Nintendo has never shied away from taking chances. The legendary video game company is known for taking innovative, out of the box ideas and giving them life. When it works, it works marvelously. Take for instance, the Nintendo Wii in 2006 and its game-changing motion controls. They hit the jackpot again just six years later in 2011 with the Nintendo 3DS, the first ever 3D handheld gaming device.
While the 3DS isn’t Nintendo’s best selling handheld, it did have some amazing games on it. Classic Nintendo characters like Luigi, Link, Kid Icarus and Samus Aran all got a go on the system, with impressive outings that took advantage of the system’s cutting-edge technology.
In terms of sales, the 3DS sold about half as much as Nintendo’s top selling console of all time – the Nintendo DS, but let’s be real here, half of 154.02 million units ain’t bad. When the 3DS was released, it was backwards compatible with all DS games and it added the ability to show stereoscopic 3D images, which the player could either increase or decrease with a slider.
It also had augmented reality capabilities and a robust virtual console to download games from older Nintendo systems. It’s best selling game was the stellar Mario Kart 7, which will obviously make an appearance on this list. Let’s dive in. Here are the 10 best 3DS games for the Nintendo 3DS.
10. Captain Toad: Treasure Tracker
One of the more original concepts in the very excellent Super Mario 3D World was the inclusion of stand-alone levels from Captain Toad, a character first introduced in the also excellent 2007 Super Mario Galaxy for the Wii.
The levels were a delightful change of pace and offered puzzle platforming in a mini diorama that forced the player to use perspective to solve. Captain Toad: Treasure Tracker is the obvious evolution of that concept. While the gimmick isn’t quite as engaging as it could be, it’s a fun, puzzling adventure that’s a testament to Nintendo’s constant innovation.
9. Mario & Luigi: Bowser’s Inside Story + Bowser Jr.’s Journey
Mario & Luigi: Bowser’s Inside Story + Bowser Jr.’s Journey is a literal inside story, as in most of the game finds the famous Mario Bros. actually inside of Bowser’s body. Once inside, they have to help Bowser from the evil Fawful.
It’s one of those games that can only exist on the 3DS, and it’s widely considered the best of the various Mario RPG games. It’s full of colorful characters and some of the best writing around, with humor that stacks up right next to the OG, Super Mario RPG. The addition of Bowser Jr.’s story is just a peach on top of an already frosted cake.
8. Super Mario 3D Land
By the time Super Mario 3D Land came around, Mario platforming had already been perfected on the consoles. Would this scrappy little title have anything to add? It sure did. 3D Land has some of the most innovative Mario level design of any side-scrolling game in the franchise, and it took full of advantage of the systems 3D capabilities.
Honestly, it’s an extremely underrated title.
7. Apollo Justice: Ace Attorney
Do you know how hard it is to pick the best Ace Attorney game? Why not go the easy route with a Phoenix Wright title? Put simply, Apollo Justice may have perfected everything we love about these lawyer-simulation masterpieces.
Of all the titles out there, this one is just plain enjoyable. Apollo is a great protagonist, and the animated sequences add a new flavor to the traditionally 2d static of past Ace Attorney titles.By the time you’re through with this one, you’ll be viewing everyone around you with suspicion and just be itching to yell “objection!”
6. Fire Emblem: Awakening
It can be hard to keep track of all the JRPGs out there, but you can throw Fire Emblem: Awakening into battle with any of them and it’ll hold its own. The most accessible in the franchise, Awakening eschews the complexity of previous titles and delivers a one-of-a-kind experience that’ll leave you feeling like a general on a battlefield.
The story is also richly textured and ambitiously multi-generational in its scope, but it never loses sight of the ultimate objective: being an extremely fun, engrossing game.
5. Animal Crossing: New Leaf
For a certain type of person out there, Animal Crossing is more important to video gaming than Mario. There’s something about being able to immerse yourself in a whole world where your only limitation is your own imagination.
For the detail-oriented, organizational loving among us, it offers a quiet reprieve from the busy messiness of everyday life. Add to that the portable ability, and it’s an introverts dream! So many games are objective oriented and Animal Crossing: New Leaf just wants you to stay a while, take your time and enjoy the view.
4. Monster Hunter 4 Ultimate
There are no “bad” games in the Monster Hunter franchise. This is probably the best. There’s always a new armor, new kind of monster and new challenge to take on. Whether you’re just a few hours in or more than hundreds, the game also throws something new at you.
Ultimate has no reason being this fun, expansive and absolutely time consuming. A true classic.
3. Metroid: Samus Returns
Back in the prehistoric era of 1991, Nintendo released a sequel to the popular game Metroid on its black and white Game Boy handheld system. Where the first game was unfocused, this one was razor sharp. It introduced many of the key aspects of the franchise that still exist today.
This is that game, but so much more. There are new powers, new moves and it looks absolutely spectacular. It’s pretty much perfection in a convenient 3DS sized cartridge. A must have for any Metroid fan.
2. Mario Kart 7
What can you say about Mario Kart 7? Nintendo rarely misses with these, and Mario Kart 7 proves the rule. It was the first game to introduce gliders, something so inherent to the franchise that it’s hard to remember when they didn’t exist.
There was also the addition of online play – on a handheld! While it could be spotty at times, it just felt really innovative and very fun. The controls were also fine-tuned so that you didn’t feel any loss of momentum. You can tell Nintendo took its time to get it right with this one. There’s no better Mario Kart game on a handheld system.
1. The Legend of Zelda: A Link Between Worlds
This is the one. The game that took the Zelda formula of linear progression and threw it out the window. Without A Link Between Worlds, we never would’ve gotten Breath of the Wild and obviously no Tears of the Kingdom.
It’s not a remake of A Link to the Past; it’s a reimagining. Nintendo showed why its first-party titles are beloved by generations young and old. Also, this was probably the pinnacle of the stereoscopic 3D technology. No other game uses it quite as well as this one does.