This will be the first holiday season for the 3DS, and in order to give it every advantage imaginable, Nintendo is unleashing its most potent weapon: Mario. The mustachioed mascot takes center stage in the two most important 3DS games releasing this year: Super Mario 3D Land and Mario Kart 7. Just this morning, Nintendo finally issued solid dates for each game. Players can explore Super Mario 3D Land November 13, 2011. Mario Kart 7 follows, hitting retail on December 4, 2011.

Both games featured heavily in Nintendo’s pre-TGS press event, and no wonder. As brand new entries in two of Nintendo’s flagship series, these games are exactly what the 3DS needs: quality original games. (No offense intended to either Star Fox 64 3D or Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time 3D, both of which are excellent — but old — games.) Of course, most gamers have played Mario platformers and kart racers before, but thanks to the unique features of the 3DS, brand new mechanics will appear in both Super Mario 3D Land and Mario Kart 7.

Central to the new mechanics in each game is the 3DS’s built-in gyro sensor. Super Mario 3D Land allows players to look around levels to seek out secrets, not unlike the gyro aiming feature in Ocarina of Time 3D. Finding red coins and hidden power-ups may just have gotten that much easier!

Mario Kart 7 makes even more use of the system’s gyro feature. The full game will be playable from a first-person perspective, controlled with the gyro sensor. Granted, this mirrors the sort of tilt control that so many iPhone racers use. Though it can be hit or miss on that device, Nintendo’s track record with tilt control on the Wii (say, in Mario Kart Wii, which has so far sold in excess of 26 million copies) suggests that they know how to handle the feature.

Equally exciting for Mario Kart fans is the news of two new competitors making their debut in Mario Kart 7. Though more new characters may be waiting in the wings, both Lakitu and Metal Mario have been confirmed for the new game. Will Metal Mario’s cusom kart be as shiny and metalic as the man himself? How could it not be?

After the price drop that resulted in a 260% sales jump for the system, the 3DS appears poised to finally be the success that many expected from day one. Particularly given the lack of competition from Sony’s powerful Vita, which won’t release in the U.S. and Europe until 2012, the 3DS has a real chance to sew up the handheld market, much as the original DS did all those years ago.

3DS owners, are these games automatic purchases for you? Do you think the gyro features will add substantially to the games?

Super Mario 3D Land releases November 13, 2011, exclusively for the Nintendo 3DS.

Mario Kart 7 releases December 4, 2011, exclusively for the Nintendo 3DS.

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