What was the best game of E3 2017? Was it Insomniac’s flashy new Spider-Man? How about the first new IP from BioWare in years? Maybe it was the long-awaited announcement of Beyond Good and Evil 2. Wrong. It was Mario + Rabbids Kingdom Battle. This is an indisputable fact backed by science. Fite me.
When the game was announced at E3, the initial trailer left a lot to be desired. There was very little gameplay, and the emphasis on Rabbids (a true plague unto this world) was admittedly discouraging. Were we doomed to experience another Mario and Sonic at the Olympic Games? But then Ubisoft showed off extensive gameplay during the Nintendo Treehouse at E3, and holy shit you guys.
The premise here is fairly simple: think XCOM, only instead of an army of shape-shifting aliens, there are a bunch of cutesy Mario and Rabbid characters. On paper this sounds like some kind of weird amalgamation that shouldn’t work, but watching the game in motion has me all sorts of giddy. So much so that I’m attempting to fill the (actually rather short) wait with as much tactical strategy games as I can. Here are the three I’ve been leaning on.
We’ll get the most obvious one out of the way first. XCOM is a masterpiece of tactics and strategy, hindered occasionally by a slightly over-complicated hub management system and soldiers missing shots with a 90% chance to hit. The game built on the previous entry in all the right ways, and, for my money, is the benchmark against all other games in the genre ought to be measured against.
Mario + Rabbids looks to invoke a lot of what XCOM offers, from the soldiers-on-a-grid battlefield to the cover mechanics, which is something I’m all about. If you’re gonna ape a strategy game, you might as well ape the best.
SteamWorld Heist takes that classic XCOM formula and translates it to a 2D plane. It’s kind of remarkable just how smooth the transition is, and how many of the staples of XCOM are actually present here. The difference is that Heist uses a manual aiming system, which alleviates some of the frustrations that the dice rolls of XCOM offer up. There are also no permanent character deaths; instead, downed characters are shuffled to safety post-match.
SteamWorld Heist is a more accessible version of XCOM, which looks to be what Mario + Rabbids is going for, and the shorter missions make Heist an ideal game for shorter play sessions. I was surprised how much I enjoyed this game, and with the Steam Summer Sale likely coming up, now is the perfect chance to give it a shot.
Any Fire Emblem Game
There have been precisely ten thousand Fire Emblem games, even in the last few years. My personal favorite is Awakening for the 3DS. I recently dug it up thanks to the E3 footage of Fire Emblem Warriors, and boy is it still just about perfect. The tactical battles force you to be aware of positioning, a central mechanic of XCOM. You must also note each weapon’s strengths and weakness, and advance your army accordingly, which makes this a solid primer for Mario + Rabbids.
Mario + Rabbids Kingdom Battle really came out of left field as my favorite game of E3 2017, but now it dominates my every waking moment, like some kind of specter that refuses to let me rest. Luckily, we have only a short wait until the game’s August 29 release date.