Where is 3DS top-tier line-up for 2014? Has Wii U snatched it away?

Nintendo’s 3DS software-focused Nintendo Direct has come and gone without any megaton reveals for 2014. No, Nintendo Pocket Football Club doesn’t count. Sure, we’ve still got some good games coming up as we ride the crest of a fantastic 2013 for the handheld, but ‘good’ isn’t good enough for us gamers. We demand more. “MOAR GAMZ! MOAR GAMZ!” That’s what we sound like. It’s our insatiable appetite for more games that must exasperate Nintendo to the point of Satoru Iwata thrusting his hands out and saying “please enjoy… what you already frikkin’ have, you greedy bastards“.

The problem is that Nintendo’s resources are finite. The company has done a remarkable job of turning around the fortunes of 3DS, to the point where we’ve been spoilt rotten with one of the best years of exclusive software of any generation ever (as Dave rightly pointed out in his feature Nintendo will have the best next-gen Christmas line-up, but no-one is going to care (opens in new tab)). But now Wii U needs that same rescue package, and I fear 3DS is going to lose out.

The simple fact is, 2014 is (currently) looking sparse in terms of AAA 3DS games. Sure, B-tier games like Bravely Default, Mario Golf, Professor Layton and Kirby are coming, but they’re not exactly the equivalent of a 3DS-exclusive Super Mario Galaxy 3, are they? We’ll no doubt hear something at E3, but E3 Nintendo announcements have a tendency to appear at least 12 months after the event.

The problem would obviously disappear if enough third-party developers were on board, but Nintendo seems happy to bail out its own ships without asking for help from other vessels. This currently isn’t so much of a problem on 3DS now that the first-party line-up is so strong. But it will be a problem if Nintendo keeps running from one console to the other, extinguishing fires with buckets of awesome. Buckets of awesome that take far too much time to fill from the awesome tap.

There’s a definite disparity between how long it takes to make a game and how long it takes for a gamer to play it. Misguided though it may have been, Cammie Dunaway’s infamous ‘keep playing Mario Kart’ actually had a point. Why are we blazing through the games we’ve waited so patiently for in such a short space of time?

Because while it may have taken you a weekend to trot through a lovely game like Luigi’s Mansion 2, think about how long it took to make it. The thousands of man-hours spent hiding coins under rugs, animating Luigi’s trembly face and squashing that one bug that (possibly) made Luigi’s nose blow up like a balloon if you simultaneously held all the face buttons and farted. You’ve got to test for things like that.

The biggest-hitter still left to come on the 3DS schedule is undoubtedly Super Smash Bros (opens in new tab), which has been perpetually on the horizon for what feels like an eternity. Wait… hang on a sec, I’ll just check there isn’t an invisible horizon-length fishing rod above my head with Smash Bros dangling from the end of it… nope, apparently it really is coming soon. Of course there are other games coming up, including Mario Golf, Mario Party, Yoshi’s Island 2 and Monster Hunter 4 (all down for 2014), but how many of those are really top-tier? Two? A couple of highly promising games are no longer enough to reassure our game-mad brains that all is well with a console’s future.

I can’t help but jump to conclusions. I mean, last time the first-party AAA release schedules went this empty, it was because Nintendo’s best internal development teams were hard at work on next-gen. Wii’s AAA releases went quiet, as did those of the DS before it. So either Wii U is demanding a resource shift, or a next-gen handheld is on its way. I fear it’s the former, and that 3DS’ software output is going to suffer.

Ironic thing is, it doesn’t even require genuinely ‘new’ anything to ease the situation. How many times this year have you thought ‘Pokemon’s coming!’, knowing full well Pokemon is and has always been the same game in a different box with some new Pokemon and shinier graphics? It isn’t really ‘new’ at all. Just adequately brought up to date. Ostensibly, very little from Nintendo is ever truly ‘new’ these days. The company seems proud of its nostalgia-heavy, comfortably familiar experiences. Sure, we all know the gameplay continues to ‘surprise in a pleasant way’ to echo the recent financial report, but the faces gamers see are almost always the same.

It isn’t rocket cliches (I mean ‘science’). We know what we’re likely to be given on 3DS, assuming Triple-A development isn’t now all being pushed onto Wii U: A new Mario game, F-Zero, Metroid, a brand new 3D Star Fox and something retro-tastic like a Mario Kart Anthology. So please, Nintendo, don’t wait for E3. Tell us now what we’ve got to look forward to on 3DS in 2014, hang it on a horizon-length fishing rod for us all to wear over our heads and then carry on with the same schedule as planned. I, for one, will feel much better.

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