Another year has come and gone, and as far as games go, the year of 2013 was a fantastic one, with great games across the board, from surprise localizations (Pandora’s Tower for North America, Senran Kagura Burst and Summer Carnival ’92 Recca) to excellent mainstream titles (Rayman Legends, The Last of Us) and everything in between. But come 2013, there are plenty of games coming out next year that are shaping up to be just as excellent—if not more so. Unfortunately, I realized in my tryptophan-induced holiday stupor that we can only pick 5 games. Luckily, honorable mentions are still allowed. Here are mine, in no particular order.

Puzzle and Dragons ZIf it weren’t for my unwavering anticipation for some more complex stuff, PazuDora Z would be at the top of this list. I’ve made it known among the oprainfall staff that I have a serious addiction to GungHo’s insanely popular (in Japan and parts of the US, anyway) free-to-play cross between Bejeweled and Pokémon, and I can’t wait to get my 3DS fix. 
: Don’t even get me started.
Persona Q
: In all honesty, a mashup of Etrian Odyssey‘s dungeon-crawling and Persona‘s complex story and gameplay mechanics will also keep me glued to the 3DS.
D4: Call me crazy, but I see no compelling reason to get an Xbox One at the moment…unless, of course, you bring up Swery65’s gleefully ridiculous name. His masterpiece Deadly Premonition was one of my favorite games last year in its Director’s Cut form, and Swery’s downloadable title for Microsoft’s system also sounds pretty good, though I don’t know if I would get a One just for it.
WATCH_DOGS: Ubisoft’s extremely ambitious multiplatform game was high up on my Top 5 last year, and it still looks quite good.
Wonder Flick: If anyone can attempt to bridge the gap between smartphone and console gaming, it would no doubt be Level-5.
Kirby Triple Deluxe: I’m an old-school Kirby fanatic, and am especially fond of the adorable creampuff’s handheld outings, so I’m looking forward to this one as well.
Conception 2: Children of the Seven StarsQuirky dungeon-crawlers that involve pregnancy deserve my support…
Dark Souls 2As do non-quirky ones that mostly involve getting yourself killed. (Or worse, expelled.)

So, with that out of the way and without further ado, here are my top 5 most anticipated games of the year. I apologize if my list may be somewhat typical, but that’s just my style.

5. Super Smash Bros. for 3DS and Wii U

Super Smash Bros. (3DS/Wii U) Logo

As a young kid back in the day, I was introduced to the venerable fighting game genre by the original Super Smash Bros. I have since played dozens of other fighters, but Masahiro Sakurai and Nintendo’s casual-yet-hardcore series is still close to my heart. The latest installment looks to be closer to Melee than Brawl in style, and the fact that veterans of the extremely well-balanced Soul Calibur series worked on it is worth noting.

The new characters announced thus far for this installment, especially Mega Man and the now-infamous Animal Crossing villager, also look to shake up the series’ trademark gameplay quite a bit. The cel-shaded graphics on the 3DS version contrast nicely with the Wii U version’s beautiful HD ones. Sakurai always has something new up his sleeves, and I can’t wait to see the results this time around. (And, hopefully, the lead character from my pretty much everyone’s favorite game of 2012 will make it in.)

4. Monster Hunter 4

Monster Hunter 4 logo

I really got into Capcom’s huge and hugely successful open-world action game when Tri came out for the Wii back in 2010, and Tri Ultimate was even better, with a fresh coat of HD paint and ingenious use of the Wii U GamePad. As the Japanese have figured out since the PSP, though, this series fits the portable console market well, and Monster Hunter 4, the second 3DS installment, is definite proof of this.

Difficult new monsters are pretty much expected as far as new additions are concerned, and the Goa Magara and Nerusukyura look especially deadly. However, Capcom went the extra mile and added in some cool new combat mechanics as well, including midair attacks and two new weapons classes. The caravan-based nature of the game, where hunters traverse several villages as opposed to merely one, also showcases some new innovation. Monster Hunter 4 looks to be the series’ most ambitious adventure yet. As another hunter hungry for more of this series’ fantastic open-world action, Capcom can’t release the soon enough.

3. Bayonetta 2

Bayonetta 2 Screenshot 19

I’ve made my love for cult developer Platinum Games known for quite some time now. Last year was a good one for the studio, with Anarchy Reigns, The Wonderful 101 and Metal Gear Rising Revengeance all seeing release. Now, their sequel to their cult hit Bayonetta is upon us, and will hopefully give the Wii U library a much-needed swift kick in the pants.

The first Bayonetta was a fantastic action title; it was mainstream enough to get a slick advertising campaign and easy enough to let novices pull off deadly combos, yet it also brought a nifty scoring system to the table to make the niche set happy. While most have said the first game’s story was convoluted, I beg to differ, and actually think the series’ battle between witches and angels is a fairly compelling one to follow. But it’s the combat that truly made Bayonetta shine, and with tweaks such as a co-op mode, off-TV play with the GamePad, and a new look for the eponymous heroine, this sequel will hopefully be better than ever.

2. Bravely Default

Bravely Default Logo (Black)

Since Square Enix’s Final Fantasy series started getting more cinematic and mobile gaming became the company’s bread and butter, the plucky Japanese developer seems to have strayed far from what made them famous: the traditional turn-based RPG. Sure, their new focus has led to some fantastic experiences (The World Ends With You, anyone?), but has also led to a litany of failed promises for the past several years. Enter Bravely Default, which is already getting critical and commercial acclaim across the board on both sides of the Atlantic, especially in its new For The Sequel version, upon which the international version is based.

Square partnered with Nintendo to release this game abroad, a wise move considering the latter’s incredibly good RPG localizations as of late. The numerous jobs characters can get, as well as the game’s unique spin on turn-based mechanics and a cool StreetPass-centric town building minigame, will ensure that no two playthroughs are alike. Add a sexy limited edition, among the first for a Nintendo-published 3DS game in the NTSC region, and gamers have yet another must-have RPG on a system filled with must-have RPGs. All in all, Bravely Default will be worth the drawn-out wait.

1. X

Monolith X

Aside from a brief trailer filled with what seems to be an evolution of their previous game’s combat and open-world design, so much has been left in the dark about Monolith Soft’s debut Wii U outing. When thinking about putting together my most anticipated games, however, the sheer excellence of their previous game Xenoblade Chronicles proved enough to convince me to put this at the top of the heap.

Not since Ocarina of Time had I truly felt connected to a game in terms of its story, characters and combat, and the great amount of care that went into Xenoblade is extremely apparent in every minute detail. Yet, it was sadly limited somewhat by the Wii’s aging hardware. Now that Monolith Soft has a new piece of kit to work with, however, the results are bound to be stunning. Many questions still remain about what X (or whatever it ends up being named) will be like, but Tetsuya Takahashi and company will still blow away all of our expectations with this next game. Unfortunately, that means RPG fans everywhere have yet another great time sink.

Will Whitehurst
Will joined the Operation Rainfall Campaign soon after news broke of that infamous French interview about Xenoblade. Subsequently, he got actively involved and became a staff member in July/August 2011. He is currently the head of the Japanese translation team, and loves to play, discuss, debate and learn more about games. Will gravitates towards unconventional action games and RPGs, but plays pretty much anything except Madden. He is also currently attending college, honing his Japanese skills and preparing for medical school. (Coincidentally, Trauma Center is one of his favorite game series of all time.)