The New Year has arrived, and thoughts are already turning to the E3 conference in June, and what we might see there. With video games taking as long to create and release as Hollywood blockbusters these days, we already know the majority of the major games we’re going to see this year, although there are bound to be some surprises. The most shocking news that we’ve heard this far in advance is that Sony won’t have a presence there at all. It’s the first time in the quarter-century that E3 has been going that Sony won’t be there at all, and their announcement has sent speculation about the status of the PlayStation 5 – both positive and negative – into overdrive.

We do know what to expect regarding major games though. By the time E3 rolls around there will have been many significant releases, but at the conference, we expect to hear and see more about Crash Team Racing Nitro Fueled, Gears 5, The Outer World, Star Wars Jedi: Fallen Order, Wasteland 3 and Wolfenstein. As well as that, we have the latest in the annual sports series like FIFA to look forward to.

It’s not the games with the big reputations that we’re here to talk about today, though. They can take care of themselves, and everybody already knows about them. We want to focus on the quirky or the smaller-scale, the games that might slip through the cracks. There are plenty of great-looking games coming to us in 2019 which are at risk of landing without the fanfare they deserve, and here are our favorites of them.

Fire Emblem: Three Houses

We’ve been waiting for a new console-based entry in the Fire Emblem series for so long now that if you’re a younger gamer, you may never have heard of it at all. This is the sixteenth of the Fire Emblem games, the first to appear on a Nintendo Switch, and the first to appear on any console at all since Fire Emblem: Radiant Dawn in 2007. Since its last console appearance, the games have been living on in handheld format on the 3DS. It’s a thinking person’s tactical RPG game which rewards you as much for smart politics as it does outright combat might. News of the game was first leaked as far back as January 2017, when it was initially slated for a 2018 released. A presentation of the game, along with some in-game footage, was given at last year’s E3, but the game dropped back to 2019. It’s now expected to appear in the second quarter of the year.

Animal Crossing 2019

Sticking with the Switch for a moment (and also with the theme of resurrecting old video game series), there’s a brand new Animal Crossing game coming out in 2019. Again, this may mean nothing to the younger end of the readership, but to those who’ve been gaming since the days of the N64 and remember the original, it’s big news. This will be the first new game in the series (discounting tie-ins) since 2013. For those who are unfamiliar, Animal Crossing is a social-simulation game that takes place in an open world, with a cute cast of anthropomorphic animals. In short, it’s cute. ‘Cute’ is a winning strategy when it comes to creating games of any kind, as the developers of the legendary slot game Fluffy Favourites will happily tell you. Eyecon, who created the online slot, probably couldn’t believe their luck when a game based on stuffed toys became popular with slot players, and Nintendo must have similar feelings about Animal Crossing. Is it the animals that appeal to players? Is it the smart way that Animal Crossing makes use of your system clock to simulate the passing of real time, and incorporate seasonal extras? Who knows. Whatever it is, it works.

Sekiro: Shadows Die Twice

This game may get a little more press than the others; partially because it’s on the PS4 and partially because it’s by From, the developers of the ‘Souls’ series. At first glance, this new game is just another Asian themed fighting game, but in execution it’s more like a younger relative of the classic PlayStation 1 game Bushido Blade, and if you remember that game you might know what I’m about to say. Instead of energy bars or hit-points, Bushido Blade used a one-hit kill system. In real terms, if you slashed someone’s arm with a sword violently, they lost the use of their arm. If you hit them with a blow that would kill them in real life, they died. Sekiro has adopted that system, and given it all the benefits of modern design, set within an action thriller of a game. We’re really looking forward to this one.

Outer Wilds

We’re both excited and nervous about this one. We’ve learned to treat space-based sandbox games with caution after the huge promise and then utter, abject failure of No Man’s Sky. In Outer Wilds, just as you did in No Man’s Sky, you fly across the galaxy in a consistent, real-time manner, landing on planets and searching for hints of an ancient alien civilization. It’s almost like they saw how badly No Man’s Sky went and decided to do it better. Early indications are that this is like an episode of ‘Star Trek: The Next Generation’ turned into a game, with gentle and peaceful aliens to meet, complex cultures to comprehend, and galactic politics to master. Oh, and it’s all set inside a pocket universe of time, which keeps repeating like Groundhog Day. Did we pique your interest? Good. Now we’re not alone. Dreams

Is Dreams truly a video game at all? That depends on your own personal definition of what a video game looks like. This game is being made by Media Molecule, the same people who created Little Big Planet, and it works to the same principle. You can create anything you can imagine inside the game world. With enough work, that could be a completely different computer game. Alternatively it could be a palace, or a movie, or a racing track. If you can dream it, you can do it – hence the name. You can even create your own soundtrack for the game from within the game. This probably sounds complicated – and it is – but if you ever played Little Big Planet you’ll know it’s not as big a deal as it sounds. Plus, even if you don’t want to create anything yourself, you can download anything created by other users and use that to your heart’s content. Part game and part creation hub, Dreams is likely to be the most unique game released in 2019 – if it makes it. It’s a year overdue already!

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