After a bit of a shaky start, Nintendo’s 3DS platform is finally starting to come into its own. There have already been at least three fantastic exclusives released for the console since January – including Square Enix’s marvellous Heroes of Ruin, Capcom’s Resident Evil: Revelations and Nintendo’s own Kid Icarus: Uprising – and the debut (this weekend) of the new 3DS XL model looks set to introduce the 3DS to an entirely new audience. Here’s our list of the five most anticipated Nintendo 3DS titles still (currently) due to arrive before the end of the year…

5. Pro Evolution Soccer 2013 3D

Arriving in time for the console’s launch back in spring 2011, PES 2011 3D was the first football game to land on Nintendo’s new handheld, and despite the emergence of the almighty FIFA 12 at the end of last year, it remains the finest soccer game available on the platform. It featured the series’ expansive Master League mode in its entirety, a brilliant new ‘Player Cam’ perspective and visual panache that was mostly missing from the rest of the original launch line-up. Of late PES has been steadily improving each year, and that looks set to continue. Online play definitely wouldn’t go amiss this year though. [DUE: October/November 2012]

4. Paper Mario: Sticker Star 3D

Though not as widely loved (or played) as Mario’s more traditional platforming adventures, the Paper Mario series has lost none of its hardened cult lustre. The first game in the series to appear on one of Nintendo’s handheld machines, Sticker Star 3D is being developed (as always) by the ever-reliable Intelligent Systems, and doesn’t deviate from the franchise norm; this is still the same inviting concoction as ever, with turn-based combat punctuating bouts of inventive RPG questing. The pop-up book art style fits the 3DS like a balmy glove, and if great things are expected (and they are) Intelligent Systems only have themselves to blame. [DUE: Christmas 2012]

3. New Super Mario Bros 2

Even if you were a tad underwhelmed by 2009’s rowdy New Super Mario Bros Wii – and a few people were – it’s worth pointing out that New Super Mario Bros 2 is following in the footsteps of the absolutely superb Nintendo DS iteration from back in 2006. The 3DS sequel is due to launch in Japan at the end of this week, and it has already received a pretty formidable 36/40 review score from Famitsu magazine.  We can’t wait, and our brief hands-on time with the game earlier this year reassured us that it was more than safe to expect only the very best from it. [DUE: August 17th 2012]

2. Castlevania: Lords of Shadow – Mirror of Fate

An old school Castlevania adventure featuring multiple interlocking plotlines and characters, a battle against Dracula and some of the best visuals yet seen on the Nintendo 3DS… wherever do we sign? A sequel to the much-loved 360/PS3 hit Lords of Shadow, Mirror of Fate is best described as a ‘2.5D’ action game: a blend of 2D gameplay and 3D visuals. Konami are promising massive bosses, more exploration and a whole host of online features that are still to be announced. Castlevania has been in exceptionally rude health recently, and this is looking like another full-blooded classic, clumsy title and all. [DUE: October 5th, 2012]

1. Luigi’s Mansion: Dark Moon

This is the big one. We’ve played through the opening twenty minutes of Luigi’s Mansion: Dark Moon no less than three times over the past year, and we can’t wait to be given the opportunity to do it all over again. A joyous sequel to one of the Gamecube’s most sorely underrated games, it’s quite exceptionally good-looking and the original’s wonderfully endearing sense of humour has been diligently preserved. Developed by the same team who made the outstanding 2009 Wii update of Punch-Out!! and fully optimised for handheld play, this looks like truly vintage stuff. To read our full hands-on preview, click here. [DUE: October 12th, 2012]

Honourable mentions: Sonic & SEGA All-Stars Racing Transformed, New Art Academy 3D, Animal Crossing 3D, FIFA 13, Epic Mickey: Power of Illusion, Professor Layton and the Miracle Mask. 

To read our review of the new Nintendo 3DS XL console – which includes an FAQ section – click here.

Luigi’s Mansion 2 is currently due for release on the Nintendo 3DS on Friday, October 12th 2012. 

Watch the E3 trailer for Luigi’s Mansion 2 below:

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