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Associated Press
“Mario Kart 8” is slated for a spring release for Wii U, this time with gravity-defying tricks.

‘Mario’ among anticipated ’14 video games

– The usual suspects are back in new video game installments in 2014 – Mario, Solid Snake and Master Chief, to name a few – but this year they’ll also be joined be some shadowy newcomers with monikers like Aiden Pearce and Delsin Rowe.

Following last year’s release of Microsoft’s Xbox One and Sony’s PlayStation 4, many games scheduled to debut this year will harness the power of those next-generation systems in hopes of fulfilling long-simmering expectations (“Watch Dogs,” “Metal Gear Solid V”), pushing pre-existing franchises into the future (“Thief,” “inFamous: Second Son”) or potentially revolutionizing the medium altogether (“Titanfall,” “Destiny”).

Here’s a glimpse at some of 2014’s most anticipated games:

•“Thief” (for PlayStation 3, PlayStation 4, Xbox 360, Xbox One, PC; release date Feb. 25): After a decade-long absence from the video game world, the pickpocket series “Thief” returns with a reboot from developers Eidos Montreal, marking the return of hooded protagonist Garrett.

•“South Park: The Stick of Truth” (for PlayStation 3, Xbox 360, PC; release date March 4): The long-delayed “South Park” game is expected to finally see the light of day this year. The role-playing lampoon casts players as the gang’s new kid who must team up with the show’s well-known, foul-mouthed characters.

•“Titanfall” (for Xbox 360, Xbox One, PC; release date March 11): “Call of Duty” meets “Transformers” in “Titanfall.” The developers at Repawn Entertainment, many of whom worked on the landmark “Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare,” are equipping wannabe supersoldiers with gigantic mechanized robot suits in an always-online shooter exclusive to Microsoft systems.

•“inFamous: Second Son” (for PlayStation 4; release date March 21): The latest edition of Sucker Punch Productions’ superpowered series has a new setting, Seattle, and focuses on a new protagonist, Delsin Rowe. Exploiting his ability to absorb powers, the graffiti artist-turned-superhero works to takedown the oppressive Department of Unified Protection. Wham!

•“Mario Kart 8” (for Wii U; release date set for spring): Mario, Lugi, Princess Peach and all their friends, as well as some of their enemies, are hitting the road again in the eighth entry of the highly popular go-karting series. “Mario Kart 8” is adding several gravity-defying tricks to the mix, including vehicles and tracks that allow players to zoom across walls and ceilings.

•“Watch Dogs” (for PlayStation 3, PlayStation 4, Wii U, Xbox 360, Xbox One, PC; release date set for spring): Interactive art imitates real-life in this surveillance-themed action-adventure romp centering on vigilante Aiden Pearce. With the touch of his smarter-than-smartphone, he can hack into cameras, computers, traffic lights and power grids throughout a high-tech Chicago.

•“Destiny” (for PlayStation 3, PlayStation 4, Xbox 360, Xbox One; release date, Sept. 9): Bungie Studios is going out of this world for their first creation since 2010’s “Halo: Reach.” The sprawling interstellar shoot-’em-up takes place within an always-online universe where gamers can team up to complete missions, battle adversaries or each other.

•“Tom Clancy’s The Division” (for PlayStation 4, Xbox One; release date set for winter): Don’t touch that cash! After a disease spread on Black Friday leaves the United States in turmoil, players must navigate a chaotic, snowy New York as a deep undercover operative in this tactical online shooter that incorporates elements from both the survival and role-playing genres.