E3: Who Won This Year's Showcase Showdown?

All the big pre-E3 media events are done, and the doors open in just over an hour. Which booths are we going to hit first?
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A musician performs during the Sony PlayStation E3 conference presentation of 'Ghost of Tsushima'

It's officially a wrap on the pre-E3 media events. Electronic Arts kicked things off Saturday, and Nintendo just wrapped, with showcases from Microsoft, Sony, Bethesda and Ubisoft also in there. We attended them. We saw exciting games. But some were more exciting than others.

With just over an hour to go until the doors of the L.A. Convention Center swing wide, kicking off the three days of intense gaming and hand-sanitizing, we wanted to take a moment to talk highlights. 

Pete Keeley: So first things first. Obviously, still no new Mario Golf game, so you guys can skip the Nintendo booth. Just kidding. I mean, not kidding about no new Mario Golf, but you should probably drop by the Nintendo booth because the new Super Smash Bros. for Switch game looks, ahh, pretty good. Every single character who's ever appeared in a Smash game, in one game, plus new additions Ridley (from Metroid) and the Splatoon kids, who have some incredibly unique mechanics, with paint guns they have to keep filled to power their attacks. And it's also gorgeous. All the new Assist Trophies and Smash attacks make this game as fun to watch as it is to play — and I watch way more Smash than I play. Also, Fortnite will be available on the Nintendo eShop in 15 minutes, so that's cool! Perhaps I will finally bite that bullet. Love 2 get owned by teens. Pat! What are you excited for?

Patrick Shanley: I have been whelmed by all the conferences this year (with the exception of EA, which I found very disappointing), mostly because the majority of games announced that I care about are a long way away. I still don't know when Hideo Kojima's Death Stranding is hitting shelves (or what the heck it even is. Seriously, I have more questions than ever now, but am happy to see Lea Seydoux in the mix), Fallout 76 has me asking tons of questions about what this no-NPC world is going to be like, and the big Bethesda title I really wanted to see, Elder Scrolls VI, is still years and years away. All that said, I am very, very, very excited to get my hands on this new Resident Evil 2 remake from Capcom and, of course, play some Smash. I'm just glad it actually is a new game and not a port of the Wii U version. I had a lot of money riding on that ...

Keeley: Speaking of Capcom, that Devil May Cry 5 trailer was, for me, the highlight of the Microsoft event. So we know at least one major developer is not fucking around, here. Maybe they should have done an event? I also care very much about Resident Evil 2, but I'm pretty sure I still have like 100 College of Winterhold quests to do in Skyrim, so I can wait for ES VI. Also, don't forget Blades! Tamriel on iPhone. Looks like it could be cool? It will offer a nice change of pace from my NYT Crossword app, at the least. 

Shanley: Can we talk about Square Enix's pretty lackluster showing this year? Not only did they not show anything from the Final Fantasy VII remake, which is what I pray for every year, but they didn't even highlight the new footage from their other big title, Kingdom Hearts III, at their own showcase. They saved the Jack Sparrow reveal for the PlayStation event on Monday night. Also the fact that all the previous games in the series are available exclusively for PS4. What?!

Keeley: Yes, no Mario Golf and no FF VII remake means this E3, for me personally, is kind of a bust before it starts, because I am an "old head" who has reduced the number of games I truly care to play to a bare minimum. I'll tell you what, though — I could maybe add The Last of Us 2 or The Division 2 to my list. No only did both of these respective sequels look bananas, but as a bonus there's not that overwhelming sense of having missed out on a deep mythology that makes me less excited for a game like, say, Gears of War 5, where I have not geared any previous wars. I was especially intrigued by some of the stealth mechanics in Last of Us 2. Pretty sure I sucked part of my chair into my body just watching that.

Shanley: Gears 5 introduced a female protagonist, something I'm not sure anyone was expecting considering the series' reputation as the bro-iest Mountain Dew franchise of all time. I kid, but in all honesty, I was much more excited for a new Gears game than I ever thought I would be. However, the gameplay they showed off for The Last of Us 2 was, by far, the best thing I saw this year. It legitimately gave me anxiety — in all the best ways. The visuals, tension and environment Naughty Dog consistently manages to pull off in their games is truly impressive. I also found Ghost of Tsushima breathtakingly beautiful. I really want more samurai games. Also, the flute guy!

Keeley: If Sony doesn't release a PSVR title starring the flute guy, that's a big missed opportunity is all I'll say. I did like that Beat Saber VR game, though. If that's at the Sony booth … 

Shanley: Overall, Sony's conference was a bit disjointed and showed off games that aren't going to be available for a bit, but they are also really, really exciting exclusive titles. Contrast that with Microsoft, which seemed to focus more on acquisitions (nabbing Ninja Theory was HUGE and I'm very excited to see what they cook up next), and Nintendo, which didn't really wow me, if only because every one of their big announcements had already been leaked, and you have an E3 that definitely didn't fall flat, but wasn't the mind-blowing experience I was hoping for. So, the big questions I have for you, Pete, are these: Who won this year's E3 showcase showdown, and if you had just one title to choose, what would it be?

Keeley: Well, I'll tell you which booth I'm running to when the doors open: Capcom. But I'm going to give the edge to Sony based on The Last of Us, Tsushima, Control — which we haven't mentioned but was another incredible-looking title. You called it "Chris Nolan: The Game," I'm going with "Nintendo Power Glove Commercial: 2077." Stranding — which I saw one YouTube commenter called "The Walking Game," which, you know, I laughed. And Spider-Man. But a few quick hits from Xbox that I loved: Tunic, new Cup Head and Ori and the Will of the Wisps will be owned by me, guaranteed. Also, I am not a racing-game guy, but good lord, Forza 4 looks beautiful — why even buy real cars, is my big question for you. 

Keeley: So who won? Sony, but I talked myself into Xbox there — a bit.

Shanley: I'm torn. I was excited by all of PlayStation's exclusives, but the wait on all of them, except Spider-Man, is long. Xbox definitely showed off the most, although most of the games they teased I'll likely end up playing on my PS4, and I'm not sure how much I care about a Halo title that doesn't have the number 6 in it. I'll go ahead and throw a curveball and say that Nintendo was my favorite, only because I got what I expected: Fortnite, a new Smash Bros. and, the one big surprise, a new Mario Party, a franchise I have a big soft spot for. I can't wait to get my hands on everything! See you on the floor, Pete!

Keeley: But seriously, I'm just going to play that Beat Saber game for three days.