E3 2019 might go down as one of the most surprising and exciting shows of all time. With the next console generation sneaking up on us, I don't think anyone was expecting the variety and quality of games we heard about. Who thought we'd see the Final Fantasy VII Remake after a four year absence? And that Cyberpunk 2077 would get a release date? Or that more RPG characters would make it into Smash? And there was an endless amount of long-awaited sequels, remakes and ports. Suddenly the second half of 2019 got a lot more expensive...
Here is a list of what we thought was the best of the best, along with the coveted Best Overall Game winner. Please enjoy celebrating the highlights of this year's E3 with us!
Seiken Densetsu 3 is on so many lists of "the best video games that never left Japan" that it's almost become a cliché. A bootleg fan translation of Seiken Densetsu 3 has been floating around the internet for nearly twenty years, but Mana devotees had all but given up on an official localization.
...until Nintendo announced an official worldwide release of Collection of Mana, including SD3 rebranded as Trials of Mana, available digitally the moment of the Nintendo Direct announcement. In addition, Trials of Mana is getting remade with a target release date of "early 2020." Great Dark Lord's ghost. This unexpected Trials of Mana renaissance is an enormous gift to Mana fans that made the first day of E3 all the more exciting.
Honestly, Final Fantasy VII Remake could have won this award based solely on the trailer Square Enix showed at their conference. We finally saw Tifa in action with her picture perfect redesign. We got more footage which all looks and sounds amazing. We even found out it's releasing next year, much sooner than anticipated. The most exciting part, though, was seeing the adjustments to the combat. Blending a modern action game's sensibilities with the classic ATB system looks like a brilliant move, quieting many skeptics. That alone was enough to make many of us happy. Then, we got our hands on the demo and it plays just as well as the video promised. In just 15 minutes, we were smitten. Moving, dodging and hitting enemy weak points is a blast, and the ATB elements are integrated seamlessly, making for a smooth, strategic, exciting combat experience that we can't wait to dive into in March.
Western RPGs are often defined by their open-world, choice-driven gameplay and storytelling. Cyberpunk 2077 promises to take those genre defining characteristics and turn them up to 11, all while blending them seamlessly together in a stunningly detailed world. After its strong showing at the Microsoft conference (a release date! Keanu Reeves!), it was difficult to get in and see Cyberpunk 2077 at E3 this year. But just like last year, everyone who did was impressed with the myriad ways you can approach both combat and character interaction in this game. CD Projekt Red keeps upping the ante with Cyberpunk 2077, and even the WRPG skeptics on staff are excited to see just how well this title can deliver on that promise.
Nearly three decades on from its original release on the Game Boy, Link's Awakening for Nintendo Switch proves one thing above all else — the gameplay and underlying story are still as impressive today as they were in 1993. With plenty of new footage and a chance to go hands-on with the game, we were blown away by its adorably reimagined visuals, impressive quality of life upgrades, and its brilliant restoration of Koholint Island and its inhabitants. From our time playing, Link's Awakening didn't pull any punches and we were thoroughly impressed. More than just a simple remaster, Link's Awakening is a reverent, creative, and masterfully overhauled entry which will be regarded as the apex of 2D Zelda for years to come.
Some years, we've given Final Fantasy XIV a silly award just for existing. But in 2019, E3 happened mere weeks before the launch of what might be the MMO's most ambitious expansion since the game relaunched in 2013. Along with a new trailer, we got to try out the updated jobs as part of the Titania Battle Challenge, and every job we got to play with felt good with the refinements Shadowbringers is, well, bringing to the table. The narrative leading into this expansion has us on the edge of our seats, so this time around, all joke awards aside, Final Fantasy XIV: Shadowbringers was hands-down our favorite MMORPG of E3.
Modus Games surprised us all with the beautiful and innovative Cris Tales. The visual presentation alone is enough to stun people, but what really made Cris Tales our Sleeper Hit of this year is the way it successfully blends its classic RPG inspirations into something new and fresh. There are hints and discrete elements (both mechanically and conceptually) from games like Super Mario RPG and Chrono Trigger, but Cris Tales stands on its own two feet with colorful characters/settings and engaging gameplay. Seeing how thoroughly integrated Crisbell's powers were into both puzzle solving and turn-based battle was also a welcome surprise. Most importantly, we applaud Modus's ambitious effort to create a distinctly Colombian atmosphere and story; from what we've seen, they're well on their way.
Unlike previous years where Nintendo's digital-only Direct presentation for E3 had fallen shoulder-to-shoulder with other live presentations, offering interesting if sometimes predictable news, the E3 2019 showcase kicked into high gear early on and didn't slow down once. From the opening reveal of the Dragon Quest heroes coming to Super Smash Bros. Ultimate to Dragon Quest XI S, Trials of Mana, and the Collection of Mana, every second of the Direct seemed to bring with it another reveal which had us collectively squealing. As we were dancing in delight at the sight of new Animal Crossing: New Horizons footage, exclaiming in disbelief as Link and Zelda heralded the news of the Breath of the Wild sequel, and jumping for joy at Cadence of Hyrule's sudden release, it became clear Nintendo's E3 2019 Direct earned the title of Best Showcase.
Dethroning Capcom's two-year reign is a multi-faceted booth from Square Enix which showcased their biggest and best titles at this year's show. The Avengers section contained costumes from some of the iconic superheroes, all contained within a government-protected building with guards outside. Then there was the Shadowbringers section, which was based on the Crystarium. And, of course, right by the entrance to the South Hall was the Final Fantasy VII Remake section, which looked like the outside of Midgar and had a Mako Reactor sticking out of the center. There were posters for Loveless and Shinra plastered on the walls, both in and out of the booth, and inside everything was tinged in a green light. There were Turks managing the line too! After last year's disappointing E3, Square Enix really knocked everything out of the park this year, including their booth space.
Could there have been any other winner? Before this E3, we'd barely heard news of the Final Fantasy VII Remake, save for a short trailer in May that hinted at a show appearance. Not only was it at the show in the form of a trailer, it also got a release date and was playable on the showfloor. And the buzz coming from the booth, and from those who played it, was universal. The FFVII Remake is real; we can hardly believe it. Not only that, it's shaping up to be an incredible game. The re-orchestrated music is gorgeous, and speeds up during intense battle moments; the graphics are stunning; the character redesigns and tweaks are amazing; and, most importantly, the combat is sublime. Everything looks to be coming together for Square's long-awaited reimagining of their classic RPG, and they were rightfully proud to show off Cloud, Barret, Aerith, Tifa and Sephiroth to the world. Within seconds of picking up the controller, many people's fears were washed away, and now all that remains is excitement.