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  • Writer's pictureNate Hermanson

E3 2021: Tribeca Games Showcase keeps indie excellence trending at E3

Updated: Jun 20, 2021

32+ events, six days, hundreds of games, all the hype. E3 week means gaming announcements of all sizes and we're here to make sure you can catch all of the news possible at a glance.

Day 2 of chaos week pumped the brakes after the duo of E3 kickoff events featured over 50 different newsworthy premieres.

Yesterday, Day of the Devs's offerings left us itching for more independent artistry. Tribeca heard the call and came on strong with the first ever digital Tribeca Games Showcase.

Read on to find out how this show of indie supremacy not only took the baton from Double Fine and iam8bit's stream just 24 hours before, but ran with it at full speed to meet them at the winner's podium.

After hosting some of the film industry's best for nearly a decade with its iconic film festival, Tribeca decided to bring games into the fold with the inaugural Tribeca Games Festival in 2017. Since then, the initiative has shifted its focus from highlighting industry icons to uplifting the voices of independent creators.

Eight games were selected from open submissions to compete for the inaugural Tribeca Games Award, offering a chance to be showcased under Keighley's Summer Game Fest Banner and judged by a panel of legendary storytellers: Jon Favreau (Iron Man, Chef), Nia DaCosta (Captain Marvel 2, Little Woods), Bing Gordon (co-founder of Electronic Arts), Geoff Keighley (Gamer Jail escapee), Hideo Kojima (Metal Gear Solid, Death Stranding), Sam Lake (Max Payne, Alan Wake), and Kiki Wolfkill (Halo transmedia head).

This murderer's row of iconic individuals will evaluate the "potential for excellence in art and storytelling through design, artistic mastery and highly immersive worlds" in these unreleased games.

The stakes are high, the scene is set... so how are the competitors? Let's introduce you to the crew.


An in-game screenshot of the upcoming release Harold Halibut. It shows a reverse shot of the main character talking to on of the ship's inhabitants. They are completely hand-crafted clay models.

Harold Halibut is a point and click inspired adventure game and a labor of love from indie studio Slow Bros. All sets and characters are handcrafted by the studio's artists, then digitized into 3D models using photogrammetry. It tells the story of a group of people who hopped on a city-sized spaceship to run from the Cold War, only to find themselves stranded at the bottom of the ocean on an alien planet.

A promotional image for the upcoming release, Kena: Bridge of Spirits. It shows the main character Kena sitting in an open field of a forest, with a circle of small black companion characters from the species known as the Rot.

Kena: Bridge of Spirits is a narrative-driven action-adventure game that follows the young Spirit Guide, Kena. On her way to an abandoned village in search of a sacred mountain shrine, she helps shepherd trapped and corrupted souls into the afterlife with the help of her adorable companion spirits, the Rot. Developers Ember Lab have crafted a beautiful game that could compete with the best animated films out there and it's no surprise, considering the co-founding brothers Mike and Josh Grier came to the table with a film-making background.

A promotional image for the upcoming release, Lost in Random. It depicts the main character Even standing in front of a giant gate. The gate has a die with three pips. Next to Even is her small dice companion, Dicey.

Lost in Random is an action-adventure game whose Victorian fairytale style stands somewhere between Tim Burton and LAIKA. Sisters Even and Odd are separated by the board game-obsessed Evil Queen and the journey back together is fraught with danger. Lucky for Even, she's got a little die friend named Dicey who, when rolled, provides boosts in combat. Best of all, the development team at Zoink Games just looks jolly as all get out.

An in-game screenshot from the upcoming release, NORCO. It depicts a group of teens sitting underneath an overpass, waiting just in front of a curtain.

NORCO takes players into the Southern Gothic world of the small industrialized town of Norco, Louisiana, in search of a missing family member. With developer Geography of Robots' unique take on the point and click genre, players explore Norco's sunken suburbs and industrial swamps, all realized with beautifully dithered pixel art. Some of the game's abstract systems are hard to parse from the outside, but the style on display is infectious.

An in-game screenshot of upcoming exploration game, Sable. It shows the main character Sable walking through a stark desert landscape. Her scooter vehicle stands just to her side and far off buildings can be seen in the background.

Sable is an exploratory adventure game that feels like the lovechild of ICO and Breath of the Wild. For the first time, we were given an extended discussion on the game's story of self-discovery. Sable embarks on a rite of passage, the gliding, that takes her through the alien landscape of her home planet. Littered with the corpses of giant beasts and ancient temples, Sable will learn just as much about herself as she will her homeland.

An in-game screenshot of upcoming release, Signalis. It depicts the main character standing in a cramped metallic room of a factory with two lanky beasts closing in on her.

Signalis is a survival horror throwback done up in pixels and claustrophobia. With shifting perspectives, the rose-engine developed game places you in first person to explore an abandoned facility's tucked away rooms, solve puzzles and unearth ancient tech. Then, it takes you high with a topdown view of your surroundings as you fight the horrifying monsters you find hiding in the shadows. Think high fidelity GBA port of Resident Evil 1 set in a sci-fi landscape.

An in-game screenshot of upcoming adventure game, The Big Con. With a 90's color scheme, it depicts the main character Ali trying on a new costume piece. It's a pair of shades that a bubble above reads as "cool shades".

The Big Con is the 90s fever dream you've been waiting for, delivered in an enticing package by Mighty Yell. This cross-country teenage adventure game puts you in the shoes of Ali, a young grifter who will lie, cheat, and steal her way across the country all in the name of saving her mother's video store. Pulling from toons like Hey Arnold and Doug, The Big Con serves up nostalgia in spades. Tie in some unique non-violent crime action and you've got a title unlike any other on the market.

An in-game screenshot of the upcoming thriller video game, Twelve Minutes. From a top-down perspective, we can see a man restraining the husband character, just in front of the open bathroom door. In the middle of the room, the wife character has already been restrained.

And finally. 12 Minutes. Developed by Luis Antonio and featuring an all-star Hollywood cast (Daisy Ridley, James McAvoy, and Willem Dafoe,) this interactive thriller throws a husband and wife into turmoil when a supposed cop shows up and accuses the wife of patricide. Just when you think things couldn't get more chaotic, the husband finds himself warped back to the start of the night, forced to relive the night and to try to figure out how to break out of it.


We'll have to wait and see who stands a notch above the rest when a Tribeca winner is announced, but until then, watch the full showcase above and keep all of these incredible games on your to-play list. Tribeca has also attempted something unique with the "festival" portion of things, allowing viewers to sign up for appointments to try out timed demos for each of these games. By the time anyone could try to sign up, they were of course all booked out, but it's an innovative take on a digital event and I'd love to see this format expanded. Even when we can actually all hang out again.

Indies have stolen the show for me thus far at E3 and I'm not sure if anything else stands a chance at overtaking them. But we're only two days into the festivities and we're ready to be shocked. Keep your eyes locked on VGG over the next week to catch our analysis and breakdowns of everything E3.

Did you miss our Day of the Devs wrap-up? Click here to check it out for more upcoming indie hits!

Don't forget to visit us on Twitch for live reactions to this week's events. Share the excitement with us at our next stream on Saturday, June 12, beginning at 10 a.m. PST with the Wholesome Games Direct.


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