The Nintendo 3DS launched March 27, 2011 in the U.S. The handheld fulfilled its promise of offering glasses-free 3D gameplay and while the feature itself may not have caught on, the platform wound up accumulating a great library of games anyway and had one heck of a lifespan to boot.
To mark the occasion, we decided to give our original list of the 3DS’ 10 best games a serious facelift. Doing so allows us to include quality games that were released after this article was originally published in July 2017 as well as reflect the tastes of our newer staff members.
Just like in our Top 10 list of PlayStation 4 and Xbox One games, we will not be ranking the titles on this list. We consider everything listed here to be a must-play experience and so we’ve instead arranged them in reverse chronological order, meaning it starts from the most recently released title to the earliest.
So without further ado, here is Game Informer‘s definitive top 10 games for the 3DS.
Pokémon Ultra Sun/Ultra Moon
Release: November 17, 2017
Ultra Sun and Ultra Moon took an already great Pokémon experience in Sun and Moon and made it even better. Everything that worked about its predecessor remains such as the improved controls/animations, unique Trials system, and Pokémon mounts. However, this version boasts additions such as an expanded story (using content cut from the original release), Mantine surfing and, best of all, a larger roster of Pokémon to catch. The Aloha region is a delight to explore and stands as one of the coolest settings in the series. If you missed out on Sun and Moon, this is the perfect jumping on point and the best Pokémon RPG on the 3DS.
Metroid: Samus Returns
Release: September 15, 2017
Sure, Samus Returns had some of its thunder stolen by the fan-made AM2R (Another Metroid II Remake) that arrived before it, but that doesn’t mean Nintendo didn’t craft a fantastic remake in its own right. Samus Returns transforms the series’ hardest entry to revisit, Metroid II, into an entertaining modern platformer that successfully scratches that 2D Metroid itch. More than a presentation upgrade, Samus Returns adds great additions like a melee counter attack and special Aeion powers that bestow helpful abilities like scanning walls for hidden paths and an invulnerability shield. Samus Returns often feels overlooked by fans which is baffling given how its the quality, contemporary Metroid experience we always clamor for.
Picross 3D Round 2
Release: September 1, 2016
Picross 3D Round 2 is a fun and engrossing puzzle game that improves upon its equally exceptional predecessor. The three-dimensional picross gameplay remains intact but adds exciting new layers of challenge by introducing color matching and dual numbers. Hours can easily be lost chipping away at blocks to reveal the hidden objects within and with hundreds of puzzles available, it’s the perfect long-term distraction. Picross 3D Round 2 is the 3DS’ premier puzzle experience and we desperately hope to see it, or a sequel, come to Switch.
Monster Hunter 4: Ultimate
Release: February 13, 2015
Whereas previous Monster Hunter titles were enjoyable but notoriously obtuse, Monster Hunter 4: Ultimate took the first major steps to better ease newcomers into the experience. Those who stuck with it past the tutorial hours were rewarded with the epic monster-slaying action the series is known for while also allowing players to team up online for the first time in a handheld entry. It’s easy to sink dozens of hours learning the intricacies of monster behaviors and combat, the latter of which was made better by the introduction of the Insect Glaive and Charge Blade. That might sound laborious (and it can be at times) but that’s ultimately part of the series’ hardcore appeal. Those with the option should play on the New 3DS as the extra c-stick makes a big difference, but Monster Hunter 4: Ultimate is a great time no matter how you play and made a significant crack in the glass ceiling of western popularity for the franchise.
Persona Q: Shadow Of The Labyrinth
Release: November 25, 2014
Persona Q is a spinoff game that continues on the narrative of Persona 3 and 4 in a way that feels exciting and new. It’s a title that offers an incredible story with a dungeon crawling aspect that keeps the progression feeling satisfying and fresh. Persona Q offers a challenging gameplay experience with familiar turn-based RPG mechanics and new characters to fall in love with. It’s especially great if you enjoyed the similarly designed Etrian Odyssey in how the narrative progresses and game design. There is one caveat, however. Persona Q can be played as a standalone experience, but this spinoff is at its most enjoyable if you’ve played the previous Persona games, namely 3 and 4. No matter when and how you jump into it, Persona Q is one of the 3DS’ must-have RPGs.
Super Smash Bros. For Nintendo 3DS
Release: October 3, 2014
The fourth Super Smash Bros. game debuted first on 3DS and proved that the crossover fighter could be just as much of a riot on the small screen. The series’ controls translated surprisingly well given the lack of a second stick (though if you were golden if you had a New 3DS) and it allowed Smash fans to take the battle anywhere. One admirable trait is that the game has its own roster of exclusive stages, such as Nintendogs, that differentiates it from its Wii U counterpart and gives you a reason to want to dive into it specifically. Super Smash Bros.’ move to a handheld may have seemed like an odd choice at the time, but we can’t argue with the results.
The Legend Of Zelda: A Link Between Worlds
Release: November 22, 2013
Billed as a spiritual follow-up to A Link To The Past, Link’s 3DS outing proves to be a worthy successor that proudly stands on its own. The game borrows a lot of the SNES classic’s hallmarks but injects a host of wonderful new ideas. For one, dungeons can be completed in any order for a welcomed element of player freedom. That philosophy extends to equipment, which can be rented and used long before you acquire them permanently. A Link Between Worlds’ most magical feature, though, is Link’s ability to transform into a wall painting. By flattening himself against surfaces, players explore the excellently designed dungeons from a unique perspective that’s used ingeniously in puzzle design. For our money, A Link Between Worlds is the 3DS’ magnum opus and a must-play for system owners as well as Zelda fans.
Animal Crossing: New Leaf
Release: June 9, 2013
Animal Crossing: New Leaf quickly became the definitive handheld version of the series when it released in 2013. By putting the player in the role of town mayor, the game introduced a variety of new features to explore, including the ability to build bridges, fountains, and even small restaurants. New Leaf also introduced us to Isabelle, a fan-favorite character who quickly charmed the Nintendo community with her fun-loving spirit. Looking back, Animal Crossing: New Leaf paved the way for the series’ incredible reception on the Nintendo Switch years later, as many of the features and characters it first introduced made their way into New Horizons. Oh, and let’s not forget the fact that New Leaf has the best soundtrack in the series!
Fire Emblem Awakening
Release: February 4, 2013
Awakening cracked the code for achieving widespread popularity for the series in the west and for good reason. The series’ turn-based strategy reaches a crescendo with improved battle design that gives players increased options for tackling wave after wave of opponents. For example, nurturing relationships between units yields useful benefits, as does combining allies into a single super soldier. You need all the help you can get against the sharp enemy A.I (especially if you play with permadeath) as victories often feel won by the skin of your teeth but are immensely satisfying as well. Awakening’s story, while not perfect, has cool moments as well and gives another strong reason to march forward. Fed up with the glut of Fire Emblem content in the years since? You can blame Awakening for being so damn good.
Super Mario 3D Land
Release: November 13, 2011
3D Land established the awesome template that 3D World would expand upon by shifting the classic Mario gameplay under an isometric camera and blending elements of the 3D and classic series. The intriguing hybrid of styles paid off; 3D Land is a platforming delight with tight controls, wonderful level design, and the return of the fan-favorite Super Leaf/Tanooki Suit for the first time since Super Mario Bros. 3. Mario’s 3DS debut was also the first big game to make meaningful use of the handheld’s 3D technology with fun perspective puzzles. It may not be a landmark entry like 64 or Galaxy, but Super Mario 3D Land is concentrated platforming bliss that’s impossible not to smile at.
What are some of your favorite 3DS games? Any fun memories of Street Passing? Share your thoughts and memories about the system down in the comments!