At this point, it is a fat cliché to say so, but there is just no other way around it. 2013 was undoubtedly the year of the 3DS. Released in 2011, the system – not too long ago – fell victim to fair complaints over its poor library. The initial part of its lifespan and the lack of significant titles made it seem as if Nintendo, in a desperate rush to release the system too early, forgot all about the important role software plays in the driving of hardware sales. The handheld market is so utterly dominated by the company that the need to beat its competition to the market is tiny, and the move ended up backfiring badly.
2012 turned the ship towards a brighter horizon, and the releases of Professor Layton, Kid Icarus: Uprising, New Super Mario Bros 2, Theatrhythm, and the extremely lackluster Paper Mario: Sticker Star showed that a consistent stream of software was starting to become apparent. However, the games were still not quite enough to make the system appealing outside the inner circle of Nintendo’s dedicated fanbase. The Nintendo 3DS was picking up speed, but it was still a relatively niche system if compared to the universal allure that the company’s previous handhelds had built.
2013 was the completion of that process. It threw the 3DS over the wall and into the hands of the large public. The system is no longer a minor player in the grand scheme of things, but a true force that has games for everyone. The floodgates were opened by the magnificent Fire Emblem Awakening. The game that quickly became the system’s must-have RPG, and it was good enough to both make the relevancy of the Fire Emblem franchise in the West reach unimaginable heights and draw the attention of the genre’s fans to the system.
Another series that greatly helped itself while also boosting the system was Monster Hunter. Although the series’ time-consuming gameplay is not exactly a perfect match for the nature of a portable system, the game’s considerable focus on online play brought along an experience whose replay value had only been matched by Mario Kart 7. The same month saw the release of Luigi’s Mansion: Dark Moon. Unquestionably the green dude’s greatest adventure to date, the game oozed with charm that was – believe it or not – unparalleled. It was the finest point of the year of Luigi, and in terms of production it certainly is the very best the 3DS has to offer.
The year’s second quarter delivered two of the system’s lengthiest games in Mario and Luigi: Dream Team and Animal Crossing New Leaf. The former was a more than worthy addition to a series that had already delivered two role-playing masterpieces; Superstar Saga and Bowser’s Inside Story. The latter represented, by far, the greatest game of the successful Animal Crossing series. Its online community component was stronger than ever, and the seemingly endless options for town customization – such as the stellar public works projects – which came along with your position as the town’s mayor pushed the game’s value to another level. Therefore producing a game that easily lasts for over 100 hours.
To close out its twelve-month winning run, the end of the year brought Pokémon X/Y, which took the phenomenal series to new visual territories and wisely used the extremely large collection of monsters under its belt; and a mighty new The Legend of Zelda installment. A Link Between Worlds threw linearity out the window and gave players freedom to explore the world. More importantly than that, the game was extremely focused. Its gameplay is enjoyable all the way through, and moments of filler are non-existent. It is The Legend of Zelda at its purest funnest state, and it is the franchise’s most all-around solid game since Ocarina of Time.
2013 provided a little bit for everyone, and a whole lot for anyone who loves games sprinkled with a load of Nintendo charm. It blasted the Nintendo 3DS into the stratosphere, making it extremely marketable and it added to truth to once empty statements that pretended the system was backed up by strong software. It showed Nintendo knows how to make a system bounce back, and it gives hope to those that still think the Wii U can be a success.