The Wii U and 3DS eShop stores have become notable improvements on their Wii and DSi predecessors, and a range of familiar and new download developers have pitched up with their wares in recent times. The last couple of years in particular have brought some fantastic games, and as Nintendo's GDC announcement made clear there's plenty more on the way in 2015. Some of the names given were familiar, others less so, but the mix of release dates and surprises certainly filled us with optimism for the downloading year ahead.
In total Nintendo listed 50 releases across both of its systems, so we've decided to shortlist this down to ten and provide a little bit of an intro to each title. Some we've covered before in interviews and previews, and in other cases they're games that have simply caught our eye.
Before we pinpoint our ten, let's have some honourable mentions - clever platformer puzzler 6180 The Moon almost got onto our list, and we're also looking forward to Renegade Kid's upcoming Mutant Mudds Super Challenge and Dementium: The Ward. In fact, of the 50 Nintendo listed we're pretty keen on practically all of them, and ports such as OctoDad: Dadliest Catch add to the sense that developers most familiar with PC, PS4 and Xbox One are starting to warm to the eShop stores.
In any case, we've made some tough calls to list 10 Wii U and 3DS eShop games that we feel you should watch closely this year. Let's get on with it.
A Wii U exclusive from Romino Games, this is the very welcome follow-up to its excellent WiiWare predecessor. This time around you can use the GamePad to control in multiple ways, and this entry adopts a gorgeous cartoon aesthetic while beefing up the core real-time 2D strategy mechanics. The latest trailer introduces the Persians as the third clan, below, and you can also check out our video preview and interview from last year.
We've already included this in our list of the Biggest Wii U Games of 2015 list back in January, as it's an exclusive that'll make interesting use of the GamePad in both co-op and single player. A collaboration between Nifflas and KnapNok Games, it's one of the most creative games to use the asynchronous dual screen setup to date - you can see more in our video of the opening 10 minutes and learn about it in our interview with Nifflas.
Already out on PC, PS4 and Xbox One, this is a title with a hugely attractive art style, in which you engage in some platforming and co-op puzzling with an arctic fox. We've enjoyed what we've played of this on other platforms, even if some elements of the controls have been divisive. We're promised "contextual insights" on the GamePad, which should suit the tone of the experience very nicely.
Another title that's already been released on other formats, this will offer a particularly handy map on the GamePad. With a quirky art style and punishing difficulty as you try to survive in the dangerous world, this will be a challenging arrival on the Wii U. This edition will include DLC from the previous iterations right from the off.
It's unsurprising that Nintendo's keen to promote this title, as it'll aim to show off what can be achieved with local multiplayer for nine gamers. It's not all about bashing on friends though, as a gaggle of modes also includes single player options, with lots of twists on the basic running, jumping and stomping. We went into detail on this one in a Showcase article last year.
The much-anticipated new title from Image & Form, this is effectively a spin-off to the hugely popular SteamWorld Dig rather than an outright sequel. This title is all about raiding other ships to steal their money, taking out any opposition but making an escape before reinforcements arrive - this has promising 2D turn-based strategy with real-time combat elements, and you can learn more about it in our hands on impressions and interview with the developer.
Another heist game that is, nevertheless, completely different in style. This is from Dan Marshall and Size Five Games, and combines randomly generated areas with a campaign time-limit and in-game economy to level-up abilities and move onto bigger heists. Action platforming with chaotic and humorous Steampunk twists, you can see what we thought of this in our recent first impressions; we'll also be publishing a detailed interview with Dan Marshall this coming weekend.
Trine 3: The Artifacts of Power was announced this week, but we've been more concerned about the delays to this one; thankfully any fears have been allayed by its impending release date. The original is an excellent game, and this version spruces it up to match the standards of the gorgeous - and very popular - Trine 2: Director's Cut.
In a recent feature celebrating the 35th anniversary of HAL Laboratory, which is best known for Kirby and the earlier Smash Bros. games, we cited this 3DS title - out now in Japan - as a positive example that the studio can still create delightful little games and, well, think outside the box a little. It was never really in doubt that Nintendo would localise this, we didn't think, and we're keen to jump into its puzzles and savour its charms.
Released on PC last year, the arrival of this Director's Cut from WayForward will mean that 3DS owners will have the latest and greatest versions of the whole Shantae trilogy to date; this one's also coming to Wii U. One of the very best DSiWare games, this will include an alternative mode that's more challenging, in addition to a revamped map and warp system. This'll be tough to resist.
That's our shortlist, but there's plenty to look forward to with a mix of exclusives, enhanced editions and ports. Let us know which are your favourites in the poll and comments below.