With a New Year comes optimism for lots of fun, exciting gaming experiences. We've already outlined what we think are ten of the biggest Wii U games of 2013 — well, those that are confirmed — so now we'll do the same for 3DS. After a rocky début year, 2012 went some way to revive the fortunes of the handheld — though there's still plenty of work to do — so Nintendo will be hoping to attract some big sales with the game releases coming this year.
Rather like Wii U, a number of confirmed releases only cover the first half of the year, so we expect Nintendo Direct broadcasts and E3 to reveal some interesting new titles. Outside of some high profile releases that are making it West soon — you already know what they are — we actually found this list harder to produce. As we only wanted to list games that give us that new-game buzz, we've even resorted to a couple of speculative entries of Japanese releases that, at the time of writing, have only had fleeting hints of localisation. Some big hitters are on the way, for sure, but it certainly seems like a focus on quality over quantity, with surely more unconfirmed goodies in the pipeline for later in the year.
Animal Crossing: New Leaf — Due Q2
This had to go at the top of the list, as it's regularly one of the most searched for and viewed game pages on Nintendo Life. It's been a sales phenomenon in Japan, and we expect it to do rather well once it arrives in North America and PAL territories. Each delay has been painful for eager fans, but it's definitely coming and will happily consume our lives and spare time when it does arrive.
Luigi's Mansion: Dark Moon — Spring
This title was originally expected last year, and would surely have made an ideal game for Halloween, but Luigi seemingly made way for the paper adventures of his brother. A long-awaited sequel to the GameCube original, itself a bit of a cult-classic, this looks like a charming new entry for the series. We've enjoyed our time with it at events, and look forward to getting spooked by the real deal this Spring.
Fire Emblem: Awakening — 4th February (North America) / April (Europe)
The Fire Emblem series may not be up there with the biggest franchises in terms of big sales and popularity, but this strategy RPG will be high on a number of wishlists of dedicated Nintendo gamers. This 3DS entry will incorporate some new features and, perhaps most importantly, promises to keep the experience rich for months to come with free and paid-for DLC.
Monster Hunter 3 Ultimate — March
This title also appeared in our Wii U list, and the opportunities for cross-play multiplayer and hopping between systems to play a save game are certainly enticing — features that we hope to see more between the home console and handheld in future. It's also worth noting that it'll be the first Monster Hunter game to hit a Nintendo handheld in the West, even if Japanese gamers have been enjoying it since December 2011. It's monster slaying on the go, which sounds good to us.
Castlevania: Lords of Shadow - Mirror of Fate — 5th March (North America) / 8th March (Europe)
Konami, which published so many Castlevania titles on the Game Boy Advance and DS, finally brings a new entry in the franchise to 3DS. Picking up on the lore of the spin-off series recently born on HD consoles, this promises a 2.5D perspective, large areas to explore and lots of fighting. Despite somewhat floaty jump mechanics in preview builds, this one is visually attractive and certainly full of promise.
Here's the first of our speculative entries on our localisation wishlist, a mash-up of the excitable attorney and the tea drinking level-headed Professor. Promising a blend of both game styles into one adventure, if this is done right then it's undoubtedly one to watch. It's not confirmed that this will make it out of Japan — where it was released last year — but due to the popularity of both franchises in the West we expect it to arrive, hopefully late this year.
It's an epic JRPG, with music and footage that's emerged doing more than enough to earn it a place on our list, joining the previous entry as a speculative hope for localisation. Following the success of titles such as Xenoblade Chronicles when offered to a Western audience on Wii, we're hopeful that Square Enix will decide to take a chance and release this one worldwide.
Nano Assault EX — Q1
Moving onto the 3DS eShop, this upcoming release from Shin'en Multimedia could potentially offer one of the best-value offerings on the service. Described by the developer as Nano Assault 1.5, this takes the original retail release — which we rated rather highly here at Nintendo Life — and will apparently improve performance as well as adding extra content to boost the package. With boxed retail becoming a less attractive option for smaller developers, we're hopeful that this title could be an early indicator of the kind of experiences we may see on the download platform in the coming year.
Announced by the now closed Nintendo Power, for fans of the Game Boy Advance and DSiWare games this was very welcome news indeed. Combine gorgeous pixel graphics with a quirky setting, lots of platforming and hack 'n slash action, as well as a healthy serving of exploration, and that should be what we can expect from this title. Considering how effectively WayForward utilised the 3D screen in Mighty Switch Force!, this is high on a number of wishlists.
From Game Freak, the team behind the Pokémon series, comes a rhythm action game likely to go down well with Nintendo gamers. Cheerful visuals and some welcome zaniness — the trailer shows the character bringing the hurt to an enormous cow head — make this an ideal eShop download.
So there you go, ten games — even if two are currently Japan-only — that should represent some of the best on 3DS in 2013. We didn't cover every upcoming game of course, so let us know what you're looking forward to in the comments below; you can also vote for you favourite on the list in the poll below.
What's your most anticipated 3DS game of 2013? (584 votes)
Animal Crossing: New Leaf
Luigi's Mansion: Dark Moon
Fire Emblem: Awakening
Monster Hunter 3 Ultimate
Castlevania: Lords of Shadow - Mirror of Fate
Professor Layton VS Ace Attorney
Bravely Default: Flying Fairy
Nano Assault EX
Shantae & The Pirate's Curse
Rhythm Hunter: Harmoknight
My choice isn't on the list
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