3DS Games: The Best Ones to Try on Your Nintendo 3DS Console

3ds games - man playing zelda on nintendo 3ds

The Nintendo 3DS is a fascinating portable console.

From its inception back in 2011, the device has been a constant cornerstone for the video game giant, and rightfully so. The console is home to the best of Nintendo’s software, all playable on-the-go, and with gimmicky 3D effects.

It seems crazy to think that even in the world of mobile games and smartphones dominating the portable gaming market that a company can be successful with a standalone console, but Nintendo has done just that. The Nintendo 3DS has sold over 72 million units in its lifetime, which is certainly impressive. Along with system, 3DS games have been purchased at a near 5:1 ratio, with nearly 365 million titles being sold since its release.

Nintendo New 3DS XL - Black

How does the console sell so many games? Well, for starters, 3DS games can be impressive feats of design. Even though you may think of random Disney-based or puzzle games at first thought, the 3DS is home to some of Nintendo’s best software.

If you haven’t experienced the 3DS in all its glory, the time has never been better to pick up a console. With the 2DS, New Nintendo 3DS XL, New Nintendo 3DS, Nintendo 3DS, or New Nintendo 2DS to choose from, there are plenty of options in picking the right system to pair with your new backlog of games to play.

There Are So Many 3DS Games, and Picking the Best is Tough

Nintendo New 3DS XL - Black
  • C Stick for enhanced controls; Built in amibo compatibility and NFC support
  • Faster processing power than Nintendo 3DS and Face tracking 3D
  • Plays all Nintendo 3DS games

Across all regions that you can find and play a Nintendo 3DS, there are 1279 games that have been released for the console.

Of course, a lot of these were Japanese-only titles that can’t be found outside of the company’s home, but still speaks volumes about the software developed for the console. There have been some great 3DS games released in the past 7 years, which we’ll get to, but also plenty of bad apples.

The best software allows you hours of fun when on the go, or even while sitting in bed. When there are stories to be uncovered or mysteries to be solved, you know the game has sucked you in. Thankfully, almost every genre of game can be found on the Nintendo 3DS, allowing something for everyone. Even if you don’t like JRPGs, or absolutely adore simulation-style titles, the 3DS probably has something for you.

This all said, it can be a difficult task to pick the best games to ever release on a single console, but rest assured that every game on this list is here for a reason.

Our Picks for the Top 7 3DS Games

Super Smash Bros. - Nintendo 3DS
  • Battle it out as Nintendo's greatest heroes
  • Nintendo's greatest heroes are in the palm of your hand
  • Take the fight with you, wherever you go

Super Smash Bros. for Nintendo 3DS delivers a stellar fighting experience. While some don’t think of the combat-based game as a true fighter, the title is a definitive Nintendo title. The release on the 3DS provided fine-tuning to the overall gameplay and presentation, giving fans and new players reasons to play the game, and the introduction of amiibo helped keep the community alive long-after the game’s release. One of the ultimate party games, still to this day even.

Kid Icarus: Uprising
  • Pit returns in an all new adventure only for the Nintendo 3DS
  • Collect special AR cards(6 AR Cards) to interact with characters from the game using the 3D cameras and AR software on the system
  • Difficulty slider allows players of a range of skill levels to enjoy the Kid Icarus experience

If the idea of Nintendo continuing popular or dormant franchises on their portable console didn’t resonate with you before, it should now. There are plenty of games that Nintendo brought back to life with a new release on the 3DS, ultimately boosting interest in the title and the 3DS games at hand.

One series that was ultimately forgotten until the hero, Pit, was playable in Super Smash Bros., Kid Icarus: Uprising looked to change that narrative. The first game in the series since 1991, Uprising had a lot to live up to. It was tasked with revitalizing a franchise, all while appealing to a new audience.

Kid Icarus: Uprising

In short, it did this well.

Half on-the-rails shooter, half third-person action-adventure game, the title gave you ample room to develop and hone your skills to its combat system. Some may argue that the game was too difficult, especially regarding the funky controls, but the rewards are worth it. The clever and deep combat makes a great challenge, once properly learned, and the story wraps up in a way that provides insight into the world of angelic characters.

Mario Kart 7
  • Players can compete in local wireless matches or online over a broadband Internet connection.
  • The game supports both SpotPass and StreetPass features.Compatible with the 3DS
  • Players can show their own style by customizing their vehicles with accessories that give them a competitive advantage. For instance, giant tires help a kart drive off-road, while smaller tires work best on city courses.

Good old Mario Kart. What would we do without you?

Really, it’s hard to imagine a time where Nintendo’s kart-racing experience wasn’t around. The 3DS version of the popular racer, which was only available on the Nintendo 3DS, showed that you didn’t need the newest graphics or most powerful console to have great software.

No, you simply need Mario and friends racing against each other while throwing bananas at one another.

Mario Kart 7

In Mario Kart 7, the formula was innovated just enough to please the series’ long-time fans. It’s kart-racing made portable and in full 3D, providing fun for long and short periods alike. The fact that you could team up with friends and foes across the world (or right in your living room) and throw down to a race was akin to the Super Smash Bros. series, and made it easy to jump in and out of races.

While it may not hold up to the newest Mario Kart 8 Deluxe on the Nintendo Switch, Mario Kart 7 still has a following.

The Legend of Zelda: Majora's Mask 3D
  • An ancient evil has doomed the world of Termina. Can you save it in just three days?
  • Together, the land of Termina and its citizens form one massive puzzle for Link to solve
  • 20 plus powerful masks make this one of the most varied Legend of Zelda games ever

Speaking of Majora’s Mask, what better way to segue into the series’ darkest iteration? A huge step in the different direction following the stellar Ocarina of Time before it in 2000 on Nintendo 64, Majora’s Mask is still praised for its mature narrative and inventive gameplay.

What’s interesting about a re-release for a game that was 15 years old, the new title improves the graphics and performance of the whole experience. It may sound odd, but playing through Majora’s Mask 3D is better on the 3DS than the original on N64. There are reworked bosses throughout the game to create a better feeling, overall, and presentation has been revamped into the modern era.

The Legend of Zelda: Majora's Mask 3D

Not much else needs to be said about a game that was already great many years ago, so we’ll leave it up to you to discover everything. Sometimes it’s hard for gamers to accept a new paint job on their old, beloved car, but in this case, it’s what Majora’s Mask needed to reappear among the great. It’s a great addition to 3DS games.

Animal Crossing: New Leaf
  • Create your own happy place - As the mayor, you get to make the big decisions that shape your town. Add new features, decide which facilities get built, change shop hours and more to let you experience Animal Crossing however you like.
  • New discoveries await every day - Time passes in Animal Crossing just like it does in the real world, 24-hours a day, 365 days a year. No two days are the same, with things happening at all hours and events happening throughout the year.
  • Decorate your house inside and out - Choose from furniture new and old, carpets, wallpaper, and enhanced design tools to customize your house inside. Choose from new house layouts and remodel your home's exterior as well. Change the outside wall, the fence, your mailbox, and more to change the look of your house completely. Living in a castle is not just a dream in Animal Crossing.

A fan-favorite in terms of Nintendo properties, the Animal Crossing series is known for its charming characters and cute worlds.

New Leaf is nothing different, in that regard, as the life simulation titles finally found their way onto the 3DS with the latest full-title. There are a few new ideas built-in to New Leaf, giving the series life on the road.

Animal Crossing: New Leaf

If you’re not familiar with the series, most of the story involves you creating a character and moving to a new town somewhere along an island. In this case, you’re the mayor of the said new town, giving you immense control over the people and enterprise within. In addition to the standard villagers and laid-back personalities that greet you at every turn, you’ll be able to place town buildings and decorations. Yes, you can still fish and create your own home to live in, but everything has a little more weight than before.

With New Leaf, you can even travel to the Tropical Island, which hasn’t been seen in the series since its GameCube days. Overall, this title represents something that most video games don’t often emulate: the fact that playing a game can be a truly relaxing and rewarding experience all in one.

Fire Emblem Fates (Conquest and Birthright)

Fire Emblem Fates: Conquest - Nintendo 3DS
  • Two kingdoms are on the brink of war. Whose side will you choose?
  • Torn between two families, you're an heir of Hoshido, raised by Nohrian royals.
  • If you walk the path of Conquest, you must fight to change your misguided kingdom from within.
Fire Emblem Fates: Birthright - Nintendo 3DS Birthright Edition
  • Two kingdoms are on the brink of war. Whose side will you choose?
  • Torn between two families, you're an heir of Hoshido, raised by Nohrian royals.
  • If you walk the path of Birthright, you'll battle the corrupted king of Nohr beside a family of strangers.

You may notice that the next game on our list follows a long-running Nintendo franchise. This time, it’s Fire Emblem getting the treatment.

What makes Fire Emblem Fates so special is that it’s two games wrapped together in one story. On the one hand there is Fire Emblem Conquest, and the other being Fire Emblem Birthright.Both deliver one-half of the story in question, made partially in response to the previous 3DS game’s simplistic narrative. The complex story is presented wonderfully, and anyone should be able to find a theme to latch onto regarding war.

Fire Emblem Fates: Conquest - Nintendo 3DS
Fire Emblem Fates: Birthright - Nintendo 3DS Birthright Edition

Both are still your ever-great tactical strategy game that the series is known for, this time with added features. These games go deeper than ever seen in any Fire Emblem title before it, specifically with romantic relationships and base-building mechanics. Each title represents something different for you, as the player, depending on how familiar you are with the series.

This is a great approach to 3DS games, in terms of choice at hand for the players, and once you’ve experienced a full-playthrough of either Conquest or Birthright you’ll understand why this Japanese and European-flavored series is here to stay.

Pokémon Sun and Moon

Pokémon Sun - Nintendo 3DS
  • Pokemon Sun will launch in the US November 18th, 2016 exclusively for the Nintendo 3DS family of systems.
  • Embark on a new adventure as a Pokemon Trainer and catch, battle, and trade all-new Pokemon on the tropical islands of a new Region and become a Pokemon Champion!
  • Games in 2D. Some areas also playable in 3D. Games sold separately
Pokémon Moon - Nintendo 3DS
  • Pokemon Moon will launch in the US November 18th, 2016 exclusively for the Nintendo 3DS family of systems.
  • Embark on a new adventure as a Pokemon Trainer and catch, battle, and trade all-new Pokemon on the tropical islands of a new Region and become a Pokemon Champion!
  • Games in 2D. Some areas also playable in 3D.

The seventh-generation Pokémon games did more than just introduce new ways to play the series’ core games, it completely changed the dynamic of how a Pokémon game worked.

In Pokémon Sun and Pokémon Moon, the series’ standard of two versions that played similarly, but not the same, was still front and present. But, the way you completed your rise from a young boy or girl excited about Pokémon to becoming the Pokémon champion was now completely different.

Pokémon Sun - Nintendo 3DS
Pokémon Moon - Nintendo 3DS

Gone were the days of gym leaders and battles, and introduced were Trials. Weird at first, these new events provided some much-needed change to the stagnated story of battling the eight gyms to make the Pokémon League. Also, the series now stands at a staggering 807 known Pokémon, which is a far cry from the original 151.

Ash Ketchum’s story has come a long way.

The Legend of Zelda: A Link Between Worlds 3D
  • An all-new adventure in the world of The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past
  • Become a living painting to slide within walls and between two dimensions at war
  • Sink into the classic, top-down world of Zelda with 3D visuals at 60 FPS

While the title may be a bit of a pun, The Legend of Zelda: A Link Between Worlds shows
us what some of the best 3DS games look like when providing a sequel to an older title.

A Link Between Worldsis one of the most critically-acclaimed titles on the Nintendo 3DS, and once played it’s easy to see why. Pleasing both the people who had played A Link to the Past and newcomers alike, the game featured a transportation mechanic that allowed you to switch between 2D and 3D. This created some of the best puzzle-solving ever found on a portable console, paired with satisfying dungeons that rival the series’ best, it’s easy to hold A Link Between Worlds in such high regard.

The Legend of Zelda: A Link Between Worlds 3D

This is a title that is considered a must-own, and even though the combat is simple to learn, everything you do is rewarding. The overall quest is a deeper story than you might expect–though maybe not as intense as Majora’s Mask was—from a pastel-colored game, and delivers clever ideas on topics.

The game is a definitive experience, and overall, it’s a must-play title.

3DS Games Are Great, and Still Hold Up

Despite what you might think, the Nintendo 3DS has stellar games. 3DS games are often written off as childish or non-substantive affairs, but some of the best-ever Nintendo games can be found on their seven-year-old system.

It may seem odd that Nintendo would continue to support a dying game market, at the expense of mobile gaming on smartphones, but they’ve recently shown they can balance both, together.

Sure, nowadays you have graphically-advanced titles and VR, but does any of that compare to helping Link save Zelda in new ways, or building your own animal town and fishing for relaxation? Not exactly apples and oranges, the 3DS does, however, bring with
it software that should be experienced by everyone who’s into gaming.

If you don’t own your own 3DS, see if you can borrow a friend’s or pick-up an older model used. Once you have a 3DS in your hand and are playing Nintendo classics, it will be hard to imagine a time when you didn’t have access to these great games.


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