What has Mario got planned in 2012?

2011 has been a fantastic year for gaming most recognisable face, Nintendo Mario

Release Date: 21/12/2011

2011 has been a fantastic year for gaming most recognisable face, Nintendo Mario, and 2012 looks set to be another. From platforming to kart racing, tennis, Olympic sports, role playing and party games, the portly yet agile plumber is clearly a highly versatile character who can do it all. Here, GAME takes a look back at a couple of the best Mario games from this year, in case you missed them, and looks ahead to some of 2012 undoubted highlights.

3DS hasn exactly been lacking in quality games in its first year on the market, but the arrival of Super Mario Land 3D (3DS) in November and the launch of Mario Kart 7 earlier this month have really made the portable console a must own system. Mixing the best elements of older Mario games with new ideas and technology, the former is perhaps best described as a blend of the more straightforward, accessible 2D Super Mario Bros. games for Wii and DS and Wii more challenging 3D Super Mario Galaxy titles. Its magical worlds are essentially made up of left to right dashes through obstacle courses, which see players running, jumping, hovering and gliding to master the environments with the aim of reaching a flagpole at the end of each level. With simple, intuitive controls, it instantly accessible and there always a clear path to completing each stage, usually littered with coins to collect, question blocks to bump and enemies to stomp. But Mario can also wander around a little in the game 3D environments, and only explorers and the most skilled players will locate all of the secret areas, items and unlockables ingeniously hidden away in the expertly designed levels.

Mario Kart 7 is another must-play title for newcomers and series veterans alike, mixing old and new to great effect too. It offers 16 new courses and 16 classic ones from older MK games for players to compete on, all based on environments and characters from Nintendo Mushroom Kingdom. The best showcase of the console's 3D screen yet, theye absolutely gorgeous to look at and just as well designed, featuring exciting new airborne and underwater sections to compliment the on-track action. With basic accelerate, brake, fire and jump buttons, the game easy enough that anyone can pick it up and play instantly, but itl take months of practice to master the multi-route tracks, learn all of the shortcuts and become an online karting king.

Looking ahead to 2012, Mario will be joined by a host of Nintendo stablemates as well as characters from Square Enix popular Dragon Quest series in January release Boom Street (Wii). A Monopoly-style board game that challenges players to play the real estate and stock markets to win,here are 27 characters to choose from 13 from Mario games, 13 from Dragon Quest and your Mii and over 15 boards based on memorable areas from each series, with different shapes and layouts providing loads of replay value. Players race around the board trying to accumulate wealth and hit a target value while buying, selling and trading property to see who can be the first to cash out, and with both beginner and advanced settings, it could be the perfect game to get the family huddled round the telly on those cold winter nights.

Mario Tennis (3DS) also looks set to be a smash hit next year. If previous games in the series are anything to go by, itl do its best to nail the balance between realism and zany, fast-paced tennis action starring all of your favourite Mushroom Kingdom characters, as well as a few surprise ones. Wee expecting a mixture of tactical tennis gameplay, special moves and plenty of mini-games that should make a great title for Mario and sports fans alike.

Mario and friends, including Sega favourites like Sonic the Hedgehog, will keep things physical in Mario & Sonic At The London 2012 Olympics on the Nintendo 3DS, which launches in February 2012. Players will go for gold in over 50 Olympic events that make full use of the handheld different control methods, serving up a wide variety of ways to play. Competing for the top of the podium alone or in head-to-head games with friends, players will frantically slide the Circle Pad round and round to row, tilt the system to keep their balance on the beam, and blow into the microphone to keep breathing at the right time while swimming.

Also in 2012, players will see the moustachioed, genre-hopping plumber embark on an exciting new role playing adventure in Paper Mario also on the Nintendo 3DS. It will feature frantic, turn-based battles set in a colourful and varied 3D world that takes in weapons, locations and items from Mario past and present,. It will also require clever strategic use of a range of ability-giving stickers, which can be used to carry out attacks on enemies or to fill in missing parts of the levels.

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