Two weeks ago I headed down to the Eurogamer Expo in London with the rest of the Nintendo Life team to play the big games coming out this year, but also to host the biggest ever Nintendo Life StreetPass Zone! Met a lot of really great people over the weekend at the StreetPass Zone, so thank you to everyone that stopped by for making it such a brilliant time! I look forward to seeing a lot of you again next year, hopefully we’ll have Mario Kart 8 by then. Which seems as good a place as any to start my impressions from this year’s expo!

Mario Kart 8 (Wii U)

Penned as Nintendo’s big 2014 title for Wii U (potentially as a double header with Super Smash Bros), Mario Kart 8 has a lot riding on it. It is after all, the eighth entry in the evergreen franchise, but it’s also got a lot of Wii U sales potentially attached to its success. And from my short time with it, it could do just that.

Mario Kart 8More than anything else Nintendo are working on for Wii U at the moment (with the possible exception of Smash Bros), Mario Kart 8 shows what a difference HD visuals can make. It’s still the iconic Mario styling, but the move to HD has given it a new lease of life. The courses practically sparkle, and the vibrant cheery worlds will bring a smile to even the most disillusioned Nintendo fan. Gameplay as ever remains fantastically exciting, with gliders and underwater segments making their first home console appearance.

On the downside, the Wii U Gamepad is very much an unnecessary inclusion, with the screen used as a horn - if that’s all that Nintendo can think of, it stands to reason that this is a prime candidate for Pro Controller support. Nonetheless, Mario Kart 8 is looking like a game very much worth your attention when it launches next year.

Sonic Lost World (Wii U/3DS)

Sonic Lost WorldIt’s been said a million times before, but Sonic really does feel at home on a Nintendo platform, and following on from Sonic Colours, Sonic Lost World shows exactly why. It’s a charming, vibrant, and simply brilliant experience that could potentially rival Mario in terms of sheer accessibility. This could very well be the best 3D Sonic game yet.

Taking everything that worked from Sonic Colours and Generations, SEGA have created a new style of 3D Sonic platformer, one where speed is very much left up to you. With running now handled with the trigger buttons, platforming has a far greater bearing on the gameplay, with slower, Genesis-era sections breaking up full-throttle Unleashed style runs. It’s a brilliant mix that feels both new and old at the same time, and is sure to go down well with Sonic fans come it’s release later this month.

The Legend of Zelda: A Link Between Worlds (3DS)

A Link Between WorldsWhen I first saw this getting announced, I was skeptical - my introduction to the Zelda franchise was via the 3D games, and aside from Phantom Hourglass and Spirit Tracks (two largely 3D inspired games), I’ve never had much love for the 2D, top down Zeldas. But this could change everything. A Link Between Worlds is potentially the best handheld Zelda game ever made, and it’s once again offering up an old experience, in a fresh and exciting way.

While the world is very clearly the same as the one from A Link to the Past, A Link Between Worlds mixes things up in the way you tackle tasks - new items such as the hammer introduce variable ways of tackling problems, while the ingenious artwork gimmick looks set to change the way you think about puzzles forever. Add all this creativity to a silky smooth 60FPS 3D mode, which looks gorgeous on the XL screen, and you’ve got a brand new Zelda adventure that is worth getting very excited about.

Super Mario 3D World (Wii U)

Super Mario 3D WorldIt’s not good. It’s difficult to know what has gone wrong with 3D World, but from my time with the game, it feels very much like a game stuck on the 3DS. Borrowing heavily from it’s namesake, 3D Land, Super Mario 3D World seems entrenched in a position of ‘if it worked there, it’ll work here’.

As much as it pains me to say it, 3D World contains featureless levels, bland designs and a focus on multiplayer over single player. It also looks decidedly like a 3DS up-res, and with stages that replicate the isometric view to a fault, it feels like a map pack. Playing with the Wii Remote feels wrong (a d-pad in a 3D space is a big no-no), while the GamePad offers no additional functionality worth noting (although I was assured that nunchuck support is there). Time will tell whether this changes, but so far, it’s a Mario game that feels derivative.

Donkey Kong Country: Tropical Freeze (Wii U)

DKCTFPicking up Tropical Freeze feels a lot like picking up the original Donkey Kong Country Returns. So much so that you’d be hard pressed to instantly notice a difference when you first play it - the first level even opens with you waggling the remote and nunchuck to break open a door. And that’s the biggest problem this game is going to have - it feels like a map pack, and while the HD textures are nice, it feels like you’ve seen it all before.

Completely ignoring the GamePad doesn’t help matters, and goes a long way to emphasising its redundancy in most of Nintendo’s up-coming titles. But get past the obvious similarities to its predecessor, and there’s a lot still to enjoy here. DKCR was a great game, so more of the same is surely a good thing right? There’s fun to be had here, but I imagine your mileage will depend on how much more DKCR you wanted back in 2010...

Gran Turismo 6 (PS3)

GT6A game out of sync with the rest of the gaming world, Gran Turismo 6 is hitting PS3 this year, a few weeks after the PS4 launches. Despite perhaps the strangest launch timing in recent memory, GT6 is already looking like a worthy 15th anniversary celebration, and a culmination of what GT5 wanted to be.

After driving a few laps around various tracks, what’s instantly obvious is that the cars feel much more predictable - the KTM X-bow squirrels under braking, whereas a Ferrari has a smooth deceleration into a corner. Cars feels weightier and a lot more realistic than before, and with a lot of presentation refinements, this is looking like potentially the best Gran Turismo yet. Just don’t forget it’s only out for PS3.

Batman: Arkham Origins (PS3)

The move from Rocksteady to an internal Warner Bros development team was questioned by many, but a mere glance at Arkham Batman Arkham OriginsOrigins shows that this is a game cut from the same mould as its predecessor, almost to a fault. With a larger map and a fresh (prequel) story, there’s a lot of new content here, but this is very much an expansion on Arkham City; but perhaps that’s not such a bad thing.

Combat feels as refined as ever, and new additions to Batman’s arsenal, such as being able to attach enemies to ledges whilst on the ground, make for even more options when trying to stay in the shadows. But throughout my time with it, there was always a feeling that I’d seen this before, and done this before. There’s no reason to change a good thing, but perhaps too much of a good thing will hurt Arkham Origins over the length of its campaign.

GAME OF THE SHOW: Octodad: Dadliest Catch (PS4)

OctodadOk, hands up who had heard of Octodad before E3? Not many I’d guess. As something of an underground PC indie hit, Octodad’s spring to fame was at this year’s E3, where Octodad: Dadliest Catch became a hit thanks to its offbeat and insane humour. In Octodad, you play as an octopus who is trying to live the life of a human dad, family and all. It’s crazy, it’s bizarre, but it could well be the most fun you’ll have with your PS4 in its opening year.

My short session with it saw Octodad getting ready for his wedding - everything from getting dressed to walking up the aisle was presented as a big task, and that’s exactly what they were. The right and left triggers control each of Octodad’s legs, while the R1 button allows you to take control of his hands. Cue wild flailing and no end of hilarity as you attempt to manoeuvre a tuxedo wearing octopus up the aisle, whilst avoiding boxes, vases and guests. It’s outstanding fun, and potentially the biggest indie hit of 2014.

Special note here should go to the PS4 controller - the new DualShock is a marked improvement on the PS3 controller. It now feels much more robust, and the triggers are an incredible improvement on the paddles that the PS3 controller had. A big thumbs up from me for the PS4!