E3 2021: The biggest game reveals, news, and updates from the shows
E3, or the Electronic Entertainment Expo, is the biggest event in the video games industry. It is a 4 days-long event in which some of the most important game developers and publishers reveal new games to the world. E3 2021 has been structured differently than the previous E3s, but we still get to know about several exciting new games.
The COVID-19 pandemic has upended the traditional structure of E3. Last year, the event was canceled for the first time in its history. In 2021, Entertainment Software Association, the hosting organization, announced that E3 would be held entirely online, as opposed to a live event in California.
With major publishers like Xbox, Nintendo, Square Enix, and Ubisoft all holding their own events in addition to independent events, there were a lot of shows to cover. Here are the biggest and most interesting game reveals at each event.
Summer Game Fest
While not an official E3 event, this show hosted by Geoff Keighley was the unofficial kickoff event where several publishers revealed their new games. The games ranged from indies to entries in major franchises. These were the most interesting.
Tiny Tina’s Wonderlands
This fantasy looter-shooter got a cinematic trailer reveal at the very beginning of the Fest. Tiny Tina’s Wonderlands is the latest entry in the Borderlands franchise, though it’s set in the same universe. It’s more of a spin-off of the Dungeons & Dragons-style spinoff of Borderlands 2 “Assault on Dragon’s Keep,” starring the titular diminutive character. We don’t know much about the game yet, but as it’s set for release in early 2022, we’ll probably hear more soon.
Jurassic World Evolution 2
The various iterations of Jurassic Park have failed very spectacularly in the films — something about man’s hubris and all that. But the Jurassic World Evolution time management games offer users the chance to do better. Evolution 2 takes place after the events of the film Fallen Kingdom and tasks players with building a better version of the park in a new location. The game launches on PC, PS4, PS5, Xbox One, and Xbox Series X/S sometime in 2021.
By far the biggest reveal at the event is the gameplay reveal of Elden Ring, the next game from FromSoftware. Written by George R. R. Martin, the game was originally revealed at E3 2019. After that, From didn’t give any updates on the game and fans have been clamoring for a big reveal. They got it: The trailer shows off Elden Ring’s new environment, gameplay, player character, story, and release date. The game is set to launch on January 21, 2022.
Ubisoft’s major event was the first publisher-specific event of E3. Ubisoft revealed in a recent update that it had six games that would be coming out this year, meaning that it would be easy to narrow down which games would be shown (and not shown) at this event. The developers of The Division and Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time Remake separately confirmed that their games would not be at the E3 showcase.
Rainbow Six Extraction
The game formerly known as “Rainbow Six Quarantine” was given its official new name earlier this week. At the Ubisoft Forward, we finally got a look at the gameplay. Unlike Siege, Extraction is a PVE co-op title in which operators (some of whom are also characters in Siege) must fight their way through an alien horde that manifests as a creeping horror. The game will release on PC, PS4, PS5, Xbox One, and Xbox Series X/S on September 16, 2021. It’ll support cross-play at launch.
Mario + Rabbids: Sparks of Hope
Leaked shortly before the event, Sparks of Hope is the sequel to the sleeper hit Mario + Rabbids: Kingdom Battle. It ditches its predecessor’s grid-based gameplay for a more freeform turn-based structure. Mario and company will have to face a new enemy with the help of the Sparks, Rabbid+Luma hybrids. The game is coming to Switch in 2022.
Avatar: Frontiers of Pandora
Ubisoft revealed its first look at the upcoming adaptation of the 2009 film Avatar. The footage was cinematic, meaning we didn’t get any gameplay, but we did see that the game will apparently center around Pandora’s native Na’vi and their continuing battle against the invading humans. The game is also built with Ubisoft’s new Snowdrop engine. The game was first mentioned by Ubisoft in 2017 and is set to release on PC, PS5, Xbox Series X/S, Google Stadia, and Amazon Luna in 2022.
Xbox and Bethesda Showcase
By far the most crowded show at the event was the Xbox event, which showed off at least two dozen titles that are in development for either Xbox consoles or Xbox Game Pass. Not only did Microsoft show off games that are coming to Xbox, but its new acquisition Bethesda showed off several of its new projects, including the mysterious Starfield.
Bethesda first announced it was working on this space-based title, its first original game in years, at E3 2018. Since then, fans have been waiting for details on this new game, and they finally got them in the form of a teaser trailer that opened the Xbox showcase. The trailer, which had been leaked by the Washington Post just before the event started, also revealed Starfield’s release date of November 11, 2022. We don’t yet know exactly what the game’s story will be, but we do know the player character will be a member of Constellation, a group of space explorers.
S.T.A.L.K.E.R. 2: Heart of Chernobyl
The sequel to the original S.T.A.L.K.E.R. trilogy has languished in development hell for years, with the game originally having been announced in 2010. The developers finally confirmed last July that the game would be releasing sometime soon for Xbox Series X/S and PC. We got our first look at the gameplay, as well as the new subtitle, at the E3 event. We also got the release date, as the game is set to launch on April 28, 2022.
While we already knew what the new Battlefield game was going to be called thanks to a reveal pre-E3, we got our first look at the gameplay at the Xbox event. Battlefield 2042 — which will be multiplayer-only and won’t have a battle royale mode — will have matches with up to 128 players and the trailer makes it look like chaotic fun. The trailer also shows several new features, including unpredictable weather events and the new UI that lets players upgrade their weapons on the fly. The game will release on October 22, 2021, with more information coming during the EA Play event on July 22.
Another game that’s been in development hell for a while, the sequel to Double Fine’s cult classic Psychonauts finally gets a release date. Gamers will finally be able to rejoin Raz on August 25, with the game launching on Xbox One, Xbox Series X/S, PC, and Xbox Cloud Gaming.
Xbox’s flagship series returns as the company shows more details about the upcoming Halo Infinite. The game has been delayed and received a tepid response after the original gameplay reveal. During E3, we got a glimpse of the game’s story, with Master Chief meeting an AI who is not Cortana. We also got an extended look at the multiplayer gameplay. The free-to-play multiplayer mode will launch alongside the single-player campaign on Holiday 2021.
The Outer Worlds 2
A surprise reveal was the sequel to the acclaimed 2019 RPG, The Outer Worlds. However, other than the fact that The Outer Worlds 2 exists, we know almost nothing about it. The only thing that developer Obsidian has confirmed is that the game will take place in a new star system with new characters.
Forza Horizon 5
The latest entry in the Forza series was revealed at the Xbox show, and it looks incredible. The latest entry in the series takes place in Mexico and will feature a diverse range of environments and the return of the seasonal weather system, but with different weather around different regions of the map. Forza Horizon 5 will have an exploration-heavy campaign and arcade minigames. It launches on November 9, 2021, on Xbox Series X/S, Xbox One, PC, and Xbox Cloud Gaming.
The final trailer of the event was Arkane’s new project, a 4-player co-op shooter called Redfall. Set in the titular small town, the game follows four characters who are attempting to fight off hordes of vampires (or vampire-like creatures). The trailer didn’t have any gameplay, but Bethesda has said that the game is an open-world, co-op FPS. Redfall is set to launch on Xbox Series X/S and PC in summer 2022.
Square Enix Showcase
Square Enix was a bit of a wild card show. The company has a number of games in development, more than they could show in a relatively brief showcase event. And some of the biggest projects didn’t put in an appearance — Final Fantasy XVI, Final Fantasy VII Remake Part 2, Forspoken. They did, however, show off two new titles and a game we haven’t seen in years.
Guardians of the Galaxy
Square Enix revealed the second of the games in its Marvel titles, an adventure game following the exploits of the Guardians of the Galaxy. Unlike Marvel’s Avengers, the Guardians game has only one player character: Star-Lord, a.k.a. Peter Quill. The game is a hybrid of third-person action and Telltale-style dialogue choice mechanic that influences the story and the other characters’ behavior. It launches for PC, PS4, PS5, Xbox One, Xbox Series X/S, and Nintendo Switch (via cloud) on October 26, 2021.
Platinum Games’ project was first revealed in 2018, and we’ve seen nothing from it since then … until now. Babylon’s Fall is set in a high fantasy world styled like a European oil painting, and it’ll be a live service game where players can play alone or in teams of up to four. The developers have described the gameplay as being hack-and-slash in the style of Nier: Automata, following the player characters as they ascend the titular tower of Babylon. We don’t have a release date, but it’ll launch on PS4, PS5, and PC. The closed beta is due to start soon.
Stranger of Paradise Final Fantasy Origin
In lieu of its other Final Fantasy titles, Square Enix introduced a spin-off title. Stranger of Paradise Final Fantasy Origin is a Souls-like action game made by Team Ninja. The story follows characters Jack, Ash, and Jed as they attempt to defeat the entity Chaos. The references to the boys being the Warriors of Light and a character named Garland tie the game to the original Final Fantasy. A demo for the game was available on the PS5, though it was broken when it first opened. It’s coming to PS5, PS4, Xbox One, Xbox Series X/S, and PC in 2022.
Nintendo’s event was the final major show of E3, a relatively short event that nevertheless packed in several trailers and gameplay updates. The Nintendo Switch Pro, if it exists, failed to make an appearance, but we did get a few updates on some of Nintendo’s biggest upcoming projects.
Super Smash Bros Ultimate
The opening salvo of the event was the announcement of the second-to-last character to be added to Smash Bros Ultimate. Kazuya Mishima made his appearance throwing Ganondorf into a volcano, something of a habit for members of his family. The Tekken antihero will get a dedicated gameplay reveal on June 28, where we’ll presumably get his release date.
Well, it’s not Metroid Prime 4 — Nintendo exec Shinya Takahashi said that that game is still in development but not ready to be seen yet. Instead, we got an entirely new game, sort of. Metroid Dread is the first entry in the 2D side-scrolling Metroid series in 19 years. Samus Aran must battle a sinister robot named E.M.M.I. using a series of new gadgets. “Metroid Dread” is an old name for a canceled Metroid game, implying that this game is the final form of that project. The game launches on the Nintendo Switch on October 8, 2021.
Advance Wars 1+2 Re-Boot Camp
The Advance Wars series is part of the larger Wars series, which goes back to the days of the Famicom. Both Advance Wars and Advance Wars 2: Black Hole Rising were originally released for the Game Boy Advance, and both are now being remastered for the Switch. The tactical grid-based strategy titles, bundled as the Re-Boot Camp, will launch on December 3, 2021.
Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild Sequel
Eiji Aonuma appeared at the very end of the show to introduce new Legend of Zelda material, including DLC for Hyrule Warriors: Age of Calamity and a Zelda-themed Game & Watch. As his “one more thing,” he said that the previously revealed sequel to Breath of the Wild is still in development and not completely ready to be seen. However, he showed a short trailer showing gameplay, including Link skydiving through Hyrule’s skies and fighting off Bokoblins. Nintendo is planning for a 2022 release date.
Other shows at E3 2021
There were several shows that, while they were part of the official E3 schedule, were for the most part not really big on game reveals. Warner Bros’ event was a Back 4 Blood showcase, while Capcom’s was mostly showing games that we have both already seen and whose release dates we already know. The only major revelation from the latter event is that Capcom is working on DLC for Resident Evil Village. The Gearbox show was mostly about the upcoming Borderlands movie.
The PC Gaming Show was perhaps the most interesting out of these shows, with trailers from games like Lemnis Gate, a first-person shooter with a central time-bending mechanic that releases on August 3, 2021; and Rawmen, a Splatoon-like arena shooter in which characters cover their surroundings with soup. The show was mostly a collection of smaller games with interesting mechanics and fun art design.
E3 2021 was not the most exciting event, but it had several new game reveals and updates on existing projects. While it may not have had all the games we would have hoped to see, it was still a decent showing considering how much the industry has struggled in the last year.