The 3DS games are coming! 15 exclusives you can play before the end of this year

Everyone who bought a 3DS did so in hopes of greener, future pastures – not the notoriouslyweak launch lineup– but publisher negativity and last month’s abrupt price cut now has some wondering and worrying if the worthwhile games will ever arrive. Sure, current owners get a bunch offree NES/GBA titlesas compensation, but we didn’t buy Nintendo’s handheld for a history lesson.

Have faith! The real 3DS games are coming soon, and in a much greater number than you might realize. Let’s look at what 2011 has in store for those brave enough to call themselves early adopters.

The heavy hitters

Super Mario 3D Land

Release: November 2011

Mario and Nintendo platforms go together like hammers and barrels, so it was to no one’s surprise when Nintendo revealed that they’d have a new Mario Bros. game out for the 3DS. Still, it’s good to see that, instead of taking the easy way out and releasing a New! New! Super Mario Bros., Nintendo has created something much more unique for Mario’s first proper entry on their fledgling handheld. Super Mario 3D Land is a full 3D Mario game that promises to play like a mix between Super Mario 64 and Super Mario Galaxy, with large interactive worlds and the return of long-lost elements from the earlier games, including the fan favorite Tanooki Mario suit.

But the Tanooki suit isn’t the only throwback to classic Mario—the game looks chock-full of nods to the earlier entries in the series. We’ve seen areas that throw the game into two dimensions, and even a level that takes place on top of large, pixilated mushrooms. Nintendo claims that Super Mario 3D Land is the “the most Mario-like 3D Mario game,” and from what we’ve seen so far we can’t find any reasons to disagree. In many ways, this can be seen as Nintendo’s first real game on the platform, and it should give us a good look at what they have planned for the future of the platform. Also, Tanooki suit.

Mario and Nintendo platforms go together like hammers and barrels, so it was to no one’s surprise when Nintendo revealed that they’d have a new Mario Bros. game out for the 3DS. Still, it’s good to see that, instead of taking the easy way out and releasing a New! New! Super Mario Bros., Nintendo has created something much more unique for Mario’s first proper entry on their fledgling handheld. Super Mario 3D Land is a full 3D Mario game that promises to play like a mix between Super Mario 64 and Super Mario Galaxy, with large interactive worlds and the return of long-lost elements from the earlier games, including the fan favorite Tanooki Mario suit.

But the Tanooki suit isn’t the only throwback to classic Mario—the game looks chock-full of nods to the earlier entries in the series. We’ve seen areas that throw the game into two dimensions, and even a level that takes place on top of large, pixilated mushrooms. Nintendo claims that Super Mario 3D Land is the “the most Mario-like 3D Mario game,” and from what we’ve seen so far we can’t find any reasons to disagree. In many ways, this can be seen as Nintendo’s first real game on the platform, and it should give us a good look at what they have planned for the future of the platform. Also, Tanooki suit.

Shinobi

Release: November 2011

You thought everything on this list would be published by Nintendo, didn’t you? Ha! Sega showed you. Shinobi is back, and its 3DS outing looks like one of the most promising entries in the series’ recent history. The ninja franchise is returning to its 2D platforming roots, and will have players jumping, slashing, and generally flipping out, as ninjas are known to do.

But just because they’re throwing it back into 2.5D doesn’t mean the hero hasn’t learned a few new tricks. Shinobi’s 3DS outing has some neat new twists beyond jumping out of the screen in 3D; players have a wide assortment of katana strikes, shuriken throws, and ninja skills to use, as well as the ability to parry attacks mid-air, leading to awesome, ninja-tastic moments that left us completely enthralled. We were also impressed by the difficulty—it’s good to see a game with teeth nowadays, and if the sections we’ve played are any indication, no one will be making it out without at least a few battle scars.

You thought everything on this list would be published by Nintendo, didn’t you? Ha! Sega showed you. Shinobi is back, and its 3DS outing looks like one of the most promising entries in the series’ recent history. The ninja franchise is returning to its 2D platforming roots, and will have players jumping, slashing, and generally flipping out, as ninjas are known to do.

But just because they’re throwing it back into 2.5D doesn’t mean the hero hasn’t learned a few new tricks. Shinobi’s 3DS outing has some neat new twists beyond jumping out of the screen in 3D; players have a wide assortment of katana strikes, shuriken throws, and ninja skills to use, as well as the ability to parry attacks mid-air, leading to awesome, ninja-tastic moments that left us completely enthralled. We were also impressed by the difficulty—it’s good to see a game with teeth nowadays, and if the sections we’ve played are any indication, no one will be making it out without at least a few battle scars.

Sonic Generations 3DS

Release: November 2011

On consoles, half of Sonic Generations is going to take place racing through 2D classic levels (which look fantastic), and half of the game will take place in 3D in behind-the-back chase sequences (which look on-par with the series’ typical behind-the-back chase sequences). We’re going to say what everyone is thinking: why don’t they just cut out those generally lackluster 3D levels entirely? Lucky for 3DS owners, the handheld version is going to do just that.

All of Sonic Generations 3DS will take place in 2.5D, with 3D character models popping out of the screen while Sonic runs through some of the best levels in the series’ history as both “classic” and “modern” Sonic. When we saw the game a few weeks back, we said that the classic Sonic levels felt like the 16-bit versions, while the modern ones mimicked Sonic 4, and that’s something we’re totally cool with. Usually, the handheld iterations of games are weaker than the console releases, but it looks like this might be one of the rare instances where the roles are reversed.

Mario Kart 7

Release: December 2011

The 3DS has actually already been host to a number of racing games. So far, none have succeeded in rising above mediocrity, or doing much more than making us really excited for Mario Kart 7, the first numbered entry in the Mario Kart franchise. Mario Kart 7 looks jam packed with awesome content, even when compared to the Wii version from 2008. Being able to not just change vehicles, but customize them is a fantastic addition to the racing franchise, and we’re excited to see what Nintendo does with the added underwater and glider sections. So far, they haven’t felt all that different from the ground portions, but we’re hoping Nintendo has a trick or two that we haven’t seen yet.

But what really makes Mario Kart 7 exiting is the multiplayer functionality. We doubt Nintendo is planning on reinventing the wheel when it comes to multiplayer, but if it’s anything like Mario Kart DS, we can rest assured that it’s going to be the multiplayer game on the handheld—the one we reach for whenever we spy another 3DS from across the room. We’re also looking forward to clocking some good time playing with gamers from around the world, and finally making use of that 3DS friend list beyond seeing what our friends’ favorite games are.

The 3DS has actually already been host to a number of racing games. So far, none have succeeded in rising above mediocrity, or doing much more than making us really excited for Mario Kart 7, the first numbered entry in the Mario Kart franchise. Mario Kart 7 looks jam packed with awesome content, even when compared to the Wii version from 2008. Being able to not just change vehicles, but customize them is a fantastic addition to the racing franchise, and we’re excited to see what Nintendo does with the added underwater and glider sections. So far, they haven’t felt all that different from the ground portions, but we’re hoping Nintendo has a trick or two that we haven’t seen yet.

But what really makes Mario Kart 7 exiting is the multiplayer functionality. We doubt Nintendo is planning on reinventing the wheel when it comes to multiplayer, but if it’s anything like Mario Kart DS, we can rest assured that it’s going to be the multiplayer game on the handheld—the one we reach for whenever we spy another 3DS from across the room. We’re also looking forward to clocking some good time playing with gamers from around the world, and finally making use of that 3DS friend list beyond seeing what our friends’ favorite games are.

Kid Icarus: Uprising

Release: TBD 2011

It’s been too long since Kid Icarus’s Pit starred in his own title. Now, the hero is not only getting his first game in nearly 20 years, but he’s starring in one of the 3DS’s first killer apps, and we’re really, really excited by his return. Kid Icarus: Uprising doesn’t share all that much in common with its NES and Game Boy predecessors when it comes to gameplay. Instead of Metroid-like 2D platformer, Pit will make use of his wings, flying through the air and shooting down foes before engaging them in hack-and-slash combat on the ground. It’s a big departure, but the inclusion of classic allies and enemies should help us feel as though it’s still connected.

Nintendo hasn’t given a firm date yet, but they’re pretty sure Pit will take flight again by the end of the year, and considering this was one of the first titles shown off for the handheld, we’re really hoping they’re right—for their sakes and ours.

NEXT PAGE: Pokémon, Star Fox and Professor Layton (sorta)

It’s been too long since Kid Icarus’s Pit starred in his own title. Now, the hero is not only getting his first game in nearly 20 years, but he’s starring in one of the 3DS’s first killer apps, and we’re really, really excited by his return. Kid Icarus: Uprising doesn’t share all that much in common with its NES and Game Boy predecessors when it comes to gameplay. Instead of Metroid-like 2D platformer, Pit will make use of his wings, flying through the air and shooting down foes before engaging them in hack-and-slash combat on the ground. It’s a big departure, but the inclusion of classic allies and enemies should help us feel as though it’s still connected.

Nintendo hasn’t given a firm date yet, but they’re pretty sure Pit will take flight again by the end of the year, and considering this was one of the first titles shown off for the handheld, we’re really hoping they’re right—for their sakes and ours.

NEXT PAGE: Pokémon, Star Fox and Professor Layton (sorta)