The Nintendo 3DS is in its seventh year, having celebrated its sixth anniversary this March. Very few video game consoles can celebrate the same milestones, and Nintendo has been lucky enough to do it with each of its dedicated handheld platforms, all the way back to the Game Boy. To likely send the 3DS family off to sunset, and potentially signify the end of the portable line from Nintendo in favor of the Switch, the New Nintendo 2DS XL has been released. For those picking up a system for the first time, a new version of the portable, or just looking for something to play- we’ve curated a list of our favorite games on the platform.
15. Theatrhythm Final Fantasy: Curtain Call
Although my fandom for the Final Fantasy series is only five or so years old, I’ve already become enamored with its memorable soundtracks to the point where the songs feel like they’ve been with me my entire life. Theatrhythm Final Fantasy lets you relive the songs of the franchise again through the guise of a rhythm game. What’s great, not only is the game challenging and a really cool twist on the rhythm game genre, it’s also a clever albeit simple role-playing game. As you work through the various game modes, you will level up your party and unlock new members to join and adventure with, all of whom are recognizable and adored faces of the franchise. It’s a perfect fit for the 3DS because the Circle Pad really brings this game’s mechanics to a new level and the clamshell, close-anytime design of the system lets you quickly jump into a sleep state to pause your progress while you carry on with your day.
14. The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time 3D
Ocarina of Time is a really impressive achievement that is probably understated these days. When I first played the game, I remember being terrified of a leaping Ganondorf as he flew from painting to painting and was seemingly lifelike. I was terribly impressed with the freedom that the game allowed as I wandered through Hyrule and experienced something genuinely new for the first time. On the 3DS, developer Grezzo remastered the game from the ground up and it looks incredible. Every detail of the world comes to life like never before and the 3DS version feels like the game we should have always been playing. If you’ve never played this game, it’s time to experience it and understand just what makes it what it is. If you’ve played it before but are looking for something to play on 3DS, this version is the complete package, including the Master Quest which adds a new challenge to those looking for it.
I always recommend this to anyone who wants to get into 3D Zeldas as to 2D (see 3rd place). In my opinion, this is THE definitive version of the game. It’s beautiful all around as well as option gyro controls for better bow accuracy. The one downfall (for veterans at least) is the button layouts for the ocarina songs. If you enjoy a little challenge, I highly recommend playing the Master Quest mode after beating the main game. It’s my personal favorite version of OoT.
13. Rusty’s Real Deal Baseball
What a charming way to sell you a game piece by piece. They give the option to haggle the prices, but at the “cost” of making you feel bad for giving a single father of 5 chump change. Overall, a creative way to make baseball less of a sport and more of a video game. If that makes sense. Great reflex exercising.
12. Scribblenauts Unmasked
I played Scribblenauts on my DS after developer 5th Cell hit my radar with Drawn to Life. Scribblenauts is a game where you solve puzzles by writing words. If the level has a goal in the top right of the screen, you can write anything from “jetpack” to “bridge” to “hot air ballon” that will help you achieve your goal. It’s a really clever game with a charming art style that boasts an impressive dictionary of objects you can call into the game.
Scribblenauts Unmasked does all of that and adds the DC Universe to its dictionary. Now, you guide the game’s protagonist Maxwell through the game as he interacts with the Justice League and a seemingly unending list of characters from DC Comics. It was one of the games that finally pushed me over the edge to purchase a 3DS in the first place. While the 3DS had an increasingly attractive library, Scribblenauts Unmasked finally showed me something that I truly couldn’t play on the platforms that I owned at the time.
11. Witch and Hero
Probably one of my favorite casual games for the 3DS THAT I CAN’T SEEM TO BEAT! I’M AT THE FINAL BOSS, I’M COMPLETELY MAXED OUT IN STATS, AND I CONTINUOUSLY GET MY H*CKING BUTT HANDED TO MYSELF ON A SILVER PLATTER! IT’S JUST AN ENDURANCE TEST AT THIS POINT AND IT’S FRUSTRATING BECAUSE IT BECOMES A BULLET HELL GAME! I REALLY WANT TO PLAY THE SEQUEL, BUT I CAN’T DO THAT UNTIL I BEAT THIS GAME! IT’S INFURIATING! I WILL NOT TURN OFF CAPS LOCK!
10. 7th Dragon III Code: VFD
This is a very under rated RPG from Sega. So you got this company that hunts dragons disguised as a video game company that opened up a VR arcade as a way to find eligible combatants to help hunt dragons.
You make your party and it’s always interchangeable. I got a dude who looks like he’s from Jet Set Radio who punches, A ninja wearing a suit with who’s a gun wielding hacker, and a buff butler looking dude who uses a deck of cards to cast elemental magic. What. Are. You. Playing.
9. Rhythm Heaven Megamix
If I recall correctly, this game was quietly announced for a release in North America. While I’ve began to dabble in importing games, the 3DS doesn’t afford me the luxury as the platform is region-locked. This game’s release in Japan piqued my interest as I had never played any in the series and really thought this would be a great entry point. Rhythm Heaven Megamix takes some of the best levels and games from previous entries in the series and adds in some new stages to create the ultimate package. Not only is this a really fun rhythm game, it’s got the same weirdness to it that you’d find in WarioWare and it’s that weirdness that makes this game stand out so heavily.
8. Gotta Protectors
Another game that should not go unnoticed. Having veteran developers create a game that truly feels like a retro and not just for aesthetic’a sake is something we need more of today. Having the self awareness and tongue-in-cheek humor also adds a nice touch to all of this. Sort of reminds of the Mystical Ninja series. This is a great hack and slash/tower defense/RPG game that provides lengthy challenges. The best part is that you don’t have to face it alone. This baby goes up to four players. Overall, it just feels good to play. I don’t know how to else to describe this game. It’s both challenging and comfy.
7. Fire Emblem Awakening
After years of interacting with characters from the franchise in Super Smash Bros., Fire Emblem Awakening finally earned its place on my 3DS. Pushed to it by the latest Super Smash Bros. introduction of Lucina, a character from Awakening, I really took a liking to what the game had to offer. Awakening has you play through a strategy RPG, as in the rest of the Fire Emblem series, but also adds the ability to marry and create offspring who will join you on the battlefield. There’s a game within this game of figuring out which characters to pair up to create the optimal army of heroes to fight with. I found the game to be really engaging through its challenge and story, with a lot of story beats that I thought were fun to see play out. Additionally, the game’s art is really neat, bouncing between 3D models, 2D anime, and sprites. I think its a great gateway to the franchise and easily one of the best games on the platform.
6. Super Mario 3D Land
If the Nintendo 64 controller was designed for Super Mario 64 then the 3DS was designed for this game. Here, you control Mario in a 3D world with a fixed angle, giving it the feel of a 2D game in a 3D space. With the console’s glasses-free 3D technology, you can really get into specific levels in the game and solve some unique puzzles thanks to the added depth of field provided by the tech. It also marks the return of Mario’s raccoon tail, a mainstay of my favorite 2D Mario, Super Mario Bros. 3. This was the first game I bought with my 3DS because it seemed like the two were made for each other.
5. Super Smash Bros. for 3DS
A must have if you don’t own the Wii U. An optional choice if you do own one. I would normally get my practicing done on this version between consoles matches with my friends. Some of the exclusive levels and modes are a nice touch too. Also, the function to use your 3DS as a controller (a last resort for me) with the game or you can buy the app instead for way cheaper, but we’re here to talk about the game. I admire that this exists, but it came at a painful price. A lot of changes and cuts were made to the console version due the 3DS’ overall success and they wanted both game to be compatible with each other. For on the go, this is a nice way to kill a couple minutes. Always been a fan of the series (or should I just say Nintendo) It’s also a great way to learn more about Nintendo’s history via trophies to help appreciate the company as a whole.
I never thought I’d want a Super Smash Bros. game on my 3DS yet I spent so much time with this one. It’s not the same as its console counterpart, and it never has to be. It gave me the chance to practice my favorite characters when I was away from the console version and I could quickly bring it out in the break room at work and challenge someone to a quick match. I thought that the game had some really great levels that we’d never see anywhere else and levels that made sense on the smaller screen. The 3DS version of the game also has a mode called “Smash Run” that gives you an extra challenge mode to run through to find cool customizations for your character. Where games like Injustice 2 have begun to perfect the idea of customizable gear for a fighting game, I experienced it first in Smash on 3DS. It’s also packed with one of the most impressive and certainly the largest fighting game rosters, both generally speaking and in regards to the Super Smash Bros. franchise.
4. Mario Kart 7
Every great Nintendo platform needs a great Mario Kart game and you’ve got just that with Mario Kart 7. This game adds new game elements like the glide system and adds a number to the title for the first time. I’m not sure what else to write about this one. If you know Mario Kart and you have a 3DS, this one is an easy purchase. Unless of course you’ve yet to play Sonic & All-Stars Racing Transformed. Shots. Fired.
Surprisingly not much to say about Mario Kart. It’s Mario Kart. Probably THE most widely accepted game on this list. Gamers of all kinds typically love Mario Kart. Even that one grandmother who ONLY plays Mario Kart and will never let you pick Yoshi. Only needing one cartridge to play with 7 other people can sure bring some fun times all around. #TeamShyGuys
3. The Legend of Zelda: A Link Between Worlds
My personal choice for someone’s first 2D Zelda game. It takes what was great about A Link to the Past and brings a slightly more welcoming approach for newcomers. You’re able to play the dungeons in any order, you don’t have to scavenge for ammo and magic bottles. Everything with quantity uses your magic meter that auto refills. I found it to be a bit more on the easier side, but in no way is this a bad thing. It provides a less stressful environment in a game where exploring takes the front seat while puzzle solving rides shotgun. Combat appropriately sits in the back waving it’s sword out the window while knowing the risk of dropping the sword, drops it by mistake anyway, and starts to cry because no one’s turning around to get it. You can rent or buy key items that help you in various situations between combat and puzzles while adding a new way to explore certain areas of Hyrule. My favorite gateway Zelda today.
This game was the game that had our pulses racing for a few years after Shigeru Miyamoto said in an interview that he’d love to remake A Link to the Past. This game was announced during a Nintendo Direct and seemed very much like the New Super Mario Bros. approach to Zelda. Here, the developers take a familiar concept and design and apply a new sensibility to the gameplay with some shiny new 3D models. A Link Between Worlds also offered our first glimpse at a non-linear structure to a game in the series. We’d see it really unfold and become fully realized in Breath of the Wild, but this game gave you the ability to obtain items in any order that you desired, and the traditional dungeon exploration changed a bit because of this. There’s also a really simple yet powerful story, as is usually the case with Zelda games.
2. Shovel Knight
This was, is, and always will be my game of the year for 2014. This game did what none of the other throwback games could do and actually made you feel like you were playing a lost cartridge from the NES. Drawing inspiration from Mega Man and Zelda II, along with the likes of Castlevania and Super Mario Bros. 3, Shovel Knight is both a love letter to those classic game experiences and a transformation of the independent development scene. There is so much to love in the game. What I love most is the game’s ability to teach you how to play it by playing it. The level design and enemies are so masterful that it seems the developers at Yacht Club Games were there at the beginning of game design, writing the books along with the greatest minds in the field. A true masterpiece, nothing quite compares to Shovel Knight.
Shovel Knight holds a special place in my heart. It came at a time in my life where I needed something like to pluck my heart strings in a soothing way. The name might not sound like much to the unknown, but once you dive you in you’ll quickly find how much of a treasure this game really is (You’re welcome, Joe).
Blending elements from past classics such as Mega Man, Super Mario, and Castlevania, Shovel Knight is left with plenty of room to add it’s own style and unique world. It has a captivating cast of characters that feel ripped straight out of a Saturday morning cartoon tied throughout a heartfelt story that proves love can conquer all. It’s colorful with child-like wonder and at the same time it carries wisdom like a grown up. I don’t know what I’m saying anymore other than I love this game. If a game can make me cry, it stays in my heart.
The other downloadable stand alone campaigns are just enriched and should not be overlooked by any means. You will not regret purchasing the Treasure Trove.
1. Animal Crossing: New Leaf
Since GameCube, I’ve been in love with this series. A game that has a way for me to truly express myself artistically in a humble world filled with critters who hate pants. Everyone’s ‘Donald-Ducking’ it in Animal Crossing. Mostly.
A true definition of a casual game, but not casual as in it’s easy, but casual as in, “take off your socks and kick you legs up while your dog plays a tune for you to watch the stars to.” It’s a very unique game. It utilizes the system’s internal clock and calendar so the game lives through each day with you, bringing with it new experiences and more memories to keep. This game is all about heart and creativity and deserves to be at the top of this list for more reasons than that. Sure, it can be a simple game that you check in with daily if you want, or you can decide to stir things up and really make a tight nit community that cares about each other as much your mom cares about you in this game. I could keep going on and gush about this game even though it has some flaws that can make the game feel a bit empty at times, it’s a one of a kind game that almost has an indescribable value to it since the game is whatever you make of it, but you’ll always be loved for it too.
I never got the appeal of Animal Crossing. I heard people talk about it and revel in the memories of collecting all of this stuff and getting some raccoon guy angry at you for not having enough money. Then, I bought Animal Crossing New Leaf and found myself spending the hours leading up until sunrise running on a perfectly crafted island of four trees capturing rare beetles and sharks to build my house into the castle-esque mansion that you can see when we StreetPass. The game has a natural limit to gameplay that means you can only do so much in a day, so it was really easy to rack up the hundreds of hours that I did. You’d check in for a bit each day, running the chores that you had to do and seeing what in-game events might be happening and then you’d move on. It was as close to a second life experience that I’ll ever have but one that I wouldn’t trade for anything. I love the little house that I’ve designed and I love that it’s uniquely mine. I’ve got my own Halloween room, a Nintendo room, a bedroom filled with spiders and pictures of my dogs that I drew in the game. I have a shirt that looks like Ness from EarthBound and I love my Mr. Saturn town flag. Some of my favorite memories are texting Marc and meeting up in each of our game worlds to go wander through the museum and look at the sea life we had caught and donated to the aquarium. Or trading fruit and items with friends and seeing what their houses looked like as I tried to poach their villagers.
This game is the perfect 3DS game, allowing you to spend as much or as little time as you deem necessary. After years of praise for the franchise and me left scratching my head in disbelief, I finally got it when I grabbed a copy of this game for my newly bought 3DS XL. It got me through years of my life and I bet if I fired it up right now it would still have more to offer.