With three months down and nine to go, 2012 is shaping up to be an interesting one for 3DS owners. We have already seen some great titles for the now one year old Nintendo handheld and there are many more on their way. This list contains the biggest games that are expected to arrive before the end of 2012 that we know of so far. Not all of the games on this list may have solid American release dates yet, but they all seem likely to release before 2013 shows up.
Quarter 2 releases (April, May, and June):
Mario Tennis Open
Releases: May 20
The ever-popular arcade tennis series is getting a new installment this spring. While the traditional face button controls are making a comeback, this time there will also be digital buttons on the touchscreen allowing players to perform lobs and dropshots with just a tap. The classic over-the-top camera view remains but there is also an over-the-shoulder view that promises to make for a more dynamic stereoscopic 3D experience. This time around players will also be able to upgrade their racket to better suit their play style. You can look forward to the same charming blend of arcade fun mixed with real world tennis mechanics that the series is famous for this May.
Rhythm Thief & the Emperor’s Treasure
The Professor Layton and Ace Attorney series have shown us that adventure games have a place on a handheld. Rhythm Thief looks to be trying to follow in their footsteps with what is likely to be one of the oddest 3DS titles releasing this year. Focusing on a young thief named Raphael and his quest to find his father. Gameplay looks to mix brain-bending puzzle solving with rhythm-based challenges. You'll explore the streets of Paris, talk to various residents, and uncover clues that unfold the plot. Adventure game fans can look forward to solving puzzles and busting grooves this spring.
Quarter 3 releases (July, August, and September)
Animal Crossing 3DS (working title)
Announced back in 2010 at E3, Nintendo has stayed very tight lipped about this highly anticipated game. You can expect the same rural village populated with anthropomorphic citizens. You can also expect the same digital world where the days and seasons change in real time. This time players will be working as the mayor of the animal village and help solve any problems the citizens have. There will very likely be a slew of streetpass/spotpass features and online connectivity is confirmed. There is also improved customization (you can now change the color of your pants … finally) and players will have the new ability to swim in the ocean that borders the village. Get ready to be indebted to Tom Nook all over again this summer.
Paper Mario 3DS (working title)
Developer: Intelligent systems
The series with the papercraft visuals that is ironically quite deep will soon be getting its fourth installment. This is the first time the series will be released for a portable console and you can be sure that it will take full advantage of the 3DS’ features. Seeing a world of 2D characters in stereoscopic 3D will promise to be a visually unique experience. Gameplay this time is returning to the turn-based action rpg combat of the first two games in the franchise. There will be a new interface that takes advantage of the touchscreen. They are also aiming to incorporate more platforming and action segments (similar to the Mario & Luigi RPG series) as well as the new sticker system which will act as power-ups. Be prepared to see a lot of paper-based puns later this summer.
Kingdom Hearts 3D: Dream Drop Distance
Developer: Square Enix
Publisher: Square Enix
The seventh installment of the ever popular Final Fantasy/Disney mash-up Kingdom Hearts series is expected out this summer. It will be an entirely new chapter to the story and will feature gameplay elements similar to Final Fantasy Verses XIII. Players will control (in rotation) both Sora and Riku as they hunt, defeat, and collect Dream Eaters. Each individual Dream Eater companion will give the character access to various attacks, abilities, and some co-op actions. One of the key elements will be the “free-flow” mechanic, which will see players take advantage of their surroundings for combat and movement, like a videogame Jackie Chan. It will be compatible with the Circle Pad Pro attachment allowing for dual analog movement and camera control. This game is shaping up to make fans of the series very, very happy.
Theatrhythm Final Fantasy
Publisher: Square Enix
This summer, Final Fantasy looks to blend turn-based rpg with time-based rhythm gameplay in this unique title. The God Chaos seeks to disrupt the rhythm of the world and it's your job, as the God Cosmos, to set it right. Playing along to classic music from the franchise’s history you will use the touchscreen to tap, hold, or swipe along with the beat. With three different modes of play, songs from each Final Fantasy game to-date, and three levels of difficulty, there will be plenty to keep fans of both Final Fantasy and Elite Beat Agents busy tapping their stylus to the beat.
Pokémon Black & White 2
Releases: Q3 2012
Developer: Game Freak
This is the only game on this list that is technically a DS game instead of a 3DS game, but thanks to backwards compatibility 3DS owners will have no problem checking it out. The Pokémon franchise performs a c-c-c-combo breaker by releasing a straight sequel instead of the expected “Pokémon Grey”. Very little is known as of yet, but we know it will be a new plot and there will be new legendaries to collect. The franchise has millions of fans for a reason and they are more than happy to collect ‘em all again for the… twelfth time.
Quarter 4 Releases(October, November, December)
While the remaining games do not have a release date announced beyond the year, they are mostly franchises that have a history of releasing during the holiday season.
Professor Layton and the Mask of Miracle
Release: TBA 2012
Developer: Level 5
Publisher: Level 5
The best selling game in the 3DS’ Japanese launch line-up, the fifth in the charming Professor Layton adventure puzzle series still doesn’t have a solid release date in the West. This is nothing new, as the localization process for these games always takes a while. Western Professor Layton fans have either learned to be very patient or read Japanese. So we already know the plot is about a magical mask that grants wishes which is unfortunately in the hands of someone who is using it to turn people to stone. While this is the fifth game in the series, it is only the second in a prequel trilogy and will follow the events of the origin tale from the fourth game, Professor Layton and the Last Specter. This will mark the first time the series will be rendered in 3D, so prepare your mind to have to think in more dimensions to solve the next gauntlet of brainbenders before year's end.
Fire Emblem Awakening
Releases: TBA 2012
Developer: Intelligent Systems
For years, the Fire Emblem series was exclusive to Japan. Thanks to the popularity of series characters Marth and Roy in Super Smash Bros Melee, Nintendo finally saw fit to release the franchise internationally. A turn-based tactics game with Western medieval folklore and anime styling, the series is known for its engaging plot, deep characters, and permanent consequences for failing in battle. It promises to have new features while retaining traditional elements from past entries. We know players will follow an all-new story of the prince named Krom as he struggles with the turbulent era his Holy Kingdom is going through. Dragons will play a central role in this game, and fans can expect to see the return of old favorite characters, like Marth. This game will also mark the first time a 3DS title will utilize paid downloadable content, so time will tell if Nintendo can innovate this gaming trend for better rather than worse. The game is due in Japan April 19th, but you can expect to ready your sword (stylus) this holiday season.
Luigi's Mansion 2
Releases: TBA 2012
Developer: Next Level Games
Way before Alan Wake and his army of coffee thermoses hit the scene, there was another flashlight-wielding fighter of the supernatural. That’s right, the GameCube launch title Luigi’s Mansion is getting a sequel on the 3DS. Get ready to stun ghosts with light and then vacuum them up with the Poltergust 5000 all in stereoscopic 3D. You'll explore through (at least) three different mansions as you, room by room, free them of specters. Mario creator Shigeru Miyamoto is overseeing production on this one, and has stated that there will be more puzzle-oriented gameplay than the original. We don’t yet know if this game will be compatible with the Circle Pad Pro, but they have stated players can choose to use motion control (via the gyroscope and accelerometer in the handheld) to move the camera. As a first party Nintendo title attached to Shigeru Miyamoto you can expect this game to have a lot more information released during E3 and you can plan on seeing this game on the shelves this holiday season.
Monster Hunter Tri G and Monster Hunter 4
Releases: TBA 2012
This wildly popular action rpg series is immensely popular in Japan and has a sizeable cult following in the States. Players take the role of a hunter in a fantasy environment completing quests that involve hunting or capturing monsters. The main draw of the game is that players can team up online with other hunters to work together and attempt to take down tougher monsters. Tougher monsters equal better parts which allow players to craft better weapons and items. Monster Hunter Tri G was released at the end of last year in Japan as an expanded 3DS version of the Wii’s Monster Hunter Tri and was confirmed for European release in 2012. It was the first game released to support the Circle Pad Pro add-on. Further information for Westerners has been slim, but a new Monster Hunter 4 game exclusive to the 3DS was announced as well for 2012. Either one has a chance of showing up this holiday season at this point. Eager fans will likely get more information this June at E3.