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E3 Underdogs 2006

For the past couple of years, I’ve tried to highlight the best underdog games at E3, but this year was particularly hard. Partly because I spent most of the day waiting in line to see the Nintendo Wii, but also partly because the entire gaming industry is getting so weird. In catering to the casual gamer and trying to differentiate from the competition, every platform and publisher is spending serious money turning former underdogs into big-name titles.

I saw this trend everywhere at E3, but nowhere more prominent than Nintendo, which threw all the rules out the window with the Wii. The new controller forced every developer to invent new forms of interaction without relying on existing standards, so practically everything in Nintendo’s booth felt new and weird. Even the well-worn Tony Hawk series feels new and interesting when you’re waving your hands all over the place, though it doesn’t seem nearly as well-suited for epics like Zelda.

Beyond Nintendo, I was surprised to see games like Loco Roco and Viva Piñata with huge marketing efforts by Sony and Microsoft. (What hath Katamari wrought?) At this point, it’s hard to say that many of this year’s picks are true underdogs, but they’re all odd. If you want real underdogs, the indie gaming scene is thriving and almost completely unrepresented on the exhibit floor. Anyway, here are picks for the E3 Underdogs of 2006.

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