Despite having a rocky start, the 3DS would end up being Nintendo’s saving grace during the early to mid-2010s. During this time, the company typically had two consoles on the market. One for portable gaming, and the other for use at home. While the latter struggled to find success, the 3DS eventually thrived due to its diverse library of games and affordability.
When the 3DS launched back in March of 2011, fans initially met it with a lukewarm reception. Many people complimented the device on its innovative take on 3D technology but had issues with its price and lack of interesting launch titles. A year after it was released, Nintendo decided to cut the console’s price by a third of its original MSRP, and sales began to increase shortly after. This strategy began circulating more interest in the console. The only thing the company needed to do now was to provide excellent games for it.
Over the next few years, the company would release some of its greatest games ever on the hardware. Between creating new worlds to reimagining older ones, the 3DS would offer an interesting blend of nostalgia and new experiences for its audience. The console has recently ceased production, but its legacy will continue as we look back fondly on the great titles we experienced on it. We asked our staff to vote for their favorite games to celebrate the console’s anniversary. After a week of voting, we are proud to present our list for the five best 3DS games of all time.
#5. The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time 3D
Release Date: June 19th, 2011
The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time 3D is a gorgeous Grezzo remaster of one of the greatest adventure games. Despite the original game being over two decades old, it still surpasses Breath of the Wild in some areas, like dungeon design, not having rain be the bane of your existence, and the major collection side quest (Gold Skulltulas). Plus, it also includes the Master Quest variant of the game previously only available in the West on a Gamecube bonus disc.
The 3DS version of Ocarina of Time is the definitive way to play a game that was already a masterpiece. It’s a testament to this title’s quality that it still holds up multiple generations after its initial release, and with this port, it plays better than ever.
#4. Pokémon Omega Ruby/Alpha Sapphire
Release Date: November 21st, 2014
Pokémon Omega Ruby/Alpha Sapphire is the best of all the Pokémon remake games. It features my favorite Elite Four challenge in the Pokémon series and manages to stay true to its source material while introducing many new features.
It introduced so many cool new features whilst keeping the charm of a classic Pokémon game. It was also great to explore Hoenn again with better graphics.
#3. Super Mario 3D Land
Release Date: November 13th, 2011
As one of the first games to come out for the 3DS, it is one of the best implementations of 3D visuals. Not only that, it is a solid Mario game through and through. With 8 regular Worlds and 8 Special Worlds, there is a ton of content to go through here. Players can even unlock Luigi later on as a playable character. The platforming mechanics are enjoyable, and with the 3D effect, it really is like looking through a window into an actual world.
Not only is 3D Land an excellent Mario game in its own right, but it also makes full use of the main feature of the 3DS, making it the quintessential title for the platform.
#2. The Legend of Zelda: Link Between Worlds
Release Date: November 22nd, 2013
As a sequel for A Link to the Past, this game had a lot to live up to. While different than the predecessor, it involved new elements for the series as a whole. Rather than forcing players down a linear chain, Link could explore dungeons in any order. By purchasing the necessary dungeon item from a shop, there was flexibility not really seen in many Zelda games prior. The graphics are memorable, and the use of 3D is also pretty awesome in this game. Being able to turn into a 2D paint version of Link gives a whole new perspective in a normally top-down game. Nintendo really started to experiment with Zelda norms in this game and managed to capture a unique style without forgetting the roots.
I love A Link to the Past so having another game with the same vibe was really cool. Traveling through paintings and walls was really fun—Zelda puzzle goodness.
The inventive 3D/2D mechanics helped take the series somewhere it hadn’t been before and allowed for many interesting design choices.
The Legend of Zelda: A Link Between Worlds is an excellent retro-inspired adventure harkening back to the SNES era’s Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past (also an amazing game). Nintendo put in a few interesting new twists this time around with how items are obtained and the walking in walls mechanic. The game was a blast to play with great visuals and an excellent soundtrack.
#1. Fire Emblem: Awakening
Release Date: February 4th, 2013
Some accessibility maneuvers from the later Three Houses entry make this harder to come back to nowadays. Even so, the Fire Emblem series was essentially reborn through this title, which serves as a testament to its strategy-heavy goodness. Setting the stage for what was to come, it’s every bit as good as advertised.
A game so great, it took a franchise on the verge of death and turned it into one of Nintendo’s top franchises. Adding options that made the game more accessible while retaining its signature difficulty for those who want it, more people could enjoy its cast and story while introducing features that became franchise staples.
The reason we still have Fire Emblem games today. It had a great story and cast and genuinely challenging maps too. It brought back the charm of the series and what made it fun.
Animal Crossing: New Leaf
Release date: June 9th, 2013
Animal Crossing coming to a handheld device was a big deal back when it was released. Players could return to their personalized village to chill anytime and anywhere. Becoming the mayor allowed for customizing the town as well as the main home too. Ordinances gave options to experience the game how the player chose. There were many new NPCs and shops, which made the game a great addition to the series. The Happy Home Showcase worked perfectly with StreetPass to incorporate viewing other player’s homes and buy furniture they unlocked. And multiplayer went even further by having mini-games at the Island. Even with some drawbacks, this entry has a lot of what makes Animal Crossing great.
Admittedly, it has been some time since I’ve played this one. Nonetheless, it made for as whimsical a distraction from the real world as this franchise can in a portable fashion. With more things to do as mayor, there’s always something to strive for.
Kid Icarus: Uprising
Release Date: March 23rd, 2012
It’s a near-perfect game from top to bottom. A lengthy, rewarding single-player campaign, multiplayer that rewarded you for playing rather than pushing out new players by giving high-level players the best equipment and the best voice acting Nintendo has ever done. The only way to improve it would be the option to use dual-stick controls.
This is the right way to revive an old IP. The full voice acting was wonderful, it has great comedic moments, and the flight/land battle system kept the gameplay interesting.
Release Date: November 18th, 2016
Pokémon Sun/Moon breathed new life into the Pokémon franchise by including island trials and Z moves. The setting of Sun/Moon has a beauty that is rivaled by perhaps only Pokémon Omega Ruby/Alpha Sapphire. The game also introduced some of my favorite Pokémon, including Lunala and Primarina.
That is our official list of the best 3DS games! What are your favorite games on the console? Please, let us know in the comments below.