Thanks to the good people at YouRockGuitar, we procured some E3 passes.  For those of you unfamiliar, E3 is the gaming industry’s biggest conference, the place where every year Microsoft, Nintendo and Sony announce the big things to come for their consoles, an event that’s crammed with about 50 Best Buy’s worth of flat screen televisions.  An event that, to the dismay of many a gamer, isn’t open to the public.

In the interest of those thousands of gamers who would have loved to be at E3, but weren’t allowed, I present the following:  I spent an afternoon wandering around the conference looking for the best of what’s to come.  Here are three games I’ll be sure to beg, borrow or steal when they make their release later this year.

Trials HD
Developer: RedLynx
Publisher: Microsoft
Genre: Racing Games
Release Date: Later This Summer
Console: Xbox 360
trials_hd_screen_01
Trials HD didn’t get a lot of press. It’s a game from a small’ish company that didn’t have its own booth at E3, no big trailer playing, no moto-helmet wearing booth babes professionals to promote it.  The beta was just running on one of the hundred or so Microsoft consoles scattered around the periphery of the gaming megalith’s booth.  But it caught my attention.  Slick graphics and physics-based motorcycle racing are combined to make a ridiculously addictive experience.  If you want a taste and have a PC, you can check out Trials 2: Second Edition on which Trials HD is based.  If you had a pre-OSX mac, you might remember the classic Dirt Bike game that started the whole genre.  Trials HD is no less addicting than the original, and much much prettier. It’ll be out later this summer as a download through Xbox Live Arcade, and if it’s priced at the same $10 as the PC game, it’ll be a steal. I expect that once this puppy comes out, I’ll be glued to the television for a never-ending stream of “just one more turn.” 

Splinter Cell: Conviction
Developer: UbiSoft Montreal
Publisher: UbiSoft
Genre: Action
Release Date: Sometime This Fall
Console: Xbox 360

One of E3’s blockbusters, Splinter Cell: Conviction looks like it’ll take the Sam Fisher franchise in a satisfying direction.  Each of the previous 5 games in the series have relied more heavily on stealth than force, but Conviction’s developers are claiming that with this iteration the decision to use stealth or force will be left up to the player.  As an example, they demonstrated how Sam could drop silently from the ceiling to kill an enemy but also blast into a room full of bad guys with a shotgun.  One of the game’s most striking visual features is that in-game text and mission tips don’t appear as pop-ups like in every other game, but are integrated into the game’s environment – for example, appearing like graffiti on a wall that you’re running past. 

I’ve enjoyed most of the Splinter Cell franchise, and Conviction is shaping up to be one of the series’ best episodes yet. 

Super Mario Bros Wii
Developer: Nintendo
Publisher: Nintendo
Genre: Mario!
Console: Wii
Release Date: Holiday 2009 (Expect Christmas Madness)

Nintendo surprised E3 with a new Super Mario Brother’s game.  It’s basically the same Mario we all love, only with some spiffy new graphics and support for 4-player simultaneous multilayer,  which should be an absolute riot.  The only downside is that the Wii’s resolution and graphics hardware makes this new game look less slick and impressive than games debuting on the other guys’ consoles.  In my ideal world, it’d come out as downloadable content for the 360 or PS3.  But, that’s a world that will never exist.  That said, I’m sure it’ll be a blast to play with plenty of youthful déjà vu as I once again take on Bowser and his legion of minions in the service of Princess Peach. 

So, those are my top three from E3 (see what I did there), I’m sure there are critical titles that I missed – let me know what they are in the comments.