The 25 best Nintendo 3DS games.
If you’re looking for the best Nintendo 3DS games there’s no shortage of titles to choose from thanks to the console’s long lifecycle. The 3DS has enjoyed several updates over the years, but each was compatible with its predecessor, and that translates to a huge library.
There are options for nearly every genre, from action games like Monster Hunter to hardcore platforms like Metroid and, of course, role-playing games like Zelda . Even with 25 picks available, sorting the list down to the best 3DS games wasn’t easy — but here’s what we decided on.
1. The Legend of Zelda: A Link Between Worlds.
In many ways, there are two types of Zelda games. One type is the 3D adventure that began with Ocarina of Time , which has gone on to become the standard for a subsequent home console Zelda adventures. The other type is the classic 2D adventure of games like the original Legend of Zelda and it’s SNES follow up, A Link to The Past, the latter of which is often cited as the best game in the series.
Serving as a sequel to A Link to the Past , A Link Between Worlds returns players not only the 2D perspective but to A Link To The Past ’s map of Hyrule as well. The kingdom has been relatively peaceful in the decades since the previous game. That peace is threatened when a dark sorcerer, Yuga, traps the young Princess Zelda — a descendant of the princess from A Link to The Past — in a magical painting.
Link, a young apprentice Swordsmith with no relation to the previous game’s hero, then embarks on a quest to save the princess. Fans of A Link to the Past will enjoy the familiarity, but A Link Between Worlds also turns the Zelda formula on its ear, opening up the entire world from the outset and offering all items through a rental shop. This allows players to choose their own pathway through the game’s numerous dungeons and challenges.
2. Super Mario 3D Land.
Synonymous with every single Nintendo console are a host of games boasting the brand’s lovable, mustachioed hero, Mario. While nearly all are bonafide hits, Super Mario 3D Land takes the cake as the 3DS’ premier Mario title, providing endless amounts of platforming fun. The game was released to critical acclaim in 2011, with many citing its addictive gameplay, fantastic 3D capabilities, and impressive level design as reasons for its greatness.
Moreover, newcomers to the series — if those indeed exist — won’t have any trouble picking the title and understanding the basics right away. There’s a reason Mario remains the popular face of Nintendo, and Super Mario 3D Land continues his reign of platform dominance.
3. Fire Emblem: Awakening.
After the relatively muted reception to both Fire Emblem: Radiant Dawn and Fire Emblem: Shadow Dragon , Nintendo’s tactical role-playing series was on the verge of being killed off for good. Fire Emblem: Awakening, the series’ 2013 3DS debut, single-handedly revitalized the franchise, which now stands download 3ds games tall among Nintendo’s pantheon of popular franchises. With a straightforward story and more accessible mechanics, including multiple difficulty modes as well as the ability to turn off “permadeath,” its compelling gameplay can be inviting and story-driven to pick up or tactical and challenging, depending on how you choose to approach it.
4. Metroid: Samus Returns.
A reimagining of the 1991 Game Boy classic Metroid II: Return of Samus , Metroid: Samus Returns manages to be both an authentic nostalgia trip and a well-oiled modern platformer. Taking place directly after the events of the game that kicked off the storied franchise, Samus Aran is sent by the Galactic Federation to the Metroid homeworld to investigate the power and threat of aliens. Keeping with the identity of 2D Metroid titles, Samus collects power-ups along the way that help her traverse to previously hard-to-reach sections in the winding game world.
There is a great balance of sticking to the original in download 3ds games terms of world layout and exploration while also including new features like a map scanner to make the game more modernized. With the power of the 3DS, set pieces are vibrant and detailed, and combat mechanics feel more precise and free-flowing. As the first 2D Metroid in 14 years, Metroid: Samus Returns makes you wonder why Samus has been vacant in the 2D space for so long. With the development of the 3DS development essentially ceased, Samus Returns feels like a wonderful swan song.
5. Bravely Default.
The 3DS has no shortage of great role-playing games. We likely could have filled this list exclusively with the highest-rated RPGs on the system, and would still have to make some difficult cuts. But when it comes to the best of the best, Bravely Default is it. Bravely Default was created by many of the minds behind Final Fantasy, and it’s a classic JRPG through and through.
Players take control of a party of characters, customizing their appearance and abilities through the game’s intricate and deep job system — a feature likely familiar to fans of Final Fantasy. Like classic JRPGs, Bravely Default ’s combat encounter play out in turn-based fashion, giving players control of each character’s actions.
Bravely Default offers its own twist on combat, however, with a host of unique gameplay mechanics like combo meters and auto-battle. Bravely Default released to rave reviews and surprising commercial success, download 3ds games prompting Square Enix to release a sequel, Bravely Second . Another sequel is currently being created for Switch.
6. Shovel Knight.
Although several different ports of this game exist, the 3DS version of Shovel Knight consistently receives the highest scores. Indie game developer Yacht Club Games designed Shovel Knight to closely resemble the gameplay and graphics of similar platformers designed for Nintendo’s original console, the NES. Playing as the titular Shovel Knight, you must navigate a 2D environment while collecting treasure and fighting off hordes of bad guys affiliated with the Order of No Quarter. Each stage features largely the same formula, however, requiring you to battle through various terrain, grab as much treasure as possible, and defeat a final boss in order to move on. Though it seems rather simple and straightforward, Shovel Knight’s captivating gameplay makes it a damn hard game to put down.
7. The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time 3D.
Few games command the longevity and reverence that has defined The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time’s legacy. When the game originally launched on the Nintendo 64 back in ’98, it was heralded as one of the greatest — perhaps even the greatest — game ever made. The title has gone on to frequent many best-of lists, but going back to the N64 title can be, admittedly, a bit difficult given the outdated visuals and presentation.
Ocarina of Time 3D , however, addresses many of these shortcomings with updated visuals, a sleeker and simpler interface, and even subtle mechanical changes that improve some of the game’s more tedious moments, including a hint system and dedicated quick-access buttons for certain items.
Perhaps the best part about these changes, though, is how well they mold into the existing framework of the game. It’s hard to find a fair spot for Ocarina of Time on this list, as it’s both arguably the best download 3ds games game on the platform and a port.
8. Mario Golf: World Tour.
Like Mario Tennis Open before it, Mario Golf: World Tour takes a particularly mundane sport and puts a zany spin on it. Playing as Mario, Luigi, or a number of other iconic characters from the franchise, players have the option to play online against human competition or take on the CPU in any of the game’s numerous tournaments.
The handheld’s 3D capabilities shine with World Tour given the game animates each shot, chip, or putt with gorgeous visuals and an amazing amount of depth. Though the 3DS boasts a small number of sports titles, World Tour remains one of the brightest in the console’s lineup.
9. Pokémon Sun and Moon.
Pokémon X and Y brought 3D textures to the series with fantastic results. The gameplay was streamlined, the online component was robust, and it felt like the kick in the pants that the Pokémon franchise needed in order to stay on top. With Pokémon Sun and Moon , developer Game Freak wasn’t content with simply copying and pasting their previous work onto a new area. The new Alola region ushers in new forms of classic Pokémon that sport different strengths, weaknesses, and appearances, and the game even tackles issues like the consumption of Pokémon by humans.
It isn’t all doom and gloom, however. Pokémon Sun and Moon also brings back Mega Evolutions and introduces new “Z-moves,” which are powerful attacks that are capable of changing the course of a battle in just a few seconds. If your Pokémon Go -obsessed sibling is looking to get another fix, Sun and Moon are the perfect companion gifts. Given that there are Pokémon exclusive to each version, as well as different day-night cycles, it wouldn’t be unreasonable to pick up both versions, either!
10. Animal Crossing: New Leaf.
Animal Crossing games aren’t like other video games, especially since you’re not engaging in tense combat or undertaking epic quests. You won’t be scratching your head trying complete complex puzzles either, nor sweating against stiff racing competition. Instead, Animal Crossing: New Leaf functions as a relaxing town-management sim, one where you slowly build your tiny town and engage in various upkeep activities.
With New Leaf , you might find yourself furnishing homes and visiting with neighbors, or spending some quality alone time gardening, fishing, or partaking in numerous other activities. This doesn’t mean the game is boring, however, because it’s that same leisurely pace that makes the title so deceptively addictive.
From the moment you assume mayorship of your town, you’ll be busy maintaining the quaint village, keeping your villagers happy, preparing for holidays, and unlocking new activities to enjoy.
11. Mario and Luigi: Dream Team.
Believe it or not, but Mario and Luigi do a lot more than jump on Goombas and devour mushrooms in their free time. download 3ds games Though Mario and Luigi: Dream Team may not be the most recent of the fraternal plumber duo’s RPG adventures, it is one of their best, and the best one available on 3DS. Dream Team takes place simultaneously on the Island of Pi’illo (pronounced “pillow”) and inside Luigi’s dream world.
While playing in Pi’ill0, players explore the island and control Mario and Luigi in turn-based combat. When in Luigi’s dream world, however, Mario must team up with Luigi’s dream avatar, Dreamy Luigi, to engage in a mix of 2D side-scrolling and RPG battling. D ream Team is a great hybrid that will scratch your itch for both a platformer and an RPG, while still retaining a keen sense of charm.
12. The Legend of Zelda: Majora’s Mask 3D.
Majora’s Mask is somewhat of a misfit within The Legend of Zelda series. It’s both incredibly dark for a Nintendo game and also features one of the riskiest mechanics in the series. Taking place in Termina, a parallel to Hyrule, Majora’s Mask sees Link search for his fairy Navi following the conclusion of Ocarina of Time . He quickly finds himself in a weird predicament: He has three days to save the world before the moon crashes down and destroys everything.
The three-day cycle mechanic, representing about one hour in real time, turns the exploration and progression on its head. If the moon hits, you lose all the progress you made since the last collision. You can avoid this by playing songs on the ocarina to manipulate time. But minor progression will always be lost, as well as characters’ knowledge of Link. The mask system is inventive, expanding on the feature in Ocarina of Time in surprising and fun ways. What makes Majora’s Mask stand out beside the constant stress of beating the clock is the world itself.
Out of all of the alternate worlds in the Zelda series, Termina still feels the most real. The N64 port plays brilliantly on the 3DS. Keep in mind, though, it plays best on New Nintendo 3DS hardware due to the C stick and increased processing power. If you missed the lesser-known N64 Zelda the first time around, do yourself a favor and play it on 3DS.
13. Luigi’s Mansion: Dark Moon.
As the long-awaited sequel to the Luigi’s Mansion , Dark Moon capitalizes on what made the original so great while adding a few fun additions of its own. The game tasks players with investigating five haunted mansions in search of the shattered pieces of a ghost-quelling object called the Dark Moon.
Like so many of Nintendo’s exclusive titles, Dark Moon is an inventive adventure title, one that’s packed to the brim with amusing and entertaining gameplay. Nintendo hit another home run this Luigi-centered franchise, and followed it up with a sequel on Switch in 2019.
14. Super Smash Bros. for Nintendo 3DS.
Fighting games on the 3DS are few and far between, but as luck would have it, one of the best fighting games in recent years is available on the handheld. Super Smash Bros for Nintendo 3DS brings together a massive roster of fighters from Nintendo’s franchises and pits them in frenetic combat that spans multiple arenas taken from different games. You’d be hard-pressed to find a Nintendo character absent from the game at this point; gaming icons like Samus and Fox Mccloud share the stage with lesser-known brawlers such as Ike, Paulina, Shulk, and others. There have even been several new characters added via DLC, including Bayonetta, Street Fighter’s Ryu, and Final Fantasy VII’ s Cloud Strife.
That said, Super Smash Bros. for Nintendo 3DS is essentially the same as the Wii U version of Smash Bros., but with a few notable differences. The handheld version features a different graphical style and a control scheme tailored toward the 3DS’ hardware, as well as a handful of exclusive stages and a special gameplay mode called “Smash Run.”
15. Kirby: Planet Robobot.
After taking Kirby into “2.5D”