What Japanese games could get localized in 2016?

These days, it’s pretty great to be a fan of Japanese games. After all, localizations of niche titles are often announced even before they’re even released in Japan! But we still don’t get everything. Here are ten games we could see Stateside in 2016, as well as assessments of their chances.

First, of course, a few ground rules:

It needs to be released or releasing by the end of March, but not announced for North America. There are too many projects that aren’t yet done in Japanese, and plenty of those that will definitely make it over just haven’t been announced yet.

It needs to be on a platform viable in both territories. As of now, that means 3DS, PS4, Wii U, PC and Vita.

Okay, onto the contenders!

Dragon Quest Builders

Dragon Quest Builders

Platform(s): PS4, Vita
Likely Western publishers: Square Enix
Why we may get it: The game clearly shows its Minecraft inspirations, and that genre — such as it is — has a huge fanbase in the West. Also, now that we’re seeing more Western Dragon Quest releases, it doesn’t seem so strange.
Why we may not: That’s just it, though: so many Dragon Quest games are releasing in the West now that we can’t be sure Square Enix is ready to push yet another title at the same time.

Picross 3D 2

Platform(s): 3DS
Likely Western publishers: Nintendo
Why we may get it: It’s incredibly easy to localize, has a lot of buzz and is on Nintendo’s stronger platform. This one’s coming; it’s just a matter of which schedule gap it’s used to fill.
Why we may not: Weirder things have happened, but we’re fairly confident about this one.

Hyperdimensional War: Neptune’s Platoon vs. Sega Hard Girls

Platform(s): Vita
Likely Western publishers: Idea Factory International
Why we may get it: Idea Factory has shown little hesitation localizing Neptunia releases, and this one — a crossover with the Sega Hard Girls media franchise of personified game consoles — has marketing potential that other games in the series don’t.
Why we may not: Sega licensing. Sega may be less accommodating with letting others using its IP in the West, where both franchises are less prominent and it already has its own localization house at Atlus USA. Still, this will probably work out: Neptunia is already a collaboration of sorts anyway.

Exist Archive

Exist Archive: The Other Side of the Sky

Platform(s): PS4, Vita
Likely Western publishers: Atlus, NIS America, Aksys
Why we may get it: The companies behind Exist Archive, tri-Ace and Spike Chunsoft, both have myriad successes under their belts and myriad localizers in their contacts. The tri-Ace connection will make for an easy appeal to fans of Star Ocean and Valkyrie Profile, as well as under-appreciated cult hits like Resonance of Fate. Meanwhile, Spike Chunsoft is behind high-profile NISA and Aksys series, Danganronpa and Zero Escape, as well as some Atlus work like Conception II and Etrian Mystery Dungeon. Oh, and also the game sounds fun.
Why we may not: We’re fairly confident this will get picked up. It may slip through the cracks at larger publishers and end up with a scrappier localization team, but it’ll definitely be picked up by someone.

Monster Strike

Platform(s): 3DS
Likely Western publishers: Aksys, Natsume
Why we may get it: The 3DS release of Puzzle & Dragons Z showed that a free-to-play mobile game could be adapted into a 3DS RPG with a lot of success, and Monster Strike seems to follow its lead, with fun world-exploration trappings and the Japanese sales numbers to back it up. Million-sellers in Japan generally get a really close look by those looking to localize.
Why we may not: That sales success for Puzzle & Dragons Z didn’t really translate to the West, with a widespread-but-unheralded first-party release from Nintendo. That may have a chilling effect.

Rhythm Heaven The Best Plus

Rhythm Heaven: The Best+

Platform(s): 3DS
Likely Western publishers: Nintendo
Why we may get it: It’s amazing, and it doesn’t take much localization work to get it ready for the West (especially considering many games have already been localized in previous installments). It sold well in Japan, and all signs point to it being the definitive edition of the Rhythm Heaven franchise.
Why we may not: Yikes, did those games sell poorly in the West. Not Puzzle & Dragons Z poorly or anything, but the performance wasn’t great, especially on Wii. Nintendo overestimated demand and got burned at retail, and it’ll look to avoid that this time around.

Valkyrie Drive: Bhikkuni

Platform(s): Vita
Likely Western publishers: XSEED/Marvelous USA
Why we may get it: The new game from the creator of Senran Kagura shares many similarities, and will likely be just as marketable to that franchise’s demographic. The fanservice slash-’em-up is exactly the sort of game that still sells on the Vita in the West.
Why we may not: It’ll take some education through PR to tie it to that franchise, and that work may be more than Marvelous would make from it. Oh, and the clock’s ticking on Vita viability.

Atelier Sophie: Alchemist of the Mysterious Book

Platform(s): PS4, PS3, Vita
Likely Western publishers: Koei Tecmo
Why we may get it: We have gotten every recent Atelier game, and this is both a tentpole release and, by all accounts, a good one. The buzz around this series feels like it’s building, and it may be from all of that iteration and improvement to the systems and visuals.
Why we may not: I feel like I say this with every Atelier release, but we simply don’t know how much money Koei Tecmo makes from these. It’s probably doing okay, but we can’t know for sure.

Grand Kingdom

Grand Kingdom

Platform(s): PS4, Vita
Likely Western publishers: NIS America, Atlus, Aksys
Why we may get it: Also published by the connected Spike Chunsoft, Grand Kingdom is a spiritual successor of sorts to Grand Knights History and a compelling tactical skirmish game in its own right. There are definitely addictive elements here, and with the right sort of marketing, this one could capture a wider audience. (Or it could be picked up by a smaller team and remain a cult classic, which would be a shame but at least let us play it.)
Why we may not: We probably will. Grand Knights History only missed the West due to its release platform, the mostly-dead PSP, and this game’s already on America’s dominant console.
UPDATE 1/15/16: CONFIRMED! NIS America has announced Grand Kingdom for a PS4/Vita release in the West this summer.

Luminous Arc Infinity

Platform(s): Vita
Likely Western publishers: XSEED/Marvelous USA
Why we may get it: There’s some familiarity with the Luminous Arc series since the release of the first two DS games by Atlus, and since then, Marvelous’ arrangement with XSEED makes localizations much more profitable in-house enterprises.
Why we may not: It’s on the Vita, and known for being from a different developer. That may make some skittish, even though it was met with a decent enough reception in Japan.

Of course, we’ll likely be surprised by some other, long-shot titles in 2016, and those are fun too! What do you want to see? Let us know in the comments or on Twitter!

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