Gaming’s biggest event is just around the corner.
Leading up to E3, news and tempting rumors begin swirling about all kinds of games, from the biggest budget triple-A titles to the smallest indie ones. However, there are always the games that, even though they made a big splash when they were first announced, go curiously quiet around this time of year. Not hearing about hotly anticipated indies, or even getting a hint at where to hear about them, can be a clue that they will appear at the expo. The only difficulty is that finding these smaller titles in the crush of everything going on can be a little confusing, and, especially at this year’s E3, there is already enough confusion to go around.
Just trying to keep track of the industry giants is hard enough for E3 2019. EA isn’t there, except it kind of is – the company won’t show off any games on the E3 show floor or have a traditional conference, but will have its own EA Play event, taking place in a different part of LA the weekend before E3 kicks off. Microsoft, on the other hand, is “going to go and be as big at E3 as we’ve ever been,” according to the company’s head, Phil Spencer. While that might be true of the conference, Microsoft, like EA, abstains from using the show floor to display games, preferring instead to house all of its demos in the Microsoft theater conveniently located a stone’s throw away. Then, of course, there’s Sony’s mystifying absence.
In any case, if the industry giants are this hard to track, where will our beloved indies fall? Sony, Microsoft, and EA have all hosted an indies section in their past E3 conferences. With these companies and others shifting their plans around this year, nothing is certain, but let’s break down some of the possibilities for these six amazing games we hope to see at E3.
6. Among Trees
A stunning survival sandbox adventure game developed by FJRD Interactive, Among Trees was first shown off last December during The Game Awards. If the visuals don’t grab you first, the gameplay might. Tailored for transcendentalists and anyone looking to get away from it all, the game seems to be a rich nature survival experience. The trailer gives off Stardew Valley vibes but without those pesky gift-expecting neighbors. It has a distinct similarity to The Forest, but perhaps with a little less cannibalism.
The game’s website invites you to settle down and build up your little log cabin in the woods. From humble beginnings, you can transform your living space into a dream get-away. Though, to do that, you have to survive. The forest around you supports an abundance of wildlife, but not all will be friendly. You’ll have to employ some stealthy tactics to “avoid the wild, deadly beasts that roam the forest.” Staying out of harm’s way will also require you to scavenge materials in the wild to craft tools and grow your own crops if you want to survive the harsh weather and “other dangers the night brings.”
You know, with that warning, there actually may be cannibals.
So, you ask, what makes us think it would it be at E3? Despite Among Trees’ debut being covered by most major outlets, ourselves included, and the fact that the game is scheduled to enter Steam Early Access in 2019, we haven’t heard anything major about it since December. Since we’re almost halfway through the year at this point, E3 would be a great place for FJRD to make a second announcement for their game.
The harder question is: what should we watch for the best chance of seeing Among Trees? It isn’t strictly affiliated with any of the currently announced conference holders, but the game is releasing on Steam, so your best bet might be the PC Gaming show airing Monday June 10 at 10 am PST. There are other indie-friendly showcases running that same day like Kinda Funny Games and Limited Run Games which might be worth keeping an eye on. It’s less likely, but FJRD might have gotten the attention of another big company – we wouldn’t say no to a Nintendo port.
5. In The Valley Of Gods
Grab your horse and archaeologist gear, the makers of Firewatch are taking us to Egypt! This one has been on fans’ lists since its world premiere back in 2017. “If you enjoy well-told and well-acted dynamic video game stories,” the developers at Campo Santo explain on their website, “this game is for you.” The trailer certainly didn’t disappoint, but after drumming up so much anticipation, there hasn’t been so much as a whisper of In The Valley Of Gods recently. Is that possibly because we will be getting another look at it this summer?
In case you didn’t get all the details when the game was announced, In The Valley Of Gods, according to Campo Santo, is “a single-player first-person video game set in Egypt in the 1920s. You play as an explorer and filmmaker who, along with your old partner, has traveled to the middle of the desert in the hopes of making a seemingly-impossible discovery and an incredible film.”
If In The Valley Of Gods does make an E3 appearance, it shouldn’t be too hard to guess where it will be. Campo Santo, in an unusual twist, was acquired by Valve last year, so we will most likely expect to see the game during the PC Gaming Show. It is fun to muse over the fact that Campo Santo’s Firewatch shared the E3 stage with Sony back in 2015, and, even though there are no official plans to release on PlayStation yet, it would be exciting to find In The Valley Of Gods there this year. If only Sony was going to E3. It’s always possible that the company will release a State of Play in early June, so keep an eye out for that.
4. Sea Of Solitude
“When Humans get too lonely, they turn into monsters.” Sea Of Solitude, a puzzle-platformer developed by Jo-Mei Games, is the most recent addition to the EA Originals. Following in the footsteps of Unravel, A Way Out and Fe, Sea of Solitude made a strong impression when it was revealed at E3 2018.
In the trailer, our protagonist Kay reaches out towards a reflection that she doesn’t recognize; her eyes glow red, her body is clothed in wisps of smoke-black fur. While at first she seems alone, Kay soon discovers her watery world is filled to the brim with other similarly monstrous creatures. The tension – and monsters – grow increasingly larger throughout, as the video shows some of the obstacles Kay will have to overcome on her journey. But, as the developers caution, now that she has become a monster, “only monsters can change her back.” It all sounds very intriguing.
The game was supposed to release by “early” 2019, but it looks like that’s been moved back to July 5. So, with a release date looming, it would be great to watch Sea of Solitude make another appearance at E3 to amp up the hype. EA isn’t doing a traditional conference, but they will be airing a series of livestreams starting June 8 at 9:15 am PST. Unfortunately, Sea of Solitude wasn’t announced as one of the livestream’s headliners, but hopefully it will still have a place.
Tunic is an unabashedly Zelda-inspired indie game made by Andrew Shouldice. The game debuted as an Xbox Console exclusive during E3 2018, and the heroic little protagonist’s first action was to look square into the camera and give a mighty yawn before setting off on an adventure. The adorable sword-wielding fox really set the tone. Though marching through dangerous ruins and encountering combative foes, the game’s charming atmosphere and its hero’s endearing antics make Zelda look positively gritty by comparison.
The isometric lupine adventure features many mechanics we already know and love. Tunic lets players explore both the expansive wilds and small interiors. You can direct the tiny creature to cut down tall grass and break pots. Players will be rewarded for their efforts with treasure chests filled to the brim with currency or helpful items. When Tunic was revealed, it landed on a dizzying amount of best of E3 Indies lists. We know there’s plenty of interest for the game, but still, no one knows exactly when it will be coming out, which is why we hope to see an announcement at E3.
Thankfully, Tunic should be easy to locate if it is at this year’s E3. It debuted with Xbox, and the company has proudly announced it will be holding its conference on Sunday, June 9 at 1 PM PT. Sadly, anyone hoping for a surprise day-of launch may be disappointed. Tunic’s Discord claims the game’s development won’t be anywhere near done until 2020.
2. The Pathless
The Pathless, successor to the critically acclaimed exploration game Abzû, is a dramatic and unexpected contrast to Giant Squid Studios’ first title. Both games are aesthetically pleasing, but where Abzû was pensive and ethereal, The Pathless looks to be thrilling and action-packed, a shift which surprised many of the developer’s fans when the game was unveiled last year at The Game Awards.
The newly announced action-adventure follows the story of a Hunter who travels to a mysterious island to find a trusty flying companion and dispel a dark curse. While we don’t know much about it, the trailer shows off some amazing mechanics, like jumping off the top of a mountain only to be caught and carried by a massive eagle. While The Pathless’ fast-paced action and combat was front and center, the relationship between the Hunter and her feathered friend is sure to be a vital part of the narrative.
Like some of the other games on this list, The Pathless doesn’t have an official release date announced, but we might have gotten a hint of when to expect the game from an unexpected source:
Apple. The Pathless was announced for the PlayStation 4 back in December and we didn’t have any major news about it until March. Apple announced that Apple Arcade, “an innovative way to access a collection of brand new games,” would be coming out in the Fall and that it would offer The Pathless. This may point to the game releasing before or around that time this year.
If this is the case, E3 would be a sensible place to announce the release date, but where would this happen? The Pathless, so far, has been announced for the PlayStation 4, PC, and now iOS. With Sony having no official presence at E3 – and only rumors of a State of Play video – Giant Squid might look to the PC Gaming Show, or maybe Kinda Funny Games which is going to show more than 60 indie games according to host Greg Miller, if they want to show off The Pathless this summer.
Suffering, sacrifice, and pain. Hidden Layers Games promises us all three in the creepy story-driven pixel adventure Inmost. It was first announced that the game was coming to the Switch in January during Nintendo’s Indie Highlight, but Inmost had been collecting accolades way before that.
Inmost follows the three different and interconnected stories of a knight in service to darkness, a creature with an appetite for pain, and girl stuck in the middle of everything; each immersed in a world thickly laden with atmospheric tension. The trailers have given us snatches of scenes – a spooky house, an imposing serpent, and creatures that appear during lightning strikes – but even these quick glances solidify Inmost as spine-chillingly ambient.
Another game announced to release sometime in 2019, it would be a shame to not see Inmost at E3. But where to find it? Nintendo seems like a good place to look and its pre-recorded showcase, the Nintendo Direct, will air on Tuesday, June 11 at 9 am PST. It may not be so cut and dry though, because Inmost’s publisher, Chucklefish, tweeted out that one of its games would grace the PC Gaming Show, making it just as likely a place to find details on Inmost there.
The wonderful thing about E3 is that there is always more going on than we suspect. While we hope to see these six indies in the limelight, there are undoubtedly going to be games that come out of the blue, ports that we didn’t expect, and announcements we didn’t think were possible. Devolver Digital will be presenting a showcase that will be worth watching for indie fans, even if none of their games made it on this list. Really though, despite the path being a little more difficult this year, there are more places to find indies at E3 than ever before. There’s enough space that all of our anticipated indie games could make their way to the big stage one way or another.
Jill decided to ditch her life behind a desk to follow a dream and write about video games. She’s previously written for Game Informer, and always has time for a good indie.