3DS In 2016: The Year Of The JRPG

This year is shaping up to be historic for gamers who own a 3DS and are fans of Japanese role-playing games (JRPGs). In Japan many of these games have released over the course of the last two years, but in America Nintendo and its third parties have been busy translating and preparing them for launch. This has caused a build up of sorts, resulting in a perfect storm of JRPGs ready to be unleashed to the gaming public. And I couldn’t be happier!

January 22 – Mario & Luigi: Paper Jam

First out of the gate is lighter fare: Mario & Luigi: Paper Jam, releasing this Friday. Fans of the series will be pleased to see a rare crossover with some of the cast of Paper Mario invading the world of the Mario & Luigi series. This allows for some truly unique gameplay and story ideas and is sure to be a refreshing update to both entries. This one will wet your appetite for the more hardcore RPGs on the way.

January 26 – Final Fantasy Explorers

Have you ever wanted to learn more about the monsters that have hassled you throughout the years in the Final Fantasy series? With Final Fantasy Explorers you can find out by recruiting them to help you on your quest! This action/RPG combines the lore of a traditional Final Fantasy with the gameplay of Monster Hunter. Up to 4 players can join forces to play co-op through the game locally or via Wi-Fi. There are over 20 jobs to master and some very familiar faces will show up to lend a hand.

February 16 – Project X Zone 2

From the creators of Xenosaga, Xenoblade Chronicles, and Baten Kaitos comes the sequel to the underrated Project X Zone for 3DS. It features a cast of characters spanning a ton of franchises from several development studios, including: Nintendo, Bandai Namco, Sega, and Capcom. This turn-based strategy RPG utilizes the special attributes of each character to create dynamic combat that’s enjoyable to watch and delivers fan service to those who follow and love the various personalities.

February 19 – Fire Emblem Fates

Two kingdoms are on the brink of war. Whose side will you choose? Torn between two families, you’re an heir of Hoshido, raised by Nohrian royals. If you walk the path of Birthright, you’ll battle the corrupted king of Nohr beside a family of strangers. If you walk the path of Conquest, you must fight to change your misguided kingdom from within. Command them expertly and forge deep relationships to master this turn-based strategy game.

February 27 – Pokémon Red/Blue/Yellow

The games that started the monster-fighting craze are finally seeing a rerelease. These three Game Boy classics will be available for $9.99 each via the 3DS eShop Virtual Console. The games will be identical to the originals, except you’ll be able to trade Pokémon locally via the 3DS wireless connection. No matter if you’re hungry for nostalgia or just want to see how it all began, you can’t go wrong with these games. Gotta collect’em all!

March 1 – Return to PopoloCrois: A Story of Seasons Fairytale

What do you get when you combine the PopoloCrois comic book series with what used to be the Harvest Moon series? This game. And it looks beautiful! It’s packed with stuff to do, including the traditional farm simulation that you’ve become accustomed to mixed with tactical turn-based combat from the glory days of RPGs. According to the developer: “Filled with well-developed characters, tear-jerking romance and loss, tales of personal growth, political intrigue, and more, players will fondly remember this story for a long time to come.” Sold!

March 25 – Hyrule Warriors Legends

OK, so this isn’t an RPG in the traditional sense of the word. It’s more of a hack-and-slash adventure game set in the Zelda universe. However, I think it shares some of the same traits as RPGs, so I’m going to allow it. If you played Hyrule Warriors on the Wii U, then this one is pretty much identical, except for a few new characters to play as. If you’re itching for a more action-oriented romp on the go, this one might be perfect for you.

April 15 – Bravely Second: End Layer

The original, Bravely Default, was a sleeper hit that captivated many 3DS gamers. Its return to the classic turn-based battle system that old-school fans often crave was a big hit. This time around the game is packed with stuff to do and the artwork and soundtrack are as beautiful as ever. A collector’s edition was just announced, and if you’re not sure whether this one’s for you, check out the demo on the eShop. It will be available prior to the game’s release and features content not found in the main game. Some of your items and stats will transfer over to the main game once you purchase it.

April 19 – Langrisser: Re:Incarnation – Tensei

If you’re more into the strategy RPGs, this one might just be for you. I’ll admit, I haven’t ever played a Langrisser game, but I’ve heard mostly good things about them. This is the first one to come out in 15 years, and it appears to be packed with content. The developers claim you’ll spend over 100 hours with an epic campaign spanning three different factions in need of your skills. The graphics may not be the best you’ve ever seen, but perhaps the story and gameplay will keep you captivated? Below is an import video review, courtesy of Briareos Kerensky

Summer – Dragon Quest VII: Fragments of the Forgotten Past

Out of all the games on this list, I might be the most excited for Dragon Quest 7. Why? Because it’s one of the only games in the series that I barely scratched the surface of back when it originally launched. The ideas and story really intrigued me, but the awful graphics really put me off playing the game for an extended amount of time. I probably put about 20 hours into it, but most people say it can take over 100 hours to fully explore the game the first time through. With the overhauled graphics, a brand new translation, and no more random encounters, I’m super psyched to finally get a chance to play through this one. I’m so happy Nintendo decided to publish it over here as I had pretty much given up hope of it ever being released.

Fall – Dragon Quest VIII: Journey of the Cursed King

If you’re looking for a more contemporary take on the Dragon Quest franchise, this is the one for you. It features amazing cell shaded graphics and battles that have dynamic camera angles instead of the traditional first-person viewpoint. It also has a fun and exciting story and the sense of exploration is unparalleled due to its 3D graphics engine and fully realized world. This one was amazing on the PS2, and I’m hoping the same will be true on the 3DS.


Keep in mind that the above titles are just the ones that we know about. There could easily be more announced throughout the year, especially by the likes of Atlus who has traditionally released several 3DS RPGs every year. I’d be shocked if we didn’t see a Shin Megami or an Etrian Odyssey come out later in the summer or fall. Even if no more RPGs are released, there are more than enough coming out this year to keep even the hungriest JRPG fans busy. I know I’m excited! Which one(s) will you be picking up? Let us know below!

Craig Majaski

Craig has been covering the video game industry since 1995. His work has been published across a wide spectrum of media sites. He's currently the Editor-In-Chief of Nintendo Times and contributes to Gaming Age.

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