E3 offers much more than those headline grabbing triple A titles, which, though meriting the attention, often cast a long shadow over smaller titles. Tucked away in a corner of the LA convention center is the media indie exchange, a platform for independent developers to tout their wares. Others benefit from small slots in the bigger showcases, yet are invariably eclipsed by the bigger fish.
Luckily as the hype surrounding the bigger names subsides in the week’s after the conference, these hidden gems have a chance to shine and gain traction beyond the hallowed halls of gaming’s biggest communion. Here are six games showcased at E3 that are not only well worth your time, but deserving of wider coverage.
The art style of Sable is enough to write home about; the seemingly hand draw assets weave an entrancing world reminiscent of hand drawn animations, think Hyper Light Drifter meets Journey. Sable is ‘a coming-of-age tale of discovery through exploration’ as the two-man development team put it. Little else is known other than the narrative shaped by protagonist Sable journeying through an alien world with a vibrant and intriguing past on what appears to be some form of futuristic hovercraft. Definitely one to keep an eye on.
Ooblets is too damn cute. Whimsy and quirky, it has you farm ooblets, these kind of adorable entities that follow you around, participate in dance offs, and generally just jiggle around being awesome. Of course, you can dress them up and adorn them with accessories. Instead of fighting off enemies with swords, it’s all about those dance moves. Establish yourself as the number one hip shaker and your all set. The game seems to be all about that happy feeling, borrowing heavily from creature collecting titles and farming simulators alike. Ooblets also has a strong social aspect with a town rich packed with charming inhabitants and a selection of biomes to explore. Love me some cuteness overload, I do.
3. Knights and Bikes
Knights and Bikes is why indie gaming is crucial as a platform for creatively driven developers to explore unique concepts. The action-adventure takes place on a fictional island in the British isles in the 1980s and sees two friends, Demelza and Nessa, adventurously ride their bikes eager to experience freedom, explore, and face up to unforeseen dangers. Half coming-of-age story, half rebuff of the nonsensical adult world, the two heroes use imagination and cooperation in a plethora of equally charming and idiosyncratic ways. Knights and Bikes promises puzzles, a pet goose, an arsenal of whimsical abilities (including frisbees of all things), treasure, and bike upgrades. The game is being developed by a team with a breadth of experience having been involved in LittleBigPlanet, Tearaway, and Ratchet & Clank to name a few. This type of game is why I love our medium so much.
4. My Friend Pedro
This one is special. My Friend Pedro is a side scrolling shooter, which is – and I don’t want to mince my words here – style personified. Seriously, this one is as classy as a 60s advertising executive. Through a clever use of bullet time, impressive acrobatic movements, and a novel use of environmental props, Pedro guns his way through a hostile world killing everything in his way in some of the most creative sequences I’ve ever seen in a video game. Oh and of course, he is accompanied by a talking banana to help him out. My Friend Pedro’s blurb puts in succinctly; ‘My Friend Pedro is a violent ballet’. Watch the trailer, you’ll immediately know what they mean.
5. Rapture Rejects
Using the aesthetics of Cyanide and Happiness comics, we finally have an original take on the battle royale format, and one done with humor. Not on for the kids, Rapture Rejects recounts the antics of those who didn’t make the cut during the rapture and are left to fight over the earth’s spoils. Rapture Rejects is described as ‘a top down isometric last man standing game’ with scavenging, excessive violence, and probably a score of very rude bits. If anything, it’s a reminder indie development doesn’t always have to be heartfelt and can offer new ways of enjoying established genres.
Triple A games are great and all, but common look at that trailer, don’t you just want to get lost in the world of Itta? For some reason, I pretty much instantly felt the same way I did playing Fez or Stardew Valley, then I found out Itta is a one-man studio effort. Inspired by big boss games, Itta is twin-stick shooter in the same vein as The Binding of Isaac whereby both controller sticks are used to move and shoot simultaneously. Indie games tend to move away from established tropes, and Itta does this with grace by challenging us to rethink our go to controller instincts. The game is also profoundly beautiful with an art style that at first glance appears basic, yet is layered with aesthetic depth. The backing track for the trailer is also amazing for the music aficionados among you.