The Nintendo 3DS starts off 2015 right, with two mega-entries into its already robust library. Players have to decide between heading back to the past with The Legend of Zelda: Majora’s Mask 3D–a remastered version of one of the Nintendo 64’s best games — or take on the future with the cutting-edge Monster Hunter 4 Ultimate.
The easiest, but financially painful, choice between two games this good is to just buy both. Players with other systems who are hankering for a Game of Thrones fix can settle their urges by playing the second episode of Telltale Games’ adventure-game take on the material.
Game of Thrones – Episode 2: The Lost Lords
(Xbox One, PS4, PS3, Xbox 360, Vita, $5, Mature)
Telltale flexes its adventure acumen, sinking its teeth into HBO’s version of George R.R. Martin’s dark fantasy epic. Blessed with voice actors and likenesses from the show, the second episode continues to delve into the twisted path that House Forrester has taken, entangled with the deviousness of the Lannisters. All the bitter backstabbing and stress-inducing interplay among tough, well-drawn characters makes the transition from the books and show to the game.
Just as with the first episode, the quick-time events for action events drag down the real draw, which is the fast-paced dialogue and intriguing branching paths that spin off from your choices. The storytelling pace picks up quite a bit, stirring the pot and making the wait for the next episode as difficult as the one for the start of the next TV season.
The Legend of Zelda: Majora’s Mask 3D
(3DS, $40, Everyone 10+)
Nintendo’s remaster of its 2000 classic reintroduces the most inventive and confounding Zelda game to modern players. Set just after The Legend of Zelda: The Ocarina of Time, you find Link robbed of his items and horse and marooned in the bizarre, seemingly doomed land of Termina. An angry-faced moon is set to crash to the earth and destroy civilization in three days, and it’s up to you to help Link scurry around to unlock the magic it will take to prevent the apocalypse.
Wielding a time-travel mechanic, you inch your way toward progress, then rewind time with progress intact to continue your efforts. You spend a lot of time tracking the daily activities of villlagers, discovering the proper times to meet them certain places and take and receive items from them. The new note-taking function helps you keep track of it all. The game also looks and controls better than ever, with rich 3D visuals that add a high-definition glimmer to the already impressive graphics. A streamlined save system, an in-game hint system and masks that grant Link new powers all improve on a solid infrastructure, proving the publisher’s knack for revitalizing its classics.
Monster Hunter 4 Ultimate
(3DS, $40, Teen)
Capcom’s breathless, exploration-heavy action RPG has found its true home on the 3DS. You build and name an adventurer, then send him out into the wild, slaying monsters, collecting resources and building up your capabilities so you can take on even more dangerous beasts. With quick-hitting missions well-suited to handheld play and quick-travel options that neutralize much of the dullness of console versions of Monster Hunter, this is the most accessible and fun entry in the series yet.
There’s a Pokémon-style feel to the hunting and collecting aspects, but the brutal, bloody battles add a high-stakes tension that Nintendo’s other collect-a-thon can’t match. There’s a vast, well-supported online system that makes it easy to join and trade with friends and strangers, paving the way for the obsessive community to band together. Despite the small scale, you feel as though you’ve plunged into an endless world. There’s always some new place to go and a new, oppressive beast to track down and conquer.