We can hear you, like the deafening roar of gamers after the Xbox One reveal… Games? GAMES!!! WHERE ARE THE GAMES???? Okay, okay, we’re getting to the games… time to reveal the Best in Genre awards! There’s a lot to go over, so if we don’t get to your favorite category, it’s coming up tomorrow.
Without further ado, the envelopes, please…
Best Strategy or Simulation Title
And the Epic Win goes to… Project: SPARK.
Last year, this was a pretty simple category – EA’s SimCity reboot came along and said, “We’re here, guys!” and we all pretty much said game over, you win forever.
And that ended poorly for everyone involved.
The SimCity debacle led to two lines of thought this E3: one, we were much more skeptical of strategies and sims this year, not giving them just cursory looks, and two, most studios wanted to stay far away from them. Combining the SimDisaster with the anathema met from “always-on” requirements, sims at this moment have a high-risk/low-reward aura about them. And as my colleagues in the boxing press will tell you, that’s a fight most people don’t care to take.
Project: SPARK passed the test. Building off the “create your own adventure” ideas found in Little Big Planet or Minecraft, Project: SPARK allows players to design worlds, characters, companions, and challenges from continent-spanning mountain ranges to petals on flowers. While it wouldn’t be enough to salvage the sinking ship that was Xbox One, it was one of the console’s better offerings, with always-on at least making sense in the dynamic world-creator.
Honorable Mention: Disney Infinity
Best Sports or Fitness Title
And the Epic Win goes to… EA Sports UFC.
It pains me to say this because it comes largely at the potential demise of the Fight Night franchise, but EA’s mixed martial arts offering is pretty sweet. Vivid, lifelike graphics (which is ultimately what people want in their sports games), nice, fluid control, a large roster of fighters that even a boxinghead like me knows, a deformity engine that actually looks real – it’s everything sports fans liked about Fight Night, in a UFC octagon, with half-naked men rolling on each other in skin-tight vale tudo trunks.
I’m not saying, but I’m just saying…
Honorable Mention: Pro Evolution Soccer, Zumba World Party
Best Social or Mobile Title
And the Epic Win goes to… Forsaken Planet.
It’s hard to call a title “overlooked” when it comes to social or mobile gaming, because frankly, almost all social or mobile games are overlooked. Now that this forum for games has seen growth though, one of the more familiar problems sets in – the social and mobile titles that get the most attention are the titles with big studios behind it, notably this year EA, Ubisoft, Square Enix, and Warner Bros. Interactive Entertainment.
But our winner this year truly can be called “overlooked,” because the attention given (from what I can see) has been sparse, and if members of the press hadn’t wandered over to this year’s IndieCade, they wouldn’t even know it existed.
They also probably missed a delightful little title full of fun and highly addictive.
Forsaken Planet runs on Android OS and has a very simple premise: players fly their spaceship with their “cool pilot” (according to signage), pick up junk around the map, drop it in the ring in the center of the map, and score lots of points. Along the way they can use power-ups to zap other players; if they can snag that fallen player and drop him or her in the ring, they get bazillions of points (estimated).
That’s it. Nothing more, really. And yet, it doesn’t need any more. It was just plain fun.
The graphics are bright, colorful and cartoony. The gameplay is intuitive, no need for long, drawn-out tutorials. The weapons smack of Wile E. Coyote’s ACME supplies. The premise was simple: score points, beat other players, have fun. In a crowd full of super-serious high-falootin’ AAA titles, it was the kid just walking up to a stranger and saying, “Hi! Wanna play?” (Which in fact was how I was approached at IndieCade, which stopped me short – no studio had yet done this, and I was well into Day 2.)
In comparison, it was everything the major studios isn’t. And that was very refreshing.
Honorable Mention: Halo: Spartan Assault, Mighty Quest for Epic Loot, Plants vs. Zombies 2.
And the Epic Win goes to… Kingdom Hearts III.
Normally, if a trailer beats out games actively on the E3 floor, whether it be playable or just demoed, it speaks to the weakness of its competitors. That theory, though, fails us this year. Dark Souls II builds on the immense success of the brand-new IP launched in 2011, and South Park: The Stick of Truth beat fate, becoming the game that cheated THQ’s death to land in the arms of Ubisoft. Both had a great showing at E3.
And yet Kingdom Hearts III still won.
Only a trailer announcement rekindled our fondness for the brave Sora, beautiful Kairi, and the bold Riku. We also remembered how Mickey, Donald, and Goofy aren’t just silly cartoon characters. They’re warriors, protectors, and heroes.
It’s everything an RPG should be. It’s a testament to the strength of Kingdom Hearts III, not to any perceived weakness from anyone else.
Honorable Mention: Dark Souls II, South Park: The Stick of Truth
Best Racing Title
And the Epic Win goes to… Mario Kart 8.
We’ve all been this guy before… solidly cruising to victory, when you hear the whistle behind you that means certain doom. And yet we race and race and race again. Mario Kart 8 only had one playable track, and honestly, I could have sat there and taken on all challengers. Other games like Need for Speed: Rivals and Forza Motorsport 5 might have been realistic and featured hot cars at crazy speeds, but it didn’t have the Mario gang, it didn’t have anti-gravity tracks, and it didn’t have vehicular combat via winged spiked shells.
And as we all know, blue spiked shells are sometimes all it takes to win.
Honorable mention: The Crew, Need for Speed: Rivals
Who doesn’t like a good platformer? It’s the genre we all grew up with. Jumping from ledge to ledge, timing leaps of faith, hoppin’ and boppin’ all the way to the castle or jungle or wherever we were headed. And though we did that with such names as Mega Man and Simon Belmont, the champion of the platformer is none other than Mario.
Last year, if you’ll recall, was the debut of New Super Mario Bros. U, the first eighth-gen Mario platformer. NSMBU was upset by Rayman Legends in the upset of the show. I mean, who can top Mario? He’s the King of Platformers. This year, he stars, with the Mushroom Kingdom Crew, in Super Mario 3D World, one with flashbacks to the NES classic Super Mario Bros. 2.
WHAT? How can Mario lose AGAIN?? Who counted these votes?
What do you mean, “I did??”
Oh, wait, what was I mad at? It’s friggin’ DuckTales! (Woo-oo!)
Well, the Master of the Mushroom Kingdom is 0 for 2 in Epic Wins, and it’s hard to argue the point. If Mario, who releases a new platformer on average every year or so, has a hold on the retro gamer, then DuckTales, a beloved NES, Gameboy, and Disney Afternoon staple, grips them even tighter. The Capcom classic platformer captivated us in the later days of the 8-bit console; DuckTales sported graphics and play that anyone could learn but enough challenge that made the game hard to master. If that was a classic ’66 Impala SS, DuckTales Remastered is a completely-restored ’66 Impala SS in 2013. Same great gameplay and control. Same challenge factor. Brand-new, bright bold graphics, and voice acting from all the original actors from the cartoon of the late ’80s.
Sorry, Mario, but this year, your awards are definitely in another castle. Your platforming Epic Win statuette is headed to Scrooge McDuck and company, who most assuredly will put it next to his lucky Number One Dime.
Honorable mention: Super Mario 3D World, Castle of Illusion Starring Mickey Mouse, Donkey Kong Country: Tropical Freeze.
Ryan Bates is a native of Southern California currently in a love/hate relationship with Las Vegas, Nevada. (It’s complicated.) Ryan is a Nintendiehard but does not discriminate against other consoles. He is also involved with the growing Gaymer movement.
When not gaming, Ryan enjoys boxing, trying out new foods, and theme parks, and has a sick yet totally radical fascination with ’80s and ’90s pop culture.