As exciting as the Infamouses and Rock Bands are every year, E3 has a lot more to offer. The show gets much more interesting when you dig past the triple-A stuff and find hidden gems that don't have multi-million dollar marketing campaigns behind them. What follows are the five games I am most excited to check out at E3 2010.

Vindictus (pictured above)

Nexon is a huge player in the free-to-play market, with smash hits Maple Story, Kart Rider, and Dungeon Fighter leading the way. The company has been trying to find a North American strategy that paves the way to move beyond kid-friendly fare and grant legitimacy in the eyes of core gamers. Vindictus is a big step in that direction.

Powered by Valve's Source engine and based around small-scale cooperative dungeon crawls, Vindictus is a third-person hack n' slasher that pushes the boundaries of what we expect from a free-to-play game. The world's vibe – bastardized Celtic mythology viewed through the lens of modern day South Koreans – is fascinating. It's cast firmly in the Diablo mold, with enormous bosses, plenty of loot, and a variety of dungeons to explore and conquer. If the physics-enabled gameplay is tight enough to deliver on the promise of the trailer, Vindictus could surprise a lot of people. I should get hands-on with it at the show, so check back for more in-depth coverage next week.

End of Nations

Petroglyph, an American studio made up of RTS veterans including much of the original Command & Conquer team from now-defunct Westwood Entertainment, has yet to hit its stride. Star Wars: Empire at War and Universe at War: Earth Assault were flawed titles with fascinating concepts behind them. I'm hoping that its next project, End of Nations, breaks that trend. It's certainly got the "fascinating concepts" part down.

Real-time strategy isn't the first genre to spring to mind when someone says "MMO," but that's how Petroglyph is billing End of Nations. The developer touts the fact that over 100 players can play simultaneously on the same map. It also has grand plans for a persistent online world war, with multiple factions constantly battling for control of vital resources in an energy-starved future Earth. Building on the colossal alien walkers from Universe at War, End of Nations features megatanks with dozens of hardpoints that must be individually targeted. Petroglyph and publisher Trion Worlds have bitten off a lot with End of Nations, and I'm very interested to see how well they pull it off.

Sword of the Stars 2

The original gained a strong cult following with its solid turn-based 4X empire building, customizable ship designs, and real-time tactical battles. Canadian developer Kerberos Productions recently announced the sequel, and I'm hoping that it fixes some of the polish issues that kept me from falling entirely in love with the first game – the only way the premise could be further up my alley is if. Very little has been shown of the game, but the devs just made a last-minute decision to come to E3, so there will be more to talk about shortly.

Might & Magic: Clash of Heroes

This Xbox Live Arcade/PlayStation Network adaptation of last year's excellent DS puzzle adventure is looking great, and I'm hopeful that this broader release will expose more gamers to this under-the-radar piece of genius. This is by far the best non-Puzzle Quest attempt at harnessing that same vibe, and sports unique and engaging gameplay rather than simply aping an [BEJEWELED]established game.

Jumpgate: Evolution

I'm going to be real honest with you: I've never cared that much about Jumpgate. It's a sci-fi space MMO with no real hook; it has no Star Wars license, no [[[EVE]]]Wild West player-run economy, no trick to make it stand out from the pack. It's just a large-scale action-oriented space combat simulator. That hasn't stopped developer NetDevil from maintaining enough of a following to keep the lights on and plug away at this head-to-toe rework of the game.

The thing is, I want Jumpgate: Evolution to be good. I've been pining for a good space-based MMORPG since the first time I climbed into the cockpit of a vector graphics Star Wars arcade cabinet. Nothing has come along to scratch that itch the way I'm looking for in all the long years since. Jumpgate: Evolution has the best chance to fulfill that childhood dream. It's been in development basically forever, but I'm hoping that its showing at this year's E3 finally makes an impression.