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2016 has arrived, and with it comes optimism and potential for an exciting gaming year ahead. Though plenty of eyes are turning to the next generation of Nintendo hardware, of course, we nevertheless have a fairly busy line-up on the way for 3DS, the portable that continues to keep us busy.

As in previous years, if in doubt we'll be taking some cues from the latest investor's update, and as is often the case with the 3DS Nintendo has resisted announcing projects too far ahead of release; as a result many of these are either confirmed for this year or relatively safe bets.

There are some provisos here, primarily in games we've left out from the main list due to split releases between regions. We've done this to give more games coming to players in 2016 time in the sun, but we will include the following in the poll at the end.

As always you'll be able to vote for your choice, so without further ado let's list some of the biggest games coming to 3DS in 2016.

Fire Emblem Fates
Fire Emblem Fates - 19th February (North America) and TBC 2016 (Europe)

In light of the sales success for Fire Emblem: Awakening reviving the series, Nintendo and Intelligent Systems will be hoping that this dual release (as it will be in North America) will hit it off with the public in the same way. It's close to release in North America but is frustratingly still TBC in Europe; with the key 'choice' bringing two separate core campaigns, and a third to be available as a download along with more DLC, this could be a strategy title to keep us busy for much of the year.

Hyrule Warriors Legends
Hyrule Warriors Legends - 25th March

The E3 2015 reveal for this was blown ahead of time by Tecmo Koei, and this is certainly an interesting release. The cross-over / spin-off was popular on Wii U, and now arrives on the portable with all previous DLC included and new characters, such as Tetra and newcomer Linkle. There'll be more fairly skilful button mashing and seemingly endless levelling up to indulge in, and this will provide a welcome action gaming fix.

Metroid Prime: Federation Force
Metroid Prime: Federation Force

Ok, put away the pitchforks and hear us out. This is a title that wasn't exactly warmly welcomed following its E3 2015 reveal, yet it is the latest project from Next Level Games, a studio that's done terrific work with Nintendo's franchises and most recently brought us Luigi's Mansion: Dark Moon. The art style and the idea that the next Metroid Prime will be a co-op portable shooter starring chibi-style Federation Force troopers is hardly what fans had in mind, but this could actually be a good game at its core. Time will tell, and we're keen to give it a chance.

Project X Zone 2
Project X Zone 2 - 12th February (Europe) and 16th February (North America)

Take a game developed by Monolith Soft and Bandai Namco, also featuring franchises from SEGA, Capcom and now Nintendo, and you have an RPG that sounds like a slam dunk. This one's predecessor certainly had a mastery of cross-Universe insanity, even if some of its mechanics weren't quite on the money, and we're hoping this sequel improves key areas while maintaining the energy of its predecessor.

Bravely Second: End Layer
Bravely Second: End Layer - 26th February (Europe) and TBC 2016 (North America)

Another welcome RPG sequel that's getting localised for the West, this time with Square Enix stepping forward. Its predecessor was warmly received, with an attractive visual style combining well with the adventure, and prior to the sequel's release in Japan the development team emphasized that new ideas and a lot of content are included in End Layer. Another lengthy adventure to keep 3DS owners busy.

Final Fantasy Explorers
Final Fantasy Explorers - 26th January (North America) / 29th January (Europe)

Another part of the mini-revival for the series on Nintendo hardware, joining various other games in this list in terms of making its way belatedly out of Japan. The twist for this entry is that it's very much a multiplayer RPG, with you being encouraged to team up with others while exploring the world and tackling foes. It's drawn some comparison to the likes of the Monster Hunter franchise though, to be fair, this is a rather different proposition.

Zero Time Dilemma
Zero Time Dilemma - Q2 / Q3

Kotaro Uchikoshi can finally deliver on his vision for a third entry in the series, chronologically taking place between 999: Nine Hours, Nine Persons, Nine Doors and Zero Escape: Virtue's Last Reward. A fan campaign has been credited with helping to make it happen, and Aksys Games has promised a relatively quick localisation to the West courtesy of localised versions being worked on in conjunction with core development.

Mario & Sonic at the Rio 2016 Olympic Games
Mario & Sonic at the Rio 2016 Olympic Games

These licensed tie-ins in which Mario, Sonic and chums do battle have proven to be a success over a number of years. Nintendo seems particularly keen to promote the 3DS version in Japan - we're still awaiting the Western release dates - and is no doubt banking on quickfire and easy-going fun appealing to the portable's audience. Golf and Rugby are among new sports to arrive this time around.

Sonic Boom: Fire & Ice
Sonic Boom: Fire & Ice

Delayed from a planned 2015 release, it may be worth giving this one a chance. Sonic Boom: Rise of Lyric was largely panned on Wii U, but the safer 2D platforming of Sonic Boom: Shattered Crystal was better received, while developer Sanzaru Games has some decent games on its record. Could this be another solid and enjoyable portable Sonic experience? We hope so.

Pokémon Red and Blue
Pokémon Red / Blue / Yellow - 27th February

It's a big Anniversary year for the Pokémon series, so more is likely to come, but we couldn't resist breaking our 'no Virtual Console' rule for these upcoming releases. To say the reaction among 'mon fans to this announcement was one of excitement would be an understatement, with local Wi-Fi on the 3DS eShop versions to replicate Game Boy link cable exchanges.

Of course the eShop could provide some enticing games, especially on New Nintendo 3DS once the first Unity-based projects arrive.

Let us know what you think of this list with a vote for your favourite in the poll below, while you can share views and post your own lists in the comments section.

What's your most anticipated 3DS game of 2016?