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20 Best Nintendo 3DS Games

Nintendo 3DS
Nintendo

Nintendo has always been the leader in portable gaming, but some thought that the rise of smartphones and tablets might finally challenge the gaming giant. Nintendo has answered the call admirably with the 3DS, quite possibly the best portable gaming device available right now. Even with the slightly gimmicky 3D technology, the handheld has been thriving, with no signs of stopping any time soon. These 20 games are what we consider to be the best on the Nintendo 3DS, and you should consider making them a part of your library.


Ace Attorney Trilogy

Capcom
 
 

The Ace Attorney games are essentially visual novels, but man if they don’t tell some of the best stories in gaming. The epic courtroom battles between Phoenix Wright and whichever prosecutor stands in his way sent us on a roller coaster of emotions, and in the end we were always left satisfied. Investigating crimes, sniffing out contradictions in testimony, and cornering the bad guys with a giant “Objection!” make us feel powerful, like we could walk into a real courtroom and solve any crime ever committed. This eShop download bundles the first three Ace Attorney games into one offering, and we guarantee that starting one will lead to a week-long marathon to the third game’s credits.

 
Phoenix Wright Ace Attorney Trilogy
Capcom

Fire Emblem: Awakening

Nintendo
 
 

For a series that would have never made it to the West without Super Smash Bros. Melee, Fire Emblem seems to be doing pretty well for itself. Case in point is Fire Emblem: Awakening, one of the deepest strategy RPGs we’ve ever played on a portable console. This is a giant adventure with dozens of characters and epic battles waged across massive battlefields, with each skirmish raising the difficulty just enough to require a change in strategy. We’re forced to always think two steps ahead and always adapt to whatever was thrown at us, and that’s what makes this game so good. With a new Fire Emblem on the way, now is the perfect time to play Awakening and realize the greatness for yourself.

 
Nintendo
Nintendo

Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time 3D

Nintendo
 
 

Here is a game considered by many to be the best video game ever made, completely remastered with new graphics and 3D capabilities specifically for the 3DS, and we couldn’t help but fall in love with it all over again. Ocarina of Time makes the journey from console to handheld remarkably well, benefiting from the visual upgrade and the increase in hardware power to reinvent the original experience. We can’t imagine there being many people who missed the original release of Ocarina way back in 1998, but those who own a 3DS and did miss out need to fix that error immediately.

 
The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time
Nintendo

Pokemon X/Y

Nintendo
 
 

At its core, the Pokemon franchise is littered with games that follow the same basic formula: gain a starter Pokemon, catch more Pokemon, train to become super powerful, defeat other trainers including Gym Leaders and the Elite Four, and become the new Champion. Pokemon X and Y don’t stray too far from the status quo, but this new generation is the first one to play out in a brilliant 3D world brimming with color and life. The 2D top-down perspective is gone, replaced with a world that we can see from any angle and Pokemon that look like they’ve just popped out of the cartoon screen. If this is the start of a new Pokemon evolution, we’re not going to press B and put a stop to it, we’re going to welcome it with open arms.

 
Pokemon X and Y
Nintendo

Super Smash Bros.

Nintendo
 
 

Super Smash Bros. is a celebration of all things Nintendo, from the vast library of games to the colorful faces that go on those adventures. For the first time we can take the party wherever we please with the 3DS version, and the movement to the portable world hasn’t slowed the smashing down one bit. The game is still fast and furious, moving at a crisp 60 frames per second just like its console counterpart, with the biggest Smash roster ever and a gallery of stages new and old. We’re still shocked that Smash 3DS turned out as well as it did, making it a must-buy as far as we’re concerned.

 
Super Smash Bros 3DS
Nintendo

Persona Q: Shadow of the Labryrinth

Atlus
 
 

Persona Q makes history in the hallowed RPG franchise, marking the first time the name Persona has ever appeared on a Nintendo console. To the surprise of no one, the first entry comes out swinging with everything we’d expect from a Persona game: cheeky humor, solid RPG action, and dozens of hours worth of adventuring. All of the familiar faces from Persona 3 and 4 like Yu, Yosuke, and Chie make an appearance, and despite the more cutesy graphic style this is still a hardcore RPG fan’s dream game. New system, new game, same old Persona, and we wouldn’t have it any other way.

 
persona q
Atlus

Mario Kart 7

Nintendo
 
 

We’ve yet to play a bad Mario Kart game, but Mario Kart 7 easily assumes the “best portable Mario Kart game” throne from Mario Kart DS. The variety in tracks is astounding, including one of the best Rainbow Roads we’ve ever raced on. Each track theme is wonderfully composed, including again one of the best Rainbow Road themes we’ve ever heard. Best of all, the online capabilities of Mario Kart 7 are matched only by the console counterparts, making this one of the best multiplayer games in the entire 3DS library. Mario Kart 7 should be racing on every 3DS screen at some point, as it’s just too good to pass up.

 
Nintendo
Nintendo

Animal Crossing: New Leaf

Nintendo
 
 

The Animal Crossing series truly does turn over a New Leaf in its first 3DS installment, making the player the mayor of the town he or she creates. Everything within the town limits is up to the player’s discretion, including new buildings to erect and where to erect them, decorations like flagpoles and benches, and even how the town operates on a daily basis. Becoming the mayor of our Animal Crossing towns has changed the way we view the game, evolving from just a “life simulator” to a more hands-on version of Sim City, and it’s the best leap forward the franchise has taken in quite some time. We loved when we finally turned over that New Leaf, and we think anyone who tries it will, too.

 
Animal Crossing: New Leaf
Nintendo

Luigi’s Mansion: Dark Moon

Nintendo
 
 

Poor Luigi finally gets his own starring role, and it’s battling spooky ghosts in a bunch of run-down, dark mansions. His nerves might not be able to handle it, but we love leading him through each of the scary abodes looking for ghosts to defeat and treasures to gain. Dark Moon is a delightful little puzzler that hides some real challenges within the walls of these mansions, but more importantly it’s a game that lets us bond with Luigi more than ever before. Hearing him nervously hum the background music makes us want to laugh, but we can’t help but sympathize with the green coward every time. Give Luigi the credit he deserves, and give Luigi’s Mansion: Dark Moon a try.

 
Luigis Mansion Dark Moon
Nintendo

Zero Escape: Virtue’s Last Reward

Chunsoft
 
 

Zero Escape: Virtue’s Last Reward tells the story of a situation we never want to find ourselves in. A group of people have been kidnapped and forced to play a twisted game that could lead to their escape… or their untimely deaths. Player choices are a driving force behind the game, offering 24 different endings based on which paths the player chooses to follow. With that many possibilities Zero Escape practically begs for multiple playthroughs, which isn’t a problem due to its excellent storytelling and puzzles. Zero Escape: Virtue’s Last Reward is the thinking man’s perfect video game, and even those who like action and suspense will find themselves wanting to solve these puzzles.

 
Chunsoft
Chunsoft

Kid Icarus: Uprising

Nintendo
 
 

The triumphant return of Pit and the Kid Icarus franchise can be summarized by one single word: fast. There’s a lot going on in each stage of Uprising, whether Pit is fighting through the skies of Skyworld or on land in one of the many towns he’ll visit, with multiple enemies filling the screen all at once. The player has to react quickly to the game’s many obstacles in order to succeed, but that adrenaline fuels a fantastic experience from start to finish. It’s good to see Pit and his friends return to the spotlight, and we hope that the greatness of Kid Icarus: Uprising can maybe spawn a new console game sometime in the future.

 
Nintendo
Nintendo

Shin Megami Tensei IV

Atlus
 
 

It’s a rare event when the core Shin Megami Tensei series gains a new entry, but it’s even more amazing when that new game appears exclusively on a handheld system. That’s what Atlus decided to do with Shin Megami Tensei IV, and it’s one of the best RPGs we’ve ever experienced on the console. As one would expect from the SMT name, this is a long and challenging grindfest designed to test the player’s endurance just as much as his or her skills, but every single moment is worth the difficulty. We love the Shin Megami Tensei name, and we love the fourth installment in the core franchise just as much. We hope we don’t have to wait too long for a fifth.

 
Shin Megami Tensei 4
Atlus

Bravely Default

Square Enix
 
 

Like Shin Megami Tensei IV, Bravely Default takes us back to a classic age of RPGs, in this case the turn-based JRPG of games like Final Fantasy. Unlike SMT IV, however, Bravely Default had to pull us in on merit alone without the benefit of being an established franchise. Playing this game has made us want to go back in time and experience Final Fantasy VII or VIII for the first time all over again, as we loved the JRPG mechanics as if they’d never left. Bravely Default adds a few new mechanics to make its own stamp on the JRPG format, like stacking attacks mid-battle by defending, and we can’t complain about any of them. Bravely Default is a mini-portal back in time that any RPG fan will love.

 
Bravely Default
Square Enix

Theatrhythm Final Fantasy Curtain Call

Square Enix
 
 

We’re sure many will agree that Final Fantasy has some of the best musical scores in all of video games. All of those fantastic sounds have been merged into one rhythm game, letting us listen to our favorite songs while also framing a fun tapping game around them. The result is Theatrhythm Final Fantasy Curtain Call, and we just can’t stop tapping to the beat of these awesome tracks. There’s not just Final Fantasy music to be found here either, as downloadable add-ons introduce music from Romancing SaGa, Chrono Trigger, and The World Ends With You to the mix. We hope Square keeps adding to this game’s extensive library until it’s an one-stop shop for every excellent RPG song ever composed.

 
theatrhythm final fantasy curtain call
Square Enix

Professor Layton and the Azran Legacy

Level-5
 
 

We’ve been solving puzzles with Professor Layton and his apprentice Luke over the span of five games now, but this sixth one is the final time we’ll be donning the brown top hat. We knew this going in, and it turned the game into a bittersweet puzzle solving romp that ties the entire story together in a nice little bow. Despite this being the last in the series, it’s still a fantastic brain twister that tells an exciting story of supernatural events that our intrepid Professor must get to the bottom of before all hell breaks loose. We’re sad to see the old Professor go, but we’ll remember the puzzles and mysteries we’ve solved together fondly, and we hope that maybe he’ll come out of retirement for another go at some point.

 
Level-5
Level-5

Professor Layton vs. Phoenix Wright, Ace Attorney

Capcom, Level-5
 
 

What happens when these two titans of logical thinking come together in one game? We get a title that takes the best parts of the Layton games and the best parts of the Ace Attorney games and mashes them together into one excellent adventure. This is the perfect game for Ace Attorney fans wanting to see what Layton is all about and vice versa, or the player who hasn’t tried either and wants to get a taste of what they have to offer. This is a perfect crossover of two lauded puzzle franchises, and we don’t know of any other crossover game that’s done it better.

 
Professor Layton vs Phoenix Wright Ace Attorney
Level 5/Capcom

Resident Evil: Revelations

Capcom
 
 

While Resident Evil on consoles focused more on heavy action and adrenaline rather than what made the series great, Resident Evil: Revelations on the 3DS brought the name Resident Evil back to its roots. Revelations on placing the player in tight and dark corridors with one or two enemies blocking the way, relying more on the player’s ability to dodge and choose his or her shots rather than just shooting up the place without a single thought. The derelict cruise liner that the game takes place on begs to be explored from top to bottom, and series veteran Jill Valentine is happy to oblige. Leave it to Jill to remind us all what the name Resident Evil used to mean and make sure to take Resident Evil: Revelations for a spin.

 
Capcom
Capcom

Mario and Luigi: Dream Team

Nintendo
 
 

Mario and Luigi have starred in all sorts of different games, but the turn-based RPG Mario and Luigi series is one of the duo’s more underrated endeavors. Using the power of Luigi’s dreams to tell a wacky and comical adventure starring the two plucky plumbers, the most recent installment, Dream Team, is no exception. Mario enters the dream world inside Luigi’s mind and uses hundreds of copies of his brother to fight enemies and save Peach from the evil entity that’s trapped her in the dream world, and we’re controlling the mayhem while laughing the entire time. Mario and Luigi: Dream Team is a solid RPG that peels away the normally serious tone of the genre and replaces it with some lighthearted fun that’s good for everyone.

 
Mario & Luigi: Dream Team Review
Nintendo

Legend of Zelda: A Link Between Worlds

Nintendo
 
 

A Link Between Worlds took us back to a time we thought we’d never see again: a top-down Zelda adventure a la Link to the Past on the Super Nintendo. We couldn’t believe how much fun it was to go back to this era and play Zelda like we used to, but Link Between Worlds wasn’t without its improvements. The ability to walk in walls changed how every dungeon was perceived, and the ability to rent items before we actually found them gave us a freedom we’d never seen before in a Zelda title. A Link Between Worlds changed how we think about Zelda titles in general, and any longtime fans of the hero in green should load it up and see what we mean for themselves.

 
The Legend of Zelda: A Link Between Worlds
Nintendo

Super Mario 3D Land

Nintendo
 
 

A brand new 3D Mario game on a handheld device? Until Super Mario 3D Land this was completely unheard of, as the 3DS only saw New Super Mario Bros 2 before this. We never expected Mario 3D Land to be successful let alone take over our lives as it did when it first launched. Super Mario 3D Land was so good in fact that the next console Mario game was a spiritual sequel to this instead of a 3D adventure in the vein of Mario Galaxy or Mario Sunshine. We still can’t believe how awesome Super Mario 3D Land turned out to be, and we sincerely hope that every single 3DS owner reading this list either already owns this excellent game or will own it soon.

 
Nintendo
Nintendo

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