The toughest and yet most fun part of looking into the future of video games, is trying to pick which games are your most anticipated. It’s especially difficult nowadays with an average of 1.5 major games coming out every week.

When we put together Game Rant’s most anticipated games of 2011 list, not only did it start behind-the-scenes fight to the death among our team, but little did we expect some of the games to not even release this year. As we approach the final stretch of the year, we also approach the biggest release period of the year – so just what are gamers most excited about this fall?

With Mass Effect 3, Diablo III and Ghost Recon: Future Soldier all delayed until next year (5 of our top 20 have been delayed to 2012), there is still an unbelievable line-up of fall games.

Nielson just revealed their ‘Top 20 Games to Watch’ list, formulated from a “variety of consumer measures from Nielsen’s Video Game Tracking survey, including the top five titles active gamers are considering for purchase.” The games were limited to ones that are releasing on PS3, Xbox 360 and PS3 releases so we apologize in advance for the PC-only releases (looking at you, The Old Republic, Red Orchestra 2 and Minecraft).

As one would expect, Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3 reigns supreme and takes the top sport by a very large margin. It will of course, break sales records for the year and likely for the franchise as well so no surprise there. Tied for second however, is Gears of War 3 which released last week to become the year’s biggest launch (so far), and Madden NFL 12, a game which didn’t earn the greatest of reviews compared to NHL or FIFA franchises and is telling of a loyal built-in fanbase.

Here is the complete list:

Title Publisher % Choosing
as Top 5
Key Elements of Online Conversations
Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3 Activision 27% upcoming launch parties, changes in the new game, ‘darker mood’, hardened version vs standard
Gears of War 3 Microsoft Game Studios 19% high anticipation for launch, best prices at retailers, sharing info on codes and downloads
Madden NFL 12 Electronic Arts 19% challenge matches, calling in sick in order to play
Assassin’s Creed: Revelations Ubisoft 17% downloadable previews, multi-player functionality
Batman: Arkham City Warner Bros Interactive 15% new villains in the game
The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword Nintendo 14% nostalgia for series brings back ‘old school’ gamers, similar feel to Ocarina Of Time
Battlefield 3 Electronic Arts 12% many feel this title is superior to competing titles in the genre, differences in game performance by platform
Just Dance 3 Ubisoft 12% excitement for new tracks announced
NBA 2K12 2K Interactive 9% online demos, discussions of how to adjust schedule to allow more time to play
Need for Speed: The Run Electronic Arts 9% exclusive Porsche models in the game, anticipation as a holiday gift
Uncharted 3: Drake’s Deception Sony Computer Entertainment 9% high expectations of this title being even better than the previous iterations
Mario & Sonic at the London 2012 Olympic Games SEGA 8% gaming experts mention this title alongside other titles announced at the 3DS conference
LEGO Harry Potter: Years 5-7 Warner Bros Interactive 8% sharing previews and speculation on the upcoming game
FIFA Soccer 12 Electronic Arts 8% FIFA vs Madden, desires for more pro and career mode options in the new release
The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim Bethesda Softworks 8% M rating / graphic nature not a deterrent, daily countdown until release
Dead Island Deep Silver 7% looking for gaming partners for online co-op
Kinect Sports: Season 2 Microsoft Game Studios 6% high expectations for the upcoming sequel, considerable attention from casual gamers
Resistance 3 Sony Computer Entertainment 4% franchise fans call it a ‘must have’ ‘game of the year’
Dance Central 2 Microsoft Game Studios 4% enthusiasm for the ability to import songs from the original title
Deus Ex: Human Revolution Square Enix 3% best prices at retailers, differences in game performance by platform

Note that Battlefield 3 sits at 12% vs. MW3’s 27% – this will make a few fanboys angry.

EA should be happy to see Need for Speed: The Run sitting as high as Uncharted 3 but the biggest surprise (or is it?) of the list is that only one of the 20 games listed is an original IP: Dead Island. If you’re wondering why it’s tough for developers and publishers to get out new games, this is why.

Which of these games do you plan on playing this fall?

Follow me on Twitter @rob_keyes.

Source: Nielson