The last time the entertainment world saw such a gathering of hugely-anticipated number three’s was back in 2007, a year so populated with mega-blockbuster movies ending in “3” that fans might have felt a little déjà vu when buying their tickets. Leading the charge were films like Spider-Man 3, Shrek the Third, Pirates of the Caribbean: At World’s (all franchises with three parts that made over $300 million), The Bourne Ultimatum, Rush Hour 3, and even Ocean’s Thirteen. Even the movie 300 (technically not a real ‘3’) was big. In the videogame world in the year 2011, we’ve already seen a healthy number of triples released, including Killzone 3, Fable 3, Marvel vs. Capcom 3, LEGO Star Wars III: The Clone Wars, Colin McRae: Dirt 3, Dungeon Siege III, Deus Ex: Human Revolution, and Resistance 3. *WHEW*, that’s a lotta threes.
Heck, there’s even a whole lot more on the way, and while not everyone will agree what their favorite will be, there’s little doubt that a select few are expected to dominate in the sales department. And just to break with convention, we’re listing the Top Five (not Top Three) of 2011’s Most Anticipated Number Three games, in alphabetical order and with brief descriptions for your reading pleasure. Stay tuned after the list for a bonus set of even more of 2011’s most noteworthy ‘3’ releases, just in case you need to brush up for the next round of Trivia Pursuit.
Here are the “Top Five Most Anticipated Number Three Games for 2011”, in alphabetical order, served hot ‘n tasty.
Battlefield 3 (Xbox 360, PlayStation 3, PC)
If EA’s Medal of Honor franchise inadvertently begat Activision’s Call of Duty franchise, than it must be said that Activision has returned the favor by inadvertently begetting EA’s Battlefield franchise. While it’s not a clean cycle of inspiration, there’s no doubt that EA’s decision to go for Call of Duty’s status as the most popular first-person shooting franchise has led them to augment their much-loved Battlefield franchise with some serious firepower, especially with the game’s superlative optics and aggressively marketed campaign. The battle between the two publishers has gone from online smack-talk to real-life legal proceedings over their respective games, and in some ways has been more explosive than anything in their near-photorealistic games.
Perhaps the most interesting feature is that, after the failure of EA’s 2010 Medal of Honor reboot (thank goodness), Battlefield has become the go-to first-person shooting franchise for those still wanting a real ‘modern’ style FPS experience, but aren’t finding it with Call of Duty anymore. With both games looking more and more like twins separated at birth (take a gander at their respective posters), time and retail sales will tell if fans think there’s room for both to grow, or if (virtual) battlefield fatigue is starting to set in.
Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3 (Xbox 360, PlayStation 3, PC, Wii)
Inarguably the most successful franchise of the generation, Activision’s Call of Duty series is back for its yearly appearance, and with the powerful Modern Warfare 3 logo on the label, they mean business. Big business, as each new chapter of the world’s most popular first-person shooting series has outsold the last (World at War notwithstanding, evidently), but a few well-publicized events have given even the most hardened digital warriors reason to be suspicious that this most distinguished of 3’s will live up to past games. EA and Activision’s infamous legal cat-fighting led to the public implosion of Infinity Ward, which has led to a whopping three development studios working on the title, including Raven Software and Sledgehammer Games, and four if you count Treyarch’s Wii version (which will debut alongside the other versions, a first for the Modern Warfare series).
Modern Warfare 3 will even kick-off Activision’s new Call of Duty Elite subscription-based service for the multiplayer component, which takes features and stats that other series’ give away for free and charges a fee to access their ‘full versions’. But the most interesting battle won’t be happening in-game; it’ll be waged on the retail front as the game goes gun-to-gun against EA’s Battlefield 3, a franchise with everything to gain from Modern Warfare’s pain. But as with Battlefield, it’ll be curious to see how fans respond to the embarrassment of modern warfare-style riches that await them come November.
Gears of War 3 (Xbox 360)
One of the year’s biggest games features what has to be the biggest heroes. Epic Games ends their supposed trilogy and popular Xbox 360 exclusive with a bang – a really big bang – in Gears of War 3. Marcus Fenix and the rest of his steroidal, bulky brothers must once again survive a never-ending deluge of attacks by the Locust horde while desperately trying to neatly wrap up as many plot holes as possible before the final credits roll. Four-player co-op makes a welcome addition, and the return of the always awesome Augustus “Cole Train” should make fans of blatantly stereotypical black characters everywhere smile.
Gears 3 scores even more “3” points for being the first in the series to incorporate 3D technology, and for using the developers’ own Unreal Engine 3. Of course, there’s plenty of chainsaws to go around, and the welcome appearance of the franchise’s first-ever female protagonists (all strangely more masculine than any of Square’Enix’s stable of male heroes) should make for the biggest, bloodiest, and definitely most well-rounded slaughter-fest yet. Of course, Epic is billing this as the ‘final’ chapter in their grotesquely-muscular trilogy, but that’s a line we here all the time and don’t believe it for a second. Look for plenty of more Gears adventures in the future, and if those of you with nightmares of the Kinect’s encroachment in our lives happens, look for a real Gears of War Adventures in the future…and shudder.
Just Dance 3 (Wii, Xbox 360, PlayStation 3)
Now some of you might be scratching your head after seeing Ubisoft’s dancing franchise included on this list, but know this and know it well: Just Dance has become one of the best-selling and most popular franchises of this generation, and it’s about to get even bigger now that it’s leaving the relative safety of Nintendo Wii-exclusivity (where it became the console’s best-selling third-party release and 2011’s best-selling exclusive game) and going full motion-control on the Xbox 360 Kinect and PlayStation 3 Move. It was probably the nail in the coffin for both the Guitar Hero and Rock Band franchises, even spawning several smash-hit spin-offs and expansions (looking at YOU, Michael Jackson: The Experience).
Highly-anticipated new features include quartet dancing on the Wii, even ‘flash mob’ sessions where up to 8 would-be breakers can swap remotes for the ultimate boogie-woogie. Kinect users can look forward to a new ‘Just Create’ mode where they can do just that – create their own moves and routines. Ubisoft is keeping the party going with dozens of new hot new mix of singles from the likes of Daft Punk, KISS , The Black Eyed Peas, and Katy Perry featuring Snoop Dogg. Of course, this wouldn’t be the ultimate jam without a little Cee Lo, though we’re treated to the inferior (yet radio-friendly) “Forget You” instead of the superior version that Gwyneth Paltrow didn’t ruin with her warbling. Plus, you can finally be the crazy mullet mustachioed man you’ve always wanted to be, and that’s pretty awesome.
Uncharted 3: Drake’s Deception (PlayStation 3)
One of only two console-exclusive games on this list, Naughty Dog’s Uncharted franchise has become the PlayStation 3’s defining and most popular exclusive franchise, practically symbolizing the platform’s motto that it “only does everything.” That’s because the Uncharted games DO pretty much everything: platforming, driving, climbing, shooting, there’s nary a genre that isn’t represented big-time by Nathan Drake’s jeans-wearing hysterics and matchless sarcastic wit. Uncharted 3 promises even bigger fireworks than ever, with variable gameplay that makes Drake’s journey to the lost city of Iram of the Pillars more explosive than ever before.
Uncharted 2: Among Thieves was one of 2009’s best games, the rare critical and commercial blockbuster that even helped push a then-discounted PlayStation 3 platform to record sales. While Hollywood plans a live-action movie of the franchise with a myriad of directors and potential stars (Nathan Fillion waits patiently by his phone), fans are eagerly anticipated their next cross-culture adventure with gaming’s most well-voiced hero and his faithful sidekick, Sullivan. Hey, if they ever get around to that movie, you know Bruce Campell is waiting there with Fillion. Make it happen.
As we alluded to above, not every game listed above (released or unreleased) could reasonably be counted as one of the year’s most anticipated, but more than a few notable triple digits titles are still worth mentioning here. Whenever possible, we've included a small description to clarify their inclusion into this humble, yet equally-equitable showing:
Assassin’s Creed Revelations (considered the third game in the series)
Forza Motorsport 4 (third in series on Xbox 360)
Mario & Sonic at the London 2012 Olympic Games (third game in the series)
MotorStorm: Apocalypse (third in the series on PlayStation 3)
Nintendo 3DS (the 3 is for 3-D)
Operation Flashpoint: Red River
Pokémon Black & White (third in the series on the DS)
Saints Row: The Third
Sims 3 (3DS debut)
Serious Sam 3: BFE
Super Mario 3D Land (third in the Land series to feature Mario, not Wario)
Mario Kart 7 (third portable Mario Kart)
Ultimate Marvel vs. Capcom 3 (seriously Capcom, already?)
Delayed or Cancelled:
Still haven’t had enough of notable numbers three’s for the videogame world yet? 2011 would have seen even more of the triple-digit sequels if development schedules had gone to plan. It’s no sour grapes, but it would have been interesting to see how the Top Five might have been affected if some of these delayed games had made their original debut date.
Mass Effect 3
Max Payne 3
The Last Guardian (the third game from Team Ico)
True Crime: Hong Kong (cancelled but may yet return)