Below are key video games expected to be released before the end of 2012. All release dates are Tuesdays unless otherwise noted. Click on any platform icon to go to the corresponding page for that game.
Borderlands 2 Watch trailers
2K Games | Available for
The first major release of the fall is a sequel to Gearbox's surprise 2009 hit Borderlands. Like the original, Borderlands 2 is a cartoony hybrid of RPG and first-person shooter, in which you play as one of four new characters in a skewed "space western" setting (the game takes place five years after the events of the original). While the sequel doesn't depart too far from the first game's formula, you can expect every aspect of the game to be refined and expanded; the Borderlands 2's development budget was twice as large as the original's. There are already plans for four DLC add-ons that can be purchased together at a discount.
Baldur's Gate: Enhanced Edition
The classic RPG (including the Tales of the Sword Coast expansion) comes to iOS devices for the first time, and also returns to PCs (via Beamdog) in a remade version that allows for cross-platform multiplayer and adds some new content and functionality.
September 20 (Thursday)
Runic's Diablo-esque action-RPG dungeon crawler (introduced in 2009's Torchlight) finally gets multiplayer gameplay, in the form of online and local co-op. You can also expect a much longer campaign, weather effects, and four new character classes.
Dead or Alive 5 Watch trailers
Tecmo Koei | Available for
While the last two installments in the fighting series were Xbox exclusives, this month's Dead or Alive 5 will get a simultaneous release on both the 360 and the PS3. The new game—the first major DOA title in seven years, in case you're keeping score at home—will add some MMA fighting techniques to the usual assortment of moves, while also allowing more interactions with your environment (including constantly shifting backdrops) as you fight. In addition to a mix of new and returning DOA characters like Ryu Hayabusa, the game will also include Akira Yuki and Sarah Bryant from Sega's Virtua Fighter series.
World of Warcraft: Mists of Pandaria Watch trailers
Blizzard Entertainment | Available for
Will a new expansion reignite your interest in paying a monthly fee for the privilege of playing World of Warcraft? Blizzard hopes that the loosely Asian-themed Mists of Pandaria (the fourth WoW expansion overall) will do just that, and make you forget that more and more online games are ditching that monthly charge. You'll get to explore a new continent (that would be the misty Pandaria), while the war between the Alliance and Horde will get a new emphasis. The panda-like Pandaren, introduced back in Warcraft III, will also be added as a playable race, while the level cap will increase once again, the game adds a new monk class, and your fuzzy companions will finally be able to fight via a new, Pokemon-like pet battle system. WoW lost over one million subscribers in the six months from February to August, but perhaps some kung-fu pandas will entice some of them back.
Pro Evolution Soccer 2013
Konami's annual soccer title, not coincidentally, is out the same day, and it too offers refined controls, while adding the full Brazilian national league for the first time. The big question is whether the various incremental improvements will be enough to close the gap with EA's superior rival.
September 27 (Thursday)
The latest Angry Birds sequel focuses not on the foul-tempered fowl but the green pigs that are their enemies; expect a new, contraption-building gameplay mechanic rather than the customary slingshot.
Resident Evil 6 Watch trailers
Capcom | Available for
Arriving just a few weeks after Paul W.S. Anderson's latest cinematic masterpiece, Resident Evil: Retribution, hits theaters, the newest installment in the long-running survival horror franchise is set in the distant future—well, 2013—over a decade after the Raccoon City incident. You'll get to choose among three separate but connected scenarios, each with its own protagonist (Leon, Chris, and newcomer Jake) and setting (the U.S., the fictitious Eastern European state of Edonia, and a Hong Kong-like Chinese city, all of which are the targets of bioterrorist attacks), and you can play alone or in co-op mode. A Windows version is expected at a later date.
2K Sports' annual NBA title is "executive produced" by Jay-Z, and features the 1992 and 2012 U.S. Olympic teams in addition to current professional rosters and "legends" ranging from Shaquille O'Neal to Wilt Chamberlain.
October 7 (Sunday)
Dishonored Watch trailers
Bethesda Softworks | Available for
This sequel to—wait ... what do you know? Apparently, it is possible to release an original title in the fall. Given a steampunk design by one of the artists behind Half-Life 2, Arkane Studios' new stealth action-adventure game takes place in the rat-infested industrial city of Dunwall, while gameplay combines elements of BioShock and Deus Ex and changes to adapt to how good or evil you behave (without preferring one or the other). Feel free to kill no one at all, or take the opposite approach and forget all about stealth and go on a shooting spree. In addition to a variety of conventional weapons at your disposal (daggers, pistols, swords), you'll get a chance to tinker with supernatural powers and unique gadgets.
Fable: The Journey Watch trailers
Microsoft Game Studios | Available for KINECT REQUIRED
This Kinect exclusive is a stand-alone spinoff from Lionhead Studios' Fable series, and it marks a switch to the first-person shooter genre (though it retains some adventure and RPG elements). One of the few Kinect titles that can be played sitting down, Journey asks you to wave your arms around to cast various spells and guide your horse, though you'll also get to engage in activities like fishing in a variety of minigames. Developers suggest that the finished project marks a major improvement over the preliminary version that went over poorly at last year's E3 conference—and they swear it's a serious game and not the family-friendly entertainment that was originally advertised—but judge for yourself when the playable demo arrives on Monday, September 17th.
XCOM: Enemy Unknown Watch trailers
2K Games | Available for
While XCOM, 2K's tactical shooter reboot of the beloved but long-dormant X-COM franchise, continues to languish in development hell (with a 2013-14 release window now likely), Sid Meier's Firaxis Games (best known for the Civilization franchise) has developed the strategy-action title Enemy Unknown, a reimagining of 1994's X-COM: UFO Defense (also known as UFO: Enemy Unknown). Set in the present day, the new game puts you in command of the secretive XCOM Project, which is charged with defending Earth against an invasion by a technologically superior alien race. Gameplay combines some real-time strategy with turn-based combat, and a multiplayer mode allows you to engage in one-on-one tactical battles. The PC version was named the best PC game of this year's E3 conference by a panel of game critics.
Just Dance 4 KINECT REQUIRED MOVE REQUIRED
The latest installment in the dance game franchise adds a dance battle mode and features licensed music by Carly Rae Jepsen, One Direction, Nicki Minaj, Maroon 5, Rihanna, and more.
This first-person shooter will feature storylines from six different James Bond films, including the new Skyfall, with Daniel Craig providing the voice for Bond in each one (yes, even the older storylines, like Moonraker). The game will also come to the Wii U at some point in Q4 or Q1 2013.
Dance Central 3 KINECT REQUIRED
The other dance franchise (the one that gets better reviews than Just Dance, but is a 360 exclusive) returns with a new version that features an 8-player party mode and wider-ranging song choices that include classics from Shannon, the Village People, JJ Fad, Vanilla Ice, and Daft Punk in addition to newer tracks from LMFAO, Usher, and more.
Silent Hill: Book of Memories
The survival horror franchise comes to the PS Vita for the first time with a dungeon crawler that is actually the first multiplayer installment in the series, allowing up to four people to play cooperatively.
Medal of Honor: Warfighter Watch trailers
Electronic Arts | Available for
In 2010, EA rebooted its first-person shooter franchise Medal of Honor—moving the action from WWII to the current Afghanistan war—to unspectacular though financially successful results. The latter means there's now a sequel. In single-player campaign mode, Warfighter features two playable characters (including Preacher from the previous game) and new locations ranging from the Philippines to Somalia. Multiplayer modes, meanwhile, come from a new development team. An extra $10 DLC package will let you play maps tied to the upcoming Osama Bin Laden-hunting movie Zero Dark Thirty. Though a Wii U release was originally a possibility, the game was not included in today's announcement of launch titles for the new console.
This spinoff from the ongoing Forza Motorsport series switches things up a bit; Horizon is an open-world game (think spontaneous street races) set in and around a fictitious Colorado music festival.
October 28 (Sunday)
Professor Layton and the Miracle Mask
One of the 3DS launch titles in Japan over a year ago, the latest Professor Layton adventure-puzzler finally reaches the rest of the world this October, but to make up for the wait, purchasers will get one free extra puzzle a day for a full year. Meanwhile, Japanese gamers will also finally be able to pick up Professor Layton vs. Ace Attorney on November 29, but there's no word of a U.S. release for that crossover title.
Assassin's Creed III Watch trailers
Ubisoft | Available for
Probably the most anticipated fall game that doesn't have the words "Call of Duty" in its title, Assassin's Creed III will conclude the story of Desmond Miles, who finally gets a chance to prevent the world from ending in December 2012. (Just in case he fails, you should probably spend most of November playing the game.) The bulk of the action, however, will take place around the time of the American Revolution, centering on new protagonist Connor Kenway, who is half English and half Native American (but 100% anti-Redcoat). You'll get to take part in major historical events in the late 18th century, explore the American frontier, and do a bit more shooting that you would normally do in an Assassin's Creed title. A related PS Vita game, titled Assassin's Creed III: Liberation and starring a female assassin, is out the same day, while a Wii U version of the main game will arrive sometime between November and March.
Halo 4 Watch trailers
Microsoft Game Studios | Available for
Scores for the first trilogy of Halo games: 97 / 95 / 94. Can Halo 4 maintain that level of critical acclaim while launching a brand-new trilogy? Complicating matters is the arrival of a new development studio, 343 Industries, which takes over the franchise after the departure of originators Bungie. Of course, it still has the word "Halo" on the box, so it's virtually certain to be a hit. The new game features your old pal Master Chief as a playable protagonist in the story-driven campaign mode, which mostly takes place on the new planet of Requiem and is designed to add a bit more exploration and mystery to the usual formula of shoot, shoot, and shoot. If you're more concerned with the latter, the new "Infinity" multiplayer features various war games that will allow you to customize your gear (and, oh yeah, everybody sprints now). Even better, a new objective-based co-op story mode called Spartan Ops will have weekly missions for you and up to three of your friends to accomplish, serving as a second campaign after you finish the first.
Harvest Moon 3D: A New Beginning
Help the run-down Echo Village regain its mojo in the latest installment in the sim-RPG series, which adds a ton of new customization options for your character and farm (and, as the title suggests, 3D gameplay).
November 11 (Sunday)
Paper Mario: Sticker Star
The fourth game in Nintendo's Paper Mario RPG series is the first to be released on a handheld device. Sticker Star asks players to collect power-ups and items in the form of stickers that are scattered throughout the world; they'll come in handy during the turn-based battles.
Call of Duty: Black Ops II Watch trailers
Activision | Available for
Another year, another Call of Duty game. Because it's an even-numbered year, we get an installment developed by Treyarch, who last gave us 2010's mega-hit Call of Duty: Black Ops. While that game was set during the 1960s, however, the new Black Ops II moves things ahead considerably, becoming the first CoD game to use a futuristic setting; one of the twin storylines takes place in 2025; the other is set during the 1980s. That 2025 campaign revolves around a new Cold War between the U.S. and China, and features all of the robots, driverless vehicles, cyberattacks, and gizmos you'd expect from our dreary future. In addition, the story will change depending on choices you make and the success of your missions. If you think that sounds like too much of a change for the series, don't worry: you'll still have plenty of chances to shoot friends and strangers in multiplayer, and, yes, zombie mode is back (including in the campaign, if you so desire). The game will also be available at a later date for the Wii U.
The Sims 3: Seasons
As The Sims 2 did before it, The Sims 3 gets a Seasons expansion that adds weather effects, seasonal festivals, new furnishings, seasonally appropriate activities, and (for some reason that escapes us) UFOs.
November 18 (Sunday)
Disney Epic Mickey 2: The Power of Two Watch trailers
Disney Interactive Studios | Available for
Epic Mickey 73, Disney's first attempt to turn Mickey Mouse into the hero of a complex, darker-than-normal (i.e., not kid-friendly) adventure from Deus Ex designer Warren Spector, was an underwhelming disappointment in 2010. Perhaps the sequel will breathe new life into the franchise. Available for multiple platforms (not just the Wii) this time, Power of Two adds a second protagonist to assist Mickey Mouse—original Disney hero Oswald the Lucky Rabbit, who speaks here for the first time ever—that can be controlled by a second player in co-op mode (or by the AI when you are flying solo). In fact, all of the characters will speak in the new game (with a vocal cast led by Cary Elwes), and some will even burst into song. Nintendo 3DS gamers will get their own Epic Mickey title, Epic Mickey: The Power of Illusion (based loosely on the old Sega game Castle of Illusion), on the same day.
Wii U [Console]
If you have high expectations for Nintendo's newest Zelda machine, you are probably a Nintendo executive. Industry followers, meanwhile, don't know quite what to make of the successor to the hit Wii console, which finally brings 360/PS3-quality HD graphics to Nintendo gaming just in time for Microsoft and Sony to launch a superior generation of their consoles next year. (The Wii U will cost more, too, at $300/$350.) A key selling point is a bulky new touchscreen controller which theoretically could offer game developers a unique opportunity to incorporate a second screen into their titles, should one figure out why that would be necessary. (Unfortunately, it doesn't work on its own as a portable gaming device, so you'll need to keep your 3DS.) Launch titles are expected to include exclusives like the platformer New Super Mario Bros. U, strategy game Pikmin 3, and promising GTA-style open world adventure Lego City Undercover, as well as third-party ports such as Mass Effect 3 and Batman: Arkham City—yes, the new console will actually get all those AAA multi-platform titles that steered clear of the old Wii. Another exclusive, Rayman Legends, should also arrive before the end of the year.
Hitman: Absolution Watch trailers
Square Enix | Available for
It's been so long since we've had a new installment in the ongoing stealth action series Hitman that the most recent title, Blood Money, was released for the PS2 and Xbox. But Agent 47 finally sneaks back into stores in November with a new mission that finds him operating as a free agent on the run in the U.S. while caught up in a dark conspiracy that has him hunted by the police. A new "instinct" mechanic is intended to make the game a bit easier for novices, and disguise plays a big part in the new game.
Adventure Time: Hey Ice King! Why'd You Steal Our Garbage?!
The first game based on
Nickelodeon's Cartoon Network's terrific animated series Adventure Time features an original storyline written by show creator Pendleton Ward and action-adventure gameplay that switches from top-down views to side-scrolling action.
Far Cry 3 Watch trailers
Ubisoft | Available for
Likely the final major game released in 2012 (unless it's delayed again), the first Far Cry open-world FPS in four years returns to the tropical island roots of the original Far Cry. You play as new character Jason Brody, who is separated from his girlfriend while vacationing on what turns out to be a savage, lawless island filled with mentally unstable locals (though it probably wasn't billed that way in the tourist brochure). Who you fight and who you enlist to help you on your journey is completely up to you, but whatever you decide, you should probably get away from the island pronto. Expect a much larger map than in previous games (or build your own world with the map editor), and a co-op campaign with a separate story from the single-player mode.
Family Guy: Back to the Multiverse
In the first Family Guy console game in six years (based on 8th season episode "Road to the Multiverse"), play as Stewie or Brian and travel to parallel universes to save Quahog from Stewie's evil half-brother Bertram. Originally scheduled for a September 25 release, the game—which also has various multiplayer modes—now appears to be delayed until later in the fall.
Infinity Blade: Dungeons
The hugely successful iOS series of action-RPG games continues with a prequel designed in part by the team behind Kingdoms of Amalur: Reckoning. A departure from the past two games, Dungeons is more of a hack 'n' slash dungeon crawler with a new control scheme.
Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney Trilogy HD
Your favorite videogame lawyer comes to iPhones and iPads this fall in a collection of remastered versions of the first three DS games. (The games can be purchased separately or as a trio through a single app.) Now, if only we could get someone to release the movie in the States.
This sequel to the imaginative puzzle game is set in a large open world (rather than a series of small, self-contained levels as in previous versions) and recognizes a far greater array of words—and word combinations—than ever before, while also allowing you to create your own highly customizable items. The game is also expected to arrive on the Wii U on or near the console's launch date (November 18).
This Kickstarter-funded iOS adventure title might be a year behind schedule, but if it lives up to its "sci-fi meets Game Dev Story" billing, we know how we're spending our free time this fall (if that is indeed when it comes out). The game is clearly influenced by the various Star Trek series, and the pixel art approach looks promising based on early screenshots. A PC/Mac version is also being developed.
What do you think?
Which games are you looking forward to this fall? Let us know in the comments section below.