SLIDESHOW

The 15 Hottest Games and Gaming Hardware of E3 2011

This year's E3 Expo, which runs June 7 through June 9, looks to be the most exciting in years. Here are 15 reasons why, including cool new games and a big Nintendo announcement.

Preview of a Gamer's Paradise: E3 Expo 2011

Some of these games and gear are rumors. Others you've barely seen. And then there's the enigmatic Project Café, the follow-up to Nintendo's all-time bestselling gaming console, the Wii, which has been surpassed in lifetime sales only by Sony's PlayStation and PlayStation 2. This year's E3 Expo could be the most exciting gaming event in years. Here's a look at the announcements we expect.

Batman: Arkham City--Expected October 18

How do you one-up Batman: Arkham Asylum? Keep everything the same, and add more of it--more venues, sneaking, sleuthing, gizmos, puzzles, riddles, fights, and, yep, more Joker. He's back, as is the first-class third-person battle engine. Look for our Arkham City show coverage next week, and for the game to ship October 18.

See: Batman: Arkham City Announced, Coming in 2011

For: PC, PS3, Xbox 360

Bioshock Infinite--Expected in 2012

"Infinite" may sound a little Buzz Lightyear, but so what? Want to fly around a floating steampunk city-in-the-clouds that its creator compares to the Death Star? Irrational Games' upcoming title--part first-person shooter, part mind-bending dystopia tale--has you covered, and we're happy to go hands-on with it, even if we won't be able to until 2012.

See: Fly the Unfriendly Skies in BioShock Infinite

For: PC, PS3, Xbox 360

Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3--Expected November 8

So far, Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3 looks less like a series of modern conflicts than an epic disaster flick just shy of something involving planet-devouring asteroids, Bruce Willis, and a Moonraker-style outer-space jaunt. Whatever the case, you want it--you know you do.

See: Modern Warfare 3 Will Be Ridiculous, Hit November 8

For: PC, PS3, Xbox 360

Dark Souls--No Date Set

If you thought Demon's Souls was hard, watch out for Dark Souls, an action role-playing game by the same developer (the creators had to change the name after shifting publishers). Think "Diablo for sophisticated, masochistic gamers," and you're on the right track.

See: Demon's Souls, The Hardest Game You've Ever Played

For: PS3, Xbox 360

The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim--Expected November 11

Continuing the sprawling, open-world saga of Tamriel, Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim takes place in, well, Skyrim--a craggy, snow-filled province that looks vaguely Icelandic. Though the last game, Oblivion, seemed positively dragon-averse, you can expect Skyrim to add the legendary flying beasts and more, from mammoths to saber-toothed tigers, roaming some 16 square miles of tourable turf. It's due November 11.

See: Bethesda Releases New Elder Scrolls Skyrim Trailer

For: PC, PS3, Xbox 360

Gears of War 3--Expected September 20

The "gears" in Gears of War may look like bull-necked tools, but the third-person tactical-shooter series tells an absorbing sci-fi story. Gears of War 3 promises to wrap it up and answer your lingering questions about what's what when it's released this September.

See: Gears of War 3 to Launch September 20, Earlier Than Expected

For: Xbox 360

Grand Theft Auto V--No Date Set

Maybe they will, maybe they won't, but all eyes are on Rockstar for a Grand Theft Auto update, since the publisher's only other publicly acknowledged game in the hopper is Max Payne 3. Also: Casting calls and info leaks suggest that the next GTA installment is definitely under way.

See: Grand Theft Auto Refresh Expected

Halo 4--No Date Set

Would you rather see the original Halo remade (as rumored), or a brand-new Halo? Microsoft needs showstoppers to fend off Nintendo's new console, and a Halo 4 announcement could do the trick--especially if it takes risks that the series frankly hasn't taken since the original in 2001.

See: 5 Ways Halo Influenced Gaming

Mass Effect 3--No Date Set

Mass Effect was a poorly paced role-playing muddle, but Mass Effect 2 mostly remedied the problems. If Mass Effect 3 can (finally) pull off decent shooter controls, it ought to be a satisfying finale. Ready to tangle with the Reapers? We'll tell you how the game's shaping up.

See: First Mass Effect 3 Screenshots Released

For: PC, PS3, Xbox 360

Metal Gear Solid Rising--No Date Set

You know how kung fu beats modern weapons in Kung Fu Panda 2? Think like that, only imagine a cyborg instead of a panda, and (probably) nukes in lieu of cannons. It's been too long since we had a look at this one, announced way back at E3 2009. This year, we're hoping for hands-on time.

See: Metal Gear Solid Rising: 6 Things to Expect From the Game

For: PC, PS3, Xbox 360

Nintendo Project Cafe: The Next Console (and More?)

You might as well rename E3 2011 "The Debut of Nintendo's Next Console." We're expecting high-definition graphics, a new tablet-style controller, and a bunch of first-party game demos. Also, we're hearing that Nintendo is holding back some pretty big surprises. We'll find out come Tuesday morning.

See: No Rumor: Nintendo Confirms Wii Successor in 2012

Sony Next-Generation Portable

We already know all there is to know about Sony's PSP successor technically speaking, but we've yet to lay hands on one. Expect Sony to present games and release timeframes as it struggles to shift the spotlight away from its PlayStation Network fiasco.

See: Sony PSP 'Next Generation Portable' Looks Stunning, Plays PS3 Games

The Last Guardian--No Date Set

Remember Ico? Shadow of the Colossus? The Last Guardian is Fumito Ueda and Team Ico's third title in this action-game-meets-major-Zen-moments series. It has also been repeatedly delayed, but we're hoping for our first hands-on look this year.

See: No The Last Guardian in 2011, No ICO/Shadow of the Colossus This Spring

For: PS3

Thief 4--No Date Set

Before Assassin's Creed, we played a PC game called Thief. We know that Thief 4 is in the offing--and has been since May 2009--but we've yet to see it (save for the crude rumored development shot shown here). The developer calls Thief 4 "an incredibly ambitious project." Let's hope it isn't too ambitious to hope for a bit of hands-on time next week.

See: Thief 4 Announced, Eidos Declares Game Is 'Incredibly Ambitious'

Uncharted 3--Expected November 1

Last but not least is Uncharted 3, sequel to the award-gobbling action-adventure game Uncharted 2: Among Thieves. After tropical jungles and wintry mountainscapes, Uncharted 3 (due November 1) takes us to the Rub' al Khali, an honest-to-goodness desert in the Middle East. Think sand, in other words, and plenty of it.

See: Uncharted 3: Drake's Deception, It's Officially Happening

For: PS3