And the progenitor of the motion-control craze? Nintendo isn't releasing any new hardware this fall, unless a surprise launch of the new 3DS is in the offing. Instead, it's sticking with tried-and-true properties. KIRBY'S EPIC YARN (October 17 for the Wii) is an action-adventure game starring everybody's favorite shapeshifting puffball. Also due for the Wii is the comeback of a classic franchise, DONKEY KONG COUNTRY RETURNS, on November 21. Like its 16-bit predecessors, DKCR is a traditional platformer with mine-cart levels, exploding barrels, and tons of hidden areas to discover.
Speaking of traditions: of course there's CALL OF DUTY: BLACK OPS (November 9; PlayStation 3, Xbox 360, Windows, Wii), the bi-annual effort from Treyarch studios, whose previous series entry was 2008's World at War. Black Ops is set during the Vietnam War, and it looks identical to every other Call of Duty game ever made. That's not entirely a bad thing, especially for Activision, which stands to make another billion trillion dollars this time out.
But there's a new challenger in the war-games arena. A reboot of MEDAL OF HONOR (October 12; PlayStation 3, Xbox 360, Windows), set in current-day Afghanistan, casts players as Delta Force operatives taking the fight to the Taliban. With EA's DICE studio at the helm of the multi-player modes, the game's pedigree is beyond reproach. Its taste, however, may be questionable: online play allows players to take control of members of the Taliban.
Another beloved franchise is resurrected when CASTLEVANIA: LORDS OF SHADOW comes out for PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360 on October 5. The latest attempt at a 3-D Castlevania that doesn't suck, this game could break the curse thanks to the involvement of the driving creative force behind the Metal Gear Solid series, Hideo Kojima — unless Kojima's primary contribution is to have Gabriel Belmont deliver long, meandering monologues every five minutes.
It wouldn't be fall without sequels. FALLOUT: NEW VEGAS (October 19; PlayStation 3, Xbox 360, Windows) takes open-world role playing from the wastelands of Washington, DC, to — you guessed it — post-apocalyptic Las Vegas. And in STAR WARS: THE FORCE UNLEASHED II (October 26; PlayStation 3, Xbox 360, Windows, Wii), a reborn Starkiller uses an array of Force powers both new and old as he seeks revenge against the Empire.
Fans of racing games will be able to choose from opposite ends of the driving spectrum. Sony's oft-delayed GRAN TURISMO 5 should finally see the light of day on November 2, exclusively for the PlayStation 3. GT5 includes more than a thousand real-life vehicles, all painstakingly detailed to provide the most realistic racing experience yet. Real-life supercars also appear in NEED FOR SPEED: HOT PURSUIT (November 16; Xbox 360, PlayStation 3, Windows, Wii), but in more of an arcade style. Hot Pursuit is a game of cinematic car chases, in which players can be either the cops or the criminals.
All release dates are subject to change; check your local retailer for updates.