LittleBigPlanet 2 (PS3; Media Molecule, Sony; Q4 2010)
Do we need to explain why we're stoked for this one? Before the system got on its feet and Blu-ray won the format war, this was basically the only reason most people had to buy a PS3, and what a reason! Innovative 2.5-D platforming, cute and customizable characters, user-designed levels, lots of worthwhile DLC… how can the developers possibly top, or even equal, the original game? Well, they're trying to expand the gameplay, allowing users to create all sorts of levels: puzzles, racing, even RPG. They might have bitten off more than they can chew here, but hopefully they can handle it.
Sonic the Hedgehog 4: Episode 1 (XBLA, PSN, WiiWare; Dimps, Sonic Team, SEGA; Late 2010)
Unlike Mario, Sonic never managed to fit in, in the world of 3-D gaming. Finally, the powers that be have done what they should have years ago: scrapped the idea of a 3-D Sonic entirely, and returned the little varmint to the colorful, loop-strewn 2-D world that made him famous. Level design is everything in 2-D platformers, of course, and given Nintendo's ability to keep Mario alive in both 2-D and 3-D form (see the New Super Mario Bros. Wii and Super Mario Galaxy 2), our favorite hedgehog is up against some stiff competition from our favorite chunky Italian plumber. But we have faith that SEGA can pull it off, and the videos we've seen thus far are very promising. We hope to see more crazy levels coming out of E3.
Music / Rhythm
Guitar Hero: Warriors of Rock (Xbox 360, PS3, Wii; Neversoft, Vicarious Visions, Activision; Q4 2010)
The franchise that set off the rhythm-game mania, the granddaddy of them all, returns. This title adds a story to the basic play-along-with-the-song gameplay, and the Brütal Legend comparisons have been flying. Evidently, the developers have taken their cues from dragon- and lava-covered heavy-metal album covers, and because of legal issues, all the characters will be fictional. Gene Simmons narrates. Also, the Wii version will have some DS compatibility, and the Xbox 360 version may utilize Project Natal. All this could breathe life into a genre that's growing stale. Or, it could depart too far from that genre's strengths. E3 will bring us one step closer to knowing which is the case.
Rock Band 3 (Platforms unannounced, but probably Xbox 360, PS3, and Wii; Harmonix, MTV Games, EA; Holiday 2010)
Is the rhythm genre finally losing steam? Have kids decided to start playing real instruments, which aren't that much more expensive or hard to learn, instead? We'll find out later this year, when Rock Band 3 joins Warriors of Rock in the Christmas-season lineup. Today, new songs are constantly available for download on the previous iterations of rhythm games, so without adding a story, there isn't a whole lot a new game can contribute, but the Rock Band developers are trying; in addition to "pro" mode, there will actually be a keytar accessory. Somebody please stop the madness.