to see it. Set in a floating city rather than the underwater city of Rapture, BioShock Infinite combines the great gameplay of BioShock with some absolutely massive setpieces. Combine that with a heart-wrenching end to the live demonstrations, and you'll understand why this was our favorite first-person shooter.
Nick Simberg writes: "You come to, seconds later. You're in a round room. The roof is being torn off. It's the Guardian. Before it delivers the killing blow to your limp, beaten body, Elizabeth saves you. "I'm sorry!" she yells, immediately placating the creature. "I shouldn't have left you. Take me home." It picks her up, leaving you on the floor. Her eyes fill with tears as you reach out for her..."
Best Third-Person Shooter
The award-winning franchise returns to E3 yet again and as alway, never fails to impress. Sony describes Uncharted as their flagship franchise, and with good reason. The title looks and sounds great yet again, particularly showing off how 3D can be done right in a video game. Drake is getting back in the saddle with style in Uncharted 3: Drake's Deception.
Karl Koebke writes: "Nathan decided that the fight wasn’t really going his way and in a move I think most professional fighting organizations would consider cheating he unhooked the cargo to send it and his enemy flying out the back of the plane. That was followed by a brief feeling of victory before the rest of the cargo started rumbling towards Drake and he followed his adversary out the plane. He grabbed onto one of the boxes trailing behind the plane by its webbing and the video cut to black."
Best Racing Game
Mario Kart has been a favorite arcade racing franchise for generations. Nintendo puts it on nearly every console they release and it looks like the Nintendo 3DS will be no exception. The gameplay mechanics look tight as ever and keep with the traditional single-racer setup . Nintendo really knows how to do their 3D right on the 3DS, creating one of the best looking titles on the system so far.
Xavier Griffiths writes: " Mario Kart is one of Nintendo’s best-selling and highest-quality series. This franchise is able to connect so well with gamers of all types because it mixes a steady injection of new ideas while retaining the same addictive kart racing gameplay that makes all other kart racers pale in comparison. Mario Kart makes it debut in the third dimension in the newest entry on the Nintendo 3DS."
Best Role-Playing Game
The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim was another real "wow" moment on the show floor of E3. From the moment the demonstration opened up, you were instantly aware of how dramatic the overhaul is from The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion to Skyrim. This is one fantastic looking game. The gameplay improvements were quickly apparent as well, focusing on wielding whatever you want in each hand. There's just something cool about taking down a massive dragon (or two).
Nick Simberg writes: "You can use magic in a few new ways, too, like setting floor traps that explode when an enemy comes into range. In summary, this looks to one-up Oblivion in every single way. Boo-yah. November can't come soon enough."
Best Fighting Game
Like Limbo last year, Skullgirls quickly became the darling indie title for the VGChartz staff on the show floor of E3. Featuring art by Alex Ahad (Scott Pilgrim), Skullgirls is a quirky 2D fighting game featuring an all-female cast. Unlike other all-female fighters, Skullgirls isn't about exaggerating the female form, but showing how girls can kick ass too.
Xavier Griffiths: "Developer Reverge Labs has an amazing looking game on their hands. Every frame is beautifully hand drawn and animated. It is great to see an original fighting game that is this competitive and addicting. Skullgirls was one of the nicest surprises of this year’s E3 and that I hope is just as charming upon its release. "
Best Action/Adventure Game
Batman: Arkham Asylum was a Game of the Year winner when it released in 2009. How do you make a game that follows up on such a success? You bring back everything people loved about the original and add on a host of new features. Batman: Arkham City is looking to do that with more exploration, sidequests, an open world, and more combat animations. The Dark Knight rides again.
Nick Simberg writes: "But now, my time with the game was coming to an end... But who else can say they played Arkham City for an hour? Not a lot of people, actually, and that's why E3 is probably the coolest thing I get to do all year. I think it's pretty safe to say that anyone that liked the first game will probably love this sequel, which seems - from what I've heard - to improve on the original in every way."
Best Sports Game
SSX has thus far limped into the seventh generation of consoles. The only game we've seen is a motion-controlled Wii version. Needless to say, fans have been asking for a great new SSX game for a while. Despite some initial trepidation based on the VGA trailer, it looks like EA is really creating the SSX game we've been wanting. Big tricks, fast races, and old-school controls are bringing back SSX bigger and badder than ever.
Xavier Griffiths writes: "Though SSX still has a lot of time to go before its ready to hit the slopes, it was a stand out title at this year's E3. The game harnesses a brash sense of fun that gamers have been craving during the series' long hiatus."
Rayman has been gone from the home consoles for quite a while, never appearing on the current lineup of consoles. That's all about to change with Rayman Origins. As the title says, it takes a look at the limbless hero's origin story with an art style that had the entire VGChartz E3 crew drooling for more.
Carlos Macias writes: "Of course, and the most obvious aspect in screens, are the visuals that look straight out of a painting come to life with a unique, Tim Burton-esque art style that truly stands out. The developers smartly went with detailed, beautiful animated character models instead of a drab, polygonal mess that would have been undeserving of the Rayman series. "
Best Music Game
Some like to declare the music game genre is dead, particularly outside of dancing games. Rocksmith is here to bring us the music game many have been asking for. In Rocksmith , you don't plunk out grand chords on a plastic toy guitar while gems fall down the screen. Instead, you grab a real guitar and learn to play with real tablature. Soon you'll be playing real songs on your real guitar, all thanks to Rocksmith .
Nick Simberg writes: "The guys at Ubisoft obviously have a lot of talent and love for the title. Here's hoping that they'll find a market this fall in a gaming environment that's really kind of sick of rhythm games. But honestly, why hasn't this been done yet?!"
Best Puzzle Game
It was hard to figure out what genre Catherine best fits into, but after our own Karl Koebke got some hands-on time with it, he found the majority of the gameplay to fall squarely into the puzzle category, a genre it won handily. Catherine has been described as beautiful, sexy, and downright strange. Well, we're here to tell you it's downright awesome.
Karl Koebke writes: "I came away from this E3 completely sold on Catherine . I had some apprehension about the puzzle aspects of the game coming into it, but it really looks like a lot of fun even if it’s going to take some judicious swearing to get through. Interesting mature story, funny dialogue, and beautiful visuals that I didn’t even mention seal the deal. "
Best Party Game
Not what you were expecting? Believe it or not, even Sesame Street can become pretty cool when you get Tim Schafer and the team at Double Fine behind it. While Sesame Street: Once Upon A Monster may not hook the mature gamers, it's a shoe-in for those with kids and the gameplay is sound enough that even the most self-respecting adults shouldn't pass up this Kinect title.
Chris Arnone writes: "Sesame Street: Once Upon A Monster really captures the looks, sounds, and whimsy of Sesame Street. The Kinect controls are fairly tight, particularly considering the game is still early enough in development that they don't have a firm release date yet. The minigames are numerous and varied already and they're still creating more. I was really amazed how much fun I had with this game. It will be a must-own title for those with children. Even if you don't have any, you may want to pick it up anyway for a great party experience."
Best Massively Multiplayer Online Roleplaying Game
It's BioWare. It's also Star Wars. Those alone would be enough in most books to garner a best of show award. We took it for a hands-on spin, however, and we're definitely excited. The demo for Star Wars: The Old Republic took us to Tattooine and put us in the shoes of some Sith operatives, making us really feel like we'd transported to Luke Skywalker's boyhood home. Star Wars: The Old Republic is putting World of Warcraft on notice.
Chris Arnone writes: "Star Wars: The Old Republic is really shaping up to be a powerhouse MMORPG. The gameplay elements are all there and the classes are very deep (and I only got to see the Sith side!), particularly for a game that hasn't even launched yet. Any Star Wars or MMO fan has to be excited about Star Wars: The Old Republic, and it looks like you won't be disappointed."
Best Downloadable Game
Thatgamecompany has never failed to produce great games for the PlayStation Network. FLoW grabbed us early in the PlayStation 3's life. Flower then captured our imaginations by putting us in control of the wind. Now they're looking to do it again with Journey. Introducing a dynamic new online play capability and gorgeous graphics and art, Journey sent many of our VGChartz E3 crew back to look at it again and again on the show floor.
Nick Pantazis writes: "In addition, the music is beautiful and haunting. I played it with headphones on in Sony’s media area, and despite being surrounded by hundreds of people I was able to get completely lost in the game. In fact, when our time was up I had almost forgotten where I was. Few games I have ever played have excelled so much at making such a powerful expression through presentation in such a short time."
It should come as no surprise that Uncharted 3: Drake's Deception managed to pull in best visuals. The game franchise has long been considered one of the best looking console games on the market. Since PC didn't have a really strong showing (The Witcher 2 is already out, for example), the consoles marched on ahead with Uncharted 3 leading the pack. Gorgeous graphics, great art style, and some of the best use of 3D in a game we've ever seen make it our choice.
Really, nobody saw this one coming. Microsoft's entire press conference line-up had been leaked days before. Sony's biggest surprise was a piece of hardware, and the entire conference was really light on big game announcements. We really didn't see Luigi's Mansion 2 coming, but we're glad it is. Many are fans of the original Luigi's Mansion, but nobody had imagined Nintendo would revitalize it with a sequel.
Did I mention there hasn't been a Rayman game on the current generation of home consoles? Did I also mention Rayman Origins looks awesome? Biggest Comeback is a category for games that either haven't had a release in a long time or have been going downhill for a long time and are looking to bring the franchise back to glory. Rayman Origins is the former. There haven't been any Rayman games in a while and we're certainly glad they're bringing him back.
The new Twisted Metal looks to be a unique experience. There were some great looking and great playing multiplayer games available at E3 2011, but Twisted Metal really looks to bring something new to the table. Sweet Tooth and all his friends are returning to also bring character to every player, rather than the faceless masses of most FPS and TPS multiplayer experiences. Get in your ride and try to blow your opponents to bits in some really huge arenas, exclusively on PlayStation 3.
Game of the Show
We started strong and we're ending just as strong. To be honest, it was a close vote, but BioShock Infinite took our most esteemed award for E3 2011. With its brilliant graphics, massive setpieces, established gameplay, and heart-wrenching moments, BioShock Infinite captured the hearts, minds, and twitchy thumbs of everybody who saw it.
There you have it, our E3 2011 Best of Show Award winners. Missed a preview? Click the E3 2011 tag or head over to our E3 2011 site for all the biggest hits from the show.