Attack of the Friday Monsters! (3DS)--One part "summer vacation sim" and one part rock-paper-scissors card game, this Kaz Ayabe-designed eShop title is the kind of release that causes some people to proclaim it the best thing since sliced bread (or the gaming equivalent, at least) and others to deride it as boring tripe. Can you guess which side I lean toward? Actually, I wouldn't call Attack of the Friday Monsters! a masterpiece, but it certainly deserves praise for providing the medium with a thoughtful and heartwarming story and for prompting feelings of nostalgia where they have no right to exist.
Final Fantasy Adventure (GameBoy)--Here's another game that I touched on as a teen but failed to complete until 2014. And just like the above-mentioned EarthBound, once I finally sunk my teeth into this portable endeavor I couldn't help but kick myself for not making my way through it earlier. Of course, it's kind of hard to believe I didn't make my way through it earlier, as it's basically a GameBoy-based precursor to Secret of Mana (which means it's equal parts Final Fantasy and The Legend of Zelda), a game that I all but offered my soul to in the early 1990s. Sadly, I still haven't seen Final Fantasy Adventure's credit roll, but I'm going to do my best to rectify that in 2015.
The Legend of Zelda: A Link Between Worlds (3DS)--Speaking of games that have prompted me to kick myself in 2014, a good part of me wishes I could go back in time and purchase A Link Between Worlds earlier than I did, as it really should have been among my "favorite games of 2013 (that were released in 2013)." Oh, well, better later than never, right? Anyway, A Link Between Worlds is the best, most refreshing Zelda offering I've encountered since I first obsessed over Ocarina of Time back in 1998. The highlight of this tightly produced package, in the opinion of yours truly: the combat, which feels so good that it's easy to forget you're nudging a circle pad and pressing buttons rather than actually racing around and swinging a sword with all of your might.
Slime MoriMori Dragon Quest 3 (3DS)--Considering how much I loved (more like frothed at the mouth over) Slime MoriMori Dragon Quest 2, aka Dragon Quest Heroes: Rocket Slime, it's almost unfathomable that I waited until just a few weeks ago to begin its 3DS-focused follow-up. That inexcusable feet-dragging can be blamed, at least in part, on this game's not-so-appealing aesthetics, although now that I've gotten used to them I can say without hesitation that they're less atrocious than they first appear to be. There are other flaws worth mentioning here, too, such as how Slime MoriMori 3's gameplay is nearly a mirror image of its predecessor, but none of them really matter thanks to the fact that the overall enterprise is just as fun as Square Enix's earlier effort.
Solitiba (3DS)--When I first heard that this Game Freak-developed eShop title would combine horse racing and solitaire, I was more than a bit disappointed. Granted, I was glad it wasn't going to be yet another Pokémon sequel or spin-off, but I wasn't sure this confounding mash-up would be a whole lot better. Boy, was I wrong. Every single element of Solitiba is so spot-on that the entire endeavor winds up being thoroughly entrancing. In fact, I've had a hard time putting it aside for other games since I started playing it a number of months ago--which goes a long way toward explaining how I could've put nearly 60 hours into it in such a short period of time.
Sweet Fuse: At Your Side (PSP)--To be honest, even after being convinced (by the overwhelmingly positive word of mouth attached to it) to pick up a copy of this portable visual novel, I wasn't at all sure I'd like it. My only prior experience with the genre involved playing through another PSP title, Hakuōki: Demon of the Fleeting Blossom, and while I found that game to be surprisingly fascinating, I worried it would be difficult to replicate those feelings with this seemingly less serious counterpart. I needn't have fretted, of course, because Sweet Fuse is every bit as captivating as Hakuōki, if not more so. I'm still not a fan of how such games basically force players to use a walkthrough if they want to wind up with the men of their dreams, but even with that "requirement" in place Sweet Fuse is well worth a look if you find its premise at all intriguing.
Honorable mentions: Etrian Odyssey IV (3DS), Taiyou no Tenshi Marlowe (GameBoy) and Zoo Keeper 3D (3DS)