Return of the classics
With its E3 2015 Digital Event, Nintendo continued to do what it does best: deliver colorful, fun-looking, charming games that appeal to players of all ages. There weren't any huge blockbuster surprises, but many of Nintendo's most popular properties were on display, including Super Mario, The Legend of Zelda, Metroid, Star Fox and Animal Crossing.
If you want big explosions, cinematic experiences and scripted events, you'll probably have to look elsewhere, but for the types of gameplay that got most players hooked to begin with, it appears that Nintendo will deliver where it counts.
Super Mario Maker (Wii U), September 11
Drawing upon Super Mario Bros.'s 30-year history, Super Mario Maker does exactly what the name implies: it lets you create your own Super Mario levels with a simple-to-use, drag-and-drop interface.
Place enemies, power-ups, pits and blocks however you see fit; combine obstacles in new and exciting ways; choose your graphical style and rule set. You can soar through the clouds, put enemies on your head, and even transform Mario into different characters using amiibo, including a special pixel-art 8-bit Mario amiibo that adds a new Big Mushroom power-up to the game.
You'll be able to share levels online, too, giving this game nearly limitless playability. In addition, the game includes a 100-page booklet from Mario's history to help illustrate the creative possibilities.
Star Fox Zero (Wii U), Holiday 2015
Essentially a reimagining of the original Star Fox game, Star Fox Zero puts Fox McCloud and his anthropomorphic allies into interstellar combat against invading forces. You'll control multiple vehicles with transformative powers - the traditional Arwing ship turns into a chicken-like robot walker and the Landmaster tank shifts into a flight mode, plus you can control a new Gyrowing hovercraft as well.
You'll fight deep in space, within planetary atmosphere, and on planets' surfaces, and multiple camera viewpoints - an in-cockpit view on the Wii U GamePad and a third-person view on the TV - ensure you'll have a great angle for taking it all in.
The Legend of Zelda: Triforce Heroes (3DS)
The Wii U Zelda game was a no-show this year, but The Legend of Zelda: Triforce Heroes helped fill the void. Seemingly a combination between traditional Zelda games like The Legend of Zelda: A Link Between Worlds and the multiplayer Four Swords Adventures, Triforce Heroes is a three-player online adventure designed around cooperative play.
You can stack your heroes like a totem pole to take out tall enemies, and switch into a variety of costumes to use new abilities. Link can even wear Zelda's dress?! If you don't have any friends around, you can play the game solo, too. Triforce Heroes is due out in fall 2015.
Metroid Prime: Federation Force (3DS), 2016
The popular Metroid Prime series is back with a multiplayer-focused action game. Jump into mech suits with up to three other players, then embark on your mission to clear out enemy bases. In addition to the standard action mode, there's a three-on-three Blast Ball mode, sort of a futuristic take on soccer. The graphics on this title weren't so hot, but hopefully they'll be able to improve that department before release next year.
Xenoblade Chronicles X (Wii U), December 4
A followup to the sleeper Wii hit, this massive sci-fi epic is set to engulf RPG fans before the end of the year. Both on foot and in giant mechs called Skells, you'll battle enormous monsters and explore a vast world; supposedly it takes around half an hour if you did nothing but run from one side of the world map to the other. It's one of the Wii U's most visually impressive games, and the story, which focuses on nothing less than the survival of humanity on an alien world, appears equally gripping.
Fire Emblem Fates (3DS), 2016
The last Fire Emblem game established this strategy-RPG series as a bona fide hit in North America, and Fire Emblem Fates looks to up the ante. You'll have to decide which side you'll fight on, then experience a vastly different story depending on your choice. A base-building component brings additional fun.
Animal Crossing: Amiibo Festival (Wii U)
Animal Crossing is back, but it's not the typical life simulator that the series is known for. Instead, it's a board game, and you'll use amiibo of characters such as Isabelle, KK Slider and Tom Nook as the playing pieces; in fact, the game will launch as bundle that includes two Animal Crossing amiibo and three amiibo cards. Like in the traditional Animal Crossing games, the events you encounter will change depending on the real-life time of year. The game is due out holiday 2015.
Yoshi's Woolly World (Wii U), October 16
Nintendo debuted Yoshi's Woolly World some time ago, but this textile-themed platformer keeps looking more fun and more adorable every time they show it. You'll eat enemies, turn into different forms (like a motorcycle and an airplane), pull strings to interact with the environments, and more, plus you'll be able to use amiibo to customize Yoshi's appearance.
Mario & Luigi: Paper Jam (3DS), Spring 2016
Which Mario RPG series do you prefer - Mario & Luigi or Paper Mario? Either way, fans will fall in love with this title, which combines the two series as Mario, Luigi and Paper Mario (who emerges from a storybook) all team up for a comical quest. One of the highlights? Getting to control a giant papercraft Mario.
Yo-kai Watch (3DS), Holiday 2015
If you haven't heard of Yo-kai Watch, just know this: it's already taken Japan by storm, and it may very well do the same here. Featuring the same cute, collectible mentality as Pokémon, Yo-kai Watch sees you finding and allying yourself with ghostlike creatures called Yo-kai in order to defeat other, evil Yo-kai. This could be the next big thing in handheld gaming.