2013 propelled the 3DS from a mildly interesting system to one that has a little bit to offer for every kind of gamer. It is now a handheld whose greatest games cover nearly all major gaming genres. At the same time, 2013 set some pretty lofty standards for the platform to reach, leaving 2014 in quite a complicated position. Being a merely decent set of twelve months would lead most to label it as disappointing, and failing to deliver at least half-dozen stellar games would make it a failure in the eyes of many. However, the little we know about what is coming in 2014 is already very exciting.
First and foremost, there is the landing of the gargantuan Smash Bros franchise. While taking away the expected Wii U exclusivity of the title – especially in a time where the platform needs a major push in the form of remarkable exclusive software – is certainly questionable from a marketing standpoint, the release will do wonders for the 3DS. The stages based on Nintendo’s handheld games will add tons of personality to the portable version of the game, and the online features – which will hopefully be properly implemented this time around (I am looking at you, Brawl) – will boost the series’ already horrifyingly big replay value to even higher heights.
In a more relaxed side of the gaming spectrum, Professor Layton will appear not once, but twice during the course of the year. Already a major staple on Nintendo’s handhelds due to Level-5’s brilliant storytelling and puzzle design, the top-hat professor will appear on his sixth solo adventure, Azran Legacy; and also share the stage with Phoenix Wright on an encounter of the two giants of the modern point-and-click gameplay. While fans of the series fully know what to expect of the former game, the latter remains a huge mystery to Western audiences, and the cross-over of the puzzle-solving and courtroom-ass-kicking gameplays is delightfully promising.
Speaking of games that Japanese audiences are already enjoying but that have yet to debut in the Americas, Bravely Default – the first huge release by Square Enix on the portable – is set to arrive in early February and will likely join Etrian Odyssey IV on the list of the 3DS’s must-have RPGs. Monster Hunter 4 – though not confirmed for 2014, unlike all other games on this list – will also come at some point, and 2014 might be the year in which that will happen. Monster Hunter 3 was able to be successful enough in the West to warrant the release of three distinct versions (the first one for the Wii, and Monster Hunter 3 Ultimate on both the 3DS and Wii U), so it is only a matter of time before Capcom announces the arrival of the fourth game of the series in both America and Europe.
To top it all off, Nintendo has also recently made it clear that Smash Bros will not be the sole major first-party release to hit the 3DS. Kirby: Triple Deluxe is centered around stage elements that seemingly make full use of the system’s visual depth, which is something no other game has attempted to do yet, making the 3DS’ supposedly main allure feel like a silly novelty. Meanwhile, Yoshi’s New Island will, seven years after the series’ last installment, bet on the traditional water-color visuals and egg-throwing platforming to try to create the magic of Super Mario World 2, one of the finest platformers of a generation that absolutely thrived on the genre.
Those seven games, or at least the six of them which are confirmed for 2014, are already enough to make up for one great gaming year. And, at least when it comes to Nintendo games, the second half of the year remains a mystery, as games that will only be available after June, with the exception of Smash Bros and its unknown release date, have yet to be revealed. Therefore, as good as 2013 was, 2014 is, even without the reveal of any huge second-half releases, shaping up quite nicely.