The 3DS Games To Watch For In 2012

by Matt Helgeson on Feb 28, 2012 at 06:30 AM

Yesterday, we gave you our 3DS Essentials, a list of the must-play games for Nintendo’s handheld that have released so far. Today, we’re looking forward to some of the games that should be the highlights of the 3DS lineup for the remainder of 2012.

You can check out the original 3DS Essentials list here.

Rayman Origins
March 20

Rayman Origins was our platforming game of the year in 2011. This 2D platformer combines a high level of difficulty with charming, hand-drawn visuals to create a title that stands aside the best Nintendo-developed platformers on the market. We’ve enjoyed Origins on every platform it’s been released for, and we expect the 3DS version will be just as fun – with one caveat. Sadly, like the recently released Vita version, the 3DS version will not have co-op multiplayer functionality – which was one of the highlights of the console experience.

Kid Icarus: Uprising
March 23

Nintendo fans have been clamoring for the return of the classic NES-era franchise Kid Icarus for years. On March 23, those dreams will come true with Kid Icarus: Uprising, one of Nintendo’s tentpole 3DS releases for 2012. The game strays far from Pit’s 2D roots, recasting the 2D platformer as a 3D shooter of sorts. The action divides itself between on-foot segments and on-rails aerial shooting, giving players some hectic action they can negotiate with a variety of melee and ranged weaponry. I’ve had a chance to play the game and, while I remain hopeful that Nintendo can create a compelling experience, I had some problems with the overall design. That said, it’s certainly one of the most visually flashy 3DS games on the market, and makes good use of the system’s 3D capabilities. For more, check out Phil Kollar’s hands-on impressions.

Rhythm Thief & The Emperor’s Treasure
April 30

In April, Sega is bringing one of the most interesting 3DS titles to date stateside. Rhythm Thief & The Emperor’s Treasure is a unique hybrid title that seeks to balance the rhythm-based, music gameplay of Elite Beat Agents with the mystery-solving adventures of Professor Layton.

Set in modern-day Paris, players explore the city looking for clues used to solve a variety of puzzles, all the while using a host of timed-input mechanics to dance, platform, and even fight with the music. It’s interesting how the game uses rhythm gameplay in a number of forms, not just dancing. You’ll see rhythmic platforming, combat, and even exploration. At times, you’ll even “record” audio in the game to solve certain puzzles. If it succeeds, Rhythm Thief could be a strong new handheld franchise for Sega. Watch this trailer to get an idea of what this odd title looks like.

Luigi’s Mansion 2

The original Luigi’s Mansion was a launch title for the GameCube, and remains one of the most divisive Nintendo games ever. While many felt that the slight gameplay was ultimately forgettable, the game retains a fervent cult following. Luigi’s Mansion 2 was a surprise announcement at Nintendo 2011 E3 press conference, and so far what we’ve seen leads us to believe that this sequel might surpass the original in terms of quality.

Luigi’s Mansion 2 is being developed by Next Level games, a studio that worked magic etooling Punch-Out!! for the Wii. The gameplay is largely the same, though there are slightly more complex combat mechanics (involving using your flashlight to “strobe” ghosts and stun them in order to vacuum off hit points) and a great emphasis on exploration and puzzle solving. For an in-depth look at the game, read our hands-on preview here

Mario Tennis Open
May 20

Mario Tennis hasn’t been the most spectacular Nintendo first-party series, but it’s always delivered a solid and entertaining gameplay experience (with the exception of the headache-inducing Mario’s Tennis for Virtual Boy). Mario Tennis Open marks the franchise’s return to the handheld market, a first since Mario Power Tennis on the GBA. Unlike the uninspired “New Play Control” Wii port of Mario Power Tennis, it’s an all-new title built from the ground up for 3DS.

The game has everything you’d expect from a Mario Tennis game – courts with a few gimmicks, power-ups, and the like. Thankfully, it also has four-player local or online multiplayer, which isn’t always a given on 3DS. You have the option of using traditional, button-based shot mechanics or using the gyroscope and touchscreen to complete more advanced shots. It also has StreetPass functionality for trading win/loss records and leaderboard statistics with other players.

Heroes of Ruin
June 30

Heroes of Ruin is an intriguing upcoming 3DS title. It hasn’t received a lot of hype, perhaps due to developer n-Space’s less-than-stellar track record of porting big franchises to the Nintendo DS and the terrible GameCube game Geist.

However, the Square Enix-published Heroes of Ruin could be a valuable addition to the 3DS’s relatively thin third-party catalog. As a third-person action RPG with a heavy emphasis on item and weapon collection, it’s bucking the trend of lackluster multiplayer options on the handheld with full online drop-in, drop-out co-op. You can also trade items (of which there are over 80,000) both online and with the 3DS’s SpotPass and StreetPass functionality.

The game looks impressive graphically, as you can witness for yourself in this trailer for the game.

Paper Mario 3DS

While it doesn’t have a firm release date, Paper Mario is slated to release in 2012. In many ways, this might be the 3DS game most worth getting excited about. For one, you don’t have to be a game artist to realize how well the Paper Mario series’ traditional “pop-up book” graphics will translate to the 3DS’s 3D display. Based on the trailer we’ve seen, developer Intelligent Systems is going to play around with multiple planes of action in the game. While the trailer emphasizes the more action/platform elements, Paper Mario 3DS sticks closely to the original games in the series, with turn-based combat that gives you bonuses for well-timed button presses.

In the trailer linked above, you’ll see some visual magic – especially a segment where a scissor attack cuts away the very fabric of the world. Let’s hope that Paper Mario 3DS gets an official release date is sooner rather than later. For more on the game, click here

Skylanders Giants
October 30

Activision struck gold with Skylanders: Spyro’s Adventure. It's so popular that many of the game’s most collectible figurines now fetch high prices on eBay. Going back to the well, the company announced a new Skylanders game for Fall, Skylander’s Giants, which – naturally – showcases a new class Skylanders. While we don’t have specific information about the 3DS version, the handheld did an admirable job of handling the original. Hopefully, the same will be true of Giants.

Animal Crossing 3DS

We know it’s coming, although we don’t know when. That’s right, all the pastoral village life you can handle is coming to the 3DS in the form of Animal Crossing 3DS. Nintendo is mum on details regarding the game, but I’m going to go way out on a limb and guess that it’s pretty much the same as every other Animal Crossing game with a few new features added. One thing that sticks out in the trailer above is the ability to swim and graphics that, in many ways, seem even better than the last console Animal Crossing. Screenshots have circulated with an Animal Crossing character dressed as Link from The Legend of Zelda, so there’s also that.

Kingdom Hearts 3D: Dream Drop Distance

While we don’t know when it will be released in the U.S., a purported leaked European release date tells us Dream Drop Distance is coming. Developed by the same team that created Birth By Sleep, this could be the most epic third-party game on the 3DS.

The game stars Sora and Riku, who are both playable characters this time around that can combine to perform special moves together. It takes place after Kingdom Hearts coded and explores worlds based on Fantasia, The Hunchback of Notre Dame, Tron: Legacy, and other Disney favaorites. Expect the usual raft of Disney characters, including Mickey Mouse, Donald Duck, and Goofy. Apparently, the story also sets the scene for the eventual Kingdom Hearts III. Here's a trailer to get you started. 

Not Confirmed, But Possible

There are some highly anticipated 3DS games on the horizon that haven’t been officially confirmed for an American release. However, in these cases, we’d bet a fairly significant amount of money that they will eventually make it to our shores. Let’s hope so.

Fire Emblem: Awakening

This epic RPG in the venerable Fire Emblem series is coming out on April 18 in Japan, and has been officially confirmed for Europe. Nintendo hasn’t said that it’s coming to the U.S., but JRPG fans have all their fingers and toes crossed. For more, check out this lengthy trailer for the game.

Professor Layton vs. Ace Attorney

This Professor Layton/Phoenix Wright crossover seems like it could have system-selling potential, but it’s still not confirmed for U.S. release. Taking place in a medieval setting called Labyrinth City, the game aims to merge the puzzle-gameplay of Layton with the courtroom dramatics of Ace Attorney. Let’s hope that good sense wins out and Capcom brings this one stateside.

Monster Hunter Tri G

In Japan, Monster Hunter is a phenomenon, and this game has been one of the key reasons that the 3DS has seen such strong sales in the region lately. Still, it’s not been as successful in the U.S. to date, and the Capcom representative we exchanged emails with said there is no announced release for America at this time.

Professor Layton and the Mask of Miracle

The latest in the long-running Layton series was a launch title for the 3DS in Japan and became the best-selling day one title for the system. While there is still not an official release date for the U.S., the fact that it’s been confirmed for Europe leads us to believe that this is the most likely of all these titles to see release here in 2012.