Wisely eschewing its Flying Fairy subtitle in the west, this JRPG has fine pedigree and shook up some of the dustier elements of the genre with its eponymous Brave/Default mechanic, but still retained the customary hero’s tale and beautiful presentation of Square Enix’s finest titles. It’s a hell of a ride and aside from some questionable (though relatively unobtrusive) microtransactions, it’s up there (along with its direct sequel, Bravely Second: End Layer) with the finest 3DS exclusives and well worth going back to if you missed it first time round.
Monster Hunter Generations is another must-have for fans of the franchise, blending the old with the new for an excellent overall package. Hunter Styles add a little extra intensity and tempo to combat while this game also tries to welcome newcomers with optional tutorials, with Prowler mode undoubtedly designed to be quirky and alluring to players of all kinds. It does some things better than its immediate predecessor - Monster Hunter 4 Ultimate - but also a couple of things a little less impressively. The nod to nostalgia brings a lot of locations and quests to keep players busy, but loses a little of the narrative edge and focus of its predecessor. This franchise is one of the most enjoyable and immersive time-sinks to be found on Nintendo hardware. For any gamer ready for a long-term challenge, with tough battles and plenty of complexity to master, this is most certainly worth hunting down.
By the time this sequel arrived, people had come around to Luigi’s Mansion. The GameCube original rubbed those expecting a Mario game at launch the wrong way, but with suitably adjusted expectations most players came to appreciate the beauty and comedy of Luigi’s haunted house exploits. Next Level’s sequel brought to fruition the planned stereoscopic 3D of the original to fantastic effect, making the mansion in Dark Moon really feel like a diorama as the green plumber tip-toes around sucking up ghosts and coins. A port of the original also came to 3DS, and they’re both excellent ways to prepare for the upcoming Luigi’s Mansion 3 on Switch.
Zero Escape: Virtue's Last Reward spins a fantastic yarn, tackling various topics with maturity, intelligence and even a little humour. Its smart puzzles can be a little fiddly, but if you have any interest in story in games whatsoever and can deal with its murderous subject matter, this is a must play that will keep you engaged for dozens of hours.
Resident Evil Revelations is a truly impressive achievement, and the definitive ‘mature’ title on the 3DS. With production values worthy of a home console release (which actually arrived later), a significant volume of content, a blend of the series’ different game styles and a subtly evolved control system, this title feels like a tribute to and progression of the franchise. There are some downsides though, including spikes in difficulty and drops in frame rate that are occasionally jarring in contrast to the rest of the title. All the same, Revelations has something to offer Resi fans old and new – there are few experiences on the 3DS more engrossing or exciting.
Pokémon Omega Ruby & Alpha Sapphire seem very similar to Pokémon X & Y, as you might expect, but the story and the environments you encounter feel – despite the fact that they are remakes – very fresh and unique. They’re not an extensive upgrade from their other 3DS counterparts, but any Poké-fan who’s played one of the series remakes in the past knows that expecting an enormous upgrade is a fool’s errand. These titles should be considered as games that belong alongside X & Y, rather than successors. — they've successfully surpassed X & Y, however, by building on the tremendous features available on the 3DS and pushing new ideas such as the Soar ability.
Whether or not you’re a platforming fan, and whether or not you’ve played any of the previous titles in this series, Shantae and the Pirate’s Curse is an exceptionally well-crafted game that should not be ignored. The art style and sense of humour aren’t going to appeal to everyone, but they work well together and manage to set a very specific tone that WayForward has clearly spent time perfecting. There is little reason for any 3DS owner to avoid adding this gem to their treasure collection.
Theatrhythm Final Fantasy: Curtain Call is far more than a lazy expansion to the original release. The volume of extra content is truly impressive, but it also shakes up the formula with new modes to give the experience a fresh feel. Terrific music and tight controls are the stars, while competitive players will surely get a kick out of the online mode; whether you're a fan of music rhythm games, Final Fantasy or both, this is a must buy.
Professor Layton Vs. Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney delivers an utterly charming, enjoyable experience to satisfy fans of both franchises; it's a crossover that, when experienced, seems entirely natural. The individual parts are pleasurable and entertaining, as always, though perhaps fall a little below the exceptional standards of their main-series contemporaries, and there's a lingering sense that more gameplay innovation to blend the two brands could have been explored. These are minor complaints in the grand scheme of a lengthy adventure, but Level-5 and Capcom have done a commendable job. The end result is another 3DS title that exemplifies much of what sets Nintendo's portable hardware and supporting software apart; it provides heart-warming, accessible fun, and entertainment to last for many hours.
The final game of the prequel trilogy which began with Professor Layton and the Last Specter on DS, Hershel Layton’s daughter took the limelight in the follow up. This capped the story of the professor and apprentice Luke’s first meeting and exploits, taking them on a globe-trotting adventure and showcasing the best elements of the series. Of course, thanks to backwards compatibility, we’d recommend starting from the beginning if its gentle form of adventure puzzling sounds appealing, but if you’ve only got time for one, you can’t go wrong with Azran Legacy.