The 12 Games I’m Most Looking Forward to Through March 2013

Forget the whole year in gaming, that's just too big: Let's talk about what's on tap over the next three months, because the first quarter's looking huge.

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Namco Bandai

Forget the whole year in gaming, that’s just too big: Let’s talk about what’s on tap over the next three months, because the first quarter’s looking huge: a Devil May Cry reboot by the folks who gave us Heavenly Sword; a Studio Ghibli-inspired roleplaying game by the creators of Dark Cloud 2, Rogue Galaxy and Dragon Quest VIII; a platform-style adventure by the guy responsible for PC phenoms Full Throttle and Grim Fandango. And that’s just the warmup act.

(Note: If you don’t see a game you’re jazzed about, sound off in the comments below, and bear in mind these are just the games I’m most looking forward to, not an exhaustive list.)

DmC: Devil May Cry (Jan. 15)
It’s been years since I touched this series, which made it to “4″ before the reboot police got a call. DmC: Devil May Cry is to Capcom’s original universe what J.J. Abrams’ Star Trek reboot was to Gene Roddenberry’s — an alternate reality rethink starring a younger, crew-cut protagonist (Dante) in a beat-em-up crafted by Heavenly Sword and Enslaved: Odyssey to the West designer Ninja Theory. Where Western films decelerate action sequences to obsess over impossibly graceful melee arabesques, the Devil May Cry games swing the other direction with shots of characters that move so quickly it’s like watching a teppanyaki chef on fast-forward. (PC, PS3, Xbox 360)

Ni No Kuni: Wrath of the White Witch (Jan. 22)
Let’s call this “the one I most want to play”: a roleplaying extravaganza animated by Japanese film house Studio Ghibli, designed by the luminaries at Level 5, with music by Ghibli-mainstay Joe Hisaishi. If you’re a fan of films like Castle in the Sky, Grave of the Fireflies, Spirited Away or Howl’s Moving Castle, you’ll want to pay very close attention to this one. (PS3)

The Cave (January)
According to director Ron Gilbert, Metroidvania platform-adventure The Cave involves seven individuals drawn to a mysterious apparently trans-dimensional cave, each searching for self-enlightenment, each harboring a dark secret. There’s the Hillbilly searching for his true love, the Scientist on the verge of a major discovery, the Monk on a journey of self-discovery and so forth. Oh, and the cave talks. (PC, PS3, Xbox 360)

Sly Cooper: Thieves in Time (Feb. 5)
I could be wrong, because original series developer Sucker Punch is off the job, but I’ll give newcomer Sanzaru Games the benefit of the doubt because I’m a sucker (pun intended) for stealth-angled platformers. (PS3, PS Vita)

Crysis 3 (Feb. 19)
Crytek makes lovely game engines and sometimes even great games. Crysis counts if you gloss over the ending, as does Crysis 2 if you’re thinking more about its multiplayer. Crysis 3 keeps us squarely planted in New York City, but 24 years after the events in Crysis 2, playing within a massive quarantined nanodome harboring seven unique environments (no doubt to give Crytek a chance to strut its graphical stuff). Here you’ll be fighting human CELL agents as well as alien Cephalopods, which on its face sounds a little dull, so fingers crossed for even better multiplayer ops, or a decent twist ending. (PC, PS3, Xbox 360)

Metal Gear Rising: Revengeance (Feb. 19)
I’ve been skeptical about Revengeance since the silly portmanteau subtitle, but game director Kenji Saito was the lead programmer on Bayonetta, so count me interested. You’re cyborg-ninja Raiden from Metal Gear Solid 4, wielding a katana and using a tactical slow-mo feature to precision-carve kills and slice virtually anything visible in this post-MGS4 (sans “Solid”) game world. (PS3, Xbox 360)

Castlevania: Lords of Shadow – Mirror of Fate (March 5)
Here’s the sequel to Konami’s 2010 Castlevania reboot we’ve been waiting for, envisioned as another side-scrolling, whip-slinging adventure on Dracula’s gothic candlelit turf starring four playable characters in various time periods. Castlevania-heads rejoice: Konami’s promising at least “20 hours” from this one. (3DS)

SimCity (March 5)
I’ve been watching the developer videos for this SimCity reboot with TIME Tech editor Doug Aamoth, who’s something of a SimCity guru, and we both agree it looks pretty snazzy — a multiple city-building strategy game that appears to scale elegantly between drag-and-drop simplicity and drill-down fiddling. Fingers triple-crossed. (PC)

Tomb Raider (March 5)
Another Tomb Raider? I know, but I’ll give developer Crystal Dynamics the benefit of the doubt, since they’re putting forward something few games do: a strong, hopefully non-stereotypical “male fantasy” female protagonist in a sandbox-style action-adventure that’s a full continuity, origin-story reboot. (PC, PS3, Xbox 360)

StarCraft II: Heart of the Swarm (March 12)
What more can StarCraft II do? Extend its story with 20 new missions, of course, for those that care, but also: focus on the alien Zerg, tweak the game’s visuals, add seven new units (and remove three) and price all of that in expansion territory ($40), though yep, it’ll require Wings of Liberty to run. (PC)

Gears of War: Judgment (March 19)
I enjoyed Gears of War, adored Gears of War 2, but bounced off Gears of War 3 so hard I couldn’t force myself to finish it. Gears of War: Judgment is the fourth in this sci-fi third-person tactical shooter series: a prequel co-developed by Epic Games and People Can Fly (Bulletstorm, Painkiller) with series creator Cliff Bleszinski once more handling design. Oh, and it’s co-written by a 2010 Guggenheim fellow. (Xbox 360)

BioShock Infinite (March 26)
A new BioShock from the guy (and much of the team) that crafted the original? A creepy castle-in-the-sky dystopia? A computer-controlled compadre who’ll toss you weapons in a pinch? A connective rollercoaster-style rail-system you can ride dangling with one-arm from a weaponized Sky-Hook? Sign me up. (PC, PS3, Xbox 360)

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