E3 has been dethroned. The “digital showcase” is crowned king.
By Tucker Price | @Tuck_Stew
This year, Summer Game Fest returned to slightly less fanfare than the previous two events. In its first year, the event flourished out of necessity. It was the height of the COVID-19 pandemic. Events were canceled left and right — even E3. Months after the announcement of its cancellation, a digital event birthed itself from the ashes of the Electronic Entertainment Expo: Summer Game Fest.
Sure, it wasn’t exactly what anyone wanted, but it was a welcome announcement. A modern digital showcase built for a then-broken world was an escape that the public craved.
Throughout the years, SGF has changed from a developer-focused showcase to a consumer-oriented one — focusing on game reveals and hype rather than in-depth developer conversations. While 2023’s SGF left out some developer insight, it redeemed itself by showcasing some of the best reveals in the last 3 years.
- Nick Cage Shows up?
Easily one of the most puzzling moments of Summer Game Fest’s official opening stream occurred when famed actor Nicolas Cage showed up in Dead by Daylight and then strutted onstage a few minutes after.
This wasn’t a particularly interesting reveal in terms of the game itself — the absurdity of it is what pushes it over the edge for me. Why Nicolas Cage? Why Dead By Daylight? I know he explains why he likes the game, but why put him in the game? It’s not like the addition of the Cage changes the game in any way, you can just… play as him.
It’s one of the most utterly baffling gaming reveals in a long time. It’s almost as baffling as Kaz Hurai exclaiming “Riiiidge Racer!” at E3 2006 or John Vechey’s Peggle 2 Reveal at E3 2013. It was refreshing to see this flavor of awkward unfold live, and I’m here for it. As the kids say: We’re so back.
- Phantom Blade 0 Kicks Ass
It’s quite rare, especially in the modern age of gaming, for a new IP to show its face and immediately blow everyone’s mind. S-Game’s Phantom Blade 0 is a hack-and-slash game set somewhere called “Phantom World,” which is characterized by something called “kung fu punk,” according to Soulframe Liang, the founder and CEO of S-Game.
What I find particularly interesting about S-Game is that they have no experience with 3D action/adventure titles. Their previous games are all side-scrolling action platformers. Sony has taken a little-known indie developer and strapped them to a triple-A project. This is an undeniably huge gamble, and it could either be the biggest success story since Shovel Knight or the biggest disappointment since Mighty Number 9.
But as it stands now, this is easily one of the most exciting things to come out of Playstation’s showcase. The combat looks wildly interesting, featuring precise blade combat mixed with a cover system. The gameplay, visuals, and setpieces all harbor the makings of a truly promising experience.
- 2D Mario heads onward and upward
Unless you count Super Mario Run or Super Mario Maker 1 and 2, Nintendo hasn’t put out a proper 2D Mario game since New Super Mario Brothers U, and even then, that game wasn’t well received. It was derivative, visually monotonous, and mechanically obvious.
At the end of their Direct, Nintendo announced Super Mario Bros. Wonder, an evolution of the classic 2D Mario formula. Rather than the typical New Super Mario Bros. formula, Wonder aims for a more stylistic approach.
There’s not much else to say about the reveal except that this is the first time I've been excited about a 2D Mario game since the first time I played New Super Mario Bros at 8 years old.
- Bungie’s Marathon Makes a Comeback
Before Destiny, Microsoft, and the Halo series, Bungie made a trilogy of games for MacOS called Marathon. It was an early first-person shooter with gameplay similar to Doom or Quake but made great strides with its multiplayer mode and its single-player campaign. Its multiplayer mode featured maps exclusive to multiplayer, and the latter entries of the game featured multiple game modes — something rarely included in multiplayer games at the time. Its single-player mode featured narrative content previously unseen in similar titles.
Decades later, Bungie attempts to revive the franchise with a brand new, multiplayer-only entry in the franchise.
Very little is known about the game itself other than that it is a PvP first-person shooter, its art style fuses elements of Westworld’s biomechanical future and Cyberpunk, and that it will not have a single-player campaign, which might be a bummer to fans of the original series.
But because of Marathon’s focus on its PvP elements, the game could be a promising step for a post-Halo Bungie to revitalize itself in the esports scene.
- Payday 3 gets a real trailer
More than a decade after Payday 2’s release, we’re finally getting a sequel. We knew almost nothing other than the fact that it’s coming out, and now we know exactly when it’s coming out and what the game looks like.
The visuals have been updated slightly while still keeping the art style of the other entries, and while the gameplay reveal trailer showcased more high-octane Payday 2 action, the game also includes a new heist phase revolving around stealth, which adds a new level of precision to the Payday formula.
But despite this change, this looks like a return to the Payday we all know and love. Payday 3 launches on September 21st.
- Helldivers is back!
The popular shooter Helldivers is making an ambitious comeback in 2023, but not in the way fans might think. Instead of being a top-down shooter like the 2015 game, Helldivers 2 is a prestige 3rd person shooter.
This kind of dramatic change in gameplay style is exciting, but troubling, especially since Arrowhead Games — the developers behind Helldivers 2 — is a studio that has never made a 3rd person shooter before.
While it’s exciting to see Helldivers make a triple-A return, the gameplay looks a little shoddy and soulless despite the creativity of the trailer’s cinematics. Hopefully, things will look better upon release, but since the release window is set for later this year, I have my doubts.
- Spider-Man 2 gets gameplay
Kraven, Venom, symbiote powers, a wingsuit, character switching — all of this and more was revealed at the end of Playstation’s showcase during a lengthy Spider-Man 2 gameplay reveal.
On top of a slew of new gameplay mechanics, we were introduced to two new New York City boroughs that players will be able to explore in Spider-Man 2: Queens and Brooklyn. These are more low-to-the-ground areas for the webbed wonder, but players will likely enjoy a change of scenery from Spider-Man and Spider-Man: Miles Morales’ Manhattan.
Spider-Man 2 is set to release on October 20th.
- Nintendo cares about their old games now
In their most recent Direct, Nintendo announced a remake of Super Mario RPG, a spiritual successor to WarioWare: Smooth Moves, and re-releases of Luigi’s Mansion: Dark Moon, and Pikmin 1 and 2.
This is highly uncharacteristic of Nintendo, who consistently strikes down fan-made ports of their games for modern emulators. Typically, the argument for emulating Nintendo games has been that they don’t port their own, therefore there is no way to play them without first buying an older console at a higher price or through emulation.
Nintendo seems to be listening to these complaints. They’ve offered ports of a wide range of their classic games for Nintendo Switch Online members, including the NES, SNES, N64, GameBoy, and GameBoy Advance. They have also ported many of their titles from the WiiU era, as many fans missed out on those games.
But despite this recent newfound love for their recent past, Nintendo is missing ports of almost all titles from the GameCube and Wii lineup.
- “Snake? Snake? SNAAAAAAKE!”
The impossible is possible again. Konami – who spent the last decade leaving their IPs untouched or using them to make slot machines – is now officially reviving their two most beloved franchises. A few months ago, it was Silent Hill. Now it’s Metal Gear.
During the Playstation showcase, Konami announced a remake of Metal Gear Solid 3: Snake Eater — now titled Metal Gear Solid Delta: Snake Eater — and Metal Gear Solid: Master Collection Vol. 1, which includes re-releases of Metal Gear, Metal Gear 2 (both the MSX and NES versions), Metal Gear Solid, Metal Gear Solid 2: Sons of Liberty, the original Metal Gear Solid 3: Snake Eater, and several other rare goodies.
However, despite Konami’s apparent newfound zeal for the Metal Gear franchise, Hideo Kojima — the creator of the franchise — will not be involved in either the MGS3 remake or the re-releases of the other Metal Gear entries.
I’m a little skeptical of Metal Gear without Kojima, but I’m still looking forward to playing these classic games on newer consoles and seeing the new direction that the Metal Gear series takes.
- Final Fantasy fake-out
Final Fantasy’s first appearance at Summer Game Fest was pretty disappointing. It debuted with Final Fantasy VII: Ever Crisis — a mobile game that attempts to replicate Final Fantasy VII’s original turn-based gameplay mechanics. It looks fine, but it isn’t what anyone wanted to see at the moment, least of all Final Fantasy fans.
Then, Geoff Keighley said the words “speaking of Final Fantasy…” as if to reveal something larger from the franchise. As everyone cheers in excitement, he quickly lowers everyone’s expectations and reveals a DoorDash tie-in with Final Fantasy XI, which was released later last month. This resulted in groans and laughter from the crowd. Geoff chuckled along with them.
Then, at the very end of the show, an immediately-recognizable trailer for Final Fantasy VII: Rebirth — the long-awaited second part to Final Fantasy VII: Remake — drops. The crowd erupts, and murmurs about the game continue well after the trailer ends. The hype surrounding the fake-out alone made this the best reveal out of every showcase this year.